The Family

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

In November 1954, Perry Como recorded and RCA released the popular Christmas song, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”. By now you have heard it on your car radio and in shopping malls thousands of times this year alone!

If you listen closely to the lyrics of this song, you’ll find that they offer a simple and enduring truth: when the time comes to celebrate certain moments and seasons in our lives, we
want to be home. Home usually means our family as well as our town and country. We want to be with the familiar, the comfortable, that place we know, and especially with those who know us, accept us, and love us.

The celebration of Christmas,perhaps more than any other occasion, draws us home. My own childhood memories of Christmas at our home on Percival Street in Dorchester include a flood of images of a big Christmas tree and gifts, along with parents, kids and, of course, a dog in the middle of it all.
With all of that comes the gift of being together, sharing, feeling safe, and being happy. Because it’s so familiar, we can all too often fail to appreciate the gift of family. The very source of our lives and those who formed and cared for us are so much a part of us, that we can overlook our family when counting our blessings.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family, always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas. On this feast day, the Church invites us to see in the family of Joseph, Mary, and the Child Jesus the simple beauty and truth that the Son of God was born into a human family – just like yours or mine. This celebration can help each of us to recall how precious the gift of family can be. Though human and fallible, our family, nonetheless, is uniquely ours. Sadly, hurts, mistakes or whatever, can fracture family unity and cause enormous pain and damage.

It’s so astonishing to see how deep and serious the consequences of the breakup of a family can be. Regardless of the circumstances, the reality is that if one member is separated, every member suffers.

The Grace of these days holds the possibility for everyone to act in ways that can strengthen the family. If there is too much distance between you and another in the family, if there are hurts that have lingered too long or anything else that has damaged your family relationships, why not seize this day and extend an olive branch? Why wait? What benefit could there be in delaying?

Let’s take the time to reflect and ask ourselves: “what can I do today to strengthen my family?” What is it that a family member might need that I could give that would bring us closer together? Let’s not delay because we are looking for the precisely correct moment. More often than not, the right time never comes!

In all ways, this is a day to be grateful for the gift of our families – imperfect as they may be! This is the day to see that family is often diminished by the popular culture in both subtle and aggressive ways. Let us choose not to be complacent for our own sakes. We, our Parish, our community, our city, our nation, and our world are only as strong as the family unit.

On this day, we remember that Jesus, Himself, belonged to a human family and in that we find hope. In this Christmas season, as the canned Christmas music fades away, let us be grateful in every possible way for our families and pray for the grace to heal what is broken and strengthen whatever may be weak, for our sake and the sake of our world.

Fr. Ronan

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells …

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Each of us carries our own memories of the holiday season and how these days were celebrated in our past. Oftentimes, these memories include thoughts of family, special moments, and traditions shared with loved ones in special places.

When the hectic pace of the days allows us a moment to be quiet and reflect, do you notice how your mind drifts back to those times? Now and then, we want to share the memories – something like, “Ya know, when I was a child, at Christmas time I remember that …” often comes out.

Some of us might call this season “magical” and in many ways it is. Rare is the person who is not somehow touched by the scene of families and children walking to midnight Mass through the streets on a snowy Christmas Eve. Somehow, it seems that anything is possible on that night. All of the fantasies, dreams, and stories about that night do not seem so strange and far away.

Hearing the narrative of the young couple expecting a child, searching for lodging for the night in the village of Bethlehem comes alive – even though we have heard it so many times before. The thought that angels visited shepherds in the fields that night causes us to look to the heavens and wonder.

All of this is no accident. Each year this is the season to wonder and hope. The forces of our secular society would like to make this time one of superb commercial success and strip it of religious meaning. And the challenges each and every family faces make it difficult to get focused and centered on the true meaning of these days. But all of that does not mean it is impossible to reclaim what this time of year is all about.

This weekend we are at the end of our wait. Our time of preparing is almost over and we have only two days left until the celebration. This is the time to get in touch with every longing and dream of your heart. This is the time to recognize restlessness and yearnings and to see that these are, in fact, gifts from God to point us toward His Son.
The “stuff” that touches our heart in this season is not an accident! It is a gift to turn our heads, to invite us to clear a path for the Christ in the messy, full, and over-busy lives we lead.

The promise is real and God is waiting, again, this year to make good on it. Your choice today can lead to this being the best Christmas of your life.

Fr. Ronan

End of Year Evaluation

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

“All employees of this company
will participate in an end of year
performance evaluation”.

Off the top of your head, can you think of anything that makes someone more uncomfortable and anxious than receiving a notice like that?

We all hate to be evaluated. And taking a serious look at ourselves, our performance, our life, our relationships is often painful and frequently threatening. At the same time, if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that perfection is an elusive goal even as we strive to achieve it.

Now we find ourselves in the Christmas season, and that means the end of another year. The season evokes all kinds of feelings of concern for others, and invitations for acts of charity and generosity abound – everything from the Globe Santa to the Salvation Army collections on street corners. The party thing is around and if we are not busy and a part of it, we all act as if we are. The busyness of the holiday season serves as a mantra to excuse us from any number of things to which we ought to turn our attention. I guess it is as easy a time as any to be dishonest with ourselves.

Why not change that? Why not choose to make these next two weeks leading up to Christmas different from other years of the same old same old? It is possible and I have a suggestion for you to make it possible. Go to confession. Didn’t see that coming did you?

We Catholics profess faith in Christ, the Church, Sacred Scripture and among other things, the sacraments. One of those sacraments is within our reach and is a treasure.—the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament offers us a chance to take a look, an honest and real look at ourselves—our relationships, life, choices, habits, routines, priorities, and everything else that makes up the stuff of life. Using the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a template – how do I measure up? If you are alive and breathing while reading this column, you will start to see the shortfalls. Most particularly we can see the selfishness and all that is not included in our lives that we really wish were there – prayer, service, acts of kindness, and involvement in things that really make a difference in our lives and the lives of others.

I believe that every one of us aches to be a better person. Usually we are too busy to really think about it – but underneath, pretty close to the surface, there is a wish to live lives that are more faithful to God’s vision for us. There is no better first step to moving in that direction than owning it. Saying, “Yes” to a personal evaluation and carrying that to Christ with a sincere wish to change; to walk with more dignity and integrity; to be the persons we are called to be. That means asking forgiveness for our sins and opening our hearts to receive the gift of a Savior – a Child born in Bethlehem whom we proclaim is the Light of the World.

Tomorrow night, Monday, December 17, there will be a penance service at Saint Mary’s Church at 7:00. A group of priests will be with me as we make ourselves available to hear individual confessions. Doesn’t matter how long it has been. This is the year to turn that corner. How about it?
-Fr. Ronan

Thank You

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

From our earliest days, each of us learned to say “Thank You” when we were offered and/or received anything from another. It is such a simple thing, almost second nature. And, of course, we grow to expect an expression of thanks in such moments as simple as holding open a door for another.
I tend to notice gratitude most when it is not offered. Perhaps many of us feel that way. For example, when stopping to let another enter a stream of traffic or retrieving an item dropped by another and in return, there is no acknowledgement of your gesture.
Not long ago while in the park with Lily chatting with others who were with their dogs, I commented that the day was especially beautiful – sunny, bright and warm. One of the persons responded, “Yes. And we deserve it”! That comment gave me pause. I asked myself, how could I deserve the sunshine? I wondered, should I be entitled to lovely weather?
It seems entitlement is going around these days; maybe it is something in the air or water! We all have met folks who feel entitled. One of the ironic aspects of folks who are so disposed is that they are never satisfied. Entitled people are some of the most unhappy persons you will ever meet. Not only is satisfaction elusive for them, but also their dissatisfaction leads to an ongoing sense that one ought to be, is entitled to be, happily satisfied. It leads to quite a conundrum and has no happy ending.
Back to “Thank You”. I do not say it enough, although I do feel grateful throughout my days. In fact, I confess I believe I am God’s most spoiled child! My gratitude flows from my awareness of blessings too boundless to measure and these include my family, friendships, and health. Above all, I am grateful for the gift of my faith and my call
to Priesthood. The actual life of a priest is wonderful and, for me, it is especially so when complimented continually by serving as a priest in a community of people – a parish.
For the past 14 years, Charlestown has been my life and God willing, that will continue for some time to come. So all this impels me to say “Thank You” to so many who form this wonderful parish community.
If, like me, you don’t say thank you enough, accept this invitation to use that beautiful phrase more in your own busy days. How about “thank you” as a fundamental response from your heart when you open your eyes to greet the new day, enjoy a warm shower, pull on comfortable clothes, and take your first sip of morning coffee?
And the Thanks is, of course, directed to the God who created you, so loves you, and has given you this new day of life to live and love and appreciate. Carrying such gratitude throughout your day can make this Advent time especially sweet – for you and for everyone around you!
Fr. Ronan

Safety Belts and Life Vests

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

When I settled into my seat on the airplane and the crew were preparing to shove off from the gate, the announcements began about safety aboard the aircraft. It is a familiar recitation to many frequent flyers and so, it seemed, many ignored the instructions about seat belts, life vests, and rafts … Later the captain of the plane announced some specifics of the flight and lastly explained that the main reason there is a crew moving around the cabin is for the safety of the passengers.

Somehow, that emphasis on safety jumped out at me as I wondered about people everywhere who found themselves frightened and unsafe. Some of those cases are in the headlines of the newspapers. Yet, I am certain, the majority of those who are unsafe live in obscurity. They may be the invisibles living on the streets of our cities; the women who are abused in relationships behind closed doors; the children who are neglected, unwanted and unloved among the rich and the poor; the elderly who live alone with the uncertainties of care and security for their tomorrows; and those struggling with mental illness, addiction, and imprisonment.

The plane reached its prescribed altitude and I heard it was now safe for me to move about the cabin. However, I continued to wonder.

How do Christians adequately respond to the desperate fears of so many who long to be and feel safe in an unsafe world?

Today we begin the Advent Season – that special set-aside time of preparation for the Birth of the Messiah. Jesus, Son of Mary – Son of God, was born into a people who lived in desperation and fear. In their homeland occupied by Roman soldiers, they were oppressed, overly taxed, and humiliated. They longed for freedom and for safety as they looked for the promise of the Messiah to be realized.
They knew well the words of the prophet Jeremiah we hear this Sunday:
I will raise up for David a just shoot; He shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;

The God who created the beauty of the skies and the loveliness of the lands and the sea below that aircraft sent into this world a Savior. And this Savior is not offering the world a philosophy, an economic system, a military empire or anything of the like. He offers Himself – a relationship that transforms and fulfills persons who accept the invitation. The invitation is one of radical love – both to receive this love and to share it; to be the “crew members” who walk about to ensure the safety and well-being of one another, thus creating a world in which the inherent dignity of every person is recognized, and the basic human rights to live in freedom, safety, and security are valued.

This first Sunday of Advent in 2018 opens before us a world filled with frightened, hungry, suffering, and lonely people. For Christians, those yoked into a true relationship with Jesus, the Savior of the world, it is the season to unleash the longed-for well-being in a world desperate for relief. Employing the radical love and justice of our faith are the prescriptions for working towards a world in which the words of the Prophet Jeremiah can be realized.

Fr. Ronan


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Remember when you were young, a child maybe, how the idea of someone really, really powerful captivated you? Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, and all kinds of “superheroes” were part of our life, both in our imaginations, and in our play and conversation with other kids. We were charmed, sucked in, and loved stories of “heroes” who always overcame incredible odds, beat the bad guy, and helped the little guy. Fact is, even today, a good story about a hero is a great draw whether in a TV show, a book or a movie.

When we think of a contemporary hero, there may be different types of situations we see him/her involved in, given these modern times. Yet there are certain constant common denominators regardless of whether the hero is from ancient, medieval or modern times. The hero is the one who somehow takes care of, protects, and defends the “little guy” in our midst. What creates this fascination? Could it be that it stems from the reality that we ae all called to act in such ways in our lives?

Today’s Feast of Christ the King is all about the most extraordinary of all heroes – – Jesus, the Son of God. This is the day when we exult in the kingship of Jesus of Nazareth. In the richest Judeo-Christian tradition, we remember just what this King was all about. In the first reading from the prophet Daniel we read about the one who received all power, kingship, and dominion of all peoples and nations.

By His exemplary life and teaching, Jesus, the King, models for us how we are to live heroically. Jesus teaches us that this King is the Good Shepherd who searches out the lost and cares for the lonesome and weak. He’s the one who hears the cry of the poor, heals the sick, and comforts the afflicted. He is the One who speaks the truth to those in power and offers hope to those in despair.

This King ends up the servant of all, who demonstrates that He came to serve and not to be served; who washes the feet of His disciples and invites His followers to imitate Him. This King is so powerful that he instructs us that there is only one command that God has given us: to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus knows and shows that real power comes from the ability to let go of our concern only for ourselves and those we love, and take on the mantle of discipleship: service to all, especially this most marginalized and despised by society’s standards, as he did, not because it is easy to do so, but precisely because it takes heroic amounts of strength.

The Feast of Christ the King brings to light the enduring truth and paradox:
Real power is found in authentic service. We all possess this ability interiorly. With God’s grace we can cultivate it by following the example of Jesus and
strive to create a world in which the power of love overcomes in the end.

Fr. Ronan

Christmas Concert Copley Singers

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Some years ago the popular spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen took a leave from his position at Yale Divinity School and went to Peru for a year. Nouwen worked and lived among the poor in the outskirts of Lima. Upon his return, he wrote a best selling book entitled, GRACIAS. He titled the book “Thank You” for he found the sentiment of gratitude so prevalent among the poor that he was both astonished and edified by them. Fr. Nouwen witnessed the poverty and sufferings of the Peruvian people while, at the same time, their sense of gratitude for everything.

The word “gracias” permeated not only their life style but also their view of life and God. Often the “gracias” was spoken as “Gracias a Dios”. The simplest act was completed with a prayer of thanks to God. Fr. Nouwen laid bare the irony that those who have little are often very grateful while those who have much more are often less grateful. Naturally, one would think the reverse would be true. In fact, the irony is often carried even to the extremes: sometimes those who have abundance want more and feel entitled to more and those with very little are grateful and content.

This week, we North Americans celebrate one of the most cherished of our national holidays, Thanksgiving. Surely we are a blessed people and it has been my experience that most Americans embrace this holiday with a deeply sincere sense of gratitude. Our gratitude is felt at many levels: to family, loved ones, our nation, and most importantly, to God. All of us agree that the day is so important. And, like you, I recall memories of childhood celebrations that I cherish of families coming together and, at a table laden with abundance, pausing in a formal and beautiful way to thank God for all blessings.

Our reality is that the day comes and goes and the busyness of life can so distract us that our sense of gratitude can become dulled. We can fall into the trap of forgetting and not acknowledging God’s blessings in our life. The worries and challenges can draw us away from the truth that we are first and foremost God’s most precious children and blessed beyond measure. When I re-capture this truth, suddenly everything is reordered. I see things in a new light and priorities are re-established. My sense of the rightness of seeing God as the giver of so much is both freeing and humbling.

Next Thursday, we will gather with our loved ones and, even in the midst of the worries and challenges of these times, we know we have so much for which to be grateful. I will spend this beautiful day with the Rostro de Cristo community in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There with 13 North American volunteer missionaries, we will have Mass together and dinner. This year 24 students and 4 faculty from St. John Paul High School in Hyannis will be on retreat with us. Turkey is hard to find in the tropics, so we will likely have chicken! But the sentiments will be as profound as ever, as we echo Gracias – Thanks be to God for all we have and especially for the love that surrounds us and gives us hope.

Fr. Ronan

My Father Told Me

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I was not a terrific student in school. One of the subjects I disliked more than others was algebra. I get sweaty palms thinking about trying to solve those problems and taking those tests and quizzes! My Dad knew this and so he would tell me, “Jim, do your best and God will take care of the rest”. This seemed like a good piece of advice and one that could be freeing – in a way. Problem was, I had to figure out exactly, what was my BEST. As I thought about this formula, it came to me that if I did not succeed in algebra (or whatever else I was trying to do or master) it must mean that I didn’t do my best and, therefore, God was not pitching in to take care of “the rest”. Well, I got to the other side of algebra and years passed. Yet there was for some time a lingering residue about “doing my best” and God’s proportional response. In time, I came to believe the formula my loving Dad gave me was flawed. God’s kindness, mercy and love are not ever proportional and / or conditional on my performance, because God is Love and God always wants what’s best for us. Re-visiting my Dad’s formula holds a lesson for all of us as we consider the successes and setbacks of our lives.
Truth is, sometimes we try our very best and fall flat on our faces and at other times, we succeed. There are times when success or failure is independent of our efforts and depends on many other variables. God is not managing how the game is playing out. Rather God is continuously present in every moment of every day, a loving constant in our lives, accompanying us through it all. We choose whether or not to be present to God. In Judaism, the presence of God to the Jews was understood as the Covenant God established through Abraham. Down through the ages, God exhorted the Israelites to be faithful to this Covenant relationship of love and fidelity. Jesus, the human face of God, completes and fulfills that ancient Covenant and establishes the New Covenant in and through His own life, death, resurrection and promise to be with us always. In Baptism, we are brought into a profound relationship with Jesus. At God’s ongoing initiative, we are invited into an intimacy with Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Accepting that invitation opens us to the world of the God Who is Love and who directly and through a community of earthly players supports us through the vicissitudes of life. There are those who intellectually accept the truth that God is Love, yet believe somehow that Love is not freely and unconditionally for them. They believe and promote the notion of my Dad’s formula: God’s Love for me is proportional to my personal behavior and performance. That is not true! No one can change God Who is Love and Who constantly beckons us to receive that Love. As the Latin saying goes, ʺVocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderitʺ – ʺInvoked or not invoked, God is present.” We need only choose to be present to God. It behooves us to do our best in all we undertake, knowing our best may vary depending on certain life circumstances and is not decided by God. How blessed are we to have a God who is present to us always and graces our lives each day. Accept this Truth of God who is Love, and be filled with the graces of this relationship like no other.

Fr. Ronan

Stewardship Prayer

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Our Stewardship Prayer
by the Welcoming Committee

Heavenly Father, instill in our hearts a spirit of love and compassion. May we foster a welcoming parish community with acceptance and respect for all. Inspire us to make a difference by being generous with our time and talents. Please send your Holy Spirit among us to remind us to follow Jesus and his teachings in all aspects of our lives. As we end this Mass, may we go forth and spread goodwill among our neighbors, friends, and fellow parishioners. Through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.