The Attraction of Angels

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

It seems wrong to think about death in the springtime. Yet in this COVID era, we all know death is ever-present and never discriminates about whom, when or where. Death scares us. In fact, death is the ultimate of all fears. All others are minor expressions of death.

Almost always, death means pain, suffering and grief, especially when death is sudden and arrives for the young and beloved. In fact, the proportion of suffering seems in direct relationship to those two realities. There is no one who is exempt from the experience of death, although some of us have more experience with death than others.

Death impels us to look and think outside of ourselves and, for many, this means to seek understanding and answers, consolation and comfort in our God. Our tradition has taught us from the earliest of times that God’s plan is that every person has a destiny in eternity, a place beyond this life that never ends. In the English language, we call that place Heaven.

In 2010 Todd Burpo published a small book called: Heaven is for Real: a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. The book describing the near death experience of three year old Colton was on The New York Times bestseller list for more than 60 months. I read the book a few years ago and there is good reason it continues to be a very popular read across America. The story contains details that all of us long to know and stretch to imagine. The innocence and beauty of the child’s descriptions of angels and music, knowledge of a range of issues beyond a child’s ability to have known, and his encounter with Jesus, challenge our beliefs. Yet we all want to know more, and many of us are so deeply attracted to angels!

I believe our Creator God has “wired” us for Heaven. The restlessness of the human heart that lures all of us into searching for satisfaction and completion is never at peace until it rests in authentic love. And Love is God. Our destiny is not in this life, rather beyond it and yet the entrance to our destiny is our death. Wow! What a peculiar set of circumstances each of us has to find a way to accept and live into. Often the elderly have taught me to clear away all the stuff that might have been important, and long for what really matters. Over and again I have heard, “I am ready – I want to go home,” from folks who have lived through illness and aging.

The Gospel for this fifth Sunday of Lent finds Jesus anticipating His own death while at the same time teaching us how to live and how to die. Jesus uses the simple example of a seed that needs to die in order to be fruitful – what a paradox. In fact, He is speaking about all of us and the necessity of dying to our selfishness in order to be fully alive, which is to say, in order to love and to be loved.

This story gives a glimpse of what God wants for every one of us: to move through our reality and suffering, to find a path in life of faith and love and, in this sweet experience of living, prepare to die so that we may live completely and always.

The upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter brings into the sharpest focus the relationship among living, suffering and dying with a future hope of resurrection. Jesus has shown the way, and at the very center of this way is Love. For it is in love that one dies to self and through love that one arrives at fullness of life now and in eternity.

Fr. Ronan

Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 20/21, 2021

Proclaimed this weekend is the Gospel story of Jesus inviting his
disciples into a great mystery with curious pronouncements:
Those who love their lives just as they are will lose them. If a grain of
wheat dies, it will bear much fruit…What does Jesus mean?
The climactic event of Jesus’ passion and death is drawing closer;
a time when the great confrontation between Jesus and the powers of darkness take place.
When Jesus is lifted up, he will draw all to himself.
The Christian steward knows life can’t be lived in complacency.
We are called to die to self, bear more fruit, be raised up with Jesus.
Jesus brings discomfort to those who are comfortable.
Jesus urges us to give witness in his name.
How will we respond?


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Most of my adult life has been blessed with the opportunity to work with young adults, first in colleges and later in the years after graduation. I always enjoy the humor, intelligence, honesty and searching of this age.

Here in Charlestown, we have whole new generations of young men and women, single, engaged and married. Inevitably well educated and hard-working, the young are seeking to find fulfillment in life. Career choices, friendships, relationships and social life are all a part of the search. For some volunteering is important, and for all some kind of service is respected.

Though perhaps not true of all, I seem to find in many an underlying restlessness among young men and women. No matter how much work, how successful and promising the career path, how well remunerated the job, how brilliant and exciting the social life and how special the relationships with others, there seems to be a pervasive feeling that something’s missing – that there must be something more they are meant to achieve, secure or experience. So the restlessness is met with a choice to do more, accomplish more, acquire more, and see more. The resulting “busyness syndrome” does little other than increase the perceived deficit because it cannot be resolved by more of the same.

As if to exacerbate the sense of incompleteness, from time to time a young adult will meet another who seems to possess an inner happiness, completeness and goodness that is untethered from typical achievements. A person for
whom personal accomplishments are of less importance than working for and within some ideal – one for whom the “other” takes precedence over “self”. Unfortunately our present day culture rewards more what David Brooks calls our “résumé virtues” versus our “eulogy virtues” (New York Times: 4/11/15).

And yet everyone realizes that eulogy virtues are those we most appreciate in another and aspire to in ourselves.

In these Lenten days perhaps a gift each of us can give ourselves is to listen to the restlessness within. I’ve long been convinced restlessness is often a way God’s Spirit is working in our lives – and not just in the young! For if we are honest, most of us would agree whatever our life is about, come-day go-day is not enough. What fulfills and completes ultimately does not come from the outside, but rather from the inside; from the awareness of God’s love for us and our love for one another, and how we live that out.

Fr. Ronan

Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 13/14, 2021

This weekend’s Gospel reading gives us the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews who comes to Jesus by night, recognizing Jesus as a teacher from God, but coming in secret for fear of being put out of the synagogue. Jesus rebukes him for his lack of understanding. Good stewards realize that for the sake of this world, God gives his most cherished beloved son. And so they are willing to confess Jesus as their Lord and savior in a public way. They do not keep their faith to themselves, in darkness. The Gospel reading challenges
us to profess our faith in word and deed publicly, not to hide it away. Are we willing to accept the Gospel’s challenge? Are we willing to get out of our personal “comfort zone” and confess our faith in Christ Jesus in an open, tangible way?

Children and the Dark

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I admit it, when I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. Going upstairs in our big old house when it was dark and no one else was up there … well, let’s just say that if it was at all possible, I didn’t!

Aren’t all children afraid of the dark? Aren’t they more inclined to imagine all sorts of dangers? Perhaps the cause for their fear is greater than the obvious reason, for children have an uncanny ability to perceive more about others and their world than we give them credit for.

There are so many ways in which darkness is not a positive reality. Darkness can mean fear of the unknown, certainly. It also is a metaphor for evil, death and destruction. In the dark, my aloneness is stark, often defined by the inability to see or imagine others. Often “bad” things are carried out in the dark, to prevent others from seeing. Secrecy for good or for bad is often referred to as doing something “in the dark”.

When I look at the world today I see so much suffering, turmoil, hatred, unrest, competition, discrimination, exclusion, and I believe all of this and more are expressions of darkness. I think children somehow intuit this truth even though they may not be able to articulate it. Therefore, value light over darkness. Indeed one of the reasons children bring so much hope into the world can be that they “light up our lives”.

As Christians, we believe and celebrate that Christ is the “Light of the world”. Our tradition teaches that, in Christ, darkness (death) has been vanquished and no longer has ultimate control over us. The God-given antidote to the darkness is Jesus Christ; the teaching, example and life of the Son of God hold out for every believer life and light over death and darkness.

Called to be countercultural, the Christian is a person who confronts the darkness, even when it is not convenient or popular to do so. Many of us have been inspired to learn of another who acted with such courage; sometimes in a quiet way, other times on the public stage. Doubtless each of us can recall persons whose words and actions have given us reason to hope.

After all these years, I am still afraid of the dark. But now it is no longer related to the absence of light. I recognize the power of evil and the horrors of the worst of how humans can treat one another. The popularity of modern entertainment: films, TV, computer games and even toys that incorporate violence haphazardly and viciously is astonishing. Every parent should be afraid of this darkness. The proliferation of the billion dollar industry of pornography through the internet is perhaps the most insidious darkness in our society today and an evil that threatens children, men, women, marriages and family.

These final days of Lent offer us an opportunity to think about the shadows
and darkness in our own lives and to choose to step away and into the light. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, confession, is a true gift to everyone who seeks to move into the light. We offer confessions in the Church on Saturday afternoons at 3:15 and, if you can’t make it on Saturdays, we invite you to call the office at 617-242-4664 to schedule a time to meet with a priest.

Maybe we all need to let the children teach us that to be afraid of the dark is an innate defense that needs to be respected and heeded. And furthermore to recognize Christ as the Light that overcomes the darkness, not only in the world but also in each person’s daily life.

Fr. Ronan

Third Sunday of Lent
March 6/7, 2021

In this weekend’s Gospel reading, you may hear the story of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, a familiar story. The prophets Jeremiah, Zechariah and
Malachi prophesied that when the Kingdom of God was at hand, the Temple would be cleansed of all activities unworthy of an encounter with God.
Christians are often referred to as “Temples of the Lord.”
As stewards of a “Holy Temple” God has entrusted to each one of us, what are we doing to be cleansed of activities unworthy of an encounter with the Lord? This week, reflect on one thing you can do to cleanse the Temple God has given you so that it becomes a more inviting home for Christ Jesus.

Power of Prayer

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

One of the most common requests a priest receives in the course of a day is for prayers. The request can happen anywhere: on a bus, at Market Basket or Dunkin Donuts, walking down Main Street, walking Lily in the park, and
in the back of the church. Sometimes the request comes with an explanation that indicates a family problem, a sickness or a personal struggle. At other times there is no explanation, merely a look of sadness or stress in the eyes of the person. In whatever circumstance, I always receive the request seriously and take it to heart.

Over the years my understanding of prayer for another has evolved. Frankly, I have probably forgotten the exact theological teaching on the matter and simply know in my heart that prayer undertaken in earnest for another is powerful. You see it is first of all an act of faith. Faith in the power of God to heal, comfort, console, and accompany another in the struggle of life. Nothing is more powerful than belief in God. Prayer for another is an act of belief in the omnipotence of God and the capacity of God to reach into one’s life and affect the heart, the spirit. We believe that God can do all things and acting on this belief frees God to act. Over and again Jesus insisted on faith. He explained that it was the faith of a person that brought about miracles He achieved. “Your faith has saved you,” He would proclaim after some expression of His omnipotence.

Not long ago, a young woman who had asked for prayer came to me to explain that her cancer had been cured, although the prognosis several months earlier had been dim. She stated emphatically that it was prayer that had brought
about this healing. I do not doubt her. At the same time I recognize there is enormous mystery in these matters and rarely are things the black and white some might like them to be. My faith does not insist that all turns out according to my wishes or intentions. Rather my faith in prayer takes the person and presents them lovingly to God with a firm belief that God’s love for them will bring them to a good end.

In Lent, the Church urges us to embark upon a routine of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are the cornerstones of our Lenten journey. Prayer has many expressions and a prayer of petition for another is one of them. At its root, it is an expression of one’s personal faith. So for me an excellent place to begin this prayer is in the powerful petition of the Centurion from scripture: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

Fr. Ronan

Second Sunday of Lent
February 27/28, 2021

The Gospel story of the transfiguration of Jesus holds many lessons;
the most prominent being the transformation of Jesus from simply being perceived as a wise and gifted prophet to the one who has fulfilled the sacred traditions of the Mosaic law and the hope of the prophets, the Messiah, the Christ.
The Lord calls his stewards to participate in His redemptive activity. Heeding this call requires transformation, being willing to renounce patterns of behavior that draw us away from God.
In this coming week of Lent, let us pray for the grace to be transformed, so that by our goodness and generosity, we may walk more authentically
in the footsteps of Jesus.

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