Who Is My Neighbor?

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

Who would not want to ask that question – or better still, receive the answer to a question about how best to find a way to Heaven? Life is crazy, surprisingly brief, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. Unless you believe this sweet journey in Charlestown is all there is and that our beloved who have died before us are gone forever, you join the multitudes who are looking hopefully to the horizon.

And so it is, the Jewish scholar of the law poses the question to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus directs the scholar of the law to search within for the answer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Jesus asks him. In response, the scholar accurately recites the beautiful Jewish prayer, The Shema: ʺYou shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.ʺ The questioner himself accurately answers the question asked.

Then, the scholar asks this profound question: “And, who is my neighbor?” As you may recall, Jesus again leaves it to the scholar to decide for himself by relaying a story about the fellow who was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and was robbed, stripped, beaten, and left for dead. After a priest and a Levite had chosen to pass by the stricken victim, a Samaritan came upon the man and selflessly cared for him. To the Jewish community at that time, a Samaritan was held in very low regard. And yet, when Jesus asked the scholar who had been a neighbor to the beaten man, the answer was of course, the Samaritan. The story concludes as Jesus tells the scholar to “go and do likewise.”

It seems to me inescapable to not apply this story to my own life and my community and even to my beloved country. For the conclusion seems to be that the path to heaven is wide open to the one who does love God and genuinely cares for whoever is in my path and is in need. And we all know that every day our paths encounter persons in need.

The stories of how our country is caring for children and families at our southern border shame me. I believe indifference and apathy in the face of such atrocities makes me culpable. Perhaps you recall that challenging statement by Eldridge Cleaver: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Wherever and whenever we see and know of another’s suffering, I think we are compelled to do something, whatever that may be and as insignificant as that might seem, taken together and in faith, it will make a difference.

Fr. Ronan

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Weekend of July 13/14, 2019 Today’s Gospel turns our attention to one of Jesus’ most familiar stories, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is about living how God intended us to live: to acknowledge God’s divine love and compassion lavished upon us, and to extend that love and compassion upon others without reservation. We can find a lot of reasons for not stopping to help someone. We can talk ourselves out of being Good Samaritans. Strangers are not our responsibility, or are they? Good stewards understand that God’s mercy is a gift that must be shared, and that doing the right thing, acting as Jesus would act toward others, is the only course of action for one who lives according to the demands of the Gospel. How might you be a Good Samaritan this week?


150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

The award-winning author, David McCullough, published John Adams in May, 2000. In 2008, the book was made into a mini- series that received wide acclaim.

Through these accounts, I came to admire so much about this man as well as his wife, Abigail. The frequent letters they exchanged in the long absences of Adams from his home in Boston were especially revealing.

Adams’ contributions to the Second Continental Congress, during which he argued with passion, brilliance, and courage for a system of government for this new land that held out the highest principles of individual freedom and human rights were so inspiring. I think I learned more about our young nation’s struggle for independence through the story of John Adams than from any other resource in my life.

As a nation, we gather each July 4 to remember those days at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia in 1776, when 56 patriots signed the Declaration of Independence. While Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration, Adams fiercely advocated for its adoption. And in May, 1776, it was John Adams who offered a resolution that amounted to a declaration of independence from Great Britain.

As Christians, the foundation of our principles of social justice rest on our belief in the dignity of each person without exception. Accordingly, each person is deserving of respect and has fundamental rights as our Nation’s founding documents proclaim. Yet, it seems to me in our come-day-go-day life we see much that is un-American.

Our Freedom, Saint Paul reminds us, is a gift from God and is to be used, not so much for self-gain, but rather for self-giving. In fact, freedom is most noble and deeply honored when witnessed in actions of generosity and sacrifice. Such actions are seen every day and all around us, notably in families in the care of parents for children and spouses for one another.

As our communities and nation become increasingly diverse economically, socially, racially and culturally, perhaps we all need to recall and ponder the greatness of the vision of John Adams and our Nation’s Founders:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This 4th of July, let all of us who are blessed to live in the United States give thanks to God for the gifts of our freedom and prosperity, and for the many who have labored heroically to build our great Nation. And let us all remember to put into practice the values on which this great Nation was founded and proclaimed in the Gospels, among which is to treat one another with the respect each of us deserves.

Fr. Ronan

Look Up to Whom?

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

I spend a lot of time talking with young parents – preparing for baptism and after, in a variety of moments in a family’s life. One of the issues that surfaces from time to time is the impact of “role models” and “heroes” in our society. To whom do our children look up to? Whom do they wish to emulate and learn about? Maybe one answer comes from economics – that is where the young spend their money. Research reports that teens, 12 – 17 years old will spend tens of billions of dollars this year. Pretty amazing!

Our culture offers movie stars, super athletes, and reality TV actors combined with various singers and musicians who form the coterie of role models for many of today’s youth. And so it is that our children will seek to purchase with their available funds clothing, personal items, communication devices, and a host of other expenditures including, of course, entertainment following the creative marketing strategies of our time.

It seems to me many of our youth are yearning for more. They are searching for examples, models of how to live in a good way. It is one thing to teach them what to do and how they ought to live. It is another to show them by our example that we mean what we say. It is the “walk the talk” thing.

Most adults do not realize how closely they are being watched – the astute observation of adults by children is a constant activity. It is not that the children are “nosey” or anything like that. It is more that they are searching and trying to find their way in the world – and they look to adults for direction.

Many of us have memories of people who have inspired us: parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and relatives. And, there are often people outside of the home and family – like teachers, coaches, bosses, and parents of friends. These are precious memories. Indeed, if we keep this in mind, it seems we ought to try to offer similar support and examples to the youth in our own communities.

Finally, there is the powerful example of silence. If parents and significant adults say nothing in the face of the poor role models our culture puts forth, what is a child to think? Truth is, silence is assent. When there is a news story, TV show, film, or some incident that glorifies violence, sexual immorality, infidelity, and/or overall bad behavior, and a parent or other adults remain silent in the face of that – most assuredly the children around will pick up on that as tacit assent – saying “That stuff is OK”.

Our faith offers us heroes in many ways, usually in examples of self-sacrifice and service. One may think youth have no interest in such – but that is incorrect. I am certain many of our young people only await the chance to be of service, to give something of themselves. And it is a growing process. Most important is that they see the value of caring, giving, loving, serving and that true greatness is never found in “getting” rather only in “giving”. The greatest example of all is the Son of God, Jesus.

Fr. Ronan


150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

Paying a visit to the Lord Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, taking a few moments out of a busy day to pray and celebrate the faith – what a wonderful gift to give Our Lord and ourselves! And now, in Charlestown. there is a lovely Eucharistic Chapel open to the public every weekday from 9 to 5 at the Parish Center on 46 Winthrop St. This beautiful old building includes a simple space for prayer and reflection. Please feel free to drop by when you are out and about. Right across from the Training Field and a bit up from the fire station, you will find the building. All are welcome to visit. Also, at St. Catherine of Siena Chapel on the corner of Warren & Soley Streets each Friday afternoon from 5:30 to 6:30 all are welcome to participate in Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Stop by for a few moments or join us for longer. We look forward to praying with you.


150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

The other day I was thinking about my first memory of going to Mass. It was in Dorchester at St. Peter’s Parish. Theirs is a magnificent church building and the upper church is especially beautiful. Most memorable for me are the windows that contain some of the richest blues I have ever seen. Of course, that time was before the changes in the liturgy and all celebrations were in Latin. Often the Mass was a memorial and so the priest(s) wore black vestments and sang the various parts. Even back then the Dies Ire had a mournful sound. It was fascinating.

At St. Peter’s Grammar School I learned more about the presence of Jesus and about the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass as I prepared for my First Holy Communion. Because I lived very near the Church and had to pass by it each day on my way to school, early on I got into the habit of stopping in for a visit. I continued the practice through high school, college and in fact until today.

The real presence of the Son of God in the Most Blessed Sacrament seems to me to manifest in such a profound way the nature of God’s love for us. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history”.

You and I have inherited a gift too immense to measure or easily grasp. It is for certain a mystery and can only be approached through the window of love. For me, all of the fears and worries of life and of death are somehow manageable in the presence of the God of life who chooses to remain with us – to be available, accessible and present to us day in and day out. Throughout the ages men and women have found comfort and consolation in the awareness of Christ’s presence, especially in the Eucharist.

The Mass is the “source and summit of the Church’s life”. Everything we need to know about God is contained in this celebration. The depth and nature of God’s compassion, mercy, and love for us are all found here. The challenge to each of us to live what we celebrate is the constant echo that follows us when we leave the sacramental banquet. The invitation to communion, over and again, nourishes us and reminds us of Jesus’ desire to befriend us like no other.

This is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The strength offered you and me in the daily/weekly sacrifice of the Mass is incalculable. It is time to revisit our personal journey of faith around the Eucharist and to celebrate with humility and joy this most precious gift. It is time to remember to bring to this encounter with the God of life all our fears, hopes, and dreams, and to find the strength to look forward in hope.

Fr. Ronan


150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

It has been my practice for some years when meeting with parents in preparation for the Baptism of their child to ask the father to give me a word or two that describes the experience of the birth of his child. I have heard many responses yet one that stays with me is of a young new dad when he thoughtfully responded, “There are no words”. Inevitably parents are overwhelmed by the miracle of the birth of their baby.

In recent times, the relationship a child has with a father has been the focus of much debate and research. In earlier years not much attention was paid to a father’s role in parenting; usually the mother’s role was considered primary. Today it is more clearly understood that both parents hold a unique and crucial role in parenting a child. The complimentarity of each role seems to be understood more clearly. It is not “either – or” rather “both – and”. Research seems to verify that each parent has a particular influence in shaping a child’s values and choices.

For example, it is thought that a child whose Dad is involved, playful, nurturing will enter school with a higher IQ and learning readiness. Involved fathers, playful and nurturing will have children with greater emotional development and higher tolerance to stress and are less prone to depression and anxiety. And as a child’s mother and father interact in the raising of their child, the deepest and perhaps most long-lasting impact on a child is offered.

Research as well as common sense confirms that as a father shows loving respect and care for his wife, he is teaching the child – modeling behavior – of how men appropriately respect women. Furthermore, as spouses create an authentic loving environment for the home, this more than anything has profound positive influence of the development of a healthy child.

In the daily life of many children, however, Dads may not be present. I think about recent deaths of police officers and firefighters whose children will grow up fatherless. And for whatever other reason, single Moms are raising a child alone. We recognize the extra challenges they face and this, in itself, is good reason to ask how a parish and community can be especially responsive to the needs of such families.

In our community of Charlestown, the norm seems to be that in one or two parent families parents are working and often working a lot! Families have less time to share as a family unit than ever before. It seems that modern telecommunication devices are allowing more communication between individuals and, at the same time, diminishing the time people spend together. In one sense, this piece of research confirms what every family in Charlestown knows: everyone is too busy to get together. Especially families – it is rare to find the time when everyone in a family is able to sit down to a meal together. Add to this reality, the importance of a father in a child’s life and that many fathers work 60+ hours a week.

It is not easy to set priorities and for a family to chose to forego some things in order to have time for more important things. The pressures to earn, multiplied in this difficult economy, and to gain security for self and family can make family life especially stressful. I know many Dads who push themselves hard to earn money and feel they are making this sacrifice for their family. Searching for balance is difficult yet not seeking and finding balance for the sake of the family might be very costly.

On this Fathers’ Day, perhaps we all can pause to thank God for the gift of our fathers, living and deceased. And maybe that is not enough. Maybe we need to ask, within our families and our parish and community, what we can do, concretely, to appreciate the role of the father in a family and household. And when a father is absent from a family, in what ways can our parish community be especially supportive.

In God’s mysterious plan for us all, we are born into a family. There is no such thing as a perfect father or family. And yet, there is the possibility that we can work each day to appreciate and support our family and all families.

Fr. Ronan


150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

Have you ever felt inspired? Ever seen a movie, heard a concert or performance and felt the actors and performers were inspired? How about a talk or speech – ever been inspired by something like that? What does it mean to be inspired?

Well technically one could say it means to “be – in – spirit”. It is one of those things that are hard to define, yet one can recognize it when seen. And it is hard because it is not tangible, not measurable or quantifiable. One could describe an event as “very inspiring” and everyone would know the person was touched, moved inside, lifted up to a level of feeling and awareness – taken to some almost new place … I cannot imagine anyone who does not like the experience of being inspired.

On Sunday, June 9, Christians will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, recalling the day on which the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles. The immediate impact of the event was that these men stepped out into the world and spoke, in a very inspiring way, about Jesus. The rest is history.

Christianity was born on that feast – even called the “birthday of the Church”. Jesus had promised the sending of the Holy Spirit and had explained that the Spirit would be an “Advocate”, a “Helper”. As the centuries passed, the Church came to understand more and more of the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the active, dynamic force and power of God in the world each moment of every day.

A Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of Baptism and the fullest gifts of the Spirit in Confirmation. And yet most Christians are not too aware of the presence of the Spirit in their lives. Again, the Spirit moves like a breeze – no one knows where it comes from or where it goes to – yet one certainly knows it is real. So how “In-Spirit” are you and are your days?

For me, I use the “surprise index” (something I just made up!) to gauge this.

By this I mean the number of times I become aware of something I say or do and I am surprised – I do not know where that came from and how it is it came to me. I believe the Spirit of God works in all who have received the Spirit and are open to God’s Grace. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are seven: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Wonder & Awe. Looking closely at these gifts and their presence in a person’s life is truly an experience of seeing the Holy Spirit in action.

For example, listening to a truly wise person; one who sees the deeper meaning in life’s events and finds God’s presence in all of nature and creation. One who can see the truth with clarity and treats others with dignity. Such a person’s gifts are hard to measure and a wonder to behold – indis generous, ubiquitous and delightful. The Spirit is playful, fun and wonderful. The Spirit is deep, serious and profound and so much more.

I believe the Holy Spirit flows from God the Father and God the Son and is the ever present movement of God in our world. For me, who spends each day in ministry in the Church, I realize my constant companion is the Holy Spirit and what a joy that is! And as I consider all of the many gifts and foibles of our beloved Church, I am also convinced that the Church will endure, not because of the competency of Popes and Bishops, rather because of the enduring presence of God’s loving Holy Spirit abiding in and with this Church. And this Church includes you and me!

Fr. Ronan

Loneliness in Charlestown

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

Everyone who lives in The Town whether newly arrived or long-timers recognizes this is a special place. What I hear said rather often describes appreciation for living in a small neighborhood in the middle of a big city. Seems the essential element of appreciation is less about size and more about the way it is possible around here for folks to get to know one another.

Every week new residents join this Parish, expressing their appreciation for being welcomed into the community. On the other hand, when families are leaving Charlestown they always express their sadness about leaving behind a wonderful community. Inevitably, they speak about returning as often as they can and maybe, someday, moving back here.

We are social beings and we long to be connected, known and to belong. In these times in which we live, fewer and fewer people have such positive connectedness to communities and others. The consequences of this truth are discussed in recent literature and research which point out there is an Epidemic of Loneliness in America.

Last November, in an opinion piece in the New York Times, Arthur Brooks wrote about how loneliness is tearing us apart. He was quoting, extensively, serious research of 20,000 Americans that uncovered startlingly high levels of loneliness across all demographics, most notably among 18-37 year olds. The reasons posited for this current state of affairs are many and beyond the scope of this article.

From my own experience in Charlestown and beyond, I believe this data is accurate and maybe even understates the seriousness of the issue. And, I write about pervasive loneliness in our community and beyond because its existence points to failures in our lifestyles and specifically in our faith-life.

We have become so absorbed in ourselves, our own siloes of work and beliefs that everyone else is a “them”. Our addiction to work, social media, devices and assorted “stuff”, appears to be satisfying while at the same time, it is never enough.

Increasingly, we are living exactly the way God intended us NOT to live. For, God knows us and in fact, created us and “wired” us to be connected, to belong, to be known and to be a part of the lives and community of others. I believe we are never complete until and unless we are.

We are blessed to live in Charlestown for among other things, there are so many more opportunities for us to be connected in various ways. At the same time, I know the level of loneliness here is prevalent and each one of us can do something about that.

We can look up into the faces of the many we meet all around town; shopping, walking, on the 92/93 bus. In public, using our devices and ear buds sends a clear message – leave me alone. Once in a while, turn it off and look around. There may well be an angel near waiting to say hello.

Fr. Ronan

Memorial Day

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

While Memorial Day has its origin as honoring war veterans, many citizens choose the day to remember their deceased loved ones as well. The birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, NY. There on May 5, 1866 local veterans remembered those who served and lost their lives in the Civil War. Shops were closed, flags were flown at half-mast and flowers were placed on the graves of the deceased veterans.

From that time, and especially in 1888 when a major observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery, until the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

As a child, one early memory of this important day of remembrance was ge@ing into our old Chevy wagon and going over into Forest Hills, Hyde Park and those neighborhoods where there are several cemeteries. On the way we would stop and purchase flowers, baskets, ivy and the like. The whole experience was unusual for me as family members explained that a deceased grandparent or other relative was buried here and on this day we place flowers at the graveside to honor and remember. I had never met any of these deceased and so the occasion offered family a chance to tell me something of their story. Looking back over the years, I can see that the simple experience of going to the cemetery and remembering brought into the present the reality of that person’s life and often a recollection of the blessings that one brought to our family.

There are so many Americans who have served in the military. And for we who have, this day has a special meaning. We recall those with whom we have served and/or those in the same branches of the service who served in the same places, bases, ships, planes … who lost their lives in service.

And on this day, everyone is caught up, once again, in the tragedy of war. How many great leaders of nations, religions and armies have made impassioned pleas to end war and not to go to war? And yet our human condition is such that at times we are unable to resolve the intractable issues of world conflicts without going to war.

This Memorial Day, as is at times the case, falls in the Easter Season. The centrality of the empty tomb and belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead frees us to see the grave as not the end of the story of a life. And so we remember how fragile is this sweet experience called life. And we ask our merciful God to receive our beloved dead to a place of eternal peace and to bless us, the living, with courage to create an ever more just world. For the words of Pope Paul VI in the late 60’s remain prophetic and wise, “If you want peace, work for justice”.

Fr. Ronan

Spring Rains

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

Do you ever find yourself amazed at the complexities and beauty of nature – like these ongoing yielding rich rains soaking the earth yielding rich greens everywhere? Sometimes I think there is a conspiracy afoot that obscures from our view the magnificence of everything around and within us – because of our worries, work, responsibilities and the constant juggling of time. What does it take for you to pause and take it all in for a moment? For me it has been daily walks and time out of doors with my dog – somehow that beautiful creature causes me to slow down and, just as she is snuffling and poking around – I find myself doing the same in my own way.

And the wonder of this beautiful springtime also calls to mind a delightful reflection by Jorge Luis Borges – which I have quoted in the past.


If I could live my life again.
Next time, I would try to make more mistakes.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be sillier than I have been.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would be less fastidious.
Accept more risks, I would take more trips,
Contemplate more evenings,
Climb more mountains, and swim more rivers…
I would go to more places where I have not been,
Eat more ice cream and fewer beans.
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.
I was one of those people who lived
sensibly and meticulously every minute of their life.
Of course I have had moments of happiness.
But if I could go back in time, I would try to
have good moments only,
and not waste precious time.
I was someone never went anywhere without a thermometer, a
hot water bag, an umbrella
and a parachute. If I could live again,
I would travel more frivolously.
If I could live again, I would begin
to walk barefoot at the beginning of the spring
and I would continue to do so until the end of autumn.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would contemplate more evenings and I would play
with more children.
If I could have another life ahead.
But I am 85 years old you see, and I know that I am dying

May the loveliness of these spring days increase your wonder of God’s majesty so that you cherish every instant – as gift!

Fr. Ronan

Spanish translation


Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima, trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido de hecho.
Tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos, haría más viajes,
contemplaría más atardeceres,
subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos….
Iría a más lugares a donde nunca he ido,
comería más helados y menos habas,
tendría más problemas reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió
sensata y prolíficamente cada minuto de su vida,
claro que tuve momentos de alegría….
Pero si pudiera volver atrás, trataría de
tener solamente buenos momentos,
no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca iba
a ninguna parte sin termómetro, una
bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas
y un paracaidas, si pudiera volver a vivir,
viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir comenzaría
a andar descalzo a principios de la primavera
y seguiría así hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesitas,
contemplaría más atardeceres y jugaría
con más niños ….
Si tuviera otra vida por delante.
Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo