From the Pastor

How Do You Measure?

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I came across a book the other day with the title, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” I picked it up as I considered it to be a catchy title. The author, Clayton Christensen, was, at one time, a highly regarded professor at Harvard Business School. Christensen’s book focuses mostly on a person’s career, yet the themes include all aspects of life including, satisfaction in work, personal relationships that endure and bring happiness, and maintaining one’s integrity.

Everyone passes into different stages of life wherein one needs to adapt
and learn about new realities. Times such as starting high school or college, beginning a new job, becoming a member of a team or entering a committed relationship – all times that challenge us to learn and grow. Sometimes these chapters of life are fun, exciting, and challenging, especially when they are expected and planned.

At other times, often not of our own choosing, we are drawn into changes
that are very difficult, even disruptive. The unexpected arrival of COVID on our doorstep five months ago caused and continues to create a substantial amount of turmoil for so many and, sadly, all too many have lost their lives.

And so I wonder, how do we measure our lives in the era of COVID?
How do we gauge our level of happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, and peacefulness? How do we identify what is missing in our lives? Perhaps these questions seem odd, yet we are all living in this moment and we are all struggling to do the best we can in a very changed reality and into an unknown future.

Conceivably, the question about what we find to be the enduring aspect
of our lives and that which truly is fulfilling will be answered more in terms of relationships rather than in what we do. Perhaps the COVID time which continues to interrupt our routines and the usual measures of our lives is a pathway for what truly matters – the importance of others in our lives.

Many have asked where God is in all this turmoil. I believe God’s closeness to us is a constant, although our awareness of that truth can be diluted by
the overwhelming confusion of these times – understandably so. The turmoil of these times is within us and all around us. We can easily get sucked into the latest breaking news cycle. That has never been helpful for me. For myself and perhaps for you a be,er way is to pivot to our relationships, beginning with God, the fountain of all love, and follow that path not only to get through these times, but also to find the greatest possible measure of a well-lived life.

Fr. Ronan

Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary Time
August 9, 2020

Today’s Gospel reveals what miraculous things can happen when one embraces a single-minded faith in Jesus Christ. Peter gets out of a wind-tossed boat when the Lord calls him. His faith is tested by his obedience to Jesus who is calling him out onto the water.
In the midst of the waves and the wind, Peter gets out of the boat and walks toward Jesus. Good stewards heed Christ’s call to them. Sometimes that call directs them to take on seemingly impossible challenges.
This week, reflect on how the Lord could be calling you out of the safety of your own “boat”


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

While the effects of COVID will continue to touch the lives of everyone for some time to come, many folks are trying to find a way to have some vacation this year. Now that Massachusetts seems a bit safer many are
seeking a bit of relief from the heat and the stress of these past months, before the uncertainty of the school year begins.

Every year about this time, I recall reading a column in one of the papers
from a regular columnist who writes about being on vacation. She describes in colorful language some beachfront town, maybe on the Cape or up Maine. The scene is charming, inviting, and lazy and always makes me wonder why my vacations are not as perfect as hers seem. I mean she talks about the beauty of the ocean, the breezes, the ice cream cones and cook outs; she describes the laid back mornings and lots of time for reading stuff she has looked forward to all year; connecting with old friends, pleasant walks and time … time to just be.

Don’t know why, but my vacations don’t usually seem as idealic as those I read about. I want them to be – at least as I look forward to a couple of weeks out of Charlestown. I fully recognize that I need to get away from the day-today reality of my routine and that a change in routine is really good, in fact necessary. Nonetheless, the person who goes on my vacation is the same person who gets up each morning at 5:30 and begins a schedule that is always full until late that night. What’s more, that person really enjoys each day like that.

So I conclude, it takes a bit of time to get into a vacation. The first days, 5:30 still seems the time to get up – at least Lily, my Black Lab thinks so. She is ready to go out, have breakfast, take a walk and start her day. Sometimes I tell her, we’re on vacation – go back to sleep. She doesn’t believe me. But after a few days, she starts to get the hang of it – we stay up later – there is more time for long walks, much more exercise and she is now happy to sleep in. In fact my dog gets into vacation mode faster than I do.

In August, I plan to get away for a couple of weeks. Slow down the daily pace, spend time with family and friends, get in some sailing and beach time and rest and read. I hope to stay away from the computer each day and not to hear the phone ring for whatever. When this happens, I see, again, what a blessing is my life. Leaving Charlestown and this parish helps me realize anew how much it all means to me, how I have grown to love this place and all of the people who form this great parish.

Maybe that is one of the greatest gifts of getting away: appreciating
what you have left behind and getting rested and refreshed so that
you can return. I hope that you and yours can also get some time away
before the weather cools down, and the schools open, and the cycle begins again, and that God blesses you and your family this beautiful summertime.

Fr. Ronan

Eighteenth Sunday
Ordinary Time
August 1/2, 2020

In today’s Gospel we find an equation the disciples of Jesus couldn’t solve: Five loaves and two fish divided by 5,000- plus people.
They failed to recognize Jesus in the equation; that whatever they had to offer, Jesus could take it and bless it and satisfy the hunger of the crowd with it. Good stewards recognize that the Lord can work miracles with the gifts they offer to a hungry and broken world.
How often are we willing to offer our gifts in faith, even during disquieting times, even as insignificant as we think they are, and count on the Lord to do the rest?
How often do we count Christ into the equation?


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, tells this story of his first communion. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family in France and on the day of his first communion he said to his mother: “I don’t understand what I’m doing.” She answered simply: “It’s okay, you don’t have to understand it now, later you will understand.”

Jesus, no doubt, must have given his disciples the exact same advice at the Last Supper, at their first communion. When he offered them bread and said, “This is my body”, and then offered them wine and said, “This is my blood”, they would not have understood.  There would have been considerable confusion and bewilderment: How are we supposed to understand this? What does it mean to eat someone’s body and drink someone’s blood? I suspect that in the face of their non-understanding, like Christian de Cherge’s mother, Jesus would have also said: You don’t have to understand it now, later you will understand.

Indeed in instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to understand what they were doing, he only asked them to faithfully celebrate it until he returned.  Their understanding of what they were doing in celebrating the Eucharist only developed as they grew in their faith.  But initially, Jesus didn’t ask for much of an understanding, nor did he give them much of an explanation for what he was celebrating with them. He simply asked them to eat his body and drink his blood.

Jesus didn’t give a theological discourse on the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He simply gave us a ritual and asked us to celebrate it regularly, irrespective of our intellectual understanding of it. One of his more-explicit explanations of the meaning of the Eucharist was his symbolic action of washing his disciples’ feet.

Little has changed. We too aren’t asked to fully or even adequately understand the Eucharist. Our faith only asks that we are faithful in participating in it.  In fact, as is the case for all deep mysteries, there is no satisfactory, rational explanation of the Eucharist. Nobody, not a single theologian in the world, can to anyone’s intellectual satisfaction, adequately lay out the phenomenology, psychology, or even spirituality of eating someone else’s body and drinking his blood. How is this to be understood? The mind comes up short.  We need instead to rely upon metaphors and icons and an inchoate, intuitive understanding. We can truly know this mystery, even as we can’t fully understand it.

During my seminary and academic training, I took three major courses on the Eucharist. After all those lectures and books on the Eucharist, I concluded that I didn’t understand the Eucharist and that I was happy enough with that because what those courses did teach me was how important it is that I celebrate and participate in the Eucharist. For all the intellectuality in those courses, their true value was that they ultimately said to me what Christian de Cherge’s mother said to him on the day of his first communion: You don’t have to understand now, later you will understand. Contained in that, of course, is the fact that there is something profound here that is worth understanding, but that it’s too deep to be fully grasped right now.

Perhaps this can be helpful in our search for what to say to some of our own children and young people who no longer go to church and who tell us that the reason they don’t go is that they don’t find the Eucharist meaningful. We hear that lament all the time today: Why should I go to church, it doesn’t mean anything to me?” That objection is simply another way of saying what young Christian de Cherge said to his mother at his first communion: I don’t understand this. Perhaps our answer then could be along the lines of the response of his mother: You don’t have to understand now, later you will understand.

The British theologian, Ronald Knox, speaking about the Eucharist, submits this: We have never, he claims, as Christians, been truly faithful to Jesus, no matter our denomination. In the end, none of us have truly followed those teachings which most characterize Jesus: We haven’t turned the other cheek. We haven’t forgiven our enemies. We haven’t purified our thoughts. We haven’t seen God in the poor. We haven’t kept our hearts pure and free from the things of this world. But we have, he submits, been faithful in one very important way; we have kept the Eucharist going. The last thing Jesus asked us to do before he died was to keep celebrating the Eucharist. And that we’ve done, despite the fact that we have never really grasped rationally what in fact we are doing. But we’ve been faithful in doing it because we grasped the wisdom in what Christian de Cherge’s mother said to her son: You don’t have to understand this; you just have to do it.

Seventeenth Sunday in
Ordinary Time
July 25/26, 2020

A profound stewardship prayer is offered by the young King Solomon in today’s first reading. He asks the Lord to give him an understanding heart, compassion towards God’s people and the insight to distinguish right from wrong. An understanding heart, or wisdom, is a gift from God. It is a gift that enables us to make good decisions and prudent choices. Cultivating and sharing this gift is essential, especially when poor decisions and lack of compassion have consequences that affect the lives of others.
During these disquieting times, are we asking God for an understanding heart?
Are we exercising good stewardship over the gift of wisdom?
Are we sharing our compassionate hearts with others?

What To Do?

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

In the middle of this summertime as the nation continues to struggle to make peace with COVID, there appear to be more questions about what we ought to do than there are answers. Or maybe it is the other way around! It is dizzying to consider all of the challenges we face from children returning to school, questions about daycare, huge issues in the economy, the injustice of racism, to the day-to-day stressors of trying to navigate life in a safe way.

Much of what I “do” is reacting to whatever reality I face – I guess it is the same for all of us. When the reality is as daunting as a pandemic and racism, so complex and difficult to comprehend, what to do is hard to figure out. I think most of us consider one way and then another and then maybe conclude, we just do not know.

For example, the other day I had a conversation with my niece, a professional educator. I asked her what she thought about re-opening school in September. She responded by identifying a number of very complex issues, such as conditions of old school buildings, equity of resources among children in different sectors of the city, safety concerns for teachers, availability of technology, and needs and expectations versus reality of budgets. Finally, she said “I just don’t know how we can do it”

In conversations with friends and colleagues about racism, something similar happens. First of all, among white folks, including myself, we easily get defensive. We are certain it exists and also that “I am not racist so it doesn’t really pertain to me”. When the conversations go deeper I realize I am racist and, in fact, I believe most of us are although that is not our intention and it is not conscious. Good people can be racist as it is part of our socialization and our culture. Because racism is multilayered and extremely complex finding effective cures, solutions, is never easy and simple.

In all of this summer’s realities “What To Do” is a tough question to answer. So, maybe that is not the best starting point. Perhaps the better question is “How to Be?”

I think we all need an anchor, a fundamental standing place to view all that is happening. That standing place has to be clear. It is the platform, reference point from which all else flows. I don’t think it is simply about a superficial characteristic of our lives such as, “I’m a Red Sox fan so …” or “I am a Bostonian so …” or “I am a millennial or Boomer so …”

For me, my anchor, my fundamental standing place is my Judeo-Christian faith. I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There I find everything I need to look for “What to Do”. It is yoked to the belief that each of us is a precious child of God and each possesses a dignity and worth beyond measure. From that faith flows the exhortation that we are to love one another as we have been loved and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Looking forward from these July days, I believe it is possible to find a good path through the conundrums of this time by first focusing on how to be before deciding what to do.

Fr. Ronan

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 18/19 2020

In today’s second reading, St. Paul bids us to take comfort in knowing that when God invites us to pray to him he knows our true needs, even if we do not. The Holy Spirit intercedes and prays for us even if we can’t come up with appropriate words; even when we don’t have a clue what to ask for. We are not left alone. Good Stewards know prayer in an important part of living a life in Christ. The important thing is to make space for God.
Do we let God into our hearts?
Do we make room for the Holy Spirit to pray within us?

To Plan Ahead

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I received a piece of mail yesterday from an office of the Archdiocese. The notice informed me that these summer days are the perfect time to plan for the new year. I groaned. I am not a good planner. When someone asks me about what will happen many weeks/months/years into the future, I respond with a blank stare. It is not that I am uncaring about the future or that I do not have a vision and hope for tomorrow. It is just that in the moment, for me, it is hard to look beyond the present.

This is partly because I am so engaged in the present and doing lots of stuff and enjoying it. To stop that and think about tomorrow seems — awkward. So it is that I push myself to plan for the days and time ahead. And when I do, I can sense a desire in me to want to have control over that in the same way that I might be able to manage the present situations. Herein lays the problem.

None of us have control over tomorrow. We like to think we do. If we plan adequately for today, we will be in good shape for tomorrow. The future never comes, or, there are no tomorrows. We have heard these thoughts before and they are unsettling. Of course, the point is, when tomorrow comes it is today and there are, therefore, no tomorrows. However we look at it, each of us must contemplate our life and where it is going. Even if we avoid doing so, some unexpected event will force us to have to face tomorrow.

It is at this juncture that our faith can save us. We Christians believe that God has a plan. I do not necessarily know it – nor should I need to. Yet, I do need to believe that God has this situation figured out. The planning and control part of all of us feels that we need to get everything in order so that the anticipated and the unanticipated will be met with an adequate response. What a heavy burden to carry! Who can figure all that out?

Of course, we need to responsibly plan for each day. Yet my sense is that God wants us to be concerned about our daily lives such that we live our lives well as Christ has taught us. Our energy and worry ought to be more about the needs of others than ourselves, and it is our faith that frees us to live that way.

The Good Samaritan, who stopped on the road to Jericho to care for the victim of robbers, had every reason to be cautious and wonder what this was going to cost him … Clearly, this disaster was not in his plans that day. His faith allowed him to step forward and place his comfort and convenience aside for the welfare of another.

Jesus holds up the Samaritan as the example of how you and I are to take on each day: grounded in the command to love God and our neighbor and free to do just that. Often that will mean having our plans for today and tomorrow, yet, being ready to live freely so that God’s love both sustains me and directs my planning.

Fr. Ronan

Fifteenth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Weekend of July 11/12 2020
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul gives us reason to hope
for a wondrous future beyond our imagination. He preaches this hope amidst the suffering of the early Christian communities. “Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18).

Good stewards realize that by remaining faithful to the Gospel with persistence, fervor and endurance, our hope in the promises of Christ Jesus will be rewarded. Reflect this week on concrete ways you can remain faithful to the Gospel during these challenging times.

The Tension of the Times

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Independence Day

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

All of us have different memories of earlier times and of celebrating the Fourth of July. I guess as a child, the first memories I have are of the fire works and of trying to stay awake to see them. I did not have any sense of “freedom” and “independence”; such concepts were too adult for me as a kid. But the spirit of the day, the festivities, the flags, parades and fireworks, the cookouts and the family gatherings all of these are beautiful memories for me.

Surely this is one of the special days when every citizen, new or born here, takes pride in our magnificent country. It is a holiday that ought to be free from partisanship: it belongs neither to the Democrats nor the Republicans nor any other political party. All love our country equally.

The core values of America come from the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Not long ago I read the biography of John Adams, one of the great patriots and founders of our nation. John Adams fought strenuously for a system of government and a Constitution for the new Republic that placed enormous importance on liberty. And this freedom was grounded in the inalienable dignity and worth of every person. This truth is one of the cornerstones of all Catholic Social teaching and one reason, I suppose, that our country is such a strongly religious nation, founded UNDER GOD.

Today in Charlestown, as well as in other communities, we will be unable to celebrate in many of the traditional ways. And perhaps because our country is in the midst of this continuing and terrible pandemic, our sensitivity is all the more heightened about the precious values we cherish so much on this July 4th.

All of us who are veterans, who have served in uniform and those who haven’t, support, admire, and respect the young men and women serving in the military today and recognize the toll it takes on them and their families. Their job is a tough one and they are deserving of our support..

And this might be the major point for me this Independence Day: the value of freedom on which our nation is built gives each of us the right to question and disagree with one another. At the same time, our Founding Fathers did not build in the right for us to ever disrespect another who holds a position different from our own. In fact the dignity of each person being a fundamental principle of our Nation’s Bill of Rights calls on every citizen to respect the other.

Fr. Ronan

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading – 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16
Responsorial Psalm – 89:2-3, 1617, 18-19
2nd Reading – Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Gospel – Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus said to his apostles:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “

A message from Fr. Ronan

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena


150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

On summer nights, family, friends, and neighbors would all be outside siing around on porches while the kids played and ran around. The evenings moved toward darkness too quickly and my Mother would call me over telling me, as the youngest in the family, it was time for bed. That meant going into the big, empty, old dark house, climbing the stairs and finding my way along to our rooms. It was very dark and I was scared. “Are you afraid to go in by yourself?” I was asked. I couldn’t say yes for that meant an older brother or sister would be called to take me up to bed … unthinkable!

Everyone, at some point in life, is scared of the dark, literally or metaphorically. The dark means the unknown; what is ahead is unclear; one has no plan, no control. Fear grips easily and we can become paralyzed by it. To a greater or lesser degree, we all know what this experience is like. The fear, which is in the family of anxiety, could be for oneself or for others; it could be remote or proximate; it could be reasonable or not. Yet, in all cases, it is very real.

As I write these thoughts, our world is growing increasingly anxious about the corona virus (COVID-19). Every day the news amazes as we learn of the implications of the growth in the number of those infected. The situation in Italy seems dire and the city of Rome cancelled all Masses for the weeks ahead. Concerts, sports events, and assemblies of all kinds are being analyzed for safety concerns. No one knows where this is going and how it will all play out.

“Are you afraid?” I heard someone ask a friend down at the CVS yesterday. “Terrified” came the instant response. I glanced at the person and, indeed, I saw a person who looked terrified. Fear can be crippling. It can close us in on ourselves and cause us to look suspiciously at everything around us. Of course, on the one hand, fear is a very natural and healthy response, a defense against threats, needed to prepare us to respond in a way that protects and often saves us.

But there is another response to fear: to approach our realities in faith. Our faith brings us to another place, outside of ourselves. Faith embraces our relationship with God, listens to our story with God, recalls times past of God’s faithful support and mercy. Our faith can draw us to see, sense, and become aware of the larger reality. It can free us into relationships easily overlooked and bypassed through fear. Our faith can lead us to trust.

Though I’ve never counted myself, it is said that the phrase “fear not, or similarly, “do not be afraid”, is written in the Bible 365 times – one for each day. Jesus, himself, responding to the frightened father of a dying child said, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust” (Mt. 5:36).

The crises of our time, of this moment in time, are undeniable. All reasonable precautions and care are called for, of course. At the same time, if we so choose, this is also a moment that invites us to embrace our faith in the goodness and omnipotence of God. A faith that opens us to the intimacy and care of Jesus. A faith that comforts and guides us as we lean into the genuine trust our faith offers.

My Mom whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid Jim, you will be fine — go to bed”. I went into the dark house, up the stairs, and to bed. I trusted my Mom, and she was right. Trust God.

Fr. Ronan

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Rooseveltʹs First Inaugural Address

March 15 ~ Third Sunday of Lent

We meet the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel. Her conversation with Jesus put her on the ‘fast track’ to self-searching and repentance.
Her conversation with Jesus transformed her into a great evangelizer: “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me everything I have done.’ʺ This week consider how your prayer, fasting or almsgiving is transforming your life. Share what God has done for you with someone.

What do You do?

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Anyone who lives in the city knows this experience – sometimes several times a day: you are walking along the street and you meet someone who is begging for money. The same can happen at major intersections when you are inching your way through traffic. It seems there are several responses: one, is to ignore the person – make like he/she is invisible and keep walking or driving – eyes ahead, you know what I mean. Another is to recognize the person by a greeting and a response, like saying, “No”, or else, “Sorry – —-”. Another is to stop or slow down and offer the person some money, often change from the bottom of a pocket or purse. Many find these events irritating or troubling. Sometimes, they set off a train of thought about how the person is likely going to use any money collected for drugs or alcohol.

How does the Christian face the blatant needs/requests of another person? I wish it was an easy question. I know I am approached very often walking around town. Sometimes, I wish I could walk on by, but I cannot. As uncomfortable and inconvenient as such moments might be, I am convinced that each person, no matter how down and out, is owed respect.

I realize each of us has a different response to these situations. There are cogent arguments that giving something creates a dependency and does not really address the issue. Others feel that the person in need might be simply lazy and ought to get a job to earn whatever is needed. Others might feel that it is rude and offensive to do such a thing and are turned away by that reason alone. Some feel the beggar is no more than a thief, preying on people’s consciences and circumstances and should not be encouraged, but punished.

In the end, I wonder if the motives of the person asking or begging are important at all. Why should they be? Why do I need to know them? Maybe they are legitimate and maybe not, who should be the judge of that? Does it really matter to the Christian?

During Lent, the Church teaches that one of the three pillars of our Lenten practices is almsgiving. Literally, this means giving something to the poor. Acts of simple charity flow from a choice one makes to see some need and respond in whatever way seems reasonable within one’s capacity. For most of us, this means writing a check to a worthy charity, and that is most certainly needed. Engaging in acts of kindness that are more of a challenge for us to perform also is suitable. For example, being nice to an annoying person or offering a traffic break to a careless driver could be admirable choices.

The Church and our tradition offer many teachings on how we are to care for one another and one of the most applicable in daily life is the “Golden Rule”. What if, for Lent, each of us treated one another in the way we would like to be treated?

Fr. Ronan

March 8 ~ The Second Sunday of Lent

Today’s gospel presents the familiar story of the transfiguration.
Peter, James, and John were awe struck by the appearance of Jesus and by the words that the voice of God spoke:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Listen to Him.
This message is for us.
Pray for the grace to be open to God’s word, to be transfigured into a courageous messenger of God’s love.