From the Pastor

Starlight

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Have you ever had the experience of being outside on a very, very dark night with no moon, and looking up
you saw a sky replete with stars – millions and millions of stars across the entire dome of the sky? It’s an incredibly spectacular view, especially if you’re in an area unmarred by city lights and polluted air. Those stars, we’re told, are more than 25 light years away, with each light year being comparable to a distance of 5.8 trillion miles! One finds
mention of the stars in sacred scripture at many different moments. But there’s one particular line is Psalm 147 that always gives me pause. It says that God calls each of the stars by name. Imagine that!

Well, it was under such starlight of the Jerusalem sky that Mary Magdalene set out from her home with her friends to the tomb on that Sunday morning, arriving just as the sun was coming up. They were looking for the body of Jesus, but the maker of these named stars had been at work. And the one through whom all things were made was no longer entombed but had risen.

Jesus Christ had risen. Jesus Christ is risen The resurrection of Jesus has catapulted the vision and plan that God has for
the whole of the salvation of humankind for centuries. God’s vision for a world of peace that goes beyond the absence of war. It is a vision of a world that is not divided or divisive; a world in which there is no hunger or poverty and so much more wellbeing for all. It’s a world that is so much better than the one we often find in our life journey in these days. It’s a remarkable and unique vision – one that we all know about because of the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yet, it is an elusive vision. A dream that we need to continue to choose and strive towards though we fall short of it often. Yes, it can be frustrating and we can get discouraged, yet it is a dream and a vision that we know about and desire, as imperfect as our efforts may be, because we sometimes savor it when we come together in mutually beneficial ways in relationships, in friendships, in families, in parishes, in communities, and in neighborhoods. God’s plan for us is embodied in the hope that all of evil and the pathway forward from evil is conquered in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Recently, Pope Francis published an encyclical entitled, Fratelli Tutti (we are all sisters and brothers). In it, he speaks about the common heritage of all humankind as sisters and brothers. It’s a simple truth although it’s hard for us to even appreciate its full impact. We are all the same. We are all the work of God’s hands. God’s fingerprints are on each one of us and yet God made us to be entirely unique individuals. God’s vision is for each one of us to take the thread that is me, that is you, and weave it into one remarkably united, precious, and beautiful tapestry through friendships, families, communities, institutions of various sorts, workplaces, schools, countries and throughout the world.

This remarkable vision is pregnant with hope for us to become one, distinct and different as we are, into one, integrated, and desirable tapestry of life. When you look at a tapestry there is so much color, variability, and beauty to it. But did you ever look at the reverse side of a tapestry? It’s really messy. This is the story of our life – weaving that tapestry, that beauty that is God’s dream for us can be messy but when we choose to live it and get a taste of it, it spurs us onward. And the pattern to create this incredible tapestry is found in the person of Jesus – in his life, his teachings, his cross, his resurrection.

This spectacular vision can only fully come to be if each of us chooses to earnestly engage in the full practice of love – the practice of authentic love. It’s not the superficiality of love that we hear about in our culture, the totally self-defined and self-referential and all about self, kind of love. No, truly authentic love is pure at its core and includes the wellbeing of others. Because, you see, the dream will never come true if it’s the “I’m number one” kind of love. It’s not about me or you, it’s about us, all of us. It’s the first person plural that must be the operative and defining aspect of completing the vision that God has for us.

You know, starlight can sometimes be intoxicating. It can set us off in a dreamy place. Fairy tales are told about starlight. But starlight is real. For me, when I think about and observe starlight, it gives me hope because it helps me
recognize the truth of the omnipotence of God, that nothing is impossible for God. With God all things are possible – but God needs our cooperation to make the dream become a reality. So let’s not get stuck and want to give up, allowing ourselves to believe that our dreams, our political systems, our health care systems, our education systems, sensible immigration policies, work situations or our caring for one another are impossible to ameliorate.

That we can be as united as we are different is the ultimate dream for which each of us long. The strength that flows from our unity can realize in little and big ways the vision God holds for humankind.

Fr. Ronan

Second Sunday of Easter
April 10/11, 2021

When the risen Christ encounters his disciples in the locked room he adds a new
Beatitude to the ones we’ve heard proclaimed before:
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
Stewards of the mysteries of God’s love do not need proof of the risen Christ. They know it because their lives have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who has breathed new life into them. As stewards of
this great gift it is appropriate to reflect on how we in turn add new life into our parish communities.

Darkness Vanishes Forever

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The great hymn sung at the Easter Vigil is called the Exultet. It is an ancient piece and arguably one of the greatest proclamations that has ever been compiled about our salvation and the meaning of Easter. After the dramatic entry of
the priest and ministers into the darkened church on Saturday evening and the lighting of the Easter candle, the priest sings out, “CHRIST OUR LIGHT!” – to which the people respond, “THANKS BE TO GOD!” The Easter Vigil has begun
and the community celebrates the truth of Christ’s Resurrection.

The implications of the Resurrection are proclaimed in the Hymn that invites the world and all creation to rejoice because “Christ has conquered … and Darkness vanishes forever.” The beautiful chant reviews all of salvation history
remembering the fall of Adam and Eve and proclaims it a “Happy Fault, a Necessary Evil – which gained for us so great a Redeemer”. “This is the night …” is proclaimed over and over in a style that emphasizes the immensity of the event.

In truth, the moment is too huge for us to capture. We live so deeply in our own skin and sinfulness that it is almost impossible to imagine freedom from the power of darkness in our world and in our lives. The powers of darkness have
so creatively and effectively duped us into believing in a God who is limited in love and mercy that we don’t get the full impact of the Easter message. We see ourselves and not the God who created us as the center of this drama. With ourselves at the center-point we believe that all love and mercy must be somehow filtered through our senses and abilities.

The Easter proclamation denounces this self-delusion: “The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy.” The freedom that is offered us tonight can change our lives – can make everything different! For it is in Jesus Christ, in and through our baptism in the Son of God that we are free.

The Church teaches that we are “An Easter People”. What does that mean? For me this message gives to each of us the capacity to say NO to darkness; to hunger, violence, injustice and all of the “isms” of our time that diminish the dignity of people near and far. Not only does Easter give me a personal hope for tomorrow, it compels me to make tomorrow other than it would be if Christ had NOT risen from the dead!

With Christians throughout the world this Easter we proclaim, “Father how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love!”

May the Hope that is ours in and through the Resurrection of Christ shine brilliantly in your life and through you, lessen the darkness of this world.

Fr. Ronan

The Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Vigil April 3, 2021

In tonight’s reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we are reminded that we are alive in
Christ. And it is not merely once a year that we remember what Jesus did to give us this new
life, forgiveness and peace. Every day good stewards remember their baptism.
They remember that they are united with Jesus in his death; that daily they drown the old sinful nature, and
that daily they rise to their new life in Christ.
Let us be mindful every day, especially when we are troubled by life or tempted by sin, that our lives are no longer about us, but about Christ’s active, loving presence within us.
That is our baptism. Alleluia! He is risen!

Easter Sunday
April 4, 2021

The tomb is empty! Jesus Christ has risen today!
Our Savior is active, alive, and transforming us and our communities of faith, even the world, at this very moment. Easter is a time of joy, a time of celebration. To have faith in the risen Lord is also to believe that we are disciples who bear witness to Christ in a broken and troubled world.
To be good stewards of this faith obliges us to be living witnesses to Christ’s peace at home and in public.
Jesus cannot be found buried.
He is risen. Alleluia!

Some New Normal

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

As Charlestown blossoms literally and figuratively into this early springtime, everyone is hoping we are moving back to something we used to call normal. Yet I think all of us have heard people say we will never get back to normal and we do not really know what the new is going to be. Nonetheless, in this beautiful season, a new normal is being lifted up to us.

Ironically, it is new while at the same time being ancient. This weekend Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, that moment 2000 years ago when the Jewish community in Jerusalem recognized in Jesus the long hoped for fulfillment of the ancient promise. They greeted him in the valley ascending to the great city, hacking palm branches from nearby trees and laying them on the dusty road tread by a donkey carrying the Messiah. Everything about this Jesus, the itinerant prophet, was new. No one had ever spoken about God the way He spoke. The message and the actions, the healings and the teachings, the very lifestyle and person of the carpenter from Nazareth captured the minds and hearts of the people. Something new had arrived.

While Christians remember that day from long ago, the relationship to which all are invited in the present moment is entirely new. Relationships are like that. If they are authentic, they are never static; they are alive and invite us into ever growing depth. The promise God makes to human kind is a new covenant, a new way of being in relationship with God. It is new in that it is defined not by commandments, regulations, and various practices. Rather it is defined in terms of an authentic, intimate, relationship of love.

Christianity is about a relationship — it is not about a series of do’s and don’ts. The Creator God freely offers the relationship. It is not of our making. It is a gift just as our very life is a gift. The invitation to renew the relationship in
the springtime of 2021 offers to each person a new normal. This normal is so very much richer, more profound, and transformative than the normal of earlier days.

I have never met anyone who is not searching in some way, at some level. There is, I believe, a universal restlessness among all humankind and it has been heightened during this tragic, unimaginably painful year. On the one hand, we
could feel we are restless to return to everything that used to be. I would suggest that is not enough. However, what is enough and is being proclaimed at the beginning of this most holy week is the invitation into an ever-deeper relationship with our God.

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum of restlessness, the invitation for men and women of faith in this holy season that includes Ramadan, Passover, and Easter, invites all to a new normal ever ancient and ever new. There is a good reason as to why this is called a season of hope.

Father Ronan

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
March 27/28, 2021

This weekend we participate in the proclamation of the passion and death of Jesus
according to the Gospel of Mark. In the extended version of this weekend’s Gospel
reading, Jesus is at Gethsemane, praying to his Father, in much emotional distress.
He knows he can save himself. He can escape over the Mount of Olives in the dead
of night and make his way safely into the Judean desert.
Instead, Jesus chooses obedience to his Father and waits for his persecutors.
As Saint Paul puts it in the second reading, Jesus is “obedient to the point of death.”
Jesus’ obedience is a lesson for those who are good stewards of their life in Christ.
Let us reflect on how we might be more obedient to the will of God instead of our own will.

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?

Restlessness

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?