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In a Fog

One of the rituals of spring is preparing my old 15’ sailboat after a winter in the backyard, to go into the Bay. Last week the weather was poor but the plans had been made and we pulled off the tarp, got out the hose and buckets and cleaned up The Rose for another season of sailing on Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth Bays. By noon time, the mast was stepped, the sail rigged and all was ready for launching in Snug Harbor.

The decision on whether or not to sail over to the mooring was carefully considered, for there was considerable fog on the Bay and the weather was unsettled. Mine is a small boat; the Bay is large and weather can change rapidly in the springtime. I have a compass on board, yet the thought of having to navigate to the mooring by instrument and under sail convinced me to fire up the small outboard motor and chug across the Bay hugging the shoreline.

I have read many metaphors about sailing and life, and one of them is about being fog-bound. The story goes like this: a fellow was sailing a small boat on a Bay and quickly and without warning, a fog rolled in. In a moment the sailor was disoriented and had no idea of the direction of the shoreline. There was no choice; he had to drop anchor and wait. Anxiously he lowered his sails and threw out his anchor. All was still. He was helpless and did not know what to do.

How many times can something similar happen in our own lives? At one moment we seem to have everything under control, a clear direction and are making good progress. All of a sudden, something happens: maybe an accident, illness, a death or a change in one’s circumstances. Suddenly one feels lost and uncertain of the direction of life. Things do not make sense anymore – everything has changed. It is like we are in a fog and don’t know the way to shore and safety. What to do?

Actually the sailor’s response is the only correct one: stop. Drop anchor and wait. When that happens, something unexpected often occurs. After the anxiety and uncertainty of the moment passes, we might just find ourselves using all of our other senses, hearing, touch, smell and taste to learn something of our situation: sounds from shore or other vessels, the feel of a breeze and the smell may help one know the direction of it…
Such moments can also bring us an awareness of the closeness of God. Our God is always close to us and especially when we feel lost and broken, anxious and uncertain. Actually such moments can best be seen as invitations for us to deliberately turn to God, placing our fog-bound life into God’s hands with total confidence. In fact, the more we trust that God will see us through a trial, the more the challenge of the moment eases. All in all, sometimes being fog-bound can be a good thing!

Fr. Ronan

THE FIRST TIME

There is a first time for everything. Some of our firsts are more memorable than others. Remember the first time you drove a car? How about the first time you went on a date or drank a beer or smoked a cigarette? Your first real job after completing school – that was a big one! There are so many firsts and last weekend we celebrated with a very beautiful liturgy, the First Communion of 27 of our dear children. They were so well prepared and decked out in white dresses or suits. They could not have been more beautiful or handsome. Speaking with them before we began the Mass, they told me how excited they were! One child declared he was so excited: “I couldn’t sleep last night!”

Can you remember your First Holy Communion? Mine was at St. Peter’s Parish in Dorchester more than 50 years ago. Probably similar to those celebrations here in Charlestown at that time: huge classes of children and packed churches every Sunday. For all the years that have passed, I can recall the special-ness of the day, and the overarching memory is one of love, from God, my family and in the parish community. I am certain that I was no better prepared than our children were on Sunday – they were really sharp and have studied and learned very well in preparation for the day.

Now that the foundation is there, our greatest hope for the children is that the building continues. Children so need the example of parents and a lively community practicing and living the faith. This is what we wish to foster here in Charlestown. This experience of living the faith begins with our being a welcoming community. Re-read our Parish Mission Statement from time to time; We are an intentionally inclusive community welcoming all of the many people who make up our diverse neighborhood”. In my mind the experience of being welcomed into a community is both simple and profound.

First of all it is intentional – deliberate. It happens when we (each of us) make a choice to look left & right – front & back and welcome another. A nod, an introduction, a handshake, a smile … whatever works to give the clear signal that you recognize your neighbor and greet them. We are an urban community. A lot of people come and go here. Some are visitors, some passing through and others staying for awhile. Sometimes we have people staying at the Constitution Inn or Marriott in the Navy Yard who visit. Some are staying for longer times for medical treatment at a local hospital. The point is, All Are Welcome.

Last weekend we celebrated the feast of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church. There are many aspects of this great feast for us to recall, and one of them is that the Holy Spirit fosters community and one that is never exclusive, rather always inclusive. May God’s loving Spirit so bless our Parish that we become more and more the intentional community we aspire to be. What a lasting gift that will be to our children.

Fr. Ronan

We Need a Lawyer!

There are all kinds of lawyer stories and jokes and a lot of them are good. Some of them use different words to describe a lawyer like “mouthpiece”, “counselor”, “defender” and “advocate”. We all know that if we are in trouble and if we need some special help with a problem, we want a good lawyer – someone who will take our side and advise us about how to get through a tough time; someone who will stick up for us in a fight and help us win a just, fair and peaceful solution to our problems.

In the last days of Jesus’ journey on earth, He explained that He had to leave and he would send to us an advocate, in fact a lawyer. This advocate would explain all that Jesus had done and taught and further, would be like Jesus’ mouthpiece for us. Jesus promised that this Paraclete would never leave us alone and through this Spirit, who would have incredible power, we would find the strength to accomplish all kinds of things in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is this Advocate and special envoy.

This is Pentecost Sunday. This is the feast of the Holy Spirit. This is the day when Christians everywhere celebrate the arrival of the One who has been sent from the Father and the Son and Who represents them, and in fact is united with them to form One God. Our God is a Triune God: Father and Son and Holy Spirit. And it is the Spirit who remains with the Church and with you and me. It is the Spirit whom we receive at Baptism and the full gifts of this Spirit that we receive at Confirmation. It is the Spirit who animates us, guides us and inspires us. The very word INSPIRATION, means, of course, filled with the Spirit.

Well, we need a good lawyer, not only right here in Charlestown and Boston, but across the United States and throughout our world. Not just an average lawyer – you know the kind they call an “ambulance chaser” on TV. We need one of those really committed, honorable, wise, self-assured, experienced, compassionate, articulate and persuasive lawyers. Fact is, we need the Holy Spirit – no one else will do!

As you know, there are so many challenges facing the Church and society, both local and global, that I simply do not have a clue as to how we are going to find good, fair, honest and equitable solutions that can address all that needs to be accomplished. There is anger, hurt, sadness and disappointment out there. There is violence, oppression, greed and injustice. There is no small measure of righteousness, selfishness, arrogance and pride. And, there is indifference, apathy and ignorance, which may be the most toxic of all. Human beings alone, whether lay, religious, clerical or otherwise cannot solve these complex challenges. And while I have a joyful confidence that Pope Francis holds the keys to some of what is needed, it is definitely a job for the Holy Spirit.

So, what can we do? I firmly believe that if this weekend and going forward, each and every one who believes, implores the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and every heart disposed to fueling the problems that exist, we will be on our way to mending our brokenness. This Spirit of God can and will come and enlighten the hearts and minds of this local Church and of all people, thereby guiding us out of the destructive behaviors and patterns that afflict our community and our world.

If you believe this, and I believe this and we all believe this, and pray for this gift – Look Out! Be prepared to receive the gift, and the surprises and joy to follow.

Fr. Ronan

FIRST HOLY COMMUNION

The Religious Ed program has ended for the year and the second grade students are ready to receive their First Holy Communion.  It will take place on may 20 at the 10:30 AM Mass.

After Mass the First Holy Communion class will process to Mary’s peace garden and crown Mary Queen of the May.

It will be a great pleasure to see these students receive for the first time!

 

 

 

Public Health Threat

In this morning’s newspaper there was an intriguing article about the threat to one’s health caused by loneliness. Amazing, yet not surprising.

Several years ago Facebook was front page news in papers around the country. The much anticipated IPO of the social media company concluded the first day with an estimated value of $105 billion. The results of this unimaginable event made Facebook the 25th largest company in the United States. The size may seem surprising for many reasons and yet 1 out of every 13 people on Planet Earth use Facebook. The exponential growth in popularity of this company has given rise to many theories and critiques.

In the May, 2008 issue of ATLANTIC, Steven Marche wrote an evocative article; Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Marche develops the question and places it into the context of this age and culture – recalling the trend of social disintegration that has been documented since before David Riesman’s classic work, The Lonely Crowd. His research points to the age old human longing for connectedness (friendship, intimacy and love) and in the North American culture in particular, to the high value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. It would seem that Facebook offers a marriage of these two longings: the illusion of intimacy along with the illusion of distance.

Stepping into our world 2000 years ago and today, Jesus speaks to these ageless longings of the human heart. The Architect, Engineer and Builder of you and me, knows each of us so very completely. The One who understands our hopes and dreams, our fears and sorrows, comes among us to lead us out of the shadows and darkness of our loneliness. How?

I believe each of us holds within a desire to see and know of God. And when I stop to wonder about my life and everything and everyone around me – looking back through the years – and become amazed at all that is and all that I am and all I yearn to do and become –I recognize it as Gift! Since childhood we have been taught how to receive a gift – with THANK YOU. Gratitude is key – it opens the door to everything.

And most important, gratitude opens the door to love. For once I know this love, in which I am held by God, in gratitude I am compelled to give it away; with family, friends, community and in service to others – my life is transformed by living in this experience of love. The entire life of Jesus, including His teaching and example along with His suffering, death and resurrection, everything points to and underscores the one single command that God has left us: Love one Another as I Have Loved You.

Facebook and any other technology of social media are tools, of which we have many. Like any other tool, their intrinsic value is dependent on how they are used. The gift of our faith is the one “tool” we have been given (in our Baptism) that opens for us a true way to realize intimacy and love as well as complete self-fulfillment. God offers us continual refreshment, forgiveness, nourishment and yes, there is something else. Once we receive these gifts we are to go out and give them away – in a deliberate choice to bring into a world so desperate for authentic intimacy and caught up in intriguing illusion.

Fr. Ronan

The Search for Joy

One of my most favorite films is “Shadowlands”, a superb enactment of the autobiography of C.S. Lewis. Anthony Hopkins is cast as the unmarried Oxford university professor fully engaged in the life of the mind. An active mentor to his students he led a quiet life with friends, living with his brother in the quaint village of Oxford, England and in the shadow of the great university. The film is captivating on many levels, the beautiful countryside, the stunning halls of Oxford, the cast of wonderful actors and above all, it is Hopkins, the protagonist, who holds one’s attention.

The serene life of “Jack” (C.S. Lewis) is unsettled when the noted American poet, Joy Gresham (played by Deborah Winger) enters his small world with her child. Joy penetrates Jack’s cerebral armor and turns his world upside down – he falls in love with Joy. The story is powerful as one watches this unlikely couple discover the absolute, undefinable and authentic gift of love. For the first time in Jack’s life, an other becomes his center and he is surprised by joy.

In his earlier life, Lewis was a professed atheist and wrote about the reasonableness of atheism. His conversion to Catholicism was a notable event among the literary elite of England. Lewis had seen combat in World War I and was no stranger to suffering. Perhaps he retreated to a solitary life of academe as a result of his war experience. Nevertheless his emotional self was brought forth and blossomed as he found love.

I recall this film as I wonder about the Gospel we proclaim this Sunday (John 15:9-17). In this passage Jesus speaks of the Love in which you are held and without qualification explains that it is the identical love the Father has for Him. This is an exquisite statement! And for each of us to remain in this Love, Jesus explains, we need to keep His commandments. This is consistent with much we have learned through the years and yet it is ever new.

Also in this passage Jesus offers us an explanation of His motive, the Why He chose to teach and model this truth for us: “I have told you this so that my joy me be in you and your joy might be complete”. Imagine that! The reason behind all of this plan of God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit is so that you would truly have and know “complete joy”.

I have grown increasingly fond of this passage – I believe it holds the key to actually understanding the very nature of Who our God is and how it is that God has created us. Of course, it is all about love. And is it not impossible to have love for someone and not want for them – joy? In fact, the only way joy can ever be experienced, known at any level at all is through love.

Anthony Hopkins is a truly great actor and never more so than when we find him wrestling out of his academic shell to embrace the unfamiliar experience of love, and the fruit of that love, joy. Every one of us goes through that wrestling in different ways and times – and I believe it is God who is seeking our escape, a release from whatever holds us back. For it is the Son of the Living God who has come among us so that we too, could be surprised by Joy.

Fr. Ronan

Amidst the Beauty

The Easter Season continues throughout these glorious weeks until Pentecost Sunday on May 20th. Especially during this period, the Church urges us to listen to the refrains of the ALLELUIAS and let them touch our hearts.

In our time when something happens, attention spans are often limited to sound bites. Quickly we tire of the news and move on to the next event in our lives. Not so, Easter! This is an event that we need to savor and wonder about, for the implications are transforming and transcendent. Life and death are no longer the same, and there is hope where once darkness reigned. Grasping and internalizing the Easter message can change how we think, live, act, and love. This Good News opens the window to joy, both in this life and into eternity.

The month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, the mother of Our Lord, is on the horizon. It is such a busy month in the lives of so many. There are weddings, graduations, celebration of sacraments and so many other enjoyable events. Preparations are in full swing for the June Bunker Hill Days with the parade and events all over town.

In our Parish, May will be one of the busiest months on our calendar. There are a dozen baptisms scheduled and being planned. There are weddings most weekends. Confirmation will be celebrated on the 12th, Mother’s Day on the 13th and First Communion and crowning of Mary on the 20th.

After I visited my brother last Saturday on the North Shore, I stopped for an hour or so to walk with Lily along Lynn Shore Drive – a lovely long beach area. It was a day filled with sunshine, and I was struck by the hustle and bustle of the multitude of people out walking, running and sitting in the parks, all enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon. It made me think I am living in a bubble here in Charlestown!

It is so easy to get caught up into our regular routines, special celebratory events and the activities that the beautiful weather of springtime affords us, and not think about the struggles that are occurring amidst the beauty of our personal lives. For example, it can easily escape us that immigration policies have become deeply politicized while innocent people are suffering in Central and South America and other parts of our world because of the violence and divisions that exist. Yet we are all called to concerned-action for those who are suffering nearby and in corners all over the world.

While I am aware of this, the contentment of a beautiful springtime in Charlestown can lull me into complacency. Join me in fighting against any indifference to the suffering of so many families who are seeking safety; longing for an end to violence in their
neighborhoods and countries; and searching for a future of hope for their children within our borders and beyond. Let’s keep them in prayer and do whatever we can to stand in solidarity with them. We can all do something and, in fact, we must.

Fr. Ronan

The Easter Season

The readings at daily Mass in this wonderful season reflect a variety of stories of the early Christian community coming to grips with the astonishing news that Jesus Christ is alive! The Risen Christ appears to His disciples in various places and gently He urges them not to be afraid and to prepare to go forth. Our Church was born from very humble beginnings. That small group of frightened men hiding in the upper room for fear they might be called upon to share the same fate as Jesus, eventually became emboldened and courageous.

In fact, one scene that jumps out at me is described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3:1-10), when Peter and John are going up to the temple at the 3 o’clock hour for prayer. As they approach the Beautiful Gate, they encounter a crippled man who daily sits there begging. The man looks to Peter and John for some money and Peter addresses him, “Look at me. Neither silver nor gold have I, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.” Peter gives the fellow a hand, literally, and the fellow gets up, jumps and dances, and praises the Lord!

I wonder sometimes if I am like that man sitting at the Beautiful Gate. I wonder if you are like him as well and maybe even the entire Parish and Church are too. I mean, we sit each day looking for whatever we think we need to go forward in life; money, health, relationships, success in whatever form and maybe we are even a bit crippled because we think we are lacking in that something. Our focus is on getting that THING and we think ourselves disabled until we do.

Perhaps in our daily prayers we are inclined to ask God for all that STUFF that we think we must have in order to no longer be crippled. Just like the man sitting at the Beautiful Gate, when God calls us, we look intently at Him expecting that we are going to get our STUFF. In fact, God’s response may be that we should listen to Peter: “Hey, look at me! I don’t have that stuff, but what I do have, I freely give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, GET UP – GET GOING!”

The Easter message is one for all of us to cherish as we listen to the Alleluias and Hosannas and sit by the Beautiful Gate.

Fr. Ronan

Welcoming Mercy

Have you ever felt unwelcomed in any place and/or by another? It seems to me one of the most negative human experiences one can have. If the experience ever happens in or around a church, it seems to be doubly offensive. When feeling unwelcome in and among a faith community, a person might even feel their relationship with God is diminished

Five years ago, Argentine Archbishop Jorge Bergolio was elected Pope Francis, and within his first public comments he introduced the topic of the place of Mercy in the Church. Later he declared a “Year of Mercy” and published a letter on the topic. He continues to teach that Mercy is at the very heart of God.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday wherein the Church seeks to lift up the theme of Mercy in the teachings and person of Jesus. On one occasion, Pope Francis said, “Jesus is the face of God’s mercy to the world”. In every way imaginable, recognizing mercy as the bedrock of how God looks at us and, in truth, of Who God is, is fully orthodox and Catholic. As followers of Jesus, we, too, are to be the face of mercy to one another. 

The Latin word for mercy is Misericordia – in its broadest sense, it is to be tenderhearted. So to have mercy for someone is to look upon them with a tender heart.  It’s hard to be tenderhearted toward someone, if you don’t know them. And how can we get to know one another in our Parish, if we don’t take the time.

Pope Francis prays:

“May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel.” 

And so for any parish to be a parish of mercy – tenderheartedness – we need to come to know one another and break down any barriers that prevent us from being tenderhearted within our doors and beyond.

In many ways, big and small, we have been growing as a Parish and as an authentic community. We make a concerted effort to be “Welcoming” and we hope that this is the experience of all who enter our doors.  Yet, we know there is more to be done.

Weekly, we greet one another, worship beside one another but know very little, if anything, about one another. Having Sunday morning coffee has helped a bit, but we wish everyone would choose to stay awhile longer and engage with one another to help bring us together.  So many wonderful relationships have grown out of this gathering and other faith sharing events and ministries we offer.

In an effort to create stronger bonds among us as a Parish and in the wider community, a new committee is being formed in the parish, presently called the “Welcoming Committee”. This group of parishioners will be tasked with facilitating and initiating activities and programs that will further grow us as a genuine community of faith. The committee will be dedicated to reaching out to long-time parishioners, both active and inactive, newly arriving parishioners and Catholics in Charlestown not active in the Parish. The first signs of the work of the committee will be evident this springtime.

Recognizing the ever changing reality of social media and the importance of the presence of our Parish on the internet, the project of developing a new and refreshed website is nearing completion. The new site will be especially friendly for mobile devices and will facilitate our communication with our parish community and beyond.

In this time of great division within our nation and in our world, we are called to make a difference, to be Easter people, believers in the Resurrected Jesus who calls us to be one as He and the Father are one.  Taking the time to get to know one another is an important step towards Jesus’ vision.

Each and all of us need to know more fully the Mercy, the tenderheartedness of God. This Sunday’s celebration can be one moment to look back and recognize how prominent God’s mercy has been our lives. It is equally important to look ahead and consider how we can share this gift of Mercy with one another.

Fr. Ronan

What’s the Measure?

I met a fellow in the park the other day, a common occurrence among folks out and about with their dogs, and I was surprised to discover how sad he was. Normally a very cheery and upbeat man, my friend seemed unusually troubled. In conversation, he was commenting about the state of the world, from Washington to China, and locally as well. I confess I walked away from our exchange pensive and, in some regard, agreeing for all of the causes of my friend’s “down” mood.
When all is said and done in life, not just in the big picture, but also every day, what is the measure of a life of joy, of happiness and meaning? And is such possible when all around us there appears chaos and fear, from guns to the economy and beyond?
For Christians, today is Easter Sunday, a day on which we commemorate the fundamental cause of our hope in life. The greatest of all fears is death, and on this day, we celebrate that Jesus conquered death in His resurrection from the tomb. All of the troubles of our times and our personal lives were known, as well, in the time of Jesus. He deliberately faced every form of injustice, rejection, poverty, discrimination, betrayal, torture, and death. Why?
The freedom of Jesus to choose all of this, to complete His Father’s plan for the salvation of humankind, speaks about the very nature of God. We profess: God is Love, and this is evident as we conclude Holy Week. For from the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, through the Last Supper and the horror of Good Friday, and the miracle at dawn on Easter Sunday, we have been shown the depth of God’s love poured out for each and all.
So, while I concur with my friend in the park about reasons for sadness, I simultaneously believe God knows our troubles and has offered us a way forward toward hope. The way forward is in the person of, the life and teaching of, the example and words of, Jesus. Our moment, although it may seem of the greatest consequence, is not unlike other moments in times past and yet to come.
There is an old quote that I love that says, “Tell me where you stand and I’ll tell you what you see”. The question it seems is: “Where do I stand?” If I stand in that place that defines my happiness based on the state of the affairs of the world and all of the “stuff” of the world, then, it seems, I am in a very fragile and unreliable place. However, if I stand in that place that acknowledges mortality (the brevity of this sweet thing we call life), and believe in the God and Creator who is Love made manifest in Jesus, I see a future of Hope.
So in the midst of chaos, uncertainty and fear, we have a choice to make – a choice as to where we want to stand – the way of Love or the way of sadness and despair. For in the end, there is only one measure that matters: How well did you Love?

Fr. Ronan