Celebrating Palm Sunday
We are celebrating this Palm Sunday in a very dramatic moment. Palm Sunday, along with Ash Wednesday and Easter, is one of the days on which most Catholics go to church. Yet, today, our churches are empty because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, I want to share with you my Palm Sunday Masses, both in English and Spanish. The virus keeps us from being under one roof but it doesn’t keep us from being a community. Until my next post, Cardinal Seán
Praying for those affected by COVID-19
Hello and welcome, Like many of you, I was very moved last week to see the Holy Father’s “Urbi et Orbi” message and lead the people of the world in prayer for those impacted by the coronavirus. It was very powerful, and everyone that I’ve spoken to has commented on how deeply they were affected by it. We know that many people in our own community are being infected with this virus. As many of you may have already heard, currently there are eight priests within the Archdiocese of Boston who have tested positive for COVID-19. Thank God, none of them have serious symptoms at this point, but we are praying for them and for their speedy recovery. This week, I’d like to share with you the final three installments of our Virtual Lenten Retreat, which we concluded with my talk on the Eucharist. I continue to be very gratified by the large number of people who have reached out to tell me that they have been following the retreat. In fact, I received another email yesterday from someone on the West Coast who told me they have been watching. So, it has been seen far and wide and, hopefully, within our own archdiocese it helped to generate a sense of belonging and connectedness as we live our baptismal retreat together, which is the 40 days of Lent. These six days of reflections on spiritual themes are just part of our longer retreat as we accompany Jesus in the desert. The desert was a place of solitude and, for many of us, these 40 days of Lent are turning into a true desert experience. Social distancing is allowing us to experience that solitude, which can be an opportunity for us to reflect on the meaning of Lent and our own vocation as Christ’s disciples to take up the cross and follow him. As I mentioned last week, despite the requirements of social distancing, I continue to attend meetings remotely, and this week we had the first-ever virtual Presbyteral Council meeting in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston. Of course, much of our discussion was about the coronavirus and its impact on the archdiocese. MC Sullivan gave about an hour-long presentation on the pandemic and answered the priests’ questions. She is very well versed in what is happening, and I think the priests were very grateful for the kind of information that she communicated to all of us. She was very frank in her remarks and made it very clear how serious the situation is. We are very grateful to MC for all she has done as a key person in handling the archdiocese’s response to the coronavirus. She has been very much involved in responding to inquiries from people who reach out to us through the archdiocese’s special email address set up to allow people to ask questions. Also, during our meeting, Chancellor John Straub spoke about the situation in the archdiocese and plans going forward. In my remarks to the priests, I tried to stress that we are doing all we can to strengthen the structures of communications that we have. I was able to speak personally with all the vicars forane last week, and I have a weekly meeting with the auxiliary bishops and episcopal vicars. In addition, each morning, there are meetings being held with the vicars, auxiliaries and members of the leadership of the Pastoral Center. After every meeting, different groups are assigned tasks to work on. This desire to strengthen communications is one reason I was anxious to have the Presbyteral Council meeting. And, in fact, we will have another meeting in two weeks in order to ensure that all the priests feel connected to their vicariate, their auxiliary bishop, the archbishop and the Pastoral Center. I also told the priests that our greatest danger at this point is that of discouragement. It is only by having a strong sense of unity and solidarity among the priests that we will be able to overcome that and give our people greater strength. This is a time when we have to be aware of our need to grow in our faith and our dependence on God. I said that we must realize that we are called to be men of prayer, intercessors for our people, particularly at times when they cannot personally receive the sacraments, and that they are counting on our prayers for them. I stressed that in the midst of the economic effects of this crisis, we must be focused on our mission. This is a time to realize that one-on-one contact with people is such an effective way to spread the Gospel, as so much of the contact that we are doing now is one-on-one rather than large in groups. I also encouraged them to do whatever can be done to promote religious instruction in this time, such as over the internet or through CatholicTV. I am pleased that Bishop Reed has committed to working with the Pastoral Center staff to develop appropriate content for Catholic TV. I also reminded them of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “God didn’t call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” I know that, as we face all of the disastrous consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, many people feel that we are failing in our mission — but our mission is to be faithful, not necessarily successful. We have to witness to that faith in the midst of the trials, realizing that many of our people are going to undergo great suffering because of loss of employment, loss of security and even the loss of loved ones. I told them, this is a moment when we need to turn to prayer and to the power of our faith in Jesus Christ and try to live our mission the best way that we can. I continue to be delighted to see how creative and energetic our priests have been in their outreach to their parishioners. I mentioned some examples in last week’s blog, and this week I heard of another initiative started by Father Michael Nolan of St. Mary’s Parish in Waltham. He is presenting a series “The Beauty that will save” via Facebook, focusing on artwork in his parish. The Beauty that will save: Ep 2 Apse Wall The Beauty that will save: Day III Apse Walla daily video series about sacred art — specifically the art at Saint Mary's, guided by Fr. Michael Nolan. Posted by St. Mary Parish on Friday, March 27, 2020 Much like our priests who are finding innovative ways to reach people in this time, I am also happy to see that our Catholic organizations are finding creative ways to carry on their missions. One example of this is the Catholic Schools Foundation’s 30th Annual Inner City Scholarship Fund Dinner, which was held in a virtual format Thursday night. I was so pleased to learn that the event raised over $3.6 Million from so many generous donors. We are so grateful to the Catholic Schools Foundation for the important work they have done in the past and now, in this time of crisis, they are really stepping up to the plate to help our Catholic schools. We are so grateful to Inner City Scholarship Fund Chairman Peter Lynch, Dinner Chair Mike Minogue, Executive Director President Michael Reardon, and all his staff who worked so hard to make sure this crucial event moved forward, despite the great challenges. We are also very grateful to the teams Putnam Investments and Abiomed for helping produce the gala, and to Ben Simmoneau and WCVB for presenting it. Finally, I want to share with you this beautiful video that I received this week from one of our friars, Brother Diogo, a Brazilian friar working in Washington. It was prepared by the Archdiocese of Curibita in Brazil and also shared through CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference. The narration is presented in Portuguese with Spanish subtitles. For those who don’t speak either language, I’ve included an English translation below. It is a wonderful message. I woke up from a rough night’s sleep, remembering that my church will not be open today. My heart fell from the weight of knowing that my parish will be empty and that I would be without anyone to counsel, without a child to bless, no penitent to absolve, no family to visit, no gathering to participate in. Nothing! I celebrated Mass alone and ate the Bread of Life, knowing that there are souls hungering for the Eucharist. So then I asked myself: do I continue being a priest while the door of my church is closed? How is it possible to be a priest without a people? How is it possible to be a Church without a gathered community? I watch TV and I hear of thousands of ways of taking care of one’s health against this virus; but no focus on the health of our soul. So I ask myself: is the Church over? Is the people of God canceled? And the Lord replied to me: No. No, because the Church is a fighting mother. There are no people in the church, but there is the Church in the people. There are no processions in the streets, but one can hear the prayer of the Rosary and the litanies from the windows of homes. There are no confessions, but there is repentance. There are no vocations in the seminaries, but there are seminarians with a vocation to love. There are no catechists in the communities, but there are parents teaching their children to be Christians. Priests are finally shut up, many say, but I see them freer than ever. More creative, on the internet. More united in prayer. Stronger in their condition of uniting the people to God and bringing God to the people. And yet with his tired arms, they continue to lift high the King of the Universe who has summoned us to this unforgettable Lent, to gift us with a glorious Easter. Thank you, people of God — who, although sick, continue to be the Church in their homes and do not get tired of raising their prayers to God, from their altars in the living-rooms of their houses, in front of their television screens, gathered together as a family. Thank you bishops, priests and deacons, for keeping the doors of the churches closed and opening wide the doors of the evangelization in such creative ways. Thank you, those in consecrated life, who remain on their knees in convents, interceding for the world. Thank you to the Christian people for remembering always that the Church does not close — what has closed is the place of worship — because the Church is each and every one of us, the living body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are everywhere. Stay at home! Stay in the domestic church where everything started; where the Holy Catholic Church was born, which has persevered for 21 centuries and will finish its journey in the house of our Father who is in heaven! Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Standing at the foot of another’s cross
3 minute readAs Christians we should look toward the image of the crucifixion as the most perfect example of the sacrificial love from which to learn. It is, as St. Maximillian Kolbe says, “the school of love.” But this example of true, self-gift extends beyond Christ on the cross, and looks out toward his most Blessed Mother standing at his feet as he takes his final breaths. To me, this image exemplifies a beautiful and necessary facet of human love. Mary did not let her son suffer alone; instead, she stood close enough to him during his final moments that his most precious blood probably showered down upon her. However, Mary did not stand as a mere observer of her son’s passion. Rather, because of her deep love for Jesus, Mary became a partaker in his passion. She allowed his sorrow to pierce her heart. When you willingly choose to share in someone else’s cross, sympathy grows into empathy, and your capacity for intimacy with another deepens. Everyone enters a relationship with some kind of baggage, with wounds that need healing. My husband and I are no exceptions. When we got married, I had no idea how much the cross my husband carried of his mother’s alcoholism and mental illness would affect me. It is a cross that has brought him a lot of pain throughout his life; fear of abandonment or feelings of being unlovable have reared their ugly heads more than once. And it’s been difficult for me, not only watching the effects her words and actions can have on him, but also learning how to navigate this tricky new relationship I’ve married into. Encountering this cross has unleashed a flood of different emotions within my heart — sorrow, anger, unrest. Often when I see my husband in the midst of his passion, I want to make it stop. I try to do everything in my power to fix the problem at hand. Instead of entering into his suffering like Mary did with Jesus, I simply try to dispose of the cross, but in doing so, I would also inadvertently rid ourselves of all of the grace suffering brings. One night, in the midst of a particularly challenging time for my mother-in-law and my husband, my mind raced trying to figure out what I could do to make it all better. I threw out unhelpful (and probably insensitive) advice and waited for something to stick. That is until my husband looked me in the eyes and said: “I don’t need you to fix it, I just need you to be here with me.” And for once, instead of pushing forward with what I thought was best, I stopped talking. I sat down with him on our couch and put my arm around him. I held him close letting his tears soak the shoulder of my sweater. And I finally understood what Mary must have felt from the foot of the cross. Mary and Jesus’ hearts were so closely connected and so united in love, one might say that two hearts were crucified on that Good Friday. She did what the disciples in the Garden the night before could not do — stay with Christ in his hour of need. Although it was not her body that was bruised and broken, Mary felt the nails that pierced his hands and the thorns that bore into his head. She felt the sting of the scourges and of the humiliation he endured as he hung naked for all to see. Mary was able to enter so fully into the suffering of her son, that she was also able to become a vital part in his salvific work and resurrection. Similarly, entering into the sorrow of another person, especially in the moments where it is the most difficult to do so, can bring about new life and a deeper love in your relationship. Allowing your heart to be touched or even broken by another’s suffering can not only bring you closer together, but can also help your heart more resemble the heart of Christ, ready and willing to lay itself down for the sake of the beloved. Carissa Pluta is a wife, mother, freelance writer and blogger currently living as a missionary in Birmingham, Alabama. You can learn more about her on her blog at TheMythRetold.com. The post Standing at the foot of another’s cross appeared first on RADIANT.
Of Note–April 2020
Testing . . . are you all still with us? It has been quite awhile since we’ve been able to offer new content here. We have had some very trying technical difficulties with the Catholic Sistas website in general and we are hoping and praying to have the kinks worked out very soon. Stay tuned! […] The post Of Note–April 2020 appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
God finds us: Lessons from a Holocaust survivor
5 minute readAs a little girl, I loved the hidden corner near a bookshelf in my brother’s room. Camped out beside his towering stacks, I chose from among the remnants of his voracious habit and years of summer reading lists. Picking several for my own reading enjoyment, some escaped me. I recall studying the cover of “The Hiding Place,” but I never found this “friend” until I needed it the most. By brilliant accident, I discovered Corrie ten Boom in the weeks before COVID-19 hit the headlines. “The Hiding Place” recounts Corrie’s participation in the Nazi Resistance during World War II. It traces her journey from sheltering Jews in her home through her arrest and imprisonment to Ravensbrück concentration camp. As our news reports darkened, the book provided incredible perspectives. I felt Corrie holding my hand, albeit, in a socially distant way, as I faced fear, isolation and uncertainty. Here are a few lessons I gleaned. In the home For the ten Boom family, love began in the home. Their lives were rooted in Scripture and service. They welcomed the vulnerable into their home and prayed for peace, especially for the Jewish people. In the end, Corrie’s father, brother, two sisters, nephew and Corrie herself would all face imprisonment for protecting God’s chosen people. As she shared in another writing, “So many times we wonder why God has certain things happen to us. We try to understand the circumstances of our lives, and we are left wondering. But God’s foolishness is so much wiser than our wisdom. From generation to generation, from small beginnings and little lessons. He has a purpose for those who know and trust him” (“In My Father’s House”). The foundation of faith laid by Corrie’s parents for the ten Boom children provided the essential tools they would need to endure and overcome the future tribulations life would bring. I find this relevant now as I continue to see the beauty and comedy in God’s plans for family life. A friend recently commented, how funny it is that the family is the cell of society that threatens the kingdom of hell. Yet, when we look closely, it’s sticky, chaotic and often dysfunctional. For my family, quarantine has been messy. We’re in the midst of potty training, and we’ve had a monsoon of sibling squabbles, flaring tempers of which I’m guilty and cabin fever with my husband valiantly trying to work from home. Knowing lessons learned at home will shape our identities, our sacrifices become a springboard to future capabilities. How I respond to frustrations with patience and love builds an experience of practical faith for me and my family members. To be found Playing a game of hide-and-seek with a 3-year-old can be challenging. My 6-year-old came into the house upset because his little sister wasn’t playing by the rules. Why did she reveal her hiding place even before he began searching? When I asked him about his favorite part of the game, he replied, “Hiding, of course!” Wrapping him in a hug, I explained how he had played the game when he was her age. Before I could finish counting to 10, an exuberant yell would come from upstairs, “Mommy, come here! I’m hiding in my bedroom. Look behind the door.” At this memory, my son smiled widely. “I guess I just wanted to be found.” There is profound wisdom in the childlike desire to be found. As a young woman, Corrie experienced a terrible heartbreak when the man she loved chose another. Her father wisely counseled that she could kill the pain and lose part of her ability to love or ask God to open up a new path for love to travel within her. This became Corrie’s prayer, to see others as God saw them despite their human failures. It was her “secret key” to overcoming loneliness. The lesson grew stronger over the course of her life. After her arrest, Corrie spent three grueling months in solitary confinement. In the midst of it, God answered her prayer to open up a new path for love to travel. Jesus found her. He was her hiding place where she could endure isolation and find moments for God’s love to enter. Scrolling through my phone, my chest tightened as I read my city’s soaring infection rate. Staggering numbers, but what can I do? Hearing my newborn’s cries, I made my way upstairs wondering. What would Corrie do? In the dark room, I held my daughter. I imagined myself as a tiny baby in God’s hands. Then one by one, I placed my family members in his arms. My prayer widened to include our city and state leaders, medical personnel and all affected by this virus. I prayed, Jesus be my hiding place. Jesus, come find me. I recalled Psalm 91: “He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield (Psalm 91:3-4). I realized the enduring truth: Fear isolates. Trust liberates. Jesus found me. Rejoice always When Corrie and her sister arrive at Ravensbrück concentration camp, they find the bunks in their sleeping barracks swarming with fleas. For Corrie, it’s too much to bear. For Betsie, the fleas are an opportunity for surprising gratitude. The two sisters recall St. Paul’s words, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18). At Betsie’s prodding, Corrie murmurs a reluctant prayer of thanksgiving for the fleas. In time, the sisters initiate reading Scripture with the women in their barracks. This delivers hope, transforming attitudes and deepening their connection to one another. God’s word, actions and abiding presence began healing their isolation, loneliness and fear. Though life in the camp continued to be harsh, curiously the prison guards never entered the sleeping quarters. Why? The answer arrived with God’s unmistakable humor. It was the fleas! I find the timing of the bad news reports thought provoking. There is the arrival of spring, light dispelling darkness, renewal and hope as we move toward Easter. Our prayers find answers in Christ’s victory over death. As baptized Christians, we are children of the light. We are called to manifest the light of Christ to the world whether we are quarantined in our homes with our families or reading Scripture in the barracks of a concentration camp. We’ve been given this gift of time for a purpose. Like Corrie, when circumstances are tough and we are fearful, we can turn first to prayer and reading God’s Word. Here, we will find consolation, peace and confidence. God’s Word is living, active and applicable in our daily lives. He promises us restoration and a new life. We can stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before us as we continue to seek his will and purpose. It may not look like what we originally had in mind, but it will be blessed, corrected and fruitful for ourselves and others. I pray that Jesus finds you and that you might discover an old “friend” along the way. Katie Almon is a wife and mother raising rambunctious saints (and Saints fans) in New Orleans. Katie spent 8 years working in Catholic education as both a high school teacher and campus minister. She now prays more than ever, begging for the grace to get through each day as a homeschooling mom. She is a contributor to “Spirit and Life: The Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church” by Rose Rea. The post God finds us: Lessons from a Holocaust survivor appeared first on RADIANT.
The little I know
4 minute readThis story was first presented at “This too shall pass: Stories of hope, victory and community,” an Instagram Live event hosted by Ever Eden Publishing and Radiant magazine in order to comfort people during the novel coronavirus pandemic. This is what I know about hope. I know that eight years ago, a routine ultrasound showed that my second baby didn’t have a heartbeat. In the weeks that followed, I tried to pray, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t have any words for God. I was broken and uncertain and had some idea that somewhere down the line the pieces of our family’s life might get put together again, but I didn’t have any idea how long that would take. Time and again, I made the sign of the cross and either sat or wept, either way unable to bring anything to God other than the fragmented pieces of the woman I used to be. Soon, I was pregnant again. I delivered the news to my husband with fear and doubt. I went for more ultrasounds with this child, and every time, I braced myself for the worst. Once I felt him kick just before the wand touched my belly and still I wasn’t sure he’d be alive. When I delivered this child shortly before Christmas, I looked at him and experienced hope like I never have before and never expect to again. It was pure and true and loud. It was alive and kicking. Much like he is today. I am pregnant with another child now, with a due date nearly the same as that of the child we lost. In the first weeks I feared and doubted again — the cellular memory of the loss was strong. But so was the memory of hope. I learned about God’s love for me when I was still, when I drew close to my Father. ~ This is what I know about victory. This Advent prepared me for Christmas, sure, but even more so for this surreal Lent. I worked through the Mass readings each night of that season, and my eyes were opened as never before to the certainty of victory in Christ Jesus. He came to save, to redeem, to love. And he succeeded. Even before the Incarnation, God knew exactly what he was doing in Christ. Isaiah tells us, “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.” And again, “There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.” We need to bring our all to the battle every day — the battle against this virus, the battle against our own temptations, the battle against a culture of death. But we can’t forget, we can’t lose sight of the eternal truth that the eternal victory is already won in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~ This is what I know about community. Last summer, my family moved to a larger home on the other side of town. I’d wanted to make the move for a long time, but when the opportunity came, it seemed to be too good to be true. I felt guilty for initiating this step, for the changes it meant for my in-laws, with whom we lived then and still live now, and for having a prayer answered so abundantly when I knew other families were struggling. I came to see God’s will in the move. When I did, I realized the only response that really honored him was gratitude. I chose to see the house as a gift and then to offer it as a gift. From the beginning of the school year and until “social distancing,” I invited women to come over on Thursday mornings for an hour and half and just be. I’ve known some of them for decades. Others for just a few years. Some I meet for the first time as they walk through my door, having been invited by a mutual friend. The gift I was given and chose to then give has become, again, a gift to me. This community, even now when we can’t gather in person, is shaping me, forming me as a daughter of God. In these friendships, these children and this witness to the Faith, I see how alive and active is the Holy Spirit. ~ I wouldn’t have put hope, victory and community together to look for connections if I hadn’t been prompted to. But what truth lies in drawing them near? Hope, victory, community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is holding us in his hands, he is in this boat with us on this rocky water, and he is reaching out for open hearts into which he can extend his peace. This is what I know now, and with his grace, the desire to know him and love him more will guide me through the days to come. Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God, wife, mother, writer, and editor. She’s the author of “Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God” and the host of the weekly podcast, Quote Me. Learn more about Lindsay’s work and her speaking ministry at LindsaySchlegel.com, and connect with her on Instagram, @lindsayschlegs and @quoteme_podcast. The post The little I know appeared first on RADIANT.
An open letter to a soul
3 minute readThis story was first presented at “This too shall pass: Stories of hope, victory and community,” an Instagram Live event hosted by Ever Eden Publishing and Radiant magazine in order to comfort people during the novel coronavirus pandemic. My dearest Sister, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, The past few weeks, the whole world has been asked to enter into solitude. It feels, in some ways, like our lives have been put on hold. We are living in uncertainty and isolation, surrounded only by our immediate household dwellers. Yet, I cannot help but reflect on the ways that my life intersects with your very own life in these moments. Your parents, Sts. Zelie and Louis, after being denied entrance into religious life which they initially desired, ran the household of your youth like a cloister. You and your siblings entered into prayer daily and a relationship with Jesus. During this time of home-dwelling, show us how to model our homes into a cloister with Jesus at the foundation. After losing your mother at a very young age, you battled illness and entered into a deep depression that was miraculously cured by gazing upon the Blessed Mother. During our “season of loss,” teach us to turn our vision to the Blessed Mother in our depression. Model for us how to lean into the arms of Mary and welcome her to wrap her mantle around us as our protector. There were times throughout your life as a child, and during your life as a sister, that you were isolated apart from your family members. Teach us how to be present to those who we cannot be with in these moments of quarantine. You spent your adolescent years longing to enter the cloister, which you saw as your heaven on earth. You trusted and God prevailed on your behalf, allowing you to enter the cloister at 15. You spent the second half of your life longing to be “born into heaven.” Remind us, during our yearning, to long for our heavenly reward. Teach us what to yearn for during these moments of repentance and fasting from the world. When you experienced conflict with the other sisters in the cloister, you embraced them as friends. Taking the blame for mistakes and kissing the floor at the feet of those who were offended. Show us how to take the fall for other’s mistakes. Ask God to grace us with the patience to be charitable toward those who we might struggle with in proximity. I recall the time that influenza struck your cloister and you cared with courage for those who lay dying. I ask you to be with our healthcare workers and medical professionals during this time. Implore Jesus with me, asking him to give them the strength, courage and protection to care for those who are ill. Many of us can no longer receive Jesus in the holy Eucharist, even on Sundays. You know what it is like to long for the holy Eucharist. Out of awareness of your soul, often there were times that you did not receive holy Communion. You rejoiced at the times that your spiritual director allowed you to receive Jesus for an entire week. The time that there was a shortage of hosts, Jesus proved his love for you by giving you two hosts. Help us to realize during this absence of holy Communion, that Jesus is here with us. Show us how to make our hearts and souls homes for Jesus and to long for him. Thérèse, you said that you wanted to spend your heaven doing good on earth. Now, in this moment, is your prime. Enter into our cloisters. Turn our homes from places of isolation into places of encounter with Our Heavenly Prince. Help us to see our isolation as an invitation to encounter the Lord more deeply in our lives. You yourself died the slow, painful death of tuberculosis. Take the hand of those who lay dying and point them to their heavenly reward. You rejoiced at the “good fortune” of your suffering. Teach us to embrace death as our entrance to our eternal rest in Jesus. Accompany us through these painful moments and show us the way to allow Jesus to transform our world from a place of isolation to a place of heaven on earth, a place of indwelling love. Your little sister in Christ, Stacey Stacey Huneck and her husband, Phil, live in Indiana where they grew up, but they also love to leave their goldendoodle behind and explore the world. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame while serving as a high school youth and young adult ministry coordinator at her parish. She also writes for Springs in the Desert, an infertility ministry. The post An open letter to a soul appeared first on RADIANT.
My Virtual Lenten Retreat
Hello and welcome, Recently, Father Paul Soper and Father Eric Cadin suggested that I might prepare a Virtual Lenten Retreat to present on CatholicTV as well as online. I’m very grateful to Ann Gennaro of our Secretariat of Evangelization and Discipleship, who has been very helpful throughout this process. So, in recent days, I have been recording the different daily installments of the retreat here at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and they have aired each night this week. Originally, the series was intended to run for the five weeknights of the week, but we have added a sixth night, on the Eucharist, that will air tomorrow. I am amazed at the response I have received from near and far. My sister, my cousin, and my aunt are watching it together, and I have had people contact me from Switzerland, Portugal and from throughout the United States saying that they are watching. So, I’m very humbled and amazed at how many people we are able to reach in this time. I understand television viewing has greatly increased because people are confined to their homes, but it is a wonderful opportunity for us to do something together to make this Lent truly a retreat. Of course, Lent is supposed to be a baptismal retreat for all of us, and our confinement to our homes is truly a desert experience for those who are used to being constantly out and about. However, hopefully, this time of confinement will allow us to be more reflective, more prayerful and more aware of our task to deepen our own conversion in this Lenten season. I’d like to share the first three sessions of our retreat with you here: Tuesday, I met with Dr. Paul Farmer, a renowned expert in global health who has been very involved in developing nations such as Haiti and Rwanda, and he was very much involved in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He was in town for meetings, and he stopped by the cathedral to speak to me about the current pandemic. I learned a great deal about what’s happening with the efforts to produce treatments, as well as the importance of the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the virus through measures such as social distancing. We are very grateful for all the work that Dr. Farmer has done, and continues to do, on behalf of many people who are among the most underserved in the world. Like many of you, in these days I have been working from home and have been able to continue with many of our regularly scheduled meetings – of course, by teleconference. This week we had our meetings of the archdiocesan cabinet, the personnel committee, our auxiliary bishops and the bishops of the Boston Province. Obviously, in many of these meetings, the conversation was around our response to the crisis that has been caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I have also had an opportunity to speak by telephone with virtually all of our Vicars Forane to hear how things are going in the different vicariates. I’m amazed at how much creativity our priests are showing in the ways that they are serving our people and remaining connected to their congregations. One priest had called over 100 families to check up on them; another delivered food to the shut-ins of the parish; others have conducted Masses and other services over the Internet. These are just some of the many things our priests are doing to help our people realize that we are praying for them and are connected to them in this very difficult time. Our Catholic Schools Office has been working diligently, as well, to prepare our 3,000 Catholic school teachers to be able to conduct distance-learning while classes are suspended. Our meeting of the provincial bishops was on March 25, so we were together and able to pray the Our Father together at noon, as Pope Francis had asked all the Christians of the world to do. I was also very pleased that Metropolitan Methodios reached out to me to let me know that he was joining us in that prayer, in response to the Holy Father’s invitation. In addition to being the feast of the Annunciation, March 25 is also the feast of the Incarnation of Christ. I have fond memories of visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which is built over the very site where the Annunciation took place. In that church, on the altar is written “Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est” — “Here the Word Was Made Flesh.” It’s interesting to remember that, for centuries, when Europe was a very Catholic continent, that March 25 was actually the civil New Year’s Day. They reckoned the year by the beginning of Christianity — the arrival of Christ in Mary’s womb. It’s also nine months before Christmas, and so is often referred to as Little Christmas. It is one of the feasts that, when we pray the Profession of Faith, we genuflect at the words “and the Word was made flesh.” So it was on this very special feast day that the Holy Father invited the Christians of the world to join in prayer for deliverance from this pandemic, and we were very happy to participate in this prayer with millions of Christians throughout the world. Like almost all educational institutions, our seminaries are currently closed. So, this week, I sent a letter to all our seminarians, many of whom are now living in parishes, though some have returned to their homes. The men in Rome have also returned to the United States under these very unusual circumstances. I wanted to share some of my reflections on this present time with them, and I would also like to share them with you here: March 22, 2020 – Laetare Sunday My Dear Seminarians, In my own seminary years, communications meant something very different. We had no radios, television sets, or Internet and we could rarely use a telephone. The only secular journals in our library were The Ellis County Star (a nod to the large number of German Americans from rural Kansas in our community) and Sports Illustrated (except for the swimsuit issue). We did have, however, a ham radio transmitter that allowed us each week to be in contact with our friars in Papua New Guinea where we had just started an exciting new mission. We were allowed to write one letter each month, that was read by the Superior, who also read our incoming mail. The practice did promote good penmanship and spelling. How different today’s world is, where our priests and seminarians can reach so many people by social media. It is such a great blessing, particularly at the present time when we are practically in lockdown. It is so encouraging to see the messages and Masses that are being live-streamed to our people in their homes. Facebook, Twitter, Zoom and so many other devices are being used most creatively by our priests, deacons and parish leaders. With the help of Father Eric Cadin, Father Paul Soper and their very able team, we are planning a mission for Catholic Television to be broadcast and streamed every evening this week. It is truly amazing that with relative ease I can send this message by means of email to all of you seminarians at once. In the days of yore this would have been a Herculean task involving typewriters, carbon paper, mimeograph machines and the U.S. Postal Service. The only form of communication that is more efficient and more accessible is prayer. Without any Internet connection, wi-fi or hotspots, we can always lift our minds and hearts to our Heavenly Father who sees in secret and whose love is unfailing. We never have to ask: “Can you hear me now?” Our God is always listening. In this strange Lent brought to us by the coronavirus, we will all have a little extra time for prayer. We have truly ventured into the desert that social distancing has brought us. We must be careful to use this time well, to pray, to reach out to those in need, to read and to study. The sudden unstructured pace of our lives requires a lot of discipline, and fidelity to rule of life. My own seminary years coincided with the Second Vatican Council and the pontificates of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. It was a time of great hope and excitement, but also of great challenges. One of the things that we seminarians enjoyed so much was when Cardinal Wright, a Boston priest who was our Bishop, returned from the Council and visited our monastery. He would talk to us about what was happening at the Council and answer our questions. Cardinal John Wright was one of the most erudite and eloquent preachers of the Church in our country. Our seminary years were also marked by great social upheaval: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King and thus subsequent riots in the urban areas of the country, the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is a wonder we learned anything at all. Your seminary years have also had your own challenges: the aftermath of September 11, and the clerical sex abuse crisis, the Boston Marathon, the McCarrick scandal, and the seminary visitation, and all this culminating with the coronavirus pandemic. In our Capuchin community we have House Chapters before Lent to decide what penances we will do as a community. I remember one such chapter where Father Guardian was receiving recommendations and writing them on a blackboard. Afterwards we had a vote to determine which penances we would embrace communally. After the guardian wrote the number of votes after each item and was about to announce what our Lenten penances would be, a lay brother who never spoke up at all in these chapters made a suggestion that shook up the process. He said that if we really wanted to do penance, we should choose those things that received the least number of votes. I always thought that was an ingenious insight. The truth is the coronavirus is a Lent none of us would have chosen, but in God’s providence this experience can be our 40 days with Christ in prayer, fasting and resisting temptations. Let us try to discover what God is calling us to during this lockdown. Somehow all of this is an opportunity to draw closer to God and to one another. Our world seems smaller, more fragile, and yet more connected. Who had ever heard of the Wuhan? In the midst of all of this we must grow in our trust in a loving God who is calling us to follow Him. He never promised that it would be easy, but He did promise that He would always be with us. This year I celebrate 50 years of priesthood. They have been beautiful years, but they have not been easy. When I took my vows at age 20, I never dreamed where those promises would lead me. I am grateful that despite my unworthiness and limitations, God has called me to serve in his Church. I have discovered that a priest’s life is like the rosary that has joyful and sorrowful mysteries, but all of it is a prayer. The coronavirus is part of the prayer, part of the purification, part of a process of learning to trust in God’s love that is beyond all imagining. When you men reach your 50th anniversary of ordination, it will be a very different world, but what will not change is God’s unfailing love and the joy of the Gospel, and the great blessing of being a Catholic priest called to share in Christ’s saving mission. That will not change. So, when the coronavirus makes you feel frustrated, bored or lonely, please remember that your Bishop and God’s people are praying for you and your vocation. Find strength and enlightenment in St. Teresa of Avila’s bookmark: Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing; God only is changeless. Patience gains all things. Who has God wants nothing. God alone suffices. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Finding healing from an eating disorder
4 minute readIn May of 1982, Pope John Paul II offered a most profound explanation of suffering to an audience at Southwark’s Cathedral in the United Kingdom. “By dying on the Cross,” he stated, “Christ reveals to us the meaning of our suffering. In his Passion we find the encouragement and strength to avoid every temptation to bitterness and, through pain, to grow into a new life. Suffering is an invitation to be like the Son by doing the will of the Father. We are offered the opportunity to imitate Christ, who died to redeem mankind from sin. Thus the Father wished suffering to enrich the individual and the whole Church.” Nearly four decades later, I first read those words while in the depths of recovering from an eating disorder that had ravaged my body for five years. One does not choose illness. In the rosy days of high school, I did not choose to fall into an eating disorder. A desire to excel athletically, the often misguided culture surrounding women’s health and fitness, and my Type A personality melded together, forming the malevolent catalyst that would precipitate a years-long battle with my body. My university years, though in many ways replete with the wholesome coming of age joys, passed in the omnipresent shadow of my disorder. Growth — physical, mental and spiritual — cannot occur when one is caught in survival mode. I sacrificed much at the altar of athletic success and, in turn, received many sorrows. The Lord, however, does not turn his back on his stumbling children. Though for many years I failed to summon the strength to fight against my disorder, he turned much of the darkness into good. During those years, he gave me some of my closest friends. He brought me closer to home. He introduced me to the man who would eventually get down on one knee and promise to walk with me through every struggle. He promised new life amid desolation. Slowly, he provided me with the courage to cast off all that held me back from embracing life. Upon returning from my honeymoon, I felt convicted to begin the arduous process of recovery. Though I had a strong, faithful husband to lean on and was free of the pressures of competitive running, the days were far more difficult than I ever imagined. Five years of destructive habits had to be undone. Insecurities had to be faced. The identity that I had clung to for so long had to be surrendered. At times, it seemed as if the suffering of recovery was greater than that of the disorder. But, when I thought I could no longer withstand it, Christ spoke: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). The image of the yoke emblazoned itself upon my heart. A yoke is made to be fastened over the necks of two animals tasked with pulling a cart or plow — a burden. I did not toil alone. The Lord, I finally understood, had been beside me — pulling, sweating, bleeding — the entire time. In the same way that Simon helped Christ bear the weight of the cross, he had been helping me carry mine. In the same address at Southwark’s Cathedral, Pope John Paul II said, “Praised be Jesus Christ who calls us to unite our sufferings to his so that we may be one with him in giving glory to the Father in heaven.” The trial that I faced suddenly became a blessing — an invitation to draw closer to Christ, to imitate the suffering that he willingly underwent for all of mankind. My suffering was not an end in itself; it was a means to rely upon his grace. In the days that followed, it became more. I read several of John Paul’s addresses regarding suffering (of which there are many). In Canada during the early autumn of 1984, he proclaimed that one’s “patient endurance of infirmity and joyous hope in the face of adversity are in their way a proclamation of the Gospel, because they carry silent testimony of the salvific power of God who operates in [our] lives.” Thus, suffering extends beyond ourselves and our personal relationship with Christ. It is to be offered for the sake of others. Being able to see my own tribulations as an opportunity for loving others lessened the pain even more. I was not simply wrestling with an eating disorder. I was enduring, alongside our Savior, for the love of others. Though I still struggled day to day (and continue to do so in other ways), the Lord poured out his grace and, little by little, showed me how to sanctify my suffering in this way. Human beings do not long for the pain of illness and injury, but it is a nearly inexorable aspect of the human condition. While we seek to avoid it at all costs, it ultimately strikes at some time, in some fashion. When it does, it may serve us well to understand that suffering is a beautiful call. The Lord lends meaning to all pain if we simply allow him to do so. He asks us to carry these crosses as he did — to blot out the sins of mankind that separate us from eternal happiness and union with him. If we endure our suffering well, we can, with Christ, extend his passion and help save the world. Molly Farinholt recently graduated from the College of William & Mary, where she studied English and art history and ran cross country and track. She and her husband recently moved from Virginia to Colorado. She spends her days pursuing truth, beauty and goodness through nannying, writing and making her house a home. The post Finding healing from an eating disorder appeared first on RADIANT.
Surviving through literature: 10 Catholic books to read during a pandemic
4 minute readMany of us have now spent about a week largely at home, feeling out a new normal. This whole thing is surreal, and it could be easy to forget that it’s still Lent, that we’re still called to holiness even in these times. It could be easy to exchange the sacrifices we committed to on Ash Wednesday for the trials we’ll bear, like it or not, in the weeks ahead. Those should be enough, right? So forget the social media fast and bring on the ice cream, please! Not so fast. Now is not a time to grow lax. Now, more than any time in recent memory, we all need to commit to daily reading. Wait, reading? Yes, absolutely. Since we are dealing with a situation whose outcome we don’t yet know, something is changing within each one of us. We ought to have an intentional role in how that’s going to turn out. We can’t just let this thing happen to us. We have a responsibility to continue to nourish our minds and souls and to strengthen our communities. It’s important for us to know what’s going on in the world and in our communities, but we can’t be consumed by the news cycle. Social media’s benefits can shine more brightly now than before, but scrolling for hours isn’t going to get us far enough. We need to tend to our souls first and foremost, if we are to remain disciples of Christ. In the fourth century, St. Athanasius of Alexandria advised, “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after his spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.” Sixteen hundred years later, Pope St. John XXIII expressed the same conviction. In his daily decalogue (a simple list of 10 things he did each day) he wrote this: “Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.” The same is no less true in our age, even when technology — not to mention a global pandemic — has changed so much of our daily living. Spiritual reading in its purest form — that is, engaging with the Scriptures, the lives of the saints, papal documents, and so on — has obvious value in the life of a Catholic. And I would argue that most of us should still do it with as much regularity as possible. But we can also read things that are not explicitly Catholic and experience a helpful measure of truth, beauty and goodness through them. As Catholics, we are called to care for ourselves, and we are called to a regular periods of rest. Not the Netflix-and-chill, escapist kind of rest, but the kind that renews us so that we can give our best in living through these challenging times. Stories reach us in a different way when we read them: They help us build empathy, improve focus, reduce stress and provide us with good mental exercise — all things we need right now. Movies and TV just can’t do the same things. Neither can reading articles online, even if the page count is the same. (For what it’s worth, I’d argue that audiobooks are totally acceptable.) Even if you have a reading list a mile long, it can be hard to find something to settle into when you’re tired and/or stressed and/or grumpy. You want something you’re excited about, something that isn’t a chore. The first option is to ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance and shop your own shelf. If you’re not inspired there, remember that the best recommendations usually come from someone you trust. Revisit a childhood favorite, call a family member (school-aged niece or nephew, your favorite aunt, the cousin you haven’t seen since last Christmas) or message a coworker for suggestions. But how do you get a book under quarantine without spending too much? First, check your library’s website for eBooks and digital audiobooks to borrow at no cost. If you’re with me on the audiobooks, sites often offer the first title free as a trial, with no obligations to continue. If you can spare some cash, many local bookstores are offering curbside pick-up, which helps your local economy. The beautiful thing about getting a recommendation from a friend, colleague or family member is that you’ve also won an instant book club. Broaden your club with a group text asking if your kickball team, crocheting group or other parents from your kids’ school want to get together on a conference call to talk about it, too. This way, you can take some of the edge off of your social distancing — and theirs. Below you’ll find a list of electronic resources for novels, short stories, essay collections, poems and biographies to get you started. “Babette’s Feast” by Isak Dinesen “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis “Be Brave in the Scared” by Mary Lenaburg “Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart” by Fr. Jacques Philippe “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl “Dear Mr. Knightley” by Katherine Reay “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden “Treasures in Clay” by Ven. Fulton Sheen “When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People” by Jeannie Gaffigan “Ever Eden” Literary Journal We all have time at home that we didn’t expect this Lent, and reading — especially when we bring others along — is one time-tested way to make the most of it. Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God, wife, mother, writer, and editor. She’s the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God and the host of the weekly podcast, Quote Me. Learn more about Lindsay’s work and her speaking ministry at LindsaySchlegel.com, and connect with her on Instagram, @lindsayschlegs and @quoteme_podcast. The post Surviving through literature: 10 Catholic books to read during a pandemic appeared first on RADIANT.
Praying for our health care workers
Hello and welcome, This week, following the recommended protocols for social distancing, I am celebrating Mass in the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross each day for all of our people, especially those who greatly desire to attend Mass but are unable to at this time. I would like to share with you the message I released this week, offering prayers for our heroic health care workers and all who are experiencing sickness during this time. During these challenging days, I join many others in acknowledging the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of our doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in our hospitals, nursing homes and medical offices. Our country and our local community are blessed by their heroic service. As we follow the critically important directives and guidance concerning social distancing, we are all playing a crucial role in keeping everyone safe, especially our courageous healthcare workers on the front lines, the first responders for this crisis. We pray that all those who are experiencing sickness and suffering be granted strength and peace and healing. May God bless you and all of your loved ones. Tuesday was, of course, the feast of St. Patrick, the patronal feast of our archdiocese. Traditionally, the centerpiece of our celebration is a Mass at the Cathedral the Holy Cross. In recent years, Msgr. Kevin O’Leary has arranged beautiful celebrations with bagpipes, step dancers, readings in Irish by students from Catholic Memorial and, of course, the blessing of the shamrocks that are distributed after Mass. And, of course, the Mass was always followed by a reception with tea, soda bread and Irish music in the lower church. However, because of safeguards that the government has imposed in the face of the coronavirus threat, this year’s Mass was much simpler and, thanks to CatholicTV, we were pleased that people at home could participate in this St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Bishop Reed provided commentary for the Mass, which was broadcast live and then was rebroadcast later that night. At the beginning of the Mass, I delivered a message to the people of the archdiocese, in which I called on people to pray the rosary, which has always been a powerful prayer of our Catholic people in times of war, famine, persecution and sickness. I also encouraged people to have a sense of solidarity and to keep tabs on their friends, neighbors and elderly people who are living alone. The Mass was concelebrated by myself, Msgr. O’Leary and Msgr. Liam Bergen, who, in his homily, gave a very beautiful reflection on the life of St. Patrick and made many applications to our present situation. We are so grateful to Richard Clark and the members of the Archdiocesan Festival Choir for the beautiful music they provided. I was, of course, very pleased to be able to hear “Our Lady of Knock,” one of my favorite hymns, sung at the Mass. Despite not having the typical crowd in the cathedral, we proceeded with the blessing of the shamrocks, which we later delivered to the residents of Regina Cleri. Finally, I want to let you all know that, in this time of limited public activities, I have been preparing a virtual Lenten retreat that will be presented through CatholicTV and the different online platforms of the archdiocese. It will begin this Monday, March 23, and air each weeknight next week at 7 p.m. In addition, there will be a special concluding day of retreat on Holy Thursday. Following is the complete schedule of topics we will consider as well as information on the different ways to participate. It is my great hope that we can all partake of this retreat together as an archdiocese and that it bring some measure of spiritual nourishment and consolation in the midst of this strange Lent we are living through. Monday, March 23, 7:00 p.m. – Prayer Tuesday, March 24, 7:00 p.m. – Mercy and Forgiveness Wednesday, March 25, 7:00 p.m. – Faith: The Key to Meaning and Call to Friendship Thursday, March 26, 7:00 p.m. – Who is My Neighbor? The Good Samaritan Friday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. – The Seven Last Words Additional Holy Thursday Retreat Thursday, April 9, 7:00 p.m. – The Eucharist, Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to follow on Catholic TV at 7:30 p.m. Retreat will air/stream nightly at 7:00 p.m. on: Catholic TV (click here) Catholic TV Facebook page (click here) Archdiocese of Boston’s Facebook page (click here) Bostoncatholic.org (click here) Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Choosing, not waiting, to live
4 minute readAs I walked into St. Peter’s Basilica, I couldn’t help but feel small, enveloped by the Church. I was finally there! After first making a stop at the confessional to prepare my soul, I was ready to receive the graces the Lord has in store for the next two weeks during my pilgrimage. I was ready to experience Italy: visit churches, venerate relics, eat a lot of pasta, learn the history of Rome, eat gelato, and explore Assisi where Clare and Francis lived. Sitting in St. Peter’s Basilica at the tomb of St. John Paul II on the first full day of my pilgrimage, I couldn’t help but think about how I got there. Eighteen years earlier, I had waited hours for Pope John Paull II to arrive in Toronto for my first World Youth Day. Now I was sitting there, 5,000 miles from home, at his tomb in the church all Catholics call home. But in those moments before Mass began, I asked the Lord, “Why did it take me so long?” I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in my early 20s because that’s where the Church who finally hired me was located. I thought, “This’ll be the place. This will be the Church where I thrive as a youth minister and meet my husband. This will be the place to raise my family.” So I settled in, worked hard and waited for my real life to begin. I didn’t buy furniture I liked or go on trips I wanted to because I was waiting for the guy who would choose to do that with me. Unsurprisingly, I was unhappy. I began attending daily Mass — a habit I still have more than 10 years later that is the anchor of my spiritual life — and pleaded with the Lord: “I’m doing everything you’re asking. Why can’t you just do this one thing I’m asking?” A few years later, I thought a move across town to a new parish with a new job would bring me the happiness I sought. I interviewed and was offered the job a week later, so I considered it God’s will and plan for my life — the step I needed to take to finally get started on my real vocation. The parish was a great fit for me, and the youth were just what I needed in my first High School Youth Ministry job. I had a new roommate who became my “gym buddy,” which started me on a journey of physical fitness. Everything was great, but I was still waiting. Still alone, feeling forgotten by the Lord. I was offered a promotion and a friend told me, “This is exactly what you need. A job with regular hours that suits you. This is your year, I can feel it. This is the year God is going to have you meet your husband.” I took the job and continued to wait. As I was preparing to turn 30, I kept thinking about all of the expectations I’d had for my 30-year-old self when I moved to Charlotte. I expected to be a wife and a mother by then, not working so I could stay home with my kids. Yet, there I was, doing a job that I was good at but didn’t particularly like. On top of that, I was living alone for the first time. After another roommate had left to get married or join a convent, I decided I was done, so a few months earlier, I had purchased a townhome. Looking at my life, I made a decision. I was going to lose the expectations I’d set for myself, the ones others and society put on me, and the lies I had started to believe about my worthiness because I was still single. Over the course of a few weeks leading up to my birthday, I wrote them all down and placed them in a bowl on my kitchen table. On the night of my 30th birthday, Friday the 13th, I invited my best friend over. We prayed over the bowl of lies, and I burned them. I decided I was done waiting. I was going to start living. A week later I was offered a new job out of the blue that perfectly suited me. Since then, it has turned into the most fulfilling experience of my life. I began to take my personal growth seriously by seeing a licensed counselor who has helped me work through the lies I’ve believed about myself for decades. I learned to make decisions based on the life the Lord has given me today, not the one I might possibly have in the future. I’m not waiting in loneliness for my life to begin. I’m living the life I’ve been given. I’ve always wanted to visit Italy to see Rome and Portugal to see Fatima. So I found a time that worked in my schedule, purchased a ticket, joined a tour group led by a guy I follow on the internet, and set off for the adventure of a lifetime. The week was filled with all the things I imagined the first day: seeing the bones of St. Peter, venerating the pillar where Our Lord was scourged, enjoying gelato for dinner, praying in the four basilicas of Rome where thousands of saints have prayed before me, eating delicious pasta, admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, walking where Francis and Clare walked, having Mass where Francis lived, and so much more. Though I prayed for my future vocation at each Church visit, even in front of the arm of St. Jude, the patron of impossible causes, my heart was full after my journey to Rome. My next stop was Fatima, Portugal, truly on my own. I’m choosing to live, not to wait. To go where the Lord is leading without expectations, already considering where I’ll be going next. Katie Herzing is a former youth minister turned parish transformation coach who lives in sunny Charlotte, North Carolina. She loves to travel and has been to almost every state in the US and 3 other continents. She enjoys reading lots of great books, listening to tons of podcasts, sharing random facts, and hanging out with her friends and all their kids, especially her godson! The post Choosing, not waiting, to live appeared first on RADIANT.
Family Life in a Pandemic
Now there’s a headline I couldn’t have imagined writing three months ago. But here we are. Like many, we are navigating uncharted waters: e-learning and working remotely from home; social distancing taking away everything from in-person Eucharistic worship to gym memberships; daily news ramping up fear and uncertainty. How are we supposed to raise a … More → The post Family Life in a Pandemic appeared first on For Your Marriage.
Walking together: When we’re all pilgrims
5 minute read“You should go eat dinner on the other side of the lake; it’s cheaper over there.” Standing at the top of the Alps, my friend and I absorbed the man’s advice. We had just completed an 8-hour uphill day at the end of a two-week hike and were resting at the top of the Grand St. Bernard Pass in the Swiss Alps. It was late, we were tired, and he wanted us to walk around the lake to save money. But we didn’t skip a beat; after all, we were pilgrims. It was the way of the road: Take what you’re offered and live in poverty. I ditched my sodden shoes for flip-flops, and our evening stroll commenced. Circumventing the lake, my eye caught the sign: “Italia.” It suddenly clicked. Dinner was cheaper on the other side of the lake because the other side of the lake was a different country, one that used euros, not francs. That was the easiest and most unexpected border crossing of my life — and also the experience that helped me understand how quickly Covid-19 could spread through Europe seven months later. As I look back on last summer’s hike, I’m struck by the reminder of what it means to be a pilgrim — and by the conviction that the upsets to normalcy that have come with the coronavirus echo a pilgrim life. Lessons of the pilgrim road have become lessons of my corona-changed existence. They leave me with five challenges for today. Be still A pilgrim journey is a choice for both silence and solitude. You walk alone for hours at a time, process in silence, suffer in silence and wonder in silence. As your feet propel you in ceaseless forward motion, your heart learns to rest in the stillness of the now. Today we are subject to enforced stillness — even enforced solitude. Ensconced in my coziest blanket at home, typing on my computer and bombarded by messages, I realize it is still a choice. Do I take advantage of these moments of stillness to truly be still — to let stillness permeate and change my heart? Or do I drown stillness with the blare of media and the glare of screens? Treasure encounters Walking through the vineyards of Switzerland, it doesn’t matter if I don’t speak your language. I am going to greet you! Who knows what adventure you have to share, or the joy in discovering something in common? Pilgrimage teaches me to treasure daily encounters and daily companions. So does this virus. I never took so many walks with my whole family as we did this last week. And I never saw the neighbors so delighted to say hello. Often my family ends up at four different Masses on a weekend; yes, we all go to church, but it’s really too much to coordinate everybody’s schedules to attend the same Mass. Well, this Sunday we all “attended” the same Mass — a 10 a.m. livestream in my living room with homemade donuts and brunch afterward. As everything stops, let’s remember those things that stay: the treasure of the companions who share our littlest moments and the glorious ability to shout a neighborly conversation at the regulated six feet and feel ever so socialized. Receive the gift Tired, hot, hungry, sun-burnt, cold, wet, blistered — somehow pilgrims learn to still discover the gift of the moment. Drenched and frozen after a morning in the rain, we were ecstatic to find an actual indoor bathroom. As we sat on the tiny apartment stairwell and ate our smushed granola bars between the shivers, we couldn’t have been more grateful. The most ordinary and even tiresome moments become extraordinary moments of grace if we will only have eyes to see. Amid shutdowns and shut-ins, may we train our eyes to notice and to receive the gift of the now. Trust God’s providence We had no food. It was National Day (the equivalent of Switzerland’s Fourth of July), and we had been warned that everything would be closed. No opportunity to buy food; hours left to walk. God would have to provide. Did he ever! We visited a countryside Catholic community, Eucharistein, a community which embraces poverty and which fed us in abundance. We went on our way, backpacks full of the luxuries of canned corn and brown sugar candy, only to discover a waterfall, gorgeous in the sunlight, a rainbow emerging under its spray. My day of potential fasting had been transformed into the most exquisite picnic I had ever known. I laid down on a giant rock, hands behind my head, eyes on the waterfall, knowing the goodness of God’s provision, and I had a eureka moment: “We don’t recognize God’s provision until we are needy.” Here I was, in awe of God’s ability to provide canned corn for my journey, and yet how often I fail to marvel over my daily abundance. It was time to stop taking things for granted and to recognize the miraculous glory of God’s care in the little things. In this time of unusual need, may we rediscover our God as provider, perhaps in the miracle of finding milk and eggs at the third grocery store. Walk on, pray on Every step is a prayer. Every step is an offering, laden with intention and purpose and commitment. We are sure in the knowledge that we will push on and attain the goal — in God’s timing and only by his plan. If you feel trapped at home, take it as a pilgrim takes a blister on the trail: inconvenient and painful, but always fruitful. Offer it as a prayer for those who suffer in body or from fear, and trust in God to use it to bless others and to transform your own heart. He is ever so capable, and he calls us to walk in his peace. In this time of Lenten journey and viral infections, may we have the grace to recognize our own pilgrim status. For to be a pilgrim, we don’t have to hit the trail; we need only choose to have a pilgrim heart — a heart awake to encounter God’s goodness and providential care at every turn. Psalm 84:6 declares, “Blessed the man who finds refuge in you, in their hearts are pilgrim roads.” Lord Jesus, please use these days of trial to pave our hearts with pilgrim roads that lead home to the Father. We trust in you! Maria Mellis is a high school English teacher in Clarkston, Michigan, as well as a pianist and parish music director. She has spent time living and teaching in Poland and loves to bake, to play soccer and volleyball, and to write poetry in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. She is passionate about the daily opportunity that each one of us has to encounter God in the most ordinary of moments and is continually inspired by the incredible teens she has the privilege to teach. The post Walking together: When we’re all pilgrims appeared first on RADIANT.
St. Patrick's Day 2020
St. Patrick’s Day, the world over and in Ireland is marked by a huge and international energetic sense of Irishness. Many well-known landmarks in the world’s biggest cities turns green to celebrate the contribution of the Irish diaspora to society for generations. The colour of the parades, the sights and sounds of floats, and bands, and cultural displays on a big scale is beamed all over the planet on March 17th. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.This year we have been thrown into a completely new and scary situation. St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and all over the world is going to be held quietly indoors and privately for the safety of everyone. No parades, no pubs, no gatherings. We have new words in the vocabulary; we are all told to practice ‘social distancing’ and self-isolation.’ Small children who would normally be sitting up on their dad’s shoulders to get a look at the floats in the parade, are playing in their homes, and playing in the parks and green areas away from their friends. There are no playgrounds open. The streets are empty, and the bars are closed. We need to be mindful of the wisdom of the medical advice to us.We are hungry for more information and news about this new Corona Virus pandemic called Covid-19. We are seeing countries closing their borders and locking down their streets. People are to stay indoors in many European countries and only go out for essential shopping. Children are Skyping their grandparents, virtually hugging them from behind the glass. It is eerie and frightening out there. We can’t offer Mass in Churches with a congregation. It is not permitted to have more than 100 people together indoors. I imagine that there will be further restrictions coming soon. Many of us are broadcasting on Facebook Live or via Webcam. Last weekend, I don’t know how many calls came to the parish house asking was there Mass? I looked at a picture of Jesus in the desert. I find comfort in this when we are told to practice social distancing and self-isolation. Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the desert after he was baptized by John. In a sense he prepared for his public ministry by prayer, fasting, and in isolation. In the desert, a place of foreboding, he was tempted and tormented. Yet, we are told the Angels came to minister to him (Matthew 4:11) He was also terrified in the Garden of Gethsemane before his trial and crucifixion but again, the Angels came to minister to him (Luke 22:43) Jesus understands our fears and he will not leave us alone. He walks with us through this.St. Patrick spent part of his young life in slavery and isolation and he knew what being apart from his family was like. Later, he was called to come and minister in Ireland, sent by the Pope as Apostle of Ireland. With great tenacity, he lit a flame which became a great fire of faith which lasts to this day. Our parents passed on this faith to us. Faith helps us to see in the dark. Patrick used the Shamrock, the three-leafed clover, to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God in relationship with you and me, like a family, a family of love. In these times, we draw strength from family. If we can’t be together now, if we can’t hold each other, or if we must stay apart for the sake of our health, we can still be connected. We join with family at a distance, or who feel lonesome. At this time of Corona Virus, we may not be able to be physically present together, but we can unite in faith, prayer, and love. Soon, please God, we will walk through this, and we will enjoy a coffee together, or a pint, and we will have our family gatherings again, and make new memories. Night is darkest just before the dawn. There is good weather coming. St. Patrick, pray for us! Our Lady of Knock Pray for us! Do not be afraid! Amen.
Reflecting on the legacy of St. Patrick
Hello and welcome, I want to begin this week by sharing with you the statement issued earlier today regarding our on-going response to the coronavirus outbreak. I encourage you to visit BostonCatholic.org/coronavirus for the latest information. In response to growing public concern and following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order prohibiting most gatherings of 250 or more people, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, has made the decision effective immediately to temporarily suspend all daily and Sunday Masses and religious services in the Archdiocese of Boston until further notice. This begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. In announcing this decision, the Cardinal has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston. Cardinal Seán said “We live in times when many people are confused, hurt, and fearful, for many different reasons. In the midst of these challenges Jesus seeks to meet us in the same way He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, accompanying us on the journey, calming our fears and anxieties and assuring us that He will be with us always in the gift of the Eucharist. This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness.” The directive to temporarily suspend the celebration of Mass applies to all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries until further notice. Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family. CATHOLIC TV DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS Cardinal Seán encourages Catholics to participate in the daily and Sunday Masses broadcast from the CatholicTV chapel. · Daily Mass airs live at 9:30am and is rebroadcast at 7pm and 11:30pm. · Sunday Masses air throughout the day at 10am, 4pm, 7pm, and 11:30pm. · The Sunday Spanish Mass airs live at 8am and is rebroadcast at 5:30pm and 10pm. Viewers can watch these Masses on demand at any time at www.WatchtheMass.com. For more information about CatholicTV and where you can watch it, visit http://www.catholictv.org/. CATHOLIC SCHOOLS Earlier today after conferring with Cardinal Seán, Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced that Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. On an ongoing basis, the Catholic Schools Office will consider whether this period needs to be extended further. The Archdiocese will provide ongoing updates to parishes, schools and ministries during this period of response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Cardinal Seán said, “Though these are challenging times for our parishes and all members of our communities it is important that we not forget the importance of care and concern for those who are most vulnerable, including the poor, our senior citizens and people who are medically compromised. I urge those who can do so to maintain the support for their parish during these difficult days in order to sustain the ministries and outreach services for parishioners and those most in need. We entrust the Church to the intercession of our Blessed Mother as we pray for the return to full celebration of the sacraments and community prayer as soon as possible.” I have asked that all parishes provide for their churches be open every day during reasonable hours in order that the Catholic faithful and other members of the community can have the opportunity to visit the church for times of prayer and that, when possible, there be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the churches. When we visit our churches outside of Mass and see the red glow of the sanctuary lamp we know that Jesus is there with us. The presence of the Eucharist in the tabernacle and during times of Adoration is a sign that Jesus silently and lovingly waits for us, always ready to receive and console us. May our prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament be a source of strength and peace until we can safely resume the celebration of Mass for all members of the Catholic community in our Archdiocese and all who would wish to join us at that time. As we draw near to St. Patrick’s Day, there is an on-going conversation throughout the country about the indemnification of the descendants of enslaved people in the United States. I want to share with you some of my thoughts on these topics that are suggested by the life and writings of St. Patrick. In my office at the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, there is a painting of the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston, St. Patrick. I received this painting as a gift after celebrating a priesthood ordination in the town of Loiza in Puerto Rico. The town is inhabited mostly by descendants of African slaves who have maintained many of their traditions through the centuries. The church is named San Patricio, and it is one of the oldest churches on the island. In the church, there is a huge statue that depicts St. Patrick as a black bishop with his miter and Crozier. Likewise, my painting of St. Patrick depicts the patron saint of Ireland as a black bishop. For centuries the descendants of the slaves in Loiza Aldea have maintained a deep devotion to their patron saint and credit him with having saved the village from an invasion of huge red ants early in the history of the parish. This is consistent with Patrick’s success in driving the snakes out of Ireland and makes him the patron saint of pest exterminators. I am sure that St. Patrick is very happy to be the patron and protector of the Afro-Caribbean parishioners, descendants of the men and women brought there to be slaves. What most people don’t know about St. Patrick is that he started off as a slave. He was kidnapped, carried against his will to Ireland, and there sold into slavery. The same trajectory of so many African men and women who were abducted from their homeland and brought to America where they were sold into bondage. Thomas Cahill, in his fascinating book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” dwells on the fact that not only was St. Patrick a slave himself, but he was the first important historical figure to oppose slavery, the first abolitionist. Sadly enough, generations of slaveowners found many excuses and justifications for the barbaric practice of slavery. In America, we have seen up close the injustice and suffering that slavery and the legacy of racism have visited on this country. Like many young people in the 60s, as a seminarian I was caught up in the civil rights movement along with so many religious people of the time. We did voter registration, participated in demonstrations, received training in nonviolent resistance, took part in prayer services and town meetings inviting people to work with the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other organizations that found inspiration in the fearless leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King. Later as Bishop of the US Virgin Islands, I found myself surrounded by many symbols of the chattel slavery that was part of the history of the islands for centuries. In Charlotte Amalia you can still visit the place of the old slave market, and on St. Croix you can see the ball and chain used for recalcitrant slaves to prevent them from fleeing when they were sent to cut the sugarcane. A slave rebellion on St. John’s ended in a mass suicide because the slaves knew how cruelly they would be punished for trying to throw off the shackles of slavery. Slavery was a terrible, dehumanizing force. It dehumanized the slaves who were bought, sold, and bred like animals. It dehumanized the slaveholders who participated in and promoted the barbaric treatment of human beings. Family life and marriage were destroyed by the slave system. Slaves could be tortured or killed practically with impunity. Even after the abolition of slavery there were almost 5,000 terror lynchings of blacks right up until the mid-20th century. In many places, it was prohibited to teach slaves or free blacks how to read. In Virginia, there were heavy penalties for both student and teacher if slaves were educated, including whippings or jail. With the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was finally abolished in the United States. Sadly enough, the cruel legacy of this immoral institution has affected the descendants of the enslaved. This is very evidenced by the large percentage of African Americans living in poverty and being overrepresented in the prison population because the courts do not afford them the same kind of justice afforded to white citizens. The fact that half of the African American babies in New York are aborted each year is just one more terrible reminder of the devastation that slavery has visited on our African American population. The percentage of black students that graduate from high school is 20% less than the white graduation rate. The same is true for college graduation rates, with only about 42% graduating. The Department of Education data reveals that black students who earn a four-year college degree have incomes that are substantially higher than blacks who have only some college experience but have not earned a degree. Most importantly, blacks who complete a four-year college education have a median income that is near parity with similarly educated whites. Life expectancy among blacks is lower in the United States, except for those who are college graduates. Education is a crucial factor in elevating the standard of living of the African American population. In recent times we see how governments have been able to change the course of history by directing much-needed resources to populations experiencing economic distress. The Marshall Plan, the European Recovery Program, which was first proposed in an address by George Marshall at Harvard University in 1947, advanced the idea of a European self-help program financed by the US to combat poverty, unemployment, and dislocation, as well as to reduce the appeal of communism. $13 billion were allocated in four years, and European nations were lifted from the postwar devastation to a path for economic recovery that profoundly changed the history of those nations. More recently, West Germany, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, invested billions of dollars to rescue East Germany from poverty and incorporate them into a united German state. In retrospect, we can say that these programs ultimately were very beneficial to the countries that initiated them. In the case of The Marshall Plan, a revitalized Europe became our most important trading partners and defenders of democracy in the world. All the sacrifices that West Germany made have resulted in their becoming the most important economic power in Europe. After the Civil War in the US, there were almost 4 million former slaves. Much has been written about the promise of “Forty acres and a mule” that was an attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves. Unfortunately, even that modest plan never materialized. If it had been carried out, the history of our country might have been much different. Black citizens would have been able to accrue and pass on wealth from one generation to the next, and the huge gap between black and white could have been avoided. The white population has benefited greatly because of equity in a home and property that can be passed on to the next generation. In my own family, my father and his siblings were able to get a university education during the Great Depression because of an inheritance left to them by their Irish grandfather. The possibility for a good education has made a huge difference in our family. The “Forty acres and a mule” that we should offer with humility to the descendants of slaves in our country should be the opportunity for a good education. It is my conviction that the indemnifications might be in the form of scholarships for primary, secondary, and university education for low-income families who are the descendants of the men and women who were unjustly held in bondage and exploited in our country. Any American who is asked if they are opposed to slavery would strenuously affirm their absolute opposition to this terrible institution. Today, however, we must unite in our opposition to the consequences that this immoral practice has visited on our nation. My prayer is that all Americans may come together to redress the great injustices of our history and build a country that truly has a commitment to liberty and justice for all. At a time when we are so polarized as a nation, let us rise above the division and together commit ourselves to overcome the sins of the past, to work for the common good, and to be one America, not red or blue, not black or white. We Irish are children of the great hunger, the famine, that changed the face of Boston. Many of us are descendants of those brave refugees fleeing hunger and persecution in the coffin ships that brought our people to these shores. We are also the spiritual sons and daughters of Patrick, the escaped slave who raised a prophetic voice against this cruel and inhumane institution of human bondage. As your bishop, my appeal to you all is to repudiate not only slavery but also the consequences of slavery that weigh so heavily on the descendants of the African slaves who, like Patrick, were kidnapped and taken to a strange land and forced to perform hard labor for oppressive masters. Mine is a modest proposal that our government give scholarships to young people living below the poverty line and who are descendants of slaves in our country, but I am convinced that this attempt at restorative justice could be our Marshall Plan for our own people and change the face of America. Let us listen to the voice of Patrick calling us to end slavery and its legacy in our midst. Over the weekend, I celebrated two Masses at parishes in the archdiocese as part of our Catholic Appeal Announcement Weekend. The first was at St. Jude’s in Waltham on Saturday. The second was at St. Patrick’s in Watertown on Sunday. In Watertown, we heard the testimony of a member of the Watertown Collaborative, Katherine Zuccala, which I found particularly moving. She certainly points out the reasons that the Appeal has made a difference in her life and the reasons why we should be motivated to support these works of mercy and evangelization that are supported by the Catholic Appeal. I would like to share the text of her remarks with you here: Good Morning Everyone, My name is Katherine and my husband and I have been members of Sacred Heart Parish for 30 years. Currently, I serve our collaborative as a lector, and coordinate the schedules for our altar servers. Two opportunities I thoroughly enjoy. This morning, I would like to talk briefly about my personal experience in connection with the Catholic Appeal. I think we all feel very connected and close to our beloved Watertown parishes. We are extremely blessed with such amazing pastoral leadership that we have in with Father Conley and Deacon John. I am amazed at how they are able to celebrate all of our regular Masses, provide guidance to all parishioners and consistently initiate positive changes to grow and develop our Collaborative. We are also very blessed to have such a wonderful music ministry which adds so very much to the weekly liturgy. These are the visible pieces that we all experience every week and there are many other more invisible elements that help to make our parishes so very special, and I believe we all can certainly understand the need to support our own. This is home – a source of strength and support, a comfort, a safe haven – strong, familiar and very close to our hearts. I know that I truly need and depend on my spiritual home here in Watertown, and I am sure that I am not alone in that sentiment. We love our parishes, but what do we think about the Catholic Appeal? Sure, we all know that the diocese is important and is a common home for all of the parishes in this area, but what does it really do for us? The Catholic Appeal supports many wonderful programs that happen above the parish level in order to serve our entire diocesan family. These are so many programs and initiatives, some perhaps more noticeable than others that affect and benefit us all and are in need of and deserve our prayerfully considered help and support to remain vibrant. We may not be aware of certain programs and services if we are not using them at this particular time in our lives, yet they are there – ready to step in at a moment’s notice, when we need them. And when we need them, we REALLY need them! In very recent years, I have come to appreciate a few of these programs through personal circumstances. My mother was so blessed to be very independent, healthy and active until she was 90. One day changed all of that in the blink of an eye when she suffered a very serious stroke that confined her to a nursing facility. She was not able to vocally communicate, yet her mind was still quick and vibrant. There were several months of frustration for her to not be able to speak – or to tell me and my siblings what to do!! These situations happen every day. Such circumstances can happen to anyone, but often affect the elderly. Just think for a moment — how must it feel to suddenly be unable to get to Mass, to take part in the Sacraments, and to be an active participant of the parish? I know that sometimes I take those things for granted. They are such an important element in my life, and I know they are there. Yet for many, suddenly they are not. The Diocesan Nursing Ministry and Hospital Chaplaincy Services are there to step in quickly and bridge that sudden and wrenching gap. That is a gift that may indeed benefit a member of each of our families, and would truly mean so very much. Much more recently, my sister very suddenly suffered a massive aneurism. She was in the hospital for just a few days because it was clear that nothing could be done. Although her medical team were amazing in their expertise and clear and gentle communication of the circumstances, the entire situation was such a shock to me that I felt like I was walking in a parallel reality. Father Conley was a wonderful support to me of course and I will forever be grateful for his being there for me – thank you so much Father Conley! I must also say that both myself and my sister benefitted a great deal from the ministry at the hospital as everything seemed to happen so quickly. Their support and guidance was helpful beyond words. When they were called to the hospital floor, they were there literally in minutes. They stepped in and gently engulfed me in their loving support. They prayed with us, gave me words of encouragement and even just sat in silence with me. I am not sure how I would have coped with that situation without all of this support. When we have a loved one who is ill to any degree, we are unnerved and fearful – we all need support and guidance. What a comfort we have to know that we have such programs that we can depend on. A safety net large enough for all of us to use. On a happier note, I have a teenage daughter who is absolutely wonderful. She is an altar server in our Collaborative and recently was nominated to participate in the Archdiocesan teen leadership conference called Discipleship Week, a program whose organizers and participants are directly assisted by things like the Catholic Appeal. I want my daughter to thrive as she continues to grow in her faith life. Today’s world can be chaotic, overwhelming and maybe even a bit scary to kids of all ages. The Catholic Appeal will help her and many, many other teens from our Collaborative and beyond, by providing programs that bring youths from throughout the Diocese together to share faith, have fun, and grow in holiness together. I am willing to guess that all of the parents here would attest that safe, wholesome environments that nurture virtue and faithfulness are not always available in today’s world and yet Mother Church still provides these ever important environments and in large part because of people like you and I supporting them. So, you may be thinking — Is my small donation of support really that important? Believe me – it is. Of course every family in our Collaborative has different circumstances that they are dealing with and those individual situations absolutely drive any level of support that can be offered, to our parishes and to the Catholic Appeal. That is an absolute given. But, if each of us, myself included of course, can pledge even a small amount, think about the collective result! Together, we can make a real difference. I have already taken a great deal of your time this morning and I appreciate your attention very much and I thank Cardinal O’Malley for his presence here today as well. I leave you with a heartfelt plea to please carefully consider what you might be able to pledge to the Catholic Appeal this year and join me in making that pledge. Our individual families coming together into one is what our faith is all about. Thank you! Also on Saturday, I was very happy to attend the gala dinner celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Montrose School in Medfield. During the dinner, they posthumously honored Father Dick Rieman, who was the chaplain there for many many years. The gala was held at 60 State Street in Downtown Boston, which made for a beautiful backdrop for the gala. It was a lovely celebration, and I was very happy to be able to be there. On Saturday evening, I attended the St. Patrick’s Day gathering of the Clover Club at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, where I was asked to give a talk. This is the second time that I have attended one of their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The evening featured skits and parodies and, in keeping with the light mood of the evening, I began by telling some of my favorite jokes and stories. Then on a more serious note, I reflected a bit on the life of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. They also had a wonderful glee club, which is directed by Richard Rouse who is Father Paul Rouse’s brother. They sang a lot of Irish songs during the evening. The highlight was when they sang “The Soldier’s Song,” which is the national anthem of Ireland, in Irish and English. Sunday was ADL New England’s annual “A Nation of Immigrants” Community Seder. This Seder brings together people from many ethnic and religious groups in the community in order to highlight the fact that we are truly a nation of immigrants. This year, voter registration was one of the prominent themes, as we prepare for the election this November. They also had a number of exhibits around the subject of immigration. In my remarks, I thanked the ADL for hosting this important gathering at a time when there is so much anti-immigrant sentiment in our nation. I said that it was a great service to call people together to celebrate our immigrant roots in the United States. I also reflected on some of the aspects of what it means to be an American. I said that America is unlike other countries, that have so many unifying factors — ethnicity, language, religion and history. Instead, what has unified us has been religious freedom, democracy and economic opportunity. So, we have been a very pluralistic society from the very beginning and, therefore, we have a great capacity to assimilate people into our country. I also noted that it is important not to “write off” the value of working-class immigrants. There is talk about only allowing professionals — the ballerinas, the surgeons and the soccer stars — into our country. But the people who built our nation were very often poor, sometimes illiterate, working-class people who did very hard jobs, and their children have gone on to be successful professionals and make an incredible contribution to our society. I also spoke about the history of Boston, which was transformed by the Great Famine in Ireland. One year after the famine, one-third of the population of Boston was Irish Catholic — and the welcome mat was not out. It was viewed almost as a sort of invasion. But I said that I am very proud of what the Irish have accomplished in our city and our country, even though their coming here was under very difficult circumstances. Monday, I was very happy to meet with Bishop Ildo Fortes of the Diocese of Mindelo in Cape Verde, who was here to visit with the local Cape Verdean community. He brought me the gift of a book about his ministry He has sent us priests to help with the ministry to the Cape Verdean community. I was very happy to have an opportunity to greet him and thank him personally for the assistance he is providing to us. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
In what do we put our worth?
3 minute readThere was a lingering darkness in my life that established its presence years before I even recognized it. My inner turmoil and grief would rear its ugly face, especially at night when I was frequently inconsolable. At the time, the reason for my pain was entirely unknown to me, but my head would wrestle thoughts of worthlessness, especially surrounding my work. Criticism remained in my head like a blaring foghorn, overwhelmingly persistent. I could only piece together a sense of self-worth when I had some visible, outward or tangible sign of success. My inner self felt that everything was crumbling around me, but I had no evidence of it actually happening, except for the consuming feeling of brokenness. My desire for that feeling to go away was fierce, but I was utterly paralyzed by my darkness. Heartfelt consolations from my husband could not sufficiently pull me out of myself. Then one night, my husband invited me to make a counseling appointment. I had previously desired to go to counseling, but I feared I did not have a “good enough” reason. Part of me had always believed that only people who had been through severely traumatic experiences needed counseling, meaning my circumstances were not enough. However, clinging to hope, I followed through. During the first few counseling sessions I apologetically emptied entire boxes of tissues, explaining everything that I was going through. It did not happen immediately, but over time, my counselor helped me to see the habits I had formed that were causing me unnecessary grief, teaching me how to stop them and replace them with new, good habits. For example, he challenged me to look at my work and to shed the habitual lies of inadequacy, exchanging them with the truth of accomplishment. The practice of allowing criticism to be the loudest voice in my head was replaced with reminding myself at all times that I am God’s beloved daughter. After a few months of counseling, my past wounds began to heal. A dear friend of mine recently told me that “when we live out of our wounds, we are not living out the freedom that God wants for us.” Encountering our own brokenness and inviting the Father and his healing presence into our wounds, we can begin to embrace the call to live our lives fully. This process of opening our wounds can come with excruciating pain and sorrow, but through it we are given an immense outpouring of healing grace to live in trust and freedom. Like a refiner’s fire, the Father draws out our impurities and imperfections to turn us into pure gold. It was impossible to see in the thick of it, but I know that through my experience of pain and darkness God was preparing and strengthening me for what was yet to come. I often see the youth and young adults that I serve in my ministry struggle with similar issues. I am thankful that I can share my experiences and help them to see that they are not alone in their darkness. I’ve been given a capacity to relate to others and share the hope with them that God can bring new life and restore their hearts. I can share assurance that the darkness will not win when we turn for help. God was also preparing my heart for what was yet to come in my marriage. Learning new habits of rooting myself in my identity as a daughter of God set me up with a firm foundation for the challenges ahead. My husband and I have struggled with infertility for a number of years. Without my sense of daughterhood, I do not know that I would have the strength to stand with the weight of infertility. In the past year in particular, God has used me as his tool to reach out to other women struggling with infertility and to invite them to find healing in Jesus. The Lord has transformed my experience of sorrow to bring me newness and healing. My favorite mysteries of the Rosary always have been the Sorrowful Mysteries. In my life, Jesus has asked me to share in his sorrow in a special way, but it does not end there. It is through Christ’s death and his resurrection that we may come to new life in eternity. Through our personal sorrows, the Lord brings new life so that we might share in his resurrection. Stacey Huneck and her husband, Phil, live in Indiana where they grew up, but they also love to leave their goldendoodle behind and explore the world. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame while serving as a high school youth and young adult ministry coordinator at her parish. She also writes for Springs in the Desert, an infertility ministry. The post In what do we put our worth? appeared first on RADIANT.
Sending Positive Vibes. Talk given to the Religion Teachers Association of Ireland. Athlone. March 7th 2020.
I ask myself what can I say to a group of religion teachers? What do you need to hear from me? I remember Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard winning the Oscar for ‘Falling Slowly’ a few years ago and they got the chance to speak to the great and the good of Hollywood. For a few moments they had the ears, the attention of just about every movie star in the business. I remember thinking, what a platform. Here today, I have a chance to speak to you. Each of you daily invite and challenge scores of young people to become conscious of something above and beyond themselves and this is something I share too in my life as a capuchin friar and as a priest. A little about me. I was born in the Coombe Hospital in 1969, the eldest of seven, and I went to school in Dublin in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I joined the Capuchin Order in 1987 after a mediocre Leaving Cert and in the ten years of formation, I studied philosophy in Millltown Park, and Theology in All Hallows College. I graduated with a BA in Theology and a Grad. Dip. In Holistic Development. I was ordained a priest in 1997 and my first appointment was a school chaplain. I had 5 hours RE teaching per week and I quickly realised I knew very little about chaplaincy and so I began a two-year MA in school chaplaincy in Mater Dei/ DCU (this began as a Grad Dip and finished as a MA in 2004)I spent 10 years in school chaplaincy altogether between Dublin and Cork. I was into a groove in Dublin and was gaining confidence in front of a class of 30 teenagers. Now, I acknowledge that it was perhaps easier for me, even more than other priest-chaplains or religion teachers, because dressed like this, I am pretty hi-visibility. When the pupils first get over the shock, and the giggles, and the “Hey-hey, we’re the Monkees…” then it’s obvious to them what exactly I am. For other chaplain and RE teachers, there may be some explaining. Maybe there’s no explaining in that sense for an English, or a Maths or Science, or a French teacher.You know the way the first year or two can be a nightmare and then you get into it. Well, at least I think I did. They I was sent to Cork, to our own Capuchin School, and I had to start all over again. Eventually, I walked in like a cross between Roy Keane and Liam Gallagher and there wasn’t a sound. I knew I had developed the craft. I had made it as a teacher. I was like “Yeah, don’t mess with me.” But it was hard fought. I remember going back to visit Coolmine after I was transferred. I was in the staff room for a coffee and one of the teachers from the maths/science dept asked me how I was getting on. I remember I said, I think I have got tougher. She said, we knew you would break! It was like she said, yeah, no more mister nice guy. In 2007, I was asked to go as Chaplain to Beaumont Hospital. If you had asked me to choose a ministry, any ministry, the last one I would have picked was hospital. I spent three years there and it was tough for lots of reasons but honestly, hospital ministry is great work. It can be a cliché but teaching the young is a privilege, perhaps we are supposed to say this. But hospital ministry, where one can sit with someone who is dying or trying to come to terms with a new reality in their lives is an amazing privilege too. Working alongside nursing, medical, surgical, and care staff and seeing them make no distinction at all about who comes into the emergency dept was and is a great lesson to me.From Beaumont in 2010, I was asked to go as parish priest to St. Michan’s, Halston St and Church St. In parish ministry, I had fairly regular visits to the two parish primary schools, but this was also somewhat of a challenge because in the real world it can be more tricky to get the time in parish ministry to engage with the schools. For example, there were a lot of funerals in the last parish I was in and these take up the whole morning and some of the afternoon and since the kids are gone home by 2.30 p.m. that’s the day gone. When I was in secondary school in the 1980’s, a priest used to literally walk into the class and promote devotion to some saint or other. No one stopped him. Who would after all? Today, thank God, this shouldn’t happen now for loads of reasons not least as all visitors need to report to reception at least. For the last 10 years, I have been in parish ministry with all that entails; Baptisms, Funerals, First Communions, Confirmations, RCIA, First Friday visitation of the sick, emergency calls by the Gardaí, Fundraising, Restoration. And this has given me much of the material for the two books I have written in the intervening years. I’ve been very lucky and very blessed.I seem to have a reputation out there for spreading positivity. No doubt because I published my second book before Christmas. My first one was called ‘Tired of all the Bad News’ which came out in 2016. The second one is called ‘Sending Positive Vibes’ and that was published in November. Basically, they are some reflections and homilies I have written and blogged over the years. They are interspersed with some memories of growing up in Dublin in the and the genesis of my vocation and my decision to join the Capuchin Order in 1987.Tongue-in-cheek, I say that the first book was an exercise in vanity. I had been approached by Columba Books in early 2016. They asked me to write a foreword to a book they were publishing on Padre Pio. When I submitted it, they said they would like to return the favour. “Maybe you can” I said. I told them of my idea for the book. “You writing a book?” “It’s kind of written” I replied. “Send it in” they said. So, I did. And following a conversation with the provincial minister because I had to get permission, I sent it in.So, I stand before you this morning to encourage perhaps. I also want to express my gratitude to those who teach the young religion. While there is a debate today about the passing on of the faith – primarily the work of the Holy Spirit through parents and grandparents, you are also stakeholders in this by providing a platform for students and others to gain wisdom and understanding about a loving and personal God as revealed by Jesus Christ.My brother Kevin graduated from Mater Dei in 1996 and taught English and RE in Tallaght all his professional life. Two years ago, he became Deputy in Old Bawn Community School. I told him I was going to be speaking to you today. He offered some advice for me. He said today religion not something that needs to be defended anymore – nor apologised for – or embarrassed about. It is something that needs to be rediscovered. While it has to be acknowledged that some (clergy) and in leadership roles have made a spectacular success of profoundly damaging the church institution not least in how child sexual abuse and the criminal cover-up was handled, I still see a cohort of young people responding to the invitation to get involved in church. We are in a post outrage society. For example, you need look no further than what is going on in St. Paul’s Church, Arran Quay in terms of youth ministry. We are not alone in trying to reach out to young people and offer them something under the umbrella of religious education which I believe goes deeper than just an academic subject.Young people engage with Church today because they want to, not because it’s what their mammy and daddy want. The days of obligation are over. We are more adult now and when we go to church and when we practice our faith, it is because we desire to. No one is forced anymore. The question “what did the priest say at Mass?” to test kids did they go is gone, thank God. The Millennials are not upset by the Church – they are intrigued by it. Prominent and welcoming people help in this regard, whether in school, or at diocesan level or parish level. For example, seeing church people on social media spreading the good news is critical today. I believe Twitter is an ingenious way to spread the good news today just as the pulpit was in the past. The Holy Father, many bishops, priests, and religious as well as dioceses do the same all over the word and on cyberspace. I believe it is critical to use these forums to upbuild and affirm rather than sow seeds of judgement. Church people should never be trolls. I am impressed by Pope Francis in that in his ministry he uses the example of Saint Francis of Assisi praying before the cross of San Damiano. In the story, Francis of Assisi is searching for some answers as to what God is asking him to do. He hears the voice; “Francis, go repair my church, which, as you can see is falling completely into ruin.” At first Francis rebuilds the walls of the church with bricks and mortar. However, later, the other brothers, and Clare and her sisters come to join him. Fundamentally, Francis learns the building programme is about people. Pope Francis is doing the same in our time I would argue; repairing the church person by person or as he has said, “one heart at a time.” This is what you are doing each day in class with your students when you teach religion, you are repairing the church, you are proclaiming the gospel, you are forming the young and this is vital. It is great work. People need hope. We crave good news and while at the moment we seem to see nothing but bad news; Climate change, Covid 19 Corona Virus, Brexit, Republican or Democrat, you name it, it is all consuming because we have it 24/7 on our televisions, tablets, and smartphones. So, while we see this bad news, if we look, we can see the helpers too. Those who are working hard to make a difference, to find an anti-dote and a vaccine, and we need to hear this because its like a shot in the arm.The vital work you go is a powerful example of making an investment in the future of our young people. Teaching RE is good news and it marries the academic with faith formation and this will inevitably help the building up of the Kingdom of God. Thank you all.
The Rite of Election
Hello and welcome, The people of the United States and the world are very focused on the coronavirus and how quickly the virus is spreading. We have been closely following the directives of the Centers for Disease Control and the State Department, and in light of that, have been formulating our own policies for our archdiocesan parishes and schools to try to retard the spread of this disease in our community. Of course, the situation continues to evolve, and so we have established a page on our website to provide the latest updates on the coronavirus and our response. I invite all those who may have concerns about the situation to view it here. This week, we announced that Kathleen Driscoll, after nearly 10 years serving as our Secretary for Institutional Advancement, will be leaving to become Senior Vice President, Chief of Philanthropy at UMass Memorial Health Care. We are so grateful for the extraordinary job that Kathleen has done; it has truly been a mission for her. She is a woman of the Church and is motivated by her faith and the desire to support the works of our faith community. In particular, her work on the Capital Campaign, which is well underway, has been just extraordinary. We are very grateful to her and wish many blessings for her and her family as she embarks on this new endeavor. We are also very grateful to Pat Bartram, who is going to be stepping in as Interim Secretary for Institutional Advancement. Pat has worked alongside Kathleen for many years, has a great depth of knowledge and has been very effective. We are very blessed to have her to be able to continue the important work of ensuring financial support for the archdiocese. I know the staff all supports her and will work very hard with her to continue this vital task of ensuring that the Church has the resources that we need to be able to carry out our mission. Sunday was, of course, the First Sunday of Lent, which is traditionally the day to hold the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This is a very important moment for those who are preparing to become Catholic to publicly affirm their desire to continue their preparation to enter the Church at Easter. As I mentioned in my homily, in the approximately 180 cathedrals throughout the United States, about 40,000 new Catholics were coming together for the Rite of Election on that day. Here in the archdiocese, we have nearly 450 people preparing for the Easter Sacraments. As the name implies, the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion has two parts. This first is the Rite of Election for the catechumens, those who are not baptized. Earlier, the catechumens had signed the Book of the Elect in their parishes, which were brought to the cathedral for the celebration. In that way, the parishioners in the sending communities had an opportunity to be part of this meaningful rite. Then, there was the Call to Continuing Conversion for the candidates, those who are baptized but not yet Catholic, in which the sponsors affirm the candidates’ readiness to enter fully into the sacramental life of the Church. It was a very moving celebration, as these hundreds of future Catholics came together and had the opportunity to see that they are joining not just a parish community, but are part of the larger archdiocesan community and Universal Church. It was also an opportunity to thank all the parishes for the hard work they put into their RCIA programs, which are very important for evangelization, not only to create welcoming communities but also to remind our parishioners that all of us have a duty to witness to the faith and be looking for ways to invite people to be a part of our Catholic family by leading a life of discipleship. Sunday evening, I went to our Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline for a dinner with friends of the seminary. We began our gathering with Vespers in the seminary’s new Sanctuary of the Word. During the dinner, as they always do, the seminarians entertained us with their singing talent. It was a very enjoyable evening and a wonderful way to spend the evening of the First Sunday of Lent. This week, I met with many of my principal advisory groups in the archdiocese. All these groups play a very important role in being able to arrive at decisions that affect the life of the archdiocese. We are blessed to have so many competent and committed people who are always anxious to share their ideas and to ensure that discussions around topics concerning the life of the Church are enriched by their experience and creativity. The first of these was a meeting of the archdiocesan cabinet members last Friday. On Wednesday, we had our meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. As we always do, we began with Vespers and dinner, followed by two hours of discussion. We were very pleased to be joined by a number of new members of the council who were attending for the first time. At this meeting, Father Paul Soper and Sister Pat Boyle gave a presentation on the ideas that are being circulated regarding the future of parish staffing. We had a very fulsome discussion around that topic. Then, on Thursday, we had our meeting of the Presbyteral Council, one of the most important advisory bodies that we have. Presbyteral Council meetings are an opportunity for the priests’ representatives to bring ideas from their vicariate meetings forward for consideration, and when they go back to their vicariate meetings, to explain the discussions and the decisions that are made. This is a very important organ in the life of the Church, and we are very grateful for the interest and dedication of the priest members. They are always generous in attending the meetings and very thoughtful in their responsibilities in trying to articulate the ideas and suggestions coming from the priests of the diocese. Until next week, Cardinal Seán