Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2007/08


Our Lady of Fatima

Hearing the news of the earthquake in Peru on Aug. 15, our thoughts and prayers turn to the people of that nation. So many of the priests from the Archdiocese of Boston are working there through the St. James Society. I have heard from Msgr. Finbarr O’Leary, the director of the society, that no Boston priests are located in the area hardest hit by the earthquake. He shared with us the following account he received from a priest in Peru the morning after the earthquake:

“At 6:41 p.m. on Wednesday evening, 15th of Aug. the coastal region of south central Peru was hit by a series of strong earthquakes. The quakes started some 46 km below the earth’s surface under the Pacific Ocean along the Nasca tectonic plate about 145 km south west of Lima. The first shock registered at 7.7 on the Richter scale and a few seconds later the second hit at 7.5. Between the first quake at 6:41 p.m. and midnight 140 after-shocks were recorded. The coastal cities of Pisco, Chincha and Ica and many neighboring costal towns along the Pan-American Highway south of Lima suffered heavy damage. Several churches, a hospital and many homes in these towns are said to have collapsed.

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The first images from the tragedy are moving

 

At first light this morning 337 people were confirmed dead and hundreds of the injured are still awaiting emergency aid. As the search and rescue operations get under way today it is expected that the number of victims will increase. A tsunami warning was issued at 7 p.m. for Lima’s seaport of Callao and the western coast of South America from Chile to Mexico. Authorities in Callao evacuated the waterfront areas of the city. Except for heavy surf that flooded coastal roads, no tsunami was detected by the Pacific early warning system and an all clear was declared at 8:30 p.m. In the colonial section of downtown Lima many old building were damaged and it was reported that three people in the city died of heart attacks.”

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Many churches were also destroyed

I am requesting all pastors in the archdiocese to have a second collection at all Masses on the weekend of August 26 for the victims of the earthquake. Boston has a long standing tradition of great generosity with the victims of natural disasters, and Peru is very close to our hearts through the works of so many Boston priests who through the years have ministered there serving the poorest among the poor in Peru.

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Last week, I met with Randy Keesler, a regional director for the Bishop Conference’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

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Randy used to work with me in Washington D.C. at the Centro Católico andhas worked for the Bishop’s Conference for many years. As a young man, he worked with Cesar Chavez and has always been very involved in social causes in the life of the Church.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the organization, the CCHD is the anti-poverty program of the Catholic Church. It is very effective in funding neighborhood organizations that are working for social change. Father Bill Joy has been our local diocesan director, and there is an annual collection.

The CCHD is funded primarily through and annual national collection. Last year they distributed around $9 million in grant money to local projects.

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This is the latest poster published in connection with the annual collection

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John M. Haas, a bioethicist and president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Pennsylvania, was in town last week and came to see me.

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Their center has been a very important think tank for the Catholic Church in the United States and a great source of education about the Church’s teachings on morality and medical ethics.

For many years they organized an annual seminar with different themes. They would invite the bishops to come together with their theologians and ethicists to study different themes of the Church’s teaching on medical ethics, which in today’s world is becoming more and more complicated.

In addition, they provide courses for St. John’s Seminary, and John Haas was in town because they were having a seminar at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Brighton for our Catholic doctors, nurses and health professionals. It has been very important for us to promote the Catholic identity of our hospitals by having these kinds of seminars.

The Biotheics Center’s headquarters are in Philadelphia, and they provide a great service to the Church in the United States. They send us a monthly publication, Ethics and Medics, which we pass on to the priests. It is important for our priests to be informed of the current concerns in the area of medical ethics.

Also at the Center is a priest from the Diocese of Fall River, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, whom I ordained when I was bishop there. We are very proud of him and very grateful that Bishop George Coleman has allowed him to dedicate himself full-time to this ministry.

When we filmed a Catholic TV program about stem-cell research in March 2005, it was with the help of Father Tad. The program was called “Cutting Through the Spin on Stem-Cells and Cloning.”

Father Tad is also a regular contributor to our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and his opinion pieces, which eloquently explain very complicated issues, can be read on The Pilot’s Web site.

- – -

This week I am in Portugal visiting Fatima at the request of the Portuguese bishops’ conference. The conference commonly invites bishops from other parts of the world to preside at a Fatima celebration, and this time I was invited. From May to October, special pilgrimages take place in Fatima on the 12th and 13th of the each month. They commemorate the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children of Fatima.

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The celebration in August is always dedicated to immigrants and refugees. August is traditionally the month in Europe when people take their vacations, and many people travel back to their home country. At least a third of the Portuguese people are immigrants to other countries, so this is a time when they return home to visit their families. While home, many of them go to visit Fatima.

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On Aug. 12, I presided over the celebration’s opening ceremony at the “Capelinha,” the place of the apparition.

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That was followed by the rosary in different languages and a candlelight procession in which they took the statue of the Blessed Mother to the outdoor altar that is on the steps of the large church in Fatima. There we celebrated the Mass.

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Blessing the candles

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By the time the Mass begins, it is about 10:30 p.m., and the Mass ended just after midnight. I celebrated the Mass, and Bishop António Vitalino Dantas — the head of the immigration department of the Portuguese bishop’s conference — preached.

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D. António Marto, bishop of Leiria-Fatima,
greeted the pilgrims 

All night long there were different groups that led holy hours, and in the morning, there was another rosary at 9 a.m. Then, many bishops and priests led the procession, taking the statue back to the altar.

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At about 10:30 a.m., there was the closing Mass for the pilgrimage, where I presided and preached in Portuguese. I want to share the English version with you, but you may also read the original Portuguese text which is posted at the Web site of the Santuário de Fátima.

Today standing before you – hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from the ends of the earth here at Mary’s house – I turn to Jesus, our Savior and from the deepest recesses of my heart I call out to Him and say “Lord, your Mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” And Jesus’ answer is the same today as two thousand years ago: “My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

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The book of the Gospels was carried in Procession at the beginning of the Mass

You are truly Jesus’ family when you gather here to praise our heavenly Father and to find the strength to generously embrace God’s word. Today’s Gospel begins with Mary and the disciples knocking on the door to enter where Jesus was but our history begins with God knocking on the door of humanity and at the Annunciation – and Mary opens that door that allows God to come into our world, our history, our family. Fiat – “Be it done unto me according to they word.” These are from Mary’s first words in the Gospel. She is saying yes to God, yes to love, yes to life.

The German theologian, Von Baltazar has invented many wonderful theological expressions. He speaks of Kniende theologie which mean theology on our knees. It is more important to know God than to know about God, and it is our life of prayer that we come to discover God. And when we discover God we discover who we are, why we are here and what we have to do with our lives. Von Baltazar describes Mary’s (??) her yes as the Geschehenlassendes Ja a yes that allows something to happen. Mary’s yes opens the door of human history to God, who becomes one of us in Christ.

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Procession with the Blessed Sacrament

 

At Cardinal John O’Connor’s ordination Mother Teresa was present. When the Cardinal walked by her, she smiled and the saintly nun said: “Bishop give God permission”.

God is waiting to be invited into our lives. Like Jesus who appears as a stranger to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they arrive at their destination Jesus makes as if he is going to continue on his journey. The disciples then invite Jesus: “Stay with us, Lord” The Lord wants us to invite Him into our hearts. He is waiting for us to give Him permission, to say that Geschehenlassendes Ja – that yes that allows something to happen.

If Mary’s first words in the Gospel are: “Be it done unto me according to your word” – yes – Her last words that appear in the Gospel are in John’s account of the wedding feast of Cana “Do whatever He tells you.”

Mary is the Mother of Christ because she hears God’s word and keeps it. She is our Mother and her last words are telling us to listen to God’s word and obey it.

The First lesson from today’s Mass the book of Deuteronomy we heard: What does God ask of you? To walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord with your whole heart and with your whole soul and observe the Lord’s commands. The same reading goes on to describe the Lord’s activity: The Lord defends the orphan and widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”

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Today we have many who are immigrants working in distant lands. It is good for you to hear this word of Scripture which reminds us of the special love God has for aliens and immigrants.

The lot of the immigrant (sorte) is always difficult, especially at the beginning. For 20 years I worked as a priest with immigrants in Washington. There were many Portuguese who had left the old colonies after the revolution and were seeking a new life in America. Most were Hispanic refugees from Central America where civil wars were raging.

One day a man came to my office. He handed me a letter from his wife and sat down and wept. The wife scolded him for leaving her and their eight children to starve in the war torn El Salvador. She said she had waited over eight months and still he had not written or sent money. The man told me he had left his farm in El Salvador and come illegally to Washington because it was impossible to farm with the war. He lived in a single room with six other men and worked in two restaurants, washing dishes. He told me that he walked to work, so as not to spend money on the bus and that he did not buy food, but rather ate the leftover food on the dirty dishes that he washed. Each week he sent all the money he earned to his wife, but she had not received his letters. I asked if he sent checks or cash. He told me he sent cash and each Friday mailed the letters and money, putting them in the blue mailbox on the corner. I looked out the widow and saw his blue mailbox. It was a fancy trash bin. He showed me just how many sacrifices immigrants make for the families and how many trials and humiliations they experience in a foreign land with a strange tongue, different customs and an often hostile atmosphere.

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A general view from the altar

In this Mass we embrace all immigrants, those who have been blessed with great success in their new homes and those who still suffer and struggle. Our God does not see the color of the skin, or give importance to the language or the customs. He sees His child and He wants us to love and help one another.

We are part of Jesus’ family when we put in practice the teaching of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the merciful face of the father and to teach us God’s commandment of Love.

In the synoptic Gospels we read much about Jesus teaching on the Great Commandment. It is not the great suggestion, great advice, great guideline – it is a Commandment.

First we must love God with our whole heart and strength above everything else. Working with the poor illiterate peasants from Central America – the phrase I heard over and over again was “Primero Dios.” God must be first in our lives, than all of our priorities will be correct. We will not love people less, but more because we love God. The second part of the Great Commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves and Jesus teaches us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is that foreigner, that wounded man, that forgotten person – the one who is in need and therefore has a special claim on my love.

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Jesus commands us to love strangers. If we only greet those who are our own, we are acting like the pagans and unbelievers. Jesus commands us to love even our enemies. How difficult that is. Yet He shows us from the cross how to forgive His executors and the good thief.

Chesterton said that God tells us to love our neighbor and to love our enemies because usually they are the same people.

But when we get to the last Gospel, John’s Gospel, there we find the Lord’s teaching on the special love that must characterize His disciples. At the Last Supper, Jesus says farewell – and at that emotional moment gives us a new commandments and a sacrament. He washes the feet of his apostles and says I give you a new commandment – Love one another as I love you. This is the new commandment and is about the love that must exist among us who are Jesus’ followers. John’s Gospel does not talk about love of neighbor, stranger, enemy, but of our fellow disciples in the family of Christ.

Jesus says by this will all know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another. Jesus says great love has no one that the one who lays down his life for his friend.

Yes before He dies Jesus give us in addition to the Great Commandment of love of God and neighbor – the new commandment –“ Love one another as I love you.” Jesus’ love is the measuring stick for the love the disciples should have for each other.

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John the beloved disciple, the author of the last Gospel was in exile for years on the Isle of Patmos. As an old man he lived in a cave in the mountains. On Sundays they used to carry St. John down to the town so that he could preach in the Sunday Eucharist. To the amazement of all his sermon was always the same – “Little children love one another.” Many people complain that the pastor always gives the same sermon, but if your priest is St. John what can you do? Finally someone got up enough courage to ask St. John why he always gave the same sermon. He said that he preached that message of the new commandment each time because Jesus while He was with them repeated it over and over again.

We who are the mothers and brothers and sisters of Jesus must have that special love for each other, that love for the Church, the community of faith, the Body of Christ.

At the Last Supper after giving us the new commandment of love, Jesus gives us the sacrament of love, the Eucharist. In this sacrament Christ makes a gift of Himself to us. When we receive the sacrament with faith and devotion we find the strength to make a gift of ourselves to live our mission in the world, of living the great commandment of love of God and neighbor, and the new commandment of the love for our fellow disciples.

We gather here to ask Mary’s help and blessing to be faithful disciples to follow the Lord in the paths He teaches us by His life and His words. He left us a great commandment a new commandments and Mary tells us – Do whatever He tells you. And if like Mary we do what Christ tells us – then we too shall be his brothers and his sisters, His family.

Today standing before you – hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from the ends of the earth here at Mary’s house – I turn to Jesus, our Savior and from the deepest recesses of my heart I call out to Him and say “Lord, your Mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” And Jesus’ answer is the same today as two thousand years ago: “My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

You are truly Jesus’ family when you gather here to praise our heavenly Father and to find the strength to generously embrace God’s word. Today’s Gospel begins with Mary and the disciples knocking on the door to enter where Jesus was but our history begins with God knocking on the door of humanity and at the Annunciation – and Mary opens that door that allows God to come into our world, our history, our family. Fiat – “Be it done unto me according to they word.” These are from Mary’s first words in the Gospel. She is saying yes to God, yes to love, yes to life.

The German theologian, Von Baltazar has invented many wonderful theological expressions. He speaks of Kniende theologie which mean theology on our knees. It is more important to know God than to know about God, and it is our life of prayer that we come to discover God. And when we discover God we discover who we are, why we are here and what we have to do with our lives. Von Baltazar describes Mary’s (??) her yes as the Geschehenlassendes Ja a yes that allows something to happen. Mary’s yes opens the door of human history to God, who becomes one of us in Christ.

At Cardinal John O’Connor’s ordination Mother Teresa was present. When the Cardinal walked by her, she smiled and the saintly nun said: “Bishop give God permission”.

God is waiting to be invited into our lives. Like Jesus who appears as a stranger to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they arrive at their destination Jesus makes as if he is going to continue on his journey. The disciples then invite Jesus: “Stay with us, Lord” The Lord wants us to invite Him into our hearts. He is waiting for us to give Him permission, to say that Geschehenlassendes Ja – that yes that allows something to happen.

If Mary’s first words in the Gospel are: “Be it done unto me according to your word” – yes – Her last words that appear in the Gospel are in John’s account of the wedding feast of Cana “Do whatever He tells you.”

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Mary is the Mother of Christ because she hears God’s word and keeps it. She is our Mother and her last words are telling us to listen to God’s word and obey it.

The First lesson from today’s Mass the book of Deuteronomy we heard: What does God ask of you? To walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord with your whole heart and with your whole soul and observe the Lord’s commands. The same reading goes on to describe the Lord’s activity: The Lord defends the orphan and widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”

Today we have many who are immigrants working in distant lands. It is good for you to hear this word of Scripture which reminds us of the special love God has for aliens and immigrants.

The lot of the immigrant is always difficult, especially at the beginning. For 20 years I worked as a priest with immigrants in Washington. There were many Portuguese who had left the old colonies after the revolution and were seeking a new life in America. Most were Hispanic refugees from Central America where civil wars were raging.

One day a man came to my office. He handed me a letter from his wife and sat down and wept. The wife scolded him for leaving her and their eight children to starve in the war torn El Salvador. She said she had waited over eight months and still he had not written or sent money. The man told me he had left his farm in El Salvador and come illegally to Washington because it was impossible to farm with the war. He lived in a single room with six other men and worked in two restaurants, washing dishes. He told me that he walked to work, so as not to spend money on the bus and that he did not buy food, but rather ate the leftover food on the dirty dishes that he washed. Each week he sent all the money he earned to his wife, but she had not received his letters. I asked if he sent checks or cash. He told me he sent cash and each Friday mailed the letters and money, putting them in the blue mailbox on the corner. I looked out the widow and saw his blue mailbox. It was a fancy trash bin. He showed me just how many sacrifices immigrants make for the families and how many trials and humiliations they experience in a foreign land with a strange tongue, different customs and an often hostile atmosphere.

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In this Mass we embrace all immigrants, those who have been blessed with great success in their new homes and those who still suffer and struggle. Our God does not see the color of the skin, or give importance to the language or the customs. He sees His child and He wants us to love and help one another.

We are part of Jesus’ family when we put in practice the teaching of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the merciful face of the father and to teach us God’s commandment of Love.

In the synoptic Gospels we read much about Jesus teaching on the Great Commandment. It is not the great suggestion, great advice, great guideline – it is a Commandment.

First we must love God with our whole heart and strength above everything else. Working with the poor illiterate peasants from Central America – the phrase I heard over and over again was “Primero Dios.” God must be first in our lives, than all of our priorities will be correct. We will not love people less, but more because we love God. The second part of the Great Commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves and Jesus teaches us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbor is that foreigner, that wounded man, that forgotten person – the one who is in need and therefore has a special claim on my love.

im1765.jpg

Jesus commands us to love strangers. If we only greet those who are our own, we are acting like the pagans and unbelievers. Jesus commands us to love even our enemies. How difficult that is. Yet He shows us from the cross how to forgive His executors and the good thief.

Chesterton said that God tells us to love our neighbor and to love our enemies because usually they are the same people.

But when we get to the last Gospel, John’s Gospel, there we find the Lord’s teaching on the special love that must characterize His disciples. At the Last Supper, Jesus says farewell – and at that emotional moment gives us a new commandments and a sacrament. He washes the feet of his apostles and says I give you a new commandment – Love one another as I love you. This is the new commandment and is about the love that must exist among us who are Jesus’ followers. John’s Gospel does not talk about love of neighbor, stranger, enemy, but of our fellow disciples in the family of Christ.

Jesus says by this will all know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another. Jesus says great love has no one that the one who lays down his life for his friend.

Yes before He dies Jesus give us in addition to the Great Commandment of love of God and neighbor – the new commandment –“ Love one another as I love you.” Jesus’ love is the measuring stick for the love the disciples should have for each other.

John the beloved disciple, the author of the last Gospel was in exile for years on the Isle of Patmos. As an old man he lived in a cave in the mountains. On Sundays they used to carry St. John down to the town so that he could preach in the Sunday Eucharist. To the amazement of all his sermon was always the same – “Little children love one another.” Many people complain that the pastor always gives the same sermon, but if your priest is St. John what can you do? Finally someone got up enough courage to ask St. John why he always gave the same sermon. He said that he preached that message of the new commandment each time because Jesus while He was with them repeated it over and over again.

We who are the mothers and brothers and sisters of Jesus must have that special love for each other, that love for the Church, the community of faith, the Body of Christ.

At the Last Supper after giving us the new commandment of love, Jesus gives us the sacrament of love, the Eucharist. In this sacrament Christ makes a gift of Himself to us. When we receive the sacrament with faith and devotion we find the strength to make a gift of ourselves to live our mission in the world, of living the great commandment of love of God and neighbor, and the new commandment of the love for our fellow disciples.

We gather here to ask Mary’s help and blessing to be faithful disciples to follow the Lord in the paths He teaches us by His life and His words. He left us a great commandment a new commandments and Mary tells us – Do whatever He tells you. And if like Mary we do what Christ tells us – then we too shall be his brothers and his sisters, His family.

At the offertory, there was a very long procession in which the farmers carried wheat — often on their heads — and presented it to me. That wheat will be used to make the hosts for the entire year.

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At the offertory, children dressed as Francisco and Jacinta Marto
presented me with bags of wheat

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The inside of one of the bags

At the end of the Mass, there was a blessing of the sick with the Blessed Sacrament.

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Finally, there is a very emotional farewell to the Blessed Virgin where the people sing a hymn of farewell, “Adeus, Senhora do Rosário” (“Farewell, Our Lady of the Rosary”) during which everyone waves their handkerchiefs, waving farewell to the Blessed Mother.

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I was happy that my step mother, Claire O’Malley, and a number of my relatives were able to be with us for the celebration, and my secretary Father Brian Bachand also accompanied me.

There were many thousands of people there for the celebration — 100,000 according to the organization.

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It was very touching to see so many people crossing the plaza on their knees or praying in front of the place of the apparitions. Although the vast majority were Portuguese, there were thousands of pilgrims from Germany, France, Africa, Vietnam, the Philippines, England, Ireland and the United States. It really does represent the catholicity of the Church. We all come from so many different backgrounds and so many different cultures, and still we all turn to Mary as our mother in the faith. We ask her to help us to lead our lives of discipleship with a renewed spirit of generosity and fidelity.

It was interesting to see that in Portugal this event was televised on two national television stations and covered extensively on the broadcast news and in the country’s newspapers. It just shows how important, how central, the phenomenon of Fatima is, even in the popular culture of Portugal.

In Europe at a time when participation in the Sunday Mass has fallen off considerably, the life of the shrines has taken on even greater importance. All of the shrines in Europe attract thousands of people, and it is an opportunity to reach families and to evangelize. Certainly, witnessing the great devotion of the people to Our Lady of Fatima is a very moving experience.

For the photo of the week, I have chosen this beautiful photo of Our Lady of Fatima being carried in procession.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

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In Christ,

Cardinal Seán