Hello, once again!
As you may know, last week the House of Representatives passed its version of the health care reform bill that included the Stupak amendment, which prevents the use of taxpayer money to support abortion.
We were very pleased that the amendment was passed by such a large margin in the House. I think it shows that the Representatives are aware that the American people, as a whole, do not want the government to be funding abortions. We’re very grateful for all the pastors and the parishioners who contacted legislators to share with them our concerns.
Of course, in addition to the taxpayer funding of abortions, other issues of concern for Catholics are the protection of conscience rights for health care workers and care for the immigrants and the poor.
We will be very interested in how the Senate bill addresses all these issues.
Please continue to join me in praying that our government leaders will act with justice and prudence, and maintain the wording of the Stupak amendment in the final bill. If you have not contacted your Senator, please do so. Also, if your Representative voted for the Stupak Amendment, I encourage you to thank them for their courage.
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In the last year, some 20,000 people have come to the Pastoral Center.
The many different groups using this facility, I think, demonstrates that the Pastoral Center truly is getting to be a home for people of the Archdiocese.
One of the latest groups we had the pleasure of hosting was a group of Catholic development professionals who met here last Thursday.
The group was composed of development professionals of various parishes, schools, and agencies throughout the Archdiocese. They gathered to talk about the challenges and ways we raise money to be able support the mission of the Catholic Church.
I was happy to address them and thank them for the work that they do. I encouraged them to carry on their work in a spirit of faith and a desire to make the good works of the Church possible now and in the future.
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On Sunday, I celebrated Mass at St. James Parish in Haverhill to mark the parish’s 150th anniversary.
Father Robert Murray is the pastor there. I told his parishioners that everyone misses him at the Cathedral where he was assigned before going to Haverhill.
He is doing a great job at St. James. I was particularly impressed by the renovations they have made: they have re-pointed the brick walls, fixed up the lower church, repaired the doors… . The church just looks stunning and the parishioners are justifiably proud of it.
Like the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, St. James is one of our Keely churches.
The parish has been very welcoming to immigrant groups. I told them that Patrick Keely who built the church, was an immigrant who came from Ireland with his 20 children. In all, he built around 700 churches and 20 cathedrals.
I commented to the people it was so beautiful to see that this church, which was built by immigrants and for immigrants, is still a welcoming parish where the Hispanic, Vietnamese, and Brazilian communities have joined the original parishioners there. Together, they all have contributed so much to the life of that parish.
Many of the altar servers who served at the Mass had been with us at the Cathedral the week before at the Altar Server Appreciation Mass, so I was able to tell them the Cathedral was built by the same man who built their parish.
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Then, that evening, I went to Boston College High School for the St. James Society’s Annual Cushing Awards Banquet.
The banquet is held each year to support the work of the Society, which is made up of diocesan priests who work in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
They sold crafts made in the missions as a fundraiser
With Bishop Hennessey’s nephews Tim and Keith. Tim got a great round of applause toward the end of the program when Bishop Hennessey announce that Tim recently completed his service with the Marines in Iraq and earned a Purple Heart
Connor and Mara, children of the dinner Chair, Michael Burke, helped raise funds for the “split the pot” raffle
The Society was founded 51 years ago by my predecessor, Cardinal Richard Cushing. Since then, about 300 priests from all over the world have served in the society. Many of them not only served in those countries, but then returned to Boston, having been immersed in the language and the culture, to carry on our Hispanic ministries here in the archdiocese. So, in many ways, the St. James Society has always been a double blessing for us.
Speaking with the Society’s president, Father Kevin Hayes, and WBZ Radio host Dan Rhea, our emcee for the evening
One of those missionaries who went and returned was our own Bishop Robert Hennessey, regional bishop for the Central Region. I was happy to present him with a Cardinal Cushing Award, along with former state legislator and president of the New England Council Jim Brett and a lovely couple, Robert and Rose Crimmins who have traveled to Ecuador and helped build Catholic schools and clinics there.
Presenting the Cushing Award to Jim Brett …
…. Bishop Hennessy
… and Mr. and Mrs. Crimmins
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On Tuesday evening, I gave a lecture at Boston College sponsored by the School of Theology and Minstry entitled, “The Eucharist and Our Formation as the People of the Church.”
It was a very good turnout. There were a lot of young people there.
I’d like to share some highlights of my talk with you:
Life is a journey, but we do not make the journey alone. The Lord is with us, and he has given us a family. At the Last Supper, Jesus bids us farewell. He gives us a command and a gift. The command is the New Commandment. The Great Commandment is, “Love God above all else. Love your neighbor as yourself. But at the Last Supper, where Jesus is gathered with His disciples, He gives us a New Commandment. But the Lord not only gives us the Commandment, He also gives us the Sacrament so that we can have the strength to live that life of love. Jesus gives us His enduring love in the Eucharist. To those who are of the household of the faith, those who are the members of His Church, to the people of God, he says, “Love one another as I love you.” Jesus has established a new standard, now His love for us is the measuring stick for the love that we have to have for each other.
In reflecting on the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of Jesus making Himself present through the ministry of the Church for all time, we remember that when God was knocking on the door of humanity, it was Mary who opened that door in our name. By way of Mary’s fiat, her “yes”, God came into our world in the person of Jesus. Mary gave Jesus his human body and blood, and she is the Mother of the Eucharist. My favorite painting of the Blessed Mother is one that is in St. Mary’s Church in Charlestown, in Boston. It depicts Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, giving Holy Communion to our Blessed Mother. It reminds me of Faber’s beautiful hymn, “Had I but Mary’s sinless heart to love thee with, my Dearest King. Oh, with what bursts of fervent praise Thy goodness, Jesus, would I sing.”
Today, we know that there are many, even among the people of God, who do not accept Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. We should not be surprised. In John’s Gospel, when Jesus explains the Eucharist, He says, “Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood, you will not have life in you.” At that time, many of the disciples said, “These are hard words. Who can accept them?”, and they left Jesus’ company. Today many people find the central teachings of our faith too hard to believe and simply stop coming to church. Jesus asked His Apostles, “Are you going to leave me like the others?” And Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus’ words and His actions assure us that He has left us a miracle of love in the Eucharist. We need to be witnesses of that truth to our brothers and sisters who have drifted away from the community of faith.
There is direct connection between the Eucharist and the ongoing process of our formation as the People of God. The Eucharist is the source of our strength for a life of faithful discipleship, where through the Sacraments of initiation we respond to the call to holiness. Enlightened by the Eucharist, we discern our personal vocation, whether to the priesthood, religious life, marriage, or the single life. Whatever our role in the life of the Church, we are all called to be part of a communal mission to transform the world, to build a civilization of love.
The Mass begins with a penitential rite that reminds us of the need for conversion and repentance as a preparation to enter into the sacred mysteries. The very holiness of the Eucharist is an invitation to conversion, to live the ideals of the Gospel, the costly grace of discipleship. When believers truly reverence the sacredness of the Eucharist, that sense of awe and Eucharistic amazement causes people to examine their lives in the light of the commandments and strive to put their lives in order before receiving the Eucharist.
A Holy Ghost Father who served as a missionary in Africa states that one of the most important symbolic gestures that the Massai people have is to offer one another a handful of grass as a sign of peace and reconciliation. During any dispute a handful of grass offered by one Massai, and acceptance by another is a guarantee that peace will reign, that neither will turn to violence. This spirit of reconciliation is essential for the celebration of the Eucharist. That same Holy Ghost missionary, Father Donovan, gives a moving description of how Mass preparation begins among the Massai people as soon as the celebrant arrives at the village. There is much dancing and prayers are offered for the sick. This sort of pre-celebration can go on for a whole day before culminating in the celebration of the Eucharist. Yet the missionary priest never knew if indeed the Mass would follow. The leaders of the tribe would have to decide whether they could celebrate the Eucharist. If there had been selfishness, forgetfulness, hatefulness or lack of forgiveness in the life of the village, they would not make a sacrilege out of the Eucharist by calling it the Body of Christ when there was a lack of unity among the people. The celebration of the Eucharist would be postponed until the whole community could deal with its shortcomings.
When believers are aware of their need to be spiritually prepared for the Eucharist, the call to conversion is part of the experience of the Eucharist. Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles in part to denote the cleansing and repentance that must seek in preparation for participation in the Eucharist. We present ourselves before God and before the community acknowledging our need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus says clearly in the Gospel that before we offer our gifts on the altar, we must be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. We need to be aware of our call to wear the garment of grace and mercy as we come to the Eucharist. We must approach the Eucharist like Moses who removed his sandals drawing near the burning bush, with a sense of wonder and awe. At the same time, we have a sense of our own unworthiness in the presence of God’s boundless and gratuitous love, like Peter, who throws himself at Jesus’ feet and says: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
What magnificent witnesses we have in our Catholic tradition of those who have been converted and inspired to holiness by the word of God proclaimed at the Eucharist: St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine and Blessed Charles de Foucauld among many others. The Word of God finds its home in the Eucharist. Here our Lord speaks to us and leaves us breathless with the challenge: How can we live the demands of His loving word? After the Word of God is proclaimed at the Liturgy of the Word in the lessons, then the Word is “proclaimed” intimately upon the altar in the bread of life and love.
Not only are we loved by God, but in Christ we are loved first. Is there a more beautiful passage in the New Testament than John’s exclamation in his first epistle: “Love, then consists in this, not that we have loved God but that He has loved us and sent His Son as an offering for our sins” (1 John 10:4). And “we, for our part, love because He loved us first,” (1 John 10:19). Pope Benedict emphasizes that our conversion, our turning to God and to our fellow men and women, is grounded in the immense grace and energy of God’s first love. “More than anything, they (who serve others in need) must be persons moved by Christ’s love, persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with His love” (Deus Caritas Est, #33). This “first love” clearly comes to us from the Cross of Christ. It is the Cross and the Resurrection, as in the Eucharistic reenactment, that love is revealed to us, and even more, the most humble love of God for us. The correct formation of our hearts as Christians, rising from our contact with the Word and Sacrament, is the basis for our formation as the Christian community, the people of the Church.
It must be stated that every Christian who seeks to be faithful to the high standard of Christian living must gratefully receive the call to live chastely in this world, each Christian is called to humbly and faithfully live the chastity that has a profound reverence for the sacrament of marriage and for the proper expression of sexuality within a faithful spousal covenant. We live in the midst of a world which is addicted to selfish and violent sexual expression. It is beyond comprehension that every day children and women are exploited with complete disregard for their humanity and their dignity. We cannot accept this as “the ways things are”. In a world where so many people are disfigured by poverty, neglect and injustice, we cannot truly be the people of the Church, followers of Christ, if we step over Lazarus starving on his porch. It is the transformational presence of Christ in the Eucharist that gives us the strength to resist our culture’s “will to power”, to be witnesses of Jesus’ sacrificial love as given to us in the Church and her teachings.
The two disciples of Emmaus, upon recognizing the Lord, “set out immediately” in order to report what they had seen and heard. The Holy Father points out: “the encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, results in an urgent summons to witness and to evangelize. St. Paul wrote in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). When we enter into communion with Christ we will sense the duty to be a missionary of the event that made present Jesus’ abiding love, (Mane Nobiscum Domine, #24). To be the people of the Church, to live as a community that witnesses our faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the way, the truth and the life, we must be people who are devoted to the Eucharist. Going forth to live our call to discipleship, let us share with those around us that “we have seen the Lord and we have recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.”
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Finally, I want to remind you that on Nov. 22, the feast of Christ the King, I will be presenting Cheverus Awards to those many Catholics around the Archdiocese who have witnessed to Christ’s call to discipleship through their loving support of the Church of Boston’s work and mission.
This will take place at evening prayer beginning at 3 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I hope that you, like I, find this year’s honorees to be role models for Catholic discipleship today. Please join me in praying for this year’s recipients — that God may continue to grant them the courage to witness to Him.
I look forward to seeing you there!