Hello, and welcome back!
As I do every year, I went down to Washington, D.C. last week for the March for Life.
After arriving in Washington on Thursday afternoon, I visited with Father Richard Duffield from the Birmingham Oratory in England and Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society.
With Father Duffield
They came to see me at Capuchin College, where I was staying and talk to me about Cardinal Newman’s cause of canonization. We are very proud that the miracle that was accepted in the process of beatification took place in Boston. A deacon from the archdiocese, Jack Sullivan, was cured of a debilitating back injury as he prayed to Cardinal Newman for his recovery.
The beatification will likely take place in the fall. The Holy Father has a trip planned to England in September and, hopefully, he will officiate at the ceremony during the trip. No official announcement has been made as to the details, but we hope that they will be announced soon.
Cardinal Newman was an important intellectual in the life of the Church who came out of the Anglican tradition. He was one of the founders of the Oxford Movement, an Anglo-Catholic movement that resulted in many Anglicans joining the Church, for instance the Graymoor Friars and Nuns and many other extraordinary individuals who brought with them great talent and energy to the life of the Church. Certainly, Cardinal Newman was one of the great Catholic intellectuals of the English-speaking world and his conversion to Catholicism was a very powerful testimony.
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That evening, I concelebrated at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was packed with Catholics praying for our society to respect the right to life.
I’m always amazed at how many people they manage to fit into the Shrine for that celebration. There were something like 400 priests and 400 seminarians, and many deacons, religious, bishops, and cardinals.
The entrance procession lasted over a half an hour just bringing the clergy up to the altar. The presence of so many young people there — as at the march — was a great source of encouragement.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is chairman of the pro-life committee for the USCCB, officiated and preached at the Mass. He gave a very beautiful and moving homily in which he spoke about various aspects of the pro-life agenda.
After the Mass, the vigil continued all night long with different Holy Hours and opportunities for confession, culminating with a Mass the next morning celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese.
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On Friday morning, I celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart with the young marchers and seminarians from Boston.
A few years ago, a youth Mass was initiated for the day of the march. This youth Mass has been held at the Verizon Center, which is a large convention center in Washington. This year, they signed up participants online, but so many people tried to sign up that within the first hour, the tickets were gone.
The Center holds about 20,000. It is an extraordinary venue because they traditionally put all the seminarians down on the main arena and the young people are sitting on the benches around them. Many bishops and priests concelebrate at the Mass. It is an extraordinary event with young people. I call it tantamount to a mini World Youth Day because the young people are exposed to the witness of thousands and thousands of their peers.
However, in the last several years, the Verizon Center, as large as it is, cannot accommodate the numbers of young people that are at the march. So, last year and again this year, I have celebrated a separate Mass for the Boston group. I was told that this year there were 13 satellite Masses at the same time as the Mass at the Verizon Center to accommodate the people that wanted to go to Mass before the march.
We had our Mass at Sacred Heart Shrine, which is staffed by the Capuchin friars of my province. I ministered there for several years.
As I told the young people, I started the Haitian ministry at that church many years ago, and used to have a Spanish Mass there. Now there are three Spanish Masses, a Haitian Mass, a Vietnamese Mass and one English Mass. So, it really reflects the Catholicity of the immigrant Church in that area.
I also shared with them that at one point as a young friar, I lived in the basement of that church with about 600 people for a week (with one bathroom!) when there were the riots in the late ‘60’s. There were 700 fires in the District of Columbia. They were bringing firemen from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Richmond, and all over to fight the fires. There were soldiers with bayonets in every corner and tanks surrounding the White House. I said it was nice to come back at peacetime.
It’s a lovely church with many memories for me, of course. We had about 100 seminarians there who study at St. John’s Seminary as well as the parishioners and schools who came with us from Boston. They filled the church.
Meanwhile, the group from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary had tickets for the Verizon Center, so they were the “Chosen Ones” to represent Boston there.
I’ve been asking all of the Catholic schools — particularly the high schools and campus ministries — to send young people to Washington precisely because it is such an extraordinary experience for them to see how many young Catholics there are who are living their faith and trying to promote the Gospel of Life and Catholic values. It’s just a wonderful experience. I’m very grateful to the schools that sent buses and I am grateful to Father Matt Williams’ office that worked so hard to organize this, and to Marianne Luthin who helped to turn the people out.
At the same time, as I reminded our people back in the archdiocese, our Deacons for Life organized vigils in almost 200 parishes.
So, even though not everyone could be present in Washington, we were all united in prayer for the same ideal.
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After the Mass, I went to St. Matthew’s Cathedral where we had lunch with the Blessed John seminarians who were coming out of the Verizon Center.
As a young brother, I worked with the Hispanic ministry in the parish there. Back when I was ordained, my parish, La Capilla Latina, was actually a chapel of St. Matthew’s.
That cathedral was where I celebrated my first public Mass and where I had confessions, weddings, baptisms, and Masses every weekend in Spanish from the week after I was ordained until the week before I was ordained a bishop.
It’s a lovely church. It’s not a very big cathedral. In fact, it was not built as a cathedral but chosen to be the cathedral because of its proximity to the White House and the central part of the city. In fact, Sacred Heart was another church they had considered making the cathedral of Washington.
At the cathedral, there is a small chapel to St. Francis where I used to celebrate many weddings. Now, they’ve made that into the crypt for the archbishops. Cardinals O’Boyle and Hickey are buried there.
There’s also a very large side chapel to St. Anthony of Padua that has the Canticle of Brother’s Son by St. Francis on the wall, and the mosaic is the scene of Assisi.
I don’t know why there is such Franciscan influence in that church, but there certainly is.
Another wonderful feature of the cathedral is the chapel containing the baptismal font with a mosaic depicting St. Matthew baptizing the Ethiopian, which I said is so appropriate in Washington that has a very large Black Catholic population.
The mosaics there were done by John de Rosen, the same man who did the original mosaics in the shrine. He was a Polish immigrant and he was an extraordinary artist in mosaics. He has a mosaic of the angel touching the waters of the pool of Siloah so the water became curative, as with baptismal waters.
The baptismal font itself, the pulpit, the communion rail, and the high altar are all in-laid marble and were brought from Agra, India. They were created by the same craftsmen who built the Taj Mahal. It’s magnificent workmanship.
The Sacrament Chapel, depicts the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who are standing next to the tabernacle in amazement and they recognize the breaking of the bread.
The idea is that Christ has disappeared but the bread is still there and the bread is the Bread of Life, the Body and Blood of Christ.
Another altar where I used to have many weddings, is a relief of the scene of the marriage of Mary and Joseph based on the painting by Raphael.
Recently, they have built a new addition onto the rectory and that’s where Msgr. Ron Jameson was very gracious in hosting a luncheon with the Knights of Columbus, who always accompany and invite the seminarians from Pope John.
Msgr. Jameson was an assistant at St. Matthew’s when I was a seminarian and a young priest. Back then, he ran the worship office but now he’s there as rector of the cathedral. He’s done an extraordinary job.
He showed us pictures of Pope John Paul II’s visit that hang on the wall.
You can see me standing off to the side by the tree as the Holy Father greets people by the door of the rectory.
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After a quick lunch, we went to the march. There were so many people that I couldn’t even get near the stage, so I just stayed with the Boston group.
There were a lot of people from Massachusetts Citizens for Life who were with us.
As always, you run into people from all over that you know. It’s always a very moving experience.
I’m guessing there were at least 300,000 people there. It was just massive. It took so long for the march to reach the end of it.
The march is a very important public witness to our commitment to defend the unborn in this country. This year, I suspect it is the largest event that they will have at the capital. Yet, the Washington Post did not dare to put a picture of it on the front page of the paper.
Even editorialists in the Post who commented on it, like Robert McCartney, could not help but to be impressed with the youthfulness of the crowd. It was not the old babushkas and monks who were there, but enthusiastic young Catholics — and in large numbers.
Our youngest pilgrim
We are, as always, joined by people from other faiths, particularly the Greek Orthodox, Protestant, and Jewish communities.
Nellie Gray, the organizer, has run each of these marches for the last 37 years, and I am very proud to say I have been with her at each one.
We honored her last year before the Women’s Conference here in Boston. It was a testimony to her life.
On Saturday morning, I had Mass at the Basilica with the Boston group. We had it in the Sacrament Chapel upstairs. We were packed in there. It’s not a large chapel, but we had a couple hundred participants at the Mass.
I explained to them the symbolism of the manna falling down from the altar. I spoke to them about the Gospel passage “behold thy mother… behold thy son.”
Gregory Tracy from our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, traveled with us for the march and took most of the photos you see here. You can see some more photos at the National Shrine, Sacred Heart and the March for Life on The Pilot’s Facebook photo page.
And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, George Martell of The Catholic Foundation accompanied the pilgrims on their journey and posted photos along the way. If you haven’t had a chance to see those photos yet, you can visit the archdiocese’s Flickr page.
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On Sunday, I was back in Boston and went to MCFL’s 37th Annual Assembly for Life at Faneuil Hall. Each year, we participate in the gathering at Faneuil Hall, which is a very historic and important landmark in Boston. We are happy to associate the cause of life with that very historic place – to call people to live our ideals and be a nation that protects the unborn. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are important ideals, but life is the first one.
There was a very moving presentation by Michael Clancy, the photographer who had taken the famous photo picture of the hand of a baby still in the womb grabbing the finger of the doctor during surgery. (You can see the photo and read more about it on his website)
Rabbi Henry Morse, of the Messianic Congregation Sha’ar Hashamayim was the master of ceremonies, and a young man, Michael Maloney, sang a pro-life song he had written for the occasion.
During the rally they presented the Thomas J. Flatley Award to Marilyn Birnie, executive director of Friends of the Unborn, which runs a crisis pregnancy center and home for pregnant, homeless young women in Quincy.
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On Monday, I went to the College of the Holy Cross. The Jesuits at Holy Cross have invited me many times because there are so many students from Boston there. They also invited me because the university was founded by Bishop Fenwick, the second bishop of Boston.
Bishop Fenwick was from one of those old Catholic Maryland families. He was a fifth-generation American descendant of those Catholics who came to Maryland when Lord Baltimore established it as a Catholic colony. He joined the Jesuits and taught at Georgetown University. He was later named second Bishop of Boston when Bishop Cheverus was recalled to France to become the Cardinal Archbishop of Bordeaux.
As a Jesuit, he had great interest in education and founded the Ursuline school in Charlestown. When that was burnt down, he decided that the college he was going to found should be farther away from the city so it would be safe from the Know-Nothings. So he built it in Worcester, which was still part of the Archdiocese of Boston in those days. He named it the College of the Holy Cross to have the connection with the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.
The college has flourished and has been a very important ministry of the Jesuits in the New England Province.
He is buried there at the cemetery with the other Jesuits. We had a small service at his grave where we laid a wreath.
They gave me a print of this painting, which was originally painted for the Ursuline convent and was recently restored.
During my visit, I had a meeting with the students in which they talked to me about their experience at Holy Cross, particularly their activities in campus ministry. I was very happy to see that they have both a chapter of the Knights of Columbus and also the Catholic Daughters of America. They have also been very involved in relief for Haiti and a number of different activities.
After my conversation with the students, we had Mass in a beautiful chapel. Several hundred students attended. It was very gratifying to see how at 4 p.m. on a school day, so many students would come to Mass. I was joined by a number of Jesuits, including the provincial, Father Myles Sheehan, the president, Father Michael McFarland, and three bishops from Worcester – Bishop Robert McManus, retired Bishop Dan Reilly, and retired auxiliary Bishop George Rueger. The abbot of St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer was also with us.
The choir was outstanding. They did a beautiful meditation, which was the Angelus in Latin. It was gorgeous.
Until next week,