I want to begin this week with this statement I issued earlier today:
Because the Gospel of Life is the centerpiece of the Church’s social doctrine and because we consider abortion a crime against humanity, the Catholic Bishops of the United States have asked that Catholic institutions not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and policies.
Recently I learned that the Prime Minister of Ireland, the Hon. Mr. Enda Kenny was slated to receive an honorary degree at Boston College’s graduation this year. I am sure that the invitation was made in good faith, long before it came to the attention of the leadership of Boston College that Mr. Kenny is aggressively promoting abortion legislation. The Irish Bishops have responded to that development by affirming the Church’s teaching that “the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of life is always morally wrong” and expressed serious concern that the proposed legislation “represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”
Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation. It is my ardent hope that Boston College will work to redress the confusion, disappointment and harm caused by not adhering to the Bishops’ directives. Although I shall not be present to impart the final benediction, I assure the graduates that they are in my prayers on this important day in their lives, and I pray that their studies will prepare them to be heralds of the Church’s Social Gospel and “men and women for others,” especially for the most vulnerable in our midst.
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This year I was invited by Bishop Antonio de Sousa Braga to preside at the Santo Cristo Feast on the island of San Miguel in the Azores.
I was accompanied by Father Walter Carriero of Saint Anthony’s in Cambridge, my priest secretary Father Jonathan Gaspar, and Father Kevin O’Leary the rector of the Cathedral.
We were there with hundreds of Portuguese and Portuguese-Americans from Cambridge, Hudson, Stoughton, Fall River and New Bedford who make the pilgrimage every year to Ponta Delgada for the magnificent celebration of Santo Cristo.
Friday, we arrived in time for the lighting of the city, which is just stunning.
The procession, which lasts for about four hours, goes for miles through the city. The whole way, there are beautiful carpets of flowers and colored sawdust.
This is a picture of the Pope Paul III who sent the original statue to the people.
It was given to the Poor Clare nuns who visited him to seek his permission to establish the first convent on the island. He granted it, and gave them this statue of the Ecce Homo (“Behold the man”) as a gift.
It is kept in the convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança that was once a convent of Poor Clares with over 100 nuns. Now, another order, the Concepcionistas, runs it and holds beautiful retreats and other events in the convent. It is a very beautiful place.
The devotion began when there were terrible earthquakes on the island in the early 1700s. The people made a procession with the statue, asking for God’s protection. During the procession, another earthquake hit causing the statue to fall down, but when it hit the ground the earthquake stopped and the people proclaimed it a miracle. This feast has been celebrated every year since. It draws many thousands of people from the Portuguese-speaking world who travel to the Azores to participate.
There are number of Masses, all night vigils and processions that involve virtually the entire population of the island. As I mentioned, the procession stretched for miles and, on that entire route, there were crowds on both sides of the street.
Of course, there were many, many bands.
It was notable to see how people dressed up to attend the procession – the way that people used to dress up to go to Mass. It was also impressive to see the quiet respect that they had. This is not a parade where you see people holding drinks in their hands and eating hotdogs. The people are there to pray.
There is also a penitential aspect to the feast. Many people make “promesas”, pledges to the Lord, and many of them pass in front of the image on their knees or carry large candles.
It really is an extraordinary demonstration of the religious fervor of the Azorean people, and is celebrated by them wherever they are in the world. For example, this weekend St. Anthony in Cambridge will hold their own Santo Cristo Festival.
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On the way back, we traveled through Lisbon and visited the home of Saint Anthony of Padua.
This is a baptismal font where he was baptized.
This is the Chapel where he was born.
This statue of Saint Anthony stands in front of the church that was built over his house.
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Every year, our Office for the New Evangelization for Youth and Young Adults holds their annual awards banquet to honor those who work in this important ministry.
Since I was unable to attend the banquet this year, I have asked Father Matt Williams, the director of the ONE office, to share some of his reflections with you on the awards and other works of his ministry.
I leave you with the reflections of Father Matt:
Thank you, Cardinal Seán, for the invitation to share about our current events on behalf of the ONE Team.
On Tuesday April 30th we were privileged to host the 22nd Annual Archdiocesan Awards Banquet (5th Banquet hosted by ONE). This year sixty-four Awards were given to middle school and high school teens, young adults, adult leaders and two priests, representing over thirty communities throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. It was a great night that showed forth the diversity of cultures, ages and ministries within the Archdiocese, and how each member, when they take the call to follow Jesus seriously, can make a difference in building up the Body of Christ.
We were blessed to have a number of invited guests from the Pastoral Center in attendance at our celebration. We are especially grateful for the presence of Bishop Robert Deeley and the insights he shared with us as our guest speaker. Drawing on the wisdom of Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and his own experience, he emphasized the importance of ministry to young people and of the New Evangelization.
Bishop Deeley spoke about his involvement in CYO as a boy and how it gave him a solid foundation for life, rooting him in the faith of the Catholic Church. We pray that many vocations will come forth from our youth ministry programs! After Bishop Deeley spoke, he and Mr. John Straub, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, presented the awards to the recipients.
This Banquet is an important part of our year as it gives us an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the grace of our Lord at work in the lives of our young people and their leaders. It is vital for them to know that we see Jesus Christ alive in them, and that their lives are making a difference in our communities. By naming and affirming the light of Christ shining through them, it encourages our young people and leaders to continue to live their Christian witness in service to the Lord and neighbor. We could say that this event, and others like it, fans the flame of faith that is burning within.
At the end of the gathering, I had the privilege of being able to address our honored guests, and their families and friends.
I shared that as Catholics we are very familiar with stain glass windows and how they are beautifully crafted to communicate to us some aspect about our faith in the Lord and to point us to heaven. The effectiveness of the stained glass windows relies upon the sun; the more brilliant the sun, the greater the beauty of the stained-glass window. Each of these honored guests, uniquely and wonderfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ because they have drawn close to the SON. It is His rays that illuminate their lives and shines forth so powerfully through them, drawing others to seek Christ, the Light of the World. May all of us be inspired by their witness and seek to draw closer to Christ, our Light.
On another note, we are very excited about our upcoming pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day (WYD) with Pope Francis.
The WYD Committee is expecting over three million pilgrims to attend from all over the world. This international gathering of young people is a Catholic experience of a lifetime. At World Youth Day young people encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ in many varied ways: the presence and witness of our Holy Father, Holy Mass, Confession, dynamic catechesis, festivals, concerts, shows, diverse cultural expressions of the faith, the size of the universal Church gathered, and the lived witness of Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Married Couples, Leaders, and peers. All of these components create a dynamic recipe, a marinade of the faith, in which our young people are immersed. Through these experiences our young people come to understand the personal love of Christ, the importance of being part of the Church, that God has a special plan for their lives, and that He has created them for greatness.
We are so blessed in the Archdiocese of Boston because Cardinal Seán is a strong supporter and advocate of World Youth Day. He not only encourages us to go, but he comes with us! Or rather, we go with him. He is also a great blessing to pilgrims from around the world as he is always in high demand to offer catechesis, in different languages, at different sites during the WYD week. We always try to find out where the Cardinal is speaking and take the young people there to both support him and to be fed by him. After the recent conclave, I am sure demand for him will be even greater! Our young people always look forward to spending meaningful time with their shepherd, and the Cardinal makes it a priority to be with them!
We are happy to say that we have over 162 pilgrims going to WYD with Cardinal Seán this year. Given there are so many factors that make attending difficult; we are delighted to have such a great turnout. We have a diverse representation going to WYD from Boston consisting of high school teens and their leaders, young adults, the deaf apostolate and different ethnic communities. The diversity of our group is but a small sample of the millions we will encounter. The excitement continues to build! Little did we know when we began this process two years ago that we would have a new Pope; and how exciting it is that our pilgrimage is to Brazil now that we have our first pope from the Americas! Please pray for us and for all the pilgrims; for our safety, and for special graces to receive all that the Lord has prepared for us.
Once again, I would like to thank Cardinal Seán for this opportunity to share with you what is happening in ONE. Thank you for all that you do to help mentor our young people in the faith.
God bless you+