Hello and welcome!
This week we mourn the passing of Rev. Billy Graham, probably the best known evangelist of the last century, who spent his life preaching the message of the Gospel to millions of people all over the world. He, together with our own Bishop Fulton Sheen, was a pioneer in the use of the new media of the time, television, and through that medium was able to bring his message to peoples on every continent.
Rev. Graham’s crusades were a staple of American evangelism and even attracted Catholics, including many lapsed Catholics, whom he encouraged to go back to practicing their faith. I think his willingness to build bridges with the Catholic Church, particularly after the Second Vatican Council, had a very positive effect and greatly contributed to bringing Christians closer together. My predecessor Cardinal Richard Cushing once said that Catholics listening to Rev. Graham could only become better Catholics, and I agree. May he rest in peace.
Last Friday, I went to our Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline for the installation of six new lectors and one acolyte.
Little by little the number of men advancing toward ordination at the seminary is beginning to grow. I think many people lose sight of the fact that the seminarians at the Redemptoris Mater have a mission experience where they work ‘in the field’ for two or three years. So, their period of formation is a little longer than at our other seminaries.
As usual, the seminarians regaled us with songs after dinner. It was a joyous ceremony and a very nice evening for all of us.
Saturday, I met with representatives from Neocatechumenal communities from the parishes of Immaculate Conception in Revere and Our Lady of the Assumption in East Boston. They had just completed one of the stages of their adult Christian formation, the Second Scrutiny, and they came to talk to me about their desire to make a contribution to support works of mercy and evangelization.
The group from East Boston
The group from Revere
Discipleship demands that we have a Christian attitude towards money, wealth and possessions. Obviously, the purpose of the Second Scrutiny is to inculcate into people a sense of trust in God’s providence and the embracing of an evangelical spirit, which is one of humility, trust and simplicity of lifestyle.
Sunday, I went to St. James the Greater Church in Chinatown to bring New Year’s greetings to our Chinese Catholic community. The Chinese calendar, which is one of the oldest calendars in the world, follows a 12-year zodiac cycle and this year is the Year of the Dog.
I also took occasion of my visit to bless the renovations in the church.
Father Kevin O’Leary (in the red vestments) was the principal concelebrant, but we were also joined by a number of the priests who serve the Chinese Catholic community of Boston, which continues to grow.
Of course, we are all carefully watching developments in church-state relations within China itself. The Holy Father has made some overtures aimed at building better relations with the Chinese government and hopefully bringing about greater freedom of religion for Catholics.
After the Mass, they had a lively and colorful celebration with the traditional Chinese symbols such as the lion and the cabbage.
Following the Mass at St. James, I left for Immaculate Conception Church in Malden where we held our two celebrations of the Rite of Election.
At 1:30 we received candidates and catechumens from the North, South and West Regions of the archdiocese and at 4:00 we received for those from the Merrimack and Central Regions. In addition to the groups from the parishes, there was also a large group of college students from campus ministries.
We are very grateful to Father Al Capone and the parishioners of Immaculate Conception for hosting us during this time that the upper church of the cathedral is unavailable. (Though, at both celebrations, I began the ceremony by inviting people to close their eyes and to pretend that they were in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross!)
This is always a wonderful event when new Catholics gather with their bishop. In the early Church, the bishop baptized all the new Catholics. However, as the Church grew larger, that sacrament was entrusted to the priests and deacons, though the bishop retained the practice of confirmation.
Now, with the restored Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the bishop is inserted into the process when, on the First Sunday of Lent, we gather all the catechumens (the unbaptized) and candidates (Christians who are seeking full communion with the Church) for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This year, it was interesting to see that there were far more catechumens than candidates.
It is a wonderful opportunity for them to see that they are part of something larger than just the parish that is receiving them, that they are part of the Universal Church. I think it is very encouraging for them to realize that there are hundreds of people in Boston making the same step that they are.
It is also a reminder to all of us that Lent is a baptismal retreat in which we are accompanying these catechumens and candidates. We are, all of us, preparing to renew our own baptismal commitments, having lived the discipline and spirituality of Lent and Holy Week, so that when we arrive at Easter Sunday, we are prepared to recommit ourselves to a life of discipleship in the Catholic Church.
Tuesday, we had one of our regular meetings with our priests ordained within the last five years at the Pastoral Center.
As always, we gathered for lunch and a time of reflection. This time we spoke about pastoral ministry and themes around Lent. I also gave them a report on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
I always appreciate these get-togethers with the priests, to spend time with them and allow them to interact with each other. I think that the first five years after ordination are a very crucial time in a man’s ministry as he is steeped in his own sense of identity as a Catholic priest. We are very anxious to have an intentional presbyterate, one in which priests don’t see themselves as “free agents” but as sharing the priesthood of Jesus Christ and support one another with a sense of being connected to the bishop and the other priests of the archdiocese. These meetings are always very important for us in this regard.
We are very grateful to Father Bob Blaney for all that he does to make these meetings possible, as well as for all his work supporting the continuing formation of our young clergy, preparing them for the future responsibilities of being pastors in our archdiocese.
Until next week,