Hello and welcome!
As I do each year on Holy Week, I am posting my blog a bit earlier than usual to leave the Triduum free for our many important events.
This Saturday, young people throughout the country took part in the March for Our Lives, demonstrating against the lack of safety in our schools and other public venues and the easy accessibility of semiautomatic weapons.
In the past, most civic leaders have tried to ignore the dangers and vulnerability that exist for our young people. But, the reaction to this latest attack in Parkland, Florida has galvanized young people to raise their voices and demand that the government take action. It puts me in mind of Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which it is it a young person who tells the truth and tells the king that his new clothes are really a fraud. Many times, it seems, it is the adults who are unwilling to speak truth to power.
The children of one of my cousins actually studied at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They have graduated but, had they been a little younger, they could have been among the 17 people murdered in that school. I think all of us have to realize that children are very vulnerable in those situations and that the government needs to take more seriously its obligation to protect people. That can be done only by controlling the availability of weapons, particularly assault rifles, which are made precisely to kill people. They are not designed for target practice or hunting; they are weapons of war.
The other sad aspect of this situation is that it shows that, presently, we are incapable of looking after the population that has serious mental problems. The Supreme Court has decided that no one can be held in institutions against their will, but it seems as if the government has washed their hands of these people rather than looking for creative ways to help them. Of course, in helping them, they would also be helping all of society.
So, I was very pleased that a Mass for those who planned to participate in the March for Our Lives in Boston was organized at St. Anthony Shrine in Downtown Boston. I came to greet them before the Mass and deliver the following message:
It is good to greet you as you gather at this Mass for Peace, Justice and Healing. We are grateful to Fr. Tom Conway and the Franciscan Friars here at St. Anthony Shrine for providing this time for prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist prior to the “March for Our Lives” that takes place today on the Boston Common. This local rally, and those in many other cities throughout the country, is connected to a much larger event taking place in Washington DC. At all of these gatherings, people are coming together to address a problem which threatens the common good of our nation; the problem of gun violence.
The prompting for the rallies today is the recent tragedy at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The senseless violence of so many students being killed in the midst of a school day traumatizes all of us and has had repercussions throughout our country and around the world. The catalyst for bringing thousands of people together today has been the reaction of the students in Parkland. They have been devastated by the loss of their friends and classmates, but they have refused to be silent. They are leading our society in an examination of conscience about violence, guns and our laws and policies concerning these matters.
The tragedy of Parkland has taken its place in a painful narrative of violence which has claimed the lives of the young and the old, students in school and families at a concert; people going about their daily lives as citizens, people who left home in the morning with the confident expectation of returning home safely after school or work or an evening of entertainment. Into all these activities of daily life, time after time chaos and killing have erupted – without warning, without purpose, without limits and without mercy.
Parkland, Florida is the most recent, but Columbine in Colorado and Sandy Hook in Connecticut are among the attacks that preceded it. These school shootings have had a galvanizing impact on the public because of the death of innocent young people, even very young children. But the “March for our Lives” call us to also acknowledge and address the national crisis of young people who each day are killed on the streets of cities across the country, including here in Boston. The school shootings have focused our attention and efforts, but we must also address the devastation to families and neighborhoods, often in our poorest communities.
The “March for our Lives” is focused on a critical public policy problem: the way our states and our country regulate, or fail to do so adequately, access to guns, the widespread availability of guns and the kinds of firearms which are far too easy to acquire.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution affirms the right of citizens to own firearms. But any right has its limits; hence all rights require regulation. We recognize that truth with regard to the rights of free speech, free association and the practice of religious beliefs.
Regulating access to guns, defining what is a reasonable framework which recognizes the constitutional right but also recognizes that our public policy concerning firearms, as it currently stands, is failing our children, our schools and our public safety, is the motivation and the focus of the Marches today in Washington, Boston and throughout the United States.
We need strong leadership from public officials and our courts that respects our rights but also protects our communities. These efforts need to be supported by our faith communities, our business and educational leadership and our citizens.
We are rightfully horrified by the attacks that prompt the public gatherings today, but we should not be without hope. The extraordinary role of the students from Parkland in focusing the country on this critical social problem should be a sign of hope for all of us. The manner by which the students have presented their case has already impacted the tone of the debate about guns and violence. They have helped us to realize that these tragedies victimize people from all walks of life, from every class and ethnicity. We owe these students and those who will join them today our support and our gratitude.
Please pray for those who have died from gun violence, their families and loved ones, the men and women of public safety who seek to protect our communities every day, and please pray for our country.
The following day was, of course, Palm Sunday and, as is my usual practice, I went to celebrate with one of our parish communities. This year, I celebrated Palm Sunday with Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham.
It was a beautiful celebration with quite an enthusiastic crowd. There was a wonderful performance by their children’s choir, and the Knights of Columbus and the different parish groups were present with us.
Perhaps the most interesting thing was that members of the hockey team at the local public high school, Waltham High, who had just won the state championship were there with us, as well. It was very nice that the students from the high school who are part of the parish came to the Mass.
Also with us were players from Our Lady’s Academy boy’s CYO basketball team, who also had a great season.
Afterwards, the two teams presented me with T-shirts!
I also blessed the new crucifix on the lawn outside the church, on the site of the original church. The previous cross had been blown over in one of the recent storms, so we blessed the new one as part of our visit for Palm Sunday.
That afternoon, I attended the Mass at St. John’s Seminary for friends and benefactors of the seminary.
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Later that day, back at the Cathedral, I had a chance to meet with a couple of different groups.
The Legion of Mary was holding their gathering for the Acies, at which they renew their consecration to the Blessed Mother, so I renewed mine with them.
With their chaplain, Father John Furey, and the other officers of the Legion of Mary
I’ve always had a great devotion to the Legion of Mary and their founder, Servant of God Frank Duff. Even in my parish growing up I participated in their activities. They did so much apostolate in the parish and were quite a force. So, I was happy to be able to join them for their meeting at the cathedral.
And then, later, we had a group of Hispanic young people from different parishes who came to share with me some of their hopes and aspirations.
Several years ago, Father Michael Nolan started bringing this group of youth from St. Mary Parish in Waltham to meet with me at the Cathedral. They have continued the tradition, and now they have invited youth from several other parishes to join them as well.
This year they were accompanied by Father Alejandro Lopez, who is filling in for Father Nolan while he is convalescing. We had a time of dialogue and a sing-along, after which I gave them my blessing.
Tuesday, we held our annual Chrism Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Malden. We are very grateful to Father Al Capone and the people of Immaculate Conception for hosting us this year because the lower church in the Cathedral would not be large enough to accommodate the Chrism Mass.
We were so pleased to be joined by Metropolitan Methodius who was there to greet the priests at the beginning of Mass and join us for the rest of the celebration.
The Chrism Mass is the occasion on which we bless the holy oils that will be used to administer sacraments throughout the year.
It was a very good turnout, with over a thousand people between priests, deacons and the faithful, as well as students from a number of local Catholic schools. Many of the students, I am sure, are going to be confirmed this year. So I pointed out to them, and also the transitional deacons will become priests in a couple of months, that we were blessing the oils that will be used in the celebration of their confirmations and ordinations.
During the Mass, the priests and bishops renew their ordination vows. Because of this, the Chrism Mass is also seen as a time to celebrate priestly fraternity. So, following the Mass and the distribution of the holy oils, we always gather together for a lunch and a time of socialization.
We are very grateful to Father Jonathan Gaspar, Judy Haglof, the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, and all those who worked so hard to prepare the holy oils and to make the Mass so special.
Wednesday morning I went to celebrate the funeral Mass of Father Dennis Dever. His last assignment was as pastor of St. Clement’s in Somerville, where he was pastor for almost 30 years. Father Dever had also been the superior of the St. James society and worked in Ecuador himself.
He was very devoted to the people of his parish and also the missions. I was very pleased to be able to celebrate his funeral Mass in the presence of his sisters, family, friends and former parishioners.
Finally, this evening we begin the Easter Triduum, the holiest time of the year. Despite the ongoing renovations, we will still be holding our Triduum liturgies at the cathedral, but in the lower church. You can see the full schedule of celebrations here. I invite all of you to join us!
Wishing you a blessed Triduum and a joyous Easter,