Hello and welcome!
Thursday, we had our annual Mass and dinner with the members of the Order of Malta at St. John’s Seminary.
We are blessed to have such an active Area of the Order of Malta in Boston. The Order promotes the mission of the Church throughout the world, particularly around Catholic health care, humanitarian efforts and service to the poor.
During the Mass, it was our joy to invest several new members.
Following the Mass, the Order hosts a dinner in the refectory and our keynote speaker for the evening was Bishop Robert Reed.
One of the important activities that the Order participates in is an annual pilgrimage to the shrine at Lourdes and they take people who are sick, known as “Malades.” During the dinner, we heard a witness talk by John Norris, a man who was taken by the Order on their annual pilgrimage and who experienced a profound healing there.
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Saturday, we were very happy to host the annual Altar Server Appreciation Mass at the Cathedral. I was the celebrant and our vocation director, Father Dan Hennessey, served as the homilist.
He gave a very inspiring homily in which he spoke to the young people about St. Tarcisius, the patron saint of altar servers.
We were very pleased to have so many altar servers and their families join us for the Mass at which we presented the St. Teresa of Calcutta award to four young women and the Pope John Paul II award to four young men.
The Mass is an occasion to thank all the servers for their service and I told them how important it was that they are witnessing to their faith in contributing to the building up of the community by being servers at Mass.The young people were very enthusiastic and I was so pleased to see so many of our ethnic communities represented.
After the Mass, there was a reception at which the altar servers were able to make their own sundae’s – which seemed to be quite a hit!
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That afternoon I also celebrated the Mass of Candidacy for seven men who are in their second year of formation as permanent deacons: Alan Amaral, Peter Bujwid, Ronald Gerwatowski, Bashan Goppee, Matthew Porter, Antonio Perez and Glenn Smith.
Deacon Chris Connolly, the new director of our permanent diaconate program, was there of course along with Deacon Pat Guerrini.
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On Sunday morning, I celebrated the annual Red Mass for members of the legal profession at the Cathedral the Holy Cross.
We were very pleased to be joined by a number of priests of the archdiocese, including Bishop Mark O’Connell and Father Chris Paladino, who is the new chaplain for the Catholic Lawyer’s Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston.
I always like to celebrate the Red Mass and indeed, in two of my four dioceses – the Virgin Islands and Fall River – when I found they did not have a Red Mass, I inaugurated one.
As I mentioned in my homily, there are few professions that so routinely deal with issues with such deep ethical dimensions – questions of life and death, truth and freedom, justice for the poor and disenfranchised, and the promotion of human dignity. Faith can be a valuable help in navigating these difficult issues.
Following the Mass, the Lawyer’s Guild hosts a luncheon for the Guild members and guests at the Seaport Hotel. This year the featured speaker was Ambassador Ray Flynn.
We are so grateful to Guild president Michael Gillis, vice president Maura Doyle and all the members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild for all they do to promote this very important organization.
I’d like to share with you the full text of my homily from the Mass with you here:
It’s a joy to be able to celebrate this Red Mass with you today.
In my family, there are about a dozen lawyers and I only escaped that same fate by running off to the seminary. But still, I have a great reverence for your noble legal profession. In fact, in two of my four dioceses it was my joy to be able to initiate the Red Mass. Thirty years ago, as Bishop in the West Indies, I celebrated the first Red Mass there — it was memorable. Because I had announced it was going to be the Red Mass, everyone showed up at the cathedral dressed in red.
We were televising the Mass on the local Catholic television station, as well as simulcasting on the local radio station, and the chief of the radio station insisted on being the announcer for the Mass, even though he was not antiquely accustomed to the Catholic nomenclature. And so when he described the procession into the cathedral, he talked about the presence of the governor, the judges, the legislators, the diplomatic corps, the lawyers and court officials. And then he described the fourth degree Knights of Columbus, with their plumed hats, capes and swords. And he said, describing the Catholic Daughters who were walking behind the Knights of Columbus, that the Knights are being followed by the Ladies of the Knights. Needless to say that the Catholic Daughters, when they found out, were not amused.
Having successfully launched the Red Mass in the Islands, it was also my privilege to start the Red Mass in Fall River and last month I was invited for the 20th anniversary, and so it’s a real joy to be able to celebrate it here in my own Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
I am so grateful to the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of the Archdiocese for organizing this Mass each year. I wish to recognize the presence of our President, Michael Gillis and the Hon. Maura Doyle, the Vice President of the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild. We’re also blessed to have our new chaplain here, Father Chris Palladino, who is stepping into the shoes left by Bishop Mark O’Connell, who has joined us today. I’m so happy to have you here. I’m grateful, too, for the presence of this year’s luncheon speaker, Ambassador Ray Flynn, and the presence of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon. I wish to welcome all the judges, attorneys and all of those involved in our justice system who come to celebrate this Red Mass with us, as we invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our quest to build a more just society that truly reflects our deepest convictions concerning the dignity of each and every human being made in the image and likeness of God and placed on this earth by the providential design of our loving Creator.
Yours is not a job, a career, or profession; it is, as St. Paul says in the second reading, a calling, a vocation to promote justice and work for the common good.
All of us are concerned about the polarization and deep divisions that have been manifest in the recent campaign. They indicated a deep sense of alienation in our country. Pope Francis addressed these feelings when he spoke to the joint session of Congress during his visit to the United States. He urged our leaders to work to overcome every form of polarization. He says: “Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice; we are asked to summon the courage and intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises…. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
The Holy Father also noted that: “In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. (We’ve only to think of the civil rights movement.) It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.”
As an aside, I want to say how gratified I am that so many of our brothers and sisters from the interfaith and ecumenical community, beginning with the Black Ministerial Association of Boston, stand with the archdiocese in opposing the commercialization of marijuana, that would make billions of dollars for the marijuana industry, but clearly at the cost of untold human suffering. It cannot be the Commonwealth’s response to the opioid crisis. Colorado, where I have a brother and several nephews, now has more marijuana shops than McDonalds and Starbucks together. The shops sell a new form of highly potent marijuana in the form of smokes, drinks and edibles. Having been a prison chaplain for two years, and having worked in an inner-city parish in Washington, D.C. for 20 years, and then being bishop in the West Indies for 10 years, I’ve seen up close what the so-called harmless drug, call it marijuana or ganja, has wreaked on the lives of so many families. We’re not talking about decriminalization, that has already happened in Massachusetts, we’re talking about commercialization, about greed trumping common sense. I am pleased that law enforcement, our governor, mayor and the medical community have also come out very strongly against this initiative. I hope that all of you will work hard to defeat this law which has been written and is being promoted by an industry that is blinded by its desire for profits. People are more important than money.
Pope Francis has given us this wonderful Jubilee of Mercy to reflect on the core gospel message. He says the face of God is mercy. In the beautiful Scripture passage we’ve heard this morning, it reminds us that God’s most important attribute is mercy. In the first lesson from the Book of Wisdom, we heard the words: “Lord, you have mercy on all, you overlook people’s sins so that they might repent. You love all you have made. You rebuke offenders little by little, warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing, so that they might abandon their wickedness and believe in you.”
As is our custom in the liturgy, the first reading at a Sunday Mass contains the same theme as the gospel reading. And today’s Gospel from Luke presents the same theme of God’s astonishing mercy in the beautiful story of Zacchaeus. This is not a parable, but rather the account of the historical encounter between Jesus and the high official of the Internal Revenue Services. In our own country, people for the IRS are not beloved. I often remember the story of a pastor who received a telephone call from an IRS agent saying “Father Murphy, I’m auditing Richard Smith, one of your parishioners. Did he make a $10,000 donation to the parish?” The pastor answered, “He will.”
If working for the Internal Revenue Service in our country does not enhance one’s popularity, we can only imagine how the Jewish people felt about the tax collectors, the so-called publicans, of those times. These men were authorized by their Roman overlords to extract as much money as they could from the conquered people of Israel. The tax collectors were allowed to keep a percentage of everything that they collected. They were experts at exploiting the poor. They were despised because they were working for the enemies of their own people.
Zacchaeus was not only one of these despicable tax collectors, in fact, he was the chief tax collector. Saint Luke gives us a rather fulsome description of this character. First of all, we are told his name, which doesn’t often happen in the Gospel. We’re given his profession as a tax collector, and we have his physical description; he was vertically challenged. And lastly, Luke reports on his bizarre behavior, he climbed a tree.
Zacchaeus, from an economic point of view, was a great success. He had lots of money. But that money did not bring him friends, inner peace or happiness. His life must have been very empty. His neighbors might have feared him, but they did not respect him and they were quick to judge and condemn him. One day Zacchaeus learned that Jesus of Nazareth was going to pass through his city of Jericho. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but when he went to seek out the Lord, the crowd was so great and he was so small, it was impossible. It’s curious to note that in the Gospels, there’s a constant contrast between the crowd and the community. The crowd is that collection of individuals, often in competition with each other, who end up pushing people away from the Lord and setting up barriers. On the other hand, the community of Jesus’ disciples who share in his mission, are always helping to draw people closer to the Lord, to make them feel welcomed, forgiven and loved.
Undaunted by the crowd, Zacchaeus cast aside all human respect and personal dignity and in his Brooks Brothers suit and pudgy frame, he climbs a sycamore tree. I’m sure that his neighbors were quick to ridicule the spectacle. But it reminds me of what Jesus says: “Unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Zacchaeus scrambled up that tree like a kid because he wanted to see Jesus and he didn’t care what people thought of him.
Finally, the Lord surrounded by the throngs of people passed under the tree, and Zacchaeus almost fell out of the tree when Jesus looked up at him and called him by his name, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down, I’m going to stay in your house.” All of the respectable people were shocked, but Zacchaeus scurried down and took Jesus into his home. The Gospel says Zacchaeus was filled with joy and declared that he was going to give half of his wealth to the poor, and to all of those he had defrauded as a tax collector, he was going to make restitution fourfold. In effect, he was renouncing all of his wealth, and he did it gladly because he realized how much Jesus loved him. He knew that Jesus forgave him all of his terrible sins. He could not contain his happiness, he felt new, liberated, unburdened. His fellow countrymen looked upon him as a traitor and an outcast, but Jesus restores him as a member of God’s people, saying: “This man too, is a son of Abraham.”
The crowd sees him only with human eyes, all of his defects and sins, but Jesus sees what Zacchaeus can become; the new creation, a disciple, a child of God.
Luke’s gospel presents us with two encounters of Jesus with rich men. The first is when Jesus meets the rich young man, who approached Jesus and said, “What do I have to do to attain eternal life?” Jesus told him to live the commandments and give his money to the poor. The Gospel tells us the rich young man went away sad.
The story of Zacchaeus is different. In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus doesn’t ask him. Jesus doesn’t ask Zacchaeus to give his money to the poor, Zacchaeus does it spontaneously. He does it because he knows how much the Lord loves him. And that love makes him free and enables him to divest himself of his ill-gotten wealth, and he was filled with joy.
A true conversion to the Lord leads to meaning and purpose and joy in a person’s life. And this is precisely what we see in the story of Zacchaeus. It also reminds us of God’s joy over one sinner who repents. God never tires of forgiving us, never tires of loving us, never tires of giving us another chance.
Our task, as the Holy Father is pointing out in this Jubilee Year, is to show the merciful face of God to our broken world. But, we must be convinced of how much our God loves us. In discovering God’s love, we discover who we are, why we’re here on this earth, and what we need to do with our lives. If mercy is the face of God, it must also be the face of the Church, it must be our face.
Few professions have the kind of impact on society that your does. You are routinely involved in issues that are fraught with ethical implications, life-and-death consequences, repercussions that impact the quality of life, the questions of the sacredness of life, the defense of the vulnerable, the care for creation and the environment, economic justice for the poor and the disenfranchised, human rights, human dignity, preservation of freedom, respect for conscience, promotion of the common good. Therefore, carelessness, sloth, incompetence, indifference, corruption in your profession cause untold suffering in the general population. Hence, your personal conversion, your struggle to be holy, to embrace the ideals of the gospel will be of enormous benefit to our spiritually bankrupt society.
I urge you to pursue courageously the lofty ideals of which your profession calls you to be the guardians of our democracy. Taking that high road is often like climbing the sycamore tree. The world will laugh at you for not being politically correct. Your stance will be dismissed as childish, and there’s always the danger of falling and breaking your neck.
But the trip up that sycamore tree, as in the case of Zacchaeus, will allow you to discover what is really important and to realize that you are not alone. The Lord will call you by name and come to your house. You will experience the joy of friendship with Christ, the joy of conversion, the joy of overcoming our fears, our pride, our selfishness. Yes, the trip up the sycamore tree is always a preface to the spiritual freedom that allows us to share our riches with the poor, it affords us the light in humility to deepen our own conversion, recognizing our own sins and look for make amends to all of those we have harmed by our action or our inaction.
The red vestments of the Mass of the Holy Spirit speak to us about our need for God’s guidance and enlightenment. But the red vestments also speak to us about martyrdom, about courageously witnessing to the truths that set us free.
Yes, climbing the sycamore tree is a journey of faith, a faith that elevates us and allows us to have a bird’s-eye view of reality. It will help us to see the world through God’s eyes. God who so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is now sending us as His Disciples to build a civilization of love where mercy and truth will meet, where justice and peace will kiss.
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From the Red Mass I went to St. Theresa of Avila in West Roxbury to celebrate the annual Mass for Women Religious Jubilarians.
I was the celebrant, and the homilist was Bishop Emilio Allué, who is himself celebrating his 60th anniversary as a Salesian this year.
It’s always so inspiring to see so many sisters who are celebrating 25, 50, 60 and even 70 years of religious life. As Sister Marian Batho, our Delegate for Religious, told us at the begining of the Mass, the jubilarians we were honoring that day represented almost 8,000 years of service to the Church.
Before the end of the Mass, we also heard a reflection from Sister Maureen O’Brien on the significance of the occasion and the importance of religious life.
Following the Mass, there was a dinner in the parish school hosted by the pastor at St. Theresa’s, Msgr. William Helmick. Though we had taken the group photos in the church, it was an opportunity for me to greet and thank each of the jubilarians personally.
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Then, on Monday, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts to view the della Robbia exhibit they are currently hosting. I had wanted to see the exhibit for quite some time and was glad to finally have the opportunity.
I was accompanied by MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum, Mark Kerwin and Oliver Baker and particularly Marietta Cambareri, the senior curator of European sculpture, who gave me a very lovely tour.
The exhibit is, of course, very beautiful. I was particularly struck by what could certainly be considered the centerpiece of the exhibit – the life-sized sculpture of The Visitation, in which St. Elizabeth is kneeling before the Blessed Mother and embracing her as she enters her home. It’s a very moving and very beautiful sculpture.
Also very impressive were the three life-sized sculptures of three Franciscans, believed to be St. Francis, St. Bernard of Siena and St. John Capistrano. Of course, there were also many other beautiful pieces.
Many people may not know this, but even in St. John’s Seminary we have some replicas of della Robbia works in the refectory.
The Crucifixion is a version of the della Robbia that is in the Franciscan Sanctuary in La Verna, Italy, the place where St. Francis received the stigmata.
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On Tuesday, the Feast of All Saints, I went to St. Mary’s in Lynn for a Mass to celebrate their 135th anniversary. We were also joined by students from Sacred Heart School for the Mass, which was celebrated at St. Mary Church.
The liturgy was very beautiful featuring music performed by the young people.
They presented their first St. Francis Scholarship to 8th grader Amanda Mena in my honor. William Mosakowski, who is the head of their Board of Trustees was with us and presented the scholarship.
We were joined at the Mass by many members of the school’s Board of Trustees as well as the local clergy.
They gave me gifts of some warm socks and a vest, looking forward toward the March for Life that the school participates in every year. I am so pleased that they have a very large group that comes with me to the March each January.
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In the afternoon I joined an event at Deliverance Temple in Dorchester with a number of the nearly 150 interfaith leaders who signed a statement urging people to oppose Ballot Question 4.
I was so edified to see such a broad spectrum of people speaking out against this measure – Democrats and Republicans, Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, blacks and whites – such a representation of the whole community all speaking with one voice about the dangers of the commercialization of marijuana.
In my remarks, I urged those people had not seen the 60 Minutes segment from last Sunday on the experience of marijuana legalization in Colorado to be sure to view it.
In that report, the governor of Colorado said that he would urge other states to proceed with extreme caution and that this is one of the most complicated and difficult issues he has dealt with in his years of public service.
It was also very compelling to hear from the doctors who spoke about how marijuana is not like alcohol, which leaves your system relatively quickly. Instead, the chemicals in marijuana remain in the tissues of the body for quite some time and are potentially very harmful to the brains of children and teenagers. One doctor in particular spoke about the problem of more and more babies being born with marijuana in their system, and when their mothers are told they reply “But it’s legal and it’s harmless.” Well, it may be legal, but it’s not harmless!
I was also very interested to see this report produced by WCVB Channel 5, which explores the problem regulating the potency of marijuana products that would be sold if this question passes and gives us a look at some of the “edible” products that could be marketed.
I feel confident that the more people who understand the real significance of this law, the more will vote against it. My fear is that people will vote for it without really understanding the implications. This is certainly the danger of a ballot initiative where people don’t have the time to study an issue in depth and in which everything is decided based on sound bites.
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The following day was, of course, All Souls Day and I observed the traditional practice of celebrating three Masses on that day. All Souls Day is one of the two days of the year when a priest is allowed to celebrate three Masses without pastoral need, even privately. It is such a privilege to offer these Masses for the holy souls and to remember all those who have gone before us marked with the faith, who shared with us the important moments of our lives and those who have made such great contributions to our families and our communities.
It is important that we have this moment to remember them and pray for them each year.
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That evening, I was happy to participate in a gathering of business leaders for the Campaign for Catholic Schools.
The Campaign assembled a panel to speak to, particularly young business leaders, about the contributions and needs of our Catholic schools, including attracting and retaining great teachers.
On the panel was our Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Kathy Mears; Bob Atchinson, vice chair of Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy; and Kate Brandley, regional director of the academy.
A 7th grader from Pope John Paul II Academy named Christine gave a very beautiful testimony about the importance of Catholic education in her life. She explained that her parents are immigrants from Haiti, and that they sacrificed greatly to give the opportunity to attend Catholic school.
I think it was a very valuable meeting and I believe that the participants came away with a greater understanding of the importance and the valuable contribution the Catholic education makes to society.
Until next week,