FR. RONAN’S BLOG

My Father Told Me

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

I was not a terrific student in school. One of the subjects I disliked more than others was algebra. I get sweaty palms thinking about trying to solve those problems and taking those tests and quizzes! My Dad knew this and so he would tell me, “Jim, do your best and God will take care of the rest”. This seemed like a good piece of advice and one that could be freeing – in a way. Problem was, I had to figure out exactly, what was my BEST. As I thought about this formula, it came to me that if I did not succeed in algebra (or whatever else I was trying to do or master) it must mean that I didn’t do my best and, therefore, God was not pitching in to take care of “the rest”. Well, I got to the other side of algebra and years passed. Yet there was for some time a lingering residue about “doing my best” and God’s proportional response. In time, I came to believe the formula my loving Dad gave me was flawed. God’s kindness, mercy and love are not ever proportional and / or conditional on my performance, because God is Love and God always wants what’s best for us. Re-visiting my Dad’s formula holds a lesson for all of us as we consider the successes and setbacks of our lives.
Truth is, sometimes we try our very best and fall flat on our faces and at other times, we succeed. There are times when success or failure is independent of our efforts and depends on many other variables. God is not managing how the game is playing out. Rather God is continuously present in every moment of every day, a loving constant in our lives, accompanying us through it all. We choose whether or not to be present to God. In Judaism, the presence of God to the Jews was understood as the Covenant God established through Abraham. Down through the ages, God exhorted the Israelites to be faithful to this Covenant relationship of love and fidelity. Jesus, the human face of God, completes and fulfills that ancient Covenant and establishes the New Covenant in and through His own life, death, resurrection and promise to be with us always. In Baptism, we are brought into a profound relationship with Jesus. At God’s ongoing initiative, we are invited into an intimacy with Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Accepting that invitation opens us to the world of the God Who is Love and who directly and through a community of earthly players supports us through the vicissitudes of life. There are those who intellectually accept the truth that God is Love, yet believe somehow that Love is not freely and unconditionally for them. They believe and promote the notion of my Dad’s formula: God’s Love for me is proportional to my personal behavior and performance. That is not true! No one can change God Who is Love and Who constantly beckons us to receive that Love. As the Latin saying goes, ʺVocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderitʺ – ʺInvoked or not invoked, God is present.” We need only choose to be present to God. It behooves us to do our best in all we undertake, knowing our best may vary depending on certain life circumstances and is not decided by God. How blessed are we to have a God who is present to us always and graces our lives each day. Accept this Truth of God who is Love, and be filled with the graces of this relationship like no other.

Fr. Ronan

Stewardship Prayer

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Our Stewardship Prayer
by the Welcoming Committee

Heavenly Father, instill in our hearts a spirit of love and compassion. May we foster a welcoming parish community with acceptance and respect for all. Inspire us to make a difference by being generous with our time and talents. Please send your Holy Spirit among us to remind us to follow Jesus and his teachings in all aspects of our lives. As we end this Mass, may we go forth and spread goodwill among our neighbors, friends, and fellow parishioners. Through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

Our Call to Stewardship

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

“Gratefully acknowledging that God gives us all, we each willingly offer our unique gifts to one another and all creation in the Spirit of Jesus Christ”. St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish’s Call to Stewardship.

This past Sunday through Wednesday members of our Stewardship Committee, including our Pastor, Fr. Ronan, attended the 56th Annual International Catholic Stewardship Conference in Nashville, TN. This is the third year in a row that several members of our Stewardship Committee have paid their way to join nearly 1,000 other attendees from around the globe to learn how to make our parish a true “Stewardship Parish”.

The days were long but inspiring, with sessions starting early in the morning and continuing through the late afternoon, ending with an early evening Mass each night. There were 80 separate sessions at the Conference, covering topics such as “Making Stewardship a Way of Life in Your Parish” and “Practical Ideas to Empower Young Adult Stewards”. The common thread running through all of these sessions was the core principle of Stewardship. We began our Stewardship journey just a few years ago. Hopefully you’ve seen evidence of the progress we’ve made so far. We’ve increased our efforts on welcoming both new and existing parishioners; we’ve added a Fellowship Time with coffee, tea, and muffins after the 8 am and 10:30 am Masses; a couple of intentional listening sessions were conducted with more to come in an effort to gather your input on how we can more effectively serve our community; a formal Welcoming Committee to facilitate and coordinate our welcoming efforts
has been established; and we’ve incorporated our new Stewardship Prayer at the end of each Mass.

Our goal is to create a true stewardship community in our Parish in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and included in the life of our Parish. A community in which we recognize that everything we have and everything we do is a result of the gifts that God has placed into our hands; and out of this recognition, feel an emerging desire to take the time every day to be grateful to God for the gifts we’ve been given and choose to dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to carrying out God’s work here on earth. A community in which the desire to be generous with our lives emerges from within and not from any external pressure or reward. A stewardship way of life deepens our relationship with God, changes the way we live, love and work, and influences every decision we make.

It will take time to complete this transformation and it will involve not merely members of various committees, but each and every one of our members. For it will be all of us working together that will make St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena a true Stewardship Parish.

Dennis Hanson, Stewardship Committee Member

Thanksgiving Concert

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

SAVE THE DATE

Thanksgiving Concert
Featuring the
Charlestown
Community Choir
November 17 , 2018
@ 7:00 PM

All Saints Day

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Masses are November 1 only at 8:00 AM & 6:30 PM

Autumn Stress

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

It seems like this autumn has been intense and stressful for many of the people with whom I have been speaking. Maybe this time of year is always like that – not  certain. Yet I am sure I see and sense the anger, angst and maybe fear of many. Some who work in financial services speak about the uncertainty of the markets. Families share the pressures of children’s schedules, the amount of homework, and range of commitments everyone in the house seems to have. Finding balance seems
harder.
Young adults with whom I speak do not know what a 40-50 hour workweek looks like; it is more like 50-70. And am I imagining it or is the terrible traffic making everyone more edgy and exasperated, consequently causing drivers to be less patient and more careless?  I have not been in a conversation in these past weeks that has not referenced the wrenching case of the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. All of social media and print media, as well as radio and television have focused on the issues until America seems exhausted and drained.

Last week, I met with most of the priest pastors in the city, and we spoke about our respective parishes and faith communities. Obviously, this moment in the Church is yet another exposed nerve in this October time. This past weekend I was in Chicago at a reunion retreat for alumni volunteers of Rostro de Cristo. Fifty young men and women who have served for one year in Guayaquil, Ecuador came together to pray and reflect on their experience and their way of life as a consequence of their year of service. For me, these meetings and gatherings are always very powerful and enriching.

Today these individuals, having lived in an intentional Christian Community in one of the most impoverished regions of South America, continue to live their faith and are agents of light and hope in these times. They are examples for me and perhaps for you too, of how one can grow through challenging life experiences by embracing
more completely one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

For my brother priests and ministers in the city and beyond, for the young veterans of Rostro de Cristo, and for all of us in our parishes and communities in Charlestown, these stressful days can bring us clarity about what truly matters. For there is a platform on which I stand, as do many others, which is uncontaminated
by the stresses and worries of these days, yet at the same time, inspires how we live in the midst of all of it. The platform is our faith. God is bigger than anyone can ever imagine; more merciful; more compassionate; more loving; more accepting and resourceful.
Take a deep breath; enjoy the beauty of autumn in New England, and be assured, deep down, God is Good.

Fr. Ronan

Be Grateful for Doubt

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The fact is that all the great spiritual models of the ages before us found themselves, at one point or another, plunged into doubt, into darkness, into the certainty of uncertainty: Augustine, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, John the Baptist, Thomas, Peter, one after another of them all wondered, and wavered, and believed beyond belief.

Surely, then, doubt is something to be grateful for, something about which to sing an alleluia. Unlike answers that presume the static nature of God and the spiritual life, doubt stretches us beyond ourselves to the guidance of a God whose face is not always in books.

Doubt is what leaves us open to truth, wherever it is, however difficult it may be to accept. But most of all, doubt requires us to reconfirm everything we’ve ever been made to believe is unassailable. Without doubt, life would simply be a series of packaged assumptions, none of them tested, none of them sure, and all of them belonging not to us, but to someone else whose truth we have made our own.

The problem with accepting truth as it comes to us rather than truth as we divine it for ourselves is that it’s not worth dying for—and we don’t. It becomes a patina of ideas inside of which we live our lives without passion, without care. This kind of faith happens around us but not in us — we go through the motions. The first crack in the edifice and we’re gone. The first chink in the wall of the castle keep and we’re off to less demanding fields.

Doubt, on the other hand, is the mother of conviction. Once we have pursued our doubts to the dust, we forge a stronger, not a weaker, belief system. These truths are true, we know, because they are now true for us rather than simply for someone else. To suppress doubt, then, to discourage thinking, to try to stop a person from questioning the unquestionable is simply to make them more and more susceptible to the cynical, more unaccepting of naive belief.

It is doubt that is the beginning of real faith.
—from Uncommon Gratitude by Joan Chittister and Rowan Williams
(Liturgical Press)
Joan Chittister

The Greatest Hunger of Mankind is Peace

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

That means a peace that is not simply the absence of war – but so much more, the absence of violence in all of its forms. Now this sounds like so much abstract theory – and in a sense it is. At the same time, it is very close to each and every one of us, for the cornerstone of all peace is in the realization of the worth and dignity of every human person and of the sacredness of all human life. Men and women of faith believe that life is a gift from God, the Creator of all. No one person has more value than another and indeed, in our great nation, “All are created equal”.

Yet there is so much that pushes back against this simple tenet about human value and equality. Inevitably, it is our own self-interest devoid of a greater vision of life and God’s plan for us all. So powerful is this self-directed interest that I believe we can only get beyond it by a very conscious choice to ask for God’s Grace to enlighten us about God’s view for all of humankind. The longing for peace, among socio-economic classes, ethnic groups, races, languages, religions, cultures and all the rest is useless unless it leads us to prayer.

That sounds pretty stern – yet I think peace, true and authentic peace, in homes, cities, borders and between nations and all peoples is ultimately a gift. Humankind can only reach the capacity for peace as we reach for God and see the value of all life, and recognize the justice needed to bring peace. I think we need to pray.

Our prayer needs to be very intentional and genuine – we need to implore our God for the gift of Peace. There are no armies, social programs, developmental agencies or economic policies that will bring us peace in themselves. The energy for peace will flow from the hearts of all people as we look at one another and see the miracle and beauty that are our lives as God’s creation. Recognizing that, each of us needs to accept that these lives are simply too precious to ever experience and/or receive violence. Arriving there, by God’s Grace, peace is possible.

October is Respect for Life Month and Domestic Violence Month. On Sunday, October 7, at 4PM in St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, we will pray the rosary for the dawning of a true and lasting peace; respect for all of life from conception to natural death, and for an end to violence in all of its forms so that all may live in harmony as God created us to be. Please join us on Sunday, October 7, and please consider praying for these intentions each and every day.

Fr. Ronan

Teens 2018

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

One Dad said to me, “You know, Father, I’ve decided that you have to pick your battles and try to figure out where the non-negotiables are”. He was speaking about daily life at home with two teenagers and it was clear to me that, at times, it can be a struggle. I suppose he could be speaking for any parent of teen and pre-teen children. Aiding children to navigate through their age-appropriate developmental tasks of establishing their own identity separate from that of their parents; identifying meaningful moral standards, values, and belief systems; learning to set priorities, parameters, and boundaries; helping them to grow and understand consequences for their actions; guiding them in their ability to develop internal and external resources to make good choices and so much more are worrisome responsibilities of every parent, and anxiety provoking undertakings for their adolescent children.

As if the tasks at hand were not already daunting, the culture, loud and at times toxic, makes the teen years even more challenging. Adolescence, while exciting and beautiful in so many ways, at times, can also be excruciatingly difficult. Every child yearns to belong, to be accepted and loved, especially in the rapid growth and development years when selfknowledge is limited, and feelings of awkwardness and uncertainty are normative. There is one enduring element of a teen’s development that can not only add stability but also nourish self-esteem, give a much needed moral compass and aid immeasurably in a child’s development – faith.

Developing/deepening an age appropriate relationship with God – a God who loves them unconditionally; endows them with dignity; calls them to live a purpose-filled life; assists them in their ability to chart their course in life, and anchors them in bedrock values provides needed support not only to the teen and to the entire family. Life may still be rocky at times, but we’re never alone, and we can receive what we need to regain level ground.

Many Catholic teens received the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and Eucharist in their childhood years as parents sought to give them a foundation in their faith. The Sacrament of Confirmation takes place in adolescence. When adolescents enter the 9th grade, they are eligible to choose to begin the two year program (one year if the teen is enrolled in a Catholic High School) in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. At St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Confirmation classes begin with an information session for parents and students on Monday, October 1st, at 6:30pm at the Parish Center on 46 Winthrop Street. We invite and look forward to welcoming all high school students and their parents.

These are not easy days to be a teen in our city; while the opportunities are numerous, the challenges are as well. Preparing for and receiving Confirmation is one sure path that can strengthen a teenager’s awareness of God’s unconditional love, to develop the capacity to make good choices, belong more completely to a community, and add much needed purpose to daily life.

Fr. Ronan

Two Become One

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

There are many young men and women in our Parish and others from outside of the Parish who wish to celebrate their marriage vows in beautiful Saint Mary’s Church. They notify us of this interest through the website* so that we know the specifics of their plans. Then I meet with them and begin their time of preparation.

Marriage preparation with these couples is one of the many joys of my life as a parish priest.

As we come to know each other, I ask them to explain to me how they met and, even more, to account the journey that has brought them to this moment of planning their marriage. Most often as they begin their story, always unique and beautiful, I tease details out of them and invite them to wonder how it all came to be. Wonder is the verb I ask them to use – not analyze, explain, critique or anything else. In my experience it is only by wondering that a couple can come to discover the truth about their relationship.

In the end, every story comes around to each person becoming amazed, humbled, delighted and awed by discovering in oneself and in the other, the love they have for one another. And when asked to explain how that came to be – it is not possible to offer an adequate response unless one takes the time to “wonder”. The truth is found in John’s gospel, “God is Love”. And this God is the source and giver of love to others. Love of its very nature is always generative and God’s love is seen and known in all creation and in each of us – we are the fruit of God’s love.

When seen this way, a couple comes to realize that it is God who is acting in this astonishing story of theirs and it is beautiful. The response to such a realization of being gifted is always gratitude – which of itself – forms a perfect prayer to God. I maintain that this prayer of thanks can become the mantra for married life, keeping God at the center of their marriage, freeing each of fear and worry and locating the miracle of the relationship on the work of God.
All of this may sound like a Pollyanna, sacrosanct view of married love, yet how else do we, any of us, explain love? Truth is, we cannot. And for that reason alone we write poems, paint pictures, create masterpieces of sculpture and art, glass and tapestry, choreographic dances, compose music and lyrics, write stories and more. Yet no work has or ever can describe and explain love. Because God is Love and God is above explanation.

This is not to say we cannot get close to God. For we have been given the most startling of all gifts in Jesus Christ, the GodMan born of Mary, who is the fullest expression of God the Father’s Love for humankind. It is in Him, through and because of Him that we get an authentic glimpse of God’s plan for humanity – God’s dream, if you will, for you and me and all of us: that we live in Love and choose each day to receive this gift from God in order to be complete ourselves and, as importantly, to give that very love away to another.

So it is that the love of husband and wife enables the two to become one, in mind, heart and body; each selflessly giving to the other to achieve a climax of completeness – what a paradox!

It seems to me all of us are searching to know this experience of love, the love that is fulfilled and fulfilling only when given away. This yearning leads to many seeking love in physical and sexual activity alone – believing it to be found there. Ironically it is impossible to “make love”, however, for God is Love. Many have learned this at a price.
And so we return to the beginning: God is Love, we are the work of God’s love and our destiny is realized when we accept this love as the singular force in life and give it away!

Fr. Ronan
*Couples interested in celebrating their marriage in our Parish can find information at our website: www.stmarystcatherine.org

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