FR. RONAN’S BLOG

Cardinal Sean P O’Malley Lenten Letter

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we begin the holy season of Lent, this annual time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving affords us the opportunity to be renewed by God’s love and mercy as we recommit ourselves to lives of prayer and service to others.

This year, Lent has particular significance for the leadership of the Church at every level, local, national and universal. Recently Pope Francis called bishops from every country in the world to come together at the Vatican for the Summit to Protect Children and Minors. The summit included powerful testimony from survivors of clergy sexual abuse, religious sisters and laypersons who made clear that a meaningful and effective response from the Church is long overdue and of critical importance. I participated in the summit as the President of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors and, with all present, was deeply impacted by those who addressed us.

Given the depth and seriousness of the crisis and the failures of the leadership of the Church, the expectations for the meeting were high and people are anxious to see concrete results. I left the meeting convinced that no bishop could possibly say that his diocese is not affected by these issues or that this is not a problem in his country and culture.
Patience among our people and in the wider community is exhausted and understandably the call is rising for effective action.

A dominant theme at the meeting was the need for an effective reporting mechanism when a Bishop or Cardinal has failed in his duty to protect children or has himself abused children or vulnerable adults. Although I believe an effective set of procedures will be developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I nonetheless wish to address this need immediately for the Archdiocese of Boston.

To that end I have decided to implement EthicsPoint, a confidential, anonymous and third-party system, exclusively for the reporting of misconduct by a Cardinal, Bishop or Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. Since 2011 we have utilized EthicsPoint for concerns of potential ethics violations, financial improprieties, and other violations of the Archdiocesan Code of Conduct related to financial matters.

Like the existing system currently in use, this will be web based and have a toll-free hotline to make a report. Reports will be sent to members of my Independent Review Board who will be charged to immediately notify law enforcement for claims of abuse as well as the apostolic nuncio; the diplomatic representative to the U.S. of the Holy See. The system will be hosted on secured servers at the EthicsPoint facility and is not connected to the Archdiocese of Boston website, intranet system or the existing EthicsPoint system currently in use. We anticipate the system being up and running soon and will provide more information at that time.

In January 2002 the clergy sexual abuse crisis was revealed by the media in powerful and compelling reports on the failures of the Church to protect children. Courageous survivors came forward and forced the Church to face the crisis and accept responsibility for the crimes committed against them. That same year the American Bishops implemented the Dallas Charter of Norms. Where it has been faithfully implemented, it has been effective. But we must aggressively build on the Charter to ensure that there are clear paths for reporting misdeeds of the hierarchy by utilizing the expertise of independent lay professionals.

During the meeting in Rome, the most powerful moments were when survivors of abuse spoke to us. This confirmed my own experience. The way forward for the Church is to hold as a priority the voices and experience of survivors, to keep them close to every step we take and make all possible efforts to provide the means for them to be heard. In Boston we will continue to provide pastoral care and counseling for survivors. We will continue to carry out programs of prevention and education in our schools and parishes. We will continue to do background checks annually for bishops, priests, all archdiocesan personnel, and all volunteers who work with children and young people. You may find the depth and breadth of those efforts in the Archdiocese of Boston on our dedicated website at https://commitment.bostoncatholic.org/.

For more than twenty-six years my ministry has involved responding to the abuse of minors by clergy. The crisis of sexual abuse by clergy is the greatest failure of the Church in my lifetime. It has eroded our moral authority, it endangers our pastoral, social and educational ministry, but worst of all, it devastates children and families.

We must face our past with transparency. Those who were sexually abused by clergy, their families and loved ones must always be the central focus of our response to the crisis. Their courage in coming forward has forced the Church to face the crimes committed against them. We are committed to accompanying them on their journey toward healing. Often it is survivors who teach us not to lose hope.

As we strive to live this season with renewed seriousness and commitment we pray and work for renewal in the life of the Church. We are firmly committed to zero tolerance, transparency and accountability, at all times holding survivors as the priority, always being vigilant to do all possible to prevent any harm to children.

With the assurance of my prayers for you and your loved ones,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap.

When the Goin’ Gets Tough – The Tough …

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It’s an old saying and we have all heard it at one time or another. The implication seems clear: when one faces hard times, one shouldn’t cave, whine or falter, rather dig in and get to it! It is easy to like the statement, or at least what it implies. I think I apply it to myself often enough. And yet, there are times when I realize that nothing is as simple as it seems. For example the statement “cut and run” hardly describes the reality of opposing the war in Syria.

Maybe this mind set is really more a veneer than the real thing. For after confronting a challenge and getting a sense of its difficulty, more often than not, I confess that it is too tough for me, and I cannot handle it alone. I need God’s help. Praying when we are in trouble seems as natural as breathing. I think everyone does it. You know the old saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes”. And we don’t need to be in a foxhole to find prayer our response.

This is the first Sunday of Lent. We find Jesus in the desert and being tempted strongly. His response is to point to His Father and remember who He is and from whence comes His strength.

Each of us, on our own journey in life, faces challenges and temptations. True enough, we have to “dig in” and struggle when the going gets tough. Yet the real response of the Christian is not only to dig in, but also to realize a few other things. First, we are not alone in our struggle. We are members of a community, the Church, and we make our journey together with lots of others. We can and should count on others for their prayers and support. Second, Sacred Scripture offers us countless lessons about the kindness, mercy and unconditional love of God for each and all of us. Encountering this reservoir of strength and energy is as far away as choosing to pray.

So, the old saying, when the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’, should be changed to something like, When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get prayin. May our journey together this Lent be a time when prayer and closeness to the Lord grows and grows.

Fr. Ronan

LISTENING

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In the course of any parish priest’s day there are many varied activities. Really, from concern over some item of the buildings to time spent with a family grieving the death of a
loved one, the spectrum is broad and deep – and I love it! And often the activity that is the most important and precious is listening. We priests are good listeners – at least we try to be! Now that might not sound like “heavy lifting” – yet there are many times when it is! The issue is around the ma7er being discussed. If it is about the possible retirement of Tom Brady from the Patriots that is one thing; if the subject is a family coping with a loved one diagnosed with a terminal cancer, that is something else.

Listening in any event calls one to offer complete attention to the other – and often we do not listen that way! We hear what another is saying without truly listening. Rather we are inclined to anticipate what someone is saying as we formulate our response before the person has finished speaking! At other times one’s mind is elsewhere while another is speaking. All of us have done this and also have been in conversations when this is common.

Some years ago Carl Rogers, a noted psychologist and prolific author introduced a new way of looking at effective therapy. Among other things, he suggested that what he called; “Unconditional Positive Regard” was crucial to effective psychotherapy. Rogers was talking about how we listen. He taught that when a listener gives his/her entire attention to the other, in a positive and nonjudgmental way, allowing a person to speak and no matter what is said, it is accepted without judgment, in that encounter healing can take place. A person’s hurts, brokenness, shame, anxiety, fear, inferiority, confused identity and so much more, can improve. On the one hand it sounds so elementary and yet in truth, it is so profound.

And this very experience happens all the time, among friends, spouses, colleagues and teachers … It is that phenomenon of one human being caring for another – and caring in such a
way as to make it possible for another to open up and unburden all kinds of trouble and pain that is within. We all need such opportunities and everyone is healthier because of them. At the same time we all know there are some parts of life, some experiences, choices and actions that are very difficult and cannot be spoken about easily. Sometimes a priest can help.

Actually it is better to say, all the time, God can help. And God has chosen, for God’s own reasons, to be present to us in countless ways and through the Sacraments of the Church,
in very specific and deeply helpful ways. The Sacrament of Penance, Confession, is one of these gifts. The fact that few use the Sacrament in these days does not diminish its value and
its availability to be a source of Grace and healing for those who approach this precious gift.

Since my Ordination as a Priest in June, 1982 to this present day, I am in awe of how God uses this sacrament to bring His love to people in these moments. Further while I am well aware
of the effectiveness of counseling and therapy – the listening that happens in this Sacrament occasions a time of Grace: God is present and the Priest serves only as an instrument of this Grace in ways that are far beyond understanding.

During Lent, Confession will be available in churches and chapels throughout the Archdiocese every Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:00. In our Parish there will be a priest at the Parish Center on Winthrop St. Also a priest will be available every Saturday afternoon from 3:15 – 3:45 in the Confession corner in the upper Church. Further, there will be a parish wide Lenten Prayer and Penance Service on Monday evening, April 15 at 7:00. Also any person can contact the Parish Office to set up an appointment to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance.

Rogers is right – lovingly listening to another can be a wonderful and healing experience. Imagine how much more such a moment can be when one seeks God in the Sacrament of Penance
and the fruit of that is forgiveness, healing and consolation. This Lent the Light is On for You.

Fr. Ronan

Why Would You?

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My friend told me the conversation went something like this: “So I know you are a Catholic and go to Church, but how can you continue to do that with all that is going on in the Catholic Church?”

It is not the first time folks have spoken with me about trying to answer similar questions. Many Catholics feel they have to defend the practice of their faith in these turbulent times. Point is, the abuse of children by anyone and certainly by clergy is so utterly disgusting, who would not want to turn away from anything connected to that. In addition, when the abuse is compounded by cover-up and dishonesty on the part of religious authorities, it is even more outrageous. So walking away seems like an obvious, understandable human response.
The Church is a human institution with all of the reality that includes. Sinners and saints both find a home in the Church. In fact, it is one of the most purposely inclusive institutions I can think of. The welcome sign on the front of our Church is not atypical of other faith communities. So the people who form the Church, clerical, vowed religious, and lay men and women are a slice of humankind. And even with all that includes, this people seek to find and build a community around their shared faith.

It is precisely that faith that brings us in the door in the first place: a belief in God – a Creator, a Redeemer and a Sanctifier; a belief in the infinite mercy and love of God, the omnipotence and kindness, the faithfulness, goodness, and understanding of God; a belief in Jesus Christ, the God/Man born of Mary in Bethlehem who came to manifest the love and truth about God and make real and possible the immortal destiny of us all.

My faith in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit is not conditional upon the sinful nature of some priests and bishops. For 2000 years, this Church has held onto and offered the truth of this faith to countless billions of persons. This gift of faith is now, has been, and will always be a source of consolation, guidance, and joy to all who receive and practice the faith even in the midst of its sinfulness.

I do not have a simple answer as to the why of the present crisis. I do know that in the Catholic Church, the responses that are being hammered out are calling for vigorous transparency, close alliances with law enforcement officials, better screening and educational models for seminaries, and highlevel involvement of lay men and women with oversight authority in key areas.

The Catholic Church is universal, and seeking a plan that cuts across all cultures and peoples will not be simple, although from our point of view in North America, it may seem like it
ought to be. Nevertheless, because of all that has been done in our country, I am confident that in every institution, including the Church, children are safer than ever before.

For anyone facing the question about why practice your faith in the Catholic Church in these times, perhaps your response is not to seek to defend the Church, for the mistakes that have
been made are indefensible and those who are suffering as a result of them are legion. Rather, validate their struggle, lend them a listening and compassionate ear and heart, and let them truthfully know that what is going on is difficult for you as well.
Then give witness to the importance of your belief in God, your relationship with Christ, the significance of the centrality of the Eucharist in your life, and the rightness of living this faith in a community of believers. And most assuredly, make it clear, that you stand in solidarity with the victims who have been abused and their families and friends.

Fr. Ronan

DANIEL’S MESSAGE OF GRATITUDE AND FAREWELL

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Serving as Music Director at St Mary St Catherine of Siena Parish has been one of the best experiences of my life. That’s why it is sad for me to say that my time here is coming to an end. This summer, I am actually very happy to share with you that I will be moving to Phoenix, Arizona in pursuit of some new opportunities both in my career and my life.

I first played an organ at my Parish Church, in Arcadia, California. It was a brand new experience and from the moment I started, I knew I wanted to pursue learning how to play this instrument. Before long, I was playing just a li4le before Mass. Gradually I went from playing one hymn to play at weddings and before I knew it, I had my first position as a Church Organist.

The time came for me to leave my family in California and the southwest, and move to the opposite side of our country – to Boston, to study at The Boston Conservatory. Just as I arrived, I heard the name St Mary St Catherine of Siena through an ad seeking a new music director. I quickly got to meet parishioners, many of which I know now more closely. A few months later, I was blessed with the amazing news that I would be offered the position as Director of Music here. I was so excited to get started and serve in this Parish.

The memories I have built here will always stay with me, and not all of them are musical memories. I think one of my favorite memories of serving here was the day I walked through the hallways of the Parish Center on a Sunday when the Religious Education Classes were in session and heard one of the children notice me and say “It’s the music guy!” It
was such a great feeling to be known by that moniker.

It is hard for me to believe that I have been here for seven years. The time has gone by so quickly! There are so many memories and good times I have shared with many of you throughout these years, not only at Mass but at various events and occasions, including those spent with the Hispanic community, who often made me feel closer to home and the Hispanic Community I come from.

In many cultures and languages, one does not say “goodbye”. In Spanish, we say “adios”, to God, or “hasta luego”, until next time. The Irish Blessing tells us “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” I am not saying goodbye to the community of St Mary St Catherine of Siena, but rather, until next time, I will see you in the future. While my life’s journey is taking me to another part of our country, this Parish will always be a part of me. It has been wonderful serving here.
I have about four months left to make the most of my time as your Music Director and I will make the most of them with you. Thank you, St Mary-St Catherine of Siena Parish!

– Daniel Sauceda

The Parent Trap

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Recently I enjoyed a conversation with the parents of school-aged children. The parents were explaining their concern about the busyness of the life of their home and being exhausted by juggling so many after school activities which contributed to the hectic lifestyle of their home. The experience of such loving parents struggling to find balance and make the best choices for their family makes me wonder if something is amiss in our culture these days.

It is the case that every Mom and Dad wants to provide the very best of everything for his or her children. An interesting question that may not be asked too much is who decides what is
the very best? The dominant culture serves up countless new trends of programs, activities, educational initiatives, and resources. Indeed, research and development are extensive regarding educational development yielding new insights about how children learn best and prosper in learning and social environments.

The relationships between sports and theatre, dance and swimming, hockey and music and so many more combinations have been studied and debated. Which combinations are best for a child’s healthy development? How is the best way to understand each child’s gifts and developmental needs?

Sometimes it seems that somehow, someone has decided that the definition of a really good parent is the one whose child is continually scheduled into activities of every kind. Conversely, a “bad” parent is one whose child is not enrolled in numerous activities. God forbid that a child might need to entertain him/herself and maybe even complain of boredom.

When did parenting become a verb? How did we end up defining excellence in childhood as busyness? Because adults have become convinced that our busyness defines our self-worth, do we believe we ought to put the same value on our children? And, when all is said-and-done, is this really “the best” we can offer the children in our families and in our community?

I think we can do much be;er. I think our families are suffering from the uncritical acceptance of a culture that emphasizes “doing” over “being”. From bumper stickers to refrigerator post-its, it is about doing, completing, getting there, schedules and deadlines.

In all of this, what are the principle values we are teaching? Looks like the emphasis is on efficiency, responsibility, punctuality, hard work and perhaps competitiveness all of which are important values. Of course, there are others. But in the eyes of the child, these might seem the most important.

Where in this scenario, though, does a child learn and absorb the values of patience, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, fairness, humility, thankfulness and so much more? Certainly some of these values are learned on the ball field and during the music lesson. But they are mainly learned in and through relationships, especially in the home, at the dinner table, in
the car, and in conversations and family activities with their parents. Most importantly, children need the “down time”, the unstructured quiet time to absorb and reflect on these values.

Children have an astonishing openness to God and an amazing capacity to grasp the reality of the supernatural. I think this is because a child is so untainted by the world, so innocent, and that God is so very close to every child. How do our children learn about God? How does each child come to recognize his/her special dignity and recognize others also possess this dignity? What is the basis through which children learn forgiveness and honesty?

The answers to these and similar questions ideally should frame what “giving the very best possible” to our children would look like. I think this fast-paced, competitive, and self-serving culture has trapped many parents into a belief that can end up being hollow and lacking in what truly constitutes the very best.

Fr. Ronan

COMMITMENT

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On a beautiful spring evening some years ago, I enjoyed meeting my nephew for dinner over in the downtown area. As the evening went on, he asked me a question – actually he struggled to ask a question. He wanted to know my thoughts about commitment. Looking back on that conversation, I recall how overwhelmed this great young man felt by the very concept of making a commitment. I understood his point – I think. In younger years, having wondered seriously about making a commitment to married life, and having accepted the invitation to commit to life as a priest, I had some idea about what my nephew was asking. To make a commitment is hard, and more, it is frightening.

I’m not speaking about a commitment like taking a job or choosing a home or brand of car. I’m talking about real, life changing and ongoing commitments, like marriage, having a family, religious life and priesthood. The more we truly understand the nature and significance of this type of act, the more daunting it seems. Everyone tries to make the best choice possible, with prayer, research, consultation, etc. However, it seems to me, that the biggest commitments are ultimately decided not on a cerebral level, but rather from the “gut.” It is the inner self that informs us, draws us, and brings us to a place of peace about the big choices.

Every week I have the pleasure of meeting at great length with couples preparing for marriage. I seek to draw out of each person how it is he/she has come to this choice. More often than not, individuals cannot find the words to accurately explain their decision. That is to say, every explanation they give seems inadequate. For example, to say: “She’s my best friend” is a beautiful thing – but so not enough to describe a reason for a marriage commitment. Something more is called for.

Vocation is the word that describes – quite literally – one’s “calling”. To be a cabinet maker or a scientist, a teacher or mechanic and to really feel at peace and fulfilled in your chosen field would accurately describe a vocation. And how about marriage – is a person “called” to marriage? I believe one is called, and not only to married life but also to other life options. If this is true, who is doing the calling?

In truth, it is God who calls each of us – who has a plan for everyone, and we are fulfilled only when we hear and respond to that plan. Not long ago I heard the vocation question framed this way: God calls each person to BE in that place where the person’s deepest joy encounters the world’s greatest hunger. At so many levels and in so many ways, I believe this is how God manages our being called to the place and way in life that completes us. And the response to the call requires a commitment.

Many men and women find their vocation in married life. Marriage is a gift from God to women, men, children and society. For me, the key word in the above phrase is “gift”. No one can simply choose a life partner or religious life or priesthood on his/her own – it is a gift. And therefore living it out calls for one to live with a grateful heart and also a heart trusting that all that is needed to go forward, God will always freely give.

Fr. Ronan

NB: Next weekend all married couples will be invited to restate their vows to each other as we celebrate World Marriage Day at all of our Masses.

THE PRAYER

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After over 30 years of priesthood and active ministry, I should not be surprised, yet often am, at how the prayer, The Our Father, has a way of comforting people. For example, when standing around a hospital bed when a member of the family is close to death – inviting people to join in this prayer – sort of changes everything. At one level, loved ones experience this action is DOING something in an otherwise helpless situation. On another level, there is the comfort of the familiarity of the prayer and the very calling to mind of God as Father that touches people’s hearts. And on yet another level, turning to prayer changes our entire disposition and takes us to a different place.

At times during the Family Mass, I invite children to join me in the sanctuary as we say The Our Father. Of course, the kids love it and as they are holding hands I ask them, “If you and I have the same father what does that make you to me?” The children quickly conclude the answer is we are brother/sister to one another. Standing in our magnificent church with these beautiful children – that is a wonderful truth to celebrate!

Yet as we know, The Our Father is prayed by millions and millions of Christians. And it is fair to say there are many who do not look like me, share the same history, language, traditions, culture, beliefs or even vote as I do or support the same baseball team that I do! And there are those who may not even know how to pray this prayer. Does that mean that they are NOT my brother or sister? These two simple opening words, Our Father, which Jesus taught us, are radical, in every possible way! They push back against age old prejudices, discriminations, and divisions and demonstrate that God sees us all as brothers and sisters. It is not a coincidence the prayer came from the lips of Jesus himself.

There are so many deep and extraordinary truths buried in this prayer. Another phrase that I find both comforting and challenging is “Thy will be done …” When I first pray these words, it is comforting in that it implies that God has a plan for me – and because I often do not seem to have a plan – I’m glad God does! And yet when I really think about this part of the prayer, it means that God’s will is dominant, rather than my will. This is a big step and it may well give one pause! I think we usually say this part of the prayer easily, sort of sliding over the words and maybe not fully realizing it means each of us is asking God to help us put our own will off to the side and make His will the action plan of our lives. That is a big and very beautiful prayer – and its fulfillment will not happen overnight.

I love the part of The Our Father when we ask for forgiveness of our sins; that is a part I need to pray often. However Jesus has a contingency clause built into this petition – “As we forgive those who trespass against us”. This is a troubling condition! Forgiving another may be one of the most difficult tasks a person has to confront – most especially when the hurt seems to have been very serious and intentional. And yet there does not seem to be a way around this – God insists He is ready to forgive us, whatever, but when needed we need to take a forgiving step as well.

Arguably the most exquisite prayer in the entire Bible, The Our Father is both deeply comforting and powerfully challenging to all of us. At the same time our familiarity with the prayer may dull our appreciation for the richness and depth of Jesus’ words.

In this beautiful late winter, perhaps refreshing our familiarity with The Our Father is a wonderful undertaking and certainly the perfect prayer.

Fr. Ronan

MEETING HOUSE HILL

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When I was born, my family lived in a section of the city of Boston called Meeting House Hill in Dorchester. This area of three family homes, neighborhood stores, bakeries, bar rooms, and some broad avenues sits between Fields Corner and Uphams Corner. At the top of my street was the beautiful Ronan Park. The park was a haven for the kids in the neighborhood for all sports as well as sledding in the winter. This was my world.

Cardinal Cushing was Archbishop of Boston and I went to St. Peter’s Grammar School. The topic of “the missions” was often spoken about and visiting missionaries came to the school and the parish from time to time. We were all taken with the idea of far off places. But more than that, I learned at an early age that we were connected to people in far off places. We learned that many of them were poor and had little to eat or wear. In turn, we were well off no matter our situation.

I left Meeting House Hill a long time ago – but the lessons I learned there have shaped me for a life time. Now I understand that to be a Catholic is to be involved with the world. In fact, it is not possible to say CATHOLIC and not mean others outside of where I live and work. This Church of ours, founded by Jesus Christ, is a community always seeking to reach out and always on the move. The Great Commandment that Jesus gave to his followers was “Go forth to all the nations and preach the Good News…”

I guess, looking back, it is no surprise that after I became a priest, I later became a missionary to Latin America – a member of the St. James Society. This is the group of diocesan priests from all over the English speaking world formed by Cardinal Cushing when I was a boy. We were to go to the poorest regions of Latin America and work in the poorest areas. And so I went first as a seminarian to Peru and spent a summer in Andahuaylas – high in the Andes. I went back to Peru again and again. In 1987, five years after being ordained, I asked for permission to go and stay. Cardinal Law gave me permission and asked me to delay my departure for one year. In the spring of 1988, I joined up and was sent to Ecuador.

Though I returned to Boston in November 2000, I continue to be actively involved in Ecuador. I cannot help but be involved in the world beyond Charlestown. I know I am a better person for this and I think a better  priest as well. The Gospel of Jesus Christ points me over and over to place the needs of the poor as the primary focus of my life. The poor are everywhere and we all know that. They are the weak, the sick, the elderly, and the young as well as the unborn and the voiceless in our world.

I can never go back to Meeting House Hill – what a great place to grow up. But growing up means we see a bigger world and hear a call to look beyond our neighborhoods. Whether we stay home or not means little – that we live and pray and act as citizens of the world means everything.

Fr. Ronan

What Makes You Happy?

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Kind of an interesting question, don’t you think? I wonder if each of us would answer in different ways. Would the answer of a child be different from that of a teenager or an adult? How about the response of an 80-year-old person – would it be very different from that of a 30 something? I wonder how my answer to this question has changed over the years. I mean there was a time when my graduate education and career were uppermost in my mind. Another chapter, when my social life had high priority.

Is the “happiness” thing a sliding scale, changing from day to day or week to week? I ask the question because these past weeks the readings at Mass have provoked me to wonder why I am happy and what causes my happiness. For example, on Friday this week (1/25) we celebrate the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul. The reflections around the feast of St. Paul
detail that after Paul’s conversion, his whole life became one of service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His own will was so impacted by love of Christ that it became configured to Christ’s will. This harmony of wills fueled by love explained Paul’s amazing and ever present Joy, even in the midst of suffering of all kinds. Paul would go on to write that his life included times of wealth and of poverty, times of hunger and of abundance, times of success and of failure, and he had come to regard everything as having little value other than his relationship with Christ.

Perhaps it is, therefore, that the only common denominator in life that brings happiness to any person at any stage is the presence of love. Not a love that is very self-serving, rather a mature love that is more other centered. Again, Paul wrote elegantly of this as well: If I achieve everything that this world has to offer, without love, I gain nothing. He concluded his marvelous treatise on love as follows: When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways aside … There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13).

Each day of our lives, there is something in front of me that promises happiness. More often than not, it includes everything from a laxative to a Cadillac. Sure, there is stuff that can be pleasing and meet needs and desires. But true happiness, well that is something more.

The whole world is searching for happiness – frenetically it seems. St. Paul found the answer and it is offered to us every day.

Fr. Ronan

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