FR. RONAN’S BLOG

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

To Struggle

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Once I heard it said that if it were possible for one to bundle into a package all of one’s problems and struggles and place it in a bucket and everyone else did the same, and then each could select the bundle one preferred to carry, one would choose one’s own. Of course, I question how valid such a theory might be. Rather it seems that, objectively speaking at least, some struggles are more difficult to carry than others.

The privilege of being a parish priest invites me into numerous realities of people’s lives. For example, I just hung up the phone with a man who explained he has been diagnosed with ALS. Earlier in the day, I spoke with a family whose precious son lives with autism. Walking across town on my way to Mass, a parishioner stopped and asked if I would bless the three little children he had with him who had been in an abusive home and now live with him and his wife.

Not all struggles appear huge and often one’s problems and suffering are not obvious. At other times, our challenges are very public and the pain is, too. We work at convincing ourselves that we should be able to manage things on our own. Perhaps we feel too ashamed and fear being judged negatively so much so that we cannot imagine the benefits that can come from sharing our situations with others. And so we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive support from those who are ready and willing to listen and walk with us.

Suffering is a part of life and no life seems to escape it. Depending on one’s support systems, which often times include reliance on God’s grace and a faith community to support them, there are individuals and families who are gifted with the courage and perseverance to forge ahead in the midst of life’s struggles, pains and losses. As a priest, I have witnessed that faith, prayer, and community are always invaluable resources for us, but especially when we are in pain. The recognition that “I am not alone in my struggle” is crucial.

Our Charlestown community is equipped with professionals who are eager and competent to help, but also there are persons in our community ready to be a source of friendship and support.   Truth is, no one is truly independent and no one can make it on his or her own – we all need one another. And even more so, we need God, Who is waiting for us and Who knows us so well and loves us so deeply and unconditionally. Perhaps this realization is one of the gifts that come from suffering.

The month of September is designated as National Recovery month.  Every year the Charlestown Coalition collaborates with other groups in our town to offer various events which increase awareness of substance use, prevention, and recovery, and to remember those who, sadly, have lost their lives as a result of substance use.  Our Parish often remembers these intentions in our Prayers of the Faithful at our Masses.

On this Sunday evening, September 9th, we will gather at the 6PM Mass, as we have done in Septembers past, to especially pray for those in recovery, those who struggle with substance use, and for their families. At 5:45, there will be lighting of candles for those for whom you wish to pray. After Mass, you may inscribe the names of those you want included in our Parish Book of Intentions and they will be lifted up in prayer at every Mass.  All are warmly welcomed to join us in this time of prayer and always.

Fr. Ronan

 

 

 

Having Enough to Eat

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

St. Mary – St. Catherine of Siena Parish social-ministry office has been serving Charlestown residents for fifteen years. In August, more than 300 families visited Harvest on Vine emergency food pantry, where we distributed roughly 20 thousand pounds of food. Because of generous benefactors, we are able to offer fresh produce at each distribution. In July, a combined total of two thousand pounds of potatoes, carrots, bananas, corn on the cob, bok choy, peppers, apples, and onions were given out. We are fortunate that we have so many dedicated volunteers and generous donors who support our mission.

Many of our new clients come to Charlestown from homeless shelters, literally with the clothes on their back, and their needs are great. The parish’s St. Vincent De Paul Society has been working with our new neighbors, providing them with furniture, beds, household wares, sheets, pillows, and blankets. We also help them with soap, toilet paper, shampoo, and detergent.

Our social-ministry committee is collaborating with the Boston chapter of the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP), a national program that offers homeless people retreats in the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We are studying the possibility of applying this approach to families living in poverty. The retreats lay a foundation of hope, a spiritual way of life, which can lead to a long -lasting transformation. The spiritual exercises—a series of meditations, prayers, and mental exercises, help people discern God’s will for their lives and grow closer to Him as a result. The program begins with a weekend retreat, followed by a daylong follow-up session, and then ongoing support sessions. Although we don’t serve the homeless, the Boston ISP director will adapt the program for us. More to come. All are welcome to participate.

The social-ministry committee is collaborating with Charlestown New Health to establish a walking program, possibly at Thomas M. Menino Park. The walking program will be open to all and will be a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors better and to enjoy the beautiful harbor views. Not to mention the health benefits.

Youth movement…
The neighborly compassion that made Charlestown famous has been passed down to the next generation. Charlestown youngsters have initiated food drives and fundraisers to support Harvest on Vine. Students at the Harvard-Kent school collected and delivered more than 700 boxes of breakfast cereal, an amount that carried us for three distributions, feeding hundreds of families. A brother and sister on Rutherford Avenue raised $100 from their lemonade stand and donated the money to the food pantry. The funds will be used immediately to buy food for our next distribution. Seven years ago, a then four-year-old girl, under the guidance of her parents, started an annual backpack program, buying and filling backpacks with school supplies for children going back to school. Last spring, on her own, she also led a food drive at her school, collecting dozens of bags of groceries for the pantry. The girl scouts led a similar drive at the Warren Prescott.
The children at Good Shepherd School host food drives twice a year, and the religious education students fill decorated shopping bags with food for Thanksgiving and Easter.
This spirit of charity has been passed down, all because of the leadership in this community.
We also are grateful to the local organizations and businesses that support us. A special thank you to St. Francis De Sales Parish, who hosts Hungry Sunday, a monthly food drive. We at St. Mary-St. Catherine are most grateful for this support.
Harvest on Vine is registered as an emergency food pantry, but for most of our families, all of whom live far below the poverty line, the state of emergency never ends. Food insecurity is a constant for our neighbors. Harvest on Vine is hoping to alleviate that fear, but it’s not enough. Our goal is not just to eliminate food insecurity, rather to promote food security, so that every family in our community knows they will always have enough to eat.
Harvest on Vine is a success story and that success flows from many generous resources. Yet the most powerful of them all is the daily prayer of this Faith Community for the needs of those who struggle with hunger and poverty.

Tom MacDonald, Director, Parish Social Ministry

Coming Home

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

As we wind down summer, there is a rush to make sure that everything that was supposed to get done over these short few months actually got done. Did the kids finish their summer reading? Did I paint that room I was going to? Did my wife and I go to that great restaurant that we found years ago? Did I finish that book I was going to read? Did I even start it?

The amount that we try to cram into summer can be exhausting to just think about. But, next year, we will do the same thing again. Let’s plan as much as we can and try to squeeze it all in.

For me, September actually brings some relief. The kids get back into their normalcy. More people are ge9ing back into their Monday to Friday routines. Sure, that means more cars and busses on the roads, but with the busyness, it forces you to also slow down a li9le bit because the traffic will not allow you to go any faster! For me it feels good to just come home.

Coming home gives me a sense of relief that I rarely get from anything else that I do. When you walk through the doors at home, there is a sigh – a breath of fresh air. There could be other things going on at home that make it seem stressful, but you’re still home. Relax, take that breath – if only for a minute – and then dive into what needs to get done. Those minutes are few and far between.

Another one of those moments for me is when I walk through the doors of our beautiful Church. “I’m home” is what I say to myself. I believe this feeling is also the same for many other parishioners in our Parish. You can feel the warmth of the building, the love of other parishioners – and of course God’s love.

Just like our familial homes, there is also that other “stuff” that needs to get done at the Church. Paying the bills, taking care of the property, and fixing what needs to get fixed. The people of our Parish come together in remarkable ways when things need to get done.

In the coming weeks, volunteers from MGH will come and help clean the Church. Our religious education program will be starting soon, and many volunteers will come together and teach the children of Our Parish.
A few weeks ago, Fr. Ronan mentioned the “Building a place” project where a group of parishioners will come together, as they always do, and create a new home – a crèche, for our Peace Garden.
If you are interested in helping with any of these, or any of the ministries listed weekly in the bulletin on page 6, please let us know. For those coming back from summer
traveling, I hope you get the same feeling as I do when I walk through the doors of the Church. The sense of belonging is real. You truly are HOME in God’s house – and he is welcoming you with open arms.

James Santosusoso, Business Manager

Singing to the Lord

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

There is one phrase I have heard too much from people when I tell them I direct choirs. That phrase is “I don’t sing”. Really? You don’t sing in the shower? You don’t sing in the car when your favorite song comes on? I find that very hard to believe!

The next most common thing I hear is “I can’t sing”. Often times my verbal response to this is “Oh okay” And I allow the conversation to move on to something else; but inside what I really want to ask is “Who told you you can’t sing?” One of my professors during my studies had perhaps a polar opposite perspective on singing. He says that everyone can sing and sound great with the right training. I still strongly agree with this. The voice is like a muscle. You have to give it a workout until it is strong, or in this case, begins to sound lovely.

Singing is referenced constantly in scripture readings. There are endless reasons for singing, both in the Old Testament and New Testament. We sing to the Lord for creation, for His blessings, for His glory, and many other reasons given in scripture and likely even more reasons we can come up with in our personal lives. It is one of the most wonderful ways of expressing our love of God, and our joy at receiving the Holy Eucharist.

Bring on the singing, no matter how bad you think you sound, and believe me you likely don’t sound as bad as you think! Sing at home, sing in your car, and sing your joy to God.

With September around the corner, we are getting ready to start up our choirs at St Mary’s Church. If you or someone you know sings, or would like to sing, or plays an instrument, please contact me at [email protected] and we’ll help you get started in participating as little or as much as you would like!

Daniel Sauceda, Music Director

Pope Francis changes teaching on death penalty

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The Vatican announced on Thursday, August 2, that Pope Francis approved changes to the compendium of Catholic teaching published under Pope John Paul II. “The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church now on the death penalty, with the addition that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” This is a departure from what the document, approved under Pope John Paul II in 1992, says on the matter: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” The former formula does stipulate that if nonlethal means are sufficient to protect people’s safety from the aggressor, then authority must limit itself to it, as these “are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”

In 1997, the Catechism was changed to reflect John Paul’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae.

The addition said that the cases in which the execution of the offender is
an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” As it’s been re-written, the Catechism now also says that “Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.” Yet today, “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.” “Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,” reads the Catechism now, as it was approved by Francis.

It’s for this reason, and “in light of the Gospel,” that the Church teaches that the practice is now inadmissible.

Together with the revised number 2267 of the Catechism, the Vatican released a letter by Ladaria addressed to the bishops. In it, he explains the decision, saying it was Francis who on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism, had asked for the teaching on the death penalty to be reformulated to “better reflect the development of the doctrine on this point.” The pope’s words came on Oct. 11, when Francis said that capital punishment “heavily wounds human dignity” and is an “inhuman measure.” “It is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor,” he said. According to Ladaria, the new formulation of the Catechism expresses “an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.” He then explains that previous Church teaching with regards to the death penalty can be explained in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and “had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.”

Marking down the development, Ladaria quotes from Francis’s two immediate predecessors, first saying that John Paul II’s document Evangelium vitae is key in this development of the doctrine. In it, the Polish pope enumerated the signs of hope for a new culture of life, including “a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate
defense’ on the part of society.” Criminals, the late pontiff wrote, shouldn’t be “definitively” denied the chance to reform. It was this document, as Ladaria points out in his letter that led to the first change in the Catechism on this issue, saying the cases in which the death penalty is justified are, in reality, “practically non-existent.”

Ladaria then goes on to say that John Paul’s commitment to the abolition of the death penalty was then continued by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who recalled “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.” He closes the 10 -point letter saying that the new formulation wants to infuse energy towards a “decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect.”

Excerpts from CRUX Inés San Martín Aug 2, 2018 ROME BUREAU CHIEF https://cruxnow.com/ vatican/2018/08/02/pope-francischanges-teaching-on-death-penalty-its-inadmissible

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