FR. RONAN’S BLOG

Building A Place

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

For more than 2000 years the stories have been told about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Everyone is drawn into the story and often it is re-enacted within church communities with a couple moving from home to home and knocking on doors seeking shelter. We have listened to the sobering result of the poor family’s search: There was no place for them in the inn where travelers lodged.
They were offered a stable out and around back somewhere and it was in that humble place amidst the animals that Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world.
Several years ago we refurbished and dedicated our simple and lovely Mary’s Peace Garden, behind the church on Soley Street. It is in that garden that we have wanted a beautiful crèche, imagining the stable where the Baby Jesus was born.
This year is the year for us to build this crèche and also to repair and replace the images for the stable. This article is an invitation to any member of the parish who would like to work on this project. Whether you wish to saw wood, design with a pencil, hammer a nail or purchase the lumber and materials – everyone is welcome to help out on the project.
The starting point is to send an email expressing your interest and your proposal of how we should move forward to: [email protected]
We will assemble all suggestions and call a design meeting in late August.
This year it will be so very special to have a beautiful crèche out in our neighborhood this Advent and Christmas time. I hope you will join me in whatever way you can in this project.

Fr. Ronan

You Are Invited …

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Back in January after a few days at Mass. General Hospital for spine surgery, I was released to the infirmary at Regina Cleri, a home for retired priests in the West End. This remarkable house was established more than 50 years ago by Cardinal Cushing and is currently home for 62 priests who have served for their entire lives in parishes throughout Boston.

On the infirmary floor, two rooms are kept available for a priest like myself who needs short term nursing assistance after a hospital stay. The care is excellent and the opportunity to recuperate in that environment with fellow priests, attend daily Mass, and share in meals with a remarkable group of senior priests was a blessing.

This was the second time I was able to take advantage of this precious resource. The other was in 1999 while recuperating from cancer surgery at John Hopkins Hospital. On that occasion as well, my time at Regina Cleri was a blessing.

I write about this today to point out the needs of the retired and ill priests of the Archdiocese and the efforts to strengthen the resources needed. One of those initiatives is the annual Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner that will take place on September 18.

Through the generosity of various parishioners, our Parish has been present for the past nine years of these dinners. This year,

I heartily invite anyone who would like to purchase a ticket and join us for this very special evening. Available seats will be limited and if you wish to attend, please contact our parish office as soon as possible.

With so many other parish priests, I join with them in thanking you for your support for this worthy celebration!

Fr. Ronan

 

SUMMERTIME

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Every year about this time I recall reading a column in one of the papers from a regular columnist who writes about being on vacation. She describes in colorful language some beach front town, maybe on the Cape or up north. The scene is charming, inviting, and lazy and always makes me wonder why my vacations are not as perfect as hers seem. I mean she talks about the beauty of the ocean, the breezes, the ice cream cones and cook outs; she describes the laid back mornings and lots of time for reading stuff she has looked forward to all year. Connecting with old friends, pleasant walks and time … time to just be.

Don’t know why but my vacations don’t usually seem as idyllic as those I read about. I want them to be – at least as I look forward to a couple of weeks out of Charlestown. I fully recognize that I need to get away from the day to day reality of my routine and that a change in routine is really good, in fact necessary. Nonetheless the person who goes on my vacation is the same
person who gets up each morning at 5:30 and begins a schedule that is always very full until late that night. What’s more, that person really enjoys each day like that.

So I conclude, it takes a bit of time to get into a vacation. The first days, 5:30 still seems the time to get up – at least Lily thinks so. She is ready to go out, take a walk and start her day. Sometimes I tell her, we’re on vacation – go back to sleep. She doesn’t believe me. But after a few days she starts to get the hang of it – we stay up later – there is more time for long walks much more exercise and she is now happy to sleep in. In fact my dog gets into vacation mode faster than I do.

In August I plan to get away for a couple of weeks. Slow down the daily pace, spend time with family and friends, get in some sailing and beach time and rest and read. I hope to stay away from the computer each day and not to hear the phone ring for whatever. When this happens, I see, again, what a blessing is my life. Leaving Charlestown and this parish helps me realize anew how much it all means to me, how I have grown to love this place and all of the people who form this great parish.

Maybe that is one of the greatest gifts of getting away: appreciating what you have left behind and getting rested and refreshed so that you can return. In hopes that you and yours can also get some time away before the weather cools down and the schools open and the cycle begins again, may God bless you and your family this beautiful summertime.

Fr. Ronan

NOT NOW!

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

All of us have seen or heard of this example: a child wants something seen at the store and insists a parent purchase it – say a candy bar. The parent patiently explains that it is close to dinner and there will be no candy before supper. After the child sulks and whines, the parent offers to purchase the candy, but the child cannot have it until after supper. The child’s anger and insistence on being given the candy bar – right now – is on display for everyone to see in the check-out line at the supermarket!   A recent television commercial promises that if you act NOW, this new carpet will be delivered to your home tomorrow. Another promises a new flat screen T V can be had with super speed. And yet another indicates that with just one click of the mouse, one can have much faster internet service and instant access to …. The whole culture of “instant” and “faster access” to whatever seems to be spreading to everything, and I wonder what it means.   Remember the term delayed gratification? The whole point seemed to me to be about realizing that something good was going to come one’s way – but only after waiting, working, saving, studying, learning …. And instant gratification is all about having that “good thing” right now!  Is it just me or do we seem to have slipped into a culture where instant gratification is now becoming the only norm?  Why does everything have to be faster? Who has placed this high value of everything happening in an instant? Who or what is pushing this illusory truth? And at what cost do we have “faster and instant”?   One of the dangers of this immediate gratification mentality is that we can find ourselves dismissing as of little value or reducing to irrelevant achievements, knowledge, institutions and people who do not conform to the philosophy of the immediate. If something cannot be summed up in a sound bite, it is boring or insignificant. If persons cannot satisfy our “perceived” need in the twinkling of an eye, then they become disposable.  Let’s stop and take some time to reorient ourselves.  All around us we delight in God’s creation – nothing too instant about that.  People – you and me and everyone else – we are not instant. Relationships and experiences, growing and learning, working and sweating brought you to be the person you are. A friendship is a precious jewel and gift – not an instant thing. Love – while the culture might say otherwise – is an infinite, mysterious, overwhelming and wonderful experience that takes work and grows over time – never instant. Infatuation, yes, that is instantaneous; love is another matter.   And so, let us give ourselves permission to yearn for and look forward to.  Let us savor whatever is before us instead of looking for the next “thing” coming down the pike.  Let us take time to value the people we love, the experiences we cherish, the accomplishments we have labored to achieve.  Let us give ourselves the gift to stop, reflect, assess, and take account of what is truly important in our lives instead of getting high on the newest fastest whatever.  Let us responsibly discern that which truly requires immediacy and that which is at risk if we do not give it the time and attention it truly requires and deserves.   Children do not have the ability to delay gratification on their own.  They need the adults in their lives to teach them how to make good choices and how to soothe themselves when they can’t immediately get their own way or when they have to forego something because it is not good for them.   As adults, we need to do this for ourselves. We need to do it…for the sake of our children…for the sake of our world.

Fr. Ronan

LOST & FOUND

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

Supposedly it goes with aging – forgetting where something is – not remembering where you last saw/used or placed an item. While I resist that as an exclusive characteristic of someone over ’60, I have to admit some truth to the theorem. Losing one’s keys seems the most annoying, perhaps only bested by misplacing a cell phone.  Most of us can identify with the emotion of discovering something is lost – seems like it happens just when we need it …!  And can you recall how you feel when the object is found, especially if the search has gone on for a bit and others have been helping?   The relief is huge.   But there are other kinds of losses we all know about: jobs, homes, friendships, money, health, agility, independence, even freedom that may not be resolved as we may hope. Truth is, life includes many moments when we face loss, and some are devastating. Sometimes our losses big and small can nurture a self pity and that can lead to magnify the loss in our lives.   One common response to certain types of loss is, “Why?” We search for answers and we often seek to find out whom or what is to blame for the loss.  And often enough the answer is elusive and our anger is directed to God: “Why did God let this happen to ME?”  This course may cause us to turn away from the very One who seeks to comfort, sustain and direct us in times of trial.  So how do we live with loss? The movement of life is only in one direction – there is no going back. The pain of loss and change can break us or can open us to a new way of being. Instead of asking “Why”, in faith, one can ask “What”:  “What does God want me to do now?  What can I do to move forward? What can I learn from this loss?”   I recall being at a very low point in my life, struggling with change and loss. I wandered into a bookstore and was browsing around. There was a display of book marks, little plastic strips printed with a quote or saying. One read, “The will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God will not sustain you”. I bought that book mark and took great comfort in that truth. I needed to accept the loss and changes and seek to move forward, to learn, to grow, to adapt and to trust.   Marion Howard once wrote:  “Life is like a blanket too short.  You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night”. God gives to each of us whatever we need to live through the losses of our lives. When we believe that, actually trust that truth, then the loss can yield something to be found.   Maybe Charles Schultz is right when he says:  “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle.  Most of us have gears we never use”.  Indeed, we need to try out the other gears – they are there to be used and when we do, we may find a speed that really works very well for us.   Friends, the God who made us, who knows us better than we know ourselves and whose love for us is constant and unconditional will never abandon us.  As we go forward with the losses and the finds of our life, look around. There is some new insight and experience awaiting, and God is behind us all the way.

Fr. Ronan

It’s On Us

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

This is a wonderful week for our Nation – a week wherein we remember our story as a people and the courage and fierce commitment of our forebears who stood firm in the face of overwhelming odds – for the price of freedom. As young a nation as we are, nevertheless we have accomplished much and realize there is yet much more to be realized for us to achieve our claim as a great nation among the world of nations.
This particular Independence Day finds many of us bewildered and disappointed at the current state of our national government and discourse. No matter one’s politics and/or partisan stance, the lack of civility in the common square has declined, deteriorated to a level we would find unacceptable among children in a schoolyard.
This is not news to any one reading this column and I write about it not to pile on to criticisms of our present administration. I write about it to acknowledge what I see in myself and others in our tendency to respond to incivility by incivility. The decline in the quality of our public and private discourse about our government, various policies and actions has been enabled by those in support of and opposed to either side.
We all have choices to make about how we wish to speak and act in life and especially in our manner of speaking about others. If you and I wish to change the current level of discourse, I think it begins with me and you.
I believe we should hold our elected leaders to a high bar of ethical and moral behavior – and when they fall short, we must replace them. I also believe we must hold ourselves to an equally high standard of ethical and moral behavior and when we fall short, choose to correct ourselves.
Respect for the dignity of each and every person is the bedrock of Judeo-Christian beliefs. The founders of our great nation chiseled this truth into the essential proclamations of our Declaration of Independence.
As a Nation, on this Independence Day, we all have work to do to fulfill the courage of that proclamation.

Fr. Ronan

DADS

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

On this Father’s Day weekend, we all recall and celebrate the gift of our fathers. I remember well the blessing of my Dad who passed away when I was a 20 year old college student. As the years have passed, I continue to cherish his goodness, his teaching by example, his faith and his values. The love of my mother and father for each other and for their children shaped me and my sisters and brothers, in varying ways.
The morning talk shows on TV, the number of magazine articles and overall buzz about raising a family and parenting usually focus on mothers and mothering. Even in an increasingly gender-neutral culture, the role of fathers receives less attention. However that does not mean a father’s role is less important.
For example, it has been shown that when a father plays with his child, the child exhibits different emotions and classic responses, allowing the child to receive a balance in emotional development. The aspect of modeling is ongoing from the earliest age. For boys as well as for girls, an active and engaged father allows both genders to develop appropriate responses; a boy to understanding his normal gender behavior and a girl to formulate a healthy understanding of male behavior. In all instances, active, positive paternal involvement and approval impacts adolescence and shapes children’s social, moral and spiritual behavior in healthy directions.
On a number of occasions, a new Dad has spoken with me about the impact of the birth of his child on him, the adjustments to be made, the desire to be the best Dad for his child, and at times the perplexity of it all. The Charlestown Mothers’ Association (CMA) does wonderful work in supporting new mothers, advocating for the needs of children and families, not to mention their other noble works. Could it be that it is time for the development of a Charlestown Fathers’ Association (CFA) to mentor new Dad’s and be a support for one another?
The focus this Fathers’ Day is really about THE FAMILY – without which there would be no father, mother or children! Although the dynamic of family life has changed in recent times, the beauty of the family remains in the symmetry and the complementarity of the roles, especially that of mother and father. While we do lift up for grateful praise our Fathers on this June 17 as we did our Mothers on May 13, we all recognize we are all God’s children, beloved from before our birth and into eternity.

Fr. Ronan

First Holy Communion

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

The second grade religious education class will receive their First Holy Communion at the 10:30am Mass on Sunday, May 20th.

Public Health Threat

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

In this morning’s newspaper there was an intriguing article about the threat to one’s health caused by loneliness. Amazing, yet not surprising.

Several years ago Facebook was front page news in papers around the country. The much anticipated IPO of the social media company concluded the first day with an estimated value of $105 billion. The results of this unimaginable event made Facebook the 25th largest company in the United States. The size may seem surprising for many reasons and yet 1 out of every 13 people on Planet Earth use Facebook. The exponential growth in popularity of this company has given rise to many theories and critiques.

In the May, 2008 issue of ATLANTIC, Steven Marche wrote an evocative article; Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Marche develops the question and places it into the context of this age and culture – recalling the trend of social disintegration that has been documented since before David Riesman’s classic work, The Lonely Crowd. His research points to the age old human longing for connectedness (friendship, intimacy and love) and in the North American culture in particular, to the high value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. It would seem that Facebook offers a marriage of these two longings: the illusion of intimacy along with the illusion of distance.

Stepping into our world 2000 years ago and today, Jesus speaks to these ageless longings of the human heart. The Architect, Engineer and Builder of you and me, knows each of us so very completely. The One who understands our hopes and dreams, our fears and sorrows, comes among us to lead us out of the shadows and darkness of our loneliness. How?

I believe each of us holds within a desire to see and know of God. And when I stop to wonder about my life and everything and everyone around me – looking back through the years – and become amazed at all that is and all that I am and all I yearn to do and become –I recognize it as Gift! Since childhood we have been taught how to receive a gift – with THANK YOU. Gratitude is key – it opens the door to everything.

And most important, gratitude opens the door to love. For once I know this love, in which I am held by God, in gratitude I am compelled to give it away; with family, friends, community and in service to others – my life is transformed by living in this experience of love. The entire life of Jesus, including His teaching and example along with His suffering, death and resurrection, everything points to and underscores the one single command that God has left us: Love one Another as I Have Loved You.

Facebook and any other technology of social media are tools, of which we have many. Like any other tool, their intrinsic value is dependent on how they are used. The gift of our faith is the one “tool” we have been given (in our Baptism) that opens for us a true way to realize intimacy and love as well as complete self-fulfillment. God offers us continual refreshment, forgiveness, nourishment and yes, there is something else. Once we receive these gifts we are to go out and give them away – in a deliberate choice to bring into a world so desperate for authentic intimacy and caught up in intriguing illusion.

Fr. Ronan

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