Hello and welcome!
We are very pleased that on Monday, the residents and staff of Regina Cleri were inoculated against the coronavirus. This is encouraging because, here in Massachusetts, we are currently experiencing the post-Christmas surge in cases.
Currently, there are seven priests in the archdiocese sick with COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 65 priests have contracted the coronavirus and six have died. That means 10 percent of those who became ill perished from it.
So we are very hopeful that the arrival of the vaccines will be able to slow and eventually end the pandemic. The Holy Father himself received the vaccine on Thursday, and we are encouraging people to be inoculated as soon as they can.
I also want to remind everybody that we are preparing to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 18-25. This annual ecumenical event was originally known as the Christian Unity Octave and has its roots with the Franciscans of the Atonement, which had been an Episcopalian order and, after entering the Church, kept ecumenism as a central focus.
Given the pandemic, we have not planned any of the usual ecumenical events to observe this special time. However, I would certainly urge people to make this theme part of their prayer life during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Gracious Lord, we pray for all the members of your holy Church, that all may abide in you and you in them, that they may be one in your love and bear much fruit.
We also pray for the world, that all may come to believe in your love for them by the fruit of our witness.
We know that our divisions are a source of scandal to your world, and we know that in love we are called to unite as one in the vine and branches.
The vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. We are meant to be his branches.
Help us we pray, to love, to forgive, to seek justice and to be your prophetic voice in the world.
May your grace effect growth of good fruit among us, that our world may realize peace.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus, your Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
In today’s world, it’s important for believers to stand together. We share many values in common with our brothers and sisters from other Christian churches, and we would like that friendship and sense of unity to grow. This is certainly the will of Christ, who prayed for unity among his followers at the Last Supper.
This brings to mind a story I often tell that is very appropriate for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, one that was shared with me by our missionaries when I was in the seminary and we had just begun our mission in Papua New Guinea.
The friars told us that, in the area that they worked, the native people who had become Christian were all Catholics. They had no experience of any other Christian church. Then, one day, a group of their parishioners were on a trip and came across a village of native Christians who were Protestant. They were so shocked, dismayed and scandalized! When they came back, they complained to the friars asking, “Why does this disunity exist among the followers of Christ?” Of course, the poor friars didn’t really know how to respond and were very uncomfortable when faced with the scandal of disunity that we so often take for granted. But these newly-minted Catholic Christians, when they realized the disunity in the Church, were very disappointed by it. We would do well to take a page from these Catholic Christians in Papua New Guinea who found disunity in the Church as something very unacceptable and recommit ourselves to work for unity among all of Christ’s followers.
Lent begins in less than a month, and so we are already beginning to plan. On Monday, we met with the auxiliary bishops and episcopal vicars of the archdiocese to prepare some ideas for the Presbyteral Council around plans for the celebrations of Lent and Easter in light of the pandemic.
At the Presbyteral Council meeting on Wednesday we discussed many of the same topics – how the blessing of the throats, the distribution of ashes and the distribution of palms should be carried out and how we should conduct the various liturgical celebrations that we will have in the upcoming weeks.
I was very pleased to see a lovely article in Wednesday’s Boston Globe about Beth Chambers, which highlighted the extraordinary work that she and others from Catholic Charities are doing.
We are also very aware that much is being done in so many of our parishes to respond to the needs of people during the pandemic, particularly addressing food insecurity. Here in the cathedral, we have a group of young adults from the Order of Malta who gather every Wednesday evening for a Eucharist and then take food and essentials to homeless people living in the streets of Boston.
I was very happy to greet them Wednesday night, give them my blessing and thank them for their work.
I’ve always loved the image of Our Lady of Altagracia. In fact, one year, I used it for my Christmas card. It’s the only title of the Blessed Mother in which St. Joseph is included in the image. This year, being the Year of St. Joseph, I think that is a very beautiful aspect of this devotion.
I only visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Altagracia once, which is located in Higüey about 20 miles from Santo Domingo. At the time, I was bishop in the Virgin Islands.
I was attending a conference on Catholic universities in Santo Domingo with Cardinal Baum and Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, and we were invited by the Bishop of Higüey to come to the shrine. When the president of the country became aware that we were making a visit, he put a helicopter at our disposal. I had never ridden in a helicopter, and I was very excited. When we arrived, they were having Mass at the shrine. There was a huge crowd of people in front of the Basilica, and they all scattered so the helicopter could land.
However, things didn’t go so well on the return trip.
Msgr. Albacete, who was an aeronautical engineer before he became a priest, was sitting next to me in the helicopter. He tapped me on the shoulder and told me that we were running out of fuel. I chided him for even joking about such things, but he told the pilot, and sure enough, we had to make an emergency landing in a field.
Right nearby was a little hut with a family living in it, and they immediately came out served us coffee and cookies. (They treated it so matter-of-factly, like people were constantly dropping out of the sky into their field!) Fortunately, an hour or so later, the army came, picked us up and took us to the capital. It was a very memorable visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Altagracia!
Many years ago, the family of Father Kevin Deeley and Bishop Robert Deeley donated a cross to the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville. However, last year, the Little Sisters stopped their ministry at the home and the cross has been given to the cathedral.
It was refurbished by The Fallon Company and has been placed on the lawn beside the cathedral. We are very pleased to have this remembrance of the more than century of service given by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Boston and, of course, being the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, it is very appropriate to have this beautiful crucifix outside for all to see as they enter.
Until next week,