The feast day of St. Francis of Assisi

Welcome back to my blog. We arrived back in Boston from the Catholic-Orthodox joint pilgrimage last Wednesday evening — Sept. 26 — and since then I have been attending meetings, events and two installation Masses.

On Sept. 28, I made a very brief trip to Pittsburgh for the installation of Bishop David Zubik, who had been the bishop of Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.


It is the custom among bishops to attend the Mass of installation of other bishops. I wanted to be there because I belonged to the Saint Augustine Province of the Capuchins which is located in Pittsburgh. I studied in the seminary and was ordained there, and I have known Bishop Zubik for many years. I was happy to be a part of his installation ceremony. As I mentioned, it was a very quick trip, and we left early to get back to Boston.



Bishop Zubik is embraced by his predecessor,
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington

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Then, Sunday we had the Mass in Brockton to celebrate the new Trinity Academy. The school system in Brockton has been revitalized as the first step in the 2010 Initiative for schools in the archdiocese.


It’s almost unbelievable that it was only nine months ago that we announced the plans for Trinity Catholic Academy. Today the buildings are completely refurbished and bustling with students


The Mass at Trinity Academy was beautiful, and so many people came that there was standing room only. The children did the readings and petitions and so forth. Afterwards there were tours of the schools and a reception. The people were all very, very pleased with the way that the school has turned out. It was a happy occasion, and I was very glad to be a part of it.

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The following day was the installation of the archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien. Most of the cardinals from the United States were there because it is a cardinalitian see. There were about 400 priests and maybe 60 bishops who were a part of it.


The new Archbishop of Baltimore with the papal Nuncio to the United States and with his predecessor, Cardinal Keeler

Archbishop O’Brien comes from his position as the military ordinary and so a number of our Boston priests who have served in the military were also there for his installation. Additionally, the Mass was televised by EWTN, so many people in Boston were able to see it.


Baltimore was the first diocese in the nation — the primatial see in the United States. And so, two-hundred years ago Boston was a part of the Diocese of Baltimore and then, in April of 1808, the first new dioceses were founded in the United States — Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown, Kentucky — currently Louisville. At that point Baltimore became an archdiocese and the four dioceses became the suffragan sees of Baltimore.

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On Tuesday, I gave the closing remarks at a panel discussion at Regis College to celebrate their 80th anniversary and annual Founder’s Day. The panel was moderated by Mary Jane England, the college president, and discussed the history of the college as well as the participation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in that history and their tremendous contribution to the Church in Boston. It was a very interesting exposition, and there were many alumni at the event.



This year Regis has opened its doors to male students for the first time. The new policy has given them a boost on their enrollment, so it has been very good for the institution.


Speaking with Paul Garber and Regis College President Mary Jane

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That evening, I attended information sessions for the Renew program here in the Archdiocese of Boston. The program is named, “Arise: Together in Christ” and is specifically designed to meet the pastoral needs in our archdiocese. It will be the centerpiece of our bicentennial celebration.

Renew International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in the Diocese of Newark. It seeks to foster spiritual renewal in dioceses throughout the United States and more than 20 other countries.

Information sessions were held from Sept. 24 to Oct. 4. Pastors, parish staff and lay leaders had the opportunity to attend one of 10 information sessions.


I was able to attend two of the sessions that day, one in Portuguese for the Brazilian and Cape Verdian communities and the other in English.

Arise will be offered in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Brazilian and Haitian Creole, which are all common languages of different Catholic communities.

We are pleased that a vast majority of parishes have been represented at one or more sessions. We have been very gratified by the response on the part of the parishes. We are hopeful that this process can help to bring about spiritual renewal in observance of our bicentennial. Arise is a way of inviting people to adult faith formation, prayer and reconnecting with their local faith communities.

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On Wednesday evening I joined the Capuchin Community at the San Lorenzo Friary in Jamaica Plain to attend the Transitus of St. Francis, a vigil service to mark St. Francis’ passage to eternal life. It is a Franciscan tradition that takes place each year on October 3, the evening before his death. The following day is his Feast Day and glorious entrance into the presence of God.


At San Lorenzo’s Friary

Here in Boston, every year there is a big celebration at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street. Different Franciscan communities have different observances.

The services include prayers, reflections and readings from the life of St. Francis. We pray the prayers he prayed. He had the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and Passion and so we also read them.

St. Francis died at the infirmary of the Friary of the Porziuncola in Assisi, which is now located inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. He asked to be laid on the ground and the friars sang the canticle of brother sun that he had written, read the Gospel to him and prayed psalm 142.


An image of the infirmary of the Porziuncola in Assisi,
now converted into the Chapel of the Transitus.

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On Thursday, the feast day of St. Francis I celebrated Mass at St. Paul school in Wellesley. The school was also honoring grandparents of the children so there were many grandparents and also a few uncles.








The students brought up the gifts


These lads did a fine job taking care of my miter and crosier


The pastor of St. Paul’s, Father Richard Fitzgerald

The music was very beautiful and the children also sang the prayer of St. Francis both in Spanish and in English. The students are all learning Spanish at the school. They were very happy to showcase that.


A little girl got up and introduced the song in Spanish


The children sang The Prayer of St. Francis in both Spanish and English

After the Mass there was a breakfast for the grandparents and the others. I was very happy that the grandparents were honored, because they have a very special role in transmitting the faith and the traditions of the families to their grandchildren. It was a wonderful idea to bring the grandparents in and to honor them.


Greeting parents and grandparents after the Mass



On the way to the breakfast


When they came to the breakfast, the grandparents could pick up a small photo of their grandchild


The parish hall and tables was splendidly decorated in an Autumn theme. We all gave the parent volunteers a round of applause for their hard work


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I also wanted to take the opportunity to again answer a few questions posted on my blog.

Eminence, I feel grateful for your work with the Orthodox on unity. As a Roman Catholic who is strongly interested in Orthodox theology (particularly iconography) I sometimes feel anguished (drawn in opposite directions) at the separation, but reading about the cooperation between you and Met. Methodius, the warm reception you received from the Ecumenical Patriarch and others I feel the sense of separation lessened. By the way, how do you get the diacritical mark (the sineadh fada) on your “a?” Is there a key combination for that? Comment by Sean.

The accent is on the “a” and if you do not use the fada, as the accent is called in Irish, then it changes the meaning of the world. Then, “Sean” means “old.” But with the accent on the “a,” it means John. So that is why I use the accent. You can add the “a” in most word processing programs by finding the menu that allows you to insert a symbol. Then you can set whatever key combination you like. In Microsoft Word teh default key combination is to click the control key together with the single quote key “‘” and then click the “a” key. It will print the “a” with the accent.

Wonderful account, beautiful pictures. I have a son who became Orthodox, went to Orthodox Divine Liturgy with him, was so moved I have joined a Ruthenian rite Catholic parish. (I couldn’t not be Catholic.)

Can we Catholics, western as well as eastern, try to have churches whose beauty and style would make the Orthodox recognize them as holy places? Can we try to have a liturgy the Orthodox would recognize as reverent and transcendent? It would make me happy to think that a bishop had that as his goal as the “chief liturgist” of his diocese. Comment by Susan Peterson

The liturgy of St. John Chrysostom used both by Catholics of the Eastern rites and the Orthodox is a very beautiful and ancient way of celebrating the Mass and certainly with stress on the transcendence. I am always impressed by the beauty of that liturgy.

In our own diocese we have many different groups that use different liturgies, the Ge’ez rite, the Syro-Malabars, the Melkites, the Maronites. Each of the liturgies — also the Latin rite — have their own beauty and charm.

Wow, your journey is amazing. You are all in my prayers. I was wondering who takes the photos that you put on the site. They’re amazing!! God bless you! Comment by Caitlin

Usually I just beg photos from whoever happens to be around but because this trip was so important we had a designated photographer, Greg Tracy, who works for The Pilot and who always does such a good job. If the event I am at is also covered by The Pilot I also use their photos, but very often, as I said, when I go to a place and someone asks if they can take my picture I say “yes but send them back,” and that’s how we get many of the pictures for the blog.

I like to read your comments about the blog and to answer some of the questions posted, as long as I know the right answer.

Until next Friday,

In Christ.

Cardinal Seán

13 thoughts on “The feast day of St. Francis of Assisi”

  1. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I am a freshman at Boston College High School. As an extra credit assignmnet I had the option of reading your blog and posting a comment. I thought why not just check it out. I read your last and current entry and I loved them. I did not realize how many different events and places you have to go to. The things that you do for all those people are great. I now think I am going to read yoiur blog reagularly, not just for extra credit. God Bless.

  2. Cardinal Seán,
    Being of Armenian descent and a Catholic, it was wonderful news to me when I read about your efforts with the Armenian Church. As JMJ previously posted, “why do we spend so much time looking for differences when we all just need to love each other and God.” It is reassuring to know that there are people in the world working towards unity.
    Thank you for your efforts.
    God bless!

  3. What a wonderful way to start my week. . .discovering your blog. It was so enlightening and I wonder how you manage to look so energetic with such a schedule. I will look forward to reading it regularly and let others know. A novice with a computer, I am thrilled whenever I discover something new!
    God bless you. Virginia

  4. Cardinal Seán,

    I am a Senior at Boston College High School, a Jesuit school in the city of Boston. I find it very heartwarming that you have taken the time to reach out to children and the immigrant population. Also, congratulations on your success with the newly opened Trinity Academy.
    I hope that the Church and especially you will continue to be a positive influence on the youth and help them develop into moral adolescents. I was very interested by the fact that the children were able to sing The Prayer of St. Francis in both English and Spanish. It is very important that kids and adults value and respect diversity because everyone is different.

    God bless!

  5. Dear Brother in Francis,

    I read your blog about your time with the other Lung of the church which led me to post this message.

    The Lord is smiling, I am sure, when He observes your inclusivness…..all men are to be included when it comes to Love….mankind spends so much time looking for differences that we miss what makes us the same….that God created and loves us all and wants all people with Him in Heaven….no one excluded.

    As a child I was not taught about God….but I knew Him in my heart…. He was the One who was there to take away fear and protect me from what would harm me. Then by chance I was introduced to the Salvation Army and they were so generous and loving to us that I was sure God was in their midst. Then we went to the Luthern Church where we were baptised and confirmed. I was in touble and a Priest helped me and at the age of 19 I took instructions and became a Latin Rite Catholic. I loved the journey because I knew He was with me….everywhere I went ….in the goodtimes and the bad…and there were very bad times in my life. I grew in knowledge of my faith and I was a great defender of the Church.

    But one day….God touched my heart and I knew it was all about “LOVE”. A a very wise Capuchin I knew said, “If what you hear does not nuture “unity” run from it….and I do. I am a secular franciscan now almost 20 years…and have learned much from my experiences in the Order.

    My husband returned to his roots and went back to the Byzantine Rite….it was enlightening but also very “right” if God being the center of worship…is what it should be.

    But the point of my comments is that in all of these parts of my life there is a “Constant” that God loves all people and there is no “one” way to love Him back…just love Him.

    So again, why do we spend so much time looking for differences when we all just need to love each other and God. Like Francis…..sometimes the “simple things” are the hardest to comprehend and yet, the ones that contain the most enlightenment.

    Pax et Bonum,
    God grant you many years,

    Christos vos Kress


  6. Cardinal Sean,
    I am glad that you arrived home safely! I was in MA this past weekend and I thought of you. I don’t go home often but when I do it’s always amazing…MA is a wonderful place!
    I wanted to thank-you for everything you’ve done since you came to Boston. I started going back to Church the year before you came and I have seen a huge differences since you’ve been here. I truly look up to you and thank-you for being such a great role model for me and for others in the diocese. I hope to meet you in person someday…God bless!

  7. Hi Cardinal Sean!
    I am a little confused. In this past week’s Pilot segment from your Blog, you said that you felt the pain of “not being able to receive Communion at each others services’ even though we believe in the validity of their orders”. But canon 844 §3 dictates that it is acceptable for members of the Eastern Churches to receive our Communion. So why couldn’t you the members of the pilgrimage participate in the Communion for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches? God Bless,
    Peter Skipper

  8. Querido Padre Sean: Thank you for sharing Christ’s love with all of us and for being present at the installations Masses of the new Bishop of Pittsburgh and the new Archbishop of Baltimore. Unity is Christ’s prayer that we Christians want to make a reality in our times. Thank you for all you do in that regard with your Franciscans brothers and with all the people of Boston. We like to see that unity everywhere, especially at home, within our families, with our pastors and with our bishops; all of us working together in friendship with the Lord, in union with the Holy Father and the Holy Spirit and with one another. God bless our Shepherds! We need them because despite the recent turmoil in the Catholic Church, we appreciate all the good that you do for Christ and for giving us Christ in every Sacrament and especially for receiving Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Father Benedict XVI will like to see how many Catholics and other Faiths in the USA are working together for Unity, for peace and for defending life and religious freedom for all. We are all commanded to share God’s love in our lives by sharing our spiritual and material resources with one another despite our differences. In this regard, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien installation homilies are very inspiring for the Church Universal and for all of us in the Communion of Saints. Here are the links for anyone interest. .

  9. Your Eminence,

    I would just like to ask a follow-up question to Susan Peterson’s question. The reason is that I have some friends who became Orthodox because they were unable to find a Catholic liturgy in their city that seemed, as Susan said, “transcendent.”

    One of this family’s major concerns had to do with liturgical music. First of all, the father of the family had a music degree, and he thought, rightly, I believe, that the music in that diocese’s parishes was not of very high quality. I don’t think they would suggest that there should be a symphony at every Mass! But there are very reverent styles of music, such as Taize, and Anglican/ Methodist-style hymns, that are beautiful and accessible at the same time. It seems that this kind of music, or greater use of Psalms at Mass, could be of a higher quality and more integral to the Latin rite in a way than some of the currently popular liturgical music is.

    Secondly, the family thought that some of the hymns were actually incorrect in their theological content. I would agree, from my experience, that that is a problem at times. And they actually thought it was bad for their children, catechetically, to be exposed to it.

    So they have gone to the Orthodox Church, and we are out of Communion, primarily because our music is not beautiful enough. And like Susan I wonder, when an Orthodox person visits American parishes, whether they would recognize our liturgies as having any similarity to theirs in its orientation.

  10. Hello Your Eminence,

    I heard that Patriarch Alexy of the Russian Orthodox Church was very happy with the Holy Father’s Motu Propio, “Summorum Pontificum,” on use of the Missal of Pope John XXIII. I am wondering, do you have any plans to publically celebrate a Mass according to the Extranordinary Form of the Roman Rite? I think that would be cool.

  11. Dear Cardinal Seán,
    Hello. Surfing my way here again. Today is made from yesterday and today will make tomorrow. That is why we and not just the senior citizens should impart all the goodness to their next generation. Some of the goodness are such as quality education, self discipline and being a good citizen of the country.
    Warm regards as always,
    Malaysian blogger

  12. Eminence,
    Welcome Home! I am a Sub-Deacon in a Antiochian Orthodox Parish in Cambridge and a regular reader of your
    blog. Thank you for your efforts towards Catholic-Orthodox Unity! Your recent joint pilgrimage will plant seeds that one day will bear much fruit. Your Blog is
    always a delight to read and very informative.

Comments are closed.

October 2007