Beginning Holy Week

The media reports on the situation of the Church in Europe and on the Holy Father have been very disturbing to all faithful Catholics. We are saddened by much of the news and also saddened knowing that victims of sexual abuse in our own community are, in a sense, re-victimized every time this issue comes to the fore.

Since being named Bishop of Fall River in 1992 and subsequently as Bishop of Palm Beach and Archbishop of Boston, I have had the painful but privileged opportunity to meet with hundreds of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their loved ones. During the course of Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, at a meeting with survivors from the Archdiocese of Boston, I presented the Holy Father a book inscribed with the first names of 1500 children who had been sexually abused by clergy and shared that the names marked with a gold cross were children who had died under tragic circumstances. The Holy Father was visibly moved as he read the names.

There is much confusion and misinformation about the Holy Father’s historic role in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse of children by clergy. What is very clear to me — and I think to all who are fair-minded — is that Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict has been dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse in the Church and trying to rectify the mistakes of the past. Until the sexual abuse crisis really became part of the consciousness of the Church in Europe, there were many who were unsympathetic to our efforts in the U.S. to deal with the problem in a transparent way and assure that our Catholic schools, parishes and agencies would be safe for children.

During this period of at least a decade, the strongest ally we had in this effort was Cardinal Ratzinger. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he allowed us to move forward with the Essential Norms which became local Church law in the U.S. and facilitated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Norms allowed for mandated reporting to civil authorities and embraced a zero-tolerance policy for abusers. In addition, the Charter called for abuse prevention training that has been attended by literally millions of Catholics. It also requires yearly public audits to ensure that dioceses are in compliance with these requirements.

During this Holy Season I urge all of our Catholics to pray for the survivors and all who have been impacted by the tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. I also hold in my prayers and ask us all to pray for those persons for whom this crisis has been an obstacle to the continued practice of their faith. Let us pray, too, for our Holy Father, that God will grant him the light and wisdom he needs to guide the Church. And during this Year for Priests, let us pray for our priests, who labor quietly everyday doing the good works of the Lord.

– – –

Last Friday, I went to St. Michael’s in North Andover for the tenth in our series of vicariate dinners with the priests. It is a way that we’re celebrating the Year for Priests and an opportunity for me to get together with the priests in an informal setting.

St. Michael’s is an extraordinary parish. The team ministry there of Fathers John Delaney, Paul Keyes and Jerry Hogan is doing a fantastic job.

They invited me to see the Stations of the Cross that the young people were putting on. It was a beautifully artistic presentation using screens and lights so that people would see the silhouettes of the different scenes of the 14 stations.


They do this every Friday during Lent, and different classes from the school participate. The church was full of people. It was a very beautiful and moving experience.

Father Jerry is the chaplain for the circus and his office is full of photos and circus paraphernalia.


I really got a kick of the photo of him presenting a sequined top hat to Pope John Paul II.


A photo of the hat presented to the pope

– – –

On Saturday, members of the Brazilian Apostolate media team in the archdiocese came for a visit.


With the Brazilian Apostolate Media team, Hercules Werneck, Sebastião Alcântra and Ricardo Garcia

They asked me to tape this Easter greeting that will be posted on their web site and also an invitation to the Brazilian community to join us again this year for a celebration of Confirmations at the Cathedral.


It was a fascinating to learn about how these lay volunteers are using the Internet to evangelize in such an effective way. I was impressed to learn that their site is popular, not just here in Massachusetts, but also in Brazil!

– – –

That afternoon, I had confirmations for our college and university students at the Cathedral.


Each year, we gather in the Cathedral with university students from the various campus ministries who, during the course of the year, have been preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. It’s always an extraordinary moment.

This year we had 40 students from several schools including Bentley, Boston University, Bridgewater State, Emmanuel College, Harvard, MIT, UMass-Boston, UMass-Lowell, Salem State, Northeastern and Wellesley.


– – –

I celebrated Palm Sunday at St. Paul Parish in Cambridge.  We began with the Blessing of the Palms and procession followed by a very beautiful Mass.

Of course, the music was wonderful.








Father Michael Drea is doing a wonderful job there


– – –

Later that day, I was invited by the Franciscan friars at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street for vespers and dinner.

They were very pleased to show me the renovations to their friary chapel, including this beautiful San Damiano cross and painting of the Holy Family by artist Gordon Daugherty.


pic 026

– – –

Monday, I celebrated an Incardination Mass for Father Christopher Gomes.


Father Gomes, after a period of discernment, has been incardinated into the archdiocese. We had a very nice Mass at the rectory chapel.

– – –

On Tuesday, I celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral.

The Chrism Mass is a very important sign of unity in the Church where we bless the sacred oils that will be used for the sacraments in the coming year.

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

It is also a day to gather together with our brother priests and bishops for a day a fraternity.

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

During my opening remarks I spoke about the important sign of the Chrism Mass and asked our guest, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios, to say a few words.

I was also happy to announce that, earlier in the week, we had hung a galero in the cathedral in memory of Cardinal Humberto Medeiros. The galero is the “red hat” with tassels cardinals received years ago from the Holy Father. Tradition says that when the galero falls from the ceiling, the cardinal has entered into heaven.

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

You can hear my comments and the comments of Metropolitan Methodios here:

In my homily I spoke about the challenges facing the Church today and the need for holy priests.

And then, of course, there was the blessing of the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil, from which the Mass draws its name.

Following Mass, as we always do, we continued the day of fraternity by sharing a lunch together.

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

During the Mass we had an excellent talk by Father John Connelly of Sacred Heart in Newton.

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Chrism Mass March 30, 2010 celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

With Father Connelly

Father Bill Kelly, who after many years is moving on from his assignment as director of Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation, did a wonderful job organizing the day and luncheon. We wish Father Bill well in his new assignment as pastor of St. Mary in Dedham.


Father Kelly

– – –

As you know, every Wednesday during Lent this year, confession was available in every church across the archdiocese as part of our “The Light is on For You” initiative. This past Wednesday at the Cathedral, I was one of three priests hearing confessions.

That was followed by our celebration of Tenebrae, which is celebrated at the Cathedral on Spy Wednesday. The celebration consists of readings telling the story of Jesus’ betrayal and death. With each reading, a candle on a large candelabra, called a hearse, is extinguished. The service ends in total darkness.


In fact, the office is for Holy Thursday and it is something of an initiation into the Sacred Triduum, the three holiest days of the year in which we commemorate the Paschal Mystery — the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Death of our Lord, and his glorious Resurrection on Easter day.

– – –

Finally, remember that all the collections taken up at parishes this Easter to go benefit our retired priests.

I invite you to watch this video highlighting the importance of this effort and please be generous to those who have been so generous in giving their lives in the service of God’s people.

I wish you a blessed Triduum and Easter!

Cardinal Seán

17 thoughts on “Beginning Holy Week”

  1. Thank you so much for encouraging people to go to confession during lent by having it on Wednesdays. I hope you will consider more times that would be available to those of us who have to work the night shifts. I so appreciate your many efforts.

    If I may, there is one effort I wish you would consider. People are allowed to receive communion by standing or kneeling. However, most catholic churches, do not offer a kneeler. I ask you, where is our choice if no kneeler is present? I choose to kneel on the floor, and I find it a bit difficult, and I worry about tripping the person behind me by extending one foot in order to kneel on the other. If you my, would you please consider asking each church to “offer” even just one kneeler in one aisle, for those of us who wish to kneel, so that we may do it safely.

    I really do appreciate all that you do. You are a truly holy man.
    As mother Theresa said, priest don’t even realize their own true value. You do represent Jesus. I have complete reverence and respect for all priest.
    Thank you,
    Maureen Courtney

  2. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    It’s so tragic to hear about the situation concerning clergy members. And while it may be hard to hear about, we must remember to pray for all those affected by these situations, including the clergy members themselves.

    I hope that you had a nice Holy Week! It truly is a holy time in our church’s calendar. From Palm Sunday to Holy Thursday, we anticipate the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every year, our school displays the “Living Stations” in our auditorium. We go through the Stations of the Cross and reflect on each one, while the eighth (and this year, seventh) grade acts it out in tableau form.

    Thank you for another great blog!

    Grade 8
    Saint Paul School

  3. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    The reenactment of the Stations of the Cross at St. Michael’s sounded amazing. The seventh and eighth graders at my school also performed the Stations of the Cross, which is a long lasting tradition at St. Paul School. Each time I see the performance, I am left with a new meaning of the sacrifice Jesus made made for us, out of love.

    Grade 8
    Saint Paul School

  4. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Happy Easter! I thought it was funny that Father Jerry Hogan presented that sequined hat to the Pope! Also it is cool that he is a chaplain for the circus. I don’t think i have ever heard of the Chrism Mass before and it was interesting for me to learn about that. It was also interesting for me to learn about galero tradition. That is an amazing and comforting idea to me that you can know when someone goes to heaven that way. It was strange for me to see the picture of all the priests in the pews where parishioners usually are! I hope you had a wonderful and holy Easter. Until next time,
    God Bless
    Katie Irish Grade 7
    Saint Paul School

  5. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    It is terrible to hear about what happened to those kids. That very tragic. Also the pictures of the Palm Sunday Mass you celebrated at St. Paul’s Parish in Cambridge looked beautiful.
    Alex Giblin
    St. Paul School
    Grade 7

  6. Dear cardinal Sean,
    How was the chrism mass I have never heard of one before. I never thought that you would bless the oils before you use them. Is there a large attendance to the chrism mass?

    p.s. happy Easter.

  7. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Happy Easter! I hope that you had a blessed Holy Week and Easter. The galero seems like a very neat way to remember Cardinal Humberto Medeiros. It is very sad, the situation of the Church in Europe, but if we all work together we can overcome this. Thank you again for your wounderful blog and I am looking foward to next week’s!
    God Bless You,
    Kathleen Ryan
    Grade 7
    Saint Paul School

  8. Dear Cardinal Sean…

    Chirst is risen! (Romanian: Hristos a înviat!)

    He has indeed risen! (Adevărat c-a înviat!)

    In respect to your comment following your Palm Sunday visit to St. Paul’s, “Father Michael Drea is doing a wonderful job there,” it would be not only interesting but important to know specific events for saying this. Otherwise, it seems like a generic “ata boy” that everyone needs occasionally.


  9. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    When I heard about the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church I was confused. I thought,” how could people that are trying to help the children of God, hurt them?” But then I remembered that priests can have problems too. Even knowing that it still makes me sad that such terrible things had to happen. Anyways I saw that a school did the Stations of the Cross. My school, St.Paul School in Hingham MA did the Stations of the Cross too! I was a man in the crowd but the “main people” did a fantastic job! Thanks you again for such a great blog this week!

    Emma Hofmann
    Saint Paul School
    Grade 7

  10. Dear Card. Seán
    Happy Easter Season!
    Thank you for share with us your experiencies.
    You’re right: the San Damiano cross is beautiful and also is the painting of the Holy Family. By the way, it’s the first time I hear about Tenebrae celebration, it was very interesting too know about it.
    The tradition about the galero seems to me a funny thing (because I saw three galeros hunging and I wondered why, why I see three galeros? maybe there was another two cardinals and theirs galeros still hunging on the ceiling…looks as if reach heaven is very hard, although they are cardinals! )
    I wish write a lot more, about the priests meeting, the Chrism Mass and the Holy Father and child abuse (the focus on the last days news about it), but my english is too bad that I don’t dare. Anyway, always is a pleasure read your blog: it is very enlightening. God bless you.
    Greetings from Mexico

  11. Your Eminence,

    On this Glorious Day of Christ’s resurrection and our redemption it is both heartbreaking and interesting to read of your defense of the Holy Father’s handling of the crimes committed by priests of which he has absolute and unequivocal authority over.

    While you make some very true points, what I find most disturbing is the Church’s latest response to revelations about Ireland and reports by the New York Times as mere “petty gossip” and akin to the persecution of the Jews. These statements were not random statements by low ranking members of the clergy but instead made by Cardinal Soldano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Father Cantalamessa, the Pope’s personal preacher.

    As the head of our Church and successor to St. Peter, it is time for our Holy Father to unequivocally silence such misplaced statements, condemn the guilty and continue his love and support for the victims plus reform the Church and its institutions so that such grievous crimes are never repeated.

    Until then, me and many other members of the Archdiocese will keep our checkbooks tightly closed and pray for the future.

  12. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    Happy Easter!

    I liked your greeting to the Brazilian community, even though I could only understand a few words. I enjoyed learning about the Chrism Mass you celebrated and I hope you have a wonder Easter!
    Thank You,
    Grade 8
    Saint Paul School

  13. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you for the blessing of Father “Chip” Hines at St. Mary’s Parish, Wrentham. After the close of his homily on Holy Thursday, during which Fr. Chip spoke of the Chrism Mass, he received a spontaneous, heartfelt standing ovation from the congregation. May you continue in your inspirational work for us.
    Christine, St. Mary’s parishioner

  14. Cardinal Sean,

    Thank you for such a wonderful and informative blog. I very much enjoy following your work and words “from afar”: Portland, Oregon. We, too, are blessed with a great Archbishop, John G. Vlazny!

    Happy Easter and my Best Wishes to you and to your priests.

    John Clark

  15. It is an awful error to cover the Church in a mantle of persecution over the matter of clergy abuse of children. As a strategy it will backfire quickly. Comparing the public reaction to the persecution of the Jews is especially foolish and absurd on its face since the accusations of the enemies of the Jews were patently false, while those against the Church are demonstrably true. Take your direction from your own teaching…humility, remorse, forgiveness and salvation. The policy of wailing that you are the victims will only prolong your agony and multiply the damage.

  16. These deplorable acts upon our most vulnerable people DID occur. The people that shelter the perpetrators from the atrocities they committed is not the question you should be trying to answer. The most influential people in our faith refuse to address what happened to these children and that is why this issue will never be resolved.
    You feast, and sit back and judge people with broken marriages or who have a fondness for liquor or money. …all the while your organization has attacked children from time of very its inception.

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April 2010