Hello and welcome!
Earlier this week, we announced that beginning on Holy Thursday of next year and running through Corpus Christi 2021, we will be observing a Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Boston.
I want to share with you the letter that I issued with the announcement this week:
December 10, 2019
Feast of Our Lady of Loreto
A recent Pew Study entitled “What Americans Know About Religion” reported that only 31 percent of Catholics believe that the bread and the wine consecrated during the Mass actually become the body and blood of Jesus, and that only half of Catholics know of the Church’s teaching concerning the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
In order to help people gain a better understanding of the Eucharist, on Holy Thursday 2020, the Archdiocese of Boston will begin a Year of the Eucharist. It is my hope and prayer that through this spiritual initiative we can invite and encourage our brothers and sisters to find the consolation of the Lord through participation in the celebration of the Eucharist and in times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
When my parents were married, my uncle Father Jerry Reidy gave them as a wedding gift Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic painting of the Last Supper. That painting hung in our dining room, and one of my earliest memories was my parents explaining to us that this painting depicted the first Mass, the first Eucharist. They made clear that is the reason we go to Mass, to partake in the same Eucharist that Christ shared with his closest followers at the Last Supper before he would suffer and die for us.
My mother and father held the evening meal as a priority for our family; attendance was not optional. It was an institution in our house to gather around the table and it was there that we bonded with one another. We shared our experiences of the day. We would laugh together, would even argue with each other. The evening family meal was essential to our formation and it was where we discovered our identity.
The same can be said of the celebration of the Eucharist. As Catholics, it is in the Eucharist that we learn our identity. At the table of the Lord, Jesus makes a gift of Himself to us because God loves us so much. Just as we discover our identity at the family table, it is in the Eucharist that we discover who we are, why we are here, and what is our mission as disciples of Christ.
Growing up I remember many wonderful devotions that kept the Eucharist at the center of our lives as Catholics: the Forty Hours Adoration, Corpus Christi processions, and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. From an early age I knew the Eucharist is what distinguishes us from most other Christian churches, that the Body and Blood of Christ was actually, sacramentally, present in our Church.
At the Last Supper, Christ gave us the priesthood so He could be present everywhere in the world, not just in Jerusalem, in every time and age. Through the Eucharist, we have direct contact with the Lord at the celebration of Mass and in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. When we visit our churches at times other than the celebration of Mass, we can see the red glow of the sanctuary lamp and know that Jesus is there for us. He is always waiting silently and lovingly, ready to receive us and console us.
The Capuchin Friars have a commitment to make two periods of meditation a day and I always do mine in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. For me, as Archbishop of Boston, my holy hour is late at night when the phones stop ringing. It is a time when I am renewed by the assurance of the Lord’s presence and His love for me, knowing He will guide me and give me the strength I need. Praying in the presence of the Eucharist, in adoration of the Lord, is a very important part of my daily existence; it is essential to perseverance in the vocation I have embraced.
Before I became a bishop, I served as a priest in Spanish and Portuguese ministry where I learned many of the hymns I sing to the Eucharistic Lord during my Holy Hour. I also love the Latin hymns I learned in the seminary, the “Pange Lingua,” and the English hymn, “Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.” I memorized these hymns, and it is my hope that they can become a regular part of devotional practice at all our parishes, hymns that everyone learns by heart and sings together. As St. Augustine told us, singing is praying twice, because singing lifts our hearts to God and provides us with a glimpse of His beauty in the beauty of the music.
Recent times have been very difficult for the Church and her people. In the Year of the Eucharist, we all have the opportunity to renew and strengthen our faith and our closeness to the Lord. If we center ourselves in the Real Presence of Jesus, in His friendship, then everything else will make sense. At the celebration of Mass, Jesus is there, waiting for us, inviting us to the table where He is making a gift of Himself to us so that we may have the strength to make a gift of ourselves to others. That is what human fulfillment is about. It is about love and giving of ourselves on behalf of others. That is the meaning of the Eucharist, it is love taken to the extreme. The more we understand that, the more we will want to be present to the Eucharist and the more the Eucharist will transform us.
Discipleship is not a solo flight. Jesus sent people out two by two, not one by one, and spoke of the importance of “two or three are gathered in my name.” The Eucharist is where we gather as Christ’s family, where we can witness our faith to one another and grow in our capacity to love. The Eucharist gives us the strength to carry out our mission to transform the world, to work for justice, to serve the poor, to bring healing and reconciliation. But we can’t do these things unless we have the strength that comes from the intimate contact with God’s love that is given to us in the Eucharist.
Discipleship also requires a plan. We need to ask ourselves what we can do, individually and with our families and friends, to prepare for the Year of the Eucharist. We can find the answer to these questions in times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in our churches. We can read and reflect on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We can invite family, friends, and colleagues to join us at Mass and times of Adoration. We can reflect on the importance of receiving the Lord in the Eucharist, the difference that makes in our lives, and share that insight with those who are close to us.
We don’t exist by accident. Our lives are a gift of God’s gratuitous love, and the Eucharist is the most profound symbol of His love for us. Jesus comes to us in humility, in littleness, so that no one need be afraid or unsure of His acceptance. He makes Himself present to us so that we can have the strength we need to live our mission in the Church as disciples of Christ.
God created us and entered into creation in Jesus Christ so we could be close to Him, hear Him, know and love Him. The sacraments not only touch our lives, they mold our very being, and the Eucharist is the center of our sacramental life. That is why I am a Catholic. That is why I am a priest. Without the Eucharist, I would ask myself, “Is it worth it?” I know it is worth it, because Christ really is present in the Eucharist. May God bless you all abundantly with this assurance that Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of time. That is Jesus’ promise and He keeps that promise in the gift of the Eucharist.
With the assurance of my prayers for you and all whom you hold dear, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, O.F.M., Cap
Archbishop of Boston
Each year, Msgr. Francis Kelley invites priests throughout the archdiocese for an Advent celebration at his parish, Sacred Heart in Roslindale. This year, it was held, appropriately enough, on the feast of St. Nicholas.
There was quite a cross-section of priests gathered for the occasion and it was wonderful to see so many were able to be a part of the celebration.
Saturday, I went to Emmanuel College to celebrate the Mass marking the closing of the college’s Centennial Year celebrations.
Emmanuel was the first Catholic women’s college in New England, founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur one year before the 19th amendment was enacted, granting women’s suffrage. In recent years, it has become coed but, for most of its history, it was a Catholic women’s college.
After many years of excellent service in the Vocation Office, Father Daniel Hennessey has now become pastor of two parishes in the archdiocese: St. Rose of Lima in Topsfield and St. Agnes in Middleton. He was installed as pastor in Topsfield on Saturday by Bishop Robert Hennessey, and it was my joy to go to St. Agnes to install him as pastor there on Sunday.
That afternoon, I went to St. John the Baptist Parish in Quincy for the Mass of the Profession of Perpetual Vows of two Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, Sister Guadalupe and Sister Faustina.
The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth were founded several years ago by Mother Olga Yaqob to promote consecrated life for women in the archdiocese, following the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the spirituality of Nazareth. Father Robert McCreary has been their spiritual director and he was with us for the Mass, along with a number of our other friars, as well.
Of course, we are very pleased that the sisters have arrived at this important moment in the life of their ministry, where they have two perpetually professed sisters in the community. We pray that the Lord will continue to bless them with vocations to this wonderful charism.
That evening, I had dinner with another group working in the archdiocese, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo at St. Clement’s in Medford. Their ministry includes teaching at local Catholic schools and, of course, running St. Clement’s Church. It was a very nice opportunity to spend some time with them and to hear about the ministries that they are carrying out in the archdiocese.
Monday, I attended the wake of Daniel Kennedy, Sr. at St. Joseph’s Parish in Needham, the parish from which we buried his son, Father Daniel Kennedy, Jr. Many of the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Kennedy were present with us for the prayer service at the start of the wake.
Dan Kennedy was a very active parishioner at St. Joseph’s and a great supporter of St. John’s Seminary — he would come to every ordination of deacons or priests. He also published a beautiful biography of his son, Father Dan, who, although was a priest for such a short time, made a great impact on the entire faith community of the archdiocese.
As I have noted, the group has greatly expanded this year with the ordination of 14 new priests. In fact, this was the first meeting for Father Francis Pham, who was just ordained less than two weeks ago. So, we had a cake to welcome him.
It was also the first time we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto in the calendar of the Church. So, after our lunch and a long discussion about the Year of the Eucharist and other aspects of ministry, we began our Holy Hour with the Litany of Loreto.
Then, later that afternoon, we had our meeting of the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities. Of course, there were many reports about the different activities being carried out by Catholic Charities, and it is always very encouraging to see the great impact their service is making in our community.
We are very grateful to Kevin MacKenzie, the chairman of the board, who is acting as interim president as the search for a new president continues. We are also very grateful to Debbie Rambo for continuing to serve part-time to assist Kevin in his new role.
Wednesday, I went to South Boston to join the priests of the Central Region of the archdiocese for a morning of Advent recollection organized by the Episcopal Vicar of the region, Father Brian McHugh and hosted by Father Robert Casey at Gate of Heaven Parish.
Father Ross, a Franciscan Friar from the Arch Street Shrine, preached for us, followed by a time adoration. We concluded our gathering with a nice luncheon together.
Thursday afternoon, we had one of our regular meetings of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Church in the Commonwealth.
As always, it was an opportunity to discuss different issues facing the Church in Massachusetts and hear reports from different committees as well as the director, Jim Driscoll.
In the early evening, I went to our Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline for the annual meeting of the Board of Directors there. It was wonderful to hear reports of the seminary’s continued progress, and we are so grateful to the rector, Father Tony Medeiros, for all his fine work.
Because the board meeting concluded around dinner time, I joined the board and the seminarians for a lovely meal, after which the seminarians regaled us with their musical talents.
Finally, my good friends Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, who through their creative work have done so much to help people throughout the world experience the power of prayer, are now providing us a groundbreaking perspective of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
On Jan. 1, 2020 Netflix will debut Roma and Mark’s latest production, “Messiah.” I highly recommend you view the following trailer and the film itself following its release.
In a time when so many people seek to connect the circumstances of the world today with their search for faith, this film offers a gateway to understanding the truth of Jesus’ promise to be with us always, to the ends of the earth.
Until next week,