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The Epiphany of our Lord

My brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you once again for your interest in my blog. I am very glad to have the opportunity to communicate with you each week and enjoy answering some of your questions, as I will do at the end of this weeks post.

I had the great pleasure of joining with the Ethiopian community as they celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord, which is their Christmas. This is very fitting because the Epiphany is the manifestation of Gods universal love.

Having the Ethiopians at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was a reminder of how catholic the Church is. Here you have an ancient rite, the Geez Rite, that is very different and yet is part of the Catholic Church. It is also part of the revelation that Jesus is the light of the gentiles who has called us all into Gods family from so many different races and ethnic groups from different parts of the globe. Yet we are all one spiritual family.


Joining in the Mass


Blessing the community

The Geez Rite is the Catholic version of the Coptic Orthodox Rite. Their calendar, liturgy and customs would be very similar to the Coptic Orthodox. The rites origins can be traced back to the Alexandrian rite, which is often called the liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, who was the first bishop of Alexandria. There are around 200,000 Catholics who observe in the Geez rite, mostly in Ethiopia and Somalia, but they are also present in Jerusalem, and of course in other countries such as the United States.

The celebration began with prayers at 8 p.m. The Mass began at 9 p.m. and went on until almost midnight! Their liturgy is very different from ours. They use a lot of bells, drums and incense. All the women sit on one side, and the men sit separately. They have very beautiful songs and chants that the whole community participates in. At the end of Mass, I addressed them to wish them all a Merry Christmas. Afterwards I joined them for their Christmas meal that began around midnight.


The gathering afterwards


A photo all together

The Ethiopian-Eritrean community has been meeting for some time at the cathedral now. Father Abayneh has done a wonderful job of bringing these communities together. We also have two Ethiopian seminarians, one at St. Charles in Philadelphia where we currently send our college seminarians and the other at St. Johns Seminary.

My community, the Capuchins, are the largest order in Ethiopia. The conversion of Ethiopians to Catholicism in the 1800s was very much a result of the work of the Vincentians and Capuchins in particular a Capuchin cardinal, Cardinal Massaia. The Capuchins are credited with starting the postal service in Ethiopia. The Capuchins also started the fire department in Paris, so weve always been very practical lol.

The first time I encountered the Geez Rite Mass was years ago in Washington D.C. The city has a huge Ethiopian community. I remember going to the initial Mass there and being surprised at how different it is from the Roman Rite I was used to. It is also different from the typical Mass of the Eastern rite, which is the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

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On Sunday I celebrated Mass at St. Irene Parish in Carlisle, and it was a beautiful celebration. There were many families and a fantastic choir. Afterwards there was a luncheon served in the parish hall where I was able to meet parishioners and spend some time with them.

The church is relatively new and the people are very proud of it. It was built as a very typical New England church with clear glass windows that allow you to see the woods that surround it. Its a very nice setting. The people have a very active parish and parish council. The pastor, Father Tom Donohoe, has done a wonderful job there. With the support and the participation of the parish community he oversaw the building of the church. It is truly a beautiful structure.


The clear windows allow to see the natural surroundings of the church


The choir added a beautiful element to the liturgy


Father Donohoe


It was great to meet the parishioners


I joined parishioners for a luncheon following the Mass


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This past Wednesday night I attended the St. Andrews Dinner, held at St. Johns Seminary. The dinners are organized by the Vocation Office a few times each year for young men in high school who have expressed an interest in the vocation to the priesthood. I think its been a good way to plant seeds and get people thinking about priestly vocations. I was very pleased to see a number of pastors, parish priests, deacons and youth ministers who were accompanying the young men to the dinner.

The name St. Andrews Dinner comes from the fact that in the Gospel, St. Andrew the Apostle met Jesus, and then he sought out St. Peter and took him to the Lord. The idea is that we, like St. Andrew, want to invite people to discipleship, to ministry and to a special following of Jesus Christ in the priesthood. So were hoping that if any of the young men who participate have a vocation, they will respond by saying yes as St. Peter did.

The St. Andrews Dinner is also a moment for us to reflect on the fact that every Christian has a vocation, and we try to impress that on the young people there. That way, in their own personal discernment, they realize that God is calling them to holiness, to discipleship. Some are called to marriage, some to religious life and some to priesthood. Obviously, the young men who participate come because of some interest and respond to an invitation to reflect on the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood.

On Wednesday we had about 40 young men participate, and the evening began with praying vespers together in one of the seminary chapels followed by a dinner. After the meal there were a number of seminarians who gave witness talks about their own personal discernment process, their experience of seminary life and their love for the priesthood. Then I gave a talk, after which we had a question and answer period.


Prayer in the seminary chapel


Seminarians Timothy Lewis …


and Daniel DInnocenzo speak to the youths

One of the young men there from Blessed Mother Theresa Parish in Dorchester is heading up a vocation committee at his parish. He has done a wonderful job. Father Paul Soper, the pastor at Blessed Mother Theresa Parish is very supportive of vocation events. Several more are planned in the coming weeks. Father Paul provides a wonderful example of pastoral leadership as he invites young people to consider a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.


Father Mike Harrington of the Vocations office


My turn at the podium

I try to impress on people that, as the title of my pastoral letter on the subject says, Vocations are Everybodys Business. In the Church its very important that we all encourage and pray for vocations to the priesthood. We are a Eucharistic community and priestly vocations are very important to us. As Catholics we also need to stress the importance of everyones individual vocation and everyones call to participate in the communal mission of the Church. We live in a culture that is so highly individualistic that some people lose sight of the fact that, My life is not my own. God has given me everything that I am, everything that I have and is calling, inviting me to discipleship, to holiness and to a particular vocation in life. Additionally, He is calling me to participate in the mission that Christ entrusted to the whole Church.


The youths were very attentive

The Vocations Office is also planning discernment retreats the first weekend in February. A vocation discernment day for men over 40 years old will be held on Feb. 1 at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, and a discernment weekend for men ages 18-40 will be held at St. Johns Seminary in Brighton from Feb. 2-3. I will be present at both retreats and I hope that we have a good turnout at these very important events for our Archdiocese. Anyone interested can register by contacting the Vocations Office at 617-746-5949 or

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Also this week I published a letter marking the 5th anniversary of the unfolding of the sexual abuse crisis in our archdiocese. The letter was published both in the Boston Globe and The Pilot. It is my prayer that the letter conveys the Churchs regret and sorrow for the terrible effects of the abuse and asks for forgiveness as we seek to move forward with hope.

I am sharing that letter with you here, as well:

The feast of the Epiphany makes fully manifest the joy of the Christmas season. With the Magi and the shepherds, we worship and adore the Christ Child the manifestation of Gods love for all humanity. Five years ago, as we marked the feast on Jan. 6, 2002, the devastating revelations that Catholic clergy had sexually abused children shook the Archdiocese of Boston and the wider community. The contrast between the feast, which celebrates the light of Christ, and the dark and unremitting truth of clergy sexual abuse seemed, at first, impossible to accept.

But the truth of the abuse had to be confronted. These crimes against children were all the more heinous because they were committed by men who vowed themselves to emulate Christ, and were further enabled by the failure of the Church leadership to respond appropriately.

God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to lift us out of the darkness of sin. Only with the truth of clergy sexual abuse exposed could we again seek to walk fully in His light.

The Catholic community has worked diligently in recent years to put in place programs and policies to ensure the safety of children. We must, and will, continue our vigilance and improve on these efforts. Nothing less is acceptable. Our responsibility to children and families is paramount. It is our hope and prayer that such protections will be in place in all settings in society where children depend upon the care of adults.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the good and faithful men, women, clergy, and religious of our archdiocese, I again express my most heartfelt apology to all the children and young people, most now adults, who were abused by priests or other representatives of the Church. Your wounded hearts and shattered spirits have a special claim on the Church, the body of Christ. We will forever be sorry for the harm you have suffered and humbly ask your forgiveness.

I also want to say a special word to the families of those who have been sexually abused. You trusted and loved your priests unconditionally. Tragically, that trust was betrayed. Many of you have extended to me the privilege of meeting with you over these past years. I have seen your broken hearts and tear-filled eyes. I have heard you share agonizing stories about your children, some of whom have even taken their own lives. You will always remain in my heart and mind. And, I pray that you will find consolation in the enduring compassion of the Lord.

The impact of the clergy sexual abuse scandal has reached deep into the lives of parishioners and the faith-filled priests who minister to them. They have borne the shame, grief, and confusion of these devastating revelations with heroic faith. For the clergy and parents, in particular, the ability to impart the gift of faith to children has been especially challenging. And, for the broader community, the scandal of clergy sexual abuse has given rise to anger and mistrust.

If there were no hope, we would indeed be despondent. But as we again celebrate the Epiphany, Jesus reminds us that He will be with us always, even in the most difficult moments. The Christ Child, in the arms of Mary, beckons us to draw close to the peace and protection of His holy embrace. In this love the process of healing can both begin and be sustained.

During the course of the past five years, we have learned much due to the generosity of so many who have committed themselves to the rebuilding of the Church. There is much yet to be done to regain confidence and trust. The feast of the Epiphany reminds us that the Churchs mission is to make Gods universal love more visible in the manner in which we live out our faith. The star of Bethlehem continues to shine brightly. Together, guided by this light, we will find our way.

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Finally, I would like to take the opportunity in this post to answer some of your questions and comments.

Firstly, someone recently asked me for the name of the 96-year-old priest in residence at Regina Cleri who drives out to his old parish to help with the Mass schedule every Sunday. His name is Msgr. Paul Moritz.

God bless you, Cardinal Sen!! Your blog is so interesting!

I was wonderinghow do you make time for personal prayer with your busy schedule? As a layperson I have a hard time, but it must be even harder as a cardinal.

Another quick question: why is a bishop anointed with oil on his head at the episcopal ordination?

Blessed Advent!

Kristy T.

I think that every person needs to have a rule of life where we know at the beginning of the day exactly what time we are going to have for prayer and to respect that. For me, my best prayer time is late at night because Im usually at my desk until 10 p.m. Then I say Night Prayer with the other priests and then I go to my room for reading and prayer.

Everyone needs to have a plan.

If you dont have a game plan, you wont persevere in prayer. Its like people who have a regiment of exercise. If they dont plan how many times a week theyll exercise and when and where, its not going to happen. Everyday it needs to be time and space for God in our lives. It requires some quiet time, some time to reflect and to be alone with the Lord.

To address your second question, the bishops are anointed with oil because it reflects the liturgical customs of the Old Testament. The oil is a sign of strengthening a person and anointing in the Old Testament was part of the sign of Gods predilection and blessing on leaders and the community. The Church has incorporated that into the ceremony.

Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry quotes from Isaiah: The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me and has anointed Me. So the anointing symbolizes that strengthening in the Spirit. The very word Christ means the anointed one, and we as Christians are anointed. So there are anointings in various sacraments in baptism, confirmation, (somewhat obviously) the anointing of the sick and the ordination of priests and bishops.

Greetings Cardinal Sen! Can you please tell us the prayer that you gave at the service for the inauguration of Gov. Patrick? I read in the newspaper that it was a prayer first given by Abraham Lincoln. I would like to know the name of it or some reference by which I might look it up. Thank you.


Here is the prayer from President Lincolns Second Inaugural Address in 1864:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nations wounds to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Em primeiro lugar, as minhas desculpas por me expressar em Portugus e no meu fraco Ingls. E o melhor que eu posso fazer.

Sou Portugus e vi o Seu blog na internet, aonde ja no me lembro. Encantei-me com ele. E maravilhoso ver tal trabalho da parte de um Cardeal da Igreja de Roma.Vossa Eminncia, como membro da Igreja, so posso agradecer a Deus por nos ofertar esta Graa: pessoas que conseguem comunicar utilizando uma das melhores coisas do seculo XXI, a internet.

Comento no Seu blog porque vi que o Senhor estudou Literatura Portuguesa e Espanhola, sinal de que sabera algo de Portugus. Gostaria de o convidar a visitar o meu blog . Tenho 14 anos e estou a fazer o discernimento vocacional para saber se o meu caminho e o sacerdocio. Se viu este comentario, e pedir muito que me envie um e-mail?

Despeo-me com os melhores cumprimentos, pedindo a sua indulgncia e beno especial,

Diogo +

Diogo Taveira

Obrigado por ter comunicado com nosso blog. Visitei o seu blog e fiquei muito impressionado ao olhar a seriedade das suas paginas com pensamentos e ideias to maduras sobre a Igreja. Voc tem uma boa formao na f catlica. Esta a procurar conhecer a votade de Deus na sua vida para viver a sua vocao pessoal. Conta com as minhas oraes. Em Agosto vou presidir na missa do Santuario de Fatima pela peregrinao do 13 de Agosto. Se estiver presente, faz favor de se presentar. At logo. +DomSean

Dear Sean,

I have noticed that many people refer to you as Your Eminence.

I trust and hope that you are urging people to stop addressing you in this manner.

Meaningful Catholics think its ridiculous. After all you are but a servant leader, not a king in a castle.


Paul Kendriick

Last week at the inauguration of the new governor in the Commonwealth, the preacher at the ecumenical service reminded us that the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is called Your Excellency. The reason for that is because John Adams was a very formal kind of person who liked titles. So, even though the president of the United States is called Mr. President, the governor of Massachusetts is Your Excellency.

In the Church we have these titles as well. When I was in the West Indies, bishops were called Your Lordship. As I always say, being called Your Lordship and driving on the left-hand side of the road were two of the biggest challenges of my life. As Franciscans, the only title that we use is brother or friar, and to me that is the most important one. However, we are part of a Church with many ancient traditions. Some of these titles, although they sound a little quaint, are reminders to us of the wonderful history and great traditions in the Church. Weve been around for a long time, and the roles of cardinals and prelates have changed greatly. When I sold the archbishops residence here in Boston to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse, it was a typical old-fashioned episcopal palace. There was a time when, for Catholics, that was a great source of pride and a source of security. It expressed for them the feeling that their leaders were important, too. But in our modern times that symbol was no longer necessary or appropriate, so I was very happy to jettison it. Yet, I dont think we can try to erase our history or try to reinterpret symbols that in different times and places can have validity.

Hello and a Peaceful New Year to you Cardinal Sen!

Ive been wanting to open this site for some time and tonight I have! Its great

You should receive a snail mail note from us about how delicious the Christmas gifts were, but just staple this one on to page 2! Your friendship and the memory of many great years at the Kenesaw, etc. are always a part of our year-end assembly. You are a loyal friend. Pilar is in El Paso with Peter Hine, OCD and Betty Campbell RSM (They had Tabor House in D.C. for many years) Pilar is finally taking a much deserved semi-sabbatical until spring.

We will continue to pray with you as our collective community continues to transition into the final years of their journey. May we all be persons of HOPE and – above all – living signs of love. The very best to you.

Maureen Foltz and the U.S. Carmelites of Charity, Vedruna

Hello, and thank you very much for your kind words. In response to your comments, I want to send greetings to all the friends from the Kenesaw Sister Pilar, Peter Hine, Betty Campbell, Sister Maureen, all the Carmelites and all of the people who helped us form the Kenesaw cooperative.

The Centro Catolico in Washington was located in the Kenesaw apartment building, which at the time was in deplorable condition. Most of the time our furnace did not work, and we had no hot water. There were shootings in the building, and a lot of other problems. At one point the owner of the building tried to sell it and evict all of us. But there was a Dominican friar who was a lawyer who worked with the poor. He came to me and said, Father Sean, they cant evict you because theres a law that the tenants have the first right of refusal, and he didnt offer you the building first, so we can negate that sale. And I said, Well, thats all fine and good, but we dont have any money to buy the building anyway.

So we went to HUD and started a cooperative.

Actually, I was elected the president of the cooperative.

I always tell the story about trying to collect all the guns in the building because I was trying to make the building safer. I had this meeting in the lobby of the Kenesaw, and I put a card table in the middle of the room and said I wanted all the people who had guns to turn them in. This old grandmother in her little hat opened her purse, took out this huge pistol with a very long barrel, sort of waved it in the air and said, Youre a priest, no ones going to hurt you, but me, Im keeping my gun. And nobody handed in their guns. But eventually we addressed that problem, and the Kenesaw apartment was turned into a cooperative.

The building was fixed up, there was a lot of sweat equity that went into it. The people worked very hard on the apartments, and today many of those people are still living there. The Centro Catolico moved down the street to the Capuchin parish, Sacred Heart, which is about a block from there. Theyre using the old convent for the dental clinic and the medical clinic. A lot of the things I had in that building in those days have now been moved to parish buildings, but were very proud of the fact that those low-income people were not evicted. Instead, they became members of that cooperative and were able to save their homes.

As my photo of the week, I wanted to share this photo of those days in the Kenesaw with you. I keep it in my office to this day.


Believe it or not, that’s me on the right

Please continue to send your questions and comments. I look forward to receiving them and will answer them as often as I can.

Have a wonderful week and until I write again, I am

Yours in Christ,

Cardinal Sen

September 2020