Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: December 1, 2006

Looking Back At Thanksgiving, Trip To Plymouth And Celebrating Mass at St. Mary, The Holy Father’s Pilgrimage, Advent & More

Good afternoon. I hope that you had a peaceful and productive week. Its hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone already, but Im sure that you share my feelings of joy as the Christmas season is upon us.

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday, but its also a very religious holiday. We pause and give thanks to God. Its one time when American families tend to reassemble from all over as people are so mobile today, moving all over the country for career reasons and going to school away from home. This is a time when families do come together to give thanks. Its very encouraging to see how many people spontaneously come to Mass on Thanksgiving, because for us the Eucharist is our family coming together to give thanks. Last week on Thanksgiving morning I traveled to Plymouth to celebrate Mass and to be with the parishioners at St. Mary.

Plymouth has very historic ties with the beginning of our celebration of Thanksgiving, although it was President Lincoln that made it a national holiday. The custom goes back to the pilgrims, who came to Plymouth and having suffered mightily, were able to celebrate with the Native Americans and to give thanks to God for many reasons including sparing them and watching over them.

Its also good for us to also reflect on the fact that the pilgrims, like so many others, who came to the United States.they came looking for religious freedom. In todays world, and in todays climate, there are many people who are constantly trying to cut back our freedom of religion and that freedom is party of who we are as Americans and one of the reasons that this country was founded. The pilgrims came here precisely for that reason. They wanted to be able to practice their faith and freedom.

So while I was down in Plymouth I decided to visit the famous Plymouth Rock even though it was pouring rain and extremely windy, especially down by the water. But the severe weather conditions made us imagine what it must have been like for those pilgrims coming across the seas in that little ship. I looked at the replica there, the Mayflower II, which I presume is probably an exact replica, the exact same size as the original Mayflower. The thought of crossing the North Atlantic in that little boat shows how courageous and determined they were.

Also, I must share with you, that during my visit to Plymouth and St. Mary I found out that Plymouth is called Americas didnt know that.


Plymouth Rock…it was easy to imagine the pilgrims stepping upon this rock after an incredibly challenging voyage.

We had a very nice Mass at St. Mary. We were introduced to the Brazilian community there. They are modern-day pilgrimsimmigrantscoming to this country with the same sense of adventure, energy and determination to get a better life for themselves and for their children. That energy of immigrants is one of the things that has made America such a great country because the people who do come tend to be the people that are the most adventuresome and most courageous. They bring that work ethic and dedication to this country.

Fr. Bryan Parrish is doing a wonderful job at St. Mary. The Church has been painted and refurbished. It looks great. The choir did a fantastic job. It was great to see numerous families and young people at Mass. It was a very nice celebration and I was honored to be there to share Thanksgiving morning with the parishioners of St. Mary.


Posing with Fr. Bryan Parrish prior to the Mass.


Leaving the Rectory to go into the Church.


Inside St. Mary Church.


The color in this window art in the back of the Church was sriking.


Beginning of the Mass.


During my Homily.


View from the choir area during Mass.


Another picture taken during the Mass.


Concelebrating the Mass along with Fr. Parrish, Msgr. Edwin Condon, Fr. Arnold Schmoeller and Fr. Paul Bailey.


A different view of the Church from the pews.


Another picture taken at Mass.


I met so many wonderful parishoners after Mass….and so many young people and families.


Giving a blessing to a family after the Mass.


More parishoners.


Meeting another young family.


St. Mary has a wonderful group of parishoners.


Fr. Parrish and a young parishoner posing for a picture after Mass.


A met quite a few members of the Brazilian community at St. Mary after the Mass.


It was nice to see many college students home for Thanksgiving attending Mass with their families.
I hope you had an opportunity to see my earlier blog post this week and the prayer for the Holy Father and his pilgrimage in Turkey. This is the Holy Fathers first trip outside of Europe and certainly its a very significant onefor two main reasons:

First of all, it is an opportunity for the Holy Father to express the Churchs desire for a closer relationship with the Orthodox Church. For some time now, there have been exchanges of visits and representatives on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Andrewsomething we have done here in Boston to sort of imitate what the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Holy Father have done since the time of John Paul II I believe hes the one who initiated that. They do it on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Andrew. St. Peter is on the 29th of June and St. Andrew is on November 30.

Andrew and Peter were brothers and Andrew is the patron of Constantinople and St. Peter is patron of Rome. So its very fitting that we play up their brotherhood and their relationship, especially when we realize that for the first 1,100 years of Christendom there was only one Church and it was the East and West together, different rites, but it was basically one Church until the Great Schism.

So, we are trying to recover that first millennium of unity between our two Churches. When we look at the other Christian Churches, the Orthodox Church has a very special relationship with us because they share the seven Sacraments with us, they share our Apostolic Faith, the Fathers of the Church, all those early Councils, devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Saints. The things that separate us are really very, very few. If we can ever imagine corporate union among different Christian Churches, the greatest possibility would be with these Orthodox Churches.

The Patriarch of Constantinople has been a great promoter of Christian unity. We are very proud of the fact that Metropolitan Methodios, who is our local Greek Orthodox Archbishop from Boston, is actually in Istanbul and is prominently involved in the ceremonies there. Certainly the relationship between the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox here in our country is very, very cordial and very fraternal, particularly here in Boston.

We look forward to having a pilgrimage next year that will take us to Rome and to Constantinople, in which Metropolitan Methodios and myself will travel accompanied by Greek Orthodox and Catholic parishioners from Boston to pray together and to share in this pilgrimagehelping us to have a deeper understanding of each others Churches and hopefully grow closer to our ultimate goal, that is the unity that Christ desires among his followers.

The second aspect of the Holy Fathers trip is of course the relationship between the Church and Islam. Certainly there have been some great tensions. However, the Holy Father has been unequivocal in his desire to seek dialogue based on religious principles and on reason.

Our hope is that the Holy Fathers presence there, his gentleness, his goodness, his prayerfulness, his ability to articulate Catholic faithall of these things Im hoping will help pave the way for that kind of dialogue that is so important if there is going to be peace in the world. The Holy Father has been calling on Muslim leaders to join other world leaders in condemning terrorism and to look for peaceful ways to achieve the goals overall peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Last Sunday was Christ the King, its the last Sunday of our Liturgical Year and now we begin with the first Sunday of Advent this weekend. Advent refers to the coming of Christ and indicates the generations of people in the Old Testament waiting, praying for the coming of the Messiah. The candles on the wreath indicate the four weeks of the Advent season.

Its a very important season for us because of whats happened with Christmasits become so materialistic, so commercialized, that if we dont use this period of prayer and reflection for spiritual preparation, that we can be caught up in the externalisms of the material feast and completely lose sight of the wonderful reason for the season..the reason for our joy, the reason for the presents, for the celebration is that the Messiah has come and beyond everyones wildest expectations it was the Son of God, it was Jesus Christ, who was God and Man, who has come to save us.

I would encourage people to try to spend more time in prayer and reflection as they prepare for Christmas. I would urge people to teach others, especially young children, the Christmas Carols. Unfortunately, children dont learn the Christmas Carols in many schools like they used to. Theres a wonderful theological content that tells the Christmas story and its a way of communicating the great Truths of our faith to new generations of disciples.

Part of the preparation for Christmas is receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Bishops recent document on this once again holds up for people the connection between the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion. Its an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the reception of the Eucharist. As we begin a new Liturgical Year, we begin in the spirit of repentance and renewal.

The Monks at Saint Basils asked me to give a day of recollection for them, so I traveled to Methuen on Wednesday to be with them and to preach to them. They have a community of about a dozen monks there. They run a retreat and spiritual center there. They have many Cursillos there. They also do prison ministry and youth ministry work out of there. Their presence has been a blessing to the diocese. The retired Bishop of the Melkite diocese also resides there, Bishop John A. Elya.

In Boston we have many different Eastern Rite Catholics. These are people who share a lot of traditions of the Greek Orthodox, for instance, the Melkites would say the same liturgy as the Orthodox, the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. These are Eastern groups that are united with the Catholic Church. Many Lebanese belong to either the Maronite Church or the Melkite Church; both of them are Catholic Churches that have their own traditions and liturgies.

Last summer we had Mass for the Syro-Malabar, which are the Indian Catholics here another Eastern Rite Catholic group in the diocese. Here in our own Cathedral we have the Gies Rite every Sundaythey are Ethiopian Catholics, following what corresponds to the Coptic Orthodoxthis is the Catholic group. Their masses are very long and very beautiful. Its different from our celebration externally, but basically its still the Mass.


The Monks at St. Basils presented me with this blessing wand while I was with them on Wednesday.


While my “blog photographer” was taking a picture of the blessing wand, he noticed this coffee mug and insisted that I take a picture with it for the blog…lol!!…It’s my “VIP Mug…Very Irish Person”!

Id like to answer some questions before I conclude this weeks post. I received a comment and question from a college student who will be in Rome during Easter Week:

Beloved Cardinal Sean,

I, and a few of my friends, will be in Rome for Easter week of 2007, and we are hoping to get tickets for any/all of the celebrations going on. Unfortunately, we are not sure how to do so and have had little luck in determining the best way to go about it. I am hoping that you will be able point me in the right direction.

Thank you very much for all of your services and leadership, and I hope that you had a blessed Thanksgiving!

p.s. keep up the wonderful work with your blog! What a blessing to your archdiocese, for us to have such easily accessible input into the life of our Cardinal!

with peace and love in Christ,
Leah T
Boston College 2008

First Leah, thank you for your kind words and I hope that you too had a wonderful Thanksgiving and weekend break from school. I hope you have a wonderful trip to Rome. I would highly recommend that you try to make a reservation to go on the Scavi Tour.

Its a tour of the excavations underneath St. Peters Basilica that allow you to go underneath the Basilica right to where St. Peter was buried. It is one the most moving experiences in Rome. They can only take small groups down because of space limitations. So you need to have tickets and you should try to secure them through the Vatican website. You could copy this link for the reservation page on the Vatican website into your browser:


In another comment, Elaine asks me to answer some the questions posed to me by a group of young journalist students from Sacred Heart Elementary School in Quincy:

Your Eminence,
Dear Cardinal Sean,

Wow ! Cannot believe I am the first commenter – everybody must be still shopping !
Your Thanksgiving message was very beautiful and important given all the families directly affected by war and other military action.

And the picture of the week , once again, was right on point.

In a previous message the children asked questions of you and I thought it might be nice if you also provided some of your replies to us as well – such as what do you do if in fact you have any spare time or your favorite scripture, saint, or holiday ? I also wondered if you had any favorite modern authors of Christian writing to share with us ?

God bless always

Thank you for your comment and questions Elaine.

What do you do if in fact you have any spare time?.Well, I guess I spend most of my spare time reading, thats what I really enjoy doing when I have an opportunity. I dont have a lot of time to do it, but I really enjoy it.

Your favorite scripture?.There are many different things in Scripture that I like. I particularly like St. Lukes Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. Luke of course wrote both of those. I find both of them very, very inspiring. In the Old Testament I find Genesis quite beautiful.

Your favorite Saints?.Well of course I have some favorite Saints. I have many favorites.Saint Francis of Assisi of course. St. Conrad is from my province. Charles de Foucauld is another that I like very much. I also like the English Martyrs.

Your favorite Holiday?.I think Christmas and Easter are my favorites.

Favorite modern authors of Christian writing to share with us?.I like Rene Vyon and CS Lewis. I highly recommend author Dr. Peter Kreeft from Boston College. I also recommend works by Ignacio Larranaga such as Silence of Mary and Life of St. Francis (Brother Francis of Assisi).
Pictures of the Week:


You can imagine how difficult and challenging it was for pilgrims to travel so far on the Mayflower. This is the Mayflower II, an exact replica ofthe original.

An Advent Wreath in our Chapel in the Archdiocese Brighton Offices.

Well, I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a prayerful Sunday as we begin Advent. I look forward to posting again next week.

Thank you for your continued interest in my blog and for all of your kind thoughts, comments and prayers.

Until my post next week.

God Bless,
Cardinal Sen

December 2006