Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

An effort to strengthen marriage

Today, on the Feast of St. Thomas More, the four bishops of Massachusetts are launching a prayer and education campaign for the vocation of marriage. Over a year ago, I assembled a committee to look at what the Church in Boston could do to help promote the Sacrament of Marriage in our remote preparation of youth and in proximate preparation, what we call the Pre-Cana. I also wanted to find ways to help people experience the grace of the sacrament and to be able to fulfill the very special mission the sacrament has in the world.


Cards with the prayer for marriage are being mailed to every parish


Family Life Office staff helped put together the mailings


In our country, more and more people are opting not to get married but instead to cohabitate. In Massachusetts, the government has redefined marriage away from its original purpose, which is so intimately connected with having and raising children. Certainly, the vocation to marriage, which is the way most people live out their discipleship, is something that is very, very important. And it certainly is being obscured in our modern and secular culture.

I often tell people that part of transmitting the faith is instilling in our young people a sense of vocation. For most of our young people, their vocation is to marry and to have children. When I speak to confirmation classes, I always speak to them about vocations, particularly the vocation to marriage. People often talk about the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, but just as grave for the Church is the situation with the vocation to marriage. Another thing we need to instill in our young people as we pass on the faith, is a sense of sharing a common mission with the other members of the Church in trying to transform the world to make the values of the Kingdom of God more present among us — His kingdom of peace, of justice, of love and of service.

We were very enthusiastic about the launching of a new statewide educational campaign on the meaning and importance of marriage and we were very glad that the bishops in the state�s other dioceses are collaborating with us in this effort. We hope this campaign will help people to refocus on the sacramental meaning of marriage.

I am very grateful to all of those who have lent their talent and time to be a part of preparing this initiative, and I want to urge all of the Catholics of the archdiocese to help us to promote the sacrament of marriage. We need to rekindle a sense of vocation in all of our people, especially marriage as a call to holiness, a call to service, so that our Christian families will truly be sanctuaries of life where new generations of disciples are born and reborn in the faith.

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This week I have participated in the spring meeting of the U.S. Bishop�s Conference, which was held in the Diocese of Santa Fe. The spring meeting is hosted in a different city each year. The bishops meet again each fall in either Baltimore or Washington.

The gathering had a retreat format. We met at a hotel in Albuquerque which was owned by an Indian tribe. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Archbishop of Quebec, was the preacher for the retreat. He is a wonderful theologian who gave fantastic talks. He was also there to promote the Eucharistic Congress that will be held next year in Quebec City.

During the course of the week, we had also seminars directed at the different priorities of the Bishop�s Conference. We looked at faith formation, marriage and pro-life issues. It was a very profitable gathering.

In addition to the larger gathering they always add a number of committee meetings, which allows us to save on travel since we are already together. I am on three of the committees ? the Latin American Secretariat, Committee on Immigration and the Missions Committee.

Though I was unable to attend the missions meeting of a scheduling conflict, I attended the other two meetings and was pleased to discover at the one on Latin America that the Catholics of Boston were the largest contributors nationwide to this year�s Diocesan National Collection for the Church in Latin America � $403,354. (The total amount collected nationwide was $7,147,635.) At the session, committee members discussed the different proposals for grants that we receive from bishops and missionaries throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The Immigration Committee meeting was spent talking about the new immigration legislation. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez came to New Mexico to talk to us and urged us to support President�s Bush�s effort to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. We also spoke, via conference call, with Senator Robert Men�ndez of New Jersey. He has been very involved in immigration matters.

The Bishop�s Conference is very anxious to ensure that the principle of family reunification is not jettisoned from the new legislation in favor of people with more academic qualifications. We see that one of the strengths of our nation�s immigration laws has been the family. That has been a constant in our policy, and we would like to see that maintained.

Our second concern is that some of the regulations concerning the path toward citizenship have become too unreasonable and burdensome. Sometimes people are required to go back to their own countries and come in again, which makes it difficult for them to pay their bills and maintain their jobs. Some of the regulations that have been introduced, we feel, are too punitive. The purpose of the legislation must be to try to deal with all those who are already here and also to ensure that the United States is in control of who is entering the country. If we do not come up with a way that makes it possible for people to regularize their situation, then it will defeat the purpose of the legislation.

The meeting went very well, and the bishops were able to share our concerns with Secretary Gutierrez who answered our questions. He and Senator Men�ndez had different points of view, but both were in favor of this legislation. Gutierrez was much more favorable to the present legislation whereas Men�ndez would like to see changes such as family reunification. He said, �Well, if we had those regulations before, Jonas Salk � who developed the Polio vaccine� and many other people would never have gotten into the country because their parents were laborers and did not speak English.� Because our country allowed reunification of families, their children became luminaries in the United States.

This legislation has been a roller coaster ride, and there were times when I thought it would be passed only to see it derailed. The problem is that if it is not dealt with now, most observers think it will be many years before we will be able to deal with the issue again. With the presidential elections coming up, it would likely be several years, and we really cannot afford to wait that long � too many people�s lives are at stake

Also at the Bishop�s conference we marked the fifth anniversary of the abuse crisis and the charter for the protection of children. At our vespers service, we offered this special prayer for healing of this great crisis in the life of our Church and for victims of abuse:


A prayer for healing

Victims of abuse

God of endless love,

Ever caring, ever strong,

Always present, always just:

You gave your only Son

To save us by the blood of His cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace,

Join to your own suffering

The pain of all who have been hurt

In body, mind, and spirit

By those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear our cries as we agonize

Over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.

Breathe wisdom into our prayers,

Soothe restless hearts with hope

Steady shaken spirits with faith:

Show us the way to justice and wholeness,

Enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people�s wounds

And transform our brokenness.

Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace,

So that we may act with justice

And find peace in you.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be…We ask this through

Christ, our Lord. Amen

On another evening, all the bishops were invited to a screening of the movie �Bella� and to listen to a talk by the film�s director, Alejandro Monteverde.


He made the movie out of his desire to be at the service of the Church and to teach a pro-life message using modern means. He told us of people who, after seeing this film, decided not to have abortions and he said that one family even named their baby �Bella.� He said that this was, in fact , the whole purpose of this film: to try to teach the Gospel of Life using a story, a very simple story of a woman who finds herself in a difficult pregnancy. She has lost her job and this Hispanic family befriends her� but I won�t tell you how it ends! I recommend the film to all of you because I think that the message is so beautiful. Please click here to watch trailers of the movie and spread the word to your friends…


It was all very well organized for the screening, they even served us all popcorn! We were very happy for that�lol!

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At St. Coletta & Cardinal Cushing Schools of Massachusetts they have an annual fundraiser, which they call a spring event. Cardinal Cushing started this school for children with special needs 60 years ago with the Franciscan sisters from Milwaukee. Cardinal Cushing had a very great love for children with special needs. It was one of his passions in life, and so he was very instrumental in establishing the Cardinal Cushing Centers.


The tent was crowded with friends of the school


Addressing those gathered


Two of the students serving the food .They did a wonderful job

There were about 500 people there for a dinner and fundraiser. The youngsters performed this new kind of synchronized dancing. It is very athletic and jumping around … all very synchronized.


The percussion group formed out of an occupational therapy exercise called, Brain Gym. It involved crossing the mid line of the body with the arms and legs and improves concentration and learning.


And then one young man, a graduate from the school, sang from the musical �Man of La Mancha.� He had a beautiful voice.


Joey Remington, a former student, sang and received a standing ovation

They honored a number of people, including one of the Franciscan sisters who was there.

Cardinal Cushing also built a replica of the Church of the Porziuncola in Assisi in the Hanover school campus. I visited the chapel.


Our local Porziuncola. That’s a statue of St. Francis in front.


The Porziuncola is a small chapel that St. Francis restored becoming his home. There he founded in 1209 the Order of Friars Minor. St Francis assembled all the Friars in the Chapter every year at the Porziuncola to discuss their rule and to renew their dedication to the Gospel Life. The original Porziuncola in Assisi is now covered by a big basilica, whereas the one we have in the archdiocese is more like the one St. Francis would have seen, which was surrounded by woods.


The original Porziuncola, located inside
the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi

The exterior is a perfect replica of the original (the stone was even brought from Assisi) though the inside is much fancier, and much more finished looking than the original.

Cardinal Cushing was so fond of the site, he chose to be buried there.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate a diaconal ordination Mass for the friars of the primitive observance at Mission Church three weeks ago.


The new Deacons Andrew and Benedict and their Superior, Fr. John Sweeney, FPO

Photos we requested from the event have only just arrived so I thought I would share them with you today.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help � known by almost everyone as simply Mission Church � is the only basilica in the Archdiocese.


It is Boston�s Redemptorist church and, as you can imagine from the name, is dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the special patroness of the Redemptorist order. When I was in the West Indies, it had been a Redemptorist mission, and I was always very edified by the great devotion that the Redemptorists had instilled in the people. On Wednesdays, the churches would always be filled at Mass because it was the novena Mass to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.


This umbrella is one of the symbols of a basilica. Originally, umbrellas like this were used to protect the Holy Father from severe weather. It is kept half open to signify that the Basilica is always ready to welcome the Holy Father.


This processional miniature tower with a small bell is yet another symbol of a Basilica.

The Redemptorists have some of the largest and most beautiful churches in this hemisphere. Recently, our Holy Father visited the Basilical of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, which is run by the Redemptorists and is the largest church in the western hemisphere. Many of our people here in New England and from the rest of the United States, I am sure, have visited the Basilica of Sainte-Anne de Beaupr� in Quebec, also a Redemptorist church. In Brooklyn, the largest church in the diocese is the Redemptorist�s Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We are very grateful for all of the wonderful ministry that the Redemptorists do, and particularly at their parish here. These photos are just to share with you the beauty of our only basilica.


The chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help


The main Altar


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I am going to Rome next week to attend some meetings at the Holy See. While I am there, I will be at the Wednesday audience, and then on my birthday, June 29, I will be at the Pallium Mass, where the new metropolitan archbishops receive their pallium from the Holy Father. Archbishop elect Joseph E. Kurtz, who has just been appointed to the archdiocese Louisville, will be among those receiving the pallium next week.

Since I will be away for my birthday, my staff presented my with a surprise happy birthday cake yesterday.


– – –

Finally, for my photo of the week I have chosen this icon and prayer which have been printed on the 1 million prayer cards to be distributed throughout Massachusetts. I encourage you all to pray this prayer daily that the vocation of marriage may be strengthened.


Heavenly Father,

through the intercession of the Holy Family,

Help us treasure the gift of marriage that

reflects the love of Christ for the Church,

where the self-giving love

of husband and wife

unites them more perfectly and

cooperates in your plan for

new life created in your image.

Help us support men and women

in their vocation of marriage,

especially in difficult times when

they join their sufferings to the Cross.

Help us uphold the institution of marriage

in our society as the place where

love is nurtured and family life begins.

Help us acknowledge that our future

depends on this love and on your

providential care for us. Amen.