Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Beginning the New Year

Happy New Year to you all!

As you may remember, in my December 10 posting I mentioned that on the feast of St. Francis Xavier I blessed the new Holy Name of Jesus chapel at the new Bl. Peter Faber residence for the Jesuits in Brighton. At the time, I had told them I wanted to give a statue of Our Lady of Montserrat for the chapel but unfortunately it did not arrive in time for the dedication ceremony

Well, it arrived for the Epiphany.


This is a replica of a statue which is in the Benedictine Monastery and Basilica of Montserrat in Barcelona, Spain.


The monastery there is built on the side of a mountain chain with a peculiar shape. Montserrat literally means "jagged mountain" in Catalan, the vernacular language of the area.


In fact, in the West Indies, and near to the diocese of St. Thomas where I was bishop, there is the island of Montserrat, so named by Christopher Columbus because of its resemblance to the Montserrat mountain chain.

The statue goes back to the ninth century and is a very popular devotion in Spain. About 1 million pilgrims visit every year there.

There are many theories as to why it is a black Virgin. Some say that the black color could have been the result of countless candles and lamps that have burned day and night near the image. Others say it could be an influence of North African art or even of pagan statues that were readopted by the early Christians.


Over the centuries many important figures, including a number of saints have prayed before this image. The most important of all was St. Ignatius of Loyola who laid down his sword and embarked in his religious mission after spending a night praying before the image, which is why I chose to present them with this image for their chapel.

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Now on to the events of my week…

Last Thursday I was at Gate of Heaven Parish in South Boston for a social gathering with our priests.


It happened to be the birthday of the pastor, Father Robert Casey, so a large number of priests were there. They had a beautiful birthday cake for him and we sang “Happy Birthday.”



On top of the wonderful meal and camaraderie, Father Paul Rouse regaled us with his piano playing and we also sang Christmas carols together.


Once again, we’re grateful to St. Brigid’s-Gate of Heaven for hosting the priests as they often do.

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On New Year’s Eve, I had a pro-life Mass and Holy Hour at St. Leonard’s Church in the North End.



We had a full church for the Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.







Afterwards attorney Fran Hogan gave a pro-life reflection.


Then, there was a Holy Hour with the Rosary, Consecration of the Blessed Virgin and ending with Benediction shortly after the new year. Then, there was a reception in the parish hall.


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The next morning, I celebrated a Mass for our Haitian community at the Cathedral.







Since arriving in Boston, I have celebrated this Mass for the Haitian community on January 1, which is their Independence Day. It is always very well attended. This year we had a full church.


There was a beautiful choir.



Of course, it has been almost a year since the earthquake, which was on January 12 of last year, and then the cholera epidemic and now the confusion over the elections — it has been a difficult year for the Haitians.


The Mass was a wonderful opportunity to come together to pray for Haiti and her people.


Haitian priests and deacons were with me on the altar.




We sang the Haitian national anthem at the end of Mass and also did the Te Deum, a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God, which is a New Years custom in France, and many other francophone countries observe that custom.HaitianNY-IMG_9318


After the Mass, some people told me their relatives are still in camps and have no housing, even now, a year after the earthquake.




They also said that there is great concern over the outcome of the elections. It is going to be necessary to have a strong government and one that truly has a mandate from, and the confidence and trust of, the Haitian people. So, it is a very crucial time in their history.

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Sunday I said an Epiphany Mass with the cloistered Carmelite sisters at their monastery in Roxbury, which is over 100 years old.


The Mass was celebrated in their choir where the large crèche was. They have sort of a semi-public oratory, an old chapel, which is on the historical register and is a magnificent building. They use the oratory when they have lay people in for special Masses and feast days.


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I took this picture of St. Joseph by the door. St. Therese of Avila had great devotion to St. Joseph and named many of her convents after him.


There is also a nice poster to St. Therese of Liseaux, the Little Flower.

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I told the sisters that my church in Rome is a Carmelite church, Santa Maria della Vittoria and that the famous statue of St. Therese of Avila by Bernini is there.

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On Tuesday, we had a Mass for the students and staff of the new Lawrence Catholic Academy.

The new academy is a merger of St. Patrick’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel in neighboring Methuen.

The school has an enrollment of nearly 500 students, which is actually a greater number of students than there were in the two former schools.

Sister Lucy Veilleux, the principal, is doing an excellent job and I was also happy to see that they have five sisters teaching in the school, which is wonderful.

Following the Mass, we visited the classrooms and met with the teachers, staff and some of the members of the Board of Trustees.

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My visit to the school fell on the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who, of course, made such an important contribution to Catholic education. Many of the sisters there belong to the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, so I wished them a happy feast day.

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Thursday morning, as you may know, was the inauguration of Gov. Deval Patrick.

He began the day’s events with an ecumenical prayer service in the historic Old South Church where Christian, Jewish, Muslim, among others, were invited to come together and pray for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Rev. Liz Walker, who many of you may remember from her days as a television anchor, gave a wonderful reflection on the majesty of God.

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Finally, as we are in this month of prayer for Christian Unity, we join our prayers to Pope Benedict’s missionary intention for January, 2011:  That Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.

Peace be with you,

Cardinal Seán