Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Breaking ground at Lawrence Catholic Academy

Hello and welcome!

Last Saturday, while I was still in Washington, I celebrated a 50th anniversary Mass and renewal of vows for Pablo and Amelia Ortiz, a couple whom I married 50 years ago at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.  Their children, grandchildren and many of their friends were there to share the occasion with them.

It was a joy because I don’t get many opportunities to celebrate 50th anniversaries of couples whose weddings I celebrated.  But I told them that theirs was one of the ones that I guaranteed for 50 years, or their money back!  So, I was delighted to go back and bless the marriage once again.

The two priests who accompanied me, Father Briggs and Father Walsh, are involved in Hispanic ministry in Virginia.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to see St. Matthew’s Cathedral again because I have a great attachment to that church, having worked there for 20 years as a seminarian and young priest.  In fact, Msgr. Ron Jameson, who is rector there now, was the curate when I was a seminarian.  So, we’re old friends.

St. Matthew’s is very beautiful but very small for a cathedral church — it could fit inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross three times over.  Though, of course, it wasn’t built as a cathedral.  In fact, up until 1939, Washington was part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  Cardinal O’Boyle, who was the bishop when I was a young priest, was the first residential Archbishop of Washington, and I’m sure one of the main reasons they chose St. Matthew’s as the cathedral is because it is the church closest to the White House.  However, that is not to take away anything from its beauty as a cathedral.

It has a lot of Franciscan themes in it, though I’m not sure why, because it was never a Franciscan church.

One of the side chapels is dedicated to St. Anthony, and the wall features scenes of Assisi and the Canticle of St. Francis.

There is another beautiful chapel of St. Francis, which has St. Francis, Lady Poverty, Sister Death, and St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

After I left Washington, that chapel was used as the burial place for the archbishops.

The coat of arms of the three archbishops I worked for: Cardinal O’Boyle, Cardinal Baum and Cardinal Hickey.

St. Matthew’s was the site of President Kennedy’s funeral Mass, and there’s an inscription on the floor marking the spot where his casket was placed during the Mass.

Another spot with special meaning for me is the beautiful side altar depicting the marriage of Mary and Joseph.

I had many weddings at that altar.  Sometimes, I would have a dozen at once at the Sunday Mass.  In fact, when I left Washington, they called me from the Marriage Bureau to let me know that I was the clergyman who celebrated the most weddings in the history of the District of Columbia!

The baptistery has beautiful mosaics, which were done by Jan Henryk de Rosen, the same man who did the original mosaics for the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

One shows St. Philip baptizing the Ethiopian, which is very appropriate for Washington which has such a large Black Catholic community.

The other is The Pool of Bethesda, where the waters become curative when the angel stirs them.

Another mosaic I love is in the Sacrament Chapel, which shows the two disciples on the road to Emmaus standing on either side of the chapel with their arms lifted in amazement because Christ has disappeared, but “They recognized him in the breaking of the bread,” as the inscription says.

The altar, pulpit, and tabernacle of the cathedral were all gifts of the Bishop of Agra in India.  They are all inlaid marble and done by the same artisans who created the Taj Mahal.

I also took this picture of the confessional because every Saturday from the week after I was ordained to the week before I left to become a bishop, I spent three hours in that confessional. It was a very busy place! And, of course, that was only one of the churches that I worked at on weekends. I was a sort of circuit rider, going from the cathedral to Sacred Heart to the Capilla Latina, doing a Haitian Mass and a Portuguese Mass.

It was just a wonderful experience to have as a young priest.  So going back was like going down memory lane, and being able to see this couple who have a large, beautiful family and are still faithfully living their vocation after 50 years was a great joy.

On Sunday, I was back in Boston and visited by Bishop Paolo Martinelli of Abu Dhabi, an Italian Capuchin from Milan, and his secretary, Father Derek, a Capuchin from India.

As a gift, he brought me some incense from Arabia, which is in his diocese.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the groundbreaking of a new school for Lawrence Catholic Academy.


That was a very significant event because this is the first new Catholic school building we are constructing from the ground up in many decades.  Of course, we have beautifully refurbished a number of schools — I think particularly of Cathedral High, Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton and Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester and Mattapan — but this will be the first new school building.

All the students were there for the ceremony, along with the Mayor of Lawrence, the principal, and, of course, the pastor, Father Paul O’Brien, who has worked so hard to make this possible.  We were also joined by many of the people who helped him make the project a reality.  Truly, it is a miracle and the result of Father Paul’s dedication and the generosity of supporters like Peter Lynch and the Yawkey Foundation, who did so much.

We know this new school will have a great impact and be such a great sign of hope for the whole community.  Lawrence is a community where the school-aged population is growing every year, and we know what a difference Catholic education is going to make in their lives — spiritually, psychologically and economically.  So, it was a wonderful and very encouraging event.

That evening, I departed for Rome for a plenary meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

I celebrated a Mass at St. John’s Chapel for the Commission on Tuesday night.

Wednesday night, I had dinner with five of our seminarians who are in Rome on spring break, along with Father David O’Leary, who is here on sabbatical.

Thursday morning, the commission had an audience with the Holy Father.

I also gave an interview to Vatican News, where I spoke about the work of the commission.

Before the audience, I had the opportunity to take the seminarians ahead of time to meet the Holy Father.

On Thursday afternoon, our commission met with the Italian bishops of the Tuscany region, who are here in Rome on their ad limina visit.  When the bishops come to Rome for their ad liminas, the commission is one of the dicasteries they meet with.  So, it was good to be here and be able to participate in that meeting.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán