Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Beginning Holy Week at the cathedral

Hello and welcome!

As I do each year for Holy Week, I am posting my blog a day earlier than usual so as to be able to better prepare for and observe the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum.

Saturday, I was visited by a group of parishioners from St. Leonard’s in the North End, who came accompanied by their pastor, Father Michael Della Penna. They wanted to talk to me about proposed changes in their prayer garden.

It was very good to see them, and they very graciously brought a lot of pastries from Modern Pastry in the North End.

Also that day, I went to St. Mary’s in Brookline for the celebration of Father Jonathan Gaspar’s birthday.

Sunday was, of course, Palm Sunday, and we had a wonderful celebration at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Each year, the youth group from St. Mary’s in Waltham comes to visit us at the cathedral on Palm Sunday.  There was a very large group this year, and we were glad to be able to welcome them again.

I gave them a short talk on Holy Week, and then they had a time of prayer and veneration of the relic of the True Cross.  Afterwards, they had a tour of the cathedral.

Monday, I met via Zoom with Father David Grenier, Commissary for the U.S. of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.  The Custody of the Holy Land is the first province St. Francis founded in the 13th century, and the friars have been caring for the holy places since then.

The friars run about 30 schools, clinics and other ministries around the shrines and the holy places.  Many of their works of charity and their education apostolate are supported by the special collection for the Holy Land taken up on Good Friday.

With the situation of war, things are very dire in the Holy Land.  Most Christians there work in occupations related to welcoming pilgrims, and with the present conflict, the number of visitors to the holy places has dropped drastically.  So, this has brought great hardship to the people.

Father David was very anxious to contact me to thank me for the generosity of the people of Boston every year with the Good Friday collection, and we certainly want to encourage everyone to be very generous to help the people in that part of the world who are suffering so much at this time.

Tuesday, we had our annual celebration of the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

During this Mass, we bless the oils that will be used in parishes, chapels, and other ministries throughout the year for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the anointing of the sick.  It’s also a day to celebrate the gift of the priesthood and renew our priestly vows.


For me, it’s such an important Mass to underscore the unity of the Church and the recommitment of our priests to their vocation.  It’s always a wonderful celebration.

We were very pleased to be joined once again this year by Metropolitan Methodios.  He is always very kind to join us for this celebration, and he invites me to their Easter Vigil where they bless the Easter fire.

We also have an exchange of visits for the feasts of St. Peter and St. Andrew, who were brothers, and Andrew is considered the founder of the Church in Constantinople and Peter, of course, was the Bishop of Rome.

In my homily, I mentioned that next year is the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea, a very significant council that took place when we were all one Church.

To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are in conversations about how we can use this anniversary to further unity between our Churches.  One idea being considered is trying to come up with a common date for Easter.

We had a great attendance at the Chrism Mass this year.  In addition to many of our priests and deacons, we had a large number of people join us, including young people from two of our Catholic schools.

There were also several members of the local Shalom Community in attendance, and they came to greet me after the Mass.

Wednesday morning, we had a memorial service at the cathedral for JoAnn McGrath, who passed away in February in California.  She had a long and beautiful life, and many of her family and friends gathered with us for the service.


JoAnn was an extraordinary Catholic laywoman who was very much involved in supporting Catholic schools, healthcare, social services and many other works of mercy.  She and her husband started the Highland Street Foundation, which has done so much to help many nonprofits and service organizations in Boston.

She was a dear friend and just the kindest, most thoughtful person.

Father Jack Ahern was at the Mass, and he mentioned to me how, if there was a tragedy in the parish, JoAnn would call and ask if there was anything she could do for the family.  She was just that kind of person — always looking for ways to help others.

Then, on Wednesday evening, we had our service of Tenebrae at the cathedral.  The Tenebrae service is one way that we can fulfill the liturgical directives that some hours of the Divine Office be celebrated publicly during Holy Week.

We asked the seminary to assign one of the transitional deacons to preach at the service, and we were happy to have Deacon Marcelo Ferrari as our homilist.

Of course, the musical accompaniment is extraordinary.  There is quite a tradition of music for Tenebrae and Holy Week, and Richard Clark and the choir do a fantastic job with it.

I wish you all a blessed Triduum and happy Easter!

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán