The Eucharist on Pentecost
This weekend, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, our churches in the Diocese of Palm Beach will be open for the celebration of Mass. While we must make a very careful decision in whether to come to church at this time and while we must be cautious in following the protocols insuring everyone’s safety in church, Pentecost reminds us of the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.
Sto lat is the traditional Polish wish that is given to express good wishes, good health and long life to a person. It is also a common birthday greeting. It means, “May you live 100 years!”
The rosary — spiritual medicine
Pope Francis, in one of his Sunday audiences not too long after his being elected as pope, held up a white medicine box with a drawing of the human heart upon it containing a rosary.
A sure and certain identity
My brothers, Robinson and Nick, you are being ordained today as priests in an unprecedented time and in unique circumstances. The worldwide pandemic due to the coronavirus has brought about an isolation which has closed our churches, now for six weeks, has engulfed our full attention no matter who we are or what our age may be, has caused serious illnesses, taken countless lives, and has brought about a fear, an anxiety and an uncertainty that are novel and surreal to all of us. You, after many years of preparation and anticipation, are being ordained in a very limited celebration separated from your family, friends and parishioners, in a manner you never would have anticipated. While you now know your parish assignments, you do not know how they will unfold in the coming weeks and in what manner you will carry out your priestly ministry in a rather isolated, even cloistered, atmosphere.
A time for praying, inventing, creativity
It has been some time since we were first affected by the coronavirus and the many limitations that it has caused. It is over five weeks since our churches have been closed and we are not able publicly to attend Mass.
Priesthood is an essential service
The dire situation regarding the coronavirus has brought to the fore many stories of the heroic actions of others, including priests. Pope Francis reflected upon this in his homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. He said, “I cannot let tonight’s Mass pass by without remembering priests. Priests who offer their lives to the Lord, priests who are servants. In these days many of them have died, more than sixty here in Italy, while tending to the sick and hospitals, together with doctors and nurses… They are the ‘saints next door,’ priests who have given their lives in service.” Even the New York Times reported, “Italy’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the world’s deadliest, and while the doctors and nurses on the northern Italian frontline have become symbols of sacrifice against an invisible enemy, priests and nuns have also joined the fight, often at great risk.”
The priest’s ministry of healing
Of the oils that we bless and consecrate today, perhaps the one that stands out is the oil of the sick. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic the dire need for healing, physically, emotionally and psychologically, rises at this time above all others. Healing is essential to the ministry of the priest in every aspect of his mission including the physical realm for which the oil of the sick is primarily intended. The healing ministry the priest has its roots from the earliest times of the calling of Jesus to the twelve apostles. In the early part of the Gospel of St. Mark, we encounter Jesus sending out the twelve to proclaim His message. We are told that, “They drove out many demons and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:13). We read from the letter of St. James, which we use in the ritual for the anointing of the sick, “Is there anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
Don’t be afraid, just have faith
We come to celebrate Easter in a very different context this year. The coronavirus has caused a great deal of disruption within our lives, hopefully not illness, and an isolation from others we have never experienced. We face concerns about our family, employment and other matters that are essential to our lives. This context perhaps causes us to appreciate more aspects of our lives which we have taken for granted to which we need to give more attention. Perhaps we need to concentrate more on the everyday aspects of our lives as we have gotten separated from them in the past weeks as never expected. Perhaps we need also to give more concentration to the lives of others, both those closest to us as well as those not so close. Indeed, as we celebrate the new life we receive through the Resurrection of Christ, we realize more and more how important our lives are and how much Christ does indeed give us His life, both now and in eternity.
Holy Week in silence, not isolation
We are about to enter Holy Week. Holy Week is the culmination of Lent, especially as we celebrate the Easter Triduum in which we enter into the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord in a most intimate manner.
The celebration of Holy Week this year will be very different from any that we have ever experienced. Because of the threat of the coronavirus and the necessary precautions that must be taken to counter it and protect ourselves and others, we will not be able to be in church for Holy Week and especially the celebration of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. While these celebrations will occur in the churches, celebrated by our priests, our inability to attend them will make Holy Week very different for all of us.
Put down the mobile phones
For many years, since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, it is been the custom of the popes to go on a Lenten retreat with members of their curial staffs during the week immediately following Ash Wednesday. Pope Francis has followed this custom with the exception that he has requested the retreat to be held outside the Vatican at a spiritual center in the vicinity of Rome. This year, the retreat took place from March 1-6, at the Divine Master House, Ariccia, in the Alban Hills near Rome. Unfortunately, because of a cold which Pope Francis experienced, he could not be physically present at the retreat but made it from his residence at the Casa Santa Marta following all of the talks and exercises by means of video conference.
To the Threshold of the Apostles
I recently returned from a required visit to Rome which every bishop must make on a regular interval. The visit is called an ad limina visit because it is one to the “threshold of the apostles.” On the visit, the bishop celebrates Mass at this threshold which is the tombs of the foundational apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul. He also visits with the pope and the various congregations that assist the pope in his ministry. Before making the visit, the bishop sends a report to Rome on the state and condition of his particular diocese. The report is referred to as the quinquennial report as it is required to be made every five years that was the traditional time for the bishop’s visit to Rome.
Ashes help us find our direction
Ash Wednesday is upon us. There is something quite unique about this day. It marks the beginning of Lent as a solemn penitential season of 40 days for the Church. Yet, there is almost something mystical that surrounds Ash Wednesday. Churches are filled with people anxious to receive ashes and to wear that symbol throughout the day. It is a day when people, who may be otherwise reluctant to express their religious beliefs openly, are more than ready to express them in the darkened sign of the Cross on their foreheads which our Holy Father, Pope Francis, described as “a sign that will help us find our direction” in his homily for Ash Wednesday last year. Ash Wednesday and the sign of ashes seem to unite all Catholics, regardless of status within the Church, in one common bond. People actually seem happy to receive ashes. I certainly am one of them.
By listening, we see him
We live today in the midst of a world that is filled with words coming to us from all sides. The days of getting news and hearing a message from the television or newspapers are long over. We possess, through electronic devices we carry in our pockets, instant communication from the world and to the world. Many times this communication, the words presented to us, are not commensurate with what is actually happening but conveying a particular political outlook, a particular vision of how things should be, the influence of others as well as a method of advertising. We text and we get texts, we tweet and we receive tweets, we have various Internet connections to news and various other ways in which words are spoken to us and we can equally respond. Some are angry, confused, untrue, inflammatory and destructive. Many are true, consoling, supportive, insightful and helpful. However, so many times it is up to us to determine their intent and to be careful in their application. Words are all around us.
Pope Francis – A Salesian at heart
One of the saints who is special to Pope Francis is St. John Bosco. Pope Francis has made mention of him on several occasions. Just last year in his Wednesday audience, the pope pointed to the upcoming feast of St. John Bosco on the next day, Jan. 31, and referred to the tremendous influence of the saint. In his homily at the Casa Santa Marta on the feast day of St. John Bosco the next day, he preached on the saint as a model for priests especially in his joyful attitude and willingness to reach out to all people.
The new year — A journey of hope
We are already more than a week into the new year. As we planned for this significant year of 2020, we have made resolutions to improve ourselves as we journey through it. We know from experience that many of those resolutions will not come to pass. What is important for the new year is not so much the resolutions but our vision for the year based on our faith. The virtue of hope is an essential part in facing the new year as we encounter the many joys, difficulties, challenges, uncertainties, disappointments and all that will come to us in 2020.