Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It seems crazy, but it’s almost February!!!! This week, on Wednesday, we celebrate the memory of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr. There is always the tradition to do the blessing of throats with the candles blessed the day before. This year we will still do the blessings, however, we will do it from the altar at the end of the masses this weekend and on February 3rd. By way of heads up, please note the mass schedule for Ash Wednesday.
God Bless, Fr Steven
Roses have long been connected with Mary. The red rose symbolic of love, the white rose, of purity. In the fifth century, Coelius Sedulius referred to Mary as a "rose among thorns". Known as the “queen of flowers”, the rose represents Mary as Queen of Heaven. Medieval writers also referenced a passage from Sirach 24:14 "like a palm tree in Engedi, like a rosebush in Jericho". Bernard of Clairvaux said, "Eve was a thorn, wounding, bringing death to all; in Mary we see a rose, soothing everybody's hurts, giving the destiny of salvation back to all." Mary is celebrated under the title "Our Lady of the Rose in Lucca, Italy on January 30. Roses feature prominently in the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Mary is the most beautiful flower ever seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory; and Mary is the Queen of them all. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is called of all flowers the most beautiful. But, moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose, for mystical means hidden.” Newman, John Henry.
"Rosa Mystica", Meditations and Devotions, 1893, Internet Sourcebook
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every time I watch one of those movies based on true stories, such as McFarland USA, the Queen of Katwe, Field of Dreams, that the underdog team wins, or children from a little town win big tourna- ments, I wonder, wouldn’t it be cool to be part of that? Or even when I read the stories of saints, I think the same way. Wouldn’t it be cool to be like St Francis or St Claire? Imagine the travels of St Francesca Cabrini arriving at the US, founding orphanages in many places. Or how would it be like starting a new convent in Calcutta like Mother Teresa, or being the Pope during communism like John Paul II.
All of these “stories” seem such a far fetched reality to us. Maybe a summer dream or one of those bedside stories. But why couldn’t these things happen to us? Who says that God is not calling us to such a life? Maybe not so intense as the examples that I gave, but maybe yes! Brothers and Sisters, this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus comes and calls us to follow him. It’s that simple. He does not require us to be professional fishermen, or pro at being super Catholics. No, He says that He will make us into what He wants. The “burden”, if you will, is on him. The invitation, “come after me”, it’s for all of us. We only need to follow him. We don’t know where he will lead us, or what we will become, there is no reason to worry about it. Surely He will make us the best version of ourselves! Maybe some of us will be founders of religious orders. Maybe one of the boys from the CCD classes will be a Pope one day. Why not? Why not dream about the “impossible”? Why not desire to be a great saint! Or maybe God calls us to be a simple not so well known saint. Remember that the very first call that we all have is to holiness. How we live this holiness is secondary. How God wants to sanctify us, we leave that up to him. As this week’s emblem from the Church is Mary, Queen of Martyrs, we are all called to be“witness” (translation of the Greek word martyr) of his love. It may seem small, but that is bigger than the universe! Let’s pray for one another, so that we can all be an army of saints!
Queen of Martyrs
Since the first centuries the palm leaf and the sword have been symbols representing the martyrdom under- gone by many Christians. These Christians reached the point of laying down their lives for the sake of their faith. For their perseverance before such trials, God rewards them with everlasting life. Mary has been crowned, not only with a crown of twelve stars but also with a crown of thorns. The priest Simeon had pre- dicted that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also,” (Lk 2:35). This prophecy was fulfilled for her at the foot of the Cross where she shared in the martyrdom of Christ. For this reason, she is given the title Queen of all martyrs who witness to Christ by sharing in His suffering and death. In the Vespers Hymn for the Feast of the Seven Dolors, the Church salutes her singing, "The Virgin stands there the while, more no- ble than the martyrs. By a new wonder, O Mary, dying, thou dost not die, though transfixed by such great and dreadful sorrows." The Communion Verse for the Mass of the Feast declares, "Happy the senses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which without death obtained the palm of martyrdom beside the Cross of the Savior."
The purest body of Our Lady was exempt from physical macerations. By Her Immaculate Conception She was free from bodily ills. When She died it was not from sickness or physical disintegration, the result of orig- inal sin, but from love. Somehow, we shrink from the very thought of seeing that holy body of hers mangled in any way. It was to be all fair from the beginning and throughout eternity.
But there is a martyrdom besides that of the body; it is the martyrdom of the soul. We know that by our own experience. We have ceased to feel bodily pain at times when an overwhelming grief has rushed upon our heart. The death of dear ones, disgrace, disappointment, reverses, worries so pierce our heart with pain that we ignore the wounds or sickness that would otherwise lay us low physically. It is easier to bear the cut of the sword than dishonor. A broken heart is not as easily mended as a maimed body. If we are subject to this martyrdom of soul, we can easily understand how fittingly the title martyr is given to Our Lady, who endured suffering more than sufficient to cause her death, had not God saved her from the physical consequence of that agony. She was willing to shed Her blood. God spared her that, but He did not free Her from martyrdom.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Pardon me if I have said this before. I’m always fascinated by the scientific discoveries made in other planets. I re- member watching live with my family NASA’s Pathfinder mission landing in Mars in 1997, and watching National Geographic and Discovery channel growing up. When I was deciding what I was going to study in college, astrono- my was actually one of the main options. However, the idea of staying up all night looking at the stars all the time was not as romantic as it sounded at first. Since man arrived at the moon, and other rockets getting to other planets, the possibility of finding life out of the earth became a real possibility.
When we speak of “finding life”, we mean in simple terms, anything other than rocks. Any molecular structure, or any monocellular “thing” would be considered as “alive.” As much as all that fascinates me, it also bewilders me. My confusion, if you want to call it that, is how come such beings could be considered “life” or called “alive,” while a fe- tus, which is a much more complex being, is considered by some as “not alive”. In other words, how come a mo- nocellular organism is called a “living being,” while a multicellular human being, with tissues, organs (and with a heart that beats at 5-6 weeks) would be called only a “blob or a bunch of cells” and not alive?
Now that the elections are “over,” we can speak plainly about beginning of life without being misinterpreted as sup- porting one candidate over the other. This week marks the anniversary of the decision of the Supreme Court known as “Roe v Wade” that allowed abortion in the US. We as Christians, have the right and the duty to defend life. This also includes many other social issues, especially those that recently were in the headlines: racism, sexism, and others.
However, abortion infringes the very first right of human life as stated by the United Nations. It reads, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” Before we can address the other issues, we must start from the very beginning. Every baby has the right to have his life protected. We hear and read everywhere about the endangered species of animals, and even recently laws were approved here in MA to protect marine life that impacted the livelihood of so many people. However, recently, the State Senate overrode Gov. Baker’s veto on the expansion of abortion which unfortunately will also impact negatively so many lives.
The Catholic Church is the leader in social justice. We have the 7 Principles of Catholic Social Teaching that guide us. Care of all creation is our responsibility as we are to be good stewards of all that God has given us. The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching is the dignity of every human being. It is first for a reason.
Let me pause here to say that this is not a judgement to those who are suffering from the aftermath of abortion. Many women and men who have made this choice were under pressure and not given all of the facts they needed to make a decision for life. They felt alone, unsupported and incapable. This is about helping others to make deci- sions to prevent further death and suffering. Although abortion may seem to be the solution to unsurmountable problems, it only leads to more serious long-term afflictions. No matter what the circumstances, the child conceived, whose life was given by God, has the right to be born.
We know by Divine Revelation that God is with us, He never abandons us, and He will always be on our side, for the good, the bad and the ugly. What a child needs is support from other people. Mom needs to feel loved, not judged. Our mission to “love one another as God has loved us” becomes more imperative in such moments. So what can we do?
There are pregnancy help centers that help those in need. Here in Marlboro we are blessed to have 2 centers, First Concern (508) 305-2493 (https://firstconcern.org) and Birthright (508) 481-2055( https://birthright.org/marlborough ). Pregnancy Help is under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Boston and there are three locations in Natick (508-651 -0753), Brighton and Brockton (https://upholdingthedignityoflife.org ) Many of our parishioners are involved in assist- ing at these centers. All inquiries and assistance is always anonymous.
For those who have had an abortion, there are healing opportunities available such as Project Rachel ( https:// projectrachelboston.com ), confession and/or spiritual counseling. Finally, and most importantly we pray. We will have our next 24hour adoration this week from Thursday 21st at 6pm to Friday 22nd at 6pm. This will conclude with Mass on 22 January 2021 at 6pm. We will have an opportunity to pray for the unborn children, for those who are suffering, for the healing of those who had either an abortion or miscarriage, and to pray for a conversion of hearts of our lawmakers to defend life from conception to natural death.
Remember all of this is not about judging or condemning. On the contrary, it is about mercy and healing. We don’t point fingers, we open our arms. Let us open our spiritual arms to welcome our brothers and sisters who may be in need of our help.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! This marks the beginning of his public ministry, and it also marks the end of the Christmas Season and the start of Ordinary time. You might notice that next week there will be a change of scenery here in the church.
Traditionally, this feast was celebrated together with the feast of the three kings under the title of Epiphany. Since the word “epiphany” means “manifestation/revelation”, it was appropriate that both celebrations would be together with the miracle of the wedding of Cana. The coming of the Three Kings marks the first revelation of the birth of Our Savior to the world. At first, only the shepherds and the people around Bethle- hem knew, therefore the Hebrews, knew about the birth of Christ. The Wise Men, coming from Orient, are the first “outsiders” and they bring to the knowledge of Christ as God to the whole world. After the birth of Christ and the flight to Egypt, there is not much about his infancy other than when the child Jesus is found at the Temple. The second revelation of Jesus’ divinity is when Jesus is baptized at the Jordan. There He is declared to be the “Beloved Son of God.” That is the first manifestation of the adult Jesus and where the Gospels begin to narrate his life. The third “initial” manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah is at the Wedding at Cana. Although the baptism of the Lord was among the people, only a few saw it and heard about it. It is only in Cana that He begins His public ministry per se. At the end of the account in the Gospel of John it is written, “This was the first of Jesus’ signs [miracles]: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” (Jn 2:11) Therefore, it is proper that the Celebration of the Baptism of the Lord should follow the feast of the Wise Men (Epiphany). Both of these feasts complement each other and it expands the mysteries of the Christmas Season.
I hope that this time will help us to be consoled by the Lord who does not abandon us. Quite the opposite. Indeed, He comes to our aid! Whatever difficulty we may face, whether due to the virus or something else, Jesus is with us!!! NO ONE IS ALONE!!! He has come to give us that which we long the most, ETERNAL LIFE! And we can receive this eternal life through the graces we received at our own baptism. Baptism is the most important sacrament we can receive. By it we receive divine nature, we are made children of God, our sins are forgiven, and eternal life becomes a real possibility for us. We become the beloved sons and daughters of God.
God Bless, Fr. Steven
Father Steven Clemence