Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend, as we celebrate Laetare Sunday (not to be confused with Gaudete during Advent), marks the middle of Lent. The color rose, which is allowed to replace the traditional purple, reminds us that Lent is not only about sadness and mortification, but rather, it points to Easter, the dawn of salvation. Thus, the color rose representing the Sun of the resurrection.
The Gospel this weekend is a well-known story of the prodigal son. However, each time that I hear that story, it always strikes me in a different way, especially after reading a great book by Henry Nouwen with the same title. The other day, while speaking at the confirmation class, God helped me to appreciate the point in which the son realizes what he has done and decides to ask his father for forgiveness. That’s also known as Examination of Conscience. He stops to reflect what he had done, and how he was suffering without need. At that point, he converts, that is, turns back, and returns to the house of the father, who was waiting each day looking out for his son. I invite you all to have this same experience in confession. Maybe we are not fully aware of our actions yet, but looking at a thorough examination of conscience, we might realize that there some mortal sins we have committed whether unaware they were mortal, or even things we might have forgotten. As we have the schedule for Holy Week here below, lets prepare ourselves for the most wonderful time of the year. Here in the parish Fr. Kevin and I are always happy to hear confessions for as long as necessary, so let’s take the opportunity that God gives us and return to the house of the Father.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Please read the letter below from Sean Fay, about the Catholic Appeal.
Being a parishioner here at Immaculate Conception is something that has truly enriched my life and the life of my family. It is for this reason, and many others, that I support the Catholic Appeal and the critical ministries funded by The Appeal that support our Parish and those who turn to the Church for help.
The Appeal supports the day-to day work and operations of our parish, supports programs that enrich our parish life, and supports those who need assistance in our communities.
Our priests and deacons can do the work that they do best because they can rely on a team of experts from the Archdiocese that provides wide-ranging support related to the daily operations of the parish (including benefits, risk management, and finance). Never has this team of experts been more important to our parish than during the pandemic. No parish on its own could afford to hire a team of experts that offers such critical assistance to our parish. These services are funded in large part by The Appeal.
We also rely on the ministries funded by the Appeal to support many programs offered here at Immaculate Conception including faith formation programs, marriage preparation for young couples, the Diaconate program that provides on-going support for Deacon Chuck and Deacon Elcio, and ongoing training for Fr. Kevin.
Most importantly, The Appeal works to help those in need in our communities. This includes programs such as seminars for those struggling with mental illness, the Catholic chaplains serving in our hospitals and prisons, campus ministry programs at Massachusetts colleges and universities, and collaboration with agencies that work to provide affordable housing for families in need.
In short, The Appeal provides a team of experts that Fr. Steven can rely on, support programs that enrich our lives, and assistance for those in our communities that we are called to assist. This is why our participation in The Appeal is so important. It is faith that we put in action together by supporting the Catholic Appeal.
As co-chair of the parish finance council, I am very aware of the continued generosity of the Immaculate Conception family. I am also aware that many members of our parish family have suffered financially over the past two years due to the pandemic. I ask that those who are able financially, to prayerfully consider participating in the Catholic Appeal in 2022 by completing your in-pew pledge card starting next week or by visiting bostoncatholicappeal.org to make your pledge. Thank you.
Sean N. Fay
Co-Chair Finance Council
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we accompany the development of the situation in Ukraine, our hearts go out to the people that are suffering the consequences of what is happening. While it’s difficult to understand what is really going on there due to heavy political media manipulation on both sides, the humanitarian crisis is undeniable. I have had the privilege to hear the testimonies of some people who are on the front lines, both from clergy but also from parishioners in Ukraine.
One of these testimonies is from Father Lucas Perozzi. He is from Brazil and he was sent to the Redemptoris Mater in Kyiv on the same occasion in which my brother went to Denver in 2003. He did all his seminary formation in Ukraine and was ordained in 2013. Similar to my brother and I, he also has a brother in the same country who is also becoming a priest. Indeed, Fr. Lucas was with his brother taking some classes in the Western part of Ukraine when the war broke out. While he was discerning what to do, he saw that God was calling him back to his parish when a family of parishioners reached out to him asking for shelter. Then he knew exactly what to do. When his mother asked him to return home to Brazil, he answered that he was already home over there. Now he and his pastor have welcomed 35 people, including five children, in the basement of the church that serves as a bunker. His mission according to him is to remain there to testify that God is still there and God is still working, in spite of all that is happening. He said, “God is here in the middle of all the disaster, and God is still good.” In the Church besides giving shelter and food, they also pray, celebrate mass, as you can see in the picture below. There are other people who have remained in their houses, and the priests are visiting them bringing them communion and being there with them. On an interview with the Vatican Radio he said that even though he is weak, a coward, a sinner, but God is giving him such a grace to be happy in the middle of the war. On another interview he said that he has been a soldier since he became a priest, waging a war against the selfishness that truly separates people from each other. His words were “the war is an exterior expression to what is happening in our hearts, the division that happens every day.” Like Father Lucas, there are also other priests who are doing the same work with the people who are still in their homes. Other places, like Uzhhorod, very close to the border of Hungary, the seminarians are going out each day to aid and give food to a multitude of refugees that pass through there each day. Besides tending to their physical needs, they also provide them comfort by announcing God’s love.
They have been able to provide assistance to those in need only because of the support of many other people across the world by prayer and financial help. They are asking the donations to be sent to their bank account in Poland (to avoid all the trouble of the banking system in Ukraine and thefts). Then lay people of the Neocatechumenal Way there purchase all the medical supplies and food, since they cannot be found in Ukraine, they drive to the border of the two countries, where they pass on the provisions to other people until it arrives in the parishes of Kyiv. Therefore, here in the parish, we will collect money to be sent to these people in need in a way that it will certainly arrive to them, very quickly, and safely. We will have a SECOND COLLECTION next Sunday (maintenance and development will be postponed), we also have YELLOW ENVELOPES labeled “For the People of Ukraine”, anyone can also WRITE CHECKS and be given to the office with memo “Ukraine”. For those who have ONLINE GIVING, you will be able to log in and make donations directly from your account. If someone prefers to use their CREDIT CARD, you can come to the parish office make your contribution with Lee Ann.
The parish will collect all these funds donated and make a wire transfer directly to them. Please rest assured that 100% of all the money collected will go to directly to the people in need.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are gifted with another holy time of Lent. I know it’s not much of our favorite season, but one very important nonetheless. More often than not, Lent is associated as the time of penance and hardship instead of the time of preparation for the greatest feast of all year, Easter.
The other day in a homily I spoke about how the brides prepare themselves for their wedding. It’s amazing to see how excited they are, all the arrangements that are done for one of their most important day of their lives. Similarly, it could be said for a couple who are having their first child. They paint the baby’s room, decorate it with all sorts of beautiful things, they put the crib together, and as the moment of the birth of the baby approaches, they have the overnight bag ready for the big day, an emergency plan for when the water breaks. In sum, there is a lot of preparation that goes in place for both occasions. At the same time, even though there might be a lot of work, they are so excited for what will happen that they do it all with joy. The time of lent is similar to these examples. Actually, it is very similar as we are also called to be prepared for the wedding of the Lamb, when we will be with our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. In the second example, we are called to give birth to Christ inside of us, as St. Paul exhorts us, the new creation that God is doing within us. Therefore, I invite you to be thrilled during these upcoming 40 days.
But how can we get excited when we are whining about not eating meat on Friday and giving up things that we really enjoy? When we fast, abstain, and pray, the three pillars of the Lenten practices, we can either do something negative or we can turn it into something positive. For instance, instead of giving up watching Netflix, we can use those 50 minutes to read the bible, pray the rosary, or choose something religious to watch such as The Chosen, the life of saints, or something else in Formed.org (call the office for free subscription or check the bulletin next week). Another suggestion is instead of spending $5 on a Starbucks coffee, give it away in Charity, whether to someone in need, or to the Saint Vincent de Paul box at the entrance of the church.
St. Paul uses the example of athletes in his letter to the Corinthians. They renounce themselves of many types of food, spend a lot of time practicing, make innumerous sacrifices only to win a crown that parishes, or a medal that will be hung on a wall. Personally, I have sacrificed a lot of things to get medals and trophies that I don’t even have anymore. Now imagine how much more awesome it would be to prepare ourselves to go to heaven. To be closer to God each day in our prayers, to be able to live in a state of grace after a good deep confession, to be generous to others as God is with us. We are not giving up for nothing or just to feel better. We live Lent to be closer to God and to our neighbor. To help us to live the joys of heaven here on earth, and above all, to prepare ourselves to Easter, where we rise with Christ from death.
Finally, Lent lasts only for 40 days. We still have 325 other days of the year in which we are not fasting or abstaining. It is a short time, like our lives. It won’t last forever. Because of Covid maybe in these past Lents we were not able to live this season fully, so let’s take advantage of this year to live it to its fullness. If by chance you fall short or have a relapse, start all over again, just like the athletes! As we heard on Ash Wednesday St. Paul says, “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Father Steven Clemence