Dear Parishioners of Immaculate Conception,
My name is Gabriel Malachi Hanley, I am twenty-eight years old and in preparation for my presbyteral ordination next year, I have just been assigned deacon to Immaculate Conception here in Marlborough. Although I can say today that I am very happy with the vocation that the Lord is giving me, rest assured that it hasn't always been the case. I was born and raised in Framingham, MA to my father, Stephen Hanley, a Boston native, and my mother Ana Hanley, who came to the United States from Dominican Republic when she was seventeen. My family was always involved in the Church, and ever since I was young, my parents sought to instill in us the faith as the most important element of our lives. However, seeing how different my family was from those of my friends and relatives, I was embarrassed of my faith. And it did not stop there, being the fourth of six children, I felt that I was eclipsed by my siblings and that I didn't really have a place in the family. So, I set out to create an identity for myself.
I started getting into all sorts of different hobbies: basketball, skateboarding, guitar, singing, graffiti art and a number of other things. Each hobby became a way for me to be noticed and appreciated; it was by way of these hobbies that I sought the approval of my parents, friends and family. Nevertheless, however much I excelled at one of them, I was never satisfied. As much as I tried to make myself happy, I couldn't. And so, the cycle of dissatisfaction continued. All the while, I became more distant from the Church. Although I would be attending mass, I was starting to become doubtful if anything I did in the Church really had any meaning. But even while I was distancing myself from God, he did not abandon me.
When I was seventeen, during a retreat, I felt that there was an interior voice that, without words, was urging me to leave everything behind and to pursue a vocation to the priesthood. My first reaction, like Jonah, was to run in the opposite direction. I kept on with my dream of going to Art school, hoping to have a career in graphic design, and to one day have a wife and family of my own. After High School, I attended Montserrat College of Art for a semester, but still that interior calling wouldn't leave me alone. I wanted to take time off to discern what the Lord was asking of me. Soon after, the opportunity arose for me to have an experience in the Holy Land, serving at the Pilgrim's House called the Domus Galilee. There, for seven months, I lived something of a monastic life, revolving around work and prayer. I would make beds, wash windows, serve in the restaurant, clean toilets as well as many other tasks. On Sundays we would take a break from work and would visit one of the many different holy sites around. The miracle was that I was finally happy.
It became clear to me, that when I wanted to do my own will I was miserable and left feeling like I never measured up. But even with the simple tasks that I was doing while I was there in Israel, it was as if my life had so much more meaning. This led me to be open to the vocation to the priesthood and so I decided to enter the Seminary.
For the past eight years I have belonged to the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Boston and I have never been happier. These last three years, as part of my formation, I spent doing mission work, first in Kansas and Missouri, and then in northern and central California. It was an incredible experience to be able to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ in all of these different places.
Nevertheless, throughout the years in the seminary, I believe one of the most important things that I have discovered is that God does not choose the qualified, but qualifies those that He chooses. That is to say that, God has not called me to this vocation, because I am better than others or more holy, but simply because he loves me and desires to reach many people through me. The vocation that God has given is hardly about myself, but is really about all those He seeks to draw to Himself through my ministry. And, yes, often times I feel that I fall short, but the with the help of God's grace, we are able to do even the impossible. This calling to the priesthood, and right now as a deacon, is really a gift to love in a distinct way. I look forward to serving here at Immaculate Conception and ask that you continually pray for me so that I may always cling to the Lord in the mission He has entrusted to me.
Yours in Christ,
Deacon Gabriel Malachi Hanley
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
It is with great joy that I announce to you Cardinal Sean O’Malley has appointed the newly ordained transitional deacon Gabriel Hanley to our parish! He will complete his final year of seminary study before, God willing, becoming a priest. He will serve here in the parish over the summer, and when school starts in September, he will be here on the weekends. Over this announcement, I would like to share with you three points.
The first point that I would like to share is that God always listens to our prayers. Both many of you and myself have been praying for the Lord to send us help here in the parish. During these years that I have seen priests come and go, I also have seen how God answered our prayers differently. While we were praying asking God for help, we envisioned that he would send another priest. Instead, He answered our prayers by sending more people to help, who were not necessarily priests. There were a good number of volunteers who started helping us in different capacities in all three communities. I’m sure we could use some extra help, but it’s amazing the work that you people are doing. Whether decorating, teaching CCD, or helping the poor, everything is very essential. Even though we are receiving deacon Gabriel here, I’m still praying that more people come to the forefront to help us in more ways.
The second point I would like to share with you is the difference between the diaconate of Gabriel and that of deacon Chuck and Elcio. They were ordained as permanent deacons, which means that God has called them to serve the Church as deacons for the rest of their lives. This type of deacon can be a married man whose children are grown up or a single man as well. As we hear in the Acts of the Apostles, how the first deacons were “seven men acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent, and [were appointed] to the task” of serving the needy. Nowadays, they serve in three ways as the word “deacon” means “service” in Greek (diakonia). The first way is assisting in charitable works. The second is serving at the Liturgy which includes celebrating baptisms, weddings, wakes and burials. The third way is to proclaim the Gospel, both literally at mass and to preach the word of God on different occasions. In the long past, all the deacons ended up becoming priests, and the order of deacons became a way for the priests to learn how to serve before their priestly ordination. Thus, the permanent diaconate was changed into the transitional, as it was a transitional time before becoming priests. Only after the Second Vatican Council the permanent diaconate was reestablished in the church. Technically, all priests still remain deacons as we are called to serve always.
The third and last point that I would like to bring about is regarding vocations. All vocations to married life, consecrated life, and priests are extremely necessary and very much needed. Soon I will write on both the consecrated and married life. Today, I would like to exhort parents, godparents, and grandparents to speak to the young (and not so young) men about the possibility of becoming priests. I hope that after all the priests that have served IC recently, you realize that everyone can become priests. We are all normal people, well, somehow normal, who play sports, cook, travel, read books, have friends etc…For the most part, we are also very happy, because it’s an awesome life. Part of the discernment to see if God calls them, is to have someone get them to think about it. No compromises…just a simple thought. If one of them is open to the idea, or would like to know more, we are happy to chat. I also would like to point out that next month Jun 22-25, there will be a retreat for high-school age youth (13-18) at Anna Maria College. The Archdiocese of Boston always puts together a yearly retreat for anyone who would like to know more about becoming a priest. The parish will gladly cover the cost of anyone interested to go. At times, all it takes is a simple nudge. I hope that this year in which we will accompany deacon Gabriel on his preparation to become a priest could spark a conversation or interest in the youth to follow God in a different way.
Please pray for Gabriel’s vocation and for the increase of vocations in the parish. For those who can, join us as we will be having a reception for him after the 11:00am Mass where you will have an opportunity to meet him.
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
There are many facets in the life of a mother. Some are so kind and loving that we will never forget, such as the birth of the children, their first steps and words, their first teeth, graduation etc… Others are not so easy to deal with, such as, hospital trips, illnesses, worries about their whereabouts, disappointments and so on. However, there are some parts of motherhood that we wish that no one had to experience, such as the burial of a child or a miscarriage. There are still other mothers who will never have a child of their own, but nonetheless, their motherhoods are not diminished whatsoever.
The gift of children is a miracle of nature. When we study the physiology of a human being, it is quite impressive that we are capable of gestating another person within us. Surely many times we hear more about the discomfort of swollen feet, back pain, and morning sickness. However, the sight of a mother caressing her belly, and talking sweetly to their child is one of the most beautiful in the world. I cannot imagine what is the feeling for a mother to hold her child in her arms after carrying it for 40 weeks in her womb. I was present at certain moments like that, and we can say that it is almost magical. Surely there can be complications in the pregnancy, or in the delivery, but once the storm passes, then that pure love is overwhelming. This is what each of the mothers are called to remember. We know that the child will misbehave, create chaos in the house, embarrass everyone in different places, including in the church, but it will always be your child. Even when the children grow, it is always important to remember that first love that we had for our child.
This Mother’s Day I would like to address the mothers who maybe never had that opportunity to hold their child in their arms, or had to bury their child. The saying goes that no mother should ever bury their child, no matter how old they are. However, how difficult it is to deal with an infant's death or a miscarriage. In my time of ministry, I have noticed that whether a mother loses their child early in the pregnancy or a late term loss, it is always very difficult. Whether it is the first loss or the fourth, it is equally hard. The only consolation that mothers have shared with me, it is that their child is with God. Maybe in the past you have heard of Limbo, which is the place where children not baptized stay when they die. The Vatican refuted that idea a while back. The Church believes in the mercy of God to welcome those children into heaven. We always encourage the parents to name their child, and to pray for their intercession. If they are in heaven, it means that they are saints. And every child always prays for their parents. If or when they have other children, we also encourage that they are taught about their little sibling who is in heaven and to pray for him as well. We also say that the child who was called by God will never make them cry, they will never have to discipline their child, there will never be any pain. A while back, in a eulogy of an infant, someone said that if a child could speak to their mothers, he would say, “Mother, I know that you wish that I could be with you. However, where I’m is so much more wonderful, that I wish that you could be where I am.” As St. Paul says “we walk by faith no by sight.” (2Co 5:7). The children are given to us by God so that we can take care of them, but He can call His children home at any time He decides. As painful as the process is, only faith will console us. If you have ever experienced any of it, know that you are not alone, and you don’t need to be alone. God always companies us in difficult times, so also our own heavenly mother, and also your child.
Lastly, as a gift of God, not all women become mothers of their own children. Whether one problem or another, every woman is gifted with the gift of motherhood, such as men have the gift of fatherhood. We are all called to exercise the gifts that God has given, whether to our own children or not. I remember growing up playing with the kids from the neighborhood, and how their mothers always treated us like their own children. Remember that every gift that God gives us is to be used to care for His own children, even though they may not live in our address.
Therefore, I exhort you all brothers and sisters, to pray for all women. To help them in their mission of motherhood, we will be giving a little gift to them to remember the importance of prayer. Only God can capacitate us to be strong in difficult times, have hope when all is lost, and above all, to love as He has loved us.
Congratulations to all you Mothers! You are our true super heroes!
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
As the children receive their first communion this weekend (and some did last week), I have contemplated a lot about the Eucharist. Maybe some take it for granted, others don’t believe in it, but still for some people, it’s indeed the summit of all their fiery (catechism).
It’s very difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that God became man, especially after what men have done to God all this time. It is even more difficult to grasp the way how God redeemed mankind. Not only He gives up his only Son to die on the cross, but the Son himself institutes a way to continually give himself up every time mass is celebrated. Not only that, but God goes even farther. Who would ever fathom that God could be in a “piece of bread”? Jesus took our flesh when he became man, and now he takes the appearance of bread and wine to bring us his body and blood. When the priest says the words of consecration, the bread is transformed in the real body of Christ. The same goes for the wine that becomes the blood of Christ. It’s important to understand that this is not a representation or an image of what it signifies. It is truly the real body and blood. Blessed Carlo Acutis, who recently became very popular, was working to publicize all the times where the body of Christ bled real blood or the blood of Christ coagulated. This is all to say that God loves us so much that He gives Himself in whatever way He can, even if it means to leave behind all the glory that is due to Him.
St Thomas Aquinas describes the Eucharist as a “Sacrament of Love”. He says that “it signifies love, it produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.” As the children will receive communion for the first time in their lives, and as we all approach the sacrament once again this weekend, let’s meditate upon the meaning, the sacrifice, the graces, and everything else that it entails. Let us come up for communion with the same enthusiasm as the children, and with the same fervor as if it was our last time. When you are shown the Body of Christ that you are about to receive, let’s not say amen automatically, but an AMEN that comes from your heart!
I must confess that meditating upon the Eucharist, doing some research and reading what the saints and the popes said about the Eucharist, was amazing. The realization of how much God loves me helps me love Jesus even more. It’s impossible to convey everything that there is about the Eucharist. It is daunting to say even just a little bit, but I truly hope that this is enough for you to investigate a bit more about the Eucharist.
God bless and congratulations to all the children who have received their first communion!
Father Steven Clemence