From Father Steven - October 30, 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Tuesday we will celebrate All Saints Day and on Wednesday All Souls’. Besides the fact that the former is a day of obligation and the latter we don’t know much about, these are two very important events for our lives and for our days.
Lately, I began to read one of the best books I have ever read, “The Treatise On Prayer” by St. Alphonsus Liguori. In the first part of the book, the saint explains the need for prayer. In one section he devotes to explain the importance of asking the saints for their intercession to help us. It is very common that people may come to Fr. Kevin or myself asking us to pray for them. The same happens in a circle of friends. When someone is sick, they always circulate the message to pray for the health of that individual. St. Alphonsus says that if we commend ourselves to the living, how much better it would be to commend ourselves to the saints, who in heaven, are closer to God? It is not a matter of bypassing Jesus or avoiding the dialogue with the Father, but rather, it’s about multiplying our prayers. Very recently we heard in the Gospels the need of persistence while praying. Our heavenly friends, the saints, would help us with our prayers. While quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, he explains that “there are times that while the graces asked in a prayer of a single individual is not obtained, the prayers of many are heard”. Here we see the importance to ask the saints for help. They are also a great source of inspiration to know how in their simple and difficult lives were able to remain faithful to the Lord. At times we can think that we will never reach their level of “holiness”, but if we don’t ask for those graces, we indeed will never be like them. St. Anthony says that “the desire for holiness is already the first step”. I invite you to read the lives/biography of the saints, at least a short bio of the saint of the day and commend your struggles to them.
As the saints help us on earth, we are also called to help those in need of our prayers. Those would be the souls in purgatory. This is a beautiful tradition that slowly is being lost in our culture. The souls in purgatory are those people who before entering heaven have to be purified from their sins. The purification though is excruciating, as St. Alphonsus describes that the greatest torment in our lives would be a great delight for them. He continues to say that the pain is not so much that of the fire, but rather the longing to be united to God. By offering prayers, plenary indulgences, and mass intentions for the faithful departed we assist them through the sacrifices of Jesus to pardon their offenses and speed their entrance into heaven. The saint goes on saying that once the souls helped by us enter in heaven (and therefore become saints) they intercede for us out of gratefulness. Therefore, it becomes a win-win situation for us. Once again, as the saints intercede for us, we are also called to intercede for others, either living or dead. Here in the US it is not a popular tradition to visit the cemeteries on All Souls Day, somehow that practice is done on Memorial Day. We Christians are called to visit a cemetery on this day (or within the week) to pray for the dead. Indeed a plenary indulgence is granted to a person (to be offered for a person already deceased) if we pray at the cemetery on that week and fulfill the other requirements (confession, communion, and pray for the intentions of the Pope). During the month of November, we shall also have the book of the dead on the altar of St. Joseph (the Patron Saint of Good death) to pray for all the faithful departed of our parish and our families remembering them at all masses. So please do write the names of your loved ones who might be in need of our prayers.
Brothers and Sisters, as we go through the struggles of life, let’s remember that we as a Church do not fight alone, but our living and heavenly brothers are with us! It is worth mentioning again, as I have said at mass, to pray for one another. Whether it is a person who sits next to you, or someone who might look sad or appears to be struggling. This is what we profess in our Creed, that we believe in the communion of the saints!!!
From Father Steven - October 23, 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday is World Mission Sunday. Please see the article below. When you contribute to the World Mission Sunday collection, you make it possible for the Pope to provide mission support to:
844,000 catechists teaching the faith
258,540 Religious Sisters caring for children and families
38,140 seminarians preparing for the priesthood
26 million children in primary schools
12,000 clinics caring for the sick and dying
8,750 homes for orphaned children and the elderly
“On this World Mission Sunday, we join as a Church to pray for missionaries and those they serve. We pray for their protection, guidance and inspiration. We pray that the gift of faith in Christ our Savior will enliven the souls of more and more people.
In the second reading, St. Paul says that he is likely reaching the end of his life, called to martyrdom for his faith in Jesus. “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well, I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearance.”
(2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul, among the greatest of the Church’s early missionaries, wanted Timothy and all who spread the message of salvation to remain steadfast in their task.
While many would suffer for their Christian belief in the days and centuries to come communicating the news of redemption through the Son of God is absolutely necessary. Mission activity is an elemental part of the Church since we are all called to share the love and forgiveness of Christ with every person possible. Saints Paul and Timothy and the other Apostles and disciples knew this, just as we do, two thousand years later. And each of us needs to be willing to do all we can to bring the word of Jesus Crucified and Risen to others. We do this not only through prayer, but also through our example, witness, and support for Missions.
For almost a century, the Catholic Church has taken up a collection on World Mission Sunday to assist the work of the missions and of missionaries in countries around the globe. While the Church shapes the joyful message of God’s mercy, it also assists our neighbors who struggle with material needs. Priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and laypeople continue to reach out to men, women, and children who do not know Christ or do not yet entrust themselves to His mercy. We must live our faith by sharing our faith.
Today - and every day - we need to commit ourselves to follow in the footsteps of our Lord by welcoming others to His gracious and glorious embrace.
On this World Mission Sunday, let us witness to our faith through our prayers and financial help to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Our generosity on this Sunday, combined with what is offered in churches and chapels around the globe, join us to the efforts of missionaries who proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor.”
From Father Steven - October 16, 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every now and then we hear stories that are very complicated or their outcome is highly unlikely and we call them “miracles.” In the Catholic Church we call miracles those divine interventions that cannot be explained by science. Usually we read about them in books, shrines, or even in the life of the saints. Recently there was a story that if it is not a miracle, it is very close to it.
About three years ago, there was a missionary family that came from the Midwest to our parish and school to care for a high-level risk pregnancy. Emanuele and Priscilla Bruno had recently lost a week-old baby that was born with a highly rare genetic disorder, when her new pregnancy was diagnosed with the same syndrome. There were only eight cases reported in the whole world of children born with that disorder, but there was only one other case in which two siblings had it. Considering their situation, they prayed to the Lord for help and doors were opened for them to travel with their six other children to Massachusetts. They were able to find hospitality in a house in Fitchburg and their children joined IC school. Towards the end of the pregnancy, when all the doctors from various hospitals were assured that the baby would not survive after birth, there was an immense pressure on the couple to “end their pregnancy.” Abortion seemed to be the most “humane” course of action to be taken for their child. Because the baby’s genetic disorder affected his bones and muscles, the lungs were never developed, and his heart was very weak. Realizing that little Francesco was a gift of God given to his parents, they entrusted Him to care for their little baby. Since the due date was close to the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, his mother Priscilla was praying constantly to the Blessed Mother to intervene. After much resistance from the medical staff, which at times were disrespectful and inconsiderate to the desire of the parents, they finally made the preparations for the delivery.
Usually the preparations for the delivery would include babysitting for their children, the hospital bag, change of clothes, and getting the car ready, Francesco’s preparations were quite different. They had their relatives flown from various parts of the US, the children were all praying the rosary at the hospital, some priest friends of theirs joined in prayer, and one priest was ready at the operating room to baptize the baby as soon as he was born. After some rehearsal time between the doctor, nurses, and the priest as to how everything was going to happen, the critical moment of delivery arrived. The baby was born, was baptized, and instead of dying, miraculously, he cried and was brought to the NICU unit where a whole medical staff were ready for various interventions. By the time we got there, the baby was quietly resting and the staff were all amazed at how the baby had survived. Due to the severity of the complications, the future of Francesco was very certain, he was going to die very soon. Once again the doctors were pushing for the couple to let their child die, rather than living a few more days and suffering to the end. Once again, the parents had to explain to the team of highly specialized doctors that God was the master of life and He was going to determine the length of the life of that child. At the same time as that dialogue was happening, the nurses were all drawn to see that little miracle who was so fragile and so strong at the same time to withstand all that he was going through. At every time where all the doors were closing for his treatment, one last door was opened. He was transferred from hospital to hospital due to Covid, surgical interventions, chest expansions procedures, he flew almost ten times to different hospitals and always with a smile on his face. After surviving one day at a time, two months short of his third birthday, Francesco was able for the first time to go home. After living all this time in different hospitals, this week he was dismissed.
In this respect life month, as we pray for all lives, it is important to remember that all lives belong to God. As He created us, He is the one that calls us. Some are called earlier to the presence of the Father, as Francesco’s brother, and others will be called later. What is fundamental is to trust in God. Although we don’t understand, He always has a greater plan than ours. Emanuele and Priscilla were already spreading God’s word in the Midwest, but the Lord called them to evangelize to the doctors and nurses through the sickness of their child. Lastly, the greatest miracle is not the life of Francesco, but rather that people seeing the glory of God convert and return to him!
From Father Steven - October 9, 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This week we celebrated Our Lady of the Rosary (Friday, October 7th) and I would like to reflect with you about such an important part of our lives and one of the greatest devotions in our faith. The Virgin Mary entrusted to St. Dominic the rosary to fight against Albigensian, a heresy mainly denies the incarnation. Therefore the mysteries of the rosary contemplate the very incarnation of Christ who became man out of love for each of us. The devotion of the rosary did not become widely popular until the famous battle of Lepanto in 1571. Upon the threat of the imminent Muslin invasion, Pope Pius V instructed all the faithful to pray to Our Lady of Victories to help Europe to be defended. In the most extraordinary way, on October 7, 1571, the Muslins were defeated and the feast in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted in remembrance of that day.
Although praying the Rosary may seem to the younger generation “boring” or tedious, it is nonetheless one of the most powerful prayers that we have. In the contemplation of the different mysteries, we call to mind everything that God has done to save us! It also carries many graces that may be unknown to us. It may seem that praying the rosary does not change our lives, or our problems, but there are very special graces given to those who pray the rosary. These are the 15 promises:
1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
4. The Rosary will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
10.The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
11.You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
12.All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
13.I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
14.All who recite the Rosary are my sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of my only Son Jesus Christ.
15.Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
Therefore, I invite you to pick up the rosary again to pray it daily. In this month when we pray for life, let’s offer our Rosaries for those who need our prayers, the unborn, the sick, the elderly, and pray for one another. It’s worth noting that when we pray for others, we are the first beneficiaries!!! Finally, I also invite you to come to the 24Hr Adoration that we will have starting this Sunday 6pm through Monday 6pm. Come let us pray!
Father Steven Clemence