From Father Steven - June 11, 2023
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known as “Corpus Christi.” Some of us may have heard of the celebration, without knowing the beautiful story behind it. Also, the Eucharistic Procession is not a crazy invention of ours, but a long tradition of the Church.
This feast dates back from a couple of events from the early 13th Century. Before then there was no veneration of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass. The blessed sacrament was reserved exclusively for the sick. However, at the change of Millenniums, in 1124, we see a start of a Eucharistic Movement centered in Belgium at the beginning of the second Millennium with the introduction of bells during consecration and blessings with the Blessed Sacrament. One hundred years after that, Sister St. Juliana of Liege, who was born during the Eucharistic Cenacle, had private visions regarding the desire from Jesus to create a feast of Corpus Domini (Body of the Lord). At the age of 16, she saw the moon in its splendor, but it was partially covered by a black spot. She understood that the moon symbolized the Church and the black spot the lack of a feast dedicated to the Body and Blood of Christ. She kept her visions to herself for many years, until it was made known to the Bishop Robert Thourotte, the Bishop of Liege at the time, and to the Archdeacon Jacques Pantaleon, who later in life became Pope Urbanus IV. It was Bishop Thourotte who first celebrated the feast in his diocese. Soon other local bishops also started celebrating this feast. A few years later, in 1264, there was a German priest who was doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist while he was on a pilgrimage near Rome. During a mass he was celebrating, the consecrated host began to bleed and soaked the Corporal and the Altar linens. At that sight, they made a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the nearby town of Orvieto, where the recently elected Pope Urbanus IV was staying. In that same year, moved by the visions of St. Juliana and the event that happened in Orvieto, the Pope ordered the Feast to be celebrated in the whole world.
This Feast is celebrated as a reminder that the Body and Blood of Christ is truly, really, and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine. Although it still looks, smells, tastes like bread and wine, it is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus. This change of substance during the consecration of Mass while the priest repeats the words of Jesus (“this is my Body”, “this is my Blood”) is called in theology transubstantiation. While the Protestants believe that communion is a sign/symbol, a lookalike, we believe that it is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ. In a recent poll conducted here in the US, it showed that many people did not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. There were MANY Eucharistic Miracles in the world, when the Eucharist started bleeding or blood coagulated. Recently, these miracles were tested blindly in independent labs across the world and all the results are the same. It’s the same blood type, from an adult male that was severely beaten before death. If that was not sufficient proof, Jesus himself said that “IT IS HIS BODY AND BLOOD.” That is why the priest during consecration repeats the word of Jesus also to help people understand that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pope Francis says that “every year the feast of Corpus Christ invites us to renew the wonder and joy for this wonderful gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist.” I hope you are able to join us in our procession with the Blessed Sacrament this Sunday after our 11:00am outdoor mass. In case you cannot, at least come to admire the sawdust carpet that the parishioners are preparing to welcome Jesus into our Church.
From Father Steven - June 4, 2023
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Welcome to Ordinary Time, when extraordinary things happen! However, you may ask why is the Church not decorated with the “regular” green, but we have white instead? It is because this Sunday the Church observes “Trinity Sunday.” (And the following week will be Corpus Christi, so we will wait a bit more to change back to green.) One may ask the reason to celebrate Trinity Sunday, if we celebrate God every Sunday. There are a couple of reasons.
The Sunday after Pentecost has been dedicated to the Trinity since the 8th Century. So it is a long tradition in the Church to reflect on the mystery of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What better moment in the year we have than the Sunday after we see the whole work of redemption accomplished by the Father (creation), the Son (redemption), and the Holy Spirit (sanctification)? On Pentecost, one may say, we see the whole “team” working together. On Holy Week, we see the Father in action by desiring to re-create mankind after the Original Sin. On Easter and up to the Ascension, we see the Son risen from the dead announcing the defeat of death and the conquering of sin. When the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is sent to the Apostles, we see the sanctifying Spirit that will empower them to go out and announce the love of God. Therefore, on the weekend after all of it is fulfilled and manifested to us, we are called to spend some time contemplating the marvel of their communion in the work of our salvation.
The other reason for dedicating a weekend to the Holy Trinity is to “force” us to contemplate the very mystery of the Trinity. It’s a bit silly to affirm that we always speak of God, but how often do we speak about God himself? All the Scriptures testify the work of God, or the manifestation of God’s love through the different interventions. However, the Scriptures are not so clear when speaking about God. Through time God has revealed distinct parts about himself. Also when faced with different heresies, the Church was called to dig deeper in its understanding of God. In the first Centuries, some people thought that there was only one God, who manifested himself in three different modes (Modalism). Others, Tritheism, believe that there were three different gods, because they were three different persons. Still others either did not believe in the divinity of Jesus (Arianism), or did not believe that Jesus was truly man (Docetism). There were other claims that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit or even that he was created and did not proceed from the Father and the Son. The Nicene Creed comes to clarify and reinstate that we believe in ONE God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even though there are three persons in the Trinity, their love for each other makes them into one being/substance. Look at what we will pray at the preface of the mass this weekend (the part right before the Holy):
“For with your only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord: not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance. For what you have revealed to us of your glory we believe equally of your Son and of the Holy Spirit, so that, in the confessing of the true and eternal Godhead, you might be adored in what is proper to each Person, their unity in substance, and their equality in majesty.“
Therefore, as we come to Church this weekend, I invite you to contemplate the actions of each person in the Trinity and how much they have helped us.
On another note, I would like to highlight that next weekend we will be celebrating Corpus Christi. The Church invites us to make a public profession of our Faith in the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We will be doing a trilingual Mass outside in the parking lot at 11:00am next week. After Mass, we will do the procession through the streets of Marlboro, concluding in front of the Church where we will have our sawdust carpet once again. Therefore, there will be no 9:00am or 1:00pm Mass and the 11:00am will be celebrated only outside. In case of rain, we will have the mass inside. The procession however, will happen even if it rains. Please join us. The other day I heard someone who said, how can we doubt the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist if he himself said “THIS IS MY BODY”?
From Father Steven - May 28, 2023
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
From Father Steven - May 21, 2023
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.
Father Steven Clemence