Dearly Beloved in Christ,
For four hundred and one years this land, which would become the United States of America, has had to deal with the evil and moral cancer that is racism.
When the word racism is invoked it is often identified in personal terms: someone whose attitudes, convictions and actions target a group of other individuals because of color. This is a valid but only partial meaning of the term. From such people as Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, to contemporary leaders, thinkers and activists, African Americans have tried consistently to expand the general understanding of racism. In word and deed, they have pointed to the reality of systemic and structural racism.
Racism and slavery find a common nexus in this country, the denial of the humanity and dignity of other persons. As a nation we abolished slavery legally, but we have not dealt with its enduring legacy. If we reject slavery then we must reject and denounce the dehumanizing attitudes that foster discrimination, inequality and violence. Racism can be explicit, but it also can be unrecognized and unacknowledged. Yet, all of its manifestations are deadly and corrosive to civil society. Like COVID-19, racism can infect any person, without regard of region, religion, race or ethnicity. It is highly contagious, easily transmitted to others, and too often unseen and disguised in those seemingly healthy. Racism is a social and spiritual disease that kills people.
The murder of George Floyd, an African American citizen, at the hands of four rogue police officers was tragically all too familiar to the African American community. During our lifetimes there has been the reality of the Negro Travelers Green Book, identifying locations where African Americans stop and stay in our country with less likelihood of being attacked. We have seen the Ku Klux Klan’s brutal lynchings of innocent black people. And we have now again witnessed heinous violence perpetrated by some who were entrusted with the duty to protect. George Floyd’s death makes clear that racist premises and attitudes, often implicit, are woven through basic structures—political, legal, economic, cultural and religious—in the United States.
The earliest days of my priesthood were lived in Washington, D.C. on 16th St. in the heart of the city. I was there the night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The city was set ablaze with 700 fires; tanks lined the streets around the White House and soldiers with bayonets stood on every corner. The killing of Dr. King sparked despair and rage throughout the African American community in the United States. Since then there have been important and meaningful advances of civil rights and the election of an African American President. But to know that fifty years later four police officers would see themselves entitled to murder a black man with impunity makes clear how far we must yet go to achieve racial equality.
In the weeks following Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, during the time of the Poor People’s March on Washington, I joined the individuals and families at Resurrection City at the Lincoln Memorial. Off duty police officers hurled tear gas at our encampment and shouted vile profanities at us. I did not then, and we do not now judge all police officers on the basis of the reprehensible, criminal acts of those few who betray their brothers and sisters in uniform. The vast majority of police officers, very notably in Boston through the leadership of Commissioner Gross, serve as heroic, selfless first responders who take seriously their mission and face danger to protect others.
The antidote to the poison of racism is community and solidarity. The protests in response to George Floyd’s murder, in my view, have been predominantly peaceful and focused on the urgent need to address racism as a systemic, cultural, and legal reality. Some violent protesters and out of town infiltrators, few in number but by intention disproportionately visible, had interest in neither justice nor its achievement. As Governor Baker stated, they should be legally punished and should not be able to tarnish the greater significance of the peaceful marches and demonstrations we have witnessed.
We recognize that the Catholic Church in the United States must contend with our historical complicity in slavery and our need for racial healing. However, an important part of the legacy of the Catholic faith is our social teaching. The Catholic Church is a community of people of all colors, nationalities and ethnicities. Catholic moral teaching is based on the fact that all people – without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or nationality – are created in the image of God. This teaching rejects any form of racism, personal or systemic. Our faith calls us to leadership in breaking down barriers and standing against injustice. To violate human dignity is to dishonor the presence of Christ in each person.
Going forward, the reality of racism in our society and the moral imperative of racial equality and justice must be incorporated in our schools, our teaching and our preaching. We must uphold the commitments to equal dignity and human rights in all institutions of our society, in politics, law, economy, education. Catholic teaching on social justice measures the way a society acts fairly or not. Our work will not be done until African American men, women and children are treated equally in every aspect of life in the United States.
The killing of George Floyd is painful evidence of what is and has been at stake for African Americans – the failure of society in too many ways to protect their lives and the lives of their children. As Catholics we are taught to nurture and protect life from its inception to its natural end and at every moment in -between. The demonstrations and protests of these days have been calls for justice and heart wrenching expressions of deep emotional pain from which we cannot turn away. They call us to affirm the inestimable value of every person’s life. They call us to redouble our commitment to foster respect and justice for all people. They call us to uphold and defend the truth that Black Lives Matter.
With the assurance of my continued prayers,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM,
Cap. Archbishop of Boston
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This week I would like to share with you two very important letters from Cardinal Sean. One is a REFLECTION OF THE EVIL OF RACISM on the wake of the death of George Floyd. The other is the letter he prepared about the YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST that will begin this weekend and conclude on the Feast of Corpus Christi next year. Here at IC we will have different events throughout the year, as the Cardinal invites us, to learn more about the Eucharist and to spend time before the Eucharistic Lord, asking him to reveal Himself to us.
The first event will be "Come and Pray" 24hr adoration starting Sunday, 6:00pm through Monday, 6:00pm in the Upper Church. Fr. Przemek will lead us in a series of talks on Tuesdays, 6:00pm about the Eucharist starting this week, June 16th. He will do four sessions in the Upper Church and they will broadcasted online as well.
God bless, Fr. Steven
December 10, 2019 Feast of Our Lady of Loreto
A recent Pew Study entitled “What Americans Know About Religion” reported that only 31% of Catholics believe that the bread and the wine consecrated during the Mass actually become the body and blood of Jesus, and that only half of Catholics know of the Church’s teaching concerning the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
In order to help people gain a better understanding of the Eucharist, on Holy Thursday 2020, the Archdiocese of Boston will begin a Year of the Eucharist. It is my hope and prayer that through this spiritual initiative we can invite and encourage our brothers and sisters to find the consolation of the Lord through participation in the celebration of the Eucharist and in times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
When my parents were married, my uncle Fr. Jerry Reidy gave them as a wedding gift Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic painting of the Last Supper. That painting hung in our dining room, and one of my earliest memories was my parents explaining to us that this painting depicted the first Mass, the first Eucharist. They made clear that is the reason we go to Mass, to partake in the same Eucharist that Christ shared with his closest followers at the Last Supper before he would suffer and die for us.
My mother and father held the evening meal as a priority for our family; attendance was not optional. It was an institution in our house to gather around the table and it was there that we bonded with one another. We shared our experiences of the day. We would laugh together, would even argue with each other. The evening family meal was essential to our formation and it was where we discovered our identity.
The same can be said of the celebration of the Eucharist. As Catholics, it is in the Eucharist that we learn our identity. At the table of the Lord, Jesus makes a gift of Himself to us because God loves us so much. Just as we discover our identity at the family table, it is in the Eucharist that we discover who we are, why we are here, and what is our mission as disciples of Christ.
Growing up I remember many wonderful devotions that kept the Eucharist at the center of our lives as Catholics: the Forty Hours Adoration, Corpus Christi processions, and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. From an early age I knew the Eucharist is what distinguishes us from most other Christian churches, that the Body and Blood of Christ was actually, sacramentally, present in our Church.
At the Last Supper, Christ gave us the priesthood so He could be present everywhere in the world, not just in Jerusalem, in every time and age. Through the Eucharist, we have direct contact with the Lord at the celebration of Mass and in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. When we visit our churches at times other than the celebration of Mass, we can see the red glow of the sanctuary lamp and know that Jesus is there for us. He is always waiting silently and lovingly, ready to receive us and console us.
The Capuchin Friars have a commitment to make two periods of meditation a day and I always do mine in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. For me, as Archbishop of Boston, my holy hour is late at night when the phones stop ringing. It is a time when I am renewed by the assurance of the Lord’s presence and His love for me, knowing He will guide me and give me the strength I need. Praying in the presence of the Eucharist, in adoration of the Lord, is a very important part of my daily existence; it is essential to perseverance in the vocation I have embraced.
Before I became a bishop, I served as a priest in Spanish and Portuguese ministry where I learned many of the hymns I sing to the Eucharistic Lord during my Holy Hour. I also love the Latin hymns I learned in the seminary, the Pange Lingua, and the English hymn, Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All. I memorized these hymns, and it is my hope that they can become a regular part of devotional practice at all our parishes, hymns that everyone learns by heart and sings together. As St. Augustine told us, singing is praying twice, because singing lifts our hearts to God and provides us with a glimpse of His beauty in the beauty of the music.
Recent times have been very difficult for the Church and her people. In the Year of the Eucharist, we all have the opportunity to renew and strengthen our faith and our closeness to the Lord. If we center ourselves in the Real Presence of Jesus, in His friendship, then everything else will make sense. At the celebration of Mass, Jesus is there, waiting for us, inviting us to the table where He is making a gift of Himself to us so that we may have the strength to make a gift of ourselves to others. That is what human fulfillment is about. It is about love and giving of ourselves on behalf of others. That is the meaning of the Eucharist, it is love taken to the extreme. The more we understand that, the more we will want to be present to the Eucharist and the more the Eucharist will transform us.
Discipleship is not a solo flight. Jesus sent people out two by two, not one by one, and spoke of the importance of “two or three are gathered in my name.” The Eucharist is where we gather as Christ’s family, where we can witness our faith to one another and grow in our capacity to love. The Eucharist gives us the strength to carry out our mission to transform the world, to work for justice, to serve the poor, to bring healing and reconciliation. But we can’t do these things unless we have the strength that comes from the intimate contact with God’s love that is given to us in the Eucharist.
Discipleship also requires a plan. We need to ask ourselves what we can do, individually and with our families and friends, to prepare for the Year of the Eucharist. We can find the answer to these questions in times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in our churches. We can read and reflect on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. We can invite family, friends, and colleagues to join us at Mass and times of Adoration. We can reflect on the importance of receiving the Lord in the Eucharist, the difference that makes in our lives, and share that insight with those who are close to us.
We don’t exist by accident. Our lives are a gift of God’s gratuitous love, and the Eucharist is the most profound symbol of His love for us. Jesus comes to us in humility, in littleness, so that no one need be afraid or unsure of His acceptance. He makes Himself present to us so that we can have the strength we need to live our mission in the Church as disciples of Christ.
God created us and entered into creation in Jesus Christ so we could be close to Him, hear Him, know and love Him. The sacraments not only touch our lives, they mold our very being, and the Eucharist is the center of our sacramental life. That is why I am a Catholic. That is why I am a priest. Without the Eucharist, I would ask myself, “Is it worth it?” I know it is worth it, because Christ really is present in the Eucharist. May God bless you all abundantly with this assurance that Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of time. That is Jesus’ promise and He keeps that promise in the gift of the Eucharist.
With the assurance of my prayers for you and all whom you hold dear, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Boston
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This week we were very saddened by the egregious death of George Floyd. It's okay to be outraged by George Floyd's death. We should be. George Floyd had the right to be born, the right to live peacefully, the right to just and humane punishment for any alleged crimes he committed, and right to die in peace of natural causes. It is also okay to be outraged by the violence that followed George Floyd's death.
It’s true that we are all tired of seeing cases of racism and social inequality. However, violence only leads to more violence. We cannot ignore what is happening with our black brothers and sisters, and equally to everyone else who is discriminated against for whatever reason. Racial inequality is only one problem facing our society. There are other problems that need to be addressed as well (women suffering from sexual harassment, violence and inequality, the plight of our immigrant community in these trying times, etc.). I don’t mention these problems to minimize what happened to George Floyd. Indeed, my point is the opposite. We have many issues that we as Catholics must address as part of our responsibility to work toward social justice. We cannot remain silent. We cannot ignore the injustices that we see. What can we do at IC?
We will not be able to change the world only by our words or posts online. We can only change the world by what we do, how we treat others, and how we react to injustices that we see. A person taught me once that as important as giving money or food to a homeless person in need, is to ask that person their name. That is, to give the person in need human dignity.
This is what we are also called to do. To respect that innate dignity that each person has. This is not politically correct; this is our moral obligation as human beings. Regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnicity or any background, we were all made in the image and likeness of God. For us Catholics, we also have the mandate of Christ himself who said, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” (Jn 13:34) There are no exceptions to that. Indeed, in the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk 10:25- 37), Christ makes the point to love even those that are our enemies. Today’s version of that could be to love even the person who votes for another candidate, or the person who has a different opinion than us. What is at stake here is to love! We are all asked to take a stand today, we are called to defend the TRUTH. And what is THE truth? Jesus replies, “ I am the truth, the way, and the life” (Jn 14:6). And who is Jesus/God? God is LOVE! Therefore THE TRUTH IS TO LOVE!
Often when we speak of RESPECT LIFE at Church, it is somehow matched with Pro-Life issues. The truth that it goes way beyond unborn babies. It refers to the elderly, the marginalized, the poor, minorities…in sum, to EVERYONE. When I say that all life matters, this is not part of any social movement or anything affiliated with an agenda. It has nothing to do with race but only the dignity of all human life. It is what God says in the psalms, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of this faithful.” Every single life is important to God and also to us.
COME HOLY SPIRIT
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. We often associate it with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles in the cenacle, and the tongues of fire. Even though these are all true, there is much more behind it. For a better understanding of it, we would need first to look back at the Old Testament in the book of Exodus, and then look at how this celebration helps us, person- ally.
The feast of Shavuot, also known as the feast of weeks, is the celebration of the manifestation of God at Mount Sinai when God gave/revealed the Law to the people of Israel. God gives them the Way of Life (the Law) through the two tablets of the 10 commandments. This moment, according to the Jewish scholars, God manifests his love for his people. The Law is not meant to limit us with Do’s” and Don’ts. Rather, it means to show us the way to True Happiness, the way to Eternal Life. However, because of Original Sin, there is always a doubt about God’s ways, and we see every- thing that limits us as a burden, hence the thought that “I have to do that, or I should do that, but I can’t.” The truth is that it’s actually completely the opposite. We should always interpret any law from God as “this is what will make me happy,” like “love one another as I have loved you.” Only then we will be happy/saved.
The Prophet Jeremiah announces that when the Messiah comes, God would reveal himself once again. In this new revelation, it would not be like in the Old Testament, that the Law was written on stone. He announces that God would write the Law (Way of Happiness and Life) “on man’s hearts” (Jr 31:33). Indeed, when Christ came, God wrote his Law using the HOLY SPIRIT. It is the third Person of the Trinity that speaks to our hearts. Jesus announces that the Spirit would remind everything that he taught (Jn 14:26). The whole law is summarized by the Love of God and the neighbor. The Holy Spirit comes to give us GOD’S LOVE! God’s love manifested by Jesus Christ is a NEW LOVE, in which, one does not resist evil, one that forgives. Surely, we by ourselves, can’t love the person that is different or is a sore on our side. We can tolerate them at best! To for- give is not to let it go, but to pray for the person killing you, like Christ who says, “Father, Forgive them.” The Holy Spirit comes to give us THIS LOVE. If we want to be Christians, that is, CHRIST LIKE, then we NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT BADLY!!! We can’t love like that. St. Paul in the letter to the Romans recalls Psalm 44 that says we are like sheep led to the slaughter. I would add that this happens every day. Every day we encounter events, small or big, and people that make us suffer. Those moments we need the love of God, because we can’t deal with it on our own strength. That’s why it’s so important to ASK FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT! St. Paul also says “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed... struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2Co 4:7- 10). In other words, today, in this Pentecost, it is THROUGH US THAT GOD WANTS TO MANI- FEST HIS LOVE FOR THE WORLD.
I invite you to ask for God’s help. Welcome the sweet guest of our souls. Ask for the Holy Spirit, to renew the face of the earth through love. Ask for his fruits; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, modesty and chastity. On the next page, we included an act of the consecration to the Holy Spirit and the prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only then we will be able to BE HOLY!
God bless Fr. Steven