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Monday, March 30, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 29, 2009

We now enter our fifth week of Lent, while our catechumens move through their third and final scrutiny before they enter into the Catholic Church. For us who have faithfully followed the readings during Lent, we see that Jesus’ hour has arrived when he will glorify God.

John’s Gospel points to the nearness of this hour because the Gentiles (the Greeks) have come to see Jesus. Ancient Jewish Scripture always makes reference of the time when the entire world will come to worship the one true God of the Israelites. John points out that it is already happening. The Gospel also reveals that a result of Jesus’ death is that he will gather up all the faithful with him and present them to the Father.

We sense though that this glorification of God by Jesus entails much pain and suffering especially when Jesus speaks of the necessity of a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying to produce new life. The reading in the Book of Hebrews makes this clear when we read about the “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him.” Jesus, though he was not in the Jewish priestly lineage, shows that he becomes the “high priest” because of his obedience to God and because he was able to sympathize with us in every way.

Throughout his earthly life, Jesus came to greater consciousness of his mission and of the cost this discipleship will require of him. Like any other human, Jesus did not want to die. He did, however, know that his prayers were heard by God and that his fidelity to God still required him to extend his saving love to all people. It is the faith of Jesus that saves us – not our faith in Jesus. Doesn’t every love relationship demand faithfulness? The author of Hebrews shows us the life-giving effect of Jesus’ actions so that we may imitate his obedience both to God and to our other relationships.

Lastly, we have to look to the first reading from Jeremiah that grounds the other readings. Jeremiah’s words illustrate the reasons for Jesus’ mission. God wants to make a new covenant with his people – one that is written deep within the hearts of the believers. Something new will happen in our relationship with God – one that will bring about eternal life and the forgiveness and forgetting of all sins. In this new covenant, the Spirit of God will inspire everyone to respond rightly. It is a natural response that erupts from the heart in obedient love to the one who creates, redeems and sustains us. These are consoling words not just to the Israelites who are in exile, but to us today who find a part of ourselves in exile. The obedient and painful love of Jesus was the action that brings about this new relationship with God.

Palm (Passion) Sunday and Holy Week

A week from today is Palm (Passion) Sunday and it kicks off an incredibly moving week. I would like to suggest that you look at the entire week as one that comes alive and is lived again and again in your experience – not just in our memories, but in the concrete actions of our day. View it as one continuous action – from Palm Sunday, to the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, to Spy Wednesday when Jesus was betrayed, to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and his subsequent arrest, trial, and beating to Good Friday when our Lord died, to being with Christ in the tomb on Holy Saturday to that blessed moment when our God vindicated Jesus and raised him from the dead.

Reconciliation Services at Cheverus

On Thursday, April 2nd, Jesuit and diocesan priests will gather at the Loyola chapel for a reconciliation service for the school. Students will be brought to the chapel during theology classes for an opportunity to receive the sacrament. I am always impressed with their receptivity to the sacrament and their desire for continued conversation about healing that which impedes their relationship to God and others. Please call my office if you would like to receive the sacrament, especially before we enter into Holy Week.

New Books

Bill Barry, S.J., tertian director and former Provincial, has two books available this spring from Loyola Press: Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand and a revised edition of Seek My Face. His hope is that these books will help readers understand how to experience friendship with God and what effects that special relationship will have on their lives. If you would like to learn more about his books, please visit http://www.loyolapress.com/barry. You can read excerpts from both titles online.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Laetare Sunday - Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Fourth Week of Lent is known as Laetare Sunday, which is taken from the entrance antiphon that is sung at the beginning of Mass - Laetare Jerusalem, that is, “Rejoice Jerusalem. Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts.” This day marks that we are a little more than halfway through the season of Lent. It was given to us to encourage the faithful in their fasting and penance. The Sunday is marked by joy, yet it is a restrained rejoicing because it is mixed with a certain amount of sadness because of our Lord’s impending suffering.

It is also the second scrutiny of those who are being examined by the Church for admittance during the Easter sacraments of baptism and first communion. In the opening prayer from Ezekiel, we hear the following words proclaimed, “I will prove my holiness through you. I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away your sins. I will give you a new spirit within you, says the Lord.” Though the word scrutiny sounds like a harsh examination, it is a spiritual probing that the Spirit does in mercy and with the desire to bring everyone to the heart of God.

In these days of early springtime, it feels very natural for us to pay attention to the Gospel reading that speaks about our coming to the Light that is Christ. The earth is awaking from its long winter slumber and we find ourselves with increased creative energy that compels us to move toward the light. In the Gospel we see Nicodemus doing just that. In the cover of darkness, Nicodemus is in the beginning stages of making a conscious choice of coming to the light. This stage takes a growing sense of trust and confidence that he is moving in the right direction.

Through our season of penance and in our preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation, we have undoubtedly encountered our own comfort with the darkness and the strain that we feel when we move towards the light. Many of us have experienced some form of exile, which we hear in the first reading of 2nd Chronicles. We have at some point felt separated from home, family, or in these economically difficult times, our livelihood. This alienation brings about increased loneliness, fear, and possibly a sense of abandonment by our loved ones, and even by God. Fears can paralyze and debilitate us. In our prayer this Lent, perhaps we can ask Christ to shed some light on our fears so that we can move much more freely into his mercy and compassion. At the end of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus courageously decides to step out of the darkness and into the light.

God’s mercy and compassion is stronger than any of our fears and God can lift whatever darkness keeps us bound. As we move closer to the end of Lent when we gaze upon the battered body of the crucified Jesus, God will help us overcome our fears as we are raised up with Jesus in God’s light. Perhaps the consoling words of John 3:16 may be our prayer this week. Let us truly believe that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…not to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through him.” I believe.

Mass of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary

This Wednesday we celebrate the Mass of the Annunciation of the Lord. This feast day is celebrated on the day that the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive a Son, and his name will be Jesus. If you count nine months from this date, you will end on December 25th, the nativity of our Lord. You are exempted from the Lenten fast on this feast day.

The angel Gabriel greets Mary with “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” and then explains that, as a virgin, she will conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the words that we profess each Sunday in our recital of the Nicene Creed. Mary’s response, her great Fiat (let it be), “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," is a statement of humble faith, and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. By saying “yes” to God, Mary collaborates with God’s plan of salvation for the world.

In Mary’s spirit, say “yes” to whatever God asks of you in your personal prayer.

Also, please pray for our senior girl and her mother and two senior boys who are preparing to be received into the Catholic Church this Easter season.

Annual Jesuit Dinner

This past Thursday, the Jesuits of New England and their guests gathered at the Boston Copley Marriot for their Annual Dinner, the prime fund raiser for the province. The dinner raised $800,000.00 for the needs of the province including the formation of our young men, the care for our aged and infirm Jesuits, and the operating funds for apostolic initiatives. Brian and Valerie Leary were the Gala co-chairs. Brian worked for 20 years as a reporter and news anchor for the WCVB-TV, Channel 5 in Boston, and returned to law practice in 2002 at the McCarter & English firm. Mary Richardson, co-anchor of WCVB-TV Channel 5’s Chronicle was the special guest host. Mary is a graduate of Santa Clara University in California. Joe and Rose Corcoran were the recipients of the Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam award for their support of the province and their pioneering efforts in the 1970’s for the concept of mixed-income housing. They also began the American City Coalition, a nonprofit that plans and implements the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.

Faculty Retreat and Formation Day

On Monday, our faculty and staff are continuing their Ignatian formation by scrutinizing the documents of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. This month we are examining the documents that pertain to collaboration between lay men and women and Jesuits in their Ignatian-inspired institutions.

On Friday, our faculty and administration have a day at the beach. We are attending our 16th Annual Cheverus Retreat on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean at the Marie Joseph Spirituality Center in Biddeford Pool, Maine. This day is always refreshing and calls us to step closer to the light. Lenten blessings to you. You are remembered in my prayers at Mass.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent

Today is the first of the Lenten scrutinizes for those who are preparing for entrance into the Catholic faith. It is a time of increased public examination by the Lord to test their desire and understanding about the deep cost of discipleship. Candidates are those who are already Christian and want to become Catholic; Catechumen are those who are not yet baptized.

This Sunday’s readings focus on the giving of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, and the thrashing of the money changers in the Temple by Jesus. In the Exodus passage, God reminds the Israelites that he is giving them these commandments because it is God who has brought them out of slavery and the Israelites want to offer their gratitude to their redeemer. God simply responds by telling the people what God would like in their relationship. Their faithful response includes honoring God and honoring others.

To the Israelites, honoring God meant being faithful to Temple worship. In this passage of John’s Gospel, we get uncomfortable with Jesus’ angry actions. Intellectually, we know that Jesus thought the merchants and money changers were abusing their privilege for economic gain and making a mockery of simple Temple customs, but emotionally, we do not like to see anyone have any outburst of anger, let alone Jesus.

We often do not see anger to be a positive quality. Many times we are shaped by teachers and parents to learn that if we are a good boy or girl we control our action and do not act on it. Expressing anger somehow becomes wrong, but we are given numerous examples of Jesus’ anger to realize that it is a catalyst for correcting what is out of place in our lives. If we see anger as a positive prompt in our lives, we can learn to express that anger in appropriate ways that can contribute to our emotional well-being and perhaps the common good. Anger is only a surface emotion that leads us to explore our more complex emotions buried deeper beneath the surface. Uncovering those deeper feelings lead us to reveal to ourselves and to others who we really are.

As we reflect upon our the ways we are responding to God this Lent, by keeping God’s commandments, attending Church (our Temple worship), and keeping to our Lenten sacrifices, let us examine the ways Jesus can enter into the temple of our lives and cleanse us of anything that does not nurture our relationship with God and others.

A Rich Liturgical Week

Tuesday is the Memorial of St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, a day of celebration that many New Englanders hold sacred. Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved as a youth, but he escaped and subsequently returned to Britain to become a priest. He was sent by the Pope to Ireland as a missionary and converted many pagans while establishing a local clergy. By the time of his death, Christianity had reached to all parts of Ireland. (His Lorica follows below)

Wednesday is Cryil of Jerusalem, a father and bishop of the Church, who helped shaped the formation of the Nicene Creed we profess today. Cyril is known for his series of Lenten instructions to help those preparing for baptism to enter the Church. Thursday is the feast of Joseph, the husband of Mary. This feast focuses upon the paternal care Joseph gave his Son and the righteous example he gave to his wife, Mary. He is the patron of the universal Church.

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,through a belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism, Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim,In obedience of angels, In service of archangels,In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,In the prayers of patriarchs, In preachings of the apostles,In faiths of confessors, In innocence of virgins,In deeds of righteous men.

I arise todayThrough the strength of heaven; light of the sun,Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning,Swiftness of the wind, Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth, Firmness of the rock.

I arise todayThrough God's strength to pilot me;God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's hosts to save me, From snares of the devil, From temptations of vices, From every one who desires me ill, Afar and anear, Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom,Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. Christ shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding,So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise todayThrough a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,Through a belief in the Threeness,Through a confession of the OnenessOf the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Novena of Grace to St. Francis Xavier

Thanks to all of you who prayed along with the Jesuits and our colleagues as we spent nine days in prayer for a special intention from March 4-12th. March 12th is the anniversary of the canonization of Sts. Francis and Ignatius.

Conference on Immigration

I am at Georgetown Preparatory School in Washington, DC this weekend participating in an Ignatian Teach In for Justice on Immigration. The program is very well organized and has 250 representatives from many Jesuit high schools and universities. We know that we need to continue to work for justice on these complicated issues especially when the National Anglers (lovers of the sport of fishing) Convention that is also sharing space on the campus has attracted thousands of participants. Nevertheless, our students are preparing their position statements today in preparation for tomorrow’s meetings with their state representatives in Congress to encourage their support.

Please pray for those in our Church who are preparing for the Easter sacraments and are undergoing the scrutinies.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Second Sunday of Lent

In this second Sunday in Lent, we have some rather awesome scenes upon which to reflect – Abraham’s sacrifice of his only son, Isaac, and the dazzling transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of his three closest friends. The first image is extremely unsettling because we are left wondering why God would demand that Abraham, who was always faithfully responsive to God’s wishes, sacrifice his cherished son. Even though one’s heart may shudder at the thought, it also seems imprudent for Abraham to kill his true son when the very act would nix God’s promise of numerous descendents. It seems that obeying God’s will can be very costly. How ironic it is for us that when we let go of something that we really treasure God gives it back as a gift. Because of Abraham’s remarkable fidelity, God was able to bless Isaac, Jacob and all their descendents.

The blessing of God’s own son is described in the transfiguration scene of the Gospel when a voice is heard coming from a cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” We see that fidelity to God’s will is crucial in our salvation story. While in the end Abraham did not have to sacrifice Isaac, Jesus will become the ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus was faithfulness par excellence. It is the fidelity of Jesus to God’s will that brings us salvation.

St. Paul places great emphasis on fidelity in the reading to the Romans. Paul urges us to be faithful to the Spirit of Christ because the Risen Lord himself will be faithful to us. Jesus Christ will always be our advocate while God will be our Judge. God knows that we are guilty of many things, but God will always acquit us. The strength of God’s love is so powerful that not even death or any of the powers of this world can stand against it. Paul’s words are so encouraging:

Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised— who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

It is in this spirit that we can trustingly listen to and follow Jesus because God’s faithfulness becomes our own. Thanks be to God.


Twenty-eight seniors and two juniors from Cheverus completed their four-day KAIROS retreat that is modeled on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Thanks for your prayers because this was a very powerful experience of prayer and healing.

The Jewish Feast of Purim

On Tuesday, let us pray with our Jewish brothers and sisters on the feast of Purim (or lots.) This holiday commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot to annihilate them by drawing lots. This is recorded in the Book of Esther, which is contained in our Christian Scriptures. Let us always pray for the sanctity of all life and respect for all peoples.

Ignatian Teach in for Justice: Immigration

From Friday, March 13th to Monday, March 16th, representatives from many Jesuit High Schools and universities from around the nation will gather in Washington, D.C. to discuss our response to the complex issue of immigration within our country and the worldwide community. Our documents from the 35th General Congregation instruct us to learn more about the challenges of incorporating refugees, displaced persons, and immigrants into the family of nations. Please pray for the success of the gathering as we wrestle with the multi-faceted complexities of how to appropriately respond to this national crisis.

Our New Provincial

Fr. General Adolfo Nicholas, S.J. has appointed Fr. Myles Sheehan, S.J. as the new provincial of the New England Province beginning on July 31, 2009. Fr. Sheehan joined the New England Province in 1985 after he completed his undergraduate degree and doctorate in medicine at Dartmouth College. He studied philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago and did two years of post-doctoral studies in Gerontology at Harvard Medical School. He earned his M.Div. from the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge and was ordained to the priesthood on June 18, 1994. On April 22, 2005, he professed solemn vows. Since 1995, Myles has served as a Professor of Medicine at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. In 2000, he added the administrative duties of Senior Associate Dean to his teaching and research responsibilities. Please pray for Fr. Sheehan and for the New England province as we transition into this new leadership this summer.

Monday, March 2, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

March 1, 2009

We are now in the first week of Lent, a 40-day penitential season in the Church marked by an increase of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is the season to prepare ourselves to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus’ preparation for his ministry by living in the desert for forty days. The desert was a place where he was tempted by Satan, but it was also a place where he encountered God the Father. Many times in our lives, we find ourselves in a desert experience where the presence of God makes our burdens bearable. In today’s first reading, we have the biblical account of Noah’s flood and the destruction of all living things. After the flood, God offered Noah a covenant to assure us that God will be with us always. Every time we participate in our Eucharistic Thanksgiving, we renew our response to God’s covenantal offering.

It is good for us to fully celebrate Lent – to walk with the Lord as he suffered for our behalf. We can join Jesus in the journey of good news that leads to Easter! But first, we are to embrace the Cross that leads to our salvation.

Rite of Election

In the local Church, Bishop Malone celebrated the Rite of Election in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception today to welcome in those who are preparing for the Easter sacraments. Catechumens will be baptized as Catholic Christians and Candidates are from other Christian traditions that are joining the Catholic Church. Please pray for the four individuals in the Cheverus community who are making preparations to join the Catholic faith.

Lenten Weekdays

This week, we honor Katherine Drexel (Tuesday), a Philadelphia heiress who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work among African- and Native Americans. On Wednesday we honor Casimir, a prince of Poland who was renowned for his sense of justice and his care for the poor in government affairs. On Saturday we pray with the intercessions of Perpetua and Felicity who were arrest in North Africa because they were catechumens and died because they would not renounce their faith.


On Tuesday, thirty students will begin the 14th KAIROS retreat – a four day prayer program for high school students based on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. This is a powerful time of reflection and prayer, so please pray with us for the students and adult leaders who make this retreat.

Novena of Grace in Honor of Francis Xavier

Jesuits and their colleagues worldwide will begin a Novena of Grace in honor of Francis Xavier, one of the founding Jesuits who was missioned to the Far East and the Indies . This nine-day period of prayer was instituted in gratitude for the canonization of Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola in 1622. We will pray the novena in our daily Masses each day from March 4th to March 12th. Please join us in prayer. The Novena is imbedded below.

Lord God, our Father, we honor the memory of the Apostle of the East, St. Francis Xavier. The remembrance of the favors with which You blessed him during life and of his glory after death, fills us with joy; and we unite with him in offering to You our sincere tribute of thanksgiving and of grace.We ask You to grant us, through his powerful intercession, the inestimable blessings of living and dying in the state of grace. We also ask You to grant us the favors we seek in this novena.

(Pause for personal petitions)

But if what we ask is not for the glory of God and the good of our souls, grant us, we pray, what is more conducive to both. We ask this through Christ our Lord.Amen.

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, by the preaching of St. Francis Xavier You won many peoples to Yourself. Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in You, that Your Church may rejoice to see the virtue and number of the faithful increase throughout the world. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.