"Zeal for your house will consume me" (Ps 69:9)

Thoughts of a parish priest…


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Sharing our Faith

At a recent Parish Council meeting, one parishioner asked why I don’t post more on this blog. The simple answer is, that I have just been too busy trying to be a pastor of two parishes (and a school). But I will admit it, that is an awful excuse! We are all busy! Sharing and explaining our faith through social media is very much a part of my job as a parish priest, and so, I am going to try and be more consistent with posting my thoughts, some articles and videos that I find insightful, and other random things that are going on in the parishes.

Just yesterday, the Church celebrated the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Being a parish named after St. Michael, it was an opportunity for celebration.

At the 1:30pm Mass for the school children, I blessed and installed all of our new altar boys (we now have about 35). At the end of Mass, we processed the statue of St Michael through the Church. The boys were very excited to be in their cassocks and surplices. It was a beautiful moment for the parish. Just one more attempt to RESTORE THE SACRED!  Here are some pics!

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Good Friday Meditation on the Cross of Christ

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“We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Over these most holy days of the Sacred Triduum we have many symbols and gestures which the Church asks us to reflect upon so that we may truly enter into these sacred mysteries of our faith:

Holy Thursday: The Washing of the Feet; The Last Supper / First Eucharist, Procession and adoration

Holy Saturday: the readings that reflect salvation history from creation to the Resurrection, the Lighting of the Easter Candle – Light overcoming the darkness

But, today, on Good Friday – the only day of the year that there is no celebration of the Mass – the symbol the Church points to is the Cross!

The Cross upon which out Lord died, which we will have the opportunity to come forward and venerate, is the great “Symbol” of our Faith.

The cross has the power to evoke certain emotions from us:

  • Image of our Redemption and Salvation (authentic joy)
  • Image of our Suffering Lord (sorrow and pain)
  • Image of our Christian and Catholic Identity (pride)

The cross is a symbol for us that is steeped in the mystery of God’s love for each of us

John Crysostom says : Do not allow this mystery to pass without deep thought and reflection

I propose two reflections based on the Passion account that we hear today.

But the fact is, unlike every other Sunday, we didn’t just hear the Gospel proclaimed today, we all participated in it.

The first point is based one of the lines that the entire congregation shouts out – Crucify Him!

Pope Benedict XVI has explained that in this communal proclamation, we find those who are responsible for the death of Christ – Each of us!

When we look at the cross, we need to see our sins, our sinful tendencies, our selfishness and our self-centeredness – for this is the reason that Jesus died on the Cross

As the first reading reminds us:

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
He was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.

So when we look at the cross, another emotion that should be evoked in sorrow and repentance for our own sinfulness.

From the cross, our crucified Lord calls us to conversion – to turn away from our sinfulness and back to God.

But the cross is not just a symbol that should remind us of how sinful we can be – it is also most properly the symbol of our hope.

And this is my second point, that from the cross Jesus speaks his last words. And the very last thing that he says before his death is, “it is finished”

What does this mean? What is finished? It is the act of our Redemption, the establishment of the new Passover, the new covenant that he establishes between God and humanity. On the cross, Jesus stretches out his arms and shows us the depths of his love.

This is what we should see when we look at the cross – that God loves us each so much that he would endure death, even death on a cross!

Between these two points: our sinfulness and God’s perfect love for us, there is another point from today’s passion that provides us an interpretive key – the idea that Jesus Christ is King.

The reasoning that the Pharisees and high priests use to crucify Christ is his apparent claim to be King.

Pontius Pilate even asks him: Are you a King? He has a signed placed over his head on the cross – this is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews – a sign which further upset the crowds.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and King of Heaven and Earth! But the question that we need to ask ourselves throughout this day in which we remember his death, but also as we come forward to kiss the cross upon which he died, we need to ask ourselves, Is Jesus Christ the Lord and King of my life?

We adore O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world!


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why did I just do that?

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Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why did I just do that?” I am referring to the times that we walk into a Church and out of habit dip our finger into holy water and bless ourselves. What about when we walk to our seat and genuflect before getting into the pew? These may seem like small and insignificant gestures, but when we actually think about them and why we are performing them, we come to understand the great realities that they symbolize.

Let’s start with holy water – I have often said jokingly that one of my favorite parts of being a priest is being able to sprinkle people with holy water during the sprinkling rite at Mass on Palm Sunday and Easter. When I was a high chaplain, I had been known to fill a squirt gun with holy water and bring it to the senior prom and homecoming dances. Perhaps it seems a bit juvenile at first, but if we think about what holy water is and why we use, it makes perfect sense.

Holy water is meant to remind us of our baptism, the day in which we became children of God, were freed from original sin, and given the grace to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. When at a dance and observing someone not acting in a way that communicates that they are a disciple of Jesus Christ, sprinkling them with holy water serves to remind them of their baptism… or at least cool them down.

Do we think of our baptism every time we dip our finger into the font and bless ourselves? Do we think of how God has used water throughout history as a symbol of his love for us? When water is blessed, the prayer calls to mind God’s saving actions that involve water. We first hear of water in the second verse of the Bible at the dawn of creation, when darkness covered the abyss and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. God blessed water and made it a sign of both cleansing and nourishment.

The waters of the great flood remind us of the covenant that God made with Noah. When the world had turned away from God and was lost to sin and death, the waters cleansed the earth and God revealed his plan to bring about our salvation. Years later, Moses would lead the Israelites out of Egypt and God would separate the waters of the Red Sea and to allow his people to escape slavery. This passing through water foreshadows what Baptism would eventually bring about in a sacramental way – freedom from the slavery of sin.

After wandering throughout the desert in search of the Promised Land, Moses was instructed by God to strike the rock and from it water flowed forth giving refreshment to his people. When we bless ourselves with holy water, we are reminded of our journey of faith and that God strengthens us along the way.

Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan River and was baptized by John the Baptist making baptism the means by which we become sons and daughters of our heavenly Father and by which we are cleansed of our sins. And just after our Lord died upon the cross and the soldier pierced his side with the lance, the Gospel tells us that blood and water flowed from his side, symbolizing the sacraments that Christ established and gave to the Church as way of sustaining us in our efforts to be his faithful disciples.

Are these the things that we think about when we dip our finger into the holy water font? It is so easy to allow such a meaningful symbol of our faith to become so routine and common. It is so easy to go through the motions in such a way that we forget why we are doing it in the first place.

Holy Water is just one of those symbols. What about what we do immediately after we dip our finger into the Holy Water – we bless ourselves, we make the sign of the cross. Perhaps each of us has had an experience when that sacred action of blessing ourselves is done in such a sloppy or haphazard way that it hardly resembles the Cross upon which our Lord died for our sins.

In 1956, Romano Guardini wrote of this: “When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real Sign of the Cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead to chest, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body and soul, every part of us at once, how it consecrates and sanctifies us. Think of these things when you make the Sign of the Cross. It is the holiest of signs.” (Sacred Signs, p. 13-14). When we make the sign of the cross, let us call to mind not only the sacred action of blessing ourselves, but also of the sacred and holy symbol of the cross that it represents.

Finally, the act of bowing or genuflecting – I have heard of more than one person, myself included, who finds themselves in the embarrassing situation, when at a movie cinema or theatre, they are genuflecting in the aisle before going to there seat. Again, genuflecting is another routine action that out of force of habit can sometimes lead us to forgetting why we do it. We genuflect in an act of reverence to the tabernacle where Jesus Christ is truly present. This act of humble adoration is meant to remind us that we are in the presence of the sacred and the holy.

Each time we enter a Church, we can be reduced to going through the motions and forgetting why we bless ourselves with holy water or genuflect. If we are going to “put into the deep,” let us take a moment to reflect upon what we are doing and do it with utmost reverence. Let us take a moment to ask why we are doing it and do it out of love and gratitude to the Lord of heaven and earth.why


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Powerful Witnesses: March for Life 2015

With the exception of the years I was living in Rome for seminary studies, I have gone to Washington, D.C. every January for the March for Life, marking the anniversary of the awful decision of our nation’s Supreme Court in 1973 to legalize abortion in our country. This year, I did not attend the March because I had just started in a new assignment and the timing made it difficult to plan. Here is a great video that I think captures the beauty of why people go to the March for Life:

Each year on January 22nd people young and old (though the crowd is looking predominantly younger each year) participate in a peaceful march on our nation’s capital ending at the Supreme Court to voice our opposition to the “Roe vs Wade” decision and also to give a voice to the MOST vulnerable in society, those who do not have a voice of their own, the unborn!

Now many probably don’t know much about the March for Life and that’s because the secular media doesn’t give it much coverage, probably because they are very much opposed to what we stand for. But regardless of what the media shows or doesn’t, those present know the truth, that EVERY human life is SACRED and worth defending!

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In addition to the walk on the National Mall, there are a number of prayer vigils and youth rallies for the hundreds of thousands that converge on our nation’s capitol. The morning of the March, there is huge youth rally at the Verizon center with about 15,000 young people, hundreds of priests and bishops and cardinals as well!

This year, there was a powerful witness given by the homilist for that Mass, check it out here:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/this-pro-life-story-made-bishops-cardinals-and-a-papal-nuncio-rise-to-their

Let us continue to pray for the unborn and all women who find themselves thinking about an abortion! Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!


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new parishes

The “blizzard of 2015” has given me the opportunity to catch up on a bunch of things, including getting back to posting on this blog which unfortunately I haven’t been to faithful too! (Speaking of the blizzard and New England winters, I think God might be calling me to be a missionary priest… in CANCUN).

In September, my work as a parochial vicar (or assistant priest) came to an end when I was made the temporary administrator of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Bedford, MA after the unexpected death of one of our priests. In November, our new Bishop, Bishop Edgar da Cunha reassigned me to be the administrator of St. Joseph’s Parish and St. Michael’s parish (which has a wonderful parish school) as well as remaining in the diocesan vocation office.

(A word on the title “Administrator” – In the Diocese of Fall River, there is a policy that when a priest becomes a pastor of a parish for the first time, that he has the title “administrator” for one year. Most of it has to deal with some canonical (Church law) distinctions, but the best analogy that I can come up with is that it is like a learner’s permit before one gets a drivers license.)

The role of a pastor/administrator comes with a lot of additional responsibilities. In addition to trying to meet the spiritual needs of the people, which is most important, there is also the care of the properties and financial stability of the parish, as well as the school! I will humbly say, it has been quite a learning experience these first few weeks. I have learned a lot about hot water tanks, boilers, leaking roofs, and now snow removal too.

While all this is important and necessary, it is not the most important thing we do as parish priests! I explained to both parishes my first weekend here (in English and broken Portuguese) that we must ALL work together to renew and rebuild our parish communities and we do that by focusing everything we do on Jesus Christ!

While addressing the clergy of the diocese, Bishop da Cunha explained that we can not continue to just “maintain” our parishes, settling for the status quo or just doing things as we have always done them, but that we must focus on “mission” – on strengthening our catholic identity, on evangelizing, on reaching out to those who have stopped coming, and bringing excitement and renewal those who are already here!

Life will certainly be busy here, but I am excited and will try to be better about weekly posts! If you are ever in the Fall River area, stop in at St. Michaels or St. Josephs!


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It’s not about being conservative or liberal, but about being Faithful or Unfaithful!

Francis Cardinal George is definitely on my list of heroes! Through his courageous, articulate and faithful preaching of the Gospel (in both words and actions), he is someone that has inspired me to be a better and more faithful priest!

In his final days as Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago he gave an interview in which he identified something that bothers many of us, namely, the dichotomy between the traditional and progressive groups in the Church. (Note: it wasn’t he that brought this subject up, but rather the person doing the interview trying to sensationalize the issue). It isn’t, however, the dichotomy itself that the cardinal spoke about, but about the attempt of putting political labels on people, things and ideas in the church, calling them either liberal or conservative, traditional or progressive, left-wing or right-wing.

The cardinal, arguably one of the greatest intellectual minds in the Church in the United States, clearly explained that these titles have no place in the Church, stating that they are, “Destructive of the Church’s mission and her life.”

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 Cardinal George is also wise and experienced enough I am sure to understand that there are some real differences and agendas within the church, so he isn’t denying the reality of such divisions or tensions, but rather he says, the more proper “category that matters is true or false.” I would add that “faithful or unfaithful” are also important categories when speaking about our approach to our Lord, His Church and His Gospel.

Oftentimes when people are speaking of those in the Church who are labeled conservatives or traditionalists, they are speaking of those who seem to be more connected to the culture wars on hot-button issues, taking hard lines on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception; those who are less concerned with social justice issues such as poverty and immigration and healthcare; those who embrace a more solemn and reverent celebration of the Church’s liturgies; those who seem to put greater emphasis on doctrine than on messy real-life situations.

Oftentimes when speaking of those in the Church who are labeled liberals or progressives, they are speaking of those who seem to be more open to discussions on cultural hot button issues such as a woman’s right to choose, gay rights and opposition to the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception; those who are more concerned with social justice issues such a immigration reform, universal health care and concern for the poor; those who would have a greater attachment to more modern and community-oriented celebrations of liturgies; those who rank mercy and compassion above the Church’s teachings or practices.

I am sure that some could (and would) add to, remove or modify my generalizations of those different positions. My point simply is that there are real differences within those in the Church. Cardinal George went on to explain that he “rejects the whole liberal/conservative deformation of the character of our lives. If you’re limited to that … then somehow or other you’ve betrayed your vocation as a bishop and a priest.”

I know that many would probably put me squarely in the more traditional and conservative camp, and I am okay with that in the sense that I think there are real cultural wars going on in our society and defending the unborn is greatest among them. I do try to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments with the reverence that they deserve. HOWEVER:

I resent the fact that by being labeled a conservative or traditionalist that somehow I don’t have a concern for the poor and the homeless.

I resent the fact that because I prefer to wear beautiful vestments for Holy Mass and don’t change parts of it according to what I think people might prefer, that somehow translates into the idea that I am not concerned about affordable healthcare or the families who have come to the U.S. from another country and are facing real struggles.

I resent the fact that some would think that because I have an unwavering respect for the clear teachings of the Church which are difficult to accept that I am somehow lacking in mercy or compassion, or unable to understand the challenges of God’s people.

The dichotomy between right and left does exist, but is not of God! It is the father of lies who seeks to divide us, to separate us, to label us! We are not called to be traditional or progressive, we are not called to be conservative or liberal, WE ARE CALLED TO BE FAITHFUL TO JESUS CHRIST! Orthodoxy without Charity is not Christianity, and Charity without Orthodoxy is not Christianity either.