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Mar 292018

Cardinal Seán O’Malley giving the homily to the soon to be new priests of the Archdiocese of Boston. Photo George Martell/Pilot Media Group. Creative Commons License some rights reserved.

When I was studying at Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen Seminary, there were of course no computers or internet. In fact there were no televisions or radios and very seldom was a seminarian allowed to make a telephone call. The one concession to modernity was the practice of showing a movie on the eve of big feast days, in part because we would not have to rise at 4:30 the next day. All the movies had something in common: John Wayne. The Dean of students was a very strict censor and was not about to let any worldly films corrupt his seminarians. John Wayne films were considered safe and appropriate.

Father Maurice’s diligence in screening the films puts me in mind of the pastor in the movie, Cinema Paradiso, which takes place in a village in Sicily a few decades ago. In Italy there are still many communities where the venue for the local cinema is the parish hall and is under the supervision of the priest. In Cinema Paradiso, the pastor would review the films ahead of time, and when he rang a little bell, that was a signal to the projectionist to stop the film and edit out the love scenes, which in those days consisted of a kiss. When the pictures were shown, the parishioners would routinely boo every time one of these spliced and edited scenes would be projected on the screen.

Father Maurice did not have to cut out any scenes, because in John Wayne movies there were no kisses. In contrast to John Wayne, the Catholic priest in the performance of his duties is called upon by the church to kiss on various significant occasions. Today as we gather to celebrate priesthood, I would like to reflect on some of the priests’ kisses. There are four kisses of the Catholic priest. The priest kisses the altar. The priest kisses the Gospel. The priest gives a kiss of peace to his people. The priest kisses the cross.

One of the principles of Catholic theology is lex orandi lex credendi. Literally: the law of praying is the law of believing. In other words, the liturgy reveals a lot about what we believe. Looking at the kiss in the liturgy helps us to discover those loves that define the heart of a priest.

The Altar

The celebration of Mass always begins with a priest drawing near to kiss the altar. This liturgical custom dates from the first centuries of the Church.

In our tradition the altar is a symbol of Christ, who is the rock, the cornerstone on which our Church is built. We describe Christ as being the priest, the victim, and the altar.

Hence, when the priest is about to kiss the altar, he is kissing Christ. The same gesture is repeated at the conclusion of the Eucharist.

The priest must be the friend of the Bridegroom, John the Baptist said: “I am not the Messiah, I am but the friend of the Bridegroom.” Yes, Jesus is the Bridegroom, never the widower. He does not exist separate from his Bride, the Church. Like John the Baptist, the priest must be the friend of the Bridegroom.


Photo credit: George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston

The basis for our ministry in life has to be our friendship with Christ. Kissing the altar cannot be a formalistic or empty gesture. It must betoken our attachment to Christ, our loyalty to him, our friendship.

In the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom before receiving Communion, the priest prays: “Of thy mystic supper receive me today, O Son of God, as a partaker; for I will not speak of the mystery to thine enemies; I will not kiss Thee as did Judas; but as the thief, I will confess Thee: “Lord, remember me in thy kingdom.”

Judas’s kiss was a lie. It did not betoken friendship and love for Christ, but rather love of power and money. The authentic priestly kiss is one that betokens self-emptying and renunciation for the sake of the Beloved. I always like to say that poverty does not always lead to love. But love always leads to poverty. Our love of Christ must lead us to embrace his kenosis.

As we renew our priestly vows today, let us be mindful of how these promises can deepen our friendship with Jesus. Our fidelity to prayer and to our commitment to celibacy can draw us closer to Christ, the High Priest and Bridegroom. Ironically enough, in today’s world where fewer people are getting married, more people attack the Church’s practice of celibacy.

Often times in our culture the avoidance of marriage is based on a will to live for oneself and therefore is a no to the bond of marriage. Celibacy is meant to be the opposite: it is a definitive yes. It is to give oneself into the hands of the Lord. And therefore, it is an act of loyalty and trust, and that also implies the fidelity of marriage. Celibacy is a sign of the presence of God in the world, a reminder that God is to be loved above all else. The pastoral life of the Church has benefited greatly from the generous availability of men and women who have embraced a vocation of celibacy.

I know of a wonderful, faith-filled, young couple who are both doctors and want to be missionaries. They asked me to suggest different missions where they might go to offer their gifts and serve the poor. I put them in touch with bishops in Papua New Guinea and in Paraguay. In the end they came to me and said it would be impossible for them to go to those countries because they want to have children and they worried about zika. I certainly understand the logic.

When I was in seminary and three of my classmates left for Papua New Guinea, they were told: “you are going to get malaria, dengue, leeches, and fleas. Not necessarily in that order, but you will get them all.” I daresay if my classmates had wives and children, they would have had to think long and hard before answering the call to go to Papua New Guinea.

Our celibacy is to make us even more available to love Christ and service people. Theologically it is meant to be the sign of Jonah, the sign of the Resurrection. That we are all called to live forever and therefore it is not necessary for everyone to have children in order to live on in their posterity.

A priest is above all, a friend of Christ. Our love for Him is what draws us to our vocation and allows us to find meaning and purpose in our ministry. We kiss the altar as we approach and we kiss it as we leave, just as a husband kisses his wife when he comes home and kisses her when he leaves.

In the Maronite liturgy there is a beautiful apostrophe the priest addresses to the altar before leaving at the end of Mass. The priest says:

“Remain in peace, O holy altar of God. I hope to return to you in peace. May the offering I have received from you forgive me my sins and prepare me to stand blameless before the throne of Christ. I know not whether I shall be able to return to you again to offer sacrifice. Guard me, O Lord, and protect your Holy Church, that she may be the way to salvation and the light of the world. Amen.”

And when a Maronite priest dies, his brother priests carry the coffin, walking around the altar praying this prayer of farewell to the altar.

Gospel Book

The next kiss a priest bestows is after the proclamation of the Gospel. He kisses the Word of God as he prays: “Per evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta.” “May the reading of the Gospel cleanse me of my sins.”

The priest is a man of the Gospel. Jesus’ words and actions are what must mold the priest’s heart so that he may become an icon of the Good Shepherd.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that He has been anointed to announce the Gospel to the poor and the downtrodden. We priests are also anointed to be heralds of the same Gospel. We are ordained to be missionaries on fire with the desire to share the good news with everyone. Christ has called us to be fishers of men and too often we are keepers of the aquarium.

We must meditate on the Gospels frequently so that the words and the inflections of the voice of the Good Shepherd become our own. Our role as preacher and teacher is crucial. We must be constantly preparing for this responsibility by our life of prayer, study, and reflection. Everything a priest does should teach the Gospel. Our words, our actions, our attitudes. Being a missionary is born of a constant struggle to deepen our own conversion; so that like the Baptist we can say, I must decrease, He must increase.

Kiss of Peace

Having kissed the Altar, and the Gospels, the next kiss is bestowed on the Bride of Christ, the People of God, our brothers and sisters whom we are called to serve. We must love our people and share their life. It is not a matter of being popular, but of being a spiritual father.

In the film Ryan’s Daughter, there is a touching portrayal of a parish Priest, Father Hugh Collins, who demonstrates such concern for his people in an Irish village during the uprising. His constant companion is a man who is developmentally challenged, Michael. When the village rises up against Rosy Ryan, accusing her of being a collaborator with the British, they beat her and cut off her hair. It is her pastor who protects and consoles her. As priests we need to have a special love for those on the margins, on the periphery as Pope Francis is wont to say.

We need to love our people and help them find meaning in life, to discover their purpose and embrace their mission. We must emulate the Curé of Ars who used to pray to the Lord: “Grant me the conversion of my parish, and I accept to suffer all you wish for the rest of my life.” St. John Vianney did everything he could to pull people away from their own lukewarm attitude in order to lead them back to love.

The Kiss of Peace is part of the liturgy from the earliest centuries and is a stark reminder that we are priests not for ourselves, but for our people. We must love them as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life. It is only when they know that we love them that they be willing to listen to us and accept our message.

Yes, even the message of the Gospel can be rejected because of the messenger who does not know how to communicate the Gospel with love, with a kiss.

The Cross

The last kiss is at the veneration of the Cross which is part of the Good Friday service.

We live in a culture that sees pain and suffering as the greatest evil. This attitude has helped spur the opiate crisis. We are often like Peter who tries to keep Jesus from even talking about the Cross. Jesus rebukes St. Peter: “Get behind me Satan. Thou savorest of the things of men and not of God.” And like Peter we often flee from Gethsemane and Calvary.

To savor the Cross is to savor the things of God. At our ordinations we all received the chalice and paten as the Bishop said: “Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”

On the Cross Jesus is offering Himself with the very compassion that transforms the suffering of the world into a cry to the Father. We must learn to accept more profoundly the sufferings of pastoral life which is entering into the mystery of Christ. Rejection of the cross breeds mediocrity.

On Good Friday the Bishop and Priests are invited to kiss the Cross first, to give our people an example of faithful discipleship that takes up the Cross each day to follow Christ our Master.

I am also mindful that when a man is installed as a bishop, the first thing the Church demands of him is to kiss the Cross.  Indeed when I think of my own installation here in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, everything is kind of a blur. On that fateful day, I entered the Church passing through demonstrators and a crowd of reporters. Then, following the ancient ritual, I banged on the door with the crosier and stepped into a packed Cathedral. I was in a daze. However, I can still hear plainly the voice of a Master of Ceremonies, trying to rouse me from a state of stupor, saying in a stage whisper: “Kiss the Cross!” Outside there was so much turmoil. The love and faith of the people in the cathedral gave me the courage to kiss the cross.  

Jesus didn’t suffer and die so that we wouldn’t have to. He suffered and died in order to endow our sufferings with the redemptive value, something they would never possess on their own. He suffered and died in order to invest his love with us. He did this so that our love, while not diminishing our suffering or sparing us from pain, will transform pain into holy passion, suffering into sacrifice. 


Yet it is not the magnitude of Christ’s suffering that saved us, but rather the magnitude of His love. Love turned His suffering into an offering at the Last Supper, and that love is the Eucharist. It is the Eucharist that transforms Calvary into a sacrifice rather than merely an execution. There the Cross of Jesus turned death upside down. Death is the moment we usually associate with loss of life, but Jesus made it the occasion of giving life. Jesus gave His life freely and fully. He transformed it into a gift, a prayer, and a sacrifice.

As we continue to kiss the Altar, the Gospel, the People of God and the Cross, let us not allow our kisses to be routine or perfunctory, but rather let our kiss be a striking gesture of the profound loves that define us as Catholic priests. 


Photo credit: George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston

Photo credit: George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston

About the Archdiocese of Boston: The Diocese of Boston was founded on April 8, 1808 and was elevated to Archdiocese in 1875. Currently serving the needs of 1.8 million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Boston is an ethnically diverse and spiritually enriching faith community consisting of 286 parishes, across 144 communities, educating approximately 36,000 students in its Catholic schools and 156,000 in religious education classes each year, ministering to the needs of 200,000 individuals through its pastoral and social service outreach.  Mass is celebrated in nearly twenty different languages each week. For more information, please visit

Dec 252017

Cardinal Seán O’Malley’s Christmas Message from Boston:

The first Christmas carol was sung by the angels. The song that they sang proclaimed “Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth.”

The prince of peace is coming. He comes in the face of a little child because God wanted us to see that His love is always new, always fresh, never tired of loving us, never tired of forgiving us, never tired of giving us another chance even when we have given up on ourselves.

He is born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, it means house of bread. And He is laid in a manger, which was the feed box because Christ has become the manna, the bread come down from heaven. May He come to feed and to nourish us.

He comes in a community of faith where two or three are gathered in His name. He comes in the distressing disguise of the poor, the homeless, the sick, the prisoner.

The world is distracted by all the noise and many of the symbols of Christmas that have become devoid of meaning.

But someone is opening the back door.

He is with us.

He is in the house.

Let us give thanks and rejoice. 

Come let us adore the Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas.

Source: Archdiocese of Boston

Feliz NatalMerry ChristmasFeliz Navidad (1)


 Posted by at 01:01
Jan 302017

by Fr. Robert J Carr


Cardinal O’Malley preaching at Sacred Heart Shrine, Columbia Heights, Washington, DC

Columbia Heights, Washington, DC–Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, celebrated Mass at the Sacred Heart Shrine in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC on Friday to kick off the Archdiocese’s participation in the annual March for Life in the United States’ Capital.

Proclaiming that “Every life is precious,” the Boston Archbishop and member of the Pope’s group of Cardinal advisors called for a community rooted in solidarity. Approximately, one thousand parishioners from Massachusetts listened as the beloved Capuchin friar built upon a theme of caring for all at birth and death. He described the recent celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick with one of the founders of the Ice Bucket Challenge who is in the last stages of ALS, commonly known in the US as Lou Gehrig’s disease and he used the experience to call to reject assisted suicide.

“Hitler,” the Cardinal said “promoted mercy killing.” He added that it sends a dangerous signal that those with disabilities are better off dead.

“We need each other at the beginning and end of our lives.” he emphasized. “This is why we are here.”

“Mercy and compassion are not the acts of ending the suffering person’s life,” He said. “Mercy and Compassion are really taking care of people and letting people take care of us.”

Suffering, he explained, is a call for all to care for those with disabilities and for the yet to be born. The prelate countered that in a country where extreme individualism is a virtue, caring for others at their birth and at their death is the call of solidarity.

The Cardinal said that according to Cardinal Carlo Martini the once archbishop of Milan who died in 2012, the Gospels show that Jesus had a higher priority for caring for the suffering than he did for preaching.

He ended his talk by citing three people that had inspired him greatly, Nellie Gray, the founder of the March for Life in Washington, DC. The first march was by about twenty-thousand people, according to Cardinal O’Malley, since then, he explained, it has reached over a half a million.

Mother Theresa whom he said  “touched the lives of thousand and thousands of people.”through the order she founded.

Finally, he spoke about Dorothy Day, whom he met at the Catholic Worker House in Washington, DC when he was a young priest. Day who is a declared Servant of God, the first step toward canonization, was a a convert to Catholicism who had both an abortion and later a child out of wedlock, but who came to the Catholic faith and became devout a great advocate of social justice. Day, a journalist and one-time contemporary to US playwright Eugene O’Neil, embraced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as the guide to Catholic action.

Citing these three, the prelate stated that each one of us can make a difference.

“At the beginning and end of life we need each other.” he said.

“Our task is to turn the crowd into the community.” he proclaimed speaking of the powerful effect of caring for others.

“My hope and my prayer for us today is that we know that God has put us here for a purpose.”


Fr. Matt Williams surrounded by marchers on the March for Life in Washington, DC

The mass began with Boston Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Director, Father Matt Williams, teaching that “Witness to life starts with the Eucharist.” He added “the first aspect of being pro-life is being fully alive with the life you have been given.”

The march, which took place later in the day, had hundreds of thousands, if not over a half a million, participants who marched from the far end of the Washington Mall, not far from the White House, to the US Supreme Court. The march memorializes the decision of the US Supreme Court to legalize abortion in January of 1973. Among those who spoke at the pre-march rally was Vice-President of the United States Mike Pence, a Catholic and former governor of the US state of Indiana. Pence is the first Vice-President to speak to the marchers. No president has spoken at the rally.

This was 44th march.



by Fr. Robert J Carr


Mother Olga and Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, with Boston marchers in front of theUS Supreme Court Building, Friday

Washington, DC–Members of the Archdiocese of Boston’s contingent to the March for Life in Washington, DC, came up with a chant for the event. Led by youth ministry  director Fr. Matt Williams, who began yelling: “Boston Strong.” Participants, including hundreds of youth, responded: “We Choose Life.”

“Boston Strong,” a slogan common in the New England city, began in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that hit that community on Patriot’s Day 2013 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The event is dramatized well in the recently released movie Patriot’s Day. “Boston Strong” remains the slogan for the city.

The Boston group contained about one thousand participants of various ages and walks of life, from Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop to adult laity, priests, bishops, nuns, brothers and sisters and hundreds of youth and young adults and even a teen with Down’s Syndrome. Among the participants was Mother Olga, a convert to Catholicism and a native Iranian who formed her own order the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth now based in Quincy, Massachusetts. She and Fr. Matt Williams led a prayer in front of the Supreme Court building for the nation and a call for an end to abortion here in the US. They included a prayer for the intercession of St. Frances Cabrini (interred in New York City) St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (interred in Emmitsburg, Maryland) and all of the American saints. The prayer was the culmination of the Archdiocese’s participation in the event in Washington for 2017.


500 of the 1000 marchers from the Archdiocese of Boston on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, prior to the March for Life

Photo credits: George Martell, Archdiocese of Boston

 Posted by at 01:01
Apr 142016


We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis for the gift of his Apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia, On Love in the Family.”  He has given us a lengthy and significant teaching on the Joy of Love.  This is a document that demands a careful reading and reflection from Catholics everywhere, and it is sure to bear great fruit.  Pope Francis shows himself to be the gentle, merciful pastor who urges us all to take the time to meditate on the importance of families, for as he says, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.” (AL 31)
Amoris Laetitia brings together the deliberations of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015, and draws on a long history of Church teaching.  This Apostolic Exhortation numbers over three hundred twenty five paragraphs, and it is not intended to be read and implemented too hastily.  In the introduction to the document, Pope Francis notes that no one should rush through reading the text, but that the greatest benefit will come if each part is read “patiently and carefully”, paying particular attention to those parts dealing with the specific needs of the reader. (AL 7)  Rather than try to draw immediate conclusions from the text, we are urged to reflect upon it and to ponder, patiently and carefully, what the teachings will mean for the Church and for her ministry to families.

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Church celebrates the love and unending mercy of God, Amoris Laetitia is a joyful invitation for families to live the works of mercy and to receive the gift of God’s healing where there is sin and brokenness.  As he has done time and again, Pope Francis challenges us to approach the weak with compassion, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness.” (AL 308) It is my fervent desire that we will read Amoris Laetitia patiently and carefully, so as to benefit from the richness of its teaching.

Archdiocese of Boston, MA USA

 Posted by at 01:01
Jun 232015

We can not be afraid to ask God where He is

With this “Embrace of São Paulo,” we say we want the good of all, we want to embrace each with love and have the desire to spread the Word of God.

I want you to take the theme of this conference home: “God is acting, who can reverse it” (Isaiah 43.13). What should be the Christian’s attitude in today’s world? It must be courage, coming from the power of faith, an act of parresia. What was old has passed; now the new has come, and whoever is in Christ is a new creation.

Today’s (Sunday June 21) reading speaks of people who believed without leaving old habits. St. Paul, however, draws our attention to say that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. What is the gift of the Holy Spirit of being courageous? It is the gift of fortitude. We really need this gift today, not to abandon our faith and not to  follow the easy way.

Jesus told the apostles: “He who wants to follow me take his cross and follow me.” To follow Jesus we must carry the cross.

I want to refer to the Gospel and to today’s readings because they have something in common.The first reading tells the story of Job, a friend of God, righteous man who has undergone several tests. In the Bible, we see clearly that is the enemy of the Lord who tests him; then comes a time when it begins to balance in the faith of God and address some things, including he complains: “God, where are you”. So it is with us, we go through difficulties and even a question we ask ourselves, “Where is God?” We can not be afraid to ask God where He is..

The Lord come to the aid of Job and answers: “Who shut the sea with doors when it gushed vehemently the womb, when I gave the cloud the garment and thick darkness by bands; when I scored their limits and put doors and locks, and said, ‘Thus far you will come, and no farther;Here ends the arrogance of your waves’? “; with this, the Lord meant to Job who was with him, asking him not to give up.

The Gospel shows Jesus at the end of the day, being tired, Jesus asked the apostles to cross the sea. They went. There was a storm, the apostles were afraid and woke Jesus. The Lord stood up and ordered the sea and the winds calm down. The apostles asked: “Who is He?”.They had not yet understood who was the Son of God. It is the same one who put limits to the sea, who created heaven and earth. Jesus asked them why they were afraid if He is always with them. We are afraid when we do not trust.

With time and gradually, the apostles understood who Jesus was. Gradually, we will also understand that Christ is the one who gives us courage that does not let us walk alone and is with us.

How many times did God say to the people and to those whom He has chosen for the mission: “I am with you”?

Our culture and mindset cause us to solve everything alone, so living trust in God is very difficult.The Lord has given us the ability to accomplish things, but we can not solve everything alone because we can forget the ways that He has shown us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.A saint of the Church says we should do everything as if it depended only on us, and pray as if everything depended on God.

We can not want to solve everything by force, it is always good to stop and think where God wants to lead us. He is with us to show us the way. Thank Him for all that is in us. We must live with the proposal of today’s readings, leaving everything old to experience the joy of what is new.

Portuguese Transcription and adaptation: Rogéria Nair


Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer

Metropolitan Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil

 Posted by at 01:01
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