The Gospel Lesson for this Sunday relates the First Public Miracle that Jesus did, changing the water into wine at the Wedding
Feast of Cana. In concluding the story, St. John emphasizes that this was a sign which strengthened the belief of the first group of Jesus’ disciples in Him: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (John 2:11)
In the Church’s understanding of discipleship, there is the primary and necessary vocation to believe in Christ, receive His Baptism, and become a member of His visible Church on earth. It is necessary to make use of the grace God has given us to save our own soul. Within the life of the Church, however, there is also recognized, in addition to the call to live out our baptismal vows, that distinctive way of life which is a continuation of the call of Christ to specific individuals to leave their former way of life in order to follow Him completely. “And Jesus said to Simon [Peter]: Do not be afraid: henceforth thou shalt be a fisher of men. And when they had brought their boats to land, they left all and followed Him.” (Luke 5:11) We see this call being lived out in our midst through the ministry of the ordained and the various institutes of consecrated life.
I want to recognize the men from our parish who are presently responding to that inner call they have felt to serve Christ and His Church by leaving the life of “the world” for the life of religion.
Among the men ordained to the transitional diaconate by Cardinal Sean on January 9th, was one of the men sponsored by our parish, Stephen LeBlanc. Deacon LeBlanc is currently serving at St. Joseph Parish in Medway. I am hopeful that he will be able to diaconate at one of our Sunday Masses in the near future and then after his ordination to the priesthood in May, he will celebrate his Mass here at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.
As you can see from our front-cover this week, parishioner Cameron MacKenzie has moved a step further in testing his religious vocation with the Brothers of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, by entering into the novitiate and taking a new name in religion as Brother Martin de Porres.
On the Vigil of Christmas, Paul Juhasz, brother and brother-in-law of parishioners Chris and Sharon Juhasz, entered the novitiate of the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in California. He also took a new name in religion: Frater (Brother) Gerard Sagredo, patron of Budapest, Hungary. (Paul was a full parishioner here at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes during his senior year in high school.)
Deacon Jon Tveit—former parishioner, sacristan and cantor—was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York last fall and will be ordained to the priesthood this spring. Also, at various stages of seminary formation are parish men studying for the Archdiocese of Boston, Brian O’Hanlon and Earl Smith, and Tyler Molisse, who is in his first year with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
Pope Francis chose to begin his Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on the 50th Anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (December 8th, 1965). In doing so he clearly wished to link the course of his Papacy to the legacy of that ecumenical Council. Pope Francis, it may be noted, is the first Pope who was ordained to the priesthood after Vatican II. His own personal chronology crosses the divide of the before-and-after, the pre-conciliar and the post-conciliar Church.
Broadly speaking, two “schools of thought” have emerged from within the Church over the past half-century on the meaning of that Council. One school argues for the “hermeneutic (i.e., the interpretation) of continuity” with regard to the Council. However much Catholicism seems to have changed, it continues on as before, Vatican II having been a catalyst for legitimate reforms. The turmoil in the Church is blamed on abuses of the conciliar reforms, and on the influence of secularism which undermines all religious belief.
Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, who was one of the theological advisers present at the Second Vatican Council, was a proponent of the “hermeneutic of continuity”. We may see in his 2007 Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum” an example of this. He granted liberty to the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the Church—the “Extraordinary Form”—while still maintaining the liturgical reforms of Pope Paul VI as the “Ordinary Form” of the Roman Rite.
The other school of thought, the so-called “Bologna School”, has the opposite view of the legacy of the Second Vatican Council. They see not continuity in the Roman Catholic Church, but rupture—and they think of that as a good thing. A very good thing. The three year event of that 1960s Council freed the Church, as they see it, from the hide-bound attachment to Tradition which had been “stifling the Spirit” for so long and turning the Catholic Church into a Fortress instead of allowing it to move out into the world, the better to engage it. For the advocates of the “Bologna School”, Pope Francis is their man.
One of the chief themes of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps the chief theme, however, was the “universal call to holiness”. This was explicitly addressed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, approved by the Council Fathers in 1964:
“The Church, whose mystery is set forth by this sacred Council, is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as His Bride, giving Himself up for her so as to sanctify her (cf. Eph. 5:25-26); He joined her to Himself as His body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the Apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (I Thess. 4:3; cf Ep. 1:4) (LG 39)”
“It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society. (LG 40)”
This therefore is the primary and necessary vocation for every Christian person: the “universal call to holiness”, which is another way of saying the fulfillment of our baptismal vows. All other vocations and courses in life must follow from it and draw refreshment for it as water from a deep and inexhaustible well.
This past January one of our parishioners Erika da Silva entered the convent of the Sisters of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (M.I.C.M.) in Still River, Massachusetts, as a postulant. On August 22nd, the octave day of the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary according to the pre-1970 Calendar, Erika took the next step forward and received the white veil of a novice Sister. She also gave up her name ‘in the world’, Erika, for a new name ‘in religion’, Sister Maria Cecilia. Several members of our Ladies’ Sodality were present for Sr. Maria Cecilia’s novitiate
reception and I have included some of the photos in this week’s bulletin.
The evident joy on Sr. Maria Cecilia’s face bespeaks the hidden treasures of the interior life of grace, which the unbelieving world dismisses out of hand as not objectively real without ever considering the evidence for it in a fair way.
After St. Teresa of Avila entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation on All Souls Day (November 2nd), 1535, she experienced great joy and peace at her decision. As she wrote of it many years later:
At the same time as I put on the holy habit, God showed me His preference for those who constrain themselves in His service. I also felt so happy in my new position that this blessed feeling still continues. Nothing could rob me of this delight. God changed the dryness that could bring me to doubt into love for Him.
All the monastic practices were congenial to me. I often had to mop the floor in hours during which formerly I had dressed or amused myself. Just the thought of being free of all these silly things gave me renewed joy. I did not understand the source of so much joy.
At my home parish of St. Joseph’s Church in Needham, I remember as a boy that there was a vocation flier from the Carmelite Sisters on one of the bulletin boards at the entrance stairs to the church. It was a black and white photocopy without any particularly professional design, but the words were compelling in their paradox:
POVERTY our greatest wealth,
CHASTITY our greatest love,
OBEDIENCE our greatest freedom.
Poverty, Chastity and Obedience are the three Evangelical Counsels of Perfection which Religious Community men and women take as vows.
Let us as a parish lend the support of our prayers to Sister Maria Cecilia as she continues to test her vocation. And let us also be mindful of the need to pray for those who feel in their hearts that they too might be called to serve the Lord in a priestly or religious vocation, but who are still trying to find their way.
We are very pleased to be able to welcome our Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley to our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes this coming Wednesday, June 4th. The occasion is the celebration of a Mass of Consecration for a man who wishes to take perpetual vows as a religious hermit for the Archdiocese of Boston. That man is Brother Benedict Joseph Connelly.
Brother Benedict Joseph (his religious name, in honor of St. Benedict Joseph Labré) has been accepted to take on a special vocation of solitary prayer for the good of the whole Church, while continuing to support himself by working “in the world”. One of Brother’s jobs is to help with the cleaning and maintenance of our church properties, particularly the church building. In his private life, Brother Benedict Joseph will live a Rule, which has been approved by Cardinal Sean, in the spirit of the Carthusian religious order, founded by St. Bruno in the 12th century A.D., in addition to making promises to live the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience for the rest of his life.
It is a great blessing for the Church, and in particular now for our parish, to have people like brother Benedict Joseph dedicated to a hidden life of prayer and sacrifice. We live in a world so hectic and fast-paced, and so unrealistically demanding of immediate results in things which cannot be achieved outside of patience. In so many ways we bury the seed and dig it up the next day in exasperation to see if it’s growing!
The vocation of contemplative prayer in the Church helps to remind us that the good things of God are not to be had like a commodity. They are rather to be won by patient prayer, and since very few Christians, relatively speaking, are able to dedicate themselves to prayer in this degree, we rely on the support being given us by the prayers of contemplative men and women. As the superabundant treasury of merits of the saints in Heaven comes continually to our aid, so the superabundant graces of the prayers of contemplatives are also distributed by the Divine Will to where they are needed most in the Church and the world.
May Brother Benedict Joseph find the peace and joy of Christ as he lives out his vocation. In turn we pledge him the support of our prayers for his perseverance on his chosen path.
We welcome also this weekend Father Robert Shaldone, SOLT, a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Trinity, as our new assistant priest here at Mary Immaculate. Although Fr. Shaldone’s Community is based in Texas, his origins are close by in Needham, where he grew up. For the past two years he has been working as a Catholic chaplain at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in Providence, RI. I am very grateful to Fr. Shaldone (and to his Religious Superiors for their permission) for coming here to help me with the sacramental and pastoral ministry of our parish. I know that he will receive from you a warm-hearted welcome.
(from “Evangelica Testificatio,” the Apostolic Exhortation on the Renewal of Religious Life, June 29th, A.D. 1971. Reproduced from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for June 1, 2008)
From the beginning, the tradition of the Church—is it perhaps necessary to recall it?— presents us with this privileged witness of a constant seeking for God, of an undivided love for Christ alone, and of an absolute dedication to the growth of His Kingdom. Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization. From the first centuries, the Holy Spirit has stirred up, side by side with the heroic confession of the martyrs, the wonderful strength of disciples and virgins, of hermits and anchorites.
Religious life already existed in germ, and progressively it felt the growing need of developing and of taking on different forms of community or solitary life in order to respond to the pressing invitation of Christ: “There is no-one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not be given repayment many times over in this present time, and in the world to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).
Who would venture to hold that such a calling today no longer has the same value and vigor? That the world could do without these exceptional witnesses of the transcendence of the love of Christ? Or that the world without damage to itself could allow these lights to go out? They are lights which announce the Kingdom of God with a liberty which knows no obstacles and is daily lived by thousands of sons and daughters of the Church.