Homily; Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God

Photo taken at Saint Anthony Shrine, Boston MA

We begin a new year, it is mixed with both anticipation and fear, beginnings and endings. For us Catholics, we end this year with the sad news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He had an definite affect on the Catholic Church, before he became Pope, during his Papacy, and afterwards; and on the world around us.


We are beginning a new year. Liturgically, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We are reflecting on the important role of Mary in the salvation of humanity. We celebrate her courage to say yes, her willingness to say yes to bearing the child who would be the savior of the world. She was willing to become Mother of God the Son.

For that reason, for that courage, for that love that she had for God, for that love she had for all humanity; she is remembered and celebrated by Catholics and other Christians.


But I would challenge us to see Mary as a real human person. I am sometimes concerned, afraid that we treat Mary and our other saints, as characters in a show, play, movie and not as a real person. And Mary was a real human person. It was her courage and her love for God that allowed her to say response to the angel’s declaration, the Annunciation: “ Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1)


She should courage and strength, making that journey with Joseph to Bethlehem; and finding out that they had to stay in stable. She had the courage and the strength to give birth to the baby who would soon be named Jesus.


We have little information on what life was like for this little family when they finally were able to return to Nazareth. How often did she reflect on what had happened to her, her little child and her husband. Today’s gospel mentioned that she kept all that she experienced in her heart, reflecting on them, what they meant for her and for her son.
We know that she cared for her neighbors, friends and relatives. She and Jesus were invited to a wedding, what the relationship they had with the wedding party, we do not know; but it was there that she asked Jesus to come to the aid of the bridegroom with their wine shortage. And a son cannot say “no,” to his mother.


Mary was present at her Son’s suffering and death on the cross. She must have mourned deeply over witnessing that sight.
In our reflections on Mary, we need to remind ourselves that she was as human as the rest of us. That she experienced great joy, great hope; as well as great pain, and great sorrow. And it is these experiences that makes her a good advocate for us before God. So we can turn to her in our need:


“Hail holy Queen, mother of mercy, Our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you we do cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs; mourning and weeping in valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!”

Feast Day of All Saints

God of our ancestors who set their hearts on you, of those who fell asleep in peace, and of those who won the martyrs’ violent crown: we are surrounded by these witnesses as by clouds of fragrant incense. In this age we would be counted in this communion of all the saints; keep us always in their good and blessed company. In their midst we make every prayer though Christ who is our Lord forever and ever. Amen.

From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers.

St. Patrick’s Feast Day

This day celebrates the memory of Saint Patrick, missionary and bishop to the people of Ireland, centuries ago! Sadly, in this country, among others, this day has become a day for excess. An excuse to suspend the requirements of Lent; and indulge in an excess consumption of food and alcohol; shamrocks, and leprechauns!

It is time to remember again what Patrick’s life was truly about; proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, by word and deed. He helped bring about the conversion of a nation!

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate (Abridged)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,the invocation of the Trinity.
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His Baptism.
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial.
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward…
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 when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today.
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Saint Patrick, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Second Sunday of Lent Homily – 2022

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church

Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3: 17-4:1; Luke 9: 28b-36

A long, long, loooong time ago, I had an opportunity to spend a fall and winter season, working in a National Park, Big Bend National Park, to be precise, in southern Texas. I was assigned to the Lodge and Cabin area that was located in the Chisos Basin. I was to be a night watchman, needed because part of the lodging was made up of wooden cabins, built during the Great Depression, by WPA workers (Works Progress Administration). I was there to raise the alarm, in case there should be (God forbid) a fire; because those cabins would burn real fast. So it was important to get the word out quickly. I began making the nightly patrols. Now on my first night, I went out and saw for the first time a full night sky, without city lights obscuring the view. It was spectacular, the star field immense, and I was in awe.

Today’s Gospel, is St. Luke’s version of the Transfiguration. Jesus brings Peter, James and John, with him, up the mountain to pray. There, Jesus is transfigured, becoming like light, and Moses and Elijah appearing next to Him! And his three disciples were witnessing all this; and they were in awe at the sight. So much so that they were not sure what to say! They were so affected by the experience, that they did not, perhaps could not, tell any of the other disciples what had happened! At least not“at that time;” Luke writes.


Now after the death of Jesus, at the hands of the Romans, it was expected that his followers would disperse. Many probably did, but the Twelve remained in Jerusalem. I would like to think that at that moment, Peter, James, and John, revealed what they had seen, what they had experienced on the mountain with Jesus, to the rest of the apostles. Maybe this helped them to have the courage, the hope, to remain in Jerusalem. And on Easter morning, when the Resurrected Jesus appeared their midst, their hearts, their eyes were opened, and they were in awe!

Now we are all gathered here, in this place, around this altar. We are about to participate in something wondrous; witness something awesome. Now there are times when we gather, that we bring with us not only our joys, our blessings; but also our sorrows, our burdens, our worries. And Jesus invites us to lay them all down, here at the foot of the altar, and be to present to what is soon about happen! For Father will pick up the Host, take up the Cup of Wine, say the words of consecration, and they will become the Body and Blood of Christ; and I pray that we all will watch in awe!


But! We cannot remain silent as Peter, James, and John did, at first. We need to go out share this experience with the rest of our families , friends, acquaintances, and even strangers; by our words, by how we live our lives of faith! If we strive to that, then I know we will encourage others to join with us; to witness the glories of God as we do; and we will all be in awe!

Blessed Jacoba of Settesoli, Secular Franciscan

Jacoba of Settesoli was born in the year 1190 into a noble Italian family. She married into a wealthy Roman family, and she and her husband would have children, including two sons. Sadly, her husband passed away.

While managing her household and caring for her children, she began to hear of an itinerant preacher, by the name of Francis. What she heard stirred her heart; and she desired to meet him.

An opportunity came when Francis and his band of brothers came to the city of Rome. Francis was seeking the Pope’s approval of his Rule of Life for his growing community. Lady Jacoba was able to speak to him about how she could live a more spiritual life, following Jesus. Francis advised her to continue caring for her family; that it was possible to live the Gospel life as both a mother and a householder. She followed his advice, although she did turn over management of the family lands to her two sons. She began living a life of prayer and charity. Francis and his brothers would visit her when they were in Rome. She gave a gift of land to the friars so that they could establish a shelter and hospital for local lepers.

During his final illness, he sent word to Jacoba, asking her to come to Assisi, with cloth to make a burial shroud. And he also asked her to bring some of those almond cookies she used to bake for him when he visited her home. She left Rome immediately.

When she reached Assisi; there was an argument among the brothers if it was appropriate for a woman to enter the friary! Francis settled the issue when he commanded them to let “Brother Jacoba” come in. She was present when he died; and mourned with the brothers.

Lady Jacoba remained to Assisi for the rest of her life. She died on February 8, 1273, and is buried in crypt of the Basilica of St Francis; near his tomb.

Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Saint Peter Church, Plymouth MA
  • Wisdom 7: 7-11
  • Hebrews 4: 12-13
  • Mark 10: 17-30

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”


In today’s Gospel, we learn about the rich young man, who came to meet Jesus. Now, picture this, Jesus is ready to depart on a journey; he has his Apostles and other disciples with him. He begins to leave, when up comes this young man, who, by his dress, is obviously a wealthy man. And he comes to ask a question “What must I do to earn eternal life?” Jesus is ready to go, so you can hear the impatience in his voice; he gives the standard reply any rabbi would give; he quotes from the the commandments. The young man replies with fervor that he has keep the commandments since he was young. Jesus stop short, he hears the intensity in the reply, he senses the possibilities in this young man. And he gives a reply from his heart, a personal teaching to this young man. And the young man cannot accept it! He walks away!


At that moment, I can imagine the disappointment that Jesus must have felt. You can hear it in his voice when he he tells his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the people are flabbergasted by this statement. Now keep in mind, the societal structure in Jesus’ time was much different from our own today! We have a class society made up of the wealthy, middle class, low income, poor, and destitute. In Jesus time, there was, as one scripture scholar put it, the haves and the have nots! The haves were nobles, rich landowners, merchants who catered to the rich, political leaders, and leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem. The have nots, were farmers, herdsmen, laborers, craftsmen, fishermen; who, because of Roman taxes, could barely scratch up enough money to survive! To people like these, they dreamed of being wealthy, to have wealth meant they had made it. And to have Jesus tell them that the wealthy could not enter the kingdom of God, must have blown their minds! You can hear the disbelief in their voices! If the rich cannot make it, how can we? Jesus tells them, tells us that to follow, to live the Gospel, will come with trials and persecutions; but with it also a fellowship of believers, to support each other along the way; and to eternal life at the end of the journey!


Now we are a society that is fascinated with the lives of the rich and famous, I mean, who has not watched at lest one episode of the Housewives series, or have not read at lest one society magazine, like “People,” or the tabloids. We envy the rich,we wish we could have a tenth, a fraction of their wealth. Yet, Jesus cautions us, in very strong terms, that success and wealth does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom. Remember the prime commandants, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart! And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is inviting us to cross the threshold into a new way of looking at the world, a new way of living in this world. One in which we share what we have with the poor and needy. That we look on each person that we come in contact with as a brother or a sister; a fellow traveler in this journey of life and faith, supporting and comforting each other during the hard times. And accepting each other. Standing together against a world where only money and status count, and might, whether through wealth or force of arms, makes right. If we can stand against that, then the blessings Jesus has promised will indeed be ours; and we will enter into eternal life in the age to come!

Feast of Saint Clare

Illustration by Mark Balma

Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.

From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.

Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:

O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him,
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

Saint Clare died on August 11,1253.

Feast Day of Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.

A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”

From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.

We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.

Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.

I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.