Archive for the ‘Holy Day Homilies’ Category

Homily – Holy Thursday MMX 4/1/10

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Homily – Holy Thursday MMX 4/1/10

Pawtuxet River, 11 ft above flood stage, 3/31/10

Pawtuxet River, 11 ft above flood stage, 3/31/10

Our thoughts and prayers go out to anyone whose loved ones have been adversely affected by the terrible flooding we have been experiencing.

As many of you know, I come from Coventry, and my parents live only a quarter of a mile from the South Branch of the Pawtuxet River, thankfully on high ground. Most of the major roads in Coventry are closed; my friend Fr. Kelley, Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul has 18 inches of water in the Church basement and no heat, half of his parish yesterday and most of today was under mandatory evacuation from a dam 150 yards from the Church which threatened to give way, one of the homes evacuated is a duplex my mother grew up in and my parents lived in when they were first married.

The Warwick Mall I grew up going to is now Lake Warwick Mall, with cars almost totally submerged in water, as is many other shopping centers and homes in the Cranston and Warwick area.

Macy's at the Warwick Mall, Warwick RI, 3/31/10

Macy's at the Warwick Mall, Warwick RI, 3/31/10

Thankfully, the Blackstone Valley has been spared, and thankfully also no lives have been lost, but certainly this will be a financial and emotional hardship for many many people and our prayers go out to them this Holy Thursday.

But in the midst of all these trials, and in the midst of the many other trials you and I our facing, tonight, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, invites us to come to Higher Ground, to this Upper Room where no flood waters can reach.

Here in this Upper Room tonight, Jesus gives us three gifts which will help us weather any storm this life can bring us, three gifts which will enable us to walk across the stormy waters: Jesus this night gives us the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the New Commandment to Love One another as Christ has loved us.

Just as the Holy Trinity is One God in Three Persons, in a similar way these three Gifts are really One Gift in Three Forms.

For Jesus our Lord and Savior is both truly present and truly hidden in all three Gifts.

He is most of all truly present in the Holy Eucharist. This is Jesus’ Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – Jesus, whose Word in the Beginning Created the Whole Universe, who said “Fiat Lux – Let there be light” and there was light, and it was good, tonight says “Hoc est Corpus Meum – This is my Body, this is my Blood” — and ordinary Bread and Wine are Transubstantiated into the Flesh and Blood of Jesus, the Bread of Angels.

And in order to continue giving us this Bread from Heaven until the end of time, Jesus this night Ordains the first Twelve Priests of the New and Everlasting Covenant. And as the Saints and most recently Pope John Paul II tells us, not only did He ordain those Twelve Priests, but He also held in His Sacred Heart and thought of Fr. Charland, Fr. Blain, Fr. Marcin, Fr. Woolley and every man who would be called to the priesthood until the end of time.

Like the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present in each and every validly ordained priest. We call priests alter Christus – other Christs. The priest says “This is my Body” not “This is the Body of Jesus”, He says in confession “I absolve you from your sins” not “Christ absolves you” because the priest is another Christ.

In this Year of the Priesthood, may we this Night in a special way thank God for the gift and the mystery which is the Holy Priesthood, and pray that all priests may be more and more converted inwardly, that all their thoughts, desires, words and actions may be those of Christ the High Priest whose dignity they sacramentally partake in.

Let us pray in a special way that This Night, as He sits at table, that Jesus is even now thinking of some young man or boy in our parish, calling Him to one day “Do this in remembrance of Me” to one day give his life totally to Jesus and His Church as an Ordained Priest.

Finally Jesus is present in the New Commandment He gives us this night “As I have washed your feet, so you must wash each others feet, As I have loved you, so you must love one another”

And Jesus washes the Apostle’s feet and gives them the New Commandment after He has given them the Eucharist and the Priesthood.

This is because the gift of the Eucharist enables us to live out that New Commandment.

The Gift of the Eucharist, if worthy received, fills us with the Peace of Christ and raises our Hearts to the Joys of Heaven. But the Eucharist also fills our Hearts with a burning desire to like Jesus, humble ourselves and take the form of a servant, it makes us want to stoop down and wash the grime and sewer water off the feet of those knee deep in the mud.

And in that act of service to the poor and needy, we will also encounter Our Lord and Savior Jesus, truly present and hidden in the Poor. Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, to the physically or spiritually sick or suffering, to the flood victim, the stranger, to the unwanted and rejected by society, that you do unto me.

And so on this Holy Night, as we recline with Jesus in this Upper Room, may Christ renew our love and appreciation for these Three Gifts which bring Jesus to us, and which raise our Humanity above all the storms and floods that this fallen world can bring our way.

Homily – Epiphany MMX 1/2/10

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Homily – Epiphany MMX 1/2/10

On Christmas Eve in the city of Bethlehem, there was “no room at the inn,” the inn was so jam packed with people.

Twelve Days later, on this Solemn Feast of the Epiphany, there is now “no room at the Stable”: that cave in Bethlehem is now filled to capacity with Mary, Joseph, the Cow, the Donkey, the Shepherds, the Sheep, the Angels, the Magi, and the Camels – all gathered around the Manger, where the Baby Jesus, the Lord and Light and Savior of the World, lays sleeping.

Those lowly and Jewish Shepherds must have done a double take when the stable door opened, and those rich, exotic looking, pagan Magi walked in with their camels.

“What are you guys doing here? This baby is our Messiah, not yours! He’s the one our God, not yours, promised to send to us, not to you, in our Holy Scriptures.”

One zealous Shepherd, not taking any chances with these idol-worshiping foreigners, started reaching for his knife in his belt, but Mary gave him a look and he stopped.

One of the Magi, the one who spoke the best Hebrew, very calmly and politely answered the Shepherds, “We know that this Child is Your King and Messiah, we’ve all been reading and re-reading your wonderful Scriptures while we were on the road.

“We are here tonight, because a tiny Star has drawn us. From our homeland, far far away from here, we saw this Star, this tiny light, appear nine months ago. It was like no other light we’ve ever seen; it spoke to us, it called us to follow it.

“And so each one of us broke away from our lands and from our old way of life and from the gods we were taught to worship, and we all set out to see where this Star would lead us.

“And while on the road, we all met up with each other, none of us had ever known each other before, and we began to journey together, and read aloud and talk about your Scriptures with each other.”

“And the more we read the Scriptures, the brighter that star began to shine, and the more we began to realize just who it was that we were searching for, the more we began to realize just how important this journey we were taking was for us and for our people back home.

“And now, the Star has faithfully brought us to Him and His Mother, and to you good and faithful Shepherds also, and we are overjoyed.

“Our joy is beyond words, and so instead, in silent adoration, we offer Jesus these gifts which the Scriptures enlightened by that Star told us to give Him: Gold for the King of Kings, Frankincense for the God-Man, Myrrh for the Suffering Servant who will be scourged for our sins.”

Today my brothers and sisters, there is “no more room” at the Stable: The Angels, the animals, the Jewish People, and all other Nations and Peoples now surround the Manger.

It is full to capacity, there’s no room whatsoever for Satan and his demons, they’ll just have to stay somewhere else, while we adore our Newborn King and Lord without him!

Homily – Christmas MMIX 12/25/09

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Homily – Christmas MMIX 12/25/09

Pieter Bruegel, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566

Pieter Bruegel, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566

Late in the afternoon that first Christmas eve, a man could be seen walking in front of a donkey, coming from the north on the road leading into the city. Passing by a field of shepherds with their sheep, this man, whose name was Joseph, led his donkey through the gates of the city of Bethlehem, to look for a place to stay the night.

Riding atop the donkey was Joseph’s young wife, whom he had married a little less than a year ago, whose name was Miryam, a name meaning “the perfect and beautiful one”.

Also riding on that donkey behind Joseph, in the virgin womb of His mother, was Joseph’s unborn Son by adoption, who He was to name Jesus.

Jesus came riding into Bethlehem on a donkey, just as he was to go riding into Jerusalem on a donkey 33 years later.

But what was Joseph, and his nine month’s pregnant wife and child, and his donkey, doing there? Why did Joseph saddle up his donkey and journey 75 miles from his home in Nazareth in the cold of winter?

St. Luke tells us why in the Gospel we read at Midnight Mass: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment.

A census was to be taken; the Roman Emperor wanted every man, woman and child in his Empire to be counted and enrolled in his census book, according to their ancestral home, (which in Joseph’s case was Bethlehem).

To ensure full participation, an army of census takers were employed in every town and village, and there were severe penalties if you were caught not getting enrolled.

But that stiff fine or threat of imprisonment wasn’t what gave Joseph the motivation to walk those 75 miles.

As he walked, and as Mary rode, along those long rough roads leading down to Bethlehem, they were thinking not about the enrollment newly decreed by the earthly Ceasar Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire;

No, they were thinking only about the enrollment newly decreed by the Heavenly Ceasar Augustus, Almighty God, the ruler of all Empires, and Peoples, and Ages Past, Present and Future.

For in those days, a decree went out from this Caesar Augustus, from God Almighty, that the whole world should be enrolled.

God in those days wished to enroll not just everyone currently living in the Roman Empire, but every man, woman and child who had ever lived in any Empire, and even those who would one day live after those days, beginning His enrollment with Adam and Eve, and continuing down through the centuries, our 21st century included, and ending the enrollment with the last generation of men to be born at the end of time.

This was the First Enrollment Luke rightly says. All Nations, not just the Israelites, were now to be enrolled for the First Time in History, and their names written in an Enrollment Book which God the Father was to give to His Son that first Christmas.

On the first page of that book was written: “To my dear and only-begotten Son, from your beloved Eternal Father, given to you on the Night you came forth from your Mother’s womb. In this book are the names of all the people I sent you into the world for.

Go to them, call each one of them by name to follow after you, lay down your life, my Son, for each one of these people I have enrolled in this Book I am giving you Today.”

And just as Caesar Augustus had his army of census workers to do his enrollment for him, Almighty God had His Army of Angels to do His enrollment.

And as counting every human being ever created is a massive undertaking, God therefore must have employed every Angel He had in His service to do the job – including your Angel, the one God has assigned to guard you throughout your life.

Your Guardian Angel and mine were most probably among that multitude of Heavenly Hosts singing to those Shepherds that first Christmas night:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest

and on earth Peace to men of Good Will!”

Let us then, whose names are written in that First Enrollment, go with the Shepherds and with our Guardian Angel this night to Bethlehem, and kneel before that Manger.

The Babe who lies there even now has that Enrollment Book memorized, even now from the Manger He calls us by name, and knows us, and loves us with His Most Sacred Heart.

And See! as you kneel there, how His Mother Mary takes Him in her arms out of the Manger, and turns to you and says “He wants you to hold Him. Don’t be afraid.”

His Mother, and St. Joseph, and God His Heavenly Father all want you to, and He most of all wants so much you and me, to take Him in our arms, and hold Him close to our Hearts, and believe with all our heart and soul and mind and strength that He alone is fully God and fully Man, born to us in Bethlehem this Night.

So may you and I be then found worthy, to have our names enrolled and written in the Book of Life,

which will be the Second Enrollment, very soon to be decreed in those Last Days, by God the Father, the Most August Emperor of Heaven and Earth.

Homily — 30th Sun. OT 80th Anniversary Weekend 10/25/09

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Homily — 30th Sun. OT 80th Anniversary Weekend 10/25/09

original-church-1929

Original Church 1929

current-church-19292

Current Church 2009

The Lord has done great things for us,

We are filled with joy!

Today’s first reading and psalm speak of the joy the Israelites had when they were able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem after the Exile.

Even Jeremiah, usually a pretty grim, doom and gloom prophet, is bursting with happiness at seeing God’s Temple go up, as he says in the first reading: Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy, proclaim your praise and say “The LORD has delivered His people!” Behold, (now) I (the LORD) will gather them . . . . the blind and the lame, mothers and those with child, an immense throng.

(Now) I will console and guide them, I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road so that none (of them) shall stumble.

Today’s readings are most appropriate for us, as we rejoice, as we celebrate this weekend the 80th Anniversary of the building of this Temple of God, St. Joseph Church Woonsocket.

The story of the birth of our parish goes back to the mid 1920’s. Our wonderful parish historian, Raymond Bacon, has for over 30 years chronicled our parish history, and as the current Pastor I’d like to take the opportunity to thank him for his excellent work, just a little of which I will share with you in this homily.

In the late 1920s, this area of East Woonsocket was rapidly changing from a rural farmland to a populace suburb. The population of Woonsocket had doubled since the turn of the century, and St. Anne’s Parish which then included East Woonsocket was bursting at the seams.

In July of 1926, at the request of East Woonsocketers who felt a strong need for a parish in their growing corner of the city, the Bishop of Providence, Bishop Hickey, purchased 6 acres of land from Elmer and Edwin Jillson, which is the present site of St. Joseph Parish. The cost of the whole 6 acres: $23,000 – less money than it cost to repair our steeple this past summer!

Two and a half years later, the Bishop gave permission for a new parish to be founded. The Reverend Joseph F. Dumont, a curate at St. Anne’s, was appointed Pastor of the still unbuilt parish on Friday, July 12, 1929.

But Fr. Dumont wasted no time getting things moving. As Ray Bacon tells it in his history: “On Tuesday afternoon, July 16, work was begun on the new Church. As if inspired by their patron saint, some fifty men, under the direction of Mr. Aime Lefebvre, gave of their time, their talent and their labor, and successfully completed the Church in time for the following Sunday, July 21 1929.”

“The original structure was 80 feet long, 30 feet wide, and had a seating capacity of some 500 people” (And I’m happy to say, we continue to this day to be blessed with people in the parish who work hard in that same spirit of sacrifice – the building committee, food cupboard workers, bingo volunteers, liturgy committee, 50/50 Club, choir, and so many others)

On that Sunday, July 21, 1929, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for the very first time at St. Joseph’s Parish, and Jesus our Lord took up residence in the Tabernacle, where He has happily lived for the past 80 years.

The Lord has done great things for us

We are filled with Joy!

Filled with Joy, over the thousands of people who were born again of water and the Holy Spirit from this Baptismal Font.

Filled with Joy for the many holy vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life and married life that have been nurtured from our parish.

Filled with Joy that over these past 80 years, countless men and women have been nourished with the Eucharist, reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Penance, healed and consoled by Jesus through the anointing of the sick, and honored with Christian burial when their earthly pilgrimage ended, all here at our parish.

Filled with Joy, that 80 years later, in 2009 we now worship God in this beautifully renovated Church building (with one of the best Steeples in Woonsocket!); and our Catholic School and Public School children are getting taught the faith in a equally impressive, solidly built school building.

But the greatest thing by far the LORD has done for us, my brothers and sisters, the thing we are most filled with joy about, is that the Faith our ancestors built this parish upon remains strong in the hearts of those who come to Mass here each week.

Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, the Foster Son of St. Joseph, continues to be the Lord of our Hearts,

Jesus Christ continues to be made known through the lives of so many faith filled parishioners.

May St. Joseph our Patron, and Mary his Immaculate Spouse continue to shower these blessings from their Son down on us, as we celebrate this weekend, and for many many years to come.

Homily – Corpus Christi MMIX June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Homily – Corpus Christi MMIX June 14, 2009

Today’s Feast of Corpus Christi, in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ, is one of the most solemn Feasts of the year in many countries of the world.

Countless villages, towns and cities throughout Europe and South America have large processions where the Blessed Sacrament is carried under a four-poled canopy by the priest in a large gold Monstrance through the main streets of the town or village.  Little girls in their First Communion dresses preceed Our Lord dropping rose petals before Him.  Following Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament in the procession are great crowds of the faithful, singing hymns to the Eucharistic Lord accompanied by Marching Bands.

The outdoor procession traditionally stops at three different altars, usually specially set up for the Feast. At each altar, one of the three Gospel accounts of the institution of the Eucharist is read, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is given.

Msgr. Frappier tells the story about the Corpus Christi procession he remembers as a seminarian studying for the priesthood in France. Every year the seminarians would get the whole day before Corpus Christi off in order to get ready for the Feast.  Every seminarian (and everyone else in the town) had to take a bag and go out into the countryside to pick flowers.  All the petals from all the flowers collected were then laid down on the road so as to make a carpet of flowers lining the road for the Priest carrying Jesus to walk on when He passed by in the procession.

But while the Feast of Corpus Christi is today one of the most beautiful and solemn of our Catholic Feast days, we probably wouldn’t have it today if it hadn’t been for the great faith of a little girl who grew up as an orphan.

Her name was Juliana. She was born in Belgium near the city of Liege in the year 1192. Juliana’s parents died when she was 5, and she was placed under the care of Nuns.

At age 16 Juliana began to have a vision where she saw a beautiful full moon in the night sky, but the moon had a big black spot on it.  After having the vision several times, the Lord appeared to her and said the moon represented the Church, bright with all it’s great Feasts. The black spot was on the moon because there wasn’t any Feast in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus told little Juliana that her mission in life was to get such a Feast established throughout the Church.  She became a nun in the convent she was raised in, and for the next 35 years she tried hard to get the Feast of Corpus Christi established in just her own diocese.

The devil must have obviously not wanted such a feast to be established, because first she was falsely accused of financial mismanagement and thrown out of her monastery.  Then she was exonerated of those charges by her Bishop. And the Bishop, who believed in her mission, decreed that every parish in the diocese should celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  But a year later, the Bishop died, and only one Church in the Diocese had followed the decree.

Without her old Bishop to protect her, Juliana was again driven from her convent by her enemies, and took refuge in a Cistercian convent in another part of the country.  No sooner did she get settled in when that convent was burned to the ground and she had to move a third time.

Juliana died ten years later, in 1258, almost a total failure, with only that one parish in her old diocese celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the rest of the diocese indifferent to the new feast or opposed to it.

But before she was banished from her convent, Juliana became friendly with an archdeacon of the diocese named James.  Three years after her death, this deacon was elected the Pope, and became Pope Urban IV.

Pope Urban asked the great Dominican Friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, to write Mass and Office prayers and Hymns for this New Feast.  St. Thomas ended up writing the Tantum Ergo, Panis Angelicus, O Salutaris Hostia, and Adoro Te, some of the greatest hymns ever written, and in 1264 Pope Urban decreed that the feast of Corpus Christi be celebrated in every Church throughout Christendom, which it was.

One last interesting note.  Every year in England in the middle ages, plays were performed on the Feast of Corpus Christi called “mystery plays”. These plays were very popular and taught the faith in an entertaining way.

The mystery plays were banned soon after England broke from the Roman Church.  But before that, it is speculated by some that a little boy named William would attend these plays every year with his parents, and be fascinated by them.  When William grew up, he began to write plays of his own.  While it probably will never be know for sure, there is strong evidence that this William Shakespeare I’m speaking about was a clandestined Catholic throughout his life.

May Jesus give us the deep faith in and love for the Holy Eucharist that he gave Blessed Juliana, a faith that will help us persevere when all looks hopeless and when our mission as followers of Christ seem to be ending in total failure.  May we not despair, but be assured that to Christ belongs the victory, that He is with us always in this Sacrament until the end of the world, and that He will raise up gloriously on the last day all who eat His Sacred Flesh and drink His Precious Blood.