Archive for May, 2008

Corpus Christi Homily below

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

To read my homily for this past Sunday, scroll down the page, it is just below the homily for Fr. Donnelly’s funeral.

Funeral Homily for Rev. Richard A. Donnelly

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Note: I preached this homily at the Funeral Mass of my former Pastor, Fr. Richard Donnelly, May 24 at St. Paul Church, Cranston RI.

Funeral Homily — Rev. Richard A. Donnelly

Most Reverend Bishops, my brother priests and deacons, men and women religious, relatives and friends of Fr. Donnelly, members of the Legion of Mary and Catholics for Life, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ecce, Sacerdos Magnus, qui in diebus sui placuit Deo. Behold, a great priest, who in his life was pleasing to God; the Church sings in her Liturgy.

It is with a heavy heart that we gather here today, in the Church Father Donnelly was Baptized in, grew up in, celebrated his first Mass in and served as a priest in, to commend to God this great priest, who in his life was pleasing to God, and who in his life touched the lives of so many people.

Richard Anthony Donnelly was born three days before St. Patrick’s Day, March 14, 1936, to Francis and Mildred Donnelly, the youngest of three sons. The Donnelly’s were the model Irish-American Catholic family in a world that has sadly all but vanished. The three Donnelly boys walked a half a mile to St. Paul’s School in the morning, walked home for lunch, then walked back to school, then walked home again, each day. A half hour before dad got home from the office, mom would corral the boys and their family dog Rip inside the house, and make them quiet down in preparation for dad’s arrival.

After supper (hopefully not liver and onions, dad’s favorite but never Richard’s) the family would kneel around the table each night and pray five decades of the Rosary, which one day greatly impressed a Protestant neighbor who saw the scene through the kitchen window. On summer trips to Bonnet Shores, Mrs. Donnelly would pack two sets of clothes for her sons — one set for the beach, one set for Church. I learned all of these stories and others the first month living with Fr. Donnelly, and heard him tell the same stories again and again every month of the four years I lived with him, as if he was telling them to me for the first time!

This Norman Rockwell childhood came to a tragic end however, during his early high school years at LaSalle, when one day his father suddenly dropped dead of a stroke at work. I don’t think Fr. Richard ever got over that loss, but perhaps this was when he began to develop the great faith and the great compassion he had as a priest, especially toward the sick and grieving.

After high school, young Richard entered Our Lady of Providence Minor Seminary, and was sent by Bishop McVinney to St. Mary’s Seminary Baltimore, staffed by the Sulpician order of priests. It was there that Father said he learned, among other things, “Sulpician Hospitality” towards brother priests, namely that a priest should always be welcoming and caring towards his confrères. It was a lesson he learned well.

He was ordained on June 9, 1962, and was assigned for that summer to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Providence. He would say “All my classmates got summer assignments down at the beach — I got Blessed Sacrament Providence! But I enjoyed that assignment, because I learned how very important visiting the sick is in the life of a priest.” And as anyone who knows him can tell you, there weren’t too many days in his 44 years of active priesthood that Father Donnelly wasn’t out visiting the sick and dying in homes, hospitals, and nursing homes throughout the diocese. He bought Green Scapulars by the thousand and gave them to every sick person he visited.

In all of his assignments as a priest — as a teacher at LaSalle and Our Lady of Providence, as a curate at Blessed Sacrament, St. Joseph Scituate, St. Robert Bellarmine Johnston, St. Patrick Providence, and here at St. Paul, and as a Pastor at St. Clement Warwick and St. Mark Cranston — Father Donnelly was well liked and respected, not only by the laity, but also by the priests he served with.

Here are some things people have written about him at the Providence Journal’s “On-Line Guest Book” accompanying his obituary: A former student says: “I always admired him for his crisp way of doing business and his ramrod straight stature. A good man as well as a good teacher.” A brother priest, Rev. Joseph Protano, writes: “One of our best! Committed, devoted, learned — all with a sharp wit.” And finally, a parishioner comments: “Our family will always remember him as the kind and gentle shepherd of St. Marks parish family.”

Father Donnelly was all these things, and a real character as well. When priests that were assigned with him get together, we all have a great time impersonating his mannerism and sayings, sometimes with him present and enjoying it. Here are my favorite Fr. Donnelly-isms: “Honest to Glory!” “Oh Great Scott!” “You keep smiling.” And the wisest piece of advice he gave me as a young priest: “Michael, you’re ready to be a Pastor, when you worry about the lights!”

While Father worked hard and excelled in all the areas of his priestly ministry, as everyone knows, Fr. Donnelly’s passion as a priest was his Pro Life work. Every Saturday Morning at 8 a.m., rain, snow or shine, you could always find him just down the road from here in front of the Broad St. abortion mill, leading the 15 decades of the Rosary. And I would go so far as to say that — when you consider his tireless and courageous preaching and teaching on the sanctity of human life for so many years, when you consider the encouragement and spiritual direction he has given to almost every major lay pro-life leader in Rhode Island, and finally when you consider the influence he has had on so many priests, deacons and even bishops of our Diocese in this area — one must conclude that Father Richard Donnelly deserves to go down in history as the Founding Father of the Rhode Island Respect Life Movement, without which it wouldn’t be half of what it is today.

In the winter of 2006, Father was diagnosed with stage four liver and lung cancer. Given the prognosis, it was thought by most of his family and friends that it would only be a matter of months before the Lord would take him home. But two years later, Father was weak but still very alive and mentally alert, daily celebrating Mass and praying his breviary at St. Antoine’s Nursing Home. The only pain the always frugal Father said he felt was how “very expensive” this place he was living in was (he hated to have to part with his First Communion money!). He attributed his longevity and lack of pain to two persons, whom he called “My two Girlfriends — Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Mother Cabrini.”

And the man who spent his whole life visiting the sick was repaid by many visitors who went “all the way to almost Woonsocket” to visit their dear friend. He so appreciated those who visited him, especially Lorita Jussila, his sister-in-law Rose’s sister, and her husband Pete, his sister-in-law Audrey and her children, Michelle Hayes and the Mr. And Mrs. Ed McDonogh, Clair Gruneberg the secretary of St. Marks, Dr. and Mrs. Ted Ferry, Fr. Giacomo Capoverdi, myself, and many others. I want to especially thank Michelle Hayes, Judy McDonogh and Fr. Capoverdi, who stayed beside Fr. Donnelly through the last night of his life, and were with him when he died at 5:27 a.m. this past Wednesday morning.

I was assigned with Father Donnelly at St. Mark’s my first four years of priesthood, from July 1999 to July 2003. It was in September of 1999, that the now famous incident happened, which Father Donnelly never tired of telling, and which I will end with. One Saturday evening after Mass, the two of us went with our clerics on to check out the newly built Providence Place Mall. We went to the top floor to see the view of Waterplace Park that everyone was telling us about. The NBC Gravity Games were going on down below, and their was a little kid with his mother watching them. The kid looked at Fr. Donnelly, and looked at me, and then said “Mommy! Twins!”

Well, Richard, if I get to the end of my earthly life as a priest, and people still say of me “He was Father Richard Donnelly’s twin,” it will be the biggest compliment I could ever ask for.

Ecce, Sacerdos Magnus. Behold, a great priest, who in his life was pleasing to God. Rest in peace, Father Donnelly.

Homily — Corpus Christi May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Homily — Corpus Christi MMVIII                May 25, 2008

For my homily today, I want to tell you about the weekend I am having.

Friday evening and Saturday morning, I attended the funeral services of Father Richard Donnelly, Pastor Emeritus of St. Mark’s Church in Cranston, whom I spent the first four years of my priesthood with as an assistant.  I was privileged to have been asked by Father before he died to give the homily at his funeral, which I did Saturday morning.

Their were five bishops, over a hundred priests, and over a thousand lay faithful who attended the evening and morning Masses.  He was a prayerful, kind, hard working, witty priest, who was loved by the students that had him for many years as a teacher, the parishioners who had him as a Pastor, and priests who worked with him.

He had a great care for sick and dying parishioners, and was always visiting the sick.  He was hands down THE most Pro-Life priest in the Diocese, known for his clear and inspiring homilies and teachings on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, and his faithfulness in leading the Rosary every Saturday in front of the Cranston abortion mill.

Lastly, he was a real character; When priests that were assigned with him get together, we all have a great time impersonating him.

It is said that the First Pastor a newly ordained priest is assigned to is very influential in forming that young priest for the rest of his priesthood — if so, I feel very sorry for Fr. Marcin!

But whether or not that’s always the case, I have been very blessed to have had Fr. Richard Donnelly as my mentor the first four years of my priesthood; may he rest in peace.

I began my weekend with the burial of one Priest friend, and I will end my weekend with the birth of another old friend into the priesthood.

As I mention in the bulletin, Sunday afternoon I’m going to St. Anthony’s across the city, to attend the First Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving of Father Andrew Beauregard, also known by his baptismal name Dennis, who was just ordained last Saturday up in Boston.

Father Andrew and I were in the seminary together over 14 years ago.  He has kind of taken the scenic route to the priesthood, which is why he’s only getting ordained now while I’ve been a priest almost 9 years.

The Boston-based religious order Father Andrew belongs to is called the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance;  they are a very interesting bunch of priests and brothers.

They try to follow as close as possible the original Rule of their founder St. Francis of Assisi, who took literally Jesus’ words in Luke 9 verse 3:  “(Jesus sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God, saying to them) Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”
And Father Andrew and his fellow Franciscans of the Primitive Observance literally live this way.  Here’s a quote from one of of the Friars describing their way of life, which I put in my pastor’s column in this week’s bulletin:

“(We Friars) strive for immediate and total dependence on Divine Providence both communally and individually…(we have in our houses) No TVs, stereos, computers, musical instruments, washing machines, refrigerators, (or) telephones …Travel is by walking, hitchhiking, public transportation or begging for rides.  No air travel or ownership of cars.  As far as possible, money is not accepted or used.  No bank account is held individually or communally.  Brothers are sent out to beg or work for food and supplies.”

Five of the Friar’s will be staying at the Rectory with me Sunday night, some of them sleeping on the floor or couches.  I’m going to give them a good breakfast before they leave!

And right in the center of this weekend I’m having, in-between the burial of one senior priest and the birth of a new priest, is the celebration of Corpus Christi Sunday, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Bishop Tobin commented at the funeral that my former Pastor and mentor Fr. Donnelly derived his energy to do all that he did through what he would call “the greatest gift God has given the Church: Jesus Himself truly present in the Eucharist.”

The last two years of his life, Father lived at St. Antoine’s battling with stage four liver cancer.  Every day he would put his clerics on and go to Mass, which would wipe him out for the rest of the day.  But that was what he was living for, to be united with Jesus in Holy Communion.

And certainly, it’s only through the supernatural graces which pour forth from the Eucharist that my friend Father Andrew and all those who take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience can live the life of total trust in Divine Providence.

The Most Holy Eucharist is at the center of my eventful weekend; it is truly at the center of the life of not only every priest and religious, but of every follower of Jesus Christ.

For as Jesus says in the Gospel, Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

May Jesus remain in us and increase our love and devotion to this Greatest of Gifts He has given us.

Homily – Trinity Sunday May 18, 2008 “Then . . . . and Now”

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Homily — Trinity Sunday MMVIII May 18, 2008

“Then . . . .and Now”

The most fundamental of Christian beliefs is that the One True God is a Trinity of Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This basic truth is hinted at in the Old Testament, began to be revealed in the New Testament, and was clearly the teaching of the ancient Church everywhere, for the first Three Centuries of Christianity.

But while today we take for granted this central Mystery of our Faith, there was a time in Church history when Christians suffered much for their belief in the Holy Trinity, and were under great pressure to renounce it.

For almost 100 years, roughly the whole 4th Century, this was the case almost everywhere in the Church. In the early 4th century, a heresy called Arianism, which denied the Divinity of God the Son, spread like wildfire throughout the Church. And no sooner had Arianism been taken care of than in the late 4th Century, a heresy called Macedonianism, which denied the Divinity of God the Holy Spirit, did almost as much damage.

Neither Arianism nor Macedonianism had a leg to stand on based on Scripture or Tradition. But these errors became so widespread that for a while, nearly every Bishop in nearly every diocese not only taught these things, but persecuted Bishops and others who believed that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit.

But what really made things bad was that the civil government at the time wasn’t a neutral bystander in this issue, it rather favored the heretics, and made life miserable for the Orthodox Catholics.

For example, St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the few Bishops who refused to renounce his Catholic Faith that the Son is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God”, as the Council of Nicea in 325 had defined several years prior. Because of his orthodoxy, Athanasius was exiled five times from his diocese by the pro-Arian government.

And St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, lived for years under constant threat of exile and confiscation of his possessions, because of his belief that the Holy Spirit is God, equal in dignity to the Father and Son, when every other bishop around him taught that the Holy Spirit is not God, not equal in dignity.

It was courageous men and women like St. Athanasius and St. Basil who stood against the rising tide and turned their culture back to Orthodox Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity. And by the 5th century and up until today, Christians everywhere have been able to believe this most fundamental belief in the Holy Trinity, and teach it in Churches and in Catholic Schools without hindrance from the government.

But while that is happily the case, and may it continue to be, there is another fundamental teaching of our Christian faith that currently under attack in the culture we now live in, and in certain parts of our country, it has already led to persecution of the Catholic Church by our government.  I am referring to the current movement to redefine the institution of Marriage.

We Catholics have always believed marriage to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman. We base our belief not only on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, but also on the Natural Law, which men and women of all faiths have been given to live by.

But now, many states have moved toward changing the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples. This past Thursday, the Supreme Court of California, the largest state in the country population wise, struck down a state law against same-sex marriage (that its citizens had voted in), and joined Massachusetts in legally recognizing gay marriage. Four other states — Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire — have civil union laws which are marriage laws in all but name for same sex couples.

And just as Ss. Basil and Athanasius and others suffered in their day because they believed and taught that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit, so Christians in states that have legalized same sex unions are starting to suffer for believing and teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Take the Church in Boston, just north of us, for example. The Archdiocese of Boston had one of the oldest adoption agencies in the United States. Notice I said “had.” Cardinal O’Malley was forced to close the agency, three years after the legalization of same sex marriages, as it was being forced by law to allow same sex couples the right to adopt.

Take the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist Church-affiliated group in New Jersey. It lost the tax exempt status for it’s Chapel when it refused to allow a civil union ceremony for two women to be conducted in it. Note that New Jersey has only legalized same sex unions.

Finally, take what’s been happening in the state of Colorado. In 2007 a bill was presented that would forbid employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The law was amended to exempt religious groups who would be opposed and passed 60-2.

But this year, a new bill has been proposed saying that any religious organization that gets any state or federal funding wouldn’t be exempt. This would include Catholic Charities of Colorado. But Denver Archbishop Chaput isn’t being intimidated: “When (Catholic Charities) can no longer have the freedom it needs to be ‘Catholic’, it will end its services. This is not idle talk. I am very serious.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to wake up and see the serious threat same-sex marriage and civil unions are to our Catholic Church in America.

If marriage is legally redefined, it may one day be considered bigoted to teach in Catholic Schools that marriage is the union of one man and one woman; also, Catholic clergy who refuse to marry same sex couples will probably lose our right to witness marriages.

But while all of this is very sobering and scary to think about, we’ve got the truth on our side, as well as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who is with us at all times.

May the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity give us the wisdom we need to see the truth, the courage we need to suffer if need be rather than compromise the truths of our Faith, and the virtue and charity we need to transform our culture with the Gospel message.

Homily — Pentecost MMVIII May 11, 2008

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Homily — Pentecost MMVIII May 11, 2008
[Note: My parish had the second of three special Traditional Latin Masses this Sunday. The additions to the homily for this Mass are indicated in brackets.]

One of the most popular novels of the 20th century is J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The three volume work was also made into three movies several years ago, which were all in large part faithful to the original books.

While millions of people have enjoyed reading or seeing this fantasy story filled with hobbits, elves, wizards and magical rings, many people are surprised to find out that Tolkien was a very devout Roman Catholic, that he dedicated the work to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and called The Lord of the Rings a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but conscious in the revision.”

[Traditional Latin Mass: It also should be noted that Tolkien had a great love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and he lamented many of the Liturgical Reforms being promoted after Vatican II, which he considered to be a dangerous tampering with Tradition (see “The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien,” Houghton Mifflin, 2000, p. 393-395). But I digress from my main topic.]

One of the many amazing things about The Lord of the Rings is that while whole books have been written showing how almost every aspect of the Catholic Faith can be found in the work, in the 1200 plus pages of the Trilogy itself, Tolkien mentions God by name only once, and even then, most people don’t even realize he’s referring to God in the passage.

I bring this up today, not because I’m a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan (which is certainly the case), but because that one time Tolkien does mention God in his book, it is God the Holy Spirit that he refers to.

But Tolkien doesn’t call Him “God the Holy Spirit” straight out, he instead uses a phrase which beautifully describes God the Holy Spirit: He calls Him “The Secret Fire.”

“I am the Servant of the Secret Fire” says Gandalf to the Balrog down in the Mines of Moria, towards the end of Part I, the Fellowship of the Ring, in case you’re wondering just where in the book or movies it is. After the book was finished, Tolkien was asked what the “Secret Fire” was, and he said It is the Holy Spirit.

“Secret Fire” is a wonderful way to think of the Holy Spirit. From the creation of the world up until the time of Moses, the “Secret Fire” who is the Holy Spirit was kept well hidden in the bosom of the Holy Trinity. But in the Old Testament, every now and then glimpses of the Secret Fire could be partly seen, hidden in the voice of the Old Testament Prophets.

Then, when the fullness of time had come, the Secret Fire came upon the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, and was then fully seen to be hidden in the Person of Her Son, Jesus. And Jesus the God Man from the moment of His Incarnation became the True and Perfect “Servant of the Secret Fire.”

Throughout Our Lord’s life, this Secret Fire would at times flame out, as Jesus worked miracles and taught with authority and healed the sick and expelled demons.

But at other times the Secret Fire would stay secret, as He did the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, as He did during Jesus’ Passion and Death and Burial.

But at the Resurrection, and even more so at the Ascension, the Secret Fire who is the Holy Spirit was least secret in showing the faithful just what it was fully capable of doing in raising Christ from the dead, and setting Him on the Throne at the Father’s right hand high.

And Today, Fifty Days after Christ’s Resurrection, Jesus sends this very same Secret Fire that He carried in this world, into the heart of every Baptized believer in Him.

And it’s by this tremendous grace of Pentecost that you and I are now “Servants of the Secret Fire,” Servants of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us the same way He dwelt in Christ.

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, and was totally obedient to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, both in ordinary things and in extraordinary things. And you and I should also be led by the Holy Spirit, and be obedient to His promptings, both in our every day life, and in the exceptional times when we face big trials or decisions.

As we celebrate this Great Feast of Pentecost, which to the Church is on a par with Christmas and Easter, may we ask the Holy Spirit to be that Secret Fire within us whom we serve, who will warm and brighten our hearts and our Church, no matter how cold and dark the world around us may get, and who will also at times flame out of us and out of the Church, to renew the face of the earth.