This Week’s Message
When Breath Becomes Air
Reflecting on the Life of Paul Kalanithi
By Cliff Garvey
Paul Kalanithi was born in the shadow of New York City and grew up in the deserts of Arizona. He graduated with honors from Stanford University and Yale Medical School. He was a promising neurosurgeon, scientist, and writer. He was an avid cyclist, hiker, and runner. He was a beloved husband, father, and son. He was looking forward to a long, productive, and happy life. But last year, at age 37, Paul Kalanithi died from a rare form of metastatic lung cancer. In the months before his death, Dr. Kalanithi wrote a memoir about his life and illness entitled, “When Breath Becomes Air”, which has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for much of this year. The book is breathtaking in its honesty, heartbreaking in its description of a life cut short by illness, and profound in its exploration of the meaning of human life, whether it is long or short.
Although I am a voracious reader, I rarely read books like this one. Having lost an uncle to a long illness and a dear friend to a sudden illness, I get it: life is precious; life is short; life is unpredictable. And as a Catholic Christian and “Franciscan in Spirit”, I appreciate that there’s more to life than ambition and affluence; there’s more to life than prestige and publicity; there’s more to life than professional sports, cable news, and reality television. But for some reason, Paul Kalanithi’s book called out to me. I read articles about it in magazines and newspapers; read reviews on Catholic websites; and watched an interview with the author online. After being urged to read the book by a fellow spiritual director who thought it might help with my ministry, I relented and read the book twice in a single weekend.
In short, “When Breath Becomes Air” is a masterpiece and its author was more than a man of science. Paul Kalanithi was a man of great courage and wisdom. And his story teaches us a great deal about life and death. From childhood through adulthood, Dr. Kalanithi was preoccupied with questions about the meaning and purpose of human life. He read widely: literature, poetry, and science. He thought deeply about life and death, sickness and health, sacrifice and suffering. He journeyed from belief to disbelief to belief again. He experienced true love, personal and professional success, fatherhood and friendship, and the pain and suffering of terminal illness.
Through it all, Paul Kalanithi discovered that life’s meaning can be found in relationship with others: with those we love and with those we serve. Before he died, Dr. Kalanithi rediscovered his Christian faith. And during a period of remission, he returned to the practice of neurosurgery and wrote eloquently about his innate human vocation to reach out, to love, and to serve. While helping others carry the heavy cross of illness and injury while he himself was carrying that same heavy burden, he wrote: “In taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.”
Although that may sound pessimistic, it is not. Despite his illness, Dr. Paul Kalanithi lived into death by one simple maxim: “I can’t go on. I will go on.” For his life and example, and for his perseverance and wisdom, we should thank God for Paul Kalanithi. And we should pray for the courage and grace to take up our cross, to carry it, and to reach out to others even if we might get crushed by the weight. Because it is in being crushed by love (and loss) that we find meaning and purpose. And it is in being crushed that we find a love that lasts beyond life and death, and into eternal life.
May the Lord give you peace, now and always!
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Knights of Columbus
Second Annual Golf Tournament
Friday, October 14th
All parishioners and friends of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport are invited to join the Knights of Columbus (Council 215) for its Second Annual Golf Tournament on Friday, October 14th at the Cape Ann Golf Course. Tee off at 1:00pm. Registration forms are available at kofc215.com or at the doors of Saint Ann Church, Saint Joachim Church, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. All proceeds benefit the charitable works of the Knights of Columbus in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport.
The Knights of Columbus is an organization of men that remains true to its founding principles of charity, unity, and fraternity. Founded in 1882, the Knights remain an organization dedicated to the mutual assistance of members and their families, but also to serving the disabled, the poor, and the sick. The Knights also sponsor educational, charitable, and religious programs in our parishes and throughout the world. Council 215 serves the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport at Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11th at 7:00pm in the parish center (located beside Saint Ann Church). For more information, please contact Mark Natti at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! New members are always welcome!
Adult Faith Formation
RCIA & Adult Confirmation
If you are an adult (age 18 and over) and have not received the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance & Reconciliation (Confession), Holy Eucharist, or Confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church, then please consider joining our adult faith formation program which will meet on Sunday mornings after our 8:15am Mass beginning on Sunday, October 16th in Saint Ann Parish House. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a seven month program that prepares adults to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Our group will meet approximately twice each month to learn about the basic beliefs, teachings, and traditions of the Catholic Church. As part of this same process, our Adult Confirmation Program prepares adults for the Sacrament of Confirmation and focuses on the challenges of living a life of faith in the modern world. If you would like to join us for this journey of faith and become part of a unique fellowship in preparation for the Sacraments of God’s Holy Church, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Youth Faith Formation
Grade 2 Sacramental Preparation
The Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is now offering a creative and innovative way for young children to prepare for the Sacraments of Penance & Reconciliation (Confession) and First Holy Communion. Our program is designed to prepare both children and their parents for these sacraments, encourage lifelong relationships with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, and help families grow together in prayer, fellowship, and service. Our program is simple and family friendly!
First, we will continue to place primary focus on inviting families to attend one of our seven weekend Masses. Second, all second grade children and their parents (or guardians) are asked to attend two 90 minute workshops during the fall season; and three 90 minute workshops during the winter-spring season. Each “Faith & Family Workshop” is offered at three different times, so each family can choose which option works best for them! Our calendar and registration materials are posted below. If you have questions or need any assistance with youth faith formation in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Betsy Works at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
Year of Mercy Special Event
The Jesus Prayer: Fall Mini-Retreat
October 27th-October 28th
In early August, sixty-five parishioners joined Father Jim and Cliff for our Third Annual Summer Retreat: The Jesus Prayer. Since then, many parishioners have asked for more information about desert spirituality and the ancient practice of calling on the name of Jesus. In response to this profound spiritual hunger, all are invited to join us for ‘The Jesus Prayer: A Reprise, a two-night mini-retreat on Thursday, October 27th and Friday, October 28th from 6:30pm until 8:00pm in Saint Anthony Chapel. Each evening will begin with Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. After praying together, we will watch and discuss the highly acclaimed film, ‘The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer’; learn about praying with the Jesus Prayer; and explore how praying with this timeless prayer can bring you closer to our Risen Lord. You need not have participated in the Summer Retreat to join us for this special program! All parishioners, friends, and guests of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport are invited to join us! For more information, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. This program is free (but donations will be gratefully accepted). Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
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