By Cliff Garvey
On February 22nd, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. This feast commemorates that moment when Jesus chooses Peter to serve as the first pastor of the fledgling community of believers who, like him, confess with faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).” This feast also reminds us of the apostolic succession of bishops and popes that begins with Saint Peter and journeys through history with God’s people.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus identifies Peter as “the rock” upon which the Church will be built and gives him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven (See Matthew 16:18-19).” Jesus does not choose Peter because he is a man, because he is a gifted preacher, or because he is perfect. The Gospels make clear that Peter, like all men and women, is a sinner, capable of betraying even his closest friend. Instead, Jesus chooses Peter because he believes with his whole heart, his imperfect heart, that Jesus is the Messiah.
As Catholic Christians, we believe that Peter is the first occupant of the chair of servant leadership that guides the Church through centuries of salvation history: through plague and persecution, reformation and renewal, tragedy and triumph, sanctity and scandal. We believe that even though the cardinals may vote, it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately chooses the person who becomes the pope who sits in the Chair of Saint Peter.
This article of faith is sometimes difficult to accept. Friends can tell you that when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, I was unhappy. I believed then that the Church needed a change and that he seemed like more of the same. But when the new pope appeared at the loggia and greeted the crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, he said: “The cardinals elected me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficient instruments comforts me. Above all, I entrust myself to your prayers.” With these words, my heart and mind were opened just enough to give him a chance.
What I saw that night was not “God’s Rottweiler” (as Cardinal Ratzinger was sometimes called) but a humble pastor. What I soon learned, over and over again, was that Pope Benedict XVI had much to teach us about faith, hope, and especially love. Over the years, I studied everything he wrote as pope; and I shared a lot of his work with the spiritual reading group in my last parish. Before we read and reflected on any of his writings, I urged my fellow parishioners to set aside their preconceptions, keep an open mind, and listen with an open heart. This group’s discussions about Pope Benedict XVI and his message were always challenging, fruitful, and live-giving.
In Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, God Is Love (2005), he writes: “Love is the light, and in the end, the only light that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it, because we are created in the image of God. To experience love, and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world, this is my invitation.” Love is the only light. Love illumines a dark world. Love gives us courage. Love is possible. We can do it. We can love because God created us for love and love alone. And Jesus leads the way. Fifteen years later, this passage still embodies for me what the Church should be about in all that we preach and practice: living and sharing God’s boundless love for each one of us and for our sick and suffering world.
My admiration for Pope Benedict grew when Father Jim and I traveled to Assisi in 2007. We arrived one day before the Holy Father’s arrival to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the Conversion of Saint Francis. By some miracle, we found places outside the diocesan cathedral where the local bishop would welcome the pope. After a long wait, the church bells began to ring, the pope appeared, and the crowd chanted: “Santotito! Santotito!” In English, this means: “Little Holy One!” The people knew instinctively what it took so many of us years to figure out. The brilliant intellectual who was now our pope was also a simple man and humble pastor.
As Pope Benedict passed by us, I was able to reach out and touch his hand. I touched the ring that symbolizes the papal office, the Chair of Saint Peter. In that moment, which lasted only seconds, time stood still. I felt a sudden stillness, a profound peace, a deep consolation. I felt a strong connection with the community of believers that stretches back to the first Christians and journeys ahead through time to the family of disciples yet to come. It was among the most precious moments of my life.
When Pope Benedict retired, I wept. But this time, I did not place expectations on the conclave that would elect the new pope. I was determined not to be disappointed; determined to trust the Holy Spirit; determined to open my heart and mind to whatever the next pope would teach us; determined to follow wherever he would lead us. Despite my best efforts, however, I let out a loud cheer when Cardinal Jorge Bergolio of Buenos Aries was elected pope and chose the name of my favorite saint: Francis!
Pope Francis will be long remembered for his daily homilies; for Laudato Si (Praised Be You, My Lord), his environmental encyclical; and for Fratelli Tutti (Brothers & Sisters All), his most recent encyclical on human fraternity. But the pope “from the ends of the earth” may be best remembered for his emphasis on everyday holiness; his concern for the poor, the sick and the left behind; and his enduring work for peace, mercy, and reconciliation.
It is tragic that so many of our brothers and sisters have been convinced by online critics and cable commentators that Pope Francis is somehow a dangerous modernizer. Many of these self-proclaimed guardians of the faith claim to be more Catholic than the pope. But they often seem more interested in tearing down than in building up. They seem more interested in profits, ratings, and elections than in saving souls. Ignore them. Block them. Turn them off. Tune them out.
Listen instead for the voice that is built upon a rock of timeless faith. Listen for the voice of the one who carries the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Listen for the voice that transcends time, opens hearts, changes minds, and transforms lives. Listen for the voice that speaks of Jesus and his boundless love and compassion for the little ones in the world. Listen for the voice that speaks of living the Gospel, sharing God’s love, and rebuilding the Church. Listen for the simple voice, the humble voice, and whichever voice comes from the Chair of Peter. Cling to it, live it, love it, and share it.
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Pastor’s Call to Prayer
Lent with Our Lady
Let’s Pray Together!
By Father Jim
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s twin goals have been to do whatever we can to protect the health and safety of our parishioners and to provide free and high quality spiritual nourishment online. We are very grateful for your kind words of encouragement and support for our efforts during the past year.
Our Lent Mission & Retreat is normally one of our most popular adult faith formation programs. Over the years, we have gathered, prayed, and reflected on a variety of spiritual matters under the guidance of a guest spiritual director. Unfortunately, because of the ongoing pandemic, it has become necessary to cancel plans for our annual in-person mission and retreat. In our disappointment, we turned to the Blessed Mother for advice:
Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary
our trials and tribulations,
together with our joys and consolation.
Let us beg her to look upon us with love,
especially during times of trial,
and make us worthy of beholding,
today and always,
the merciful face of her son, Jesus! Amen!
This prayer by Pope Francis inspires us to offer Lent with Our Lady, a six week series of mixed-media online resources and spiritual exercises that are designed to build and strengthen the bonds of spiritual communion among our parishioners through daily prayer, weekly reflections, and the intercession of the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of the Annunciation. The cornerstone of these spiritual exercises is the Angelus Prayer. The Holy Father writes: “The Angelus Prayer is a beautiful and popular expression of faith. It is a simple prayer, recited at three specific times a day. It thus punctuates the rhythm of our daily activities: in the morning, at midday, and at sunset. It is an important prayer that I encourage each one of you to recite.”
In this spirit, all are invited to join me (see link below) in praying a Daily Prayer for Lent and the Angelus Prayer at least once each day (morning, afternoon, or evening) for the special intention of God’s mercy, healing, and protection from the coronavirus. In addition, every Friday from February 19th through March 26th, either Cliff Garvey or me will offer reflections on spiritual communion and the power and spirituality of the Angelus Prayer, which is based on Our Lady’s Annunciation. All of these resources are forever free and always available!
This week, Cliff offers a special podcast (audio recording) called Losing Linus: A Story of Spiritual Communion. This beautiful reflection recounts how the recent passing of his beloved dog, Linus, and the response from our community have a great deal to teach us about what keeps us together even when we can’t gather together in person. In addition, for the First Week of Lent, Cliff has produced a special bonus podcast called The Litany of the Sacred Wounds, which is a powerful meditation on the five wounds of the Crucified Christ by Saint Clare of Assisi. All are encouraged to listen by clicking the links below! Printable versions of our Daily Prayer for Lent and the Angelus Prayer are also available by clicking the links below! During Lent and beyond, let’s pray together for God’s mercy, healing, and protection! Peace and blessings to all!
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
A Call to Prayer
Meet Me in the Desert
Prayer for the First Week of Lent
Lord of Lent,
Lord of Easter,
as you went into the desert,
so do I follow you:
putting aside that which distracts me,
grabs at me, and falsely claims me.
To search inside,
to confront myself,
my best, my worst,
my good works,
and my sins.
Each time, I find you there:
to call me again
with words of challenge
and words of mercy.
And as I fall to my knees in prayer,
in fasting, in penance, and in sacrifice,
somehow you have it in yourself
to reach out and gently lift me up:
to renew me, to claim me,
as nothing of this world can claim me.
Meet me now in the desert, Lord.
Claim me anew. Amen.
Sharing God’s Love
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Help Us Help Others!
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society is an international organization that is dedicated to responding to any request from any person or family in need. Here on Cape Ann, we work through Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, and the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport to serve the poor and needy. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our food pantry and clothes closet remain closed. However, our service to those in need and the newly unemployed continues. Now more than ever, especially during the winter season, we need your support. Help us help others! Donations can be left at the parish office, dropped in the collection baskets at Sunday Mass, or mailed to the following address:
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society
74 Pleasant Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
For more information about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and its good work in our parishes and hometowns, please contact Harry Miller at 978-281-8672 or Bob Weeks at email@example.com. If you or your family needs assistance, please contact us at 978-281-8672. Thank you for your generous support for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society! May God bless you and your family during these difficult times!
The Assisi Project
Founded in 2007 by Father Jim and Cliff Garvey during their first pilgrimage to Italy, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit. Our mission is to help believers of all ages and backgrounds grow closer to Christ, closer to the Church, and closer to each other through the intercession, inspiration, and good example of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Members of the Assisi Project range in age from 12 to 95 and live in Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, and all around the world. We pray daily for those who ask for our prayers. If you would like us to pray for you or your special intention, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace at Christmas and always!
Safe & Easy Electronic Giving
Electronic giving is available at both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. It is safe and simple to make online donations to your home parish using a credit cared or debit card. Donations can be made on an ongoing or one-time-only basis. And it takes just a few minutes to set up a secure personal account. For assistance or more information about this important fundraising resource for the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Thank you for your generous support for our parishes during these difficult times! Peace, blessings, and many thanks to all!
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. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
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In Memory of Patricia Lopes