The Feast of the Body of Christ

All of us together form the Church. Who is the center or head of the Church? Jesus is the center. Jesus is most present to us in the Blessed Sacrament.   On June 7, 2015 we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christ, the Body of Christ, which is the feast of the very center and heart of our church, the center and heart of our faith, and the center and heart of parish, the center and heart of the lives of each of us, the focus of our faith as Hibernians.

Some find it difficult to believe that bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus.  We don’t see any change in the bread or wine. There is no difference in the taste; the bread still tastes like bread and the wine still tastes like wine. It is going against logic to say that the bread and wine change into the Body and Blood of Jesus despite no change in appearance. With our intellect we can understand that God must be keeping the universe together, that God is the origin of everything, but reason will only take us so far. Then we need to add faith to our and intellect and reason. As Paul says, in the Christian life we go by faith and not by sight. We need to be humble and open to God performing a miracle every day in this church, the miracle of the Eucharist.

Can you be humble enough to add faith to your intellect and reason, to admit that intellect by itself does not provide all the answers, and that God can perform miracles every day making it possible for bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Jesus while keeping the same appearance? Can you add faith to your intellect? When you submit to God you will not lose anything, you will gain everything.  Add faith to your reasoning and receive the love of God for you! The Eucharist is the gift of God’s love for you.  Come to Jesus, not like a scientist trying to analyze, but come in trust, surrender, believe and receive his love. Say to Jesus that you believe he is really present in the Blessed Sacrament and gradually grow from merely believing, to loving Jesus, and being loved by Jesus.  May Jesus in the Eucharist always be the very center and heart of our church, the center and heart of our faith, the center and heart of our parish, and the center and heart of the lives of each of us

Father Tom O’Donnell, AOH National Chaplain

October: The Month of the Rosary

The month of October has been traditionally dedicated to the Rosary of Our Blessed Mother. On October 7 we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. 

 Our late Holy Father, Saint John Paul II has stated: “It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burden to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. The Rosary does indeed mark the rhythm of human life, bringing into harmony with the rhythm of God’s own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life’s destiny and deepest longing.”

The life of Mary, according to the Scriptures, is as humanly true as it can possibly be, but in this human quality it is filled with a mystery of divine communion and love, the depth of which is incomprehensible. The Rosary points in this direction. 

 October 1, 2014 will be the forty-third  anniversary of the Rosary being on the radio every night in the Western Pennsylvania area. It has been my privilege to lead and be the voice of the Rosary for those forty-one years. The Rosary is still broadcast every night at 7:00 p.m. on WHKB, 620 on the AM dial. Over those forty-one years, the Rosary on the radio has survived many different circumstances, such as several changes in stations as well   as increased prices for air time. If you are in Western Pennsylvania or just travelling through at around 7:00 pm, join me and let us pray the Rosary together.

As Catholics we were brought up to say the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary. However, a few years ago, Pope John Paul II approved the use of a new mystery of the Rosary, the Luminous Mysteries or Mysteries of the Light. It has been suggested that we recite the Mysteries of the Light on Thursday evenings. The Vocation Directors of the Diocese of Pittsburgh have suggested that on Thursdays we pray the Mysteries of the Light for the intention of the fostering of religious vocations. 

Since the AOH is so instrumental in helping religious and seminarians financially with Project St. Patrick, the members can help the religious and seminarian spiritually by offering their Rosary on Thursday for vocations.

 May Christ, the Divine Priest, and Mary his Mother continue to  send  more laborers for His harvest and help Priests and Religious  persevere in their vocations. 

Father Tom O’Donnell, AOH National Chaplain

Chaplain Fr. John Ahern

No one could tell me where my soul might be, I sought out God but God eluded me, I sought out my neighbor and found all three:  Friendship, Unity and true Christian Charity!

The motto of our Irish-American Organization is a challenge to all of us more than ever before.  There are serious signs all around us that indicate a falling away from positive living.  The problem is that there is too much of the wrong kind and purposeless living.  May we never forget that the days of us Irish Catholic being persecuted are not over and the challenges of our faith have not ended!

Years ago there was an old Irish sailor who had charge of a Coast Guard station on the rocky coast of Maine.  On a bleak stormy night an SOS call came to him.  They reported a wrecked ship that was sinking fast.  The elderly captain had a new crew and he shouted to them: “Launch the boat”.  One of the young seamen paled with fear and stammered:  “We are not going out on a night like this, are we?  Why, we’ll never get back”.  The captain lifted himself to full stature, his broad shoulders expanding and his eyes flashing with courage.  He looked the young seaman straight in the eye and repeated his command:  “Launch the boat.  We have to go out, but we don’t have to come back.”  This is always the stern imperative of faith’s venture.

Brothers and sisters, it is well to remember that great ventures of faith have brought us where we are today.  Think always of the faith our Irish ancestors had when they came to our American shores.  The prejudices and poverty that they faced and lived through all because they wanted religious freedom and because their faith was undaunted.

We today must always remember that our Irish Christian Faith makes possible the seemingly impossible.  In the spirit of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity we must not forget the persecution of the Irish people in Northern Ireland.  Have we come far in peace negotiations, not really?  All talk; all shaking hands but still injustice and persecution exist.  Let us be united in the cause of social justice and true peaceful negotiations for all Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland.  We must never fear the journey of faith.

Chaplain Fr. John Ahern

The Lenten Season is upon us.  It is a good time to be reminded that we as an organization must be Christ-bearers or intercessors for Him.

Eight-year-old Jimmy was acting up.  He refused to do what he was told to do, and did about everything he was told not to do.  In desperation his father finally sent him off to bed before the dessert was served.  Just then a neighbor dropped in.  He always liked Jimmy, and after a while he asked the parents if he could talk to the boy.  With a prayer in his heart he reminded the lad that his disobedience displeased his parents and made them sad.  Especially it displeased God.  The boy began to cry:  “What can I do?”  The visitor called his parents who listened with tears in their eyes as Jimmy told them he was sorry.

What that visitor did for Jimmy, Jesus Christ does for every one of us.  That is the meaning of the story Our Lord tells us in this season’s Good News.

The man who planted the fig tree is Almighty God.  The fig tree means the chosen people of God, you and me.  The vinedresser or worker in the vineyard is Christ.  In justice God the Father decides to cut down the fruitless trees.  Christ intercedes.  He pleads and prays that we will have more time, another chance.  For the sake of His Son the heavenly Father gives us another chance.  That is the story of our life with Christ.

We have not borne fruit.  We have not done what we were created to do.  We have even done what God told us not to do.  We have disobeyed His commandments.  We have not produced.

You can’t blame God for being dissatisfied.  He decides to remove us.  But Christ intercedes, intervenes.  Christ steps between us and God and asks for another chance.

Pleading for us is one of the principal tasks of Christ.  He is our intercessor, our go-between, He asks mercy for us.  He gets us another chance.  Not only does He beg His Father for forgiveness, Jesus also begs for all the good things we need.  That is one reason every official prayer of the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice, winds up with the plea:  “through Jesus Christ Our Lord,” or some variation of this thought.

Mass is the supreme expression of this truth.  Jesus offers Himself to the Father through His priest.  He opens His pleading arms in this Mass.  His priest, taking Christ’s place, opens his pleading arms to beg mercy for all of us.  Like Christ, a priest is an intercessor for his people.

The saints are also intercessors.  They try to do what Christ did.  In fact, everyone who calls himself a follower of Christ must be, like Christ, an intercessor.  You and I must plead for those who do not have the time or heart or will to plead for themselves.  Do you have some relative or friend – or enemy – who needs God’s mercy?  Ask God to have mercy on that barren fig tree.  Too seldom we pray for others in this way, even in our own family.  We complain and criticize for hours.  Do we ever find a few minutes to intercede, to ask God to spare, to help, to lift up the one who had disobeyed the Father?  May Christ help all of us to be intercessors.  May Jesus continue to intercede for us, and inspire us to intercede for others.  God bless you.

As members of The Ancient Order of Hibernians we must continue to put into action the words of our motto “Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.”

Chaplain’s Message

This year 2012 is another Presidential Election Year. There has been much controversy especially about the Health and Human Services Mandate, which seems to be a clear violation of Religious Freedom and a clear violation of our Constitution. As National Chaplain, I have received many inquiries about what the posture of the Ancient Order of Hibernians should be with regard to Catholic Politicians who seem to support legislation that is patently against Catholic teaching and morality. I originally delivered the following article as State Chaplain at the AOH Penna. State Board Meeting in the election year of 2004.  However, the article is as relevant in 2012 as it was in 2004.

 

“In recent years there has been a good deal of talk and controversy about personal, religious, moral and ethical values impacting political positions. There has been much discussion in theological, Canon Law and even AOH circles because of a proposed amendment to the National AOH Constitution.

As Pennsylvania State Chaplain I felt that it is necessary to provide some insight into the moral and ethical problems of this question.

In recent weeks the question has arisen: Should Bishops discipline, perhaps even by denying Holy Communion to those members of the Church in public office who do not support the Church’s teaching on basic moral values? Many of my remarks today are a synopsis of a lecture given by the Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, when he was the Bishop of Pittsburgh. Cardinal Wuerl has been recognized all over the world as one of the theological and moral voices of our age. Some of my remarks will also be fortified by personal conversations that I have had with my classmate, Bishop William Skylstad, formerly the Bishop of Spokane, Washington. Bishop Skylstad was also the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004.

A society, which is based on a democracy, is able to fashion laws that govern how we conduct ourselves in a political community.  While some laws may have very little moral content, others are laden with grave implications. It is one thing to determine a speed limit for an open stretch of highway and all together different to vote on right to life legislation. Deep within our heart and our conscience is the recognition that you simply cannot kill others anymore than you would want someone to kill you. Civil law, in its order to regulate human activity, has always been presumed to be a reflection of, or at least in conformity with, the natural moral order. Every citizen must accept some responsibility for the direction of our country. Thus it is that when a person, in a democratic society, votes that person is called to bring his or her moral values and vision to the process. Otherwise public policy can soon be emptied of any moral content. This we see so clearly in the political posture that approves of terribly wrong actions by claiming to support freedom of choice. But the right to choose brings with it the corresponding responsibility to chose the moral and ethical good.

In making judgments about public policy every Christian, every person, should consider the primary basic directives of the moral law as the ultimate norm – a norm that cannot be contravened. Thus, to take an innocent life should always under all circumstances be prohibited. The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights. Our heavenly Father has the ultimate sovereignty over creating or terminating life. The dignity of human life is not just Catholic teaching; the value of human life is both revealed wisdom and human reason. Sometimes a single issue will be so important that it overrides a whole range of issues. The taking of the life of an unborn child is wrong, terminating the life of the elderly or handicapped is wrong, capital punishment has been condemned by the Church as wrong, killing in an unjust war is wrong, wealthy nations not providing food for starving nations is wrong. Thus right to life issues are more than just anti-abortion issues.

However, the defining issue of our time is respect for human life. One hundred years from now people may look back on our generation and wonder how it was possible that some people deluded themselves into making a law in the land that the right to life is arbitrary and protected only for those whose lives are deemed convenient.

Just as voters are not asked to set aside their most deeply held moral convictions when they enter a voting booth so elected officials are not asked to deposit their moral and ethical convictions at the door of Congress. In fact, we assume that those, whom we elect, will vote their conscience. However, if an act such as abortion is intrinsically evil, then legislative support of it is also wrong. Thus we come face to face with what every Catholic politician must address. Empowering abortion is not a political action with light or minimal consequences. Pro-abortion legislation creates the legal environment that enables huge numbers of unborn children to be deprived of their most basic and fundamental right – the right to life.

Now we come to the question: “How should the Church and the Bishops respond to those legislators who are members of the Church and at the same time support legislation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says they have a clear and grave obligation to oppose? The standard response of the Church, when dealing with grave moral issues, is to teach. Bishops and Priests have the responsibility of instructing the faithful so that they might have a correctly informed conscience out of which to act. It is the task of the teaching office of the Church to bring the light of the Gospel message to the circumstances of our day. The role of the Church, as teacher, in no way impinges upon the autonomy of the participation of lay Catholic in politics.

The Congregation of the Faith does not speak of sanctions against those in public office who do not live up to the grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. In fact there seems to be a practice both in Rome and in the Diocesan Churches in Europe of refraining from disciplinary actions in such circumstances. Because of the publicity given to the voting position of Catholic politicians, there is created an impression among Catholics that it is acceptable to reject the clear teaching of the Church. What are Bishops doing to counter this impression? Bishops and Priests must continue to teach that abortion is evil. Abortion takes the life of an unborn human being. For this reason it is intrinsically wrong and is never able to be justified. There is no single teaching position more articulate in the Church throughout our country today than that: “The Catholic Church opposes abortion.” We must also teach with greater clarity that legislative support for abortion is wrong. Catholic politicians today are called to face personal accountability in the forum of conscience and to recognize the moral teaching of the Church that to vote for abortion legislation is also wrong. More teaching must be done not only with politicians but also with all the Catholic faithful.

What in addition to teaching should the Bishops do? In considering sanctions, other serious questions arise. Before taking disciplinary action, there would have to be a clear explanation about what action is being taken, why it is being taken, and how it is justified. This is no small matter. However, historically, the people in the United States, including Catholics, react with great disfavor to any effort of a Church body that tries to tell people how to vote or to attempt to punish people for the manner in which they vote.

There are some who advocate refusing Holy Communion to those Catholics who do not oppose legislation supporting abortion. The refusal of Holy Communion implies, according to applicable Church law, that the person who is not admitted to Communion is one who is excommunicated or interdicted, or obstinately persists on grave sin. We should not be surprised by the length and breadth of interpretations about the application of Church law in the context of political actions. Given the long standing practice of not making a public judgment about the state of the soul of those who present themselves for Holy Communion, it does not seem that it is sufficiently clear that in the matter of voting for legislation that supports abortion such a judgment necessarily follows, The pastoral tradition of the Church places the responsibility of such a judgment first on each individual presenting oneself for Holy Communion. The pastoral responsibility of Bishops and Priests includes making prudential decisions on how to achieve the pastoral goal of conversion of intellect, will and heart,

It seems that on the part of the Church a much greater effort can be made to teach more convincingly why abortion is a primary evil, and more clearly why support of abortion legislation is gravely wrong and also why our Catholic faithful must not be misled into believing that either abortion or support of it is somehow acceptable simply because some Catholic politicians do not oppose pro-abortion legislation.

All of us have an obligation to be informed on how critical the life-death issue of abortion is and how profoundly and intrinsically evil is the destruction of unborn human life. Our political actions, out of which come the laws of this country, must be based on the natural moral law and the most basic of all human rights – the right to life.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians from the national level down to the local division level has always been at the forefront in upholding the sanctity and dignity of human life from the womb to the tomb. Our Order has also been very active in opposing any legislation, which violates the sanctity of human life. We must continue as an Order to educate ourselves about pro-life issues and continue to oppose and defeat any legislation, which is contrary to the sanctity of human life. “

 

Chaplain’s Message

A few days ago I was traveling from Philadelphia where I attended the AOH National Board Meeting and the President’s Dinner making my way to Jacksonville, Florida, for the Canon Law Convention. I could not believe my ears when I heard “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” coming from the car radio. Only October 10th and we were already being besieged with non-religious Christmas songs. However, these non-religious holiday songs are not to remind us of Christ’s birth, the dawn of our salvation. Unfortunately, materialism and commercialism, making the “big buck,” have replaced the significance of Christmas. The season to celebrate Christ’s Birth has been replaced by such titles as “Sparkle” Season.

The number one way to keep Christ in our Christmas celebrations is to have Him present in our daily life. Keeping Christ in Christmas means daily revealing the character, love and spirit of Christ that dwells in you, by allowing these traits to shine through the actions of your everyday life.

There are some simple ways to keep Christ the focus of your life. You can give God one very special gift just from you to Him. This gift can be something personal that no one else knows about, and let it be a sacrifice. Maybe this gift will be to forgive someone you’ve needed to forgive for a long time. Perhaps, your gift will be to commit to spending time with God daily. Set some time aside to read St. Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. Make sure you have a Nativity scene in your home. Plan a project of good will, like adopting a single mom. Make her life and her child’s life happier by buying her and her child a gift. Or maybe there is an elderly neighbor in need of home repairs, yard work or snow shoveling. Find someone with a genuine need; involve your whole family and see how happy you can make someone this Christmas. Set aside a time of family devotions on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, especially by

The wonder of Christmas is that in Jesus, God and humanity are meant for each other. The Christmas story tells us that God chooses to be human, chooses to know human life from the first moment of conception to the end of our days on earth. In Jesus, God knows what it is to be a toddler, to have a stomachache, to feel the sun and wind, to be betrayed and forsaken, and eventually to die. Incarnation is about God choosing to be one of us, so that we may become people of compassion, mercy, courage, justice, care, the presence of God here and now. In essence, we can become more like Christ, if we live out the Hibernian virtues of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity in our daily lives.

 

Chaplain’s Message

9/11 — Remembering — Ten Years Later

 

Certain moments of history are etched in our minds. People can remember where and what they were doing when moments of triumph or tragedy have occurred. In my lifetime, I have had flashbacks of various historical events.

When I was a young lad of 7, I can recall being at a movie with my older sister on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, when the announcement was made that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

On October 13, 1960, I was present at Forbes Field when Bill Mazeroski hit the walk-off home run giving the Pirates the victory over the Yankees in the World Series. I did not have a ticket for the game, but a buck and a Roman collar would get a priest into any Pittsburgh sporting event in 1960.

On November 22, 1963, I was in my living room at St. Kieran Rectory praying my Office when my pastor, with tears in his eyes, told me that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.

On September 9, 2001, I was present at the U.S. Tennis Open Championship in Flushing Meadows, New York. During a break in the tennis match from the top of Louis Armstrong Stadium I looked to the west and could see the magnificent skyline of New York City. The brilliance of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center glistened in the afternoon sun. It was hard to imagine that two days later I would be in my Tribunal Office of the Diocese of Pittsburgh when the report came over the TV that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. Within a short time another plane crashed into the second tower. Suddenly, the Twins Towers were no more. America was under attack.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, we are thinking a lot about closure and even more about the failed power of revenge. We are still encumbered with anxiety, wasted money and wasted time because we are not safer now than we were then. All over the country we have spent enormous amounts of time and money on “Emergency Preparedness.” However, sometimes you cannot prepare for an emergency any more than you can achieve closure. The same might be true of the money, life and time wasted on the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we fully support our brave men and women who are risking their lives in these wars, we may wonder why they are really there.

Ten years after the horror of 9/11, the mastermind of the attack, Osama Bin Laden, has been found and killed. In the death of the individual, who came to personify the terrorist act, we have a chance for another kind of closure. Those who know the search for closure intimately know that it never really happens. The 9/11 attack was a terrible tragedy. It was a tragedy with causes in a larger human tragedy, the failure to get along across cultural and religious lines. That failure led to a lack of respect, and this led to fanaticism and terrorism. When a tragedy happens, it often steals our hope.

In addition to hope, the world is in need of forgiveness. Used carelessly, forgiveness loses its meaning and can even sound obnoxious when people tell other people they need to forgive the wrongs done to them. Those who advocate forgiveness often don’t know what they are talking about. But the truth remains: There is really no end to the suffering if we can’t forgive. There is no end game. The wronged become hateful the way the wrongdoers were hateful, and the terrorists win again. Forgiveness is costly. It is not a word to be thrown around lightly.

Finally, love is needed above all. So many wrongly imagine that love is soft, like kindness. There is nothing soft about love. It is the most dangerous act in the world. If we can’t love, we can’t forgive. We think our security is in bombs and borders, when actually it is in the risks we take for each other. Revenge has not made us safe. What will make us safe is re-centering our communities in hope, love and forgiveness.

Only with hope, love and forgiveness will it be possible to have true peace. If we truly wish to be Christians, we must love peace, we must make our own the cause of peace, we must meditate on the real meaning of peace, we must conform our minds to the thought of peace. Peace must be based on moral and religious principles, which will make it sincere and stable. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”

May the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy inspire all of us to work for peace, beginning in our own communities, in our beloved United States and with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Chaplain’s Message

It was fifty years ago this August that I made a trip back to Ireland with my Mom and Dad. One of our first stops was to Dublin. It was the luck of the Irish that I only received a “warning” for parking our broken down rental car in one of Dublin’s bus stops. I surmise that it would have been tantamount to a mortal sin for one of Ireland’s finest to give a “man of the cloth” a ticket in the Sixties. We finally were able to contact the rental car agency. After they inspected the car, the mechanic declared that I “destroyed” the clutch. The rental agency made sure that they replaced the car with an automatic.

While in Dublin my parents and I were able to visit many of the significant historical sights. Of particular interest to Dad was the General Post Office in the heart of Dublin. On Easter Monday in 1916, the Irish tricolor flag was raised over the Post Office. Inside were 1500 fighters, led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. On that day the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read. The Irish heroes fought off the British for six days before being captured. Pearse, Connolly and twelve other brave leaders were imprisoned, secretly tried, and speedily executed. Although my dad was only sixteen at the time, he and his brothers joined the Irish freedom fighters in Galway and they kept up the fight until the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. However, young Bartley was not too happy with this treaty since the six counties in Northern Ireland were still subject to the British rule. Dad firmly believed that an Ireland divided was still a homeland in chains.

No trip to Ireland would be complete unless we made a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. And so the three pilgrims left Dublin and headed west for Mayo. My Mom had many times told me the story of Knock. On August 21, 1879 Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared on the outside gable of the little parish Church of Knock. At first two women who were visiting the church, Mary and Margaret Beirne, saw the apparition. However, very quickly thirteen people from the village came and also saw Our Blessed Mother, clothed in white garments, wearing a beautiful crown. The vision lasted for two hours and even people who were not at the apparition site reported that they saw a bright light illuminating the area where the church was. Although the weather in Knock that day was a mixture of fog and rain, we enjoyed the experience of being so close to the spot where Our Lady had appeared. The two-hour visit gave us a chance to pray and thank God for the gift of faith, the gift of family and the moments of life which gave us joy.

My Dad’s birthplace in Moycullen, County Galway was only a couple of hours ride from Knock. My Dad’s brother, Tom, was still living in the old homestead, an old thatched cottage with a mud floor, a hearth and outside plumbing. My dad told Tom, I could put in a bathroom for you in three days. Uncle Tom replied: “Sure and, Bartley, what need would we have of a bathroom?” Uncle Tom’s children lived across the road in two modern houses with all the modern day comforts. My cousin, Anthony, worked as a ship builder, but was also a wood carving artist. In one day he made me a beautiful wood relief of Our Blessed Mother. This beautiful wood carving of Mary is the centerpiece of my Tribunal Office.

Our trip to Ireland was over far too quickly. And so we made our way back to Shannon to take the plane back to the States. I will always be thankful for those two glorious weeks I spent with Mom and Dad in Ireland, especially since my mother died all too quickly only a few years later. Ten years later Dad joined Mom in that beautiful Kingdom that Our Father has prepared for all of us. For two weeks we experienced a glimpse of the Kingdom, as we enjoyed “the little bit of Heaven which they call Ireland”.

Chaplain’s Message

As Hibernians and as Christians we celebrate the central Mysteries of our faith during this month of April.  Without the Death and Resurrection of Christ, our faith would have no meaning.  Christ, Our Redeemer, suffered and died for us to win salvation for each one of us.  By His Resurrection, Jesus truly proved that he was the Messiah. In His rising from the dead, Christ has given all of us the promise and hope that we will one day also rise to be gloriously happy with Our Father in the Eternal Kingdom.

The Resurrection of Christ is the most important event in the history of the world. As we contemplate this mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, we begin to see that pain, suffering and death will be transformed into new life. Our God, who is a God of life, has assured us that ultimately there is nothing to fear, not even death itself.

Our task as Christians is to believe, in spite of all that we see in the world around us — the pain and suffering of war, violence, the killing of the unborn, hunger and poverty. To hold this kind of unshakeable hope in the face of what we hear and witness every day may, to some people, be an act of insanity.  We may not have a reasonable argument for our position, for our hope. Instead of a logical answer, we have a person —Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

Mary Magdalene also carried this hope in her heart.  Jesus had given her life back to her, and she, in turn, gave her life to Him as one of His most faithful and loving followers. When she comes to his tomb, the two angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Are we being asked the same question? When Jesus rose from the dead, all of us rose with him. Jesus’ resurrection was the ultimate and final sign that life is stronger than death. We firmly hold and believe that death is not the end of who we are. Death is merely a stage that we go through. On Easter morning Jesus emerged on the other side of death into a new and eternal life. You and I have been given that same hope and promise.

On Easter Sunday in 1916 brave Irish heroes began the fight for religious and political independence of the Irish people after hundreds of years of oppression.  The news coming out of Northern Ireland during the past few years gives all Hibernians the hope that the efforts and sacrifices of all the brave men and women who have fought for independence have not been in vain. On this Easter Sunday let us pray that finally there will be a lasting and just peace in all of Ireland.  Let us also look forward to the day when there will be: One Island, One Ireland, with Justice for All.

With every blessing in Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.

 

Chaplain’s Report

At times, the month of March has an identity crisis. March does not know whether to be lamb-like or lion-like, whether it is still winter or starting to blossom into spring.  In the northern part of our country a day could be in the seventies or there could be three feet of snow as there was fifteen years ago when the Irish in Pittsburgh marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade despite the blizzard. There are many historical figures who would like to forget the month of March entirely. You can be sure that Julius Caesar would like to forget the Ides of March when he met with an unfortunate accident – “Et Tu Brute!”

However, the month of March has to be my favorite month. On March 30, 1934 the first son and second child of six to Bartley O’Donnell and Nellie Synan was born.  Although my five siblings, including my older sister Mary, were all born in the hospital, Thomas Martin O’Donnell was born at home at 5179 Brown’s Way in the Garfield section of Pittsburgh, Pa.  March 30, 1934 was a day of great significance because it happened to be Good Friday.  The fact that I was born on Good Friday, was that perhaps a sign that someday I would be called to be a Priest?   The significance of that date, coupled with the grace of God and the loving example of love, devotion and sacrifice of my mother and father played a significant role in my vocation to the Priesthood.

I love the month of March not only because I was born in the month but because of the many Irish traditions surrounding St. Patrick’s Day imbued in me by my Galway father and my Kerry mother.  My dad loved to sing Irish songs and I inherited his Irish voice. My love for singing was noticed by Sister Mary Edwin, a Dominican Sister, who was the music teacher at St. Lawrence O’Toole School.  Sister Mary Edwin was also given the name, Sister Mary “Bruised Knuckles” by some of the hooligans who suffered from the wrath of her wooden ruler.  Every St. Patrick’s Day, Sister would drag me from classroom to classroom singing Irish tunes.  Sister Mary Edwin helped to improve my voice. Singing in front of the other children helped so much with my self confidence that I was prepared to sing on the Davey Tyson’s Amateur Hour at the Enright’s Theatre.  However, the night before my performance, God had other plans for me and I was struck with double pneumonia. Although I recovered, I never got another chance to sing on the amateur hour.  Instead of being guided on the course of a singing career, I ended up going to the seminary.  As a seminarian I was always in the various choirs and musicals during the twelve years of my seminary training.  As a priest, in addition to singing at the liturgies, I also sang in parish talent shows, and directed choirs and plays for the youth groups.  I can thank God that he gave me a good voice and that I was able to use this gift in the service of His Church and His people.

When I was pastor of St. Wendelin Church,   I frequently brought the Eucharist to a ninety-six year old woman, Loretta Donahue.  Since Mrs. Donahue was born in March, close to St. Patrick’s Day, her family decided to have a party for her and invited me.  During the party, the family asked me to sing an Irish song to their mother.  As I was singing Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra, Loretta kept staring at my Claddagh ring.  After the song she said: “Father, it is a shame that that ring does not have any diamonds in it.”  The next day Loretta called me on the phone and told me that she had three little diamond chips and asked if I would like to have them put into my ring. I told her that I world be honored.  After a few days her daughters brought me the ring back from the Jewels. I called Mrs. Donahue to thank her and said to her: “Loretta since you gave me the diamonds, does that mean that we are now engaged?’  Her reply to me was: “Father. I can’t marry you because I am old enough to be your grandmother and beside that you are a priest and not allowed to get married.”   As a Christian, the three diamond chips in my Claddagh ring remind me of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity and as a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Hibernians Virtues of Unity, Fraternity and Christian Charity.

With every blessing and best wish for a happy St. Patrick’s Day.