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Archbishop ushers in new year at Newton parish

By Neil McCabe
Posted: 1/9/2004

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Reviving the tradition of his predecessors, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley led parishioners and guests at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Newton, New Year’s Eve during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and then celebrated a vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Mary.

"Since my ordination, it has been my custom to attend and celebrate Midnight Mass on New Year's Eve," Archbishop O'Malley said in the sacristy before the sacred program began.

Archbishop O’Malley said when he learned that previous archbishops had joined the New Year’s Eve ceremonies at Our Lady Help of Christians, he decided that he would make his first visit to the parish a continuation of the tradition. It was also important to him to spend time with the many pro-life organizations and youth ministries that attend the services.

After alluding to the difficulties of 2003, he said, “It is a very good way to end the last year and begin the new one.”

In his vigil Mass homily, the archbishop set a frank and vigorous tone for the New Year in faith.

He began with an anecdote about a daughter who was embarrassed about her mother’s disfigured hands. Whenever the two were together in public, or the daughter’s friends were visiting, the daughter would make the mother wear gloves.

It was not until the mother’s wake that the father told the daughter that there had been a fire in their home, and the mother smothered the fire with her hands as the flames approached the daughter’s crib.

Like that mother’s hands, the wounds on Jesus’ hands are signs of his love and sacrifice for us, Archbishop O’Malley said.

"Some Catholics are embarrassed by Jesus, His teachings and the teachings of the Church," he said. "They prefer the teachings of Madison Avenue and Hollywood."

"In our own country, the culture of death that pushed abortion as a right is now pushing euthanasia and same-sex marriage as part of a New Age," he continued.

"Unfortunately, many of our own people are deceived, and they perceive the teachings of the Church as outmoded and are embarrassed by those teachings," said the archbishop. "It is a very sad state of affairs and yet it is a great challenge for us in our vocation to discipleship."

"We need to live our lives more generously, more graciously and more faithfully to be better heralds of the Gospel of Life," he said.

Archbishop O’Malley also noted that there is confusion in the New Age. The faithful should remember that we are the creatures, and the Creator is not made in our image.

"When we stand the before the manger we see Mary, the Mother of God. She is the link," he said. "Her 'yes' to God links the creatures with the Creator and the creatures. We see her at the manger pondering all of these things in her heart. Tonight, we gather to close an old year and to begin a new one by pondering in our hearts the same mysteries that Mary pondered. Emanuel, God is with us."

When the archbishop finished and turned to his chair, the time was 11:59 p.m.

Before the vigil Mass, during the Adoration of the Eucharist, the archbishop sat alone in the front bench of a set of pews behind the altar. He wore a simple white robe over the brown cloak of his Capuchin order.

During the exposition, there were two periods of silent prayer.

Between those periods, Laura Garcia, an adjunct assistant professor from the Boston College philosophy department, offered reflections on the culture of life and the Holy Father’s doctrine of cultural and spiritual motherhood.

Following the second meditation, the archbishop led the congregation in the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Young Adults Choir of the archdiocese, led by William M. Hobbib performed sacred music for the vigil Mass.

"On New Year's Eve, I really wanted to feel God's presence with the community of believers," said Ann Marie King of Newton, a member of the young adults' choir. This was her second time singing with the choir here on New Year's Eve.

"It was great to see Archbishop O'Malley for the first time -- I am so glad he came to be with us," she said.