The other day, a friend and colleague forwarded to me an email that she had received containing a wonderful reflection by Fr. John Predmore, S.J., Director of Ignatian Ministries at Boston College High School. The article matched so much of my experience in celebrating the Mass as a priest and in my many years as a lay person at Mass in the years before. A resonance that was only amplified by last week’s leading an RCIA session on “The Mass and Eucharist” during which I talked about full, active, and conscious participation in the Mass. I reached out to Fr. John who graciously gave me permission to post this for your enrichment.
Fr. John wrote: “A deaf priest is part of our Jesuit community and he will say mass for us routinely. Lately as he has been presiding, I have found my mind wandering as I wonder about the mass itself. He is a cheerful guy and very generous, and I am conscious that a life with hearing impairments is certainly a lonely life. I make certain to talk with him each day, I share my homilies with him, and I try to affirm him and tell him that I’m grateful he is with us.”
Today’s liturgical possibilities include an optional memorial for St. Sebastian who is the patron saint of athletes. Relatively little is known about St. Sebastian, a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. It is believed that he was an officer in the imperial bodyguard and Christian, but not openly so. When his faith was discovered the Diocletian, the Roman emperor, sentenced him to death. Sebastian was tied to a tree, executed by archers and left for dead. However, he had not died. He was found alive and nursed back to health. When at last he was able, he publicly announced his faith, denounced Diocletian for his persecution of Christians, and for this was martyred as he was beaten to death by the emperor’s guard. It is his virtues and gifts of strength, stamina, perseverance, courage and justice in the face of adversity and a superior opponent – and yet he gave his all.
The readings from today’s Mass include optional readings in celebration of the saint. The first reading is from the first letter of St. Peter and includes the following admonition:
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Pt 3:15)
Are you ready?
St. Paul writes, “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). It is, therefore, appropriate to offer prayers in liturgical settings for our civic leaders, as the prayers of the needs of the faithful and the world are lifted up and offered to the Lord. The inauguration of the President of the United States is a particularly significant moment which draws the attention of all citizens of our land. It is fitting that the prayer of the Church, particularly gathered at the Eucharist, be attuned to the occasion. (USCCB website) The US Bishops offer these prayers on this day: