June 2, 2024 Essay: The Real Presence

Today’s celebration of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us that the Catholic Church in the United States is in the midst of a ‘Eucharistic Revival’ that will culminate in the Eucharistic Congress to be convened in Indianapolis from July 17-21. The revival was initiated by our bishops out of a concern that the people of God did not sufficiently understand our Catholic belief that the bread and wine offered in the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass, is transformed for us, by the power of God’s Spirit, into the real, risen body and blood of Jesus Christ. Today’s feast offers us an opportunity to reflect on the real presence of Jesus in the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Mass.

It is important to remember what our Church teaches with regard to the liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, our Church teaches us:

…The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time, it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (10)

It is the liturgy of the Eucharist itself that is the source and summit of Catholic life. In every celebration of the Eucharist, the Risen Christ becomes truly present in four ways.

The risen Christ is present in the priest who presides over the gathered assembly and acts in the person of Christ as he leads the people of God in praise and worship.

The risen Christ is present in all who have gathered to offer praise and worship to God under the leadership of the priest. The gathered assembly, with the priest, forms the Body of Christ that is the Church. Christ is present in the gathering of the members of his body.

The risen Christ becomes present in the words of scripture that are proclaimed. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. Every time, therefore, that we proclaim the scriptures, break open the word of God, we are encountering the risen Christ.

The risen Christ becomes present in the bread and wine that are transformed for us, by the power of God’s Spirit, into the real presence of his risen body and blood. Remember that the people of God bring forward the bread and wine that will become the real presence of the risen Christ. This is done to call attention to the fact that the celebration of the Eucharist is not the action of the priest alone. It is the action of the priest in union with the people of God who together are the Body of Christ. It is our collective prayer through which the risen Christ becomes truly present under the appearance of bread and wine. His presence is real. It is not symbolic. We, the Body of Christ, receive the real presence of the risen Body of Christ so as to help us fulfill the responsibility that is ours; to incarnate Christ once more in our world.

Every time we gather for the celebration of the liturgy of the Eucharist, we should consciously call to mind the four-fold presence of the Risen Christ in our celebration. His presence is real in each way Christ reveals himself to us. May we have the faith to recognize his self-revelation in every liturgy. Fired by his risen presence with us, may we go forth to give bold and courageous witness to him through our commitment to gospel values.

— Rev. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor

May 26, 2024 Essay: A Battered Heart

Have you ever observed, either in person or a newsclip, a boat that has lost its mooring and is being battered by a stormed tossed sea? It bobs and weaves as if it were a puppet controlled by the relentless force of nature. Always in motion, yet never with an even keel. Are not our lives battered at times by forces beyond our control? When that happens, we feel adrift amidst a maddening crush of events in either the world or our personal lives. Our natural instinct is to seek a safe harbor, a refuge that is both familiar and under our control. Tragically at times, the very act of survival may ensnare us in a different and more insidious trap.

In times of trouble, real or perceived, the tendency is to withdraw and try to regain control. There is a false sense of security that many place on being independent, that in separating ourselves from others we will work through the threat on our own terms and by ourselves. The allure of isolation presents itself as the surest way to avoid danger. However, there is an inherent peril in falling victim to the “easy way out.” The more we rely solely on ourselves, as though that were possible, we will deceive ourselves and create an alternate reality. We will have failed to recognize that we cannot go it alone. Our hearts will become hardened by a false sense of security.

Paradoxically and most assuredly, when the walls of isolation and conceit are dismantled, a safe harbor will be found, even in the midst of a whirlwind of confusion and fear. For you see, we can never actually go it alone. We need one another and, most importantly, we need God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In his sonnet, Batter my heart, three-person’d God, John Donne wrote about the need in our lives to let God in and take control.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new,

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betrothed unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

 The tranquil harbor that we seek when we feel overwhelmed by forces beyond our control is available to us at each moment of our lives. In his sonnet, Donne shows us how to reach our desired destination. The seemingly impenetrable walls of ego and arrogance, that offer us only the appearance of security, must be breached. It is in our heart that we will discover what we seek if we but let in God. It is in that harbor of tranquil waters that we will experience God as our Creator, God as our Redeemer, and God as the Spirit always abiding within us.

May our prayer be that of John Donne. Batter my heart, three-person’d God that I may find in You the peace I seek in the midst of the whirlwind of my life.

— Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor

May 19, 2024 Essay: The Birth of the Church

Someone once said that the early Christian community waited in eager anticipation for the return of the Lord in glory but the Church showed up instead. Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. It has often been described as the birthday of the Church—the oldest living body in today’s world, yet one that is still going through its growing pains. This shouldn’t be too surprising. Anything truly alive goes through change and development all its life. This is the way with living things. People shouldn’t be unduly alarmed, therefore, at the changes happening in the Church in our time. This is a sign of its vitality.

Living things that don’t move are dead. If we want to check on whether a person is dead or alive, we first look for some sign of movement—a heartbeat, breathing, any kind of motion. For too long a time, many Catholics have associated the Church with a lack of movement. We have focused on one of its many attributes, its stability—the fact that, through the years, it remains basically the same in its form and core teachings. We may have forgotten that because it is a living reality, the Church must change and renew itself.

The great guiding force behind change in the Church is the Holy Spirit, the parting gift of Jesus to his then-small circle of friends. “I will not leave you orphans,” he had told them during his last supper with them. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you the Holy Spirit to be with you forever.”

In his Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke describes how that promise was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit came to the group of twelve apostles. The Resurrection and Ascension had come and gone. They were left feeling abandoned, with no sense of mission or purpose. As they huddled together for prayer on the Jewish Feast of Weeks (in Hebrew Shavuot), something quite extraordinary happened to them. Luke writes of a noise like a strong rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the ability to speak in several languages. The apostles suddenly felt energized and empowered. Soon Peter is out into the streets preaching to the crowds of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the festival. We are told that 3,000 people were baptized that first Pentecost! This is more than the capacity of St. Patrick’s Cathedral! It was the birthing of the Christian Church.

What began on Pentecost spread like a forest fire. In thirty years, it spread so dramatically that Christianity became a powerful force in faraway Rome, and the Emperor Nero made it the target of an all-out persecution. With Pentecost, there was a new coming of God to the world—a sort of second Christmas—because God came in the Person of the Holy Spirit to be always with and in the Church. And twenty centuries later, the Church is still here—in every corner of the world—alive, changing and always growing, despite the schisms, the conflicts and scandals that have plagued the Church from its earliest days.

Wherever the Spirit is at work we can be sure there is a call to live in the community of the Church and to be involved in that community. This is what happened to the apostles on that first Pentecost. Instead of remaining isolated and fearful of the Jewish religious authorities who had plotted the murder of Jesus, they immediately began to proclaim the Good News about the Resurrection of Jesus. Small Christian communities began to spring up near and far.

Christians of every generation are called to be part of that same movement—the movement away from isolation and individualism to community and involvement. The Holy Spirit will always be a challenge to the one who thinks, “I don’t need the Church, I can go to God on my own.” It may be a hard lesson for some to learn but we are saved together. No one is saved on their own.

— Rev. William J. Bergen, S.J., Senior Priest

May 12, 2024 Essay: Notes From Some of Our New Catholics

Nineteen adults were received into the Catholic Church at the March 30th Easter Vigil. Here are a few highlights of their journeys to the Catholic faith.

If there is love, there is God. Coming from a difficult upbringing, I pondered whether I had ever truly felt love for most of my life. Being an overthinker, I found incomplete answers in many places. My journey with the Catholic Church has helped me realize that love is not something to be found, it is already in us because God dwells in us through the waters of baptism. In these final days before my first Pentecost, I look forward to my new life, one centered on giving love and giving God. — Tianci Guan


My parents surrounded my brothers and me with the Lord and love from birth. I met my wife, Grace, in college when I was still discovering my relationship with God. God placed her in my life for many reasons, one of them was for her to take me by the hand and walk down the path of religion together. I learned the foundation of my faith from my family and childhood, but Grace was the gift from God who has inspired me to journey with the Lord. I am happy to be welcomed to a Church of open hearts and strong conviction. From the parents in the back of the church taking care of their children to the quiet lady praying the rosary after church, we are all part of God’s love. — Grant Lee


It was a long journey till now (born in a Catholic hospital in Tokyo, ballet lessons in a Catholic school, a friendship with a Catholic missionary from Paris). After all these connections to the Catholic faith, I feel this is the right place to arrive in my life. I arrive with great joy and happiness! Thank you so much indeed! I enjoy so much being with you all in this community of faith. I look forward to continuing my journey. — Mika Kimura


I grew up attending a Methodist church but was never baptized or confirmed and largely fell away from it through high school and college. As a young adult, I desired to build a stronger relationship with God but didn’t know where to start and felt I was too far behind to join a church.

After my husband and I became engaged, he told me it would mean a lot to him and his family if we were married in the Catholic church. We started attending Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola regularly and began the Pre-Cana process.

Everyone I met through Pre-Cana was wonderful and inspired me to deepen my relationship with God. I read the entire Bible, was baptized by the Methodist pastor of the church I attended growing up, tried out a couple of Methodist churches in the city, and attended St. Ignatius Loyola with my husband. At the time, I didn’t think of converting as an option and figured my husband and I would work out our religious differences after the wedding.

Looking back, experiencing the sacrament of marriage marked a turning point in my faith journey. Shortly after the wedding I was walking by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and suddenly came to the realization that I wanted to fully join the Catholic Church. The RCIA process has been incredible, thanks to the whole team. I have learned that my Protestant concerns about Catholicism were largely unfounded, and have come to appreciate the richness of the Catholic faith. This process has strengthened my relationship with my husband, and changed my entire outlook on life. I am so happy to be Catholic and incredibly appreciative to everyone at St. Ignatius for their love and support. — Emily Seitz

April 28, 2024 Essay: Betwixt and Between

The predominant themes of the Easter season are joy and new life, yet these 50 days between Easter and Pentecost can also teach us something about being in liminal space. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan spiritual writer and teacher, says of such times, “All transformation takes place here. There alone is our old world left behind, though we’re not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”

To be in liminality is to be betwixt and between. These threshold moments require us to hold with integrity a variety of emotions—hope, joy, relief, anxiety, confusion, fear, grief, impatience, among many others. Change can be terrifying; it’s understandable that one would want to go back to the familiar, to the way it used to be. Consider Mary Magdalene: The Gospel of John reports that on Easter morning, Jesus had to tell her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” I’m sure she wanted to believe that the Jesus she knew was back and everything would be as it was. God’s dream, however, was for something unimaginably greater. And this would require time and patience on the part of the disciples. Between resurrection and the coming of the Spirit, they had to go to the upper room.

Through these remaining days of Easter, I invite you to reflect on the liminal places in your life, your personal “upper room”. Perhaps there is a child who will be graduating next month, preparing to leave home for new adventures. Perhaps a loved one has died, and you are still navigating the stages of grief, waiting on a sense of acceptance and peace. Perhaps you are newly retired and still searching for a routine. For my family, our liminal space at this moment is the loss of family homes. The houses that belonged to my grandparents and to my wife’s grandparents are both being sold. Generations of memories were made in these special places, but now we must let them go. This transition has taught me to consider anew what it means to “come home” because the day inevitably arrives when you can’t come home anymore. I know, however, that new memories in new places are waiting to be fashioned. A new chapter of our families’ stories is going to be written, but right now, we are on that blank page between the two.

The spiritual masters tell us that these liminal moments are spiritually rich times. I have found this to be true. I think this is because there is vulnerability in beholding new life, in coming to grips with a new reality. Oftentimes, when we’re off balance, when our defenses are down, when we’re feeling bewildered, God can do God’s best work! Again, think of the disciples—after the liminality that came with the first Easter, they were instilled with the courage, zeal, and resolve to carry the good news to “the ends of the earth.”

The lectionary readings this season, especially from the Acts of the Apostles, affirm that beyond liminal space awaits something new and life-giving. When Pentecost came, the Spirit moved the disciples from a place of waiting to a place of courageous journeying, witnesses, and ministering. They “left home”, whether it was the confines of the upper room, the precincts of the Temple, or the city of Jerusalem itself, and were sent to places they could never have imagined, to a future that was unknowable but ripe with hope and promise.

As we journey toward the close of the Easter season, my prayer is that God gives us the courage to attentively, hopefully behold the power of the resurrection, savoring the moments in our “upper rooms” of liminality, whatever and wherever they may be, as we prepare to follow the Spirit to a grace-filled future.

— Brian Pinter, Pastoral Associate

April 14, 2024 Essay: Four Freedoms in Art

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” — Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our parish lecture series this year has been (and it’s not over yet!) dedicated to the Four Freedoms enunciated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union address of 1941. As I mentioned in my essay of January 7th, FDR considered freedom “the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” The speech evidently inspired the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, cited above in its Preamble where it mentions the four freedoms: freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want.

Norman Rockwell, the master of Americana, captured the essence of daily life in hundreds of 20th-century magazine covers, and 80 years ago, he accomplished a greater feat, translating the nation’s ideals into indelible images known as the Four Freedoms, also inspired by President Roosevelt’s vision.

By illuminating rights that every American—and every person—should enjoy, Rockwell’s Four Freedoms validated the U.S. decision to enter World War II and overcome powerful enemies whose actions devalued human life. His enduring messages have lingered in the national consciousness, remaining as significant today as they were when the Saturday Evening Post published them in four consecutive weeks during the winter of 1943.

Immediately after publishing Rockwell’s four paintings—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear (link)—the magazine received 25,000 requests to purchase copies. Color reproductions of all four sold for 25 cents apiece. The paintings became the basis for 4 million war posters sold as part of the War Bonds effort, raising $132,992,539. “They were received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art,” The New Yorker reported in 1945.

At the beginning of 1941, when isolationist sentiments still held sway over many Americans, Roosevelt’s goal was a simple one: to convince voters that standing alone ultimately could sacrifice freedoms at home and abroad.

“By an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers,” he told Americans. “We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”

Rockwell faced the difficult task of transforming governmental phraseology into evocative tableaux on canvas. He had expected to finish all four scenes in two months, but the work dragged on through seven months of false starts and revisions.

Nonetheless, Rockwell was fully committed to the Four Freedoms. “I just cannot express to you how much this series means to me. Aside from their wonderful patriotic motive,” he told his impatient editors, “there are no subjects which could rival them in opportunity for human interest.”

To complement the educational, inspirational, and personal lectures that have lifted our spirits and raised our consciousness, I invite you to allow the paintings to speak to you about the timeless meaning of freedom, perhaps now more imperative than in the past eight decades.

— Fr. Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor

The fifth and final lecture in the series will be on Monday, May 6th, at 7 PM in Wallace Hall. The topic will be “Freedom from Fear” and the guest speaker will be Senator Angus King of Maine.

April 14, 2024 Essay: Four Freedoms in Art

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” — Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our parish lecture series this year has been (and it’s not over yet!) dedicated to the Four Freedoms enunciated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union address of 1941. As I mentioned in my essay of January 7th, FDR considered freedom, “the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” The speech evidently inspired the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, cited above in its Preamble where it mentions the four freedoms: freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want.

Norman Rockwell, the master of Americana, captured the essence of daily life in hundreds of 20th-century magazine covers, and 80 years ago, he accomplished a greater feat, translating the nation’s ideals into indelible images known as the Four Freedoms, also inspired by President Roosevelt’s vision.

By illuminating rights that every American—and every person—should enjoy, Rockwell’s Four Freedoms validated the U.S. decision to enter World War II and overcome powerful enemies whose actions devalued human life. His enduring messages have lingered in the national consciousness, remaining as significant today as they were when the Saturday Evening Post published them in four consecutive weeks during the winter of 1943.

Immediately after publishing Rockwell’s four paintings—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear—the magazine received 25,000 requests to purchase copies. Color reproductions of all four sold for 25 cents apiece. The paintings became the basis for 4 million war posters sold as part of the War Bonds effort, raising $132,992,539. “They were received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art,” The New Yorker reported in 1945.

At the beginning of 1941, when isolationist sentiments still held sway over many Americans, Roosevelt’s goal was a simple one: to convince voters that standing alone ultimately could sacrifice freedoms at home and abroad.

“By an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers,” he told Americans. “We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people’s freedom.”

Rockwell faced the difficult task of transforming governmental phraseology into evocative tableaux on canvas. He had expected to finish all four scenes in two months, but the work dragged on through seven months of false starts and revisions.

Nonetheless, Rockwell was fully committed to the Four Freedoms. “I just cannot express to you how much this series means to me. Aside from their wonderful patriotic motive,” he told his impatient editors, “there are no subjects which could rival them in opportunity for human interest.”

To complement the educational, inspirational, and personal lectures that have lifted our spirits and raised our consciousness, I invite you to allow the paintings to speak to you about the timeless meaning of freedom, perhaps now more imperative than in the past eight decades.

— Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor

The fifth and final lecture in the series will be on Monday, May 6th, at 7:00 pm in Wallace Hall. The topic will be “Freedom from Fear” and the guest speaker will be Senator Angus King of Maine.

April 21, 2024 Essay: Faces Without Names

I write this essay for people who identify St. Ignatius Loyola Church as their parish church and who come here to celebrate the Eucharist with some regularity. If you come to St. Ignatius only occasionally, or if you are a visitor, of course, you are invited to continue reading. But the people I wish to address primarily are those I see here at church with some frequency.

Let me not beat around the bush. I’m making an appeal. It is not an appeal for your financial help (though we certainly need that). It is not even an appeal for your volunteer help. We need that, too, for the important, worthwhile services we offer as a Christian community. It truly is impossible to function as a vital parish without a coalition of men and women who generously donate their financial resources and offer their time and talent to the myriad ways we follow Christ’s bidding to serve the needs of others. Some of these generous volunteers teach Christian doctrine to grade school children in our afterschool religious education program for public and private school children. Others act as lectors and Eucharistic ministers and ministers of hospitality at our liturgies. Others help to run toy, food, and blood drives. Throughout the year, we will be soliciting your volunteer services for a wide range of activities and interests.

But today, my appeal to you is much more modest and basic. It is an appeal to register as a parishioner of St. Ignatius, to stand up and be counted, as it were, as one who identifies with this parish and with our community. For registering as a parishioner is more than putting your name on a mailing list. It is more than signing up for Sunday offertory collection envelopes. Registering is really a statement about how you see yourself as a Catholic in New York City. It is about your sense of belonging and connectedness to a particular parish church. It is about ownership and about your endorsement of what this local church is attempting to do.

Sometimes I wonder why some people who regularly attend our church never become members. What does it mean when you don’t want to put your name to something? I can answer only for myself. For me, it means I don’t want to be involved. I don’t want to go on record as a supporter of a particular organization or group. I may enjoy receiving benefits from the organization now and then but don’t ask me to give anything, not even my name. It is all very safe and sanitary. It allows me to feel part of something from a safe distance and quite anonymously.

If you react the way I do, maybe it is time you thought through the decision to register. As a priest on the staff of a large church in a very large city, it is a great help in my ministry to know, as best I can, the people I am called to serve in a special way: the parishioners of St. Ignatius Loyola. I wish never to exclude anyone from my ministry as a priest, but I can’t claim to serve the entire Catholic population of New York City. I am most strongly committed to the people who make up St. Ignatius Parish. But some of you remain anonymous. How am I to know who you are if you won’t give your name to a list of parish members? How can any organization function with members it cannot identify?

I am reminded of the invitation John Daly used to give every Sunday night during the twenty-five years he hosted the popular TV show “What’s My Line?” The panelists on the show would try to guess the occupations of several guest contestants during the evening. At the end of the show, the panelists would be blindfolded, and a celebrity would make a guest appearance amid howls and applause. And gesturing to the blackboard, John Daly would say: “Will the mystery guest sign in, please?” So how about it, you mystery guests out there, would you sign in, please!

— Rev. William J. Bergen, S.J., Senior Priest

April 7, 2024 Essay: Called to Serve: The Role of Women in Our Church

Each year, the Holy Father asks for our prayers for a specific intention each month. This is Pope Francis’s intention for April: “We pray that the dignity and immense value of women be recognized in every culture and for the end of discrimination that they experience in different parts of our world.” This is a particularly apt intention during the Easter season, in which we recall the critical role of the women disciples in the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus.

In every gospel, the women disciples are the first to receive the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. There is, therefore, a strong affirmation of the central role of the women disciples. A striking feature of the resurrection accounts is how women are commissioned to be apostles, ones who are sent to proclaim the good news of the resurrection. In Matthew’s gospel, it is an angel who commissions the two Marys to report the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples. In John’s gospel, it is Jesus himself who tells Mary Magdalene: “…Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” The foundational texts of our faith underscore the important role of women in the community of faith that would evolve into the church.

Reflecting on the centrality of women in the scriptures, we should not overlook Mary. Before we made of her a plaster saint, she was a real woman who is, for us, a model of discipleship. On one occasion, when crowds were pressing in upon Jesus, a message was brought to him that his mother and brothers and sisters were there and wanted to speak to him. To which Jesus replied, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk. 3:31-35; Mt. 12:46-49; Lk. 8:19-21). Mary’s whole life was a radical assent to the will of God for her. In the annunciation, she heard the call of God to her, wrestled with that call, and ultimately gave her assent to what God was asking of her. She then persevered in that “Yes” through the many trials that were hers. The last time we see Mary in the scriptures, she is at prayer with the other disciples during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Only a woman of deep prayer could have been as faithful to her “Yes” as Mary was. Mary is the model of discipleship. She is a person of discernment, a person with a profound trust in God, a person who gave all of herself to God in her “Yes,” and who persevered in her self-gift to God through a life of prayer.

Pope Francis has sought to elevate the role of women in our church. He has made significant efforts to bring women into positions of real leadership in the Church. In early 2023, the Vatican News Service reported that during his pontificate, the percentage of women working at the Vatican increased from 19.3% to 23.4%. In the Curia alone—the Holy See offices that actually run the universal Catholic Church—the percentage of women has now risen to 26%, such that one in four employees is female. It is interesting to note that the Vatican News Service candidly admits that while there has been an increase in the Vatican’s female workforce, including in high-ranking positions, “women face continued resistance from the all-male Catholic hierarchy.” Perhaps they need a refresher course in scripture!

Let us do as the Pope asks us to do and pray for a recognition of the dignity and immense value of women and for an end to discrimination against them. We can also pray that the Church itself will model for the world what it means to truly value women.

— Fr. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor

March 31, 2024 Essay: A Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm

Jostling crowds, the cacophony of a thousand voices, tension in the air, the presence of fear as a constant companion, the detritus of conflict on city streets and in distant lands, civility smothered and forgotten, dreams extinguished, hope hidden, and anger spewing out from all quarters—there is a darkness that veils the possibility of bringing out the best in people, that threatens and overwhelms and leads its victims to their baser instincts, all under the banner of survival and advantage at any cost. Is this a world of the past that periodically, like a Phoenix, rises from its ashes? The holy city of Jerusalem as Jesus Christ would have experienced it while being led to his death? Jerusalem today? Gaza today? Ukraine today? The world of today?

Like a storm growing in intensity as it is about to break through its vortex, events in our daily lives have the tenacity to try to weaken our conviction that what God created is good, all God’s creation, and not simply select portions of it. We imagine barbarians at the gate, or border, who are about to rout us into submission. And yet, for those who proclaim the greatest event in human history, the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, a tiny ember flickers, like a sentinel of hope, in a world of darkness, a spark of divinity waiting to inflame the world and shatter the woeful shackles of history. For, as you see, the world that the disciples of Jesus Christ experienced is not unlike the worlds experienced throughout history. The lesson to be learned, and yet to be grasped, from their experience is that there is nothing to fear, that it is possible to stand firm against the allure of might, wealth, and power.

In his poem, On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm, William Wordsworth wrote about the first signs of hope that spring forth in the waning assault of Winter.

When haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring
Mature release, in fair society
Survive, and Fortune’s utmost anger try;
Like these frail snowdrops that together cling,
And nod their helmets smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirlblast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand
The Emathian phalanx, nobly obstinate;
And so the bright immortal Theban band,
Whom onset, fiercely urged at Jove’s command,
Might overwhelm, but could not separate!

Like a tuft of snowdrops, the first disciples of Jesus Christ stood together against a tempest backdrop of darkness, despair, and human suffering. Nothing could separate them from one another or from their belief in Jesus Christ. They became the heralds of his message of justice, peace, and the inherent goodness of all God’s creation. Buffeted by the winds of condemnation, suspicion, and fear, they held firm and resolutely witnessed the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and hope over despair.

In many ways today the world is being assaulted by the wintry blasts of darkness. It anguishes to catch even a glimpse of a snowdrop. It is now our turn, as it has been throughout the ages, to follow the example of the first disciples and become sentinels of hope who reflect the radiant brilliance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Darkness has been vanquished; death defeated. May we have the audacity to plant seeds of hope in everything that we do and say, so that our efforts may redound to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.

May your celebration of the season of Easter be filled with all God’s blessings! Happy Easter!

Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor