By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
WORCESTER – Movies and previews, the Gospel and the novena.
How are they connected?
Stay tuned and you’ll hear it from the president of the Catholic TV Network – Bishop Robert Reed.
Bishop Reed, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, seemed to be getting high ratings from listeners Saturday at St. John Parish’s St. Francis Xavier Novena. They applauded during Mass and some crowded around to talk to him afterwards.
He received applause at the beginning of his homily, when he expressed thanks for the welcome and congratulated the parish for having the novena and the people for attending it.
“I pray, along with all of you, that all of your prayers will be answered,” he said at the end of Mass. “Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this wonderful novena.” More applause.
He told The Catholic Free Press he was so impressed with the number of people attending and with their devotion, and said it was very uplifting for him as a priest and a bishop. He called the beauty of the church “a little taste of heaven right here at the Novena of Grace.”
He’d just preached on that theme, lifting up worshippers with his encouragement.
He began by saying he used to hate seeing previews when he went to the movies, but he’s changed his attitude.
“In most cases, the previews are better than the movie,” he said. And they give viewers a sense of which movies to go see.
The Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier is tied to the movie “Silence,” which is based on a historical novel by the same name, he said. The movie portrays the testing of the faith of Christian missionaries to Japan, where Francis Xavier himself had brought people to Christ.
Bishop Reed told of another Jesuit – Father Marcello Mastrilli – whose intention to go to Japan as a missionary was thwarted by an accident in 1633. In a vision, St. Francis Xavier asked him to renew his vow to go. He was cured, and went to Japan, where he was martyred.
In the vision, St. Francis Xavier laid out conditions for a novena, according to the booklet used at St. John’s novena. The saint told Father Mastrilli that those who earnestly asked his intercession from March 4-12, and worthily received the sacraments of penance and Communion one of those days, would receive what they asked for which would contribute to their relationship with God.
Bishop Reed returned to the movie theme by asking if the day’s Gospel – the transfiguration of Christ – could be a “preview of coming attractions.”
He recalled what worshippers are told on Ash Wednesday, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Sin is as real as grace, he said, giving the example of terrorism.
“Grace is real too,” he said, adding that he thought there would be many miraculous graces coming from the novena.
“Jesus’ victory will be ours,” he said. “Do you believe that? But how easily we become defeated.” He told of prayer requests sent in to Catholic TV that show him how hard life can be for people.
“Sometimes even amidst our hope we look so glum,” he said. He told of a bishop who used to say, “Life is one long Lent.” He disagreed, saying 40 days is enough for him!
He spoke of Christ’s transfiguration as a preview of human beings’ future.
“We belong in heaven,” he said. “We do. We are destined to see God face to face. … The love of Jesus impels us. This Novena of Grace, this Mass … is meant to be a preview of coming attractions.” He noted that worshippers were about to receive the Eucharist and said, “we call it – him – the Bread of Angels.”
Life is full of previews, and it’s important to “treasure these moments of grace,” he said. “These glimpses of eternity” are to encourage us.
Bishop points to St. Francis Xavier at novena
By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
WORCESTER – Do you have even the slightest doubt that God will answer your prayers?
If so, look at the cross St. Francis Xavier holds.
That’s what Bishop McManus suggested to worshippers at the 94th annual Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier at St. John Parish. The bishop preached on the novena’s opening day last Saturday. He said it was his 13th year coming, and that he counts it a special grace to do so.
He spoke of Lent as a time to look at one’s relationship with God, a time of conversion, and said he thought the best definition of conversion is “to fall in love with God.”
The greatest example of God’s love is the cross of Christ, he said, noting that Christ died to save “you and me,” to open the gates to eternity. Praying the Stations of the Cross Catholics say: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
That horrible instrument of death has become our only hope, Bishop McManus said.
He said Francis Xavier was converted in every fiber of his being; he was passionately in love with God.
Captivated by the question St. Ignatius of Loyola asked him – “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?” – he lived his life for the salvation of souls.
Bishop McManus had listeners look at the picture behind him of St. Francis Xavier pointing heavenward with one hand and holding the cross in the other. The bishop used this to point out that the way to heaven is to keep one’s eyes fixed on Christ, to have faith in him and walk with him.
The novena’s theme this year is taken from St. Paul’s words: “The Love of Christ impels us,” the bishop noted. He said this captivated the missionary St. Francis Xavier, who arrived in a Japan unfamiliar with Christ and left multitudes of Catholics there after his death.
Bishop McManus suggested that his listeners look at the cross if they doubt that God will answer their prayers. If God gave what was dearest to him – his only Son – “why would he not answer the prayers, the petitions, we offer during this novena?”
The March 4-12 novena continues through this weekend, as follows.
Father James Mazzone, director of the diocesan Office for Vocations, is to preach today at Masses at 9:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.