Trinity Sunday: An Invitation to Love and to Be Loved

Trinity Sunday: An Invitation to Love and to Be Loved

Trinity Sunday: An Invitation to Love and to Be Loved

With the celebration of Pentecost Sunday on May 28, the church reentered Ordinary Time. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes the season of Ordinary Time as:
“a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ.”

God is relational

The Sunday following Pentecost is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. On this feast, we celebrate the revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In experiencing God as Trinity, we understand God as relational. In becoming human, God reveals God’s desire to share in relationship with each of us, individually and collectively. In this year’s Gospel for this Trinity Sunday, John reminds us that Jesus Christ is a gift of God to humanity: “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

How have we allowed the gift of God’s Son to penetrate our lives and our history?

During his farewell discourse in the Gospel of John, Jesus makes the connection between the loving relationship of God in the Trinity and our lives .“As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:9).

We remember that Jesus’ command is to love one another as he has loved us. “God so loved the world…” God loves each and everyone of us – loves us in all our uniqueness, all our individuality, and all our collective humanity. This way of loving is how God loves in God’s self – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is this loving relationship that God shares with the world through the gift of Jesus.

God shares God’s self out of love for the world

In the ordinariness of our lives, we are called to see each and every human person as precious. We are called to see the worth and dignity of every human person and to treat each human person in accord with this worth and dignity.
Some of us may experience the challenge of loving others this way.
– We may struggle to see individuals who have hurt us as precious in the eyes of God
– We may struggle to see the worth and dignity in people we have been taught to fear or to see as somehow less than us
– We may struggle to put into practice the self-giving love that is exemplified in God’s sharing God’s self with the world out of love for the world.

For others, the challenge may be accepting that we are loved.
– We may struggle to see ourselves as precious in the eyes of God.
– We may see the places where we fall short as keeping God from loving us.
– Hurtful and harmful actions of other human beings, that may have been called loving, may be limiting our ability to see and experience genuine love.

As we enter ordinary time, can we see the ordinariness of our lives as precious and loved? Can we see the ordinariness of others’ lives as precious and loved? As we deepen our experience of the preciousness of all life in God’s eyes, can we allow that love shared with us by God to penetrate ever more deeply into our lives and into the life of the world?

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

A New Understanding of Confirmation in the Restored Order

In just two weeks, we will celebrate Confirmation and First Eucharist with 19 young people in our parish. The Diocese of Maine is one of fourteen dioceses in the U.S. that practice the “restored order” which joins preparation for Confirmation with First Eucharist for those baptized as infants. This restored order is the biggest change I’ve experienced in my move to Maine. I wondered, “How can we expect 2nd and 3rd graders to make the commitment that is expected in the sacrament of Confirmation?”

Theological and Practical Reasons for the Restored Order

As with many of us, I was taught at the time of my own confirmation that I was making an adult decision confirming the promises that had been made for me by my parents and godparents at my baptism. In the year before I entered the Jesuits (1991-92), I was involved with a retreat group that provided day-long or weekend retreats to high school students who were about to make their Confirmation. The retreats helped them to reflect on their lives and their experience of the Paschal Mystery so that they could make an informed choice in their own Confirmation. I’ve been very proud of my nieces and nephews who took the adult decision they were asked to make at their Confirmation seriously by asking serious questions about their faith or becoming involved in their faith community as lector. For these young people, Confirmation was the end of their formal religious training – “I don’t have to go to CCD anymore!”

So, I was very skeptical that there was a practical reason for shifting the experience of Confirmation, though I understood the theological reason.

The order of the Sacraments of Initiation in the ancient church – and for those baptized as adults today – is Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist. We saw this at the Easter Vigil this year when we welcomed six people into the church with these sacraments. Restoring the close connection between Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist is the theological reason for the restored order. The practical aspects of the change required a change in my thinking about the sacrament of the Confirmation.

The Holy Spirit is at Work through the Sacrament

When we focus on the person being confirmed and the decision being made at that time, we place the emphasis on the person and not on the work of God in the sacrament. The change in thinking I made in coming to understand the restored order was to focus on God at work in the sacrament. The focus of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the reception of the Holy Spirit – signified through two ancient practices – the imposition of hands and the anointing with Chrism oil. Thus, the sacrament of Confirmation confirms – not the decision that was made for us – but the presence and work of the Holy Spirit at work through the sacrament. This change in focus also prompts us to switch focus from Confirmation as the end of religious training to Confirmation as the beginning of something – the conscious relationship of our children to God through the Spirit.

Our Relationship with God Will Grow and Change Over Time

As we grow up, our relationship with our parents (and all human beings) grows and develops. The parents of our Confirmation and First Eucharist candidates have likely already begun to allow their children to make more decisions for themselves as the children approach the age of reason. We know that a healthy relationship between parent and child involves differentiation and re-integration. For example, the dependency of an infant followed by the terrible twos, rebellious teenager followed by the mutuality of an adult-adult relationship, perhaps followed by a dependent elderly parent and adult child. The relationship grows and changes over time. Likewise, our relationship with God grows and changes over time. As we grow and change in our relationship with our parents – getting to know one another in new and different ways – we grow and change in our relationship to God. In the restored order, the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist recognize the independent relationship of our children to God and invite us to a life-long relationship that will grow and change as we grow and change over time.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Imagine Yourself in this Situation

You are driving to Mass and the traffic light for Ocean Ave has turned green. As you turn onto Ocean Ave, from the corner of your eye you see a young girl riding her bike into the crosswalk. You slam on the brakes and barely avoid hitting her! Your heart is racing, and your hands are sweaty and shaking. Once you park in the St. Pius lot you think about what just happened and get angry at the young girl. However, as you start to recover a bit you now see this as a grace from God that allowed you to prevent a tragic accident. You have just been through a bout of acute stress.

Situational Stress and De-Stressing from it

Most species experience stress and also have systems for “de-stress” . Stress can be physical or emotional, but either type releases a chemical from your brain called acetylcholine, which in turn causes release of adrenaline from your adrenal glands (brain/body connection). This activates the fight/flight response of increased heart rate and increased blood flow. Acute stress in certain situations can be good, since it activates your immune system for fighting infections. However, in the above situation of avoiding hitting the young girl on her bike, we need a way to stop the stress response. The fastest way has been demonstrated to occur when you do a double inhale through your nose followed by a vigorous exhale through pursed lips. Repeating this 4-5 times should bring your stress under control by causing the release of serotonin which induces a feeling of calmness.

Chronic Stress is Different

Chronic stress is a more serious problem. It can last for months or even years. This type of stress has been linked to depression, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and the development of certain types of cancer.

A lack of social connections, not virtual, but in person, stimulates chronic stress and reinforces its longevity. The major instigator is the release of cortisol, a steroid hormone. Bringing chronic stress under control is a more difficult proposition. One route is to try some natural compounds. My sources for this column are listed at the end so you can get more information if you wish. (It’s always a good idea to check with your health care provider to avoid anything that could be counterproductive to any other treatment.)

Another approach for chronic stress is trying meditation and self-awareness. If you are unaware of the thoughts from your mind, they will own you! You cannot stop these negative thoughts so just notice them and move on. This is called self-awareness and the more you practice this type of meditation the better you get. You can ask God and Jesus to help you in this practice. At the end of your day think about the most vivid negative emotion you had that day. Say what you thought out loud and analyze your feelings. Then say: “I am alive and well. I will not waste my time on this thought. Tomorrow I will show love to other people in the name of Jesus”.

Thanks to Dick Niles, one of our leaders for RCIA and Emeritus Professor and former Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences at the Joan C Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University. The intent of these columns is to provide information about how to improve your life by addressing physical and spiritual situations that might be impeding your peace, happiness and sense of fulfillment. Also, there will be useful tips on achieving academic success for undergrads and grad students at our local Universities.


1. Huberman Lab podcast, March 8, 2021 “Master Stress: Tools for Managing Stress and Anxiety”

2. On Purpose-Jay Shetty podcast, Oct 23, 2020 “Techniques to Cope with Anxiety and Feel More Centered throughout Your Day

3. How to Build a Happy Life Oct 5, 2021 Arthur Brooks “How to be Self-Aware” podcast the neuroscience of emotional management.

Eucharist as a Sacrifice

Eucharist as a Sacrifice

Eucharist as a Sacrifice

Eucharist as Sacrifice

In this Easter Season, we have begun to offer Communion under both species – both the bread and the cup. As we have prepared for this return to offering the cup, I have shared a series of thoughts with you in this space. Now, I invite you to reflect with me on the Eucharist as a sacrifice.

The Risen One is also the Crucified One

In the Gospels for the Second Week of Easter, we hear John’s account of Jesus appearing to the disciples – first on Easter Sunday evening and then again a week later. Jesus stands in their midst says “Peace be with you.’ When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20), By showing the wounds on his hands, feet and side, Jesus demonstrates that the risen One is also the crucified One. He connects the events of Easter Sunday to the events of Good Friday. Jesus sends the disciples into the world to carry on the reconciling work accomplished in the sacrifice of Good Friday.

The Eucharist Makes Present the Sacrifice of the Cross

The events of the Last Supper occurred within the celebration of Passover. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it this way, “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out” (1364) (Pasch is the Greek word for Passover). The connection between Passover and the Eucharist emphasizes salvation – the movement from slavery to freedom.

The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel emphasizes these connections. The chapter contains “the Bread of Life” discourse.“ In this discourse, Jesus connects the Eucharist to the events of Exodus, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…Jesus said to them ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you do not have life within you.’ Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise that one on the last day’” (John 6:48-54).

Receiving Both the Bread and the Cup

In an earlier post, I reflected with you on the importance of receiving Eucharist regularly and under both doing so allows us a more complete participation in Jesus’ actions at the Lord’s Supper. Likewise, eating and drinking allow a more complete participation in Jesus’ command given in the Bread of Life Discourse – eat and drink. By doing so, we participate more fully in the reconciling work of Jesus accomplished through the Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

Eucharist as a Sacrifice

Eucharistic Practices at Our Lady of Hope

Eucharistic Practices at Our Lady of Hope

Eucharist as a Symbol of Unity

Since we have begun to offer the cup at Communion time again, I have shared a few thoughts with you on the Eucharist in our community. Perhaps most importantly as we consider the specific practices at Our Lady of Hope is the invitation to consider the Eucharist as a symbol of unity in our church. Eucharist has been received in various ways over the centuries, standing or kneeling; in the hand or on the tongue. The church does not require anyone to stand or kneel or to receive the Eucharist on the tongue or in the hand.

The common practice at Our Lady of Hope is to receive the host in the hand while standing. Communicants are invited to place their left hand on top of their right hand; the minister of Communion places the host in the offered hand; the communicant then uses the right hand to place the host in their mouths.

For the cup, the minister of Communion will offer the cup to the communicant who then takes a small sip of the wine and returns the cup to the minister of the Eucharist. The minister of the Eucharist then wipes the inside and outside lip of the cup with a purificator and rotates the cup slightly before offering it to the next communicant. Following these common practices at Our Lady of Hope emphasizes the unity of the sacrament where kneeling or receiving on the tongue can emphasize differences and promote disunity.

The Eucharist is Spiritual Food for our Journey

Finally, we invite parishioners to frequent reception of the Eucharist and hope that you will join us in person as often as possible. The Eucharist is spiritual food for our journey from slavery/sin to freedom/salvation. We stand with the Roman Centurion who said, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and I shall be healed.” We stand with Jesus who caused scandal in his time by eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. We seek to make our Eucharistic table as open and welcoming as possible.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

Eucharist as a Communal Meal

Eucharist as a Communal Meal

Eucharist as a Communal Meal

Receiving Both the Bread and the Cup

As we once again begin to offer the cup at daily and Sunday liturgies, we might pause for a moment to consider the importance of receiving the Eucharist regularly and receiving under both species. Receiving both the bread and the cup allow us a more complete experience of actions Jesus commanded at the last supper. Specifically, Jesus commanded us to “Take and eat…Do this in remembrance of me; take and drink, do this in remembrance of me.” The Last Supper occurred within the context of Passover – so we remember not only Jesus actions on that night but the movement from slavery to freedom contained in the Passover and all of salvation history.

A Source of Unity and Commitment to Social Justice

In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul appeals to the Eucharistic celebration as a source of unity and a commitment to social justice. Paul wrote this letter sometime around 53-54 CE – so just 20 years or so after the Last Supper. Clearly, this practice of breaking bread together in the Eucharistic celebration goes back to the earliest history of the Church. Paul is critical of the Corinthians practice because it has become a source of divisions. Some in the community are eating well while others go hungry. The servants are not included at all in the Eucharistic celebration because they are preparing the meal or cleaning up after the meal. Such divisions, Paul tells us, create more harm than good.

In addressing who should receive Communion, Paul suggests that each person discern for themselves their worthiness to receive the Eucharist. “A person should examine oneself and so eat the bread and drink the cup” 1Cor 11:28. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on oneself” (1 Cor 11:27-28). This passage suggests that the worthiness to receive the Eucharist is rooted in our belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Similarly, Paul is very critical of the socio-economic divisions within the community, particularly the practices in Corinth that resulted in some going hungry while others feasted and others missed the celebration altogether. Rather, Paul asks that the celebration of the Eucharist be a source of unity. “Therefore when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

Celebration of the Eucharist Over Time – Structure and Frequency

Within about 100 years, the Eucharist was no longer celebrated as part of a larger meal and the basic structure of the celebration began to resemble what we know today: prayers, scripture readings with a homily, a Eucharistic prayer, and dismissal. Specific practices have changed over time including the texts of prayers said, the language of the prayers, and the frequency of reception. For example, Ignatius of Loyola’s practice of receiving the Eucharist frequently was unusual for a lay person at that time. More common would be weekly or even annual reception of the Eucharist (thus we have an “Easter Duty” to receive the Eucharist at least once between Easter and Pentecost Sunday). Pope Pius X, in the early 20th century, encouraged frequent reception of the Eucharist.

Our Lady of Hope’s parish community, both individually and collectively, is strengthened and unified by frequent reception of the Eucharist. Our reception under both species allows a more complete participation in the Eucharistic meal – both eating and drinking. We look forward to sharing this meal with you often.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

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