Cardinal welcomes New Year with pro-life Mass

WALTHAM -- The parishioners of St. Mary Church hosted New Year’s Eve midnight Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley with the theme “Witness Respect for Human Life.”

The Mass is part of the 18-month “The Future Depends on Love” campaign begun in June 2007 by the b ishops of the four dioceses of Massachusetts to educate in support of the vocation of marriage, said Marianne Luthin, the director of the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Office. The campaign’s title is taken from a line in the play “The Jeweler’s Shop” written by Pope John Paul II.

“The connection between life, love and marriage is often overlooked in our culture. Never before in one generation have we experienced such a serious disconnection,” Luthin said in her welcoming remarks before the service.

It is vital to consider the impact of rising rates of divorce, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, abortion and legal recognition of same-sex relationships, she said. “Our response as a Church must begin in prayer, with a deep respect for the mystery of God’s plan for ongoing creation and redemption.”

In his homily, the cardinal also addressed the importance of the vocation of marriage.

“This year, the Catholics of the Commonwealth pray in a special way for the vocation of marriage,” he said.

Catholics often hear about the vocation crisis with the focus on the declining numbers of men entering the priesthood compared to the numbers 40 or even 20 years ago, he said.

“The truth is that fewer and fewer people are getting married,” he continued.

The Church is a sacramental community, he said. “The Sacrament of Marriage is the center of community life.”

In addition to his wishes for a happy New Year, the cardinal told the congregants that each year the pope grants every bishop three opportunities to extend the pontiff’s personal apostolic blessing. The blessing can be imparted at any three occasions of the bishop’s choosing. The cardinal said that it is his custom to deliver one of the blessings during the New Year’s Eve Mass.

Before the cardinal gave the blessing, which he delivered in Latin, the pastor of St. Mary’s, Father Michael Nolan, led those gathered in singing “Salve Regina.”

After the Mass, the cardinal joined the parishioners and visitors for a light reception in the parish hall.

“I was just ‘Wow!’ when I heard we would receive an apostolic blessing,” said Gina M. Curini, who belongs to St. George Parish in Worcester. “Lucky me.”

Curini said she traveled to Waltham from Worcester for the chance to see and hear the cardinal celebrate Mass. “It was beautiful.”

The church was specially decorated for the Christmas season. Father Nolan said the altar servers lined the pathways leading to the Church with 80 luminaries, candles in small white paper bags, which is a Latin American tradition.

In the entrance of the church there were Nativity crèches, which had been made by students in the parish’s religious education program grades three through eight, he said. The scene depicted is the Holy Family in the manger set inside St. Mary’s itself. “For four months, they studied the mystery of the Incarnation.”

Luthin said the annual Mass sponsored by her office is held on the eve of the feast of Mary, Mother of God in different parishes. “It is a ‘movable feast.’ We had it here last year and Father Nolan was so generous with his hospitality we had it here again.”