Father Liam's Letters

March 26, 2017

Lenten Communal Penance Service – April 4

Dear Friends,

You may have heard me tell this story of how my father, every five or six weeks used to load us up in the car on a Saturday afternoon and take us to BVM Church in Darby so that he and Mom and my brother and sister and I could all go to confession.  My father gave us a great gift. I am grateful to him for teaching me by example the importance of this wonderful sacrament!

Truly, the Lord showers so many graces on us through this sacrament. The most obvious Grace is, of course, the grace of forgiveness of our sins. But there are so many others as well! Through the sacrament of reconciliation, God gives us the grace of peace of heart, the grace of inner healing, the grace to struggle victoriously with temptations that come our way – and so many other graces as well. Repentance is a central element of our Lenten journey. As we come closer to the end of Lent, I urge you to celebrate this sacrament either individually, or at the parish communal penance service on Tuesday evening, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. in our Church. The communal celebration of the Sacrament is a very meaningful experience as we join together as a community in celebration of God’s ever-ready willingness to forgive, renew and strengthen our commitment to live more faithfully as disciples of Christ.

In Him,
Father Liam

Watch Pope Francis go to confession HERE

February 19, 2017

Online Access to Catholic Resources and Entertainment

Dear Parishioners of OMGC,

We have been offered temporary access to FORMED.org for everyone in the parish until the end of February. 

Mr. Rob Shea of the Augustine Institute visited OMGC this morning and demonstrated the portal to Karen Carey and me.  He explained to us the content of FORMED.org - an online portal for an astounding array of resources that can help Catholic individuals and communities to grow in knowledge of our faith and of the Bible and so deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.

Both of us were very impressed by the:

  • Depth and breadth of content
  • Variety of types of media - videos, audio, e-books, feature-length motion pictures (about 100 of them with more on the way), and PDF download study guides, etc.[G3] 
  • Variety of types of content - Scripture, stories, Catholic spirituality, apologetics, sacraments, Church history, the lives of the saints and much more.  
  • Variety of target groups - Young children, older grades, teens, young adults, parenting, families and more.
  • The very high production values that went into the videos and other media. One example: In my previous parish we used Father (now Bishop) Robert Barron's "Catholicism" series one year.  It was exquisitely produced.  At OLGC we paid a few hundred dollars to purchase the "Catholicism" series material.  That entire series is just one of the many resources included in the access we have until the end of this month.

Please feel free to share this log-in info with other members of OMGC.  Mr. Shea said that besides parish members we are free to share it with anyone at all who lives within the geographical boundaries of the parish whether they are parish members or not. 

So use the temporary log-in information below and see what's available.

Let me know what you think.

Fr. Liam

Login information:

Website address:   www.formed.org

username: demo@formed.org
password: Beloved (case sensitive)

Note: this login info is good only until the end of February. 

January 29, 2017

What Happens at the Sanctus?

[a shorter version of this letter appears in this Sunday’s bulletin.]

Dear Friends,

All my life I have sung. As a family, we harmonized around our piano as my mother played. My brother and I sang Irish songs together. We both sang in the Glee Club all four years at Bonner. I sang with two different groups in Japan.

I enjoy singing as a member of a chorus. Since returning to the U.S. 21 years ago, I sang 15 years with classical community choruses in Massachusetts and New York. Many of our concerts were choral arrangements of the Latin prayers of the Catholic Mass. The "Mass in B minor" by JS Bach, the Verdi Requiem, the Faure Requiem, the Mozart Requiem, Rossini's "Petite Messe Solonnelle," as well as other Masses.

In all of these pieces, the "Sanctus" (the Holy Holy Holy) is one of the most dramatic and most challenging parts of the Mass. The composers know that these words come from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and the vision he had of the Seraphim and the other angels of God, gathered around His throne and praising him. It is fascinating to see how every composer has his particular dramatic way of making the chorus sound like angels in a different way so that the people in the audience can almost imagine that they are in Heaven.

Here's the story: One day the prophet Isaiah was in the Temple in Jerusalem (chapter 6), and he experienced what it must be like to be in Heaven, to stand in front of the throne of God. Somehow, the wall or the veil that separates us from Heaven was opened, and he saw this dramatic scene:

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.

Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.

One cried out to the other:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.

Curiously, few passages in the Bible portray what happens in Heaven. There is a similar place in the Book of Revelation, chapter 4. Here, instead of "Seraphim" they are called “living creatures":

The four living creatures...do not stop exclaiming: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come."

And every time we celebrate Mass, we pray almost the same words:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .

For many years now, the Sanctus has been a very pivotal part of the Mass for me. We sing the same words that the Seraphim and other angels and saints sing before the throne of God 24/7! Often when we sing or even say these words, I have the feeling similar to what Isaiah experienced or to what St. John experienced and recorded in the Book of Revelation. I have the feeling that, somehow, the wall or the veil that separates our reality in our church from the reality of what is happening in Heaven is opened or lifted. Somehow, either what we are doing in our church here in Bryn Mawr is joined to the angels and saints gathered before the throne of God, or that what is going on in Heaven, with the angels and saints glorifying God before his throne, is present to us as we glorify God here at OMGC. Somehow, that reality breaks through into our own reality here!

But what does this have to do with our daily lives?

The word “Holy” when applied to God has to do with his infinite Love, Grandeur, his immeasurable Mercy, his Might, his Majesty.

In our daily lives, each of us is called to be holy, but in our case the word “holy” has to do with how close we are to God, how intimate we are with God in our life of prayer and in the way we serve each other. Our holiness is measured in the way we have allowed our hearts, our lives and our behavior to be transformed by His Love.

The God we worship is God All-loving, God Almighty, God All-Holy. And we are called to grow closer to Him in holiness.

Let us take advantage of all the means and graces available to us in the sacraments, in worship, in community, and in growing in the knowledge of the Bible and our faith. Let us grow closer to him, to experience his Holiness, to experience his Love, and to show his love to others.

Father Liam

January 8, 2017

New Years Resolutions. And Thanks.

Dear Friends,

I pray that the New Year will be full of God's blessings peace and joy for you and for your families.

Many start off the New Year with Resolutions - promises to themselves that they are going to do or not do certain things in the New Year. I would like to encourage all of us to resolve to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ during the next 12 months:

  • Let us resolve to pray every day.
  • Let us resolve to read the Sacred Scriptures and books on Catholic teaching more often.
  • Let us resolve to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness more often in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • If Sunday Mass has not been a priority for us, let us resolve to change that.
  • Let us resolve to be more kind and loving to the people around us and to those in need.

Related to these resolutions, click here for a short article by Father Kyle Doustou, a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine.  It should take no more than two minutes to read.

I thank everyone who worked so hard to make our celebration of Christmas so beautiful and prayerful. Thanks to Maryann and Paul and all those who helped to decorate the church. Thanks to Jo-Ann, the choir, and the musicians who led us all in our singing and worship. Thanks to all our liturgical ministers – altar servers, ushers, lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion - and to Tom who coordinates them. Thanks to Karen, the PREP teachers, and the children who made our 6 PM Christmas Eve Mass Nativity Gospel pageant come alive. Thanks also to Father John and to Santa Claus! Thanks to Father Jim and Father David who helped us to celebrate. And to everyone I have forgotten to mention. 

Let us pray for Father David Cregan who will be away on sabbatical for the next six months. Let us welcome Father Tom Pohto.  Father Tom will join us in mid-January.

Father Liam

December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Dear Parishioners,

May the gentle Lord Jesus, born on Christmas Day, bring peace into your soul and abundant blessings into your home. May every heart be opened to the Infant Prince of Peace by a fervent reception of the Sacraments of His love.

This Christmas we, the Augustinian Friars of OMGC, express our thanks for your very enthusiastic service and generous support of our parish community during the past year.

As I mentioned in a recent letter to you all, 2016 has not been a typical year. We lost Fr. Jack Denny, your beloved pastor and my good friend. As a nation, we have gone through a difficult election season and have entered into a challenging time of transition. And many of us have gone through trying and difficult times on personal and family levels as well.

But there have been blessings too. Personally, I am happy to be back in the Philadelphia area after living and working in other regions for the past 44 years. I am glad to be assigned here with all of you at OMGC. I’m sure that for most of us there have been many reasons to offer thanks to God for His blessings during this past year.

The onslaught of so much advertising and commercialism makes it easy for us forget the true meaning of the holy season of Christmas. As a parish, I think we have done our best this Advent to assist each other in the spiritual preparation for His coming. Let us continue to pray and support each other in our walk with Christ in the coming year.

May the grace and peace of Jesus be felt in your family this Christmas and during the New Year.

Sincerely in Christ,
Father Liam

December 11, 2016

What’s the Difference between Priest & Friar?

Dear Friends,

Many people ask me, what is the difference between a friar and a priest?  It’s a little bit complicated because a person can be:

  • a friar but not a priest,
  • a priest but not a friar, or
  • both priest and friar at the same time. 

Let me begin to explain by telling you about religious orders.

You have heard about the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Benedictines and the Dominicans. These groups, plus the Augustinians, and many other groups are called “religious orders.” Usually, most of the members of men’s religious orders are priests, but many of them are brothers. They may never become priests, but they are full members of the order.  They are teachers, counselors, artists, administrators and many other professions.  All members of orders take religious vows.  Poverty, chastity and obedience are the three vows that most of the orders take.  All of them dedicate their lives to Jesus and to the Church.  Among the mendicant orders (Augustinians, Carmelites, Franciscans and Dominicans) all members are called “friars,” a term that comes from the Latin word “frater,” meaning “brother.”

Members of religious orders usually live in community. They pray together, eat together and very often they work and recreate together too. These religious orders have a special “charisms,” or characteristic. For the Franciscans, it’s poverty; for the Dominicans, it’s preaching. For the Benedictines, it is monastic life. For the Augustinians it’s community life, hospitality and a spirit of searching for God.

Religious orders report directly to the Pope, but they are also very much involved in serving the local church.  They can be sent to work almost anywhere.  For instance, I have worked in Troy, NY, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Boston, North Carolina, recently in Staten Island, NY and now here in Bryn Mawr.

The Catholic Church is divided up into regions.  Each region is called a diocese or an archdiocese.  Each of these regions is placed under the care of a bishop or archbishop.  Priests who belong to these regions aid their bishops in the care of the souls of the people of these regions.  They are called diocesan [or archdiocesan] priests. 

Diocesan priests also dedicate themselves to Jesus Christ and to His Church. Unlike members of religious orders, they do not take the three vows, but on the day of their ordination they promise to obey their bishops and make a promise of celibacy.  Most of them will work in parishes, high schools, or in special ministries in their own diocese for all of their life.  They “belong” to the diocese and they “belong” to the bishop. 

Some of you know Father James Sherlock who is pastor of Saint Colman Church in Ardmore.  Both Father Sherlock and I have the same boss.  Our boss is Archbishop Charles Chaput.  The difference is that besides working for Archbishop Chaput, Father Sherlock also “belongs” to Archbishop Chaput as a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  I work for Archbishop Chaput, but I “belong” to the Villanova Province of the Order of Saint Augustine. 

Put another way, Father Jim McBurney, Father John Deary, Brother Bill Harkin and I are all friars.  Fathers Jim, John and I are also priests.  Father Jim Sherlock “belongs” to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, so he is a diocesan priest.  But he is not a friar, since he does not belong to a religious order.   

Whether priest, friar or both, we all try to live lives dedicated to Jesus Christ and to the Church.  Please pray that we all have God’s grace to live out that commitment. 

I hope this letter answers the question in the title.  Please let me know if you have more questions about this topic. 

Fr. Liam

Pope Francis Expands Priests’ Confessional Powers

Dear Friends,

In the past few days you have probably seen headlines like:

“Pope Francis allows all priests to forgive sin of abortion”

Just to put this into context, abortion has always been one of the "reserved sins" – very serious sins that were “reserved” for bishops only to forgive. 

Some of the others are:

  • physically attacking the pope
  • a priest absolving his accomplice in sexual sin
  • a bishop ordaining a bishop without papal approval
  • a priest directly breaking the seal of confession
  • an offense like throwing away or desecrating the Holy Eucharist.

The normal process for sins like these went like this: when they were confessed to a priest, the priest had to tell the penitent to come back to the same priest at a future date. In the meantime, the priest had to obtain from the local bishop the permission to absolve this penitent of this sin.

Personally, this restriction has never directly affected me.  By the ancient tradition and practice of the Church, Mendicant friars (Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Servites, Carmelites and a few others) have been “exempt” from this procedure and allowed to absolve these reserved sins without visiting the bishop.

When I was in Japan, the bishops there had already allowed ALL priests to absolve the sin of abortion. As long as I have been working here in the US, most if not all of the dioceses in the USA have given this authority to all priests who have permission to minister in their jurisdictions. I know that this was specifically the policy in the Archdiocese of NY when I was there and has been so in Philadelphia for a number of years.

Pope Francis had given that authority to all priests worldwide for the Year of Mercy, which ended last Sunday.  He has now expanded it to all priests even after the Holy Year.

This is a wonderful manifestation of God’s mercy!

Through the years it has been a privilege be part of this sacrament, which brings so much peace, healing, forgiveness, comfort and reconciliation to those who seek these things from our loving God.  Abortion has the potential to cause so much pain on so many levels of a person’s being.  Two (of many) reasons for this are the facts that (1) the act runs so much against the grain of the maternal instincts, and (2) it is within the human body that the act takes place.  Often the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the starting place - a very significant starting place – for healing toward wholeness that might take a long time.  As ministers of God’s forgiveness and healing, we priests need to bring the best of God’s mercy and human kindness and understanding to the penitent. 

One thing that has bothered me through the years is that nearly all the people who have come to me as a priest in Confession to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness have been the women whose child has been aborted.  Usually there is a man involved as well.  Most probably the father of the child, but not necessarily. A man who is part of the decision process.  Who perhaps helps make the arrangements.  Or perhaps it is another woman, a sister, cousin or best friend, or even a mother who helps make the decision and/or the arrangements. 

Yet most of the time it seems that it is the baby’s mother alone who is saddled with the heavy moral burden.  When the mother comes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to seek healing, peace and forgiveness, I rejoice!  But I also worry about the husband, boyfriend, sister, cousin, best friend who also bear the burden of this sin but who perhaps don’t feel the need for healing and peace.  All of these participants need God’s love and mercy.  I could probably count on one hand the number of people who have confessed, “I helped my wife/girlfriend/sister/cousin obtain an abortion.”  I pray for all those who carry this weight and hope that they too seek God’s mercy in the sacrament. 

To sum up, I am happy that Pope Francis has expanded these permissions and hope that this act of his signals the huge expansiveness of God’s love and mercy to all of us sinners. 

Click here to read a recent article about this topic in CatholicPhilly.com. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam
Parochial Administrator