Easter Sunday

Dear Friends,

Easter Blessings to you and your dear ones!

This is our third Easter since the pandemic began. Each time of anxious waiting was replaced by another. But, thanks be to God, we are now experiencing a greater sense of normalcy all around us. More than the beautiful tulips and cherry blossoms in lovely colors beckoning us to new life, the Resurrection of Christ offers us hope and confidence to start all over again.

We are constantly reminded of the unjust Russian aggression of Ukraine that has created unimaginable horror and damage to life and property. We pray for an Easter experience for the Ukrainians and for millions of other people in different parts of the world where conflicts still exist.

I am fully aware that some of our parishioners are still hesitant to return to church in person. I respect that. I believe they are joining us in prayer online. Our homebound parishioners are so very pleased to connect with our livestreamed parish Mass. Many of them have thanked me for continuing the live-streaming as they love to see their own church sanctuary and their own priests celebrating the Mass. Parishioners who have moved away and webvisitors who chanced upon our site are all part of this wider parish community. Easter Blessings to all.

One of the greatest blessings is our ability to gather again with family and friends – be it in church or home, restaurant, gym, club or wherever we used to gather. This is integral to being human. Jesus himself did that during his life on earth. But we seem to forget that Jesus did the same even after his death and resurrection. The Risen Lord had at least three meals with his disciples: breakfast by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-17); an evening meal in a village near Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); and an impromptu snack of broiled fish with his apostles (Luke 24:36-43). Even though each of these appearances was to convince the doubting disciples about the reality of the resurrection, gathering around the meal table was very significant then and now.

The Risen Christ invites us to experience His presence at our dinner table as we gather as a family in unity and love. Esteemed study after study shows the nutritional, social, emotional, and spiritual benefits of the family having dinner together. But recent research suggests that between 10 and 40 percent of children never or seldom eat together with their family! Let us take it as a challenge and change it in our families.

There is another meal table the Risen Christ invites us to experience His presence. That is the Eucharistic table as we gather for worship especially on Sundays. In this holy meal, Christ takes us all in as we are, with all our uniqueness and diversity, our weaknesses and shortcomings, and strengthens us to create that family of God here on earth. Let us participate more fully in Sunday worship as the family of St. Matthias.

Happy Easter!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Holy Week – April 10-17, 2022

Holy Week is the holiest week of the year and a time when all Catholics should try to alter their schedule to participate in the liturgy of the church. The week begins with Palm Sunday, April 10 and the blessing and distribution of Palms. The celebration of Palm Sunday has two jarringly different moods. The Mass begins with the blessing and in many cases procession with palms while singing jubilant hymns of triumph and praise. But the gospel of the day, this year from
Saint Luke, is somber and reminds us of the rejected Suffering Servant who will be beaten, mocked, scourged and led to crucifixion. Palm Sunday sets the
stage for a very dramatic week as we recall and represent the events of our redemption in Christ.

On Thursday, April 12, Bishop Checchio will gather with all the priests of our diocese to bless the Holy Oils of Catechumens, Chrism and Oil of the Sick. This
mass will be at 4pm in Saint Francis Cathedral, Metuchen, and the faithful are invited to participate in person or to watch the live-stream from their homes.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, known as the Triduum, is the most solemn celebration of the entire liturgical year. The Triduum is really one
long celebration of the Last Supper, the Passion and Crucifixion and the death and Resurrection of Christ. Even though these are not holy days of obligation,
Catholics who can do so should rearrange their schedule and participate in all or at least some of these special events.

Holy Thursday offers us an opportunity to participate in the sacred moment when Christ gave us the gift of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood. A
highlight of this celebration is the washing of feet and the Lords command to “love one another”. This Mass is at 7:30pm, Thursday, April 14.

Good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion is a solemn celebration in three parts, the proclamation of the Passion from Saint John’s gospel, the veneration of the cross and the reception of Holy Communion from the hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lords Supper the previous day. This celebration is at 7:30pm on Friday, April 15. In addition to this we have an outdoor celebration of the Stations of the Cross at 2pm.

Our Lenten weeks of fasting and prayer are directed to the great celebration of the Resurrection which begins with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, April
16, at 8pm. This celebration has four parts, the blessing of the new Easter Fire and the preparation of the Paschal Candle and singing of the Easter Proclamation;
an elongated celebration of the Liturgy of the Word; the blessing of the Baptismal Font and baptism of the Elect, and finally the celebration of the Eucharist.
On Easter Sunday we continue to celebrate and rejoice in the good news of the Resurrection.

I hope that you will try to make time in your schedule this week to join your brothers and sisters as we celebrate with great solemnity the key events of our
Salvation in Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Happy Holy Week and Easter,

Msgr. Brennan

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

Was Jesus “soft” on sin? Today’s gospel from John 8:1-11 about the way Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery could make some wonder if that is true. Bible scholars have some interesting takes as to why this passage is omitted by many ancient manuscripts of the gospel. This powerful narrative of Jesus and the accused woman is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts of John and appears in other important manuscripts after Lk. 21:38. Still, early Church authors, such as Papias (ca. A.D. 120) and the author of the Syriac “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (3rd cent.), knew of such an incident, and Jerome included it in his translation. For these reasons the story is judged canonical by Catholics.

It might have been omitted in some early rigorist traditions because the early Church, in its struggle to maintain strict penitential discipline, perhaps could not deal with the ease with which Jesus forgave the woman. In this episode Jesus seemed too “soft” on sin. Perhaps for this reason, the story was temporarily set aside by the early Church and was only later granted canonical approbation. This precisely is the reason why we need to emphasize this forgiving nature of God all the more. During these Lenten Sundays, we have been reflecting on this merciful love and unconditional acceptance of the sinner as the very nature of God. Pope Francis says:

“Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. “Great is God’s mercy,” says the Psalm.”

We experience this in a very special way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or ‘Confession’ – the name that we are more used to. Here’s what a blogger has written about this Sacrament so beautifully:

“Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. You can’t beat it for convenience. It’s available practically whenever. Tell a priest you want to go to confession and you’ll get his attention. One bishop I know was cornered on an airplane. Another passenger figured out what was going on and asked if he could confess too. It must have been an interesting game of musical seats. An interesting question for priests might be: Where was the strangest place you ever administered the sacrament of penance? The answers I’ve gathered include “in a sports bar, at a graduation party” and “on the golf course, walking up the fairway.”

As already announced, Msgr. Brennan and I have been available for Confessions on Mondays and Fridays after the 8 am Mass, besides the expanded time on Saturdays from 3 to 4:30 pm. This will continue for the remainder of Lent. Both of us have been noticing our parishioners utilizing these opportunities for “housekeeping for the soul” and also to feel a sense of inner freedom to experience a better relationship with God, self and one another. Next week as we enter Holy Week, we will be better prepared to commemorate and live the mysteries of our salvation that Jesus Christ brought us.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

A couple, very dedicated members of our parish, asked me this question over a month ago: “Father, do you have a rose-colored vestment?” I was not sure though I knew we had chasubles in pink, purple or violet, and even one that might pass for rose. So I told them to come and see our chasubles in the sacristy. They did. They decided that we really did not have a rose-colored vestment and so they ordered and donated a beautiful rose chasuble which is what you see us priests wearing today for this Sunday which is traditionally known as “Laetare” Sunday or “Rejoice” Sunday. Thank you to this wonderful couple for their thoughtfulness. I have seen such demonstrations of commitment, donations of church and liturgical articles, by other parishioners too – many of whom wish to remain anonymous. May God bless their goodness.

“Rejoice” Sunday? Isn’t it strange that the church focuses on joyful celebration today, half way through this penitential season of Lent? Not really. The Church wants us to remember that a Christian’s joy of living, as promised by Jesus, is not to be lost even in the midst of penance and austerity. In fact, the entrance antiphon of today’s liturgy, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her…” is meant to affirm that there is much to rejoice about. That is all the more clear from the Scripture passages of today: The first reading is about the Israelites passing into the Promised Land. One can taste the goodness of God in the responsorial psalm. And in the Gospel, the prodigal son returns home. All these are indicative of an atmosphere of warmth and excitement and celebration.

As a parish community, we need to experience as well as radiate this joyful attitude. St. Matthias is a parish community where all are welcome – an important factor that already helps us to be a joyful people. We celebrate with gusto. Today’s readings invite us to examine how convinced we are of this Scriptural truth of the cause of our joy. Many Biblical scholars say that the parable of the prodigal son should have been named the parable of the ‘prodigal father,’ because it is the father who is literally ‘prodigal’ with his joyful welcome and loving mercy to the younger son. It is the father who is lavish in accepting his wayward son without any pre-condition or even a question. And Jesus insists that what he showed is the quintessential characteristic of our heavenly Father.

Such a truth is hard to believe, simply because it goes contrary to all our human experiences. Is there any parent who will reinstate their rebellious son or daughter without any condition? Even when the older son refused to enter the house in protest of his father’s handling of his younger brother, how did the father react? A parishioner, reflecting on this passage in the LIVE LENT group, rightly commented that it was not, “come on now, grow up!” but a gentle and understanding response. Such is the nature of our God.

May we reaffirm our faith in the unconditional acceptance and loving forgiveness of our God as taught by Jesus Christ. Isn’t this enough reason for us to be joyful – no matter what happens in and around us?

Happy Lent!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Third Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

We have scheduled a Healing Mass on Saturday March 26th at 11am, presided by Msgr. Seamus Brennan. All who need healing from a variety of spiritual, emotional or physical ills are welcome, and in particular, any Catholic who has a serious illness or who has become weak because of advanced age is welcome to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. This sacrament is administered by the priest through the laying on of hands and anointing with the Holy Oil of the Sick on the forehead and the palms of the hands. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament (James 5:14-15 and Mark 6:13). The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: – the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life. (CCC, 1532)

Here I wish to clarify a common misunderstanding: This sacrament used to be referred to as Extreme Unction or Last Rites, which sometimes led people to believe that the only proper time to call the priest for this sacrament is when someone is about to die. The Church wants us to know that this Sacrament can be administered several times for the same person, if necessary. One might certainly become seriously ill more than once in a lifetime, or may face serious surgery on several occasions. In each instance, one can receive this anointing.

We encounter Jesus the divine healer at every Mass. But during a healing Mass, the theme of the entire Mass is healing – through prayers, through the Word of God, through the sacrament of anointing and the reception of Holy Communion. Healing Mass is an opportunity for everyone to pray for the Lord’s healing touch upon whatever we need to be free from – an illness or mind, body or soul, a negative feeling within us, an inability to forgive, unhealthy tendencies. All are welcome to attend this spiritual event and experience the Lord’s healing touch.

Another very important means of healing is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lent is an ideal time for this and that is the reason that people make it a point to go to Confession during this season to be freed of our sins. Unfortunately ‘sin’ has become a dirty word that we prefer to avoid in our common parlance. And yet we see the devastating effects of sin that brings us so much unhappiness and heartaches within us and in the way we deal with others. The very first words of Jesus when He began His public ministry were: “Repent and believe the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17) That was what we heard when we received ashes on our forehead as we began the Lenten journey.

In order to make this wonderful healing Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation more available for us all, Msgr. Brennan and I have decided to offer more opportunities from next week onwards for the remainder of lent. Thus, the regular Saturday confessions will be from 3 – 4:30 and both of us will be available. And two days of the week – on Mondays and Fridays – we will be available for Confession for about 15 minutes after the 8am Mass.

Jesus said to His Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Haven’t we all felt the attractive power of sin in our lives? Haven’t we all regretted the hurtful words and painful deeds that made others unhappy? But the good news is that we can start all over again with the goodness of the Lord who is the healer in the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession. Why not use this golden mine for our own good? Please call the
parish office if you have any questions.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Second Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

For some time now, you probably have noticed workers on the roof of our church and may have wondered what’s happening there. We are going solar! Looking at our financials, I had realized that one of the important areas where we could save a lot of money was how we obtain our electricity. Hence, I initiated the process to go solar in the summer of 2020, but it was very time-consuming with proposals from various solar companies to be submitted to the Diocese, followed by approval, inspections, and other protocols. The project was entrusted to the “Amped on Solar” company whose CEO Mr. Luke Uzupis has been meticulously following up with the time-consuming process for going solar. As per the agreement, the solar company provided us with a new roof, both for the church and the school, free of cost. And now we are entering the final phase of installing the solar panels which is what you see happening on the roof, supervised by Mr. Mark Onori, the Vice President of Project Management for Amped On Solar. Mr. Uzupis, who is implementing this project, deserves our deep appreciation for moving it forward at record  time despite many obstacles caused by the pandemic, the weather, supply chain hold ups and bureaucratic delays. Our hope is to go solar in May/June this year. I am truly grateful to Most Rev. James Checchio, our Bishop, Msgr. Joseph Celano, the Episcopal Vicar for Administration, Mr. Steve Michalek, the diocesan director of the Office of Properties and Facilities, Mary Pat Burke-Grospin, Trish Stumper and many others who in one way or another were and are instrumental in making this wonderful project move forward.

We all know that solar power offers cost savings, reduces carbon footprint and produces significant profits over the long run. Besides these advantages, going solar is one of the ways of responding to the challenge that Pope Francis has given in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ motivating us to address environmental issues. He wrote about the urgent need “to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy.” (no.26) Yes, we can be proud that we are one of the pioneering parishes in our diocese to respond to this urgent need to care for the earth, our home.

On another note: This Friday, March 17, is the feast of St. Patrick, “when everyone is Irish!” While indulging in corned beef and cabbage, Guinness, et. al., the church invites us to focus on the missionary nature of the life of St. Patrick who converted the Irish population to Catholicism in his 33 years of apostolate there. The Irish rightly brought his legacy to places they have settled.

This Saturday, March 19, is the feast of St. Joseph – a big Feast especially for Italians because in the Middle Ages, God, through St. Joseph’s intercessions, saved the Sicilians from a very serious drought. So in his honor, the custom has been for all to wear red, in the same way that green is worn on St. Patrick’s Day. Blessing of food (“la tavola di San Giuse” or “St. Joseph’s Table”) is a popular practice for Italian Catholics.

Happy Feast of St. Patrick! Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

First Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

We have officially entered the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. The pandemic had already made us use Q-tips to impose ashes. This year too we have received ashes from our ministers in the same way. Many loved that the cross on the forehead is not just a smudge, but, someone told me, “it is a high definition cross!” Using Q-tip can be a nice practice to follow even in non-pandemic times.

The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) reminded us of the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance.

Prayer: More time given to prayer during Lent should draw us closer to the Lord. This can happen not only when we sit quietly in silent prayer or reading Scriptures, but also in sharing faith with others in small groups. It is truly astonishing that we have so many groups meeting at different times and days of the week for this purpose. What is more important is to have a regular time for prayer. If not, our good intentions will remain unrealized.

Fasting: Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. We Americans seem to like the word ‘dieting’ rather than fasting! No matter what word we like, it is more than a means of developing self-control. It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Abstaining from meat traditionally also linked us to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals. It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves—a sparse and simple meal. To forego a hamburger on a Lenten Friday and feast instead on lobster seems a bit hypocritical as the U.S. Bishops point out: “While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point.”

Almsgiving: Almsgiving is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral elements of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized. We can be grateful to God that our Parish has the best track record on this – not only during Lent but throughout the year – thanks to our parishioners practicing solidarity with those in need, with our
very active St. Vincent De Paul Society, taking lead in this.

In this context, I wish to promote a wonderful initiative that Bishop Checchio has just launched, inviting us to put mercy into action by doing 40 works of mercy during this Lent and Easter seasons. Titled “40 Act Impact,” this campaign is established to remind us Catholics in our diocese that just as God has impacted our own individual lives, we are called to go out and do the same for others. For more info, go to https://diometuchen.org/worksofmercy

Wishing us all a meaningful and fruitful Lent,

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Listening Sessions for Synod: Some of our parishioners were able to attend the deanery ‘Listening Session’ in Somerville on 2/18/22, in preparation for the worldwide “Synod on Synodality.” It was a very special experience. As announced, I wish to offer more of our parishioners that opportunity, and that is why we will have two listening sessions here at St. Matthias. One will be via zoom at 7 pm on Thursday, March 3. The other will be in person at 10 am on Saturday, March 5, in the Cafeteria. Kindly register for the one you wish to attend (see links on page 1). In case you are unable to attend these, you are still most welcome to send in your answers to the questions online at: www.stmatthias.net/synod-2023

Lent is upon us! You have been hearing about preparing for Lent. Contrary to some misconceptions, Lent is not a time for self-punishment or condemnation, but a time to concentrate on fundamental values and priorities. If Lent is a season of preparation leading up to Easter, then the focus is on the new life that is our guarantee through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent we make a self-examination to see how we are faring in our efforts to achieve that new life. It is interesting that ‘Lent’ comes from the old English word ‘Lente’ meaning spring. As we do a spring cleaning, Lent is a time for spiritual cleaning. How do you do that? The Church offers various opportunities:

1. Ash Wednesday: On this first day of Lent, we are reminded of our fallen nature; that we are fallible human beings who have made wrong choices that hurt us and others in our life. Yet we are not without hope, because the grace of God gives us a second chance to reform. This is symbolized by the ashes that will be imposed on us with the words, “Repent and believe the good news,” or “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” See page 7 or our website for our Ash Wednesday schedule.

2. Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross: This is a prayerful biblical meditation of 14 incidents from the Gospel accounts and traditions of the journey of Jesus from Pilate’s house to being placed in the tomb. Let us do it on Lenten Fridays.

3. LIVE LENT! This week, many of our parishioners will begin this wonderful experience of Bible sharing in small groups six times during the six weeks of Lent. If you have not signed up yet, you are welcome to do so now.

4. I would also like to recommend a Bible Conference offered online by the famous Augustine Institute, on Saturday, March 5, exploring the graces of this penitential season in Scripture and Tradition. This three hour conference is free and open to all. Go to this link to register: https://bibleconference.augustineinstitute.org

These and other possibilities are worth considering doing. You will be amazed at the positive spiritual benefits. Thus we can make Lent a meaningful time of spring cleaning for our souls and you will see what a great difference it will make in all of our lives.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

It is becoming increasingly common knowledge that the generations being raised up now are dissociating themselves from any religious group. We see this reflected in fewer sacraments being received, poor Mass attendance, and parish closures. In a Pew Research article the top reasons the “nones” cite for labeling themselves as “nones” include “I question a lot of religious teachings” (51-77%), “I don’t like the positions churches take on social/political issues” (47-54%), and “Religion is irrelevant to me” (26-63%).

Often parishioners have told me, I don’t know how to answer when my children or my co-workers ask me about the Bible or the why of certain Catholic practices. Well, we have answers, but we don’t know. That’s why our parish is offering many opportunities to equip ourselves for this mission. LIVE LENT! is one such. Here are feedbacks from some of our own parishioners who participated in an earlier season of Bible sharing in small groups:

“I appreciate the awakening that takes place during faith sharing. Keep it going!!!!!”
“It satisfied my hunger for spiritual nourishment.”
“A very friendly, intimate feeling. We shared our beliefs, struggles, and hopes for a more productive Lenten experience.”
“It was interesting to hear what others in my group thought about the reading, their views and opinions. I felt that I got more from that about the gospel than just listening to the gospel as Mass.”
“This made my Lenten journey much more meaningful and focused.”
“We get so much from each weekly gathering.”
“It strengthens us for the week.”
“We learn from the readings and each other.”
“Not having prep work/homework helps me to feel comfortable, to participate.”
“I learned so much more about the Scripture.”
“The fellowship was terrific.”
“Now I have a name for the people I knew just by face.”
“The Sunday Mass has become more meaningful to me.”
“I am able to relate to my family with more love and understanding.”

How wonderful it will be if more of our parishioners can experience the same! That is why I am once again inviting us all to consider joining a small group this Lent. This week is the right time to sign up as the first session will begin next week. There is no expense either, since the Bible lessons will be sent online, though a printed copy can be obtained at a nominal cost.

This is a process of spiritual renewal and evangelization that invites people to develop a closer relationship with Christ, deepen their faith, grow in community, and reach out in service to others. Don’t you wish to be part of this noble goal? Try it for this Lent, and you will be surprised at the spiritual benefits that will make you happier and a better person. You will be proud of yourself for deciding to learn more about the Word of God this Lent. To sign up online, go to: https://forms.gle/FYvnjMbqD8yGmZYB8

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Three related observances are happening this week:

National Marriage Week (Feb 7-14): This week draws our attention to the beauty of marriage. The theme selected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for National Marriage Week 2022 is “Called to the Joy of Love,” referring to Pope Francis’2016 Encyclical on the family Amoris Laetitia. The theme was chosen to highlight the many ways that married couples and families are accompanied by the Church to live out the call of love. National Marriage Week was started to honor husbands and wives for their never-ending sacrifices and faithfulness that hold these unions together.

World Marriage Day (Feb 13): began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1981 and grew out of the experience of couples engaged in the “Worldwide Marriage Encounter,” a movement founded in Spain — “Encuentro Conyugal” — by the late Father Gabriel Calvo (1927-2021), who devoted his entire priestly ministry (1952-2021) to the pastoral care of married couples and families. “There is within each couple,” he reflected, “a divine energy of love. It has to be released by a deep sharing between husband and wife, through the communication of their feelings and of the whole of their lives together. It cannot be done in just one moment.” Pope St. John Paul II imparted his apostolic blessing to “World Marriage Day” in 1993.

Valentine’s Day (Feb 14): One of the most romantic days of the year, Valentine’s Day, has a Catholic connection. Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with “courtly love.” One of the many legends about him, says that he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.” His feast day came to be dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing love letters and sending gifts to their beloved.

These three observances invite us to promote marriage and love. We know that the number of marriages have fallen drastically in recent decades due to cultural and attitudinal changes. While the Catholic church is at the forefront of promoting marriage and family, I was happily surprised to find great support for the same from certain unexpected quarters:

Time Magazine: “…We should provide the facts about the importance of marriage as a matter of child welfare and economic aspiration. As a society, we have launched highly effective public education campaigns on much less momentous issues, from smoking to recycling… For now, the decline of marriage is our most ignored national crisis…”

Fox News: “The Brookings Institution says that if we had the marriage rate today that we had in 1970, there would be a 25 percent drop in poverty. The Heritage
Foundation says that marriage drops the probability of a child living in poverty by 82 percent.”

Newsweek Magazine: “National Marriage Week presents a chance to focus on rebuilding a culture of marriage for this generation.”

May such support for marriage and family spread more and more. As we appreciate and encourage all our married couples, we pray for God’s blessings to enable them to continue the path of love and unity despite the many challenges they face.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal