Sunday, January 25, 2015

Forgiveness: Hard but not Impossible

Joseph Fadelle


Louis Zamperini


(Third Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on January 25, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Jonah 3: 1-10.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Third Sunday 2015]


Forgiveness is hard.

Anyone who tells you otherwise has obviously never been deeply hurt--and I don't know too many people in that category.  Most people have been deeply hurt many times in their lives.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie, “Unbroken.”  It’s about the late Louis Zamperini, who was a distance runner on the United States Olympic team of 1936.  But that’s not the aspect of his life that the film focuses on.  Zamperini also served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the Second World War as a bombardier.  Well on May 27, 1943, his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, where he spent the next 47 days on a life raft desperately trying to stay alive.  He was finally rescued.  Unfortunately it was by the Japanese, who promptly sent him to a prison camp until the end of the war in 1945.  There he was beaten and tortured mercilessly, especially by one particular guard, nicknamed “the Bird,” who eventually made it onto General Douglas MacArthur’s list of the 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan.

The film focuses on Zamperini’s experience on the ocean for 47 days, and then in the prison camp—and it ends with him being freed and coming home at the end of the war.

It’s a good movie—as far as it goes.   But it definitely doesn’t go far enough.  Just before the credits roll at the end of the film a brief epilogue is posted, and in that epilogue it says that Louis Zamperini forgave those who had treated him so horribly during the war, and that he followed through on the promise he made to God when he was floating on that raft in the Pacific: “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.”

But the viewer is left wondering: How exactly did he do that?  Not only, ‘How did he serve God?’ but also, ‘How did he deal with his anger and with the other negative emotions he must have experienced after all those months in captivity?’  These people treated him like an animal!  It couldn’t have been easy for Louis to forgive them.  It had to be an incredible struggle.

The film unfortunately doesn’t address any of that—and that’s sad. 

A much clearer picture of the struggle to forgive comes through in a book I mentioned in a homily I gave a couple of weeks ago—“The Price to Pay”—which tells the inspiring story of Joseph Fadelle, a man who converted from Islam to Catholicism in Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

During the Saddam years it was against the law in Iraq for a Muslim to become a Christian.  In fact, it was not only against the law; it was also a crime punishable by death!  And so Joseph was forced to give up his inheritance (which was pretty extensive), as well as his family and his homeland in order to become a Catholic.

Oh yes, and did I mention that his brothers and uncle shot him and had him beaten and tortured when they found out that he intended to convert?

Eventually Joseph, along with his wife and two children, escaped from Iraq and found their way into Jordan.  From there they went to France, where they now live.

Which is where the book ends—but not before Joseph makes a very honest admission.  He admits that at the time he wrote the book he still had a lot of work to do in the area of forgiveness.

Listen to what he said:

“It will take time, a lot of time, for me to forgive my family for all that they made me suffer: prison, torture, lack of money. … my family is indeed the cause of all my troubles.  And that is the hardest thing for me to accept.

"I fight every day, though, against that bitterness, knowing very well that it is not Christian.  Of all the battles that I have fought until now, this will certainly be the most difficult.  I have asked friends and priests whom I have met to pray for me, that I may truly find the will to forgive.”

One biblical figure who would find it extremely easy to understand the plights of Joseph Fedelle and Louis Zamperini is the man we heard about in today’s first reading: the prophet Jonah.  In that reading we have a very brief excerpt from his story.  Your assignment for the week, by the way, is to open your Bible sometime during the next 7 days and read the rest of the story, the rest of the Book of Jonah.  Read it from beginning to end.

“But, Fr. Ray, I don’t have time to do that.”

Oh yes, you do!  The Book of Jonah is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible!  It’s less than 3 pages long in most versions of Sacred Scripture—and that includes the introduction!

So don’t tell me you don’t have time.

The verses we heard this morning occur in the middle of the book.  Here the Lord commands Jonah to go to the city Nineveh and preach a message of repentance.  And Jonah goes—which he did NOT do at the beginning of the book when God called him the first time!  In fact, after the initial call he received, Jonah got on the very first ship that he could find that was headed in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION, away from Nineveh!

Why, you ask?

Because Jonah hated the Ninevites, that’s why!  Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, which, at the time, was Israel’s arch-enemy.  Jonah knew the Lord was not only just; he knew the Lord was also forgiving and merciful.  And he had a sneaking suspicion that if he went to the Ninevites and told them to repent—and they actually did repent—then God would not allow their city to be destroyed.

But Jonah wanted the place destroyed!  He wanted to see the city of Nineveh go up in flames!  He wanted to see it “fry” like Sodom and Gomorrah had many years earlier!

So he ran away (actually, he sailed away—on a ship that was headed west toward Tarshish).

God said, “Not so fast, Jonah!” and he threw the ship into a terrible storm.  Jonah was tossed overboard in the middle of it and swallowed by a gigantic fish (which is sometimes referred to as a whale).

After spending 3 days and 3 nights inside this whale’s belly, God commanded the creature to spew Jonah up onto the shore—which is where today’s first reading picks up the story.

The Lord said, “Ok Jonah, let’s try this one more time.  Go to the people of Nineveh and tell them that unless they repent within 40 days their entire city will be destroyed.”

Now, to his credit, Jonah did learn his lesson.  He learned that it was probably not a good idea to defy God a second time!  So, as we heard a few moments ago, he went to Nineveh—albeit begrudgingly—and he delivered the message the Lord told him to deliver.

And, almost immediately, the whole place repented—which, of course, was precisely what Jonah did NOT want to happen!

At that point, Jonah had a choice to make: forgive and find peace, or persist in unforgiveness and be miserable.  He, unfortunately, chose the latter.

He whined; he pouted; he sulked; he told God that he had a “right” to be angry (I’m not sure where that right came from, but Jonah insisted that he had it).

It got so bad that he eventually prayed for death!  He said, “I can’t deal with this anymore, Lord, so please take my life.”

That’s what unforgiveness can do to a person.

Hopefully Jonah eventually had a change of heart and made the effort to forgive—as difficult as that would have been for him to do.

Yes, forgiveness—real forgiveness—is hard.

It’s hard, BUT IT’S NOT IMPOSSIBLE!—as people like Louis Zamperini have demonstrated to the world.

If you need some help in this regard, you might want to check out the “Forgiveness Steps” insert that I’ve put in the bulletin this week.

Some of you have seen these before.

These are 5 simple steps you can use when you pray (or at any other time) that can help you let go of anger and bitterness and all those negative emotions and attitudes that can destroy us from the inside out.

Use those steps.  I do all the time.  They are very helpful.

I’ll close my homily with something Louis Zamperini wrote in one of his books.  It seems fitting that I should give him the last word today.  He said, “I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive.  Hate is self-destructive.  If you hate somebody, you're not hurting the person you hate, you're hurting yourself.  It's a healing, actually, it's a real healing … forgiveness.”

Very, very wise words—spoken by a man who definitely knew what he was talking about.

And if you don’t believe me, go and see that movie, “Unbroken.”


Sunday, January 18, 2015

“I am a Catholic, but …” or “But, I’m a Catholic ...”

Governor Mario Cuomo


(Second Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on January 18, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read John 1: 35-42.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday of the Year]


John the Apostle never forgot where he was when he first encountered Jesus Christ.  He also remembered what he was doing, whom he was with—and even what time of the day it was (4 o’clock in the afternoon).

Obviously, it was an encounter that made a very powerful—and lasting—impression on him!

Today’s gospel reading tells the story.  John the Baptist is standing with two of his disciples near the Jordan River.  One of those disciples is specifically identified as Simon Peter’s brother Andrew, but the other disciple is not identified.  This has led many scholars and saints to theorize that this other disciple was St. John himself, since John is never mentioned by name in his gospel.  He’s either referred to as “the beloved disciple” or “the other disciple” or “the disciple Jesus loved.”

And so St. John could easily have divided his life into two parts: the first part would have included everything that happened BEFORE this encounter with Jesus near the Jordan River; the second would have included this meeting with our Lord and everything that happened AFTERWARD—until the day John died.

When Jesus comes into your life, my brothers and sisters, he changes EVERYTHING!  That’s my point here.  He changes the way you think; he changes the way you act; he changes how you look at life; he changes how you relate to other people; he changes how you deal with your problems; he even changes how you deal with your enemies! 

John the son of Zebedee’s life was never, ever the same after Jesus Christ entered it.  Neither was Andrew’s—or Simon’s.  In fact, as a sign of just how different Simon’s life would be from then on, Jesus gave the man a brand new name.  On the day he met him!  Our Lord said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas”—which, the gospel writer tells us, is translated Peter.

Given the powerful and overwhelming impact that Jesus had on these Apostles, can you imagine any one of them (with the exception of Judas) ever taking a public stand against something that Jesus taught?  After the Sermon on the Mount, for example, can you imagine Peter or James or Thomas saying to other people, “Well, that was a really great talk—except for the part about loving your enemies.  Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus, but I just can’t agree with that part of his message.”? 

Or after the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, can you imagine one of the Apostles saying what some of Jesus’ less-committed disciples were saying: “This sort of talk is hard to endure!  How can anyone take it seriously?”?

I can’t imagine those things happening, my brothers and sisters, because these men had allowed Jesus to touch their lives to such an extent that they trusted his words totally—even when they didn’t fully understand them.

Oh how things have changed in the last 2,000 years!

Now it’s become a sign of intelligence and open-mindedness and compassion for people to say things like, “Oh yes, I’m a Catholic; oh yes, I’m a Christian; oh yes, I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, but I disagree with this-or-that teaching of Jesus that comes to me through his Church.”

That’s a line which often used about abortion and a host of other contemporary moral issues.

Speaking of abortion, this coming week we once again observe the sad and tragic anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973, which effectively legalized the practice in our country.  Now this point we need to be clear about something: abortion is not a religious issue!  As one author recently put it, “the humanity of the unborn is a matter of embryology, not faith.”  But because the Catholic Church believes that all innocent human life is to be respected and protected, she has a very definite and clear position on this issue—as do other pro-lifers (some of whom, incidentally, are atheists!).

No, you don’t even have to believe in God to be pro-life.  You just have to know basic biology and be intellectually honest.

But the sad reality is that for the last 42 years many Catholics—and especially many Catholics in public life—have denied the basic truths of biology and have been intellectually dishonest on this issue.  And one of the people who contributed in a big way to this problem was the former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, who passed away earlier this month. 

Governor Cuomo made it “cool” and fashionable—as well as politically advantageous—for a politician to say, “I am a Catholic, but …”

Remember the speech he gave at the University of Notre Dame back in 1984?  (Some of us are old enough to remember that.)  It was entitled, “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective.”  In it, Cuomo said that he personally believed that the life of a pre-born child should be protected “even if five of nine Justices of the Supreme Court disagree with me,” but then he made it clear that he wouldn’t try to do anything to make abortion illegal again because to do so would mean that he was imposing his own Catholic beliefs on others.

His argument was illogical, but a lot of people bought it.  In fact, many are still buying it—and not just on the abortion issue!

Think, for example, of the big controversy in our state two years ago over so-called “gay marriage”.  By their votes in the state legislature Senator Algiere and many other Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle each said, in effect, “I am a Catholic, but …”—“I am a Catholic, but I don’t accept the truth about marriage that’s been recognized in every culture for centuries, and which my Church upholds”; “I am a Catholic, but I won’t impose my personal view of marriage on anyone else in the state of Rhode Island.”

Once again, the logic is faulty; but, once again, many people bought it.

The difference between the Apostles of Jesus in today’s gospel and many modern-day followers of our Lord is to be found in where they put the “but” in the sentence.  That’s so important!  As I just made clear, many modern-day followers of Jesus put the “but” at the end of the sentence (or the phrase)—and that’s where they make their mistake.  They say, “I am a Catholic, but …”; “I am a Christian, but …”; “I am a follower of Jesus, but …”

The Apostles, on the other hand, put the “but” at the beginning of the sentence.  As I said earlier in my homily, once they met Jesus, everything in their lives changed.  And so if anyone had tried to convince them afterward that abortion was okay, or that some other sin was okay, their response would have been, “But, I’m a Christian …”; “But, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ …”; “But, I’m a disciple of the King of kings and the Lord of lords—and so I don’t condone sin of any kind (including my own!).”

“I am a Catholic, but …” or “But, I’m a Catholic ...”

 Which of those do you say? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Yes, Carrie, there IS something ‘in the water’!

Carrie Underwood


(Baptism of the Lord (B): This homily was given on January 11, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 1 John 5: 1-9; Mark 1: 7-11.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Baptism of the Lord 2015]



A couple of weeks ago a parishioner sent me the following email, which included a YouTube link:

Fr. Ray,
I’m not sure if you’ve heard this new song by Carrie Underwood—“Something In The Water.”  If not, take a listen; it’s pretty good.

So I did.  And he was right; it was pretty good.
In fact, I’d go so far as to call it “very good.”
Here are some of the words:

He said, “I’ve been where you’ve been before.
Down every hallway’s a slamming door.”
No way out, no one to come and save me
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me
Then somebody said what I’m saying to you
Opened my eyes and told me the truth.
They said, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better.”
So I followed that preacher man down to the river
And now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger
There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water
Well, I heard what he said and I went on my way
Didn’t think about it for a couple of days
Then it hit me like a lightening late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight
Couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, “God, if you’re there come and rescue me.”
Felt love pouring down from above
Got washed in the water, washed in the blood
And now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger

It’s not often that a Christian song gets favorable reviews from Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines, but I’m happy to say that this one did.  According to what I read on one web site, Rolling Stone praised the song, calling it a “spiritual heartstring-tugger,” and Billboard gave it four out of five stars stating: “Carrie Underwood offers a message of faith in times of trouble.”

Actually, this positive reaction from non-religious sources really doesn’t surprise me in the least, because I think that the sacrament of Baptism (which, of course, is what this song is all about), responds to some very basic human needs that all of us have (including the people at Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines!).    Some of those needs are explicitly mentioned in the song itself, others are implied: the need to change our lives for the better and be forgiven for the things we’ve done wrong; the need to deal with the wound that we all sense we have at the very core of our being; the need to be strong in the face of the temptations and trials of life; the need to do good and avoid evil; the need to have a relationship with the One who made us; the need to know that we’re loved; the need to know that we matter.

Baptism responds to these needs because, as Carrie Underwood indicates in her song, there is something “in the water” (so to speak).  And that “something” is sanctifying grace. 

Sanctifying grace is the grace of justification; it’s the grace that makes us pleasing to God; it’s the grace that makes us God’s adopted children; it’s the grace that makes us members of God’s family, the Church—and ultimately heirs to the kingdom of Heaven!

In other words, it’s the grace that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, died on that cross and rose from the dead to give us.

Yes, Carrie, there is definitely something—something very special and very powerful—in the water!

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.”  (CCC, 1266)

Now, since most of us were baptized as infants, we tend to take all of this for granted, don’t we?  I know I often do.

I was reminded of that this past week as I was reading the story of Joseph Fadelle, a man who converted from Islam to Catholicism in Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
 
This was a man who gave up his inheritance (which was pretty extensive), and his family, and his security—and who was shot and almost killed by his own uncle and brothers—BECAUSE HE WANTED TO BE BAPTIZED!  He longed for the sacrament of Baptism like a starving person longs for food.  And he was ready to pay whatever personal price he needed to pay to receive it.

He definitely understood that there was something very, very special in that sacramental water!

But it took him years—literally!—to attain his goal, because at the time it was against the law in Iraq for a Muslim to become a Christian.  In fact, it was not only against the law; it was also a crime punishable by death!  And so, even when Joseph went to Catholic churches he was turned away.  The priests were afraid he was a spy, and that if they baptized him he would very quickly betray them and turn them in to the police.

Oh, the things we take for granted in these United States (like being able to book baptisms at our local parishes!)—although, we’d better be careful because there are many in our country right now who would love to outlaw Christianity if they had the chance.

That’s one of the reasons we pray so often for religious freedom in our prayers of the faithful at Sunday Masses.

Now you might say, “Fr. Ray, today is the feast of the baptism of Jesus.  What exactly does all this have to do with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River 2,000 years ago by John the Baptist?  Jesus wasn’t a weak sinner like we are.”

True.  But there is a very definite connection between his baptism and ours.  From one standpoint, at least, you could say that his made ours possible!  Here’s how one Catholic theologian put it: “Jesus does not enter the water [of the Jordan] to be sanctified [like everyone else].  No, the Holy One enters the water to sanctify.  He empowers the water to become no longer just an outward sign, but a vehicle of the Holy Spirit bringing inner cleansing, rebirth, and transformation.  Here Jesus institutes the sacrament of Christian baptism, something essentially different and greater than the baptism of John, which foreshadowed it.”  (Marcellino D’Ambrosio, “Jesus Sanctifies the Water of Baptism,” January 9, 2013)

Living as a follower of Jesus Christ, my brothers and sisters, means being faithful to the grace of this great sacrament.  Many Christians, as we all know, don’t understand that—and so they treat Baptism like it’s nothing more than a ceremony of initiation into a club (as well as a really good excuse to get together with family and friends for a big party!).

No wonder they don’t experience any power or joy in their Catholic faith!

These people obviously need to sit down for a little Catechism lesson—with Carrie Underwood!  And the good news is they don’t even have to leave their homes to take the class.  All they need to do is go to YouTube, like I did, and listen to this song—and I mean REALLY listen to it!—especially the last verse (which I didn’t read to you earlier, but which I will read to you now to close my homily).

May Carrie’s words inspire us to a deeper faith in the power of Baptism, and in its ability to change and transform our lives for the better:

And now I’m singing along to Amazing Grace
Can’t nobody wipe this smile off my face
Got joy in my heart, angels on my side
Thank God almighty, I saw the light
Gonna look ahead, no turning back
Live every day, give it all that I have
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed
I am changed
And now I’m stronger
There must be something in the water


[If you'd like to see the music video of the song, click here: Something in the Water]

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Why the World Needs Mary Now More Than Ever



(Mary, the Mother of God, 2015: This homily was given on January 1, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Galatians 4: 4-7; Luke 2: 16-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God 2015]



The world always needs Mary.  It needs her example; it needs her holiness; and it needs her powerful prayers.

But the world needs Mary today more than ever!  It needs our Blessed Mother now more than at any other time in the past.

At least that’s how I see it.

That’s the thought I want to focus on in my homily today, as we begin the new calendar year of 2015.

FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED MARY BECAUSE SHE REMINDS US THAT WE ARE ALL MEMBERS OF THE SAME RACE: THE HUMAN RACE!  We heard in our second reading from Galatians 4 that when the fullness of time had come God sent his Son, born of Mary, to die for us “so that we might receive adoption.”

The “we” in that text means “everybody”—without exception!  The “we”, in other words, includes both the people we like and people we don’t like; it includes those little, microscopic people in the womb as well as those old, sick people in the nursing home on the verge of death; it includes people of our ethnic and racial groups and people of every other ethnic and racial group.

Simply put, it includes everyone from natural conception to natural death.

This is something we seem to be forgetting more and more these days.  Think of all the racial violence and anti-police violence in our country in recent months; think of the ongoing terrorism problem in the world, and the persecution that many people (especially many Christians) are experiencing all over the planet.

Mary, we need you—the new Eve—to remind us that we share a common humanity.  Your Son died and rose so that we ALL might become adopted sons and daughters of God.  When Jesus said those words to you on Good Friday, “Woman, behold your son,” St. John was the one standing there, but St. John stood there REPRESENTING ALL OF US.  He stood there representing every human person.

WE ALSO NEED MARY NOW MORE THAN EVER, BECAUSE SHE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A KIND OF “BRIDGE” BETWEEN THE THREE MAJOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS IN THE WORLD: CHRISTIANS, JEWS AND MOSLEMS.  (I spoke about this in a homily a few years ago.)

Mary’s importance in Christianity is a given.  No need dwell on that.  But she also has the potential to appeal to our Jewish brothers and sisters, given the fact that she was Jewish herself—and the greatest human person who ever lived!  (Jesus, remember, was a divine Person so he’s in a different category.) 

And she is already revered in Islam!  She’s the only woman mentioned in the Koran, and she’s mentioned over thirty times!  The founder of Islam, Mohammad, believed that his daughter, Fatima, had the highest place in heaven—after the Virgin Mary!

Many people are not aware of those things.

WE ALSO NEED MARY BECAUSE SHE SHOWS US THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.  We have no record of Mary ever saying a hateful word to anyone, or engaging in a spiteful or vengeful action toward anyone—even the people who murdered her only child.

And we know for a fact that she never did those things because she was sinless.

We will never be perfect like Mary, that’s true—but we can all improve in our ability to love: in our ability to love our friends as well as our enemies.

WE ALSO NEED MARY BECAUSE SHE SHOWS US HOW TO FACE SUFFERING: WITH FAITH AND WITH TRUST IN GOD.  She gave us that lesson as she stood silently at the foot of her Son’s cross with St. John.

WE NEED MARY IN A REALLY BIG WAY BECAUSE SHE SHOWS US THAT PURITY IS POSSIBLE IN A SEX-OBSESSED CULTURE.  Lest we forget, the pagan Roman Empire was not exactly “Romper Room”!  It was decadent and materialistic and hedonistic.  In other words, it was just like our society—minus the internet, TV and modern media, of course!

And yet Mary lived with a pure mind, and heart—and body—in the midst of it all.

Mary, our world today desperately needs your prayers and example in this area of life.

AND SPEAKING OF PRAYERS, WE ALSO NEED MARY BECAUSE SHE REMINDS US OF THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER AND REFLECTION.  It says in today’s gospel reading that, after the shepherds left the manger in Bethlehem, Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  St. Luke says something similar about the Blessed Mother after the finding of Jesus in the temple when our Lord was 12-years-old.

This means that Mary was constantly taking the events of her life to prayer: reflecting on what God was doing in those events; reflecting on what God was saying to her in those events; reflecting on what God wanted her to do in response to those events.

In the midst of our noisy and very busy lives we need to do the same thing.  Speaking of such matters, when was the last time you made a Holy Hour, or simply put everything aside for at least 15 minutes to focus totally and completely—and quietly—on God?

Which brings me to the final reason I’ll mention as to why the world needs Mary now more than ever (and from one perspective at least this is the most important reason of all): SHE POINTS US TO JESUS AND TELLS US TO OBEY JESUS! 

Mary does not focus attention on herself (she never has and she never will).  Mary is not self-absorbed.  If she were a modern-day politician, she would definitely not be obsessed with her “legacy”—as so many of our public figures are.

Her one concern would be what it always has been: that we do the perfect and holy will of God in our lives!  Mary says to us and to every human person today what she said to the stewards at Cana 2,000 years ago: “Do whatever HE tells you.”

“Do whatever he—my son, Jesus—tells you to do.”

If we want to help to change the world for the better, my brothers and sisters, one of the best things we can do is to bring Mary into our lives (or more fully into our lives): asking for her intercession every day, and allowing her example to inspire us and guide us (especially in the ways I just mentioned in this homily).

And so in conclusion I ask you to make a New Year’s resolution: to bring our Blessed Mother into your life by praying the Rosary each and every day of 2015.  And if you can’t commit yourself to a full 5 decade Rosary, at least commit yourself to 1 decade: an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory be.

In fact, why don’t we do that together now to end this homily?  One decade—together—to get everyone off to a good start …