Buses to 2018 March for Life

This is from the latest issue of Parable magazine, published by the Diocese of Manchester (N.H.). The next March for Life in Washington is five months away, and it’s already time to make plans if you want to get there via bus.

I have no more information than what’s provided here. One note: the 2018 March will be on Friday, January 19. 

September 15, March for Life pre-registrations due:  Every year hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Manchester attend the Annual March for Life in Washington, DC. This year there will be a pre-registration deadline of September 15th requiring a 50% deposit to reserve your spot. This pre-registration guarantees last year’s cost of: $141 (Quad), $150 (Triple), $169 (Double). This price includes: bus, hotel, lunch on the ride down, metro ticket and t-shirt. After pre-registration the price will go up by $10 per person. The second deadline for all registrations is November 15. For more information, contact Valerie Lynn Somers at valerie_lynn_somers@comcast.net or 978.660.9777.


Advent – hold the Christmas carols

It’s Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, penitential and contemplative in tone as befits preparation for a great feast. It’s a blessed relief from any number of things. I enter it this year sick at heart due to some recent events, ready for a time of prayer and quiet and humility and renewal.

Keep that elf doll away from me. Throw a curtain around that poinsettia display for a few more weeks. And in regretful (some will say regrettable) defiance of my bishop’s directive, I am fleeing my parish church for the duration in order to avoid Christmas carols at every Advent Sunday Mass.

Yes, carols. He used the plural and I assume that means more than one. It’s not as though Bishop Libasci is ordering the choirs to sing “Holly Jolly Christmas.” Nevertheless, I am not on board. I need Advent for the next not-quite-four weeks, not Christmas Lite. Carols at the kids’ concerts or at the store are one thing. Carols during an Advent liturgy are another.

The Mass is the Mass, and my feelings about the music are irrelevant to that. (We liturgical music critics can be insufferable.) My reaction to the bishop’s directive, though, isn’t a matter of mere distaste. I fear we’re diluting Advent and thereby losing something important.

I’ve worked retail, and I remember how we depended on November and December sales. Santa-shaped chocolates on the shelf and “The Little Drummer Boy” on the speakers put people into the shopping mood, so by golly we had the Santa chocolates on display and the music playing by Thanksgiving. We worked long hours. Our paychecks and material support for our families depended on that.

Wanna know what Christmas Eve is like for a retail worker after the store closes? There’s a lot of sleep involved – unless there are kids to be settled. Mass the next day, in all its glory and joy and beauty, is something to be gotten through.

I learned in those days to treasure and crave Advent. My attention to the Advent liturgies was renewed and sharpened. I hadn’t realized how much I had always taken the season for granted. The Old Testament prophecies, the old plainsong chant we now know as O Come O Come Emmanuel (however far from plainsong it’s been dragged by contemporary arrangements), John the Baptist’s blunt call to repentance: all became balm to my spirit when I realized I had to seek out and intentionally participate in Advent rather than just let it happen somewhere in the background. The beauty of the Incarnation, contra my bishop’s concern as expressed in his directive, wasn’t dulled by such preparation. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I mean no disrespect to Bishop Libasci, who has gone out on a limb as a Catholic leader in this very secular state of ours to advocate for refugees and defend religious liberty. The other aspects of his directive make sense to me, especially in view of the coming formal opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Christmas carols during Advent liturgies, though, affect me like physical blows. I’ve heard them before, albeit by the choice of music ministers rather than directives from the Diocese. However scriptural the lyrics, they don’t fit Advent any more than Easter songs would fit into Lent.  The carols’ ill timing evokes for me the malls and commercials and movies that hijack them before Thanksgiving.

I guess I’ll be crossing the state line for a few Sundays, although it’ll be odd not to be amid familiar faces. What’s going on at the altar will be familiar enough.

Congratulations to Dr. Varasteh

Noted with pleasure: Concord physician Nicole Varasteh, M.D. has received well-deserved recognition. Here’s an excerpt from a Diocese of Manchester press release, following the annual Summer Reception for the Bishop’s Annual Charitable Fund.

Nicole Varasteh, M.D.  E. Kolb photo.
Nicole Varasteh, M.D.
E. Kolb photo.

A highlight of the Summer Reception came when Bishop Libasci presented the inaugural Vita et Caritas Award to Dr. Nicole Varasteh of Concord. The award, given in memory of the late Ruthie Ford, recognizes a volunteer who demonstrates exceptional service to a non-profit organization assisting women, children and families. Dr. Varasteh is the Volunteer Medical Director of the CareNet Pregnancy Center of Greater Concord and the CareNet Pregnancy Center of Manchester and Nashua. She is an OB/GYN physician, and is also the mother of five children. On her nomination form one person wrote, “Her faith and commitment to life are evidenced in all that she does. Her belief that each life is created in the image of God drives her to do all that she can to protect life and to treat each individual with dignity and respect.”

Learn more about Care Net in Manchester and Nashua at carenetnh.org. Learn more about the Bishop’s Annual Charitable Fund, including how to apply for grants, at http://www.catholicnh.org/about/giving/bcaf/ .


Bishop Libasci opens “Fortnight for Freedom” in NH

“Fighting for freedom includes standing for the freedom to stand before God in clear conscience.”

Bishop Joseph Libasci sees a storm coming as religious liberty is challenged in today’s America. In his homily in Manchester, New Hampshire at a Mass dedicated to 2013’s Fortnight for Freedom, he declared “the winds have begun to blow, and they are coming with gale force.”

  • The Mandate. “The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and/or fund a product contrary to our own moral teaching. Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are religious enough.”
  • Threats to Catholic foster care and adoption services. “Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, the State of Illinois, have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services by revoking their licenses, ending their government contracts, or both, because those charities refuse to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. [This] cut[s] down the tree of civility, and indeed cut[s] down the tree that is the healthy, good, life-giving, charitable alternative to abortion.”
  • Threats to State immigration laws. “Several states have recently passed laws that prohibit what they deem as harboring of undocumented immigrants and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care for these immigrants. And I know it’s a hot topic. …The fact of the matter is when the winds blow strong enough that we become refugees – and don’t think it can’t happen — …could we find ourselves in great need? ‘Blessed are the merciful; they shall obtain mercy.'”
  • Barring use of public facilities by people of faith. “New York City adopted a policy that bars the Bronx Household of Faith, a small community, and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses. This is still in the courts, still eating up the little money they have.”
  • Threats to programs aiding victims of human trafficking. “After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services, administering contract services for victims of  human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require migration and refugee services to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services, in violation of Catholic teaching.”

Bishop Libasci repeatedly used a metaphor from the 1966 film A Man for All Seasonsabout St. Thomas More, onetime Chancellor of England, martyred for his faith. In the film, More addressed a young protege who expressed impatience with the law. As recalled in the Bishop’s homily, More counseled caution. “If you cut down all the laws, it’s like the trees in a forest. You begin to cut them down until you cut them all down, and when the winds begin to blow, where will you run then for shelter?”

Back to the Bishop’s own words: “We should not be allowing others to cut down the trees, and God forbid we help cut them down. Instead, we should be planting trees. The tree of life. The tree of salvation. The tree from which hung the Savior of the world.”

“We can and we do lobby for just laws, and for the overturning of those laws, the repeal of those laws, that are unjust. But whenever it is unsuccessful, we are called to make those laws obsolete. … We’re probably not allowed to do something about tying up our horses outside on Lowell Street. There must be some law somewhere. But it’s useless. Such must be the unjust law. That we have grown beyond such things… because we live in such a time where adherence to God’s law has turned us away from discrimination, murder, inordinate living, disordered belief, and the shame of a people who no longer value the true dignity of human life. Let us grow beyond, so that where Jesus said I have come to set one against the other, in that balance of justice, the justice and the mercy of God will cause the others to float off into space.”

I looked around the Cathedral as the Bishop spoke. I saw no cameras or press. Perhaps a hundred people were there.   In a secular environment, I’d have said that the man needs an agent. This was a church, though; a community of faith was present. Everyone there is the “agent,” so to speak, charged with getting out the message. In how many other  churches will the same message be delivered in the coming days? From there, who knows where it could go? Small beginnings, perhaps, but with great potential and great hope.