Fourth Sunday of Lent


Dear Friends,

Welcome back to Msgr. Brennan who had gone to Ireland when he got the sad news of his sister’s passing away. He is grateful to our community for remembering Brigid during our Prayers of Intercession at all our weekend Masses and for the loving support we offered him.

We know that the feast of St. Joseph is on March 19 [today]; but this year it is postponed to March 20 [tomorrow], because it is falling on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. As I discussed last week in this column, some traditions are changeable with the changing situations. Thus the doctrine on St. Joseph and the honor we give him with a Solemn Feast can be seen as Primary Traditions that will not be changed; but the date to celebrate this Solemn Feast can be considered as Secondary tradition and so can be changed if a need arises as it happened this year.

This reminds me to share with you another question that we priests are asked often: What to do with old and unusable sacred items? Many people have holy objects like broken rosaries, holy cards, statues, pictures of Jesus and saints, etc., remaining in a clutter box in many houses, in a state of permanent limbo as people don’t know how to dispose of these items. Some do have an attachment to these sacred objects, even if they are broken or unused. But many, in my understanding, hold on to broken or unused holy items due to unspoken guilt. A fear that something can happen if they simply discard these sacred items.  People fear that something can go wrong if they fail to handle these religious items properly.

The Church does provide guidance on this. The rule of thumb for the disposition of these items is that anything that has been blessed should be burned or simply buried. Now, If you’re reading this and feel anxious about the palms, rosaries, and prayer cards you’ve thrown away over the years, there’s no need to lose sleep over it.

One important thing we need to understand is this: all sacred objects are means to an end. They are tools for our spiritual growth. If the water flow in our faucet is faulty, we call the plumber who will replace the parts or the pipe. The old parts and pipes will be discarded. God uses created things as channels of grace. That means grace is coming to us through these channels from Jesus Christ who is the source of our life-giving water, as he told the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:11). Therefore, if these channels or tools are no more usable, they need to be discarded.

I liked this explanation from the Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin: “It is not a sin to throw away blessed items, but out of proper respect, one should dispose of them in this way. If devotionals have not been blessed, such as some of the holy cards and such that come through the mail, those are simply pictures and can be thrown away. If you feel uncomfortable throwing them away, you can burn or bury them as well.”

Jesus said: “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). May we all seek the truth and experience true freedom in Jesus Christ. His truth will bring us true joy. And, today is “Laetare Sunday” when the Church is inviting us to be joyful in anticipation of the approaching celebration of Easter.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Third Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

This coming Friday is the feast of St. Patrick, “when everyone is Irish,” celebrating the saint who plucked a shamrock from the ground and used it, with its three leaves in one plant, to explain the Mystery of the Trinity – three Persons in one God.

Interestingly, this year, this feast falls on a Friday in Lent! So what about the corn beef dinner without which St. Patrick’s Day is incomplete? Don’t worry, our Bishop has already announced the dispensation so you may enjoy corned beef (or other meat) that day and abstain from meat on another day that same week. That brings us to an important discussion about the meaning of Tradition. When Catholic Church gives so much importance to Tradition, can we easily change the hallowed tradition of abstaining from meat on a Friday of Lent, or any other tradition?

It depends on your understanding of tradition. All traditions are not of equal value. We need to distinguish between Primary Traditions (with a capital T) and Secondary traditions (with a small case t). Primary Traditions are those fundamental beliefs and practices that constitute who we are as Catholics. Some examples are belief in the Holy Trinity, Pope as the Vicar of Christ, Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Immaculate Conception, etc. These are non-negotiable. While examples of Secondary traditions are days of fasting and abstinence, Holy Days of Obligation, devotions like rosary, novena, etc. These can be changed or suspended as per the decision of the conference of Bishops. So the dispensation given for the feast of St. Patrick’s day when it falls on a Friday in Lent is precisely because it is a secondary tradition.

It is also good to point out that the feast of St. Joseph on March 19th  (which is a higher ranking feast in the Liturgical calendar in comparison to
St. Patrick’s) is moved to March 20th this year. Why? When it falls on a Sunday, the priority is given to the feast of our Lord (which every Sunday is) and so the feast of St. Joseph is celebrated a day later.

This is a big Feast for Italians because in the Middle Ages, God, through St. Joseph’s intercession, 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. In many parishes with large Italian population, a big altar (“la tavola di San Giuse” or “St. Joseph’s Table”) is laden with food that people bring to be blessed by the priest on the feast day and to have a big feast day meal. I myself have blessed baskets of food that Italian families bring in every parish I have served.

These celebrations do not take away the penitential spirit of Lent. The sacrifices we make, the extra devotions we practice are all meant to bring us to a joyful connection to the Lord. In the Lenten Preface of the Mass we hear: “Each year You give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.” In fact, next Sunday is called ‘Laetare Sunday’ because we focus on Christian joy in the Mass.
Let us continue and complete this joyful season of Lent!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Second Sunday of Lent


Dear Friends,

On March 27, 2020, at an early point in the global pandemic, Pope Francis walked alone in the rain across an empty St. Peter’s Square to offer prayer for the world in a time of crisis. “Faith,” he said, “begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars.” Recalling when Jesus was asleep in the boat as a tempest was raging (Mark 4:35-41), the Holy Father said, “The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith.” On that day, Pope Francis presided over the rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction in order to focus our attention on the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope was reminding us that even in a time of turbulence and crisis, Jesus is present among us, as present as he was long ago in the boat on the Sea of Galilee.

This presence of Jesus, the Real Presence, that we experience in a very tangible way is when we all gather for the Eucharist daily but especially on Sundays. I am sure you heard that the US Catholic Bishops have called for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which aims to renew devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, This initiative has three phases: the national phase, the diocesan phase and the parish phase. At the moment we are in the diocesan phase which will come to an end with the Corpus Christi Sunday on June 11, 2023 when the parish phase will begin. This Revival will culminate with a National Eucharistic Congress, in Indianapolis, July 17-21, 2024. The year after that is the ‘Year of going out on Mission.’ Having enkindled a missionary fire in the hearts of the American faithful, the Holy Spirit will send us out on mission to share the gift of our Eucharistic Lord as we enter the universal Church’s jubilee year in 2025. The Bishops have written a beautiful document titled “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” which is worth reading and studying.

Our Diocese of Metuchen has suggested that we form a parish committee to make the parish phase more participatory and beneficial. I wish to invite individuals who wish to be part of this committee to contact me or Msgr. Brennan. No qualifications necessary. Just a desire to deepen our faith in the Eucharist and an interest to promote the Eucharistic understanding and implications to our parish community. There will be guidance from us as well as from our Diocesan Office.

There are already many resources that all of us can easily access:

Start reading the USCCB’s article:

Have a look at the free study guide at: Also you can watch a free two-hour online course, presented by Bishop Andrew Cozzens, on the Bishops’ document on the Eucharist.

This is a chance for our whole parish to take a fresh look at our Holy Eucharist which the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324-1327) describes as “the source and summit” of the Christian life. We will certainly gain new appreciation and insights into what we celebrate and who we receive in Holy Communion, Jesus Christ, the Lord of our life.


Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal


First Sunday of Lent


Dear Friends,

It was great to see so many of our people making an extra effort to begin Lent with the symbol of ashes, reminding us all to “turn away from sin and believe in the gospel.” Besides the distribution of the ashes at the different Masses and the Prayer Service, our unique practice of the “Drive-thru” ministry of ashes also attracted a lot of people who, due to their own particular situation, would not have got the ashes and the message in the little card we gave them. I am grateful to the many volunteers and parish staff who made the drive-thru ministry a success. This is a sign of goodwill from the Church to reach out to those who cannot come to church or those alienated from the church for whatever reason.

As I was reflecting on the different ways of living Lent, I was fascinated by this “If-we-were” reflection a friend sent me:

If we were:
knives, Lent would be a time to sharpen our cutting edges.
cars, Lent would be a time for an oil change and a tune-up.
swimming pools, Lent would be a time to filter the dirt out of our water.
gardens, Lent would be a time to fertilize our soil and dig out our weeds.
carpets, Lent would be a time to get power-cleaned.
VCRs, Lent would be a time to clean our heads and adjust our tracking.
computers, Lent would be a time to overhaul our disk drive.
highways, Lent would be a time to repair our cracks and fill our potholes.
TV sets, Lent would be a time to adjust our focus and our fine-tuning.
silverware, Lent would be a time to clean away our tarnish.
batteries, Lent would be a time to be recharged.
seeds, Lent would be a time to germinate and reach for the sun.

But the truth of the matter is that we are none of these things. We are people who sometimes do wrong things, and we need to atone for them. Sometimes we get spiritually lazy – we need to get back into shape; sometimes we become selfish – we need to stretch out of our narrowness and begin giving again; sometimes we lose sight of our purpose on earth and the immense promise within us – we need to regain our vision. And because we are also people who sometimes tend to put those things off, we need a special official time to concentrate on doing them. So we have Lent.

I hope we all have chosen some particular way or ways to spend these 40 days. If not, “Now is the acceptable time,” as St. Paul reminds us (2 Corinthians 6:2). Our small faith-sharing groups have already begun to meet weekly. Anyone is still welcome to drop in and see what it is all about! The Stations of the Cross at 7 pm every Friday of Lent is a devotion worth attending. The reflections are truly relevant and practical. Can we all put that in our Lenten schedule?

I wish us all a happy experience of Lent as we make some Lenten practice these 40 days. Then the Easter candy will taste sweeter, the Easter flowers will bloom more brightly, the Easter Sunday sun will shine more warmly!

Happy and fruitful Lent!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


The Miraculous Medal Novena

One of the most popular and widespread devotions in the Catholic Church is the Miraculous Medal Novena. Here at Saint Matthias the novena is prayed every Monday morning after the 8 am Mass. The miraculous medal had its origin in Paris France in 1830 when Saint Catherine Labouré received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Catherine was born on May 2, 1806. Her mother died when she was 9. Catherine asked the Blessed Mother to be her mother in place of her deceased mother. In January 1830 she joined the Daughters of Charity and in July of that year, she had the first of several apparitions of the Blessed Mother. During one of these apparitions in the chapel of her convent in Paris, the Blessed mother showed herself inside an oval frame standing upon a globe with rays of light coming from her hands towards the globe. Around the frame were the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Mary asked Catherine to have the image struck as a medal. The image rotated and on the back, Catherine saw a large letter M surmounted by a cross with a bar at its base. Below this monogram, there was an image of the Sacred Heart crowned with thorns, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword.

Initially 2000 medals were made and distributed and some extraordinary healings and miracles occurred so quickly that people began to call the medal The Miraculous Medal. Today millions of Catholics wear the medal as a sign of their devotion to Mary and to implore her intercession.

Reciting the novena prayers takes less than 10 minutes. Among the prayers is the Novena Prayer which goes like this: O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus and our mother, penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal, we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this novena, if they be beneficial to our immortal souls and the souls for whom we pray.

Msgr. Brennan

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

Today is World Marriage Day, an annual observance to honor husband and wife as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society. It salutes the beauty of their faithfulness, sacrifice and joy in daily married life. I invite every husband and wife to spend a little dedicated time in prayer and reflection by participating in a seven-day virtual retreat focused on marriage ( See page 8 in this bulletin for more details about opportunities for marriage enrichment, divorce survival, and retreat.

We all know that marriage is NOT a bed of roses. Every marriage hits its rough spots. Pope Francis noted in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia that “the life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises. Couples should be helped to realize that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship…Each crisis becomes an apprenticeship in growing closer together or learning a little more about what it means to be married. There is no need for couples to resign themselves to an inevitable downward spiral or a tolerable mediocrity” (no. 232). If you are struggling in your marriage, take heart! The Church cares about you and wants you and your spouse to find healing and a renewed sense of love. Be open to the resources our Church offers to enrich and support your married life.

At the same time, we need to be aware of those couples who have found it impossible to stay in marriage due to insurmountable difficulties and so have chosen to separate or divorce. All of us need to be sensitive to their situation as St. John Paul II beautifully asked us: “I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care, to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church… Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope.” 

In this context, it is important to have a clear picture of their status in the eyes of the Church as there are many misconceptions: Catholics who are separated or divorced, and who have not remarried outside of the church, are in good standing in the church and can receive the sacraments, including holy Communion. That means divorced/separated Catholics are not excommunicated from the church as some mistakenly think. Annulments do not cost thousands of dollars. Annulments do not take years to process and do not have to be processed in Rome. Divorcees with children can get an annulment. Even if your “ex” does not cooperate in the annulment process, you can still get help. Separated/divorced Catholics are welcome at Mass and Church activities. Separated/divorced Catholics can receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation – provided their remarriage, if any, is in the church. They can be sponsors at Baptism and Confirmation. The children of the separated/divorced Catholics can be baptized and receive other sacraments.

Knowing that we are all God’s children trying to live life to the best of our ability will give us a greater understanding of the struggles we all face, especially those with difficulties in marriage; it will then give us a greater appreciation of each other.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day – the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday, which is today – in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.

In our Diocese of Metuchen, there are many religious houses where the members have made a gift of themselves to God in consecration, making their light shine through their vowed commitment to making Jesus Christ the center of their lives. In our own parish, we are blessed to have the presence of two such consecrated persons – Sr. Marie Therese Sherwood, OSF and Sr. Maria Derecola, OSF. They belong to the “School Sisters of St. Francis”, an international religious order that originally came to the United States in 1913 to serve as teachers to immigrant children. Of course, the original mission of their community – and Catholic Sisters in general – has evolved over the years in order to meet the differing needs of the times. The Sisters of the United States Province serve in three states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas) and two countries (USA and Italy) with a single common denominator — outreach to God’s people wherever they are and for whatever their needs may be. We are grateful to Sr. Marie Therese and Sr. Maria for their presence and ministry in our community of St. Matthias.

Today’s Gospel passage has Jesus asking us to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. The religious men and women do that in a very visible way by consecrating themselves with religious vows. But that is not the vocation of the vast number of people. So how can an ordinary Catholic, who is not in the lime light of public sphere, become the light of the world?

A woman in Bible study related that when she recently went into her basement, she made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. She exclaimed, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of the Son and reflecting his light to someone in a dark corner.”

This woman’s experience is an inspiration for all of us that we too can become the light of the world by radiating the light of Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

The National Catholic Schools week begins today, with the theme: Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.  Our Bishop Checchio has written a beautiful letter explaining this theme very well.  You can read a portion of his letter in this bulletin. The complete letter is on our parish website.

This theme should remind us of the motto of our own St. Matthias School: Faith, Caring Excellence. Is it just a coincidence? No. Catholic schools were begun with the specific purpose to form students to become good Catholics by instilling in them the values that would make them good citizens of the world, so that they would enrich the society with the leaven of the gospel and the example of faith. That is why the Catholic school, like the Catholic Church, is not a building or an institution, but it is the people. As the people of God, we, here at St. Matthias, work together to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth and raise up the next generation to do the same. Hence our teachers and students forming the foundation of the school are active people of faith who serve others and God, under the able leadership of Mary Lynch, the School Principal. We, parents, elders, benefactors, and well-wishers have a stake in this mission of Catholic education. Thank you for all the support you give to St. Matthias School to help us fulfil this mission. Our 10 am Mass this Sunday is a celebration of our Catholic School. It will be followed by an open house – open to all.

Each year the Diocese of Metuchen honors youth leaders from various parishes. The St. Timothy Award is given annually to High School Youth who live as disciples of Christ, setting a positive example for other youth, witness to their faith by exhibiting Catholic morals and integrity, demonstrate Gospel values through service to others and exhibit Christian leadership in parish, school, and/or community settings. We are very happy that two of our St. Matthias parish youth were chosen for this award: Melody Adamski and Emily Chavez. Hearty congratulations to these young ladies for meriting this great honor through their leadership, faith and service. As we are proud of their achievement, I wish to thank Sue Lenczewski, our Youth Ministry Coordinator, and Deacon John Radvanski who have been guiding our Youth/NeXt Level ministry.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins each of the Beatitudes with “Blessed are you …” These are guides for us to live joyfully. Each beatitude Jesus has uttered is so counter-cultural that we won’t believe it unless we experience it. It is then that we can and will know the “blessedness” that Jesus promises in the here and now. May we all resist Satan’s beatitudes (read on page 4 in this bulletin!) and imbibe the BE-ATTITUDES of Jesus and make each day a happy one for us and for others.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

What’s the difference between a “Catholic Bible” and a “Protestant Bible”? This is a question that I have been asked many times, and probably you have too. The Catholic edition of the Bible has 73 books while the Protestant edition has only 66 books. The New Testament books are 27 in Catholic and Protestant Bibles. But Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Old Testament, while Catholic Bibles have 46. The seven books included in Catholic Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel that are not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are called the deuterocanonical books. The Catholic Church believes these books are part of the canon of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. These books are printed as part of the Old Testament in a Catholic Bible. In some other Bibles, these books (and sometimes additional, non-Scriptural books) are printed between the Old and New Testaments.

Today, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, is instituted by Pope Francis as the “Sunday of the Word of God.” This is to remind us all of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the Word of God and the liturgy. Why is reading and praying the Bible so very important in our personal and family life? The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other texts we will ever hear, for they not only give us information, but they are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us, the means by which we come to know the depth of God’s love for us, and the responsibilities entailed by being Christ’s followers, members of his Body. Surveys have shown that few Catholics read the Bible on their own or as a family. At the same time, we are amazed at other Christians who are able to quote Bible verses. As St. Jerome once noted, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Why is proclaiming the Scriptures an essential part of the liturgy? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says: “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” (GIRM, no. 29). Hence, Scripture readings are an essential part of every liturgical celebration – whether it be a sacrament or a prayer service. Readings from Scripture are part of every Mass. At least two readings (3 on Sundays and solemnities), one always from the Gospels, make up the Liturgy of the Word. In addition, a psalm or canticle is sung.

These readings are typically read from a Lectionary. For convenience, the readings and psalms for each day of the year are put together in the Lectionary. The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Someone created this meaning for the word BIBLE: Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. But in fact, Bible is the nourishment for every day of our lives here on earth. What extra effort can we make to be more familiar with God’s Word?

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Rich Treasure of Celebrations

January 16 to 25 is filled with a plethora of special observances for our church and society. On January 16 we observe a National holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .the great Baptist minister and civil rights leader who inspired many people and laid the foundation for the 1964 Civil Rights legislation that would begin a healing and reconciliation process in America. Born on January 15 1929 in Atlanta Dr. King proved to be a powerful, inspirational leader who sought to end racial discrimination through nonviolent peaceful means. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4th 1968 in Memphis TN. People are asked to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King. We follow the American custom of celebrating the holiday on a Monday, the third Monday, rather than the actual day of his birth.

From January 18 to 25 we will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s theme is taken from the first chapter of Isaiah, Do Good: Seek Justice. Is 1:17. During this week we are asked to pray that our world may move towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, “that all may be one” Jn. 17:21. The week concludes significantly enough on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. If the grace of God was powerful enough to bring about his conversion then it can surely bring about a more unified church and help thereby to promote the Good News of Christ to a waiting world. Consider attending mass an extra day this week to pray for Christian unity.

And finally on January 20 we will celebrate the 50th Annual March for Life in Washington DC. This year’s celebration will also mark the momentous overturn of Roe V Wade. Abortion is the greatest human rights abuse of our time but thanks to the perseverance of the Pro Life Movement, through education and advocacy change is slowly taking hold. The struggle continues now that the decision about Pro Life policies is handed back to our elected representatives in Washington and in States Capitols .This year’s March for Life will go from the Mall to the Steps of the United States Capitol building and not to the steps of the Supreme Court, as in other years. There will be many speakers at the rally on the Mall preceding the March. I will be marching as usual and encourage others to do the same. Watch our bulletin for information about buses.

And on January 23 our nation will observe a Day of Prayer for Legal protection for the Unborn. Consider attending Mass at 8am that morning or join us for a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life immediately following Mass.

A rich plethora of feasts and celebrations indeed, all for justice and the protection of human rights. Let us “Do Good and Seek Justice” (Is 1:17)


Msgr. Brennan