Pastor’s Corner for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A by Fr. Patrick Nolan SJ



Last week was Catholic Schools Week in the United States. Each day celebrates a particular theme: your parish, your students, your teachers, your family. Since Thursday’s theme was “Celebrating Vocations,” a Catholic school back in Boston, St. John’s School, asked if I would Zoom in with their middle school students. I was familiar with the school and some of their families because it was a feeder school for Boston College High School, my last assignment. I introduced myself briefly, and then the students started asking me questions.

What is your favorite prayer? The Memorare. Because my parents would always pray it at the start of a road trip or before we took off on a plane. With all the traveling I have done as a Jesuit, I have continued the tradition.

What do you eat? Cereal for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, and if I’m lucky, chicken parmigiana for dinner.

Do you have a favorite church? I went with the local answer: BC High’s student chapel and Gate of Heaven and St. Brigid’s in South Boston where I used to preside on the weekends.

Another student asked if the rumor was true that I turned down a job as chaplain for a National Football League team to come to South Africa for my last stage of Jesuit training. I’m not sure where the student heard that rumor – the funny thing was the teacher who had a son go to BC High confirmed the rumor – but it was flattering, nonetheless.

Then came this one:

What is your favorite commandment? I’ve taught in schools for a few years and have had “Card Days” where students could write down any question about the faith on an index card, but that one has never come up.

I thought for a moment and said, “My favorite commandment is ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”

Then the student said, “Why?” A legitimate follow-up for a soon-to-be-teenager.

I said, “Because I am the youngest of seven children, and when I was born, my parents were almost a generation older than my friends’ parents. I would sometimes worry that they would die when I was young, so I would pray to God that they would live long lives or at least live until I graduated high school or university or entered the Jesuits or my ordination day. When you pray for someone to live a long life, you really cherish the time they are with you. Thankfully all these prayers were answered.”

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus extends the commandments and asks his disciples to internalize the teaching so that one’s observance comes from the heart.

So, what is your favorite commandment? Or which one is top of mind for you right now? Why?


Fr. Patrick Nolan, SJ