By Dan Hurley | Contributing writer

Chances are, more than a few of us have made a resolution to reach out to others on a more regular basis. Msgr. Neal Quartier, the Rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and a clinical psychologist, knows the importance of that kind of connection.

Indeed, in the early days of the pandemic, when parishioners were shuttered in their homes, “Father Neal” made scores of phone calls to check in. Many cited those calls as a bright light as they dealt with a perilous news cycle and fear of the unknown coupled with isolation from family, friends, parishioners, weekly Mass and work.

The Cathedral meanwhile (with the Diocese and other parishes) quickly found a way to live stream and archive Sunday and daily Masses. Yet, Msgr. Quartier felt there was a missing link to the parish. Enter the weekly reflections, or “Pocket Homily” series.

For more than 100 weeks, Msgr. Quartier has used his iPhone or computer camera to tape and send a weekly reflection to the parish. Most run about three minutes and are posted on Facebook and archived on the Cathedral YouTube site.

A common opening would be the acknowledgement of the pandemic and its toll on us as social beings. Many times there is a mention of where we are in the church calendar or a particular seasonal characteristic that calls out the passage of time and our isolation.

Like his traditional homilies, they are sprinkled with current and historical cultural and liturgical references. While he uses Scripture and the lives of the saints to convey his thoughts, he is just as likely to cite movies like “Shadowlands” and even TV series like “The Sopranos.”

There have been references to the writers Eugene O’Neill, C.S. Lewis, Margaret Mead and T.S. Eliot and musical references to Sting and Bono and U2. There are lessons drawn from a poignant Super Bowl ad and the soaring words from 2020 Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman that our country was “not broken, we are unfinished.”

In another, he reminded viewers of the mystery of the Holy Trinity as a lens to look back at the ugly expression of hatred and division that unfolded in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017. And how Pope Francis’ November 2020 New York Times letter, “Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts,” could encourage listeners to be touched by the pain of others and dream of a better world.

Msgr. Quartier says his inspiration “is whatever is happening that week. With a pandemic, a war in Ukraine, a country and world divided there is plenty to process.  Put that together with isolation, depression and a fear of nuclear war and it is not difficult to find a topic.”

Parishioner Andrea Brown likes how the homilies always reveal a more subtle message. “Father Neal’s gift is how he uses a familiar reference to pivot and lift us up and out of ourselves by inspiring, motivating and purposefully directing our lives in these unusual times,” she said.

Sharon Secor, the Cathedral’s Pastoral Associate, says feedback has been gratifying on many levels. “Some have come to the Cathedral because of the Pocket Homilies and more than a few parishioners have noted it’s reassuring  to see their Rector in a relaxed format.”

While Msgr. Quartier said that he was moved to do the Pocket Homilies after hearing the need of parishioners for inspiration and encouragement, their reception and longevity has even surprised him. He has been taking it week by week since and looks to continue.

Lord knows there is enough material.

The weekly Cathedral Pocket Homily can be found at the Cathedral Facebook Page at

https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=cathedral%20of%20the%20immaculate%20conception

or at the Cathedral YouTube page:

http://cathedralsyracuse.org/video-homilies/.

Dan Hurley is a parishioner of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where he serves as a communications and outreach volunteer. He also serves on the Board of the Catholic Sun.


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