Annual revival at St. Martin de Porres ‘stokes the flames’ of faith
While the weather outside was cool, cloudy and even rainy in some spots throughout Western New York on Saturday, Oct. 21, it was a warm atmosphere inside St. Martin de Porres Church in Buffalo. You might even think it was a bit fiery, spiritually speaking.
“Stoking the Flame” was the theme of the annual Revival, hosted by the Diocese of Buffalo’s Office of Cultural Diversity and Social Justice. Guests came from parishes within the Dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester.
“Lord, we ask you as we come together for this revival that we will truly have a moment where we are stoking the flame,” prayed Father Anthony Bozeman, SSJ, revivalist and homilist for the Revival. “The flame of your joy, the flame of your peace, the flame of your grace, the flame of your mercy, the flame of your compassion, the flame of justice, the flame of love. All that is embodied and the one who is Jesus the Christ.”
Bozeman, who grew up in Philadelphia and currently lives in Washington, D.C., delivered two homilies during the Saturday session, one in the morning and the second in the early afternoon, following a lunch break.
In his morning homily, Father Bozeman included a Gospel reading, Luke 24: 13-35, the journey to Emmaus by two disciples, their conversation about the events that unfolded, and their encounter with the risen Jesus, whom they did not immediately recognize.
He explained that when you do not stoke a fire, it eventually goes out. That, he says, is what was happening with the disciples until their flames were stoked by Jesus.
“Why couldn’t they see him? Just like us, we don’t see him. We’re so worried, ‘Oh Lord, the diocese is going to close my church. If I don’t do this, I don’t do that. I’m so worried, I can’t see.’ Jesus is here. And that’s why we come,” he said. “And if Jesus is here, then we should be excited.”
The second half of Saturday’s sessions began with tales and testimonials from Buffalo and Rochester Catholics who attended the National Black Catholic Congress in July. It’s held once every five years. The latest was held in Maryland.
Many expressed their inspiration being in the presence of so many other Black Catholics, and some expressed excitement at seeing a vibrant presence of youth.
The question they raised is how to bring that enthusiasm back and put it in the hearts of local children.
“We are sitting in the remnants of what was one of the biggest Catholic schools in this parish, in this community,” said Mary Craig, a parishioner at St. Martin de Porres. “There is a whole housing development over there. Those children don’t come over here. Why? They’re still that close. That school is that close. What’s the difference? We need to work on things like that. We need to understand that they’re just not going to come over because we’re here. They have to be brought. And it’s not just a Sunday thing. We were at Mass every day when I was in school.”
Father Bozeman, in his afternoon homily, echoed the call to ignite the flame in the hearts of young people.
“It’s time to get lit … not with alcohol but a loving cup of blessings,” Father Bozeman said.
The main portion of the Revival was held on Saturday, but formally concluded with the 9:30 a.m. Mass the following day.
(Note to readers: Further highlights and remarks from Revival 2023 will be featured next month by WNY Catholic Audio in an upcoming podcast series celebrating Black Catholic History Month. This will be released on the Diocese of Buffalo Sound Hub, available on Soundcloud.com, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.)