Saturday, March 25, 2017

Visit of Bishop Lechowicz from the Polish National Conference

Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz, delegate of the Polish Conference of Bishops to Polish communities throughout the world, was our guest this past week along with Monsignor Anthony Czarnecki, Rector of Saint Joseph’s Basilica in Webster, Massachusetts.  We were joined for lunch by Monsignor Caron, Father Briody and two of our semianrians who are fluent in Polish, Mark Olejnik and David Madejski. We had a fascinating conversation concerning the Polish Church all around the world, learning that more than twenty million Polish people live outside the territorial boundaries of Poland. Bishop Lechowicz, a former Seminary Rector in his native Diocese of Tarnów, compared notes concerning formation at seminaries here and in Poland.

Upcoming Co-Workers Conference!


"Be Not Afraid" on the Feast of the Annunciation

The Knights and Dames of Malta joined us for a Lenten Morning of Recollection at the Seminary this morning.  Here is the Homily I preached at Mass.

What are you afraid of?

What is a seminarian most afraid of?  That they will throw you out before breakfast?  That I will not turn out to be the super-priest I thought I’d be?  That my friendships will fall apart?  That I won’t be able to stuff all that stuff into my head?  That they’ll laugh at me?  That maybe this is not what God is calling me to?

And what is a Knight or Dame of Malta most afraid of?  That their children will get in trouble?  That I’ll not have the strength or the grace to provide the example I think I should be?  That I will get cancer or have a heart attack or start to pass a kidney stone during this Mass?  That my spouse will get sick and die before I do?  That my faith will grow cold? 

That’s probably enough for this time of the morning.  But we are afraid.  No matter our age or our station in life.  We tremble deep inside.  Every one of us.  On a regular basis. 

We suffer anguish over the things that wake us up at two in the morning.
We are distressed by the things that assault us throughout the day.
We are persecuted by those who resent or just don’t trust us.
We hunger for love and fulfillment and hope.
We are naked, when we come into this world and when we leave, and desperately try to clothe ourselves with artifice in between.
We bleed from the slings and arrows and don’t always see them coming.

OK, now that’s enough for this time of the morning.  Forgive me, I’m Irish, and I love  doing this.

But we fear.  Like the Mother of God.  We all know the first words of he Angel to Mary: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  But did you notice what his second words to her was?  “Be not afraid, Mary!”

Why?  Because she was scared half to death by an angel coming to tell her that she was to be the Mother of the Christ!  She was petrified, just as we are so often petrified in the face of the presence of God.

But, be not afraid!  For God smiles on us in our foolishness, like a knowing parent looking down at a three year old, and he loves us.

Loves us so much that he sends his Son.  Loves us so much that he wills him to carry our death down into the grave, rising triumphant (taking us with him) interceding at his father’s right hand for his friends, for his brothers.

For we are sisters and brothers of Christ and the daughter and sons of the Eternal Father, sealed with the Holy Spirit, made a Royal Priesthood by our Baptism, tasked with joining the fears and the joys, the hopes and failures of our lives with the perfect sacrifice offered on that Altar for our salvation.

So what have we to fear?  What can harm?

Nothing and No One.

Just listen to the angel, and be not afraid!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mass Explained Queensbury: March 22nd

Here's the video for March 22nd answering questions from the folks in Queensbury studying the Liturgy of Word and the Mass Explained.

The Mass Explained II: Queensbury 22 March from James P Moroney on Vimeo.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Remembering Saint Joseph at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary

I was honored this evening to celebrate Mass with our brothers at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary.  Here is my homily.

Obedience.  That’s what Saint Joseph teaches us.  Obedience.

Do not hesitate to take Mary as your wife. And he obeys.  Take Mary and the child to Egypt.  And he obeys.

And it’s good for future priests to learn obedience.  For, in a very real way, obedience is their work.  Obedience to their Bishop, to their pastors, to their Faculty Advisor and Spiritual Director and even to their Rector.

But why are you called to be obedient to your legitimate superiors?  Is it because they are always right?  They are always brighter than you, more talented than you and always more capable of making the right decision?

Not necessarily.  Because sometimes your legitimate superior will be less bright than you, less experienced and sometimes even less capable of making the right decision.  

But you obey with docility because God has made this man your Bishop or your Rector of your Pastor and its up to God alone to make sense of it.  And for now God calls that man to make the decisions and you to obey them, as a participation, if nothing else, in the kenotic self giving, the obedience unto death which is at the heart of Christ’s perfect sacrifice of love upon the Cross for our salvation.

Saint Joseph helps us understand obedience in a very real way.  Actually Origen does, when he writes:

"Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph.”

I think of another Joseph, Joseph Ratzinger, our beloved Pope emeritus.  After experiencing the increasing weight of his physical limitations he set aside the Petrine office for a life of prayer.  "I am,” he told us, now a “simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth.”

And then he, the Pope did a remarkable thing.  Joseph of Bavaria made a promise of obedience, “unconditional reverence and obedience,” to whoever his successor will be.  A promise he has kept.

Did he do it because he knew his successor would be a better theologian than him, a more powerful preacher or a more effective Pope.  No.  He did it because there could be only one Pope, and he, the emeritus, would render him unconditional obedience and respect.

He did it because he belied the words he preached years before:

 “Only if we know how to lose ourselves, if we give ourselves, may we find ourselves. When this occurs, it is not our will that prevails, but that of the Father to which Jesus submitted himself: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’ (Lk 22:42)…. This is what St. Joseph has taught us, with his renouncing, with his abandonment, that in a certain sense foreshadowed the imitation of the Crucified Jesus, the paths of fidelity, of the resurrection, and of life.” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, homily 19 March 1992)

Just one more brief story.

I was recently reading an old favorite book, a diary from the middle of the last century.  “It tells the story of a prideful, loudmouthed, sensitive 14 year old boy who was tired of getting yelled at by his seminary superiors and the old ladies in his native town of Bergamo; it tells the story of a young man who didn’t believe he had what it takes to be a priest or even a faithful man of God; it tells the story of a young seminarian in Rome overwhelmed with his studies and who felt far from God …[it tells the story of a man] “radically in love with Jesus Christ, and completely disposed to doing the will of God no matter what.”  Despite it all, his episcopal motto said it all: “Obedience and Peace”

And that Pope is your saintly patron, and his diary, the Journal of a Soul.

So take this from our Feast of Saint Joseph the husband of Mary and custos of the Son of God: Obey.  Obey your Rector, or your Bishop, or any legitimate authority with humility, docility and love and you will grow into the image of him who was obedient unto death, even death on a Cross.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saint Patrick's Day Homily

Father Joseph Briody preached this homily for the Feast of Saint Patrick a few days ago. We are grateful for his inspiring words.

We know much about St. Patrick because of his writings, especially his Confession. Born in 389 he was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was about sixteen years old. He displays no self-pity in his writings. Indeed he notes in his Confession that he and thousands of others taken as slaves deserved this because, he wrote, “we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved.” In captivity in Ireland he turned with all his heart to God who had mercy on him. His task in slavery was to tend sheep on the slopes of Slemish Mountain. This he did for six years, the average time of priestly formation. This was probably the most formative period in his life. There Patrick fell back on the faith of his childhood and fell into the hands of God. His faith became so strong that it triumphed over the piercing cold of the mountain and the profound loneliness of isolation.

The six years of Patrick’s captivity became preparation for his future apostolate. He became proficient in the Irish language in which he would later preach Christ’s Gospel. He learned about the druids from his master, who was a druidical high priest. This knowledge would be essential later in his work of conversion. Through those difficult six years Patrick was equipped for his future mission. God uses everything to shape and prepare us for what he asks of us. God used Patrick’s capture and slavery to bring an entire people to the true God, a people who would in turn bring other peoples to God. God can use everything that happens to us. He takes account of everything from all eternity. He has factored in even what is most upsetting in our lives – like Patrick’s captivity. He brings good out of evil. “All things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

Eventually Patrick, under God’s guidance, escaped and returned home. He became a priest and bishop. A recurring vision drew him back to Ireland in which the voice of the Irish called out to him: “We beg you, holy youth to come and walk once more among us.” Patrick did return as the apostle of Ireland, with the blessing of Pope St. Celestine I, arriving on Irish soil in 433.

Apparently this was the final act of Pope Saint Celestine before he died. Just two years before that, in 431, Pope Celestine had sent another bishop, Palladius, to Ireland, but it didn’t work out. We’re not sure why it didn’t work out with Palladius. Put simply, Palladius didn’t want to be in a strange land and returned home again. It wasn’t God’s will – or – as the Book of Armagh states: “God hindered Palladius.”

When things didn’t work out with Palladius, St. Patrick, who, to his great disappointment, had been refused this assignment before, now received the commission a few days before the death of Pope Celestine. God’s will will never be thwarted! This is something we need to be aware of in our own lives. God is in control. Jesus is Lord! Knowing this helps us grow in surrender and obedience to God and those he has placed over us. It’s a lesson Patrick learned. It’s a lesson Jonah learned when he ran in the opposite direction from God’s will and God placed him right back in Ninevah where he wanted him.

It’s a lesson the young Irish Jesuit Frank Brown learned and cherished for the rest of his life. Fr. Frank Brown became a very famous photographer and gave us the last photographs of the Titanic. He was a seminarian in Dublin when his uncle sent him a ticket for the Titanic’s maiden voyage. He travelled on the Titanic from Southampton to Cork. He was to travel on to New York but sought his superior’s permission to do so. His provincial sent him a reply by telegram saying only: ‘GET OFF THAT SHIP!’ He obeyed, and the rest is history. Fr Brown kept that telegram in his wallet for the rest of his life claiming that holy obedience saved his life. Sometimes it’s better to ask permission than forgiveness!

Obedience and trust in the divine will is the lesson of the saints. “Obedience is the sure sign to us of the divine will” (St Maximilian Kolbe). “The awkwardness of God is that his will must always be first and must prevail” (D. Peter Burrows). “If there were another and better way, Christ would certainly have shown it to us by word and example” (St Maximilian Kolbe), he who was obedient even unto death. What struck me re-reading the Confessions of St Patrick was the immediacy and intimacy of his relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guided him closely and directed him clearly and vividly, just as the Spirit acted in the Acts of the Apostles. Christ acted in and through him, almost identifying with Patrick.

Looking back on his life, Patrick expressed great gratitude to the Lord for the wonders of his grace in him. He wrote: “Who am I Lord and what is my calling that you worked through me with such divine power?” “I didn’t deserve … that the Lord would grant such great grace … after so many years among that people. It was something which, when I was young, I never hoped for or even thought of.”

May it be the same for us looking back on our lives, that cooperating with God’s grace, through obedience and trust in the divine will, we may reap an abundant harvest and rejoice in gratitude for what God has done in us, “things we never hoped for or even thought of…”

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I was delighted to be invited by Monsignor Caron to lecture for two days in his Introduction to Communication course.  The topic of my presentations was Social Media and the Parish.  To download the slides from that presentation in Powerpoint format, please click here.