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Thursday, October 30, 2014

In paradisum...

The Seminary lost a good friend this morning and the City of Boston lost a great mayor.  In paradisum dedicate angeli...

“Mayor Menino placed family, faith and public service above all else.  His passing is a great loss to the City of Boston, the Commonwealth, our country, and to his family, who were the center of his life.

Generations of citizens of Boston benefitted from his care and concern, first as a City Councilor and then, most notably, as Mayor for twenty years.  Under Mayor Menino’s leadership, the City of Boston achieved world class status while he always remained keenly focused on the needs and concerns of the city’s neighborhoods and its people. 

It is a blessing for me to have known Tom and Angela since the time I arrived in Boston and to share in their faith and their good works. They always held providing support and assistance for people in need as a priority.   It was not uncommon for the Mayor to attend several church services on a given day, at our Catholic parishes and the churches and worship sites of our ecumenical and interfaith brethren with whom he had very close and supportive relationships.

We pray for Mayor Menino as we give thanks for a life so well lived, for his wife Angela, their children and grand children, for the people of the City of Boston and all who mourn his passing.  May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

-Cardinal Se├ín P. O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

SJS Soccer Team Reaches the Finals!

The SJS Soccer Team has made us all so proud by playing all the way to the Finals at Boston College's Stadium this evening.  Their skill, endurance and dedication were a wonder to behold!  The last game ended with a prayer, a blessing, the praying of the Hail Mary and the singing of the Salve Regina.  Now that's a team to be proud of!

More pictures from our Alumni Dinner!

We can choose...

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  

The Greek verb which we today translate as strive is agonizomai and its where we get the word for agony.  It’s the kind of effort it takes to squeeze through a narrow opening, to win a soccer match, or to pass a mid-term.  It implies sacrifice and suffering.

Strive to enter through the narrow gate: the gate of forgiving the one who has really hurt you, doing the right thing when they laugh at you, and loving the ingrate even unto death.

That’s one way to live life.  But then there’s the other way.  The way of no struggle, no pain, no cross.  Of narcissism, self-interest and just lookin' out for number one.  And some days, as Satan whispers into our hearts, that way looks pretty good.

Problem is, that that way is on other side of the door, through which we hear the master’s voice: I do not know you.

You do not give, you only take.

I do not know you.

You do not sacrifice.

I do not know you.

You do not suffer in love.

I do not know you.  

Depart from me.  And all that is left is the sound of wailing and the grinding of teeth.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Welcoming the Fathers Home - Alumni Dinner

This evening we celebrated our annual Alumni gathering with a Holy Hour, reception and dinner. Cardinal O'Malley graced us with his presence, along with Bishops Kennedy and Uglietto. After dinner, Ryan Sliwa, a seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield, offered the following inspiring reflection:

A look at the correspondence of Bishop Fenwick (reg. 1825-1846), the second bishop of this local church, reveals how frequently the theme of priestly formation was on his mind. Letters of his solicitude extended to places far and wide: Rome, St Louis, Montreal, Lyon, Baltimore, Paris, to name a few. On one instance, we even find him cajoling his brother, a priest-professor at Georgetown, for the $88.22 which he owed the bishop for a number of books and a subscription to The Pilot.

In a report sent to Rome in April of 1831, Bishop Fenwick had this to say: “There are in Boston 7,000 Catholics in a population of about 60,000. Outside Boston, there are some 7,000 Catholics in the diocese. [NB: Here “the diocese” meant the whole of New England.] In 1825 I had only three priests, one with me in Boston, the other two in places over a hundred miles distant. There were nine churches but for the most part they barely deserved the name.” What did the bishop do to satisfy his want of priests? “What I did do,” he continues, “was to take into my own house four young men (my revenue not permitting me to take more); they were destined for the ecclesiastical state and had done well in their studies. I gave to teaching them all the time not spent in the duties of my Holy Mission, and soon had the consolation of seeing that my four  men promised me four good priests for the diocese.”[1]

Things have certainly changed not a little since these beginnings of priestly training in Boston. To be sure, no one in attendance this evening needs me to elaborate on this fact. However, beginnings, as we know, are often great determining factors of the present moment. As I near the end of my seminary formation, I have at times found it is a good practice to return to my first fervor, to the earliest days when the thought of a priestly vocation was new in my mind and heart. Humbly, if I may, I recommend this same exercise for all of us, gathered as we are in recognition of our days passed within these halls.

Now surely we have matured since our early days; surely we have grown in wisdom and understanding; surely we have adopted a more sober and realistic outlook. But at our beginnings, perhaps we perceive things in a fresh and undiluted way. We see the truth more purely; chase after the good more steadily. We should, I think, never consider our first zeal as something childish; there may be a profounder grace at its heart than we might believe.

Moreover, when we take the long view of things, we allow the action of the good God to shine forth more clearly to us. Now the seminary, this seminary, and our time spent in it—with the attendant joys and difficulties—all this represents in no small way the course which God’s plan has taken for our lives. For this reason, I believe it to be worthy of our gratitude and reverence.

Bishop Fenwick goes on to say: “Oh, if I but had the wherewithal to build a Seminary even if it could hold only a dozen promising young men! What an infinite good might not be expected from this beginning!”[2] Reverend bishops, reverend fathers: why should we not consider ourselves firmly situated in continuity with such humble but noble beginnings? Perhaps those of us gathered here represent in a concrete way some part of what Bishop Fenwick called an “infinite good.” It seems to me that, in this age—so often trying and uncertain—we do well to draw some direction, dare I say some comfort, from our place in God’s Providence. These walls, and the men around us this evening, are the very material of this Providence. In a way that is mysterious at times, and if we stop to think on it, we are reminded that the workaday activity of our lives has more profound import and purpose that we might know. This, at least, has sustained me throughout my time in formation and will sustain me in my days ahead, be they many or few. My fathers, the confidence and encouragement I draw from all this, I pass along to you in what measure I can.

Once again, you are all welcome here; I thank you, and goodnight.

[1] History of Saint John’s Seminary, Brighton. John E. Sexton and Arthur J. Riley. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston. Boston, Massachusetts: 1945. 30-31.

[2] Ibid., 31.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Remembering a good priest...

Many were deeply touched by Jim Brett's eulogy at Bishop John Boles Funeral Mass last week. Through Jim's kindness, we reprint it here for the benefit of our seminarians and all our loyal readers.

There are four important things to know about Fr. John Boles. I will tell them to you in their ascending order of importance.

So, starting with the fourth, he was, all his life, an avid birdwatcher. His interest in birds arose when he was just a child, and throughout his life, it was his only avocation – except perhaps for reading. In his room at Regina Cleri, he kept the best of his life’s collection of books. Every one of them was a book on theology, or philosophy, or pastoral care, or education. Except one: a well-worn copy of “The Birds of North America,” given to him by his good friend, Craig Gibson.

You may think I’m telling you this because it’s odd or quaint. But I’m not. It’s because I think understanding his fascination with birds helps us understand who he was, and how he viewed the world. To appreciate the beauty of birds was for him, I suspect, a way to contemplate the wonders of creation. How do they manage to fly so gracefully? Think of the sheer variety of birds – the sizes, shapes, colors. The flamboyant and the drab. The aggressive and the timid. The noisy and the silent. It begins to sound a little like a description of humanity, doesn’t it?

Being a good birdwatcher builds character, too. It requires a keenness of observation and a careful attention to detail. Was that a tree sparrow or a field sparrow? You’ve got to know the difference, you know. It also requires exceptional patience. Birds don’t just parade themselves by you; they are seen in the distance, partially obscured. Bird watching tends to minimize egotism. It’s not about the watcher, it’s about the bird.

So, yes, I think the fact that he was a birdwatcher tells us that he was man of calm composure and true modesty, alert and observant, who appreciated the beauty of the world.

Third, he was a dedicated educator. In addition to his degree in theology from St. John’s Seminary, he earned a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in education from Boston College. After teaching for a while at his own secondary school alma mater, St. Sebastian’s School, he became its headmaster, and remained ever after the School’s most persistent, and most irresistible, advocate. At St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, he was chaplain to the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Student Center. He gave his enthusiastic support to the famous Choir School at St. Paul’s. For fifteen years, he served as Director of Education for the Archdiocese of Boston. It may sound like a committee, but this is one man I am talking about!

For Bishop Boles, a good education was not just a way to get a good job, but more importantly a pathway to living a good life. He wanted to help as many young people as he could along that path, and he did.

Second, he was a devoted brother to his beloved sister, Mary. Their mother, Agnes, was a Brett, which explains my presence here. Agnes and my father, Henry, were brother and sister. They came here from Tubbercurry, County Sligo. So John and Mary were my first cousins – my only cousins. We were very close. We spent every major holiday together.

Fr. John was devoted to Mary, as she was to him. It is impossible to exaggerate; you could not imagine a closer and more loving relationship between siblings. She was like him in many ways, including ministry. She served as a lay chaplain at the Massachusetts General South Shore Hospitals.

Mary passed away suddenly on June 7 of this year. It should surprise no one that John is now to be reunited with her.

And finally, the first important thing to know about Fr. John Boles is that he was a holy priest. In his parish work, in his work with the schools, he was a guiding pastor, a good shepherd. In 1992, he was elevated to the episcopal office and became Auxiliary Bishop of Boston. But even after he was entitled to the excellent title of Excellency, he preferred to be addressed simply as “Father Boles.” That was who he was, a priest. He said to my sister Peg on more than one occasion that he enjoyed being a priest every single day.

(Let me parenthetically interject that every day since Mary died, our sister Peg and my wife Pattie have been with Father Boles to care for him and to pray with him. Their reward will be great in heaven, but we already knew that.)

Here is the last sentence from the mission statement of St. Sebastian’s School: The Ideal St. Sebastian’s graduate will be a moral and just person, a gentleman of courage, honor, and wisdom, a lifelong learner who continues to grow in his capacity to know, to love and to serve God and neighbor.

You could not find or formulate a better summation of John Boles’ life. His life was a lived sermon. May he rest in God's peace.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Fathers Come Home...

We were joined this past week by the Priests who were ordained this past spring from Saint John's Seminary. From left to right are Bishop Kennedy, Father Clemence, Father Riley, Father Sullivan, Father Yoon, me, Father Micale, Father Hocurscak, Father Fedoryshyn, Father Boland, Father Pignato, Father Salocks, Father Peschel, Father O'Connor, Father Fitzsimmons and Father Briody.  Father Chris Peschel was celebrant for the Mass and Father Jim Boland (Worcester) gave the following homily. 

In 1994, while I was still eight years old, the film The Shawshank Redemption debuted in  theaters. It did rather poorly at the box office, but when it debuted on home video and cable  television it slowly became recognized and is now widely acknowledged as one of the great films of our time. At one point, the main character, Andy Dufresne, actually innocent despite his conviction, finally receives from the state a donation of books and records for the prison library which he has been working on for many years. Left alone for few moments, he takes a copy of Mozart' s Marriage of Figaro and plays it for the entire prison to hear.  Almost the entire prison stops what they are doing. We hear Morgan Freeman's character narrate as this stop occurs: 

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it....for the briefest moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free...

Two weeks later, after a stint in a solitary confinement cell, Andy returns, saying that despite the circumstances he had just faced, there was that place inside that no one can take from him, a place of interior freedom that gives him hope. 

It's this freedom to which the Lord is trying to call each one of us. To a place of authenticity. Yet, so often, for so many reasons, we don't allow ourselves to go to that place. In the Gospel today and over the last week, the Lord’s admonishment of the Pharisees has been front and center. He has spoken of the need of integration: that the Pharisees must integrate interior purity with what’s one the outside and he criticizes them for focusing exclusively on exterior acts to the point that they themselves have become obstacles to drawing people closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.

We must guard against doing the same. But we can’t do it alone. We need Christ at the center of all that we do, that we might never stop speaking the truth, that we might hold it together with the love of God that is charity. To quote Pope Benedict from Caritas in Veritate:

[Charity] gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, “God is love” (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God's love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.

Charity, the love of God, must be at the heart of all that we do. Our ministry, our priesthood is not for ourselves. We need to stay in that relationship with God always, never severing that love of God through sin. We need to center ourselves on Christ as priests, and this can't be accomplished unless we are constantly confronting those attitudes, those rooms of the world in which we seek refuage, that impede us from charity. 

Your future parishioners need to be led to their Savior alone, and to the degree the authentic love of God is mediated and received through your deepening relationship with Christ, the more your parishioners will come to understand the authentic God who is both love and truth and not just some composite of the media’s latest agenda.

Thus, we are left with a choice in our lives: are we willing to embrace the light that drives away the darkness, that enlightens those areas of our lives that we leave sealed off like a solitary confinement cell?  Are we willing to allow Christ, the divine physician, the ability to heal us so that we can more fully mediate his grace and draw people to the Lord who provides for his people in the gift of the sacraments? 

Only then will we possess the grace to lead others to a place of true freedom, the inner room where we find the Lord giving us strength and peace in a chaotic world. If we allow ourselves to be healed of our infirmities, we will find a place of interior freedom, to be able to do the difficult things, and like Andy, bring hope to those who are in so desperately need of it. 

God bless you