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Friday, March 27, 2015

SJS and BC Concert

Students and Seminarians from the School of Theology and Ministry and Saint John's Seminary presented a wonderful concert of Sacred Music this week at the STM Library.  My thanks to Dr. Janet Hunt for her leadership in this great event!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's been so busy....

The past week has been so filled with activities, that we haven't had a chance to gather the pictures and give thanks for all the wonderful things God has been doing in this holy house!

Just a few days ago we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Masters in Ministry Program.  It began with a Mass and homily with Cardinal O'Malley and a festive dinner followed, serve by our seminarians.  Here are a few views of the Mass.










We also celebrated the ministry of Lector this past weekend.  Bishop Peter Uglietto, longtime friend of SJS and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston was our celebrant.



On Monday night, we were privileged to host Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia for a discussion on Catholic Media, Pope Francis and a variety of other topics.








And then there are our perduring remembrances of Saint Patrick's Day, as those limericks still dance in our heads!



Finally, the brothers' pictures from Spring Break are trickling in.  We hope to have some great stories from El Salvador, London and points beyond for you soon.  For now, here are a few shots from some of our seminarians during their visit to Puerto Rico.











Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saint Patrick's Day Dinner

This evening we celebrated our annual Saint Patrick's Day Dinner with corned beef, cabbage, funny stories, jokes and limericks galore (not to mention Irish Coffee served by Fr O'Connor and newly-anointed leprechaun Chan Do). 




Most of the limericks poked fun at faculty and seminarians alike.  

By way of example, Abishai Vase (holder of the Fitzsimmons Chair in Limeratic Excellence) offered this limerick poking fun at our disastrous server conversion and subsequent IT chaos this past year.


video

Abashai then offered this limerick reflection on the life of Saint Patrick which we celebrated so well throughout this day.




Most of the limericks were "inside jokes" poking fun at our life together as the community of Saint John's.  They were expressions of humor, affection and great good fun.  Thanks to all for a wonderful evening!




Homily for Saint Patrick's Day

Waters saturate.  Thus do the mighty rivers of Ireland so saturate its grasses and shamrocks that we call it the Emerald Isle.  Just as Patrick saturated ever corner of the Celtic fields and bogs with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

As from the side of the temple, as from the side of Christ, this river of faith washes every creature with life and abundance and every kind of fruitfulness.  A water so much greater then the pools of Bethseda.  A water which is Christ, in whom we die to darkness and are reborn to eternity.

Thus each son of Patrick has become the thirsting deer, drinking his fill from the life-giving streams which flow from the foot of the cross, streams which empty into an ocean, until they lap along these shores, where the Shannon flows into the Charles. 

Thus the waters of this world and even the waters of our bodies become a holy water of Faith, quenching every thirst and hydrating every capillary and pore with the mercy of Christ’s grace.  

Which is why, in these last days of Lent, Christ seeks to cleanse and nourish the hidden deserts of our souls, even in those places where we cling to the dryness, fearful that we might drown in his life-giving stream.  

But come!  Come to the waters which flow from the side of the Temple as from the side of the Lord, and let him fill all that is empty in you, restore all that is lost and saturate your soul with his love.

For as the waters which flow in my veins, so:

Christ [is] with me, 
Christ before me, 
Christ behind me,
Christ [is] in me, 
Christ beneath me, 
Christ above me,
Christ to my right, 
Christ to my left,
Christ, the living water, 

which makes me whole.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Homily for the Saint Francis Xavier Novena

Since I was a little boy I have been attending the Saint Francis Xavier Novena at Saint John's, Mother Church of the Dioceses of Worcester and Springfield.  I was honored to preach the sixth day of that Novena this week and here is the homily I preached.

“The Church,” Pope Francis recently wrote, “is missionary by her very nature: she was born "to go forth.”

Zeal for the Church, then, means that each one of us recognize that we are sent forth to the margins of the world.  Not just to those with whom we are comfortable, but to the ends of the earth, even to the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian.

For the Lord sent us to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to Baptize all nations in his Name.

When I first came to this novena as a little child I thought I understood what that meant.  It meant that God might call me to be a heroic missionary to some strange, dramatic foreign land where people dressed funny and spoke in a funny tongue.  My childish heart dreamt of living the life of a prophet or even a martyr in such a land, bringing the saving news of Jesus to the poor ignorant foreigners who lived far across the seas.

When I was a teenager sitting in those pews, I had a more mature idea of what it meant to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis Xavier, as the first stirrings of a priestly vocation began to echo in my soul.  I began to see myself coming to know the language of a new people, learn their customs and share the good news of Jesus’ Gospel and the salvation he had won for us on the wood of the cross.

And now here I am, more than a half century since I attended my first novena at Saint John’s, all the more convinced that we sons and daughters of Saint Francis Xavier, are called to go on mission.  But I now doubt whether our mission is to India or Boa or Japan.  Rather, our mission, I have begun to suspect, is to those who walk the streets of Worcester and who inhabit the intimate corridors of our lives, neither knowing Jesus, nor experiencing his mercy, nor feeling his saving love.

And they wait for us at the margins of our lives.

When I was a teenager at Holy Cross, a year further along than the young John Madden, I was befriended by Frannie McGarth, long time City Manager of the Heart of the Commonwealth.  “Worcester,” he once told me “is the place where everybody is at home.  Vernon Hill, for example, has always been the place where people came fresh off the boat.  First an Indian settlement, then French, then Irish, then Lithuanian and Polish, then Puerto Rican and Vietnamese and now, whoever gets off the bus, is welcome there…is welcome here.  Worcester, is the place where everybody is at home.”

Councillor McGrath knew how to make people at home.  Just like Father Madden and the good people of Saint John’s do at the Xavier center across the parking lot.  People like the guy who since his divorce lost his job and then started drinking and now wanders the streets at night. People like the twins, mentally handicapped and always living on the edge, who’ve lived for these past sixty years half on the street and half in a shelter. People like the kid who got beat up at home for coming out and spent his first night on the street wondering whether it was less painful to keep walking or to lay down on the cold concrete. People like the prematurely old lady whose stolen basket is as filled with junk as her life is empty of love.

They are Lazarus, who used to beg for food on the front steps of the rich man's house, whose open sores the dogs used to come and lick, while the rich man turned his head the other way and stepped over the inconvenience on his front stoop. 
And you remember how Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell?  Why did the rich man go to hell? Because he was rich? No...there's no sin there. He went to hell because he failed to love his brother, to be a missionary to him, carrying the love of the Lord Jesus. 
Hospitality, love for the stranger and the alien, the undocumented, the addicted and the one whom everyone else forgets is the way of the Saint and the Worcesterite and everyone ever baptized in the name of the one who died for us upon the cross with the words “Love them as I have loved you.”
For they wait for us at the margins of our lives.  And its ironic that the hardest margins to reach are often much closer than the streets outside our houses.  Sometimes those margins are terribly, painfully close to us.
Like that co-worker who is always bad-mouthing the Church.  Or that friend who didn’t have her kids baptized.  Or that son of yours who since he went to College has stopped going to Church.

Oh, you think about them a little bit once in a while, but you quickly put them out of your mind, supposing you should say something to them, but what good would it do?  And God will understand.  He is, after all, all merciful?

Yes.  But you know as well as I do that God is also all just.  And that those who reject him, ignore him or walk away from his Church risk nothing less than the fires of hell, the terrible, eternal aloneness of being away from God.

And they wait for us at the margins of our lives.  They wait for us to talk about Jesus and about how prayer is the only thing that gets you through some days.  They wait for us to tell them about the Church and how without the Sacraments, without hearing Christ tell me I am forgiven and without eating his Body and Blood life is barely imaginable.  They wait for us to lead them out from hellish prisons whose walls are built of the endless pursuit of the next momentary pleasure and whose bars are forged of selfishness and fear.

For they are the truly poor of Worcester: the guy who’s replaced prayer with self-indulgence, going to Church with another drink, the hard work of fifty years of marriage and sacrifice with a series of empty hook-ups and dead ends.  Or the woman whose first love walked away and now seeks something, anything to fill up the empty hole he left in her gut…she thought the kids would do it, or one of the last three guys or even the pills.  But now she’s left empty and alone.  Or the really successful broker who looks to all the world like he’s got it all, but who sometimes wakes up in a cold sweat, as everything around him dies and he’s fearful he’ll be left alone.

They wait for you, to give them the great good news that only one thing really matters: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, the one through whom all things were made, and the one who invites me to join my sufferings with his cross, my desires with his will, and the aching pain in my chest with his Sacred Heart.

They wait for you at the margins of your life.

As they waited for Saint Francis Xavier.  In the last days of his life, he wrote a letter about the dangers he and his companions would face as they departed for China to begin a new mission.  The first danger was that the captain would throw them overboard or abandon them on a desert island.  The second very real danger was that the King of China would have them tortured and killed on sight but there is a still greater danger for the missionary, he wrote in these words:

“[The real danger is ]…to cease to hope and trust in the mercy of God… So we must strengthen ourselves with the Lord’s words: "He that loves his life in this world will lose it, and he who loses it for the sake of God will find it," [and]  "He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Remembering that these dangers to the soul are much greater than those of the body, we find that it easier to pass through bodily dangers than to be caught in spiritual dangers before God. We are consequently determined to go to China by any way whatever. I hope in God our Lord that the outcome of our voyage will be to the increase of our holy faith, no matter how much the enemies and their ministers persecute us, since "if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Xavier never made it to China.  But he tried.

And God calls us to do the same.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New England Seminarians


Spring Break in Rome is drawing to a close with a delightful dinner last night with the New England Seminarians, joined by our own Father Jim Conn, SJ and Father David Gaffney (Providence) of the NAC faculty.


This week has been packed with meetings regarding Vox Clara and various seminary business and has also provided me with the opportunity to spend some time in the presence of some of Rome's great artistic treasures (which I will be sharing with my Liturgical Arts class at the Theological Institute).  The beautiful weather has been such a contrast to the snows of New England, to which, nonetheless, I look forward to returning tomorrow.  Thank God for a successful journey!