Monday, October 24, 2016

Roman Graffiti

I just couldn't resist this example of modern Roman graffiti, depicting the Pope painting modern Roman graffiti!  It was quickly removed by the authorities, but I found it very amusing (while also being very illegal in Rome!)

Bishops of Massachusetts Oppose Marijuana Referendum

Here is the statement of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts opposing Question 4 on the legalization of recreational marijuana, a question that will appear on the Massachusetts ballot November 8th.

Marijuana represents a significant part of substance use in America and adversely affects the health of millions of Americans. According to a recent report issued by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Its widespread use and abuse, particularly by young people under the age of eighteen, is steadily increasing while scientific evidence clearly links its long term damaging effects on brain development. "When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce thinking, memory and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Marijuana's effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent."

Legalizing a drug for recreational use that causes these effects on the human body, particularly our youth, is not a path civil society should choose to take. It has been well documented in Massachusetts and across the country that the nation is currently waging a losing battle against opioid abuse. Our attention must not be diverted from that health crisis, nor do we want to add fuel to it by contributing to the risks for the use of other illegal/illicit/proscribed substances through the legalization of marijuana. The availability of marijuana for adolescent users already constitutes an environmental factor for the later use of other illicit drugs. Its legalization will only serve to worsen this problem.

One only has to examine the devastating impact felt in Colorado since 2013, when recreational use of marijuana was legalized, to fully grasp what would be in store in Massachusetts. A comprehensive report issued last month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area states that, since marijuana has been legalized, traffic deaths have increased by 48 percent. Recent statistics show that of all traffic deaths in Colorado, 21 percent of those individuals killed tested positive for marijuana. Marijuana related hospitalizations in Colorado have doubled from 2011 to 2014.

Marijuana use and abuse by the youth of Colorado has increased by 20 percent since legalization. Young people in Colorado rank first in the nation for marijuana use -- an illegal activity for anyone under the age of 21. Strikingly, this has negatively affected their family life, social life and school performance where expulsions and drop-out rates have spiked significantly. Do we really want to bring these issues to Massachusetts?

The Catholic Church teaches "the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense."6

The Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts join Governor Baker and many other elected officials along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) in opposing the legalization of marijuana. We urge the voters of Massachusetts to vote NO on Question 4 on November 8, 2016.

A New Church in Uganda

Deacon Godfrey Musabe is a fourth year theologian here at Saint John’s, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston.  He is originally from Uganda, where many of his friends and family still live.  Deacon Musabe has told me how much he looks forward, God-willing, to returning next year to his home Church in Kyembogo Sub Parish to celebrate one of his first Masses as a priest next year.

He also shared with me the fact that his home parish is building a new Church and asked me to share that news with the readers of this blog.  Deacon Musabe writes:
In the year 2000, due to increased numbers of Christians, the church leadership decided to begin construction of a new church.  Although the planning began at this time 16 years ago, the actual building didn’t start until five years later, in 2005. 
For the last eleven years, the construction has been going on at a slow but steady pace. Each Sunday the Christians raise funds for the project through the selling of food stuffs and livestock.  Today, the church building is almost finished and roofing is done.  However, there is still much to do before it is finished; for example, the walls need plastering, the windows and flooring have yet to be done, and the Altar and tabernacle are not yet finished.  Additionally, they are planning to build more permanent seating for the church, as right now, the community borrows benches from a nearby school.  The next phase of the project will also use materials leftover from the church building to construct a guest house, which will double as a rectory in the future. 
This project is personal to me for a number of reasons, but most especially since, once ordained to the priesthood next year, God willing, it is the same church I hope to use for a Thanksgiving Mass while in Uganda.  We are looking for $25,000 to $30,000 in total for the completion of the church and the guest house/rectory, but gifts of any amount will go a long way towards helping us reach our goals.

If you would like to help the Catholics of Kyembogo to complete this project, make your check payable to “Kyembogo Catholic Church” and mail it to Deacon Godfrey Musabe, Saint John’s Seminary, 127 Lake Street, Brighton, MA 02135.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Music in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary with David Woodcock and Janet Coxwell

For the second year in a row, special guest conductors David Woodcock and Janet Coxwell of the Early Music Academy in England have joined with our Director of Sacred Music Music, Dr. Janet Hunt, to conduct the Saint John's Seminary Festival Choir in a concert of Marian music spanning several centuries, from plain chant to Eric Whitacre. We are grateful to our sponsors: Santini, Inc and Wessling Architects for making this Concert possible.

Here are the remarks I offered at the beginning of the Concert:

Perhaps the life of no single human being has so inspired the composition of music as the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is appropriate since the life of the “most blessed among women” is the most perfect song ever sung to the God of all beauty and truth. Composed in tones of humility, obedience and faithfulness, the composition begins with an Immaculate Conception and concludes with a sorrowful mother at the foot of the Cross. But the constant theme in every movement is the opening lyric: “Be it done to me according to your word.”

We are deeply Blessed today by the presence of two of the finest musicians of our age: Janet Coxwell and David Woodcomb, who with our extraordinary Dr. Janet Hunt have prepared our scola to lead us in a spiritual exercise of meditation on the life and the truth of the great Mother of God, Mary, Most Holy. All I can say, in word totally inadequate, are that I am deeply grateful.

Let us pray.

O God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary bestowed on the human race the grace of eternal salvation, grant, we pray, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we were found worthy to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

(Collect from the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God)

Got to see an old friend this morning....

I was delighted this morning to see an old friend at Mass in Saint Joseph's Basilica in Webster.  Jack McNally is the oldest living member of the administration of President John F. Kennedy and a lifelong resident of Webster.  He served as Staff Assistant to President Kennedy for his entire presidency and was one of the primary persons responsible for planning the President's Funeral. 

In his book From the Little Green House to the White House and Beyond (Continuum, 2007) Jack writes of President Kennedy: "I believe his youth, his vigor, his ability not communicate with people the world over, his commitment to a better life, a better world, the hope that he have to people of all walks of life, will allow future generations to rate him as one of our greatest Presidents." (page 92)

Jack is pictured below (to the far left) as President Kennedy is shown a model of the Mercury space capsule in 1961.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Homily on Humility

Here's my homily for this weekend, preached at Saint Joseph basilica in Webster on the importance of humility in our lives.
”I am the best! Nobody can do it better! God is so lucky I work for him!” These are the words of the proud Pharisee in today’s Gospel: “I am not like the rest of them — I am perfect!”

Such pride often masquerades as virtue. I am so good, Lord….so very humble! In fact I’m better at being humble than anyone else!"

Such pride began in the Garden of Eden, when Adam wanted to “be like God.” Adam, the father of all narcissists, wanted the Kingdom, the Poor and the Glory all for himself.

And are we really very different? Given the choice between power and powerlessness, wealth and poverty, acclaim and anonymity very few of us would choose bowing very low to the ground.

Very few, save Jesus, the Son of the living God through whom all things were made, who out of love for sinful man chose to become a helpless little baby; who out of love for sinful man chose to endure all the pains and limitation of the human condition, a man like us in all things but sin. Jesus, our salvation, who out of love for sinful man opened his arms to a passion and death through which he was despised as the least among men and crucified upon a cross. He became the least to save us from our sin. He died that we might be saved from death.

Saint Paul tells us the meaning of this kenosis, this perfect humility, in his letter to the Phillipians: “Though [Jesus] was in the form of God he did not deem equality with God to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of man.”

And as he loved us, so the Lord asks us to love one another: through a humility so total that it lays down its life for one’s friends. The origins of the word “humility” help us to understand its meaning here. It comes from the Latin word humus, which means “ground” or “dirt.” It reminds us of the second creation account (Cf. Gen 2:7) where God uses three Hebrew words: Adamah (meaning dirt), Ruah (meaning breath or spirit) and Adam (the name he gave the first man). God reaches down to the earth and takes a handful of Adamah and breathes his Ruah into it and Adam is born. That’s why each Ash Wednesday we are smudged with ashes and reminded that we are dirt and to dirt we shall return.

It is only the breath of God which brings life into this earthly vessel, and only the Holy Spirit which turns us from houses of clay into Temples of his Glory.

Thus whenever we approach God, we do so like the publican in today’s Gospel, by bowing, genuflecting, submitting to the will of God in respect, humility, reverence and obedience.

Just think of the patron Saint of this great Basilica. The Scriptures say little about him. Why? Because Saint Joseph understood the importance of humility. He loved God. He loved Mary, and when she found to be with child before they were married, he was humiliated, but still he let go of all of that and took her as his wife.

Joseph understood, as Pope Francis has reminded us, that “Humility can only get into the heart via humiliation. There is no humility without humiliation, and if you are not able to put up with some humiliations in your life, you will never be humble.”

Abba Appolo, a desert father of the Church in her first days used to say that "the devil has no knees; he cannot kneel; he cannot adore; he cannot pray; he can only look down his nose in contempt. Being unwilling to bend the knee at the name of Jesus is the essence of evil."

As Sir Winston Churchill used to say that there was only one lesson to learn in this life, and it has two parts: That there is a God. And I am not him.

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon….

It may have been quiet in Lake Wobegon, but its been rather busy here at your favorite Seminary.  And while the hectic-ness has kept me from posting for several days, here are a few of the highlights.

On Monday the glow of our Softball Victory was still throughout the house.  After Holy Hour and Supper we gathered for my annual dessert reception with the third floor seminarians.  By 11pm we had solved most of the problems of the Church and the world!

Tuesday brought a major progress report on the progress being made at Deacon House and the new home for our Theological Institute on Our Lady of Presentation Campus.  The new Chapel, which will serve both the Deacon and Institute communities, was framed out earlier this week and conduits for the new electrical service are being excavated.  Next week the new windows should go in, followed by the shingles and painting of the exterior, while the interior plumbing is also set to commence.

On Thursday the Class of 2016 returned to Saint John’s for Mass and supper.  Father Chris Bae (Boston) presided at the Liturgy, while Father Curtis Miller (Burlington, left) preached a wonderful homily.  Here’s a picture of their class gift: a beautiful white cope, emblazoned with the Seminary’s Coat-of Arms.

On Thursday evening we took possession of "The Annex" to accommodate our continuing growth.  Everyone is pleased that this Holy House has finally been restored to wholeness.

On Friday I met with Father Kevin O'Leary and Brian Baker of Baker Liturgical Art to review the marbles for the floor and liturgical furnishings at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.  Cardinal O'Malley had asked me to work with Father O'Leary and Father Jonathan Gaspar on this important renovation of Boston's beloved Cathedral.  To the left, you see Mr. Baker and Father O'Leary with some of the marbles which will be used in the extraordinary new Altar of Sacrifice.  Last month I spent a couple days in Pietrasanta in northern Tuscany examining various alternatives to the designs which have now been happily approved so that the work of fabrication can begin.

This morning the Development Committee took part in a three-hour brainstorming session on new and improved initiatives to promote and sustain Saint John’s Seminary.  I am deeply indebted to Sandy Barry, our Director of Annual Giving and Craig Gibson, our Chairman of the Development Committee for the the work which went into this meeting and all the good ideas which emerged from it!

Just a few minutes ago, the fire alarm sounded and we all gathered in the courtyard to await the arrive of the wonderful folks at the Boston Fire Department.  Fortunately, it was just a glitch in our alarm system and everyone was back in the building in time for lunch and time to continue preparing for the mid-terms which have also dominated this week.

Thanks for your prayers!