Saturday, September 29, 2012

Opening Mass of the Theological Institute

On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Monsignor Moroney preached the following homily to the students of the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at their opening Mass.

I want to begin by saying thank you to all those who serve you so well as models of theologically grounded, Catholic pastoral ministry.  I have, over the past few months, come to love and admire those who are the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at Saint John’s Seminary.

Folks like Aldona, who has done this work longer and with greater dedication than any of us, and David and Angela, whose love of the the Theological Disciplines inspire us all.  Our beloved leader and the most indispensible person in my life as Rector, Father O’Connor and Sister Jean the newest member of our team and an infinite pool of ideas and energy.  Father Riley and Father Raymond, two members of my core staff and men of exceptional talent and dedication.

And there’s Ellen, whose quiet commitment and pastoral sense gently shepherd us, and Mary Ellen, an always joyful example of perseverance and hard work.  Kristelle with insight and unbounded energy, Miriam, whose diligence and creativity keep us moving in the right direction.  Ken, whose knowledge and love of the Liturgy makes this Mass possible, and Victor whose good nature and good spirit we all treasure.  There is no better way to begin than to say thank you!


What a month for theologians, in the Church’s Liturgical Year!  We celebrated St. Gregory the Great, Peter Claver, John Chysosthom, Robert Bellarmine, and, of course, Saint Jerome!   And tomorrow we celebrate Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church.

They all provide wonderful models for budding theologians, but perhaps none so much as the Little Flower.  An unlikely Doctor at first glance, she held no advanced degrees, never stood before a class, or published a learned dissertation.

And yet, Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter, Divini Amoris Scientia,  offers her “as a teacher of prayer and the theological virtue of hope, and a model of communion with the Church, calling the attention of teachers, educators, pastors and theologians themselves to the study of her doctrine.”

What does the doctrine of this Doctor of the Church, have to teach theologians?  Simply put, how to live.  A simple cloistered nun, who taught us to do little things with great love, she taught her theological method by the way she lived her life.  She kept her eyes on the prize, on Christ, and she lived her entire life declaring with Saint John the Baptist: that he must increase and she must decrease.

By contrast, I wonder whether we twenty-first century theologians are more obsessed with Christ and his Church or by power, rank, prestige or tenure. About whether we're perceived as liberal or conservative, pastor or theologian, Balthazarian or Rahnerian.  While this Doctor of the Church taught with her Savior that power had no place for those who would follow him, and that reflecting him means seeking the Truth in humility and in love.  

And as a result she was unconcerned with all these false distinctions, seeing them as power plays by the prince of darkness.  False distinctions like those between the pastoral and the doctrinal, fed to us so often today from every side.

For to those who would suggest that pastoral theology must by its nature become a watered-down version of the truth, ever giving preference to the desires of the listeners over the preaching of authentic doctrine, Theresa would say phooey!

Likewise, to those who would suggest that the higher calling is to pure academic reasoning, divorced from the messiness of the shepherd and the sheep on the  front steps of the church, Theresa would just laugh.

For the pastor who seeks to proclaim the kingdom of God exclusively from an understanding of his own experience without a deep and humble obedience doctrine of the church, ends up preaching himself and not Christ Jesus. While the theologian who seeks to systematically articulate the intellectual tradition of the church apart from the day to today experience of the local parish, too often ends up worshiping not Christ among us but his own infallible intellect.

Our Holy Father, in recalling St Bonaventure’s two forms of theology, reflects on this tension. 

"There is a theology,” he writes, “that comes from the arrogance of reason, that wants to dominate everything, God passes from being the subject to the object of our study, while he should be the subject who speaks and guides us". There is really this abuse of theology, which is the arrogance of reason and does not nurture faith but overshadows God's presence in the world. 

Then, there is a theology that wants to know more out of love for the beloved, it is stirred by love and guided by love. It wants to know the beloved more. And this is the true theology that comes from love of God, of Christ, and it wants to enter more deeply into communion with Christ. 

Such a theology, my brothers and sisters, is the theology of of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, and such is the theology of this Institute, which does not seek reason or pastoral practice or even orthodoxy as ends in themselves, but as the means by which we seek the face of Jesus, gaze upon him in worship, endeavor to lead others to him, and receive the grace to reflect the glory of the one through whom all things were made, as we were made to do.

For it is the face of Jesus which we seek, and every book, every theologian, every idea, every doctrine and ever theological method is but a means to that end.
As theologians we embark on the great good work of fides quarens intellectum, of hungering for the Truth because we have met the truth and desire nothing so much as to serve him, to die with him and to dwell in his presence forever.

That is why the heart of the theologian and the heart of the shepherd share the same desire: to make all one in Christ, in service and in love.

It is a holy work and a holy call, the call to shepherd and to teach, my friends.  So Holy, that the devil does his damndest to distract us from it. 

As when Moses anointed the wise men for prophesy, by calling down on them a little of his spirit, the devil enters in with temptations of jealousy and bickering.  That one over there wasn’t in the camp when the spirit was called down upon us by Moses! He has no right to speak!

Even among the Apostles we heard the whining of fifth graders bickering at recess: They’re all driving out demons, but they’re not one of us!  Make them stop!

Nor are we immune from such pettiness, my brothers and sisters, even we budding and budded theologians!  Wait, he doesn’t have a degree, how can he possibly....?  She’s just an usher at the ten o'clock Mass, what business does she have...?  He’s not even a deacon yet and he has the audacity to...?  Who does she think she is?

But Jesus whispers to us: calm down, it's only me.   If they’re not against us they’re on our side. Its not about you, its about me.  Would that all people would  preach the gospel. Would that all people would drive out demons. Would that all would proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God!

For ministry in the church is not about power or position or who’s in first place. Ministry in the church is about following the one who led us to the Cross by washing our feet. It’s the last place we should covet, sitting right there on the street with his friends, seeking to be little and kind and gentle, counting on nothing in this world but the one who was born a little baby in a manger in poverty and died before a jeering crowd, nailed to a cross.

Let me end with a story from 35 years ago, which is, to the best of my recollection, true.  I was a theology student at the Gregorian University at the time and it was Christmas vacation, so a bunch of us piled into a train and headed off for what we called the beer run, stopping at youth hostels in Munch, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.  At out last stop, we stayed with the Jesuits, in hopes of meeting the great Karl Rahner, arguably the most renowned theologian of the age.   

The Rector kindly invited us to sit at his table, and as the elderly waiter brought the soup, our eyes scanned the room for the great man.  Maybe we'll get a picture with him, maybe an autographed book we could use to brag to our friends, or maybe he'd say something profound I could quote three decades later in order to impress my an audience of theologians on how well connected I was, even at the age of 27!

But, alas, God disappointed me yet again.  No Rahner in sight.  So, at the end of the dinner we discreetly inquired of the Rector how Father Rahner was doing.  Was he, perhaps, ill, or away for some prestigious lecture, or back in his office composing a brilliant thesis.  No, he replied, that was him serving the soup.

Years after you get your degree from this prestigious Institute and have labored in the Lord's vineyard for many decades, and have finally gone home to meet Theresa and her Jesus, may they say of you, She was the one serving the soup!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Mission Statement for SJS

On September 25, 2012, the Saint John's Seminary Board of Trustees approved the following Mission Statement for Saint John's Seminary:

Saint John’s Seminary prepares Roman Catholic seminarians for ordination to the Priesthood through programs of human, pastoral, spiritual and academic formation.* It is governed by a Board of Trustees, chaired by the Archbishop of Boston.

While primarily in service to the Bishops of New England, Saint John’s Seminary also enrolls seminarians from other Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in its several degree programs.

The Seminary’s Theological Institute prepares laity, deacons and religious for ministry and service to the Dioceses of the region. 


*Cf. the Ratio Fundamentalis Instutionis Sacerdotaolis of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1985), the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis of Blessed Pope John Paul II (1992), and the Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition (2005), of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saint John's Golf Tournament

What a tremendous Eleventh Annual SJS Golf Tournament we had at Woodland Country Club in Newton yesterday.  Our record number of golfers (114!) capped off the day with a great dinner, silent and live auctions and a good time had by all!

Our co-chairs, Rick and Cathy Roche, did a magnificent job in making this year’s outing such a success.  Marilyn Gaeta held all the details together and flawlessly executed the plan for the tournament.

I am very grateful to the Executive Committee, consisting of Rev. Eric Cadin, Richard Gaeta, Craig & Nancy Gibson, Rev. Christopher Hickey, Terry & Kathy Kennedy, Rev. Mark Murphy, Rev. Robert Reed, Bob Travaglini, and Frank Woodward.

I also want to thank the Saint John’s Seminary Working Committee members: Rev. Christopher O’Connor, Rev. Edward Riley, Deacon Scott Carpentier, John Cassani, Maria Cusack, Marilyn Gaeta, Mary Jo Kriz, Gerald Souza, Rev. Gregory Vozzo, and Kaye Woodward

Here is what I said to the assembled generous golfers at the banquet:

I want you to look around the room this evening at the number of people here.  It is almost exactly the number of seminarians we educate at Saint John’s Seminary for virtually all the Dioceses of New England and for several Religious Orders.

Picture the number of people in this room as the number of idealistic young men with hope overbrimming their hearts and a faith that could move mountains and you will picture the reason that I have the best job in the world.

Imagine what it is like to be the pastor of a young shepherd to be, who sits across from you with tears in his eyes and says, Monsignor, all I really want to do is to give my life to Jesus and to his Church.

Picture your son or your grandson or your nephew or the kid you see serving the 9:00am Mass every week.  Picture all the men whom Christ is calling to share in his Priesthood....
calling to anoint your mother at 2:00am 
or sit with your nephew as he struggles with drugs 
or counsel your sister when her marriage is on the rocks 
or feed the poor, or seek out the confused, 
or teach the authentic Catholic Faith with passion 
or celebrate the Sacraments that 
Christ might baptize your children
forgive your sins, 
and  give us his body and blood to eat and drink, 
all through the hands of those 124 men whom Christ is preparing today to be your Priests today.

On their behalf, I thank you for your generosity.  Dioceses pay tuitions of $23,000 a piece, but that’s less than half of what it really costs to prepare these men spiritually, humanly, intellectually and spiritually to be your priests.

So on their behalf, I thank you...

Let us Pray.

Blessed are you, Lord God, Creator of this beautiful day,
of faith, of life, and of all the blessings you shower upon us.
You raised your beloved Son from the dead,
and made him Lord of all.
Bless us and bless this food 
which you have given us.
Bless all who work for the good of your Church
and for the good of those who prepare to serve them.
Fill our hearts with gratefulness and praise
for you live and reign
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Installation Homily

Installation as Twentieth Rector
of Saint John’s Seminary
23 September 2012

I welcome you to this Holy House.  I welcome His Eminence, Cardinal O’Malley, as I thank him (“to thank” is always such an inadequate word) for the trust he has shown in naming me as Rector of Saint John’s Seminary.  And I am grateful to his brother Bishops for sending their best and brightest, the hope of the Church in New England, to be formed in the image of Christ Jesus, our great High Priest. 

I thank my esteemed predecessor and friend, Bishop Kennedy; and I thank Bishop Matano and Bishop Edyvean and through them all the members of our Board of Trustees, Bishop Lubasci and Bishop Riley and, most of all, Bishop McManus, who now occupies with distinction the Cathedra from which I was ordained thirty-two years ago, and who makes it so easy for me to fulfill the fundamental priestly promise of obedience and respect.

If I were personally to thank and welcome each of you, my term as Rector would have run out before I reached the final name.  My mom and dad, who are watching through the kindness of Catholic TV, my sister and nephew, my cousins and friends: I am grateful to each of you for your perduring love.  However, I would be remiss, if I did not welcome an old friend with particular affection who has come so far and for whom my admiration is so great: Monsieur Pierre-Marie Dumont, the founder and publisher of Magnificat.  

Welcome, each and every one of you to this Holy House.

This is a Holy House.  It’s mission far transcends the ordinary human enterprises.  For here God forms ordinary men into his priests: they are your brothers and sons who sit among you...they’re the ones with hope in their eyes and necks trying to grow into Roman collars.

Within this Holy House, my faculty and I are called to a wonderful work: to help men to discern God’s still, quiet call and to form them as priests in the image of Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest and to shape them as Heads, Shepherds, and Bridegrooms for Christ’s Church.

Living Stones of Formation
This venerable chapel that stands at the heart of Saint John’s Seminary reminds me of the image of the living stones that Sacred Scripture uses to describe the Church herself.  Each stone is different and each has a different role to play in this building, but each is indispensable to the design of the builder.

Some of you began God’s holy work of forming priests after the heart of Christ many years ago, in other holy houses, in your homes (the  domestic church, if you will), where mothers and fathers taught sons how to make the sign of the cross, hitting each shoulder in the proper sequence.  You were the first to teach them how to kneel and how to forgive and how to love as Jesus first loved them.  

Some of you are their pastors and priests. You so moved them by the dedication of your lives that these men wanted to be just like you. You inspired them to become other Christs.  You showed them what it means to stand and to act in persona Christi.

You taught them that the Priest, “acting in persona Christi Capitis, is the fount of life and vitality in the Church and in his parish by virtue of his sacrificial power to confect the Body and Blood of the Redeemer, his authority to proclaim the Gospel, and his power to conquer the evil of sin through sacramental forgiveness.”

Some of you are their Bishops who have confided them to the care of this venerable Seminary.  Eminence, Excellencies, let me assure you that here your seminarians will learn how to live what the Church instructs about the mystery of her mission:  The Rector and Faculty of Saint John’s Seminary profess and teach with the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council that  “The ministry of the priest is entirely on behalf of the Church; it aims at promoting the exercise of the common priesthood of the entire People of God; it is ordered not only to the particular Church but also to the universal Church,
 in communion with the bishop, with Peter and under Peter.” 

This Holy House, like all the holy houses in which our seminarians have lived, is about forming them in holiness, making them true icons of Christ. But there is something more about this Holy House.  For here, men learn not only to live out their Baptism, but to live as holy priests. They learn to preach, to administer the sacraments, and to set the world on fire with divine faith. In a word, they learn to draw all people to Christ.

The Priest is a sort of miracle upon the earth, as Bishop John Wright, auxiliary of this great Archdiocese and founder Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, once put it.The priest is the sort of man in whom Christ is present, “ he is present in no saint, however holy, and in no Angel, however near the face of God...a priest [whose] supreme privilege, as well as his terrifying responsibility is to be, in a sense Christ himself. He says not, “may Christ absolve you”; but, “I absolve you.” Not this is Christ’s body, but “this is my body.”  [The Priest performs] “a divine act that is done... by the union of the priest’s free will and free intention with that of his Creator.”

As they treated me
But priestly formation is no easy task, and priestly ministry is no simple life in the first decades of the twenty-first century.  For, as the Lord himself assured us, the world will often treat the Priest as it treated him, the One whom they hung upon the cross for our salvation.  This Seminary must prepare the men who sit among you for ministry in a world of too many wolves who often regard priests as sheep to be devoured.

For when they preach the Lord Jesus, and not the latest self-indulgent fantasies of the world, they will be reviled and obnoxious to those who would deny the Truth who is Christ;

When they proclaim fearlessly that the life of every human being, no matter how young or how old, well or ill enjoys a dignity that comes from the Creator, they will be deemed foolish, old fashioned, or insensitive to technological advances;

When they live and preach fidelity and purity, they will be considered quaint or prudish and out of touch with the real world;

When they are peaceable, gentle and merciful, many will smirk with innuendo, spitefulness and cruelty;

When they live as servants and defenders of the poor, always seeking the last place, the world will call them naive, and will tempt them with the pleasures of prestige and worldly treasure.

But they will rest assured, our good future Priests, they will rest assured that they have been called to be nothing less than living images of Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom.  The Christ who corrects his ambitious and self-righteous disciples...Jesus, the Son of the Living God through whom all things were made, stooping down before arrogant men, embracing a child, and declaring that, unless you become like a little child, small and innocent, and pure, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

Such is the Priesthood for which these men are formed in this Holy House.

A Profession and an Oath
As the pastor of this holy house, I will accomplish my task only with the help of God. I will seek to be gentle and humble and faithful and true. Like the Good Shepherd, the true pastor, I will seek to know my sheep and invite them to know me. I will seek out the lost and bind up their wounds and carry them home. I will lay down my life as the sheep-gate and protect this house from thieves and marauders of body or mind. I will lead this flock of shepherds to good pastures, and to still waters that refresh and form souls in the image of their maker.

And I will do it all in union with the Bishops and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict the XVI. He has described the Seminary as a place of “interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study, of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church.”

So now, like the twenty rectors who have gone before me and the next twenty who, please God, will follow, I will profess the faith we have received from the Apostles and renew the Oath of Fidelity.  By this oath, I promise my firm adherence to the Church.  To signal their own fidelity to the mission of the Seminary,The faculty will likewise take an Oath of Fidelity to the Church.  I ask you, dear Friends all, to pray for me and for my brother priests and all who live and work in this Holy House.

Two hundred and twenty two years ago this December 28th, Jean Louis Magdeleine Lefebvre de Chevrus was ordained at Paris in the last Priestly Ordinations before the French Revolution.  On that same night night he read from this Bible in Latin and French which he had owned since entering pre-theology at the College of Louis le Grand.

The Bible on which we take the Oath today is that same Bible, the very Bible which he carried to London where he first studied English, and then on to Portland Maine, as he worked among the Indians.  This is the same Bible he used to prepare that first homily at Holy Cross Cathedral as the new Bishop of the town of Boston and to prepare his remarks of farewell when he was recalled to France.

For the past one hundred and twenty-eight years, more than three thousand seminarians have studied the same Scriptures, embraced the same Christ, and sought the same Priesthood in this Holy House.

So let us take up this noble endeavor with the same assurance that has appeared on the Great Seal of the City of Boston since the year Bishop Chevrus returned to France: SICUT PATRIBUS, SIT DEUS NOBIS.  As God was with our fathers, so may he be with us this day.

Monsignor James P. Moroney

1 Congregation for the Clergy, The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, no. 8.
2 Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 10
3 Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 16.
4 Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (Thomas More, 1984) page 79.
5 Pope Benedict XVI, Mass with Seminarians in Almudena Cathedral, Madrid for World Youth Day, August 20, 2011.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Korean Martyrs

Feast of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, 
Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs 

To every one of them he says the same thing: Follow me!  Follow me, he says to Philip and Matthew and Levi and Peter. (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, John 1:43; John 21:19.)

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19.)  Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead. (Matthew 8:22.) Follow me! 

And to the heart of every man sitting here this morning, he says the same thing: Follow me!  That’s the reason you’re here, listening for that still small voice, that naggingly insistent demand: Follow me!

But how, Lord?  How do I follow you?

Paul Chong Ha-sang learned the way as a little boy, six years old, when his father and brother were martyred for teaching Christ.  He learned the way as he and his mother fled to the countryside where no one would notice them.  For many that would have been the end of it.  But Paul listened for that voice as his father had taught him: Follow me!    

So, the young Paul snuck across the border, not once, but nine times, and when the Bishop of Beiging would not listen to him he wrote to the Pope, until Gregory X sent a Bishop to Korea, a Bishop who recognized Christ calling this young man to be a Priest and accepted him to the study of Theology.  But Paul was not to die a Priest, for just before his ordination he and the Bishop and Father Andrew Kim Kaegon, the only native Korean priest at the time, were martyred with 103 others who have been canonized, and as many as 10,000 other faithful Korean Catholics in the following years.

Paul knew the way.  He’d walked it, as he heard the still, small voice of the crucified, calling to him from the wood of cross.  Follow me, in my passion.  Follow me, in my suffering.  Follow me, as I lay down my life for the sheep.  Deny yourself...take up your cross, and follow me.

As gold in the furnace, God proved him,
and as a sacrificial offering God took him to himself.

The blood of these martyrs we celebrate today, made fertile the Korean soil and brought forth a harvest so wondrous, that it’s hard to imagine.  For example, the second largest Archdiocese, Daegu is about a quarter the size of the Archdiocese of Boston.  But last year, while Boston baptised less than 3,000 catechumens, tiny Daegu baptised more than twice that number.  One quarter the size, and more than twice the converts!

And why?  Because God chose to make “the blood of the Martyrs...a most fruitful seed,” (Roman Missal, Collect for the Feast of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs) “which sprouted a new bud, which grew to a full blown tree in this pilgrim Church.” (Hymn.The Martyrdom of One Hundred and Three.)

May that same blood make our hearts fertile ground for the grace to renounce all selfish please and prestige, deny our very selves, follow the via dolorosa, the only road which leads to him.

Monsignor James P. Moroney

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Beauty, Music, and the Priest

This year, we have scheduled a series of concerts at Saint John's Seminary, many of which are open to the public. Watch this space for further notices as each concert approaches.  \\Some have asked me why such musical experiences are important in the formation of candidates for the Priesthood. It's a great question and one which is dear to my heart, since I believe that an appreciation of music and all the other arts is indispensable to my life as a Priest.

In our technologically obsessed world I need to turn off the Iphone (even the Iphone 5!) and just let my soul be transported to a place of symmetry, beauty and the deepest of human emotions. Music cleanses me of the bits and data which so often obsess my life. It centers me, as do all things beautiful, on the Creator of all beauty. It creates a quiet space, where I can rest in his presence.

Many of you know of the great value which I have placed on the arts in my life and in my Priesthood. The arts are, for me, an infinite reservoir from which I want to encourage you to drink deeply.

Our Holy Father, however, put it far better than I ever could, in his message to a meeting of Communion and Liberation in 2002. He wrote:

“The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true." The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

14 September 2012

Offer it up!  That's what my grandmother used to tell me when I was kid. If I stubbed my toe and began to cry should say offer it up!

When as a teenager my heart was broken for the first time, she’d proclaim: Offer it up!

And I suspect if she had still been alive when as an old priest I got kidney stones she would've said Offer it up Jimmy! Just offer it up!

What was she talking about? Clearly the cross. And what St. Paul meant when he urged us to make up in our sufferings for what is lacking in the cross of Christ.

What does that mean?
It means I embrace and allow myself to be embraced by a cross made up of two bars: one vertical and one horizontal. 

The vertical draws us upward. It tells me there’s something beyond my pain, beyond my self. 

Now is there anything which more powerfully draws me into my own little pity party then pain?  It happens to me when I get the flu. Be forewarned! I am miserable when I’m sick! And I never hesitate to generously share my misery with everyone who comes in contact with me! No one hurts like I hurt. No one suffers like I suffer! 

But joining the suffering of my life to the cross of Christ draws me beyond myself, inserting the pathetic pettiness of my pain into the the sacrifice of the crucified and love unto death, death on a Cross.

And then there’s a horizontal bar to the cross, two arms which embrace me with the consolation that I do not suffer alone.  For to know that my broken heart can be joined to the sacred heart of him who opened his arms on a tree for my salvation is the ultimate consolation and the source of the peace this world cannot give.  

Sometimes that cross is called trust.  The cross of trusting in a superior.  When a formator or spiritual director tells me I need to grow in this way or that and my heart begins to harden from the perceived assault.

Sometimes that cross is called trust, accepting in holy obedience the direction of the one God has placed over me.  Or, as Saint Paul Saint wrote: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped at...but humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. (Philippians 2: 5–8)

It might be one of the hardest things any of us have to learn.  But as the ratio fundamentalis on seminary formation says so well: 

“Priests need to be formed who are fearless in accepting the fact that real communion with Christ entails self-denial, and, in particular, in understanding that following Christ entails genuine obedience...not participating falsely in His Mystery, not refusing a share in His passion, but carrying one's cross in His footsteps, acquiring those virtues which support a Christian soul and enable it to prevail...A seminary which allows a future priest to leave unaware of the struggles which await him and of self-denial, without which his fidelity is impossible, just as for the ordinary faithful, would have gravely failed in its mission. (Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Instutionis Sacerdotaolis, no. 3.)

Struggles?  What struggles?

Sometimes they’re simple crosses like:

I want a suburban parish near my family, but they send me to an inner city parish two hours away that needs an associate; 

I wanted the Cathedral, surrounded by city, and I’m a tiny chapel surrounded by cows;

I wanted to study Italian, but the Bishop needs a priest to hear confessions in Portuguese;

I wanted to serve the poor and I’m stationed in the richest parish in the Diocese;

I prefer the extraordinary form, but the charismatic community needs a chaplain;

I think the youth group needs more Life Teen, but the pastor thinks they need more rosary;

I was thinking like doctorate in Rome, and the Bishop was thinking like second associate in Attleboro.

Simple crosses.  And each of them blessed participations in the one Cross we exalt in this feast.  

Not unlike the crosses you bear when he recalls the seriousness of what you did and then wants to talk about it;

The cross you bear you you feel ashamed and humiliated that he knows your most secret sin;

The cross you bear when you weep in frustration;

The cross you bear when you try and you fail;

The cross you bear when all you want to do is listen for the still small voice of God, with your mind, your heart and your soul;

The Crosses that are a call to surrender all in what Saint Ignatius of Loyola said about you:

”See God in your superiors; so shall you learn to revere their will and follow their commands. Be well assured that obedience is the safest guide and most faithful interpreter of the Divine Will. [Above all, do not be your own master, relying on your own prudence, contrary to the caution of the wise man.] Pour out your hearts to them as freely as water, mindful that they are charged with the direction of your souls. . . . ”

That’s the Cross we exalt by our words and by our lives.

Monsignor James P. Moroney

Seminary - First Rector's Conference

Part One


I’m back!  And I want to begin my first Rector’s conference with an apology.  I just missed the first week of school.  More importantly, I missed the opening retreat.  And I want you to know that this happened only because of a longstanding commitment to preach the Priests convocation in the Diocese of Sydney.  Cardinal Pell asked me to thank you for your indulgence and has written a note with an excuse for my absence, which I hope you will accept.

Seriously, I regret not being here, because this is where your pastor belongs.  I have spent more than half my life as a pastor and that is how I see myself in these days: as a pastor of a flock of shepherds.  

And like any pastor, I am called to exercise my ministry more by example than by my great plans.  By who I am I seek to form you in what God has called you to be.

In the Seminary, the Rector fulfills a ministry, exercised in the name of the Bishop of each sending Diocese
 is “to initiate the candidate into the sensitivity of being a shepherd.” Assisted by the Faculty, “the bishop and the rector together” are ultimately responsible for the fostering and verification of the “spiritual, human and intellectual endowments” needed for the Priestly ministry.

What does all this mean, in practical terms?  It means I must know and care for you and the faculty as the Good Shepherd knew and cared for his sheep. It means I must preach the truth, to lead you into the mysteries of the Sacred Liturgy, and be accessible, consistent and fair in my judgements

In other words, I am called to be your pastor and your priest.

That’s what it means to be your rector, but what does it mean to be a Seminary?

We are more than a school of theology.  Indeed, our mandate is significantly more challenging, as described by the Conciliar Decree on Priestly Formation, Optatum Totius.  

Saint John’s Seminary has a threefold mandate: to develop in our students an intellectual rigor, a profound love of the magisterium, and an integration of our academic instruction with the work, the prayer, and the lives of seminarians.  Allow me to spend a brief moment of each of these mandates.

First, Optatum Totius tells us that “In the very manner of teaching there should be stirred up in the students a love of rigorously searching for the truth and of maintaining and demonstrating it, together with an honest recognition of the limits of human knowledge.”
What the Church is calling for here is an authentic theological method, whereby the seminarian sees himself as the unworthy servant of the Truth, and not as its ultimate master.  Such a theologian is ruthless in his self-critique, but childlike in his wonder at the tradition he has been called to preserve, a tradition which comes from the Word made flesh and has been preserved by the Church in fidelity and love.

The seminarian who has been exposed to such a method will hunger for solid theological reflection for the rest of his life.  The questions which arise from the pastoral, spiritual, and human struggles he will encounter will be informed and challenged by the authentically Catholic theologians to whom he has been introduced.  In other words, he will have learned in the seminary how to embrace the Church and the truth she preserves with humility and love.

Second, Optatum Totius calls us, “under the guidance of the magisterium of the Church” to teach students how to “correctly draw out Catholic doctrine from divine revelation, profoundly penetrate it, make it the food of their own spiritual lives, and be enabled to proclaim, explain, and protect it in their priestly ministry.”

In other words, your professors are not just teaching you, they are teaching every parishioner you will ever preach to, every confused young adult you will ever counsel, and ever catechism class you will ever instruct.  And by the way they will teach you, with a love for the Catholic faith that has penetrated their heart and become food for their spiritual lives, they will enable you to teach the truth not just with your words, but by the manner in which you live your priestly life.

And finally, the Church calls on the seminary to beware lest they “tend merely to the communication of ideas.”  Rather, they should counsel and “provide a true and intimate formation.”

True means preaching Christ and not the latest academic theory.  True means teaching what the Church teaches and not what I think she should teach.  And “intimate” means understanding that what we teach here goes to the very heart of things, seeking what Pope Paul VI has called the “total formation of the young man, not only as a human being and a Christian but above all as a priest, whose whole personality must be penetrated by the light of divine revelation.”

How This is Accomplished
How is this accomplished?  It is accomplished through the Faculty and Staff of the Seminary, my intimate collaborators in this great work.  Without them, I could do nothing as Rector of Saint John’s Seminary.  With them, we can accomplish wonderful things!

Great collaborators like Father Raymond Van De Moortell, our new Director of Intellectual Formation.  Father Raymond, along with the Educational Affairs Committee, will assure that the best of academic principles are consistently applied, that Faculty are encouraged to grow in their discipline and in their craft, and that through a comprehensive system of evaluation of every aspect of our program, including faculty and staff, we will continue to grow in the sort of excellence that makes us worthy of this great work.

As a side note here, I wish to thank Father Steve Salocks, the outgoing Dean of faculty for his dedicated service through the years.  Fr. Salocks is about to head off on a well deserved sabbatical and then return to us refreshed as the great professor of Sacred Scripture which he is.

Great collaborators like the spiritual work which Father Barber and Father Borek and Father Merdinger and all the spiritual directors who carry out this great work in the name of Christ.  By listening to you, they teach you how to listen.  By counseling you, they prepare you to give counsel.  By speaking the hard truth to you they teach you how to speak the truth to the sinner.  And when required and appropriate, forgiving you they teach you to forgive.  

Then there are the good pastors who teach you how to be good shepherds by the manner of their shepherding, led by our Director of “Shepherding,” Father Riley.  His is a double duty as Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation; he is responsible for the education of the shepherds in the field and governs the flock within the seminary walls.

I am also grateful to Father David Pignato, who has accepted the newly created position of Director of Human Formation.  For it is only when we have become fully human that we are able to reflect the image and likeness of Christ to a waiting world.

That, briefly, is my vision of how a Seminary does the work of helping men to discern their vocation and the forming them as Priests in the model of Christ Jesus, our great Hish Priest.  It is a noble endeavor to which we are called as a community of faith and one to which I pledge my every waking moment.

And with each waking moment and every ounce of our strength we must each seek to become what God wants us to be.  Like the rich young man, all we are seeking is how to go to heaven.  And helping us get there is what this house is really all about.

Part Two

Clerical Diseases and Their Vaccines

The flu season will soon be upon us. I can tell because CVS and Walgreens are offering a vaccine.  Did you know, as a doctor friend of mine recently told me, that they have to throw away all the left over vaccine at the end of each flu season?  It seems that it is formulated specifically for the strains of influenza particular to each given year.  

This year’s strains of flu are known as influenza A (H3N2) and its variant (H3N2v).  And the vacines which have been manufactured are intended to foster immunities to these specific pathogens.

The clerical sin season is now upon us, too, my brothers, and welcome to the club.  For as good as priests may be, as desirous of just giving their life to Christ and to his Church, as selfless and generous and sometimes even heroic they may be, priests as a species are subject to particular strains of sin, diseases of the heart, if you will.  And as seminarians, you are now susceptible to the same soul rotting contagions as me and my brothers and all those clerics who have gone before you.

Like the influenza, we're more susceptible to these diseases when we're not taking care of ourselves, when we neglect the important things.  But like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, the three most common clerical pathogens of the priesthood are always out there, threatening to devour us at every given moment.

The first sin is ambition.  Our Holy Father spoke beautifully of this a while back in a homily at the Ordination of Priests in 2006.  He was speaking of the Gospel parable of the Good Shepherd.  

Jesus highlights very clearly this basic condition by saying:  "he who... climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber" (Jn 10: 1). This word "climbs" - anabainei in Greek - conjures up the image of someone climbing over a fence to get somewhere out of bounds to him.
"To climb" - here too we can also see the image of careerism, the attempt to "get ahead", to gain a position through the Church:  to make use of and not to serve. It is the image of a man who wants to make himself important, to become a person of note through the priesthood; the image of someone who has as his aim his own exaltation and not the humble service of Jesus Christ.
But the only legitimate ascent towards the shepherd's ministry is the Cross. This is the true way to rise; this is the true door. It is not the desire to become "someone" for oneself, but rather to exist for others, for Christ, and thus through him and with him to be there for the people he seeks, whom he wants to lead on the path of life.
One enters the priesthood through the Sacrament, and this means precisely:  through the gift of oneself to Christ, so that he can make use of me; so that I may serve him and follow his call, even if it proves contrary to my desire for self-fulfilment and esteem.
Ambition is a common clerical disease and a constant temptation.  It's great to be successful and a real thrill to be recognized for one's accomplishments.  As you may know, the Holy Father, through the intercession of Bishop McManus, recently made me a Prelate of Honor.  It's really cool wearing that new colored piping on my cassock.  It makes me feel special and somewhere way down deep inside the little kid who did not get chosen to play baseball at recess is vindicated that he has been made a Monsignor.

But does it have ultimate value?  Does it make me better than anyone else?  Or is it merely an invitation to greater service, a pat on the back that keeps me moving in the right direction, and a reminder of the importance of acting like the sacred person I am called to be. The disease is to climb the clerical ladder and to judge my life by the color of my buttons. 

So what's the vaccine for this first clerical sin?  Good friends.  Friends of all sorts and sizes.  Priest friends, lay friends, married couples, single folks...all are a good vaccine and antidote, but perhaps the most effective inoculation is a good, long term clerical friend who loves you enough to tell you the truth.

No one can tell me the truth quite as effectively as my closest priest friends, and the longer they've known me, the better they are at operating the ambition detector.

They've been there, seen you make a fool of yourself, consoled you when you were on the verge of tears, listened when you were making no sense, put up with your endless lines of blarney, all because they love you, and they love you enough to tell you the truth: that there is only one God and he ain't you.

Such friends, my brothers, are worth their weight in fire tried gold.  Friends who know you, and still keep coming back.  Friends who rejoice with you in your triumphs, but who lend perspective, and who love you enough to knock you off your high horse again and again and again.

The second sin is cynicism.   And just like all the good things you learn in seminary, sadly the snarky smirk of the clerical cynic is taught here as well.

Oh, it's not in the catalog, but I've never known a seminary that does not grant a masters degree in cynicism, taught in the hallways and the lounges and in the car on the way home.  It starts innocently enough, as a venting of frustration at all those things I cannot control.  And that's tough.

Seminary is a pressure cooker, a fish bowl, in which it's easy to feel that your every move, your every look and perhaps your every thought is scrutinized, evaluated and inscribed in your permanent record.  That's a heck of a way to live, with a sword of Damacles hanging continually over your head!

But if I don't trust that God is really running this show, what do I do with the surplus of fear, resentment, and suspicion which grows from living under a microscope?  Often it gets translated into a cynical attitude that suspects the motives of the faculty and even of other students and even of the Bishop.  When I don't want to admit the painful truth about something in me which Christ and his church are asking me to change or let go of, I try to kill the messenger. You know, he's always been out to get me.  And he's incompetent, too.  You know what I heard about him.  He's only in the seminary because he can't cut it in a parish, and he really has no friends.  Why he's such a fool that I heard....

Now here,  my brothers, I have been quoting from things I said and heard when I was in seminary, thirty-six years ago.  But I would not be surprised if the walls of the Student Lounge were sometimes veneered with the same gossipy cynicism today.

Now hear me out.  I am not saying that venting is bad.  There are times when it is appropriate and indeed healthy to vent in a safe place about the frustrations and fears which have been shaking around inside of you like a coke bottle with the cap still on.

But when the occasional, safe, contextualized, confidential venting with your friends who know enough not to take you too seriously.... is replaced by a consistent attitude of cynical snarkiness...when you really start to believe that the stuff you're saying is Gospel truth...then you have caught a disease which has destroyed too many priests' souls and rotted away the virtue and integrity of too many of my brothers, when then, you’re in trouble.  And you need help.

You've probably met a few clerical victims of this disease by now...guys who are more intent on gossip than on truth, at tearing down than building up, at proving that everyone else is less competent, less holy, and less authentic than they are.  And sadly, when this disease enters the clerical blood stream, it threatens the priesthood and even the soul of its victim.

So, what's the vaccine to clerical cynicism?  Confession and a really good spiritual director and a really good shrink.  Folks who will call you back, again and again, to dealing with the darkness in your own soul, so that you won't spend your waking hours howling at others.

There ain't nothing that makes me more loving, more priestly, or more honest than kneeling down in front of my confessor and saying, you know I really did it this time.  There ain't nothing that makes me more of a whole human being than saying to a counselor who knows me, I don't where share this feeling is coming from. There ain't  nothing that makes me less susceptible to ranting as a career, than a wise spiritual director who helps me work through it and live the truth with love.

And then there's sloth.  That's such a great word, sloth.  And it's even the name of an animal, who just sits there all day, couch-potatoeing his life away.  Naval gazing and never quite getting out of bed.

Now, again, I'm not saying that we're not entitled to rest or a break or a good pattern of work and recreation or a day off.  I once had a spiritual director who, in my Messianic period, told me that on your day off you should walk over the dead bodies on the front porch and drive away for the day, or you'll be no good to anyone else for the rest of the week.

But I’m speaking of those who seem to have retired before they have begun to work.  Bishop Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of Worcester, when confronted by the legions of priests who claim to be burnt out, is wont to respond, “I'm not sure how the can be burnt out when they never caught on fire!”

The kind of self indulgent sloth which is frequently born of depression is a disease which hits every cleric on occasion, and perhaps even more frequently enters the seminarian's blood stream.  

Yet when you find yourself just not wanting to get with the program, with no energy to do what must be done, or resistant to the demands which are knocking a your door, there is hope.

For there at two vaccines for the sloth virus: prayer and love.  Prayer is, quite simply, talking to Jesus.  It really hasn't changed in its essentials since you first did it at three years old.  And Jesus hasn't changed either.  Even when I don't want to do it.  I go to the chapel, and just pray.  And if I can't pray, I just sit there and ask God to help me to pray.

And the second vaccine is like unto's love.  Nothing so quickly cures sloth as loving someone, especially someone who you don't expect to love you back.  Sometimes a good antidote to sloth is going to see your brother seminarian who has been having such a hard time lately...or going to that soup kitchen you've always wondered about....or leaving early for your apostolate...or just plain seeking out someone who needs to be loved and loving them.

As a parish priest I always found Saturdays to be the toughest day of the week.  You'd sprinkle them with meetings, start with a morning Mass and maybe a wedding, and with seeming inevitability, the odd funeral or two.  Then, as you're trying to polish your homily (and sometimes, polishing was a euphemism for starting) you'd be watching the clock for the start time of confessions.   And a big wet blanket of sloth would start to surround you.  

How can I sit I that box for an hour when I haven't finished my homily.  I'm so exhausted and the fan doesn't work and it's hot and stuffy in there.  And...a thousand other reasons why I'd rather take a nap than hear confessions.

But you know something, as predictably as the slothful temptations were...each time I'd go sit in that confessional, I'd slide over that little creaking door and hear "bless me Father for I have sinned, it's been nineteen years since I've been to confession...."bless me Father for I have sinned, I just don't know what to do..."bless me Father for I have sinned, I don't think God loves me anymore...."bless me Father for I have sinned, I can't pray anymore...

And the wet blanket of sloth would suddenly disappear, replaced by a warm feeling of being needed, and tears running down my cheeks.


Ambition, Snarky cynicism, and sloth...

Three diseases we're particularly susceptible to, just as crummy as the flu
.....and good friends, confession and love: three vacines which they don't sell at CVS.

God bless you.

Monsignor James P. Moroney