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, “present...as 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.