Sunday, December 30, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

See amid the winter's snow....

On the eve of the Feast of the Holy Family, a heavy blanket of snow is covering the Seminary. It reminds me of Edward Caswall’s nineteenth century Hymn for Christmas Day:

See amid the winter's snow,

Born for us on earth below,
See the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption's happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Collect for New Year's Day

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. 

Holy Father's Christmas Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.

Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings.

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.

Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI
December 25, 2012

Upcoming Lecture on Evangelical Catholicism

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A well deserved honor and a new edition...

The Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University has announced that our own Father Romanus Cessario, O.P. has been chosen as the 2013 recipient of the Veritas Medal.

"The Veritas Medal honors an eminent Catholic thinker whose career reflects the Aquinas Center’s goal to foster the search for truth.  Since the attainment of truth is a participation in the Wisdom of Christ, the Veritas Medal serves to recognize those who have instantiated, in their lives and work, the integration of faith and reason.”

The Veritas Medal will be presented on the afternoon of January 26, 2013.  The entire Saint John’s Seminary community congratulates Father Cessario for this well deserved honor.  

Note should also be taken that Father Cessario's 2001 Introduction to Moral Theology has recently appeared in a revised edition.  The international theological journal “Nova et Vetera” calls Father Cessario’s introduction “a splendid book on moral theology [which] depicts in a grand style and well-argued fashion what shape the reflection on moral theology must take when one embraces moral realism."  The Journal of Catholic and Evangelical TheologyPro Ecclesia” observes that “[Father Cessario] “has established himself as one of the leading scholars in the field of Roman Catholic moral theology, and those expecting to find a probative discussion of the essential features of the Thomistic articulation of that tradition will not be disappointed. It is a masterful presentation.... Veteran or novice, all those interested in encountering a vigorous account of Catholic moral theology will profit from this introduction."

In my view, this volume should be on every pastor’s bookshelf.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pope Paul the Venerable

Our Holy Father has decreed the “heroic virtues” of Pope Paul VI, the first Pope I met as a seminarian and the one whom I hold in the deepest esteem as a father of the post-conciliar liturgical reform.  Listen for just a moment to Pope Benedict XVI on the Venerable Pope Paul VI:

"[Pope Paul VI] gave up his spirit to God on the evening of 6 August 1978, the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, a mystery of divine light that always exercised a remarkable fascination upon his soul. As Supreme Pastor of the Church, Paul VI guided the People of God to contemplation of the Face of Christ, the Redeemer of man and Lord of history. And it was precisely this loving orientation of his mind and heart toward Christ that served as a cornerstone of the Second Vatican Council, a fundamental attitude that my venerable Predecessor John Paul II inherited and relaunched during the great Jubilee of the Year 2000. At the centre of everything, always and only Christ: at the centre of the Sacred Scriptures and of Tradition, in the heart of the Church, of the world and of the entire universe. Divine Providence summoned Giovanni Battista Montini from the See of Milan to that of Rome during the most sensitive moment of the Council - when there was a risk that Blessed John XXIII’s intuition might not materialize. How can we fail to thank the Lord for his fruitful and courageous pastoral action? As our gaze on the past grows gradually broader and more aware, Paul VI's merit in presiding over the Council Sessions, in bringing it successfully to conclusion and in governing the eventful post-conciliar period appears ever greater, I should say almost superhuman. We can truly say, with the Apostle Paul, that the grace of God in him "was not in vain" (cf. 1 Cor 15: 10): it made the most of his outstanding gifts of intelligence and passionate love for the Church and for humankind. As we thank God for the gift of this great Pope, let us commit ourselves to treasure his teachings."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 2 August 2008


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Farewell to Father Quang Nguyen

The Faculty of Saint John's Seminary was joined by the Vietnamese Seminarians from Saint John's and the Redemptorist community in bidding farewell to Father Quang Nguyen.  After several years of studies at Saint John's, Father Quang begins a course of studies in catechetics at Christendom College in Fort Royal, Virginia.

In the course of an authentic Vietnamese Banquet in the Rector's Apartment, Monsignor Moroney toasted Father Quang as a "son of Vietnam, faithful Catholic daughter of the Church," and prayed that "through the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang" God might prosper his ministry and help him to recall the continuing affection and friendship of the community of Saint John's Seminary.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lessons and Carols at SJS

This past weekend, the Saint John's Seminary Schola, the Vietnamese Choir and a collection of talented  musicians celebrated Christmas Lessons and Carols under the magnificent direction of Dr. Janet Hunt.  The chapel was packed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon as the angelic song reminded us of the words of Pope Benedict XVI in the latest volume of Jesus of Nazareth:

“Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaim becomes tangibly present. And so, from that moment, the Angels song of praise has never gone silent. It continues down the centuries in constantly new forms and it resounds ever new at the celebration of Jesus’s birth. It is only natural that simple believers would then hear the shepherds singing too, and to this day they join in their caroling on the holy night, proclaiming in song the great joy that from then until the end of time, is the bestowed on all people.”

For another Video of Lessons and Carols click here.

For more photos click here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cardinal O'Connell's Birthday

On this Solemnity in 1859, just five years after Pope Pius IX declared the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the fifth Archbishop of Boston and second founder of Saint John’s Seminary was born in Lowell.  Stop by the grave of Cardinal William Henry O’Connell sometime during the day and offer a prayer.  And join me in offering this Mass for the repose of his immortal soul.

Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent

Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 

one God, for ever and ever. 

Homily for the Immaculate Conception

I've always been challenged by Saint Benedict's description of the three ways of loving God. At first, Saint Benedict tells us, we love God because we love ourselves. I don't want to go to hell, so I do what he wants.

At the second stage, I love God because he is lovable. I have no choice. I have so deeply fallen in love within him that I want only to do his will.

And then there's the third stage of loving God, the one which few reach but the only state in which true holiness and purity reside, wherein I love me only because God loves me. Only then does my every waking moment seek the will of God. My next breath has value only if it is part of God's plan. My fondest hopes and my deepest desires are but cinder and ash unless they are his will. In other words, it is not my will but his, not me, but Christ Jesus in me, it is fiat, let it be done to me according to your word.

And so today we celebrate she who knew such a love from the moment of her conception: Mary Immaculate, conceived without sin....

Two hundred and twenty years ago, sixteen years before the founding of the See of Boston, the first Catholic Bishop of America in his first Pastoral Letter announced the Blessed Virgim Mary Immaculate as the first patron of America and recommended “...a fervent and well-regulated devotion to the Holy Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; that you will place great confidence in her in all your necessities.”  Bishop Carroll went on to rcommend “a zealous imitation of her virtues and a reliance on her motherly superintendence.”

And so, as sons and daughters of America, we are sons and daughters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and we are bound to an imitation of her virtues.

To seek littleness, and faithfulness and love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"He wishes to makes his light shine anew in our night."

Advent "places us before the luminous mystery of the coming of the Son of God and the great 'benevolent plan'  by which He sought to draw us to himself, to allow us to live in full communion of joy and peace with Him. Advent invites us, in spite of the many difficulties we encounter, to renew our certainty of the presence of God: He came into the world, in human flesh like ours, to fully realise his plan of love. And God asks that we too become signs of His action in the world. Through our faith, hope and charity, He wishes us to make His light shine anew in our night.”

-Pope Benedict XVI (December 5, 2012)

Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy Addresses the Seminary

On Monday evening, close to two hundred people gathered at Saint Columbkille's Church to hear the second talk in the Saint John's Seminary Forum for the Year of Faith.  Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, Abbot Emeritus of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas spoke to us on the topic: From Dei Verbum to Verbum Domini.  In the course of his introduction of the Abbot, Father Romanus Cessario, O.P. reflected on the important role which the Cistercians have played in the history of the Church in the United States of America and the Abbot's significant contributions to the study of Sacred Scripture in the post-conciliar period.

"Welcome to the second session of the Saint John’s Seminary Forum for the Year of Faith! Pope Benedict XVI encourages us: “At the diocesan level, the Year of Faith is considered, among other things, as an occasion for renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason in the academic and artistic communities, through symposia, meetings...” (Note with pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith III, 8). Saint John’s Seminary is pleased to contribute to this initiative that the Holy Father has indicated in the Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.” You’ll find a brochure which provides the dates for the upcoming spring conferences. Tonight we continue the Forum with an eminent representative of the Catholic intellectual world. Father Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, Abbot Emeritus of the Cistercian Abbey, Our Lady of Dallas.

"Father Abbot, here in New England many people are familiar with the Cistercians of the seventeenth-century La Trappe reform who are located in Spencer, Massachusetts. This means that some may not know that the real Cistercians date from the brink of the eleventh century when the Three Holy Founders of the Cistercian Order set up shop in a marshland south of Dijon. Cîteaux. In fact, until I arrived in Switzerland and visited your venerable abbey of Hauterive, I did not know that there were real Cistercians before Abbot de Rancé underwent his celebrated conversion. These Cistercian monks, your Cistercians, have contributed to the work that monks do best: preserve Western civilization. Your Hungarian monastery of Zirc, where you entered–clandestinely–in 1955, represents one of those great monastery schools that dotted the European landscape throughout the second millennium. We Dominicans are Johnnies-Come-Lately, and with few exceptions never quite figured out how to run full curricula schools. By contrast, Cistercian Preparatory School in Dallas today excels in the work of training young Catholic men.

"It would take too long to recount the journey that adverse political circumstances–to speak euphemistically–obliged you to take from Hungary to Texas. Our Lady of Dallas Abbey and the abbey school flourish in great part because of your leadership of nearly a quarter of a century. Like the great Cistercian abbots whose works have come down to us as the writings of the Cistercian Fathers, you have combined your monastic consecration with a life of study. Your expertise in Catholic Biblical studies, especially your work on biblical inspiration, has drawn international attention. The Holy Father appointed you to the Pontifical Biblical Commission. You ennoble the University of Dallas faculty with your courses in Sacred Scripture and Mariology and Historical Theology.

"Abbot Denis, Saint John’s Seminary welcomes you with great appreciation and gratitude. Benedict loved the mountains, Bernard, the valleys; Francis, the towns, and Dominic, the villages. Thank you for coming to the valley of the Charles River to help us grow in the grace of the Year of Faith."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Turkeys in the Snow...

The SJS Turkeys have returned and were sighted this afternoon foraging amidst a fresh dusting of snow for whatever turkeys forage for on the Seminary grounds.   It reminds me of a Haiku by the blogger Lisa Jordan:

Turkey in the snow
safe from autumn's glancing blow
feast, forage, and grow.

Reception of the New Roman Missal Translation

One year after the implementation of the new translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, we recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI in the course of a luncheon with the members of the Vox Clara Committee:

"A new task now presents itself...the task of preparing for the reception of the new translation by clergy and lay faithful. Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world." (April 29, 2010)

The Holy Father's prayer appears to have been answered, as indicated by a recent CARA study on reception of the new Roman Missal. This happy result is due to the work of countless Bishops, Priests and dedicated lay liturgists, educators and scholars in helping us to enter more fully, consciously, and actively into the Sacred Liturgy. For this we should give thanks to God!