Monday, December 30, 2013

From the Sea of Galilee

A number of the faculty and staff from Saint John's Seminary are in the Holy Land these days for a spiritual pilgrimage.  Here are a few pictures from their walk in the footsteps of the Lord!  Please keep them in your prayers.

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee

Armand Delando, Father O'Connor, Father Bennett and Father Scorzello on the Sea of Galilee

Father O'Connor prepares for Mass on the Mount of Beatitudes

Friday, December 27, 2013

May she rest in peace!

This morning I was honored to celebrate the Funeral Mass of Florence Leaver, grandmother of Boston seminarian Kevin Leaver.  Many seminarians and priests were present for the Funeral, at which I preached the following homily:

There’s something strange about this morning.  For, as Mr. Farley will recall, for so many years it was never really an Immaculate Conception Funeral without Flo and Gerry Leaver and Ruth and Ed Horan sitting in the pew by the organ over there. But you know what?  I’ll tell you a secret.  Flo and Gerry and Ruth and Ed are still here, with all the angels and saints, as we celebrate this Funeral Mass and pray that God will forgive whatever sins Flo may have committed on this day of her birth unto eternal life.

In fact, I think we may even have a new image of the Kingdom of Heaven in this season of Newborn love.  It’s the image of Flo and Gerry and Ed and all the saints gathered in Ruth’s fire-proof Christmas room in the Kingdom heaven, each dressed in really gaudy Christmas sweaters, singing Christmas hymns to organ, violin and harp, before the newborn Christ, who smiles on them, and joins them to himself in eternal light and glory.

It all began eighty-six years ago at Saint Peter’s in Dorchester as, Ella and George Hanlon brought their little baby into Church to be Baptized.  The Priest took water in a small golden shell and pouring it over the child’s forehead said: Ego te baptizo, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sanctus.  I baptize you, Florence, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Thus began a great journey, as Flo was joined to the death and rising of Christ Jesus.  She would learn how to kneel down and pray, to make the sign of the cross, to go to confession and to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.  Gertie was there to see it, as day by day and year by year, she came to know Christ Jesus.  She learned to love, to forgive and to live in the model of her Lord and Savior. 

And then, Flo and  Gerry came to Church and stood before the altar and promised to remain faithful to one another and to God.  And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Janet and Gerry, Jr. and John and Ginnie and George and Paul as a concrete sign of the willingness of Florence and Gerry to cling to faithful love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.

In fact, on the day they were married, Flo and Gerry knelt before the altar as the priest, extending his hands over them, blessed them with a quotation from Psalm 128: videas filios filiorum tuorum: May you live to see your children’s children.  And so faithful was God’s love for Flo that she lived to know and to love Colleen, Joe, Mark, Kevin, Chris, Julianne, Robert, Corey and even, as great grandmother, little Callie.

In the years to come, Flo and Gerry knew good times, but they also knew bad, facing each day with the same faith which sustained them throughout their lives, as when they buried Gerry and Ginnie with faith that they would see them once again in the Kingdom of Heaven.  

Or when Flo stood by Gerry’s bed without complaint and prayed and nursed him into God’s arms, ever filled with the assurance of the words we will pray at the close of today’s Mass, that she would see him once again in glory.  

Just imagine the scene, if you will, as they all run out to meet one another in the presence of God in the Kingdom of Heaven!  

So we rejoice on this day that Florence’s eyes can once again behold Gerry and know his loving embrace.  Just as we pray that God forgive whatever sins she may have committed and look upon her with his faithful and infinite love.

For there are many heavenly graces even today, which God has granted to this daily communicant.  She died on a Saturday, just like Gerry, on the Blessed Mother’s Day.  She died in the Advent Christmas Season, the same season in which she buried her two children, in the sure and certain hope that those who receive the body of the child born in the manger, will never really die, but will be raised up with him on the last day.  

This is the season of gifts, and the greatest gift is the birth of the Son of God.  And I’m sure you’re remembering today the many gifts which Flo gave to each of you on Christmases past.  

But today she gives you the greatest gift of all.  For today she reminds each one of us of the journey we’re on.  It starts in the arms of our parents…it starts at the font of blessed water where we are first joined to Christ and to his cross.  And then it takes all kinds of twists and turns, sometimes bringing us closer to God and sometimes leading us away from him.

But today Flo reminds us where that journey ends.  It ends in the same place it began: before Christ, who will judge each one of us on the last day.  Christ, who calls us to turn away from selfishness and sin, and cling to faithful love.  Christ, who urges us to forgive, even as we ask to be forgiven.  Christ, who laid down his life for the world, and asks us to do the same.  Christ, who loved us faithfully and then commanded: love others as I have loved you.

For the greatest memorial to Florence Leaver will not be the finest monument in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  It will not even be the wonderful stories you will tell or even the moments you will recall her wise and faithful words.  No, the greatest memorial to Flo, will be the life of faithful love which you are invited to live with the Son of God and his Church, the same journey she walked and which led to the loving arms of Christ Jesus, her Lord.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Most Sacred Night...

O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of the true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth, may also delight in his gladness in heaven. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Homily for a Few Days Before Christmas

We wait for Jesus

Little children wait for Jesus in the manger.  They long for Christmas.  They start even now to dream of twinkling lights and brightly colored presents, of the smell of fresh Christmas trees and incense, of the feeling of trying to stay awake at Midnight Mass, of the food and the friends and the Christmas carols.

Children wait for Jesus to be placed in the manger: for him to be born as a little child, just like them.  

Years ago, when the son of one of my oldest friends had just turned three years old (he was at that age when we first appropriate the idea of time) his mother made the mistake of telling him: Just imagine, Sean...soon it will be Christmas!

An hour passed, and little Sean returned from his play...Is it Christmas yet? he asked. No, Sarah, told him. Not for another four weeks.   It’s not Christmas yet.

Fifteen minutes passed.  And Sean was back, tugging at her skirt.  Is it Christmas yet? he asked a bit more insistently.  No Sean, I told you it’s not for another four weeks.  And then she thought for a moment how she would explain four weeks, but soon gave up the hope.

Fifteen minutes later he returned, tugging and whining and almost in tears.  Is it Christmas now?  he demanded.  No, Sarah told him.  And then she swooped him up in her arms, dried his tears, and asked softly: You really want it to be Christmas Sean.  You want Jesus to come right now, don’t you?  Yes...the words shot out of him as from a canon...I want Jesus to come right now!  So do I Sarah, said softly.  So do I.

Indeed, the further we get into the last half of life, the more we wait for Jesus in a whole other way.  

The actuarial tables project that I will die in 21.48 years.  That’s 7,482 days and 8 hours.  Not that I’m counting.   

But I am waiting.  I’m waiting each time I get a new twinge or something else stops working or I read one more obituary of someone younger than myself.

And how do we wait for him?  We wait with patience, with longing and with the clear conviction that what he has planned for us is greater than our wildest dreams, that nothing can surpass the beauty of his face or the wonder of the dwelling he has prepared for us in the eternity of his love.

But I also have no doubt that the waiting will not always be easy.  The love God offers us as we age is often in the form of a cross, or of sacrifice, or some other imitation of his love for us.  But the great consolation is not that waiting for God gets easier with age, but that we no longer wish to break the appointment.

And so we wait, and we pray.  For "to pray means to wait for the God who comes. every prayer-filled day sees a meeting with him; every night which we faithfully put at his disposal is filled with his presence.”

And what more could we ask for, but to be counted worthy to wait in joyful hope, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On a Boat, somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean...

In case you were wondering where our magnificent new tabernacle was, it's on a really big boat somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, due to arrive in Boston in the next couple of weeks.  Here's a shot of the disassembled marble all packed and crated and loaded on a truck on the way to the boat which will soon arrive in Boston for installation.  (Compare the size of the crates to the men who are securing it in the truck!!!)

Remembering the Festival of Lessons and Carols

On the first night of our Festival of Lessons and Carols, members of the Knights of Malta accompanied our friends from the Little Sisters of the Poor to join us in this great Advent evening of song and prayer.  A Malta video of the evening can be seen by clicking here, thanks to the kindness and skill of our dear friends Craig and Nancy Gibson.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A History of Christmas in the Art of the Latin West

Due to kind and popular request, I have prepared a quick video of my presentation of a few weeks ago on Christmas in the Art of the Latin West.  In order to view this presentation on Vimeo, please click here.  

A Blessed Christmas to you and your Family from the entire Saint John's Seminary Community!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Congratulations Bishop Deeley

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston and a member of our own Board of Trustees was appointed as the twelfth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland this morning by Pope Francis. Please keep Bishop Deeley and the people of Portland in your prayers, that, in the words of the Rite of Ordination, God might so “guide the hearts of people and bishop in such measure that the shepherd may never be without the obedience of the flock, nor the flock without the care of the shepherd.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Final Exams...

This is the week of final exams for all of our seminarians.  Please pray for them as they complete final papers, cram for that test in the morning, and prepare for a well deserved Christmas break!

"Studying is essential: only thus can we stand firm in these times and proclaim within them the reason for our faith. And it is essential that we study critically -- because we know that tomorrow someone else will have something else to say -- while being alert, open and humble as we study, so that our studying is always with the Lord, before the Lord, and for him."   =Pope Benedict XVI to Seminarians (26 September 2011)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grateful Prayers for David Castaldi!

Cardinal Sean O'Malley and members of the Saint John's Seminary Board of Trustees present David Castaldi with a small token of our appreciation as he retires from the Board of Trustees after many years of service, most recently as chairman of the Committee on Administration and Finance.  David has been a great gift to the Seminary and his many years of wise counsel have assisted several Rectors in helping Saint John's Seminary to become the wonderful holy house which it is today!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Immaculate Conception

My favorite place to pray in Washington, D.C., where I lived for many years, is the Irish Chapel in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  There’s no fancy sanctuary or big mosaic...there’s not even an altar in this chapel.  Just a statue of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ child playing on her lap in the middle of a gurgling fountain. 

But on the wall, not far away, is a 1200 year old Celtic Prayer that boldly states: There is no hound as fleet of foot, nor young soul so quick to win the race, nor horse to finish the course, as the Mother of God to the death bed of one who needs her intercession.  It’s like the line in the Memorare: Never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy help or sought Thy intercession was left unaided. 

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 Virgin 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 recommend “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.

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Repent and believe, the Baptist cries, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!
Repent! Not a very good marketing slogan for the New Evangelization. Who wants to repent? I'm quite happy the way I've arranged things in my life, already, thank you. Maybe take care of a war or a famine or something else more in your job description, God, and just leave me alone to live my little life the way I choose.
Repent and believe....the Kingdom of God is at hand!
But repentance means I have to obey, and obedience is not exactly one of my favorite things. Yeah, it's true, I knelt down and put my hands between those of the Bishop and promised obedience and respect, but that was a long time ago, And I was still a kid, and it was a part of the rite. And plus, I'm not a bad person...I do a lot more than some of those other people...there are a lot worse than me...why don't you go ask them to repent?
Repent and believe!
The Baptist looks right at me and at you...yes you!…..and says it: repent and believe, right now! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!
Repent from what?  Believe in what?  From where do I turn and what do I embrace in this metanoia?
I turn from selfishness and sin, the belief that I am God.  I turn from the conviction that I am God, that I am in charge, a notion I stubbornly cling to like a two year stamping his feet and holding his breath.  I turn from the belief that its all about me and that the only purpose of life is to make me feel good.
And I am called to embrace obedient love, the notion that I am the child, God is God and that is enough for me.  I turn to a belief in the Shema Israel, which heralds and caps every act of Jewish worship, it says it all: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one."
Such conversion to humility, to the constant conviction that I am little and God is big, that I am child and he is Father, results in a radical obedience, not to my self- actualization, but to the plan God has for me and for my life.
It is a turn from the first Adam to the second, from the first Eve to the most blessed among women.  For the sin of our first parents was not just the fruit stolen from the tree, but the disordered conviction that they could be God if the just ate the right kind of fruit.
We are made for obedient love. It is our dignity. It is our destiny. It is our purpose for being.
You see, it’s not just a question of doing God's will so I can go to heaven: obey the rules and win the prize. Its a matter of being so much more in love with God that I will do his will not because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but because I love God and I want nothing so much as to be his obedient son.
That's what it means to make straight his paths, to prepare a highway for our God. The highway is me. To repent and believe that the Kingdom of God is at hand is to radically hand myself to God, even unto death, death even on a cross.
It's like what Saint Augustine once preached, a favorite saying of this preacher, too: God does not want your gifts. God wants you. All of you. Your mind, your heart, your entire being.

For he made you for obedient love. The kind of love that’s less interested in being God, than in being his beloved child. The kind of obedient love which is the reason we are and what we were made to be.

Festival of Lessons and Carols

This weekend we were joined by a Chapel full of the friends of Saint John's Seminary for our annual Festival of Lessons and Carols. We were especially honored by the presence of the great folks from the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor!  God was well praised and we were all drawn into the wonders of the mystery of this Blessed Advent Season!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Peter Stamm in the New York Times

Cardinal O'Malley called me this morning to tell me that our own
Peter Stamm appears among the letters to the editor in response to a column disparaging Priestly celibacy. Congratulations, Peter! All I can say is, Amen!

To the Editor:

Bill Keller’s column illustrates many of the changes in perspective that have taken place in the recent history of the Catholic Church. He doesn’t mention an important one: most young priests and seminarians these days don’t share his generation’s hang-ups over celibacy.

We understand celibacy to be a valuable expression of our total commitment to Christ and his people, one that enables us to give more fully of ourselves. This is a choice we don’t make lightly; the challenges and exigencies of a healthy celibate life are thoroughly presented over the course of years of seminary study.

Celibacy is indeed a discipline that is open for discussion, but you will find that most of us are in favor of keeping it.

Brighton, Mass., Dec. 2, 2013

The writer is studying for the priesthood.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Honoring Father Romanus Cessario, OP

Former Rector Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Monsignor Moroney,
Father Romanus Cessario, OP, and Former Rectory Monsignor Timothy Moran

This evening the faculty of Saint John's Seminary was joined by Bishop Arthur Kennedy and Monsignor Timothy Moran, former Rectors of SJS, Father David Barnes and Father Jack Sullivan to celebrate the recognition of Father Romanus Cessario, OP upon his reception of the Degree of Master of Theology of the Dominican Order. During the course of the evening, I offered the following toast: 

To be a Dominican means, in the words of the degree by which you have been made a Master of Theology, ‘to hold in great esteem the defense and explication of the Catholic faith, to labor unceasingly and with distinction, by devout studies and religious efforts, for the understanding of Holy Scripture and the discipline of Sacred Theology.’

We, the faculty of Saint John’s Seminary, are honored by the presence of a Dominican and a Master of Theology in our midst. With great affection for our colleague, our brother and our friend.

Ad multos annos!

Back row: Fr. Briody, Fr. Barnes, Father Cessario, Msgr. Moroney, Msgr Moran, Father Sullivan
Front row: Fr. Scorzello, Msgr McLaughlin, Bishop Kennedy and Father O'Connor

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rector's Conference: Grumbling as a way of life

This evening’s Rector’s Conference dealt with a number of ways in which we respond unconstructively to stress, including the adoption of grumbling as a way of life.  It is so easy for the priest or seminarian to give in to cynicism, sarcasm and complaint as a way of life.  Which is why I offered these brief reflections on the subject:

I would never want to deny or minimize the very real frustrations and trials which are inherent to seminary life.  

Here you are called to discern what God wants for your life and to change in whatever ways are needed to prepare yourself for that design.  I’m not sure whether anything could be conceived as a better prescription for frustration and trial.

These trials often come in the form of wounded egos. Sometimes the trials are in the form of a broken heart.

And often, there are a legion of trials having to do with authority.  Unjustly or justly exercised, our submission to authority is an act of self-emptying, no less trying than the opening of one’s arms upon the cross.  Such submission of mind and will to another is an act of dying to myself, a sacrifice offered to God.

I recall one particularly painful instance of that in my own life when for more than five years I believed that my immediate supervisor hated me.  He disagreed with most every decision I made and gave me annual reviews which would make you blush.  I would get nauseous before meetings with him, having tossed sleeplessly the night before. 

My feelings, as my shrink at the time could tell you, ranged from rage to doubt, from anguish to desperation.  And one of the major ways I would deal (or not deal) with it is by grumbling and gossiping.

Now grumbling, on one level, is not so bad. Venting to a friend, who knows when to just listen with a smile and not to take you seriously, can be an act promoting mental health. It is one of the great blessings of real friendship.

But grumbling as a way of life, or grumbling to those for it might promote scandal, is the exact opposite of kenosis. It is the using of the cross for my own glory and it can verge on the demonic.

Like the chosen people grumbling to Moses that he dragged them out into this Godforsaken dessert with no food or bread or…

Of the workers in the vineyard grumbling that those who worked for just a few hours got just as much money as they did…

Or the older brother of the prodigal son complaining that his Father never put on a banquet for him….

A life of grumbling is the opposite of a life of obedience. When I first celebrated Mass with the new men in August, I reflected on how the job of the priest is to continually offer sacrifice, beginning with the sacrifice of his own life, of himself...of his hopes and his dreams, of his joys and his tears, of his every waking join my life to the perfect sacrifice of Christ, my heart to his, my life to his.

For Christ learned obedience from what he suffered, and thus became our great High Priest, the giver and the gift, the altar and the sacrifice, “emptying himself” even unto death, death on a cross.

But today, obedience is perhaps one of the most unpopular of the virtues. Actually, it’s never been too popular. We want to do our own will, plot our own course. How else could we ever get ahead?

But you will be ordained, God willing, my dear brothers, to conform yourselves to the one who chose to be last, to wash feet, and to be obedient to his Father’s will even unto death, death on a Cross.

Which is why Saint Paul tell us to "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation…" (Philippians 2:14-15a.)

For so often we pretend to follow a Lord who says “love your enemies” and “Pray for those who persecute you” and when they beat him and stripped him and nailed him to a cross he prayed “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”

Which does not mean that the Lord never got angry (witness the money changers). He was, after all, fully human and fully divine. But grumbling as a lifestyle, and the assassination of my enemies by words behind their back is not consistent with the life of a holy Priest.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A History of Christmas in Western Art

We had a wonderful crowd of seminarians and folks from Oak Square and around the Archdiocese join us tonight at Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall for my presentation on A History of Christmas in Western Art.  We explored where the familiar images of Christmas came from and what their deeper meaning tells us about the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior.

If you would like a PDF copy of tonight’s presentation, please click here.

You may have heard that a few days ago some teenagers broke through the front doors of OLP Lecture Hall, discharged fire extinguishers and generally vandalized the space.  The good news is that the security cameras caught excellent images of the suspects and the Boston Police Department has spent many hours finger printing the space and working on this case.  

Frank Fulginitti and his crew worked through the Thanksgiving weekend and this evening OLP looked good as new and I am deeply grateful to them.  Tomorrow the installation of our new sprinkler system begins.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

SJS at Christopher Catanese Foundation Dinner

A table of the priests and seminarians from Saint John's Seminary joined the folks of the Christopher Catanese Foundation.  The Foundation was established in 2005 in honor of their son Christopher, a senior in college who died in a tragic automobile accident.  Throughout the years the family has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of children's charities "to allow as many children as possible to experience the joy of Christopher's life."

Deacon Christopher Fedoryshyn

We are all delighted that Chris Fedoryshyn was ordained to the diaconate this morning at Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield by Bishop Timothy McDonnell.  Here he is pictured with his mom and his Bishop.

From the Prayer of Ordination of a Deacon…
We beseech you, Lord: look with favor on this servant of yours who will minister at your holy altar and whom we now humbly dedicate to the office of deacon.

Send forth upon him, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.  May there abound in him every Gospel  virtue: unfeigned love, concern for the sick and poor, unassuming authority, the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline. 

May your commandments shine forth in his conduct, so that by the example of his way of life he may inspire the imitation of your holy people. In offering the witness of a clear conscience may he remain strong and steadfast in Christ, so that by imitating on earth  your Son, who came not to be served but to serve, he may be found worthy to reign in heaven with him,  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Go forth, faithful servant...

In paradisum dedicante angeli…
Surrounded by his loving family, one of the most generous and good hearted men in Boston died today.  Please ask God to look with mercy on Jack Shaughnessy, Sr. and to lead him home to heaven in perfect peace with his wife, Mary.
I first met Jack last year at a luncheon arranged by his old friend Sr. Jeanne.  Jack’s love for the Church and his deep faith were as readily apparent as the stories he told of how much he missed his dear Mary, how proud he was of his children and grandchildren, and the constant refrain, “You know, Monsignor, I am just so blest.”  And though he had some “Job-like” experiences in his life, they deepened his faith and his trust in the Lord.
Jack was always talking about Saint John’s Seminary and how we were full and how only the finest young men were studying for dioceses all over New England.  Many of you have met him in the past year and would have your own stories of how much he loved us.
It was just a short time ago that I informed Jack that he would be the first recipient of the Archbishop John J. Williams medal by which Saint John’s would seek to recognize his unwavering commitment to and generous support of the seminary.  In his usual humble way he suggested that someone else would be more worthy of the award but his extraordinary support of the Seminary makes it clear that he was and is the best choice.
The medal will be presented posthumously to Jack at our January Benefactor’s Banquet and on that night I am sure he will be smiling down at us, taking his typical pride not so much in himself as in the Church which he loved and so generously supported throughout the years.
Say a special prayer as you go to sleep tonight for Jack Shaughnessy, whose friendship and love of this holy house have been such a blessing to us for so many years.
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, 
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oath of Fidelity Taken This Morning

At Mass this morning Christopher Fedoryshyn and Christopher Peschel, both Candidates for the Diaconate, recited the Nicene Creed and took the Oath of Fidelity to the Church in the presence of the Seminary Community.   Here's an excerpt from this morning's Gospel, my homily, and the Oath which they both professed on a Bible belonging to Bishop Cheverus, the first Bishop of Boston and all of New England.

"While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Luke 21: 5


The Tabernacle we will soon build here will some day come down. Its onyx will be smashed, its alabaster ground to dust and the gold on its door cast to the wind.

Just as in this chapel, some day, not a stone will remain upon a stone. That roof will fall in, the walls will collapse and all those paintings will fade from the rain and the snow and the ice that will freeze across their surface.

And this body of mine, on a day even sooner than that, will cease to breath and the heart will stop and it will start to decay and smell and you will bury it in the earth in expectation of the day of the Lord’s coming.

And all my mighty accomplishments will be forgotten, like the faded letters etched into an old marble gravestone, no one will be able, or care to, read a line of all those marvelous accomplishments listed on my curriculum vitae.

It all fades and turns back to the dirt from which it came. All dies, save three things:

Faith, hope and love.

The faith our brothers profess today the hope which they will preach with their words and their lives and the love which endures forever, unto the resurrected glory of the heavenly Jerusalem,
before the face of God.

Oath of Fidelity

I, in assuming the office of Deacon, promise that in my words and in my actions I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.

With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.

In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.

I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.

With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan Bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by
mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church. 

So help me God, and God’s Holy Gospels on which I place my hand.

The Seminary Says Thanks!

Last evening the Seminarians, Faculty and Staff gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving as a seminary community.  A great time was had by all!  Father Bryan Parrish, Assistant Vicar for Administration in the Archdiocese of Boston, preached at Vespers and Holy Hour before the evening meal.

Father Joseph Scorzello, beloved spiritual director and professor of philosophy, offered the following reflections:

We understand that expressions of gratitude for gifts received flows from the very nature of the human person as a human property. The Second Pre-Theologians (and to some degree the First Pre-Theologians) appreciate that the reason for the existence of the universe and that everything in it comes from an explanation outside the realm of material reality. All of existence is a pure gift from the cause that is uncaused, that is, what the philosopher calls efficient causality. All mankind must be grateful to this reality for the gift of existence. However, the human person manifests thankfulness not to an abstract principle but to a person. For the disciple of Christ it is God, Yahweh, that is, the Blessed Trinity that deserves our gratitude. 

Leaving the theoretical aside without disregard for the insights discovered there we now turn to concrete realities indicating those gifts that we are most thankful for. 

We are thankful for your lives that we have received through the unconditional love of God in union with the self-sacrificing reciprocal love of our parents. This life is transformed by the life of faith which is the supernatural gift of God nourished and protected in our natural and ecclesial family life. This gift of our participation in the salvific plan of God for all mankind is revealed to us in the Incarnation of His Beloved Son, in his life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection, and in his gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Here at St. John's Seminary we are most grateful for the many concrete expressions of God's loving presence. We are thankful for our new students who bring to us a new vitality and enthusiasm, for the gift of our returning students who have acquired a more profound appreciation of their call to priestly life and ministry and their continued maturation in the interior life of holiness. There is also a deep sense of gratitude for our new faculty members, especially Father Joseph Briody, coming to us from the land of Saints and Scholars, who brings to St. John's extraordinary talents and another perspective of the universal Church. 
Personally I am grateful to all of you for your patience and understanding and your genuine concern and affection for my mother. I am especially thankful for your patience as I move from director of Pre-Theology and teacher of philosophy to Spiritual Director and teacher of philosophy. I am deeply moved by the dedication and sincerity of all the members of St. John's, the Staff, the Faculty, the students, all the support staff and especially the kitchen staff, this total commitment is itself a unique and extraordinary gift for the Church of Boston and the Church of New England. 

With the Advent season upon us, celebrating His first Coming, and anticipating His Second Coming and experiencing his presence here and now in the celebration of the Sacraments and ecclesial life, we anticipate that the Lord will continue to be most generous in offering his many gifts and so we are most thankful. 

We would also be most grateful to God if Father Scorzello were to be brief in his remarks. 

Thank you Lord. Laudate Jesu Cristo! 

A toast was offered by the newest member of our faculty, Father Joseph Briody.  Father Briody, a priest of the Diocese of Raphoe in Ireland, is celebrating his first Thanksgiving in these native lands.

My Lord Bishop Kennedy, Very Rev. Monsignor Moroney, Rector, Rev. Fathers and Faculty members, dear staff and seminarians, esteemed guests, friends… It is a great honor to propose the toast at the Second Pre-Theology Thanksgiving Dinner. I sincerely thank the Second Pre-Theology Class for inviting me to perform this pleasant task. Michael Rora convinced me to do this by explaining that the new boys do all the work for the Thanksgiving Dinner and as a new boy I really needed to step up to the plate. He twisted my arm. It still hurts! Fr Scorzello suggested that perhaps the Second Pre-Theology Class just wanted to mimic or make fun of my accent afterwards! But I’m sure that’s not true. Seminarians could never be that wicked or cruel, at least not here? I can’t really say anything else about Fr. Scorzello because I know he will be speaking later and so he’ll have the last word. He always does!

This is my first time to celebrate Thanksgiving. This time last year America was a far distant land for me, way across the Atlantic Ocean, represented by the many very impressive American people I had met. America was the land of the free and the brave; the land of opportunity and achievement; the land of liberty, especially of religious liberty; of equality, justice, democracy and authentic diversity; the land of openness, optimism, excellence, courtesy, helpfulness and “Yes we can!” More importantly, at least to my mind as a child, it was the homeland of lattes, burgers and waffles; of ice cream sundaes, Mac Donald’s and Dunkin Doughnuts. All the really important things in life! America was the land that gave us the best movies and the best TV series – like the American Office – much better than the English Office! America gave us the Simpsons, Friends, Desperate Housewives, (not that I watched it!) Frasier and Cheers – “where everybody knows your name.” I’m convinced that Monsignor Mc Laughlin starred in some of the early episodes of Cheers though he continues to deny it. His accent is just the same. When I first heard him speak I thought: “He’s from Cheers!” Since he’s not speaking later tonight I can say things about him! America has given us so much. You have even given us our beloved Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown! Thank you.

We have so much to thank God for. I have so much to thank you for. We all have reasons to be grateful to the Lord and to each other – for faith, for the religious liberty to practice our faith openly, for family, friendship, fraternity, formation, for this place and the good things we enjoy here, for the gifts of life and grace and vocation. I am grateful to God that he led me very unexpectedly to this “holy house” as Monsignor Moroney describes it, and I’m grateful to Monsignor Moroney for asking my Bishop to release me to come here. (I always wanted to go on the foreign missions!) Coming here, being with you seminarians, being with the faculty, has had one main effect on me – I really want to go home!! Seriously, the effect on me is that I would like to be a better priest, more worthy of this new task and this new place.

That’s a bit serious for a toast at Thanksgiving Dinner! Reverend Fathers, dear seminarians, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to propose a toast. Could I please ask you to be upstanding. Let us raise our glasses and drink - to St. John’s and to all who inspire our gratitude!

Finally, I read excerpts from the Proclamation by which our sixteenth President established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in these United States.

A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Patrick Fiorillo in Sacred Music

Congratulations to our seminarian Patrick Fiorillo for the publication of an article in the journal Sacred Music!  Patrick has graciously granted us permission to publish his reflections for the benefit of the readers of this blog.

A Seminarian’s Experience 
in Bringing Sacred Music to a New Audience

By Pat Fiorillo

[The following article was published in the commentary section of Sacred Music, Spring 2013, Volume 140 No. 1.  Sacred Music is the quarterly journal of the Church Music Association of America (CMAA).]

          This past fall I had the pleasure of being asked to provide music for a Catholic young adult event in Boston’s North End.  For the past three years, the music at this monthly event had been exclusively of the “praise and worship” style.  When I direct music for special events like this, I am very particular about each piece of music selected, always trying to draw that fine line between doing what is truly sacred and ideal, and what is accessible enough that the congregation will not be left feeling totally disconnected.  With my choir of twelve brother seminarians and four lay friends, the program turned out as follows:

Opening hymn – I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say; introit—Simple English Propers, Kyrie VIII; offertory—Simple English Propers,  Sanctus & Agnus De—O’Connor, Mass of St. Michael; communion—Pange Lingua in English, Jernberg’s St. Michael chant, and  closing hymn—All People That On Earth Do Dwell.

         The liturgy turned out to be a great success and the music was well received.  I had a similar experience a year ago directing the Eucharistic Congress Mass.  The main thing that this proves is that young people are open to experiencing the beauty of sacred music when it is presented well and in a context they can understand.  Some of the event organizers were a bit nervous about me prior to the event; I suspect that when they found out I was going to have chant as part of the music program, the first thought that ran through their mind was, “Here is another traditional seminarian who just wants to turn this into a Latin Mass!”  But I believe I dispelled those fears by showing them that chant can fit perfectly well into a normal liturgy without feeling totally foreign (especially thanks to CMAA’s free online resources).  Many well-meaning Catholics think there is either “boring, old traditional music” or “Spirit-filled contemporary music.”  But I dare say, after these events, very few were complaining that what we sang was old and boring, and many may have acknowledged for the first time that the “traditional” music was truly uplifting!
In order to more directly convey some of my ideas about sacred music to the congregation, I decided to write a brief reflection to be included in the program (or “worship aid” as they say), which I will share here.  Please bear in mind that the ideas of sacred music and liturgy as discussed in Sacred Music were totally foreign to most people present at this Mass.  I also realize that some statements may be a bit over-simplified, but I needed this to be short and concise enough that people could read it in two minutes before Mass.

Some Reflections on Tonight’s Music

At tonight’s Mass, the choir will be singing two of the official “chant propers” of the Mass.  A liturgical text is “proper” when it is given for a specific day (e.g. the readings, prayer after communion, etc.).  Three of these traditional sung propers – the introit, offertory, and communion chants – almost completely fell into disuse in the 1960’s.  They are one or two scriptural sentences that provide a spiritual and theological reflection of the day’s feast or liturgical season.  The collection of these chants for the entire liturgical year form the Roman Church’s most ancient repertoire of music; many date back to the 6th century and earlier[1] and have been used ever since!
With the reformed liturgy of 1970, there is now the freedom to substitute other texts in order to aid in congregational participation.  Since then, Catholics have generally interpreted that key phrase from the Second Vatican Council, “full, active participation,”[2] to mean that an increased amount of singing always leads to fuller participation.  However, nearly all of the popes in the 20th century have challenged the faithful to come to a more precise meaning of this.
Pope Pius XII instructed the Church, “the chief element of divine worship must be interior”[3] (i.e., “union with Christ the Priest; offering with and through Him”[4]).  Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal, wrote: “Listening, the receptive employment of the senses and the mind, [and] spiritual participation are surely just as much ‘activity’ as speaking is.  Are receptivity, perception, and being moved not ‘active’ things too?”[5]  Blessed John Paul II said that active participation “demands” … “the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening.”[6]
This interior participation is exactly what is required for praying with the sung propers of the Mass, since they are generally not intended to be sung by the congregation.  And so I invite you, while the choir chants the introit and offertory tonight, to allow the beauty of the chant to wash over you, and to allow the melody to speak the ancient text to you in a way that spoken words and hymns cannot.
I will leave you with a reflection by Pope Benedict, quoting Simone Weil: “In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible.”[7]

[1] Dom Daniel Saulnier, O.S.B., Gregorian Chant, tr. Mary Berry, (Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2009), p. 4.
[2] Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, ¶14 <>
[3] Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei,24.
[4] Coleman E. O’Neill, O.P., “The Theological Meaning of Actuosa Participatio in the Liturgy,” in Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II: Proceedings of the Fifth International Church Music Congress, Chicago-Milwaukee, August 21-28, 1966, ed. Johannes Overath (Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1969), pp. 89-110, here p. 97, summarizing the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, De Musica Sacra et Sacra Liturgia, ¶22-23 <>; quoted in Mahrt, “Active Participation and Listening to Gregorian Chant,” in The Musical Shape of the Liturgy, (Richmond, Va.: Church Music Association of America, 2012), p. 148; I am grateful to Professor Mahrt for organizing these ideas as he did in the this article, which has become the foundation of many of my personal views on the matter.
[5] Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith, tr. Graham Harrison, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), p. 123.
[6] Pope John Paul II, Ad Limina Address to the Bishops of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, October 9, 1998 <>; cf. Mahrt, “Active Participation,” 157.
[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Speech in Sistine Chapel, November 21, 2009 <>