Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Deacons Tribute Slideshow

You'll want to view this touching retrospective which was played at Deacons Night in remembrance of the years which Deacons David Aufiero, Scott Carpentier, John Cassani, Rob Miskell, Carlos Piedrahita, Gerald Souza and Chris Wallace have spent in formation as a part of the SJS Family.  Click this link to play the slideshow!

He learned obedience from what he suffered...

Deacons Night 
Hebrews 5: 8-10 

He 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.

And that is what you are seek to become. A Priest, in the model of Christ Jesus, the great High Priest. A sharer in the priesthood and mission of your Bishop, successor of the Apostles who were ordained by Christ: Your Bishop, to whom you promise an obedience motivated by charity and manifested in respect. Your Bishop, in whose decisions you will recognize the will of Christ.

He learned obedience from what he suffered.

Such obedience is very unpopular today. Actually, it’s never been too popular. We want to do our own will, plot our own course, plan our own careers. How else could we ever get ahead?

But you will be ordained, 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.

He learned obedience from what he suffered.

But what happens, you might have asked yourself, if the Bishop asks me to do the impossible, something which is just beyond my capacity. Cardinal Arinze once offered this advice: “even when in the worst of scenarios the bishop assigns a task that surpasses the capacity of the priest or could make him suffer or harm him God will not cease to protect the priest who is obedient...in the end God protects the priest who respects and obeys the Bishop with firm fidelity and nobility of character. The intervention of God might appear after months or even years, but it does finally come. Some saints were only done justice after death...”

He learned obedience from what he suffered.

Saint Catherine of Siena used to say “Obedience is the measure of humility, and humility is the measure of obedience.”

And to paraphrase another great Saint:

‘Whether you are sent to a town ot a country mission, employed in a college as a teacher or a President, whether your work puts you before the eyes of the world or leaves you hidden in obscurity, it is all pastoral, all apostolic...For you may be well assured that obedience to your Bishop makes your union with the Prince of Pastors complete...and you could not do the will of God better than by being where he sent you.’

So, in just a few weeks you will repeat the promise you first made in your ordination as a Deacon. You will kneel before your Bishop and place your life in his hands and promise to live a life ‘of constant readiness to allow yourself to be taken up, indeed consumed by the needs and demands of the flock.’

And may God, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion,

Monsignor James P. Moroney

Monday, April 29, 2013

Father Dailey Addresses Deacon Night

At Deacon's night on April 26th, Fr. Gary M. Dailey was invited to address the Seminarians on the meaning of Priesthood.  His wonderful talk follows along with the deep gratitude of all the seminarians.

First of all I want to take this opportunity to thank the Rector, Monsignor Moroney, and the entire faculty of St. John’s and I want to include Bishop Kennedy in this thanks, for making St. John Seminary one of the premier seminaries in the country.  I can’t speak for all my brother vocation directors but I can speak on behalf of Bishop McDonnell and the Church of Springfield when I say that we are grateful for what you do regarding the formation of our priests.  Personally I can’t imagine what the ecclesial landscape of New England would be like without St. John’s. 

I want to offer a disclaimer with regard to this address.  I was just notified about this short address on the priesthood on Wednesday of this week in the midst of a 3 day session for Good Leaders, Good Shepherd. During the Wednesday morning session I received from Eric Queenan about twenty-three missed calls and voice messages on my phone.   I thought to myself “this can’t be good.”  He asked me to give the address on the priesthood instead of the toast.  Ironically at the session we were discussing “Time Management” and how to say no and not feel guilty about it.  So following lunch I reported to our facilitators that I failed miserably because I couldn’t say no.  Needless to say I had very little time to prepare some profound statements and deep spiritual insights about the priesthood but I saw who was giving the toast (Bishop Arthur Kennedy) so I figure it would be all covered then.

I come tonight though sharing a few thoughts from a pastor’s heart.  I have been at this for twenty eight years and the majority of my priesthood was spent in the parish – including ten years as a pastor.  I figured after hundreds of talks on the priesthood during these past nine years of vocation work I should be able to say something about the priesthood.

I look at these deacons on the threshold of priestly ordination and I want to tell you with conviction, that for the last twenty eight years, I have put my feet on the floor each morning and placed my head on the pillow each night having great joy about responding “yes” to Jesus Christ for his invitation to be His priest.  I have complete joy in the priesthood and I can’t imagine doing anything else in life.  I want to be clear – it doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days because I do, but the joy of my priesthood gets me through those days.

Men, this is no ordinary gift – it is the greatest gift bestowed upon any human person.  It is not natural to be priest - it is supernatural.  This is the highest call a person can receive. Why is that?  Because no other person can transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, no other person can absolve sins, no other person can anoint the sick, heal them, and prepare a person for eternal life with God.  There have been moments in my priestly life where I have sat back, reflected and said “WOW” – how did I deserve such an honor – and I realize I don’t deserve it – I was called to be His priest  and my primary work is – to save souls.  It all comes down to that. 

What I have learned over these years is that what I say and what I do really matters.  It affects a lot of people.  I represent Jesus Christ to people – sometimes I am a welcomed guest and sometimes I am not.  It all depends on what side the Word of God the person is on – sometimes the truth is a welcomed guest and sometimes it really hurts.  You have to expect that when you accept this life.  The bottom line is this:  You are called to save souls.  You are called to battle at all costs for those souls and win them for Christ.  This is no easy task.  You must be prepared for the battle. 

In my travels as Vocation Director to schools and parishes talking about the priesthood I tell people – “because I am priest doesn’t make me better than you – it makes me different than you.”  I learned early in my priesthood that I cannot live the life I lead before – I must be transformed to configure my life to Christ. 

I am a public person and when my life becomes private and hidden, for whatever reason, my priesthood diminishes – it shrinks.  I become less effective in winning souls for Christ because I am caught up in my own self.  I must live for Christ always. We must be careful of living a dual life.  In my opinion the greatest sin among religious is the sin of pride.  Because we have been given so much it is very easy to lord it over people.  We must constantly pray the virtue of humility.  

I have always made it habit to wear my clerical attire whenever I travel.    When I wear my collar I say to people “I am available for you.”  How many times I have walked through the airport terminal or train station and asked to have a confession heard.  How many times have I walked up the aisle of plane to my seat and heard “thank God there is a priest on board.”  There is nothing I can do to keep that plane in the air, I rely on the pilot.  It’s my presence as priest, not the person Gary Dailey that gives that person some peace.  I represent something far greater than myself and I must always be aware of that.

I am an instrument of God.   Whatever I lack, He will provide.  When you worry about what you are going to preach about – don’t worry – if you sit with the Word and meditate on it – u will be given what to say.    If you are worried how you are going to counsel someone who just lost someone in a tragic death – don’t worry Jesus will provide the words of comfort.   If you fear that you are not worthy – do not be afraid – because you really are not worthy – remember God doesn’t call the perfect – he perfects the called.

Deacons – you have been called to an amazing life – a life that you do not fully understand right now – but in a very short time you will come to that understanding of being that instrument of God’s love and grace.

Pope Francis this past Sunday on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations ordained 10 new priests for his Diocese of Rome.  He told them “you are pastors, not functionaries.”  Amen to that.  Any priest can get up in the morning to celebrate Mass, any priest can walk into the confessional and absolve sins, any priest can go to the hospital and anoint the sick and visit with them, any priest can attend meetings and classes and play with the children in the schoolyard.  Any priest can serve as a functionary. But only the priest who sees himself as “bridge builder” and sees that his life is called to bring Christ to the people and people to Christ….  Only the priest who sees himself working “in persona Christi” to save souls without counting the cost…..   Only the priest who sees himself as a warrior for Jesus Christ, winning souls and having the battle scars to prove it….  Only the priest who proves to his sheep that he is willing to lay down his life for them…., Only the priest who goes to bed at night completely exhausted because he served his heart out for Christ… – that priest will be a priest after the heart of the Good Shepherd – a true pastor for the people.  

I want to share with you a reading from  1 Timothy 4: 12-16:
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.  Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone.  Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

Deacons – in closing I have three bits of advice for you:

1.    Maintain Spiritual direction – you will be involved in spiritual warfare and you need to have a Spiritual Director that will work with you and help you to win the battle.

2.    Be kind to the people.  Love them with all your heart and in turn they will recognize that kindness and forgive you when you make mistakes.

3.    Be a holy priest.  Pray constantly and give your heart to Christ. 

Deacons – thank you for your “yes” your “fiat.”  You like Mary will not comprehend what that “fiat” entails or how it unfolds.  God will work wonders in and through you.    Embrace and love the awesome gift given to you by Christ through your bishop – the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  May you experience the joy that I have had through the years.

May God bless you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Installation to the Ministry of Acolyte

We were honored by Bishop George Coleman, Bishop of Fall River, who celebrated the installation of our seminarians to the ministry of Acolyte. At the conclusion ot his homily, Bishop Coleman read the following instruction from the Pontifical which explains the ministry of Acolyte: 

"Dear sons in Christ, as people chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church's ministry. The summit and source of the Church's life is the eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow. It is your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give holy communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick. Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord's sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness. You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Jesus Christ. In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ's Mystical Body, God's holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his apostles at the Last Supper: "Love one another as I also have loved you."


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Second Pre-Theology end of year party

The members of Second Pre-Theology celebrated the approaching end of the semester at Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston thanks to the hospitality of Father Wayne Belschner.  We dined on Ziti Arrabiata alla Scorzello and various smoked meats prepared by Fathers O'Connor and Belschner with the help of the Boston Fire Department.  All survived and a good time was had by all!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

SJS vs J XXIII Softball Game

The final score from the annual softball game between Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary and Saint John's Seminary was 13-11.  For the first time in two years, the trophy has returned to Brighton!

Candidacy at Saint John's Seminary

This morning we were honored by the presence of Bishop Robert McManus, Bishop of Worcester, who received several of our men to candidacy for Holy Orders.

At the luncheon following Mass we were delighted by the presence of a group of student jugglers and singers from Saint Thomas More College.  A good time was had by all.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Empty yourself of the many small idols...

"...we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, careerism, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the center, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others. This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives."

Pope Francis
14 April 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston is at peace...

Boston is finally at peace tonight. Dzhokar Tsarnaev is alive and in custody and no one has been hurt this evening in his apprehension. The Seminarians are giving thanks and God is very good.

God Almighty Father,
at the end of this day we give you thanks
for all through whom you have brought us peace.
Give them a well deserved rest from their labors.
May your justice and truth,
your mercy and love
bring healing and peace.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Please pray for the good people of Boston

As the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber continues, all of Boston  is in lockdown.  Here at Saint John's Seminary we are all safe and the seminarians are praying for the safety of all involved.  Please be one with us in prayer. 

O God, merciful and strong,
who crush wars and cast down the proud,
be pleased to banish violence swiftly from our midst
and to wipe away all tears,
so that we may all truly deserve to be called your children. 
Through 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. Amen.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Transformed by love for the poor...

The following reflections are excerpted from Monsignor Moroney's Keynote Address to the Boston Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress, entitled "Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord."

Finally, we are transformed by love: love of the poor, whom Jesus called blessed and with whom he spent a good deal of his time.  The poor who call us to a life of charitable virtue and who remind us who we are.

We need the poor and we are far more blessed by them than they are by us.
"The centrality of the Mass was crucial to Dorothy [Day], and she considered it the greatest work of the day. In the early 1940’s, when she addressed a group of “would-be Catholic Workers ,” she admonished them that “the Mass is the Work”! All their activities were first to be offered and then united frequently with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and on the altar, because Dorothy felt that “ all life flowed from worship; only thus would their work be a success, irrespective of its external attainment." (Excerpt from Introduction by Mark and Louise Zwick to Dorothy Day‘s journal On Pilgrimage (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1999).
And yet we’re always trying to drive the poor away, to keep them from upsetting the admirable stability of our balanced lives...all because they remind us of our own fragility: that we are never really in control.  That we could be as they are but for the grace of God.  That in what really matters, selfishness and sin, we’re probably poorer than they are.

And yet Jesus calls them blessed.  The same Jesus who said “judge not, lest ye be judged,” and means it.  The same Jesus who says ‘whatever you do to the least, you do to me,’ and means it. The same Jesus who says, if they slap you on one side, give them the other,’ and means it. The same Jesus who says, ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ and then dies on the cross for us.

That means that if we really seek to walk the road to calvary, to follow Jesus in offering his holy and living sacrifice, that we must always be a home for the poor: the poor in heart, the poor in stomach, the poor in love. It means that we are truly followers of Jesus Christ if we attract the lonely, the crazy, the dysfunctional, the addicted, the hungry, the guilty, the broken and those who have learned how to alienate almost everyone else in the world. 

Any liturgical community recognizing the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is a place where the weird, the odd and the rejected of the world find a home. And anyone who serves such a liturgy must be so in touch with his own sinfulness, his own weirdness, his own brokenness that he is ready to welcome other broken little ones with open arms and a heart filled with compassion and understanding.

We need the poor, for they remind us of his own poverty, of our own fragility, of the poverty we carry deep down inside.  The poor, in short, remind us to be humble, and we learn humility by participating fully, consciously and actively in the saving Sacrifice which is the source and the summit of our lives.

Monsignor Moroney

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some random thoughts...the day after....

“Almighty Father, we commend the victims of this shocking tragedy to Your eternal love. We implore Your comfort upon the injured, the families and friends involved, and all who are doing their utmost to rescue survivors and help those affected. We ask You, Father, to grant the American people the strength and courage they need at this time of sorrow and trial.”
So did Pope John Paul II pray during his visit to the 911 memorial in New York.  So many feelings on this day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon harken back to 911.

I was working at the USCCB on that cool fall day when we watched the towers fall on TV. The smoke from the Pentagon rose beyond the glass of my office window, and fear began to show on the faces of my colleagues for weeks to come.

Such moments of unexpected violence come often, even when on a smaller scale, in the life of a parish priest.  The fire that devastates the lives of three families down the street, the suicide of a teenager from the youth group, the domestic abuse that lands the lector from the ten o‘clock Mass in court and in the paper...all are unexpected and all have the same destabilizing effect on our lives.

As the hours following such traumatic events pass, everyone begins to think the same thing: There but for the grace of God go I.  And it’s true.  If Michael crossed the finish line ten minutes earlier, if Callan was still watching from the sidewalk, if they had dropped a backpack bomb across from BC....There but for the grace of God go I.

I recall a spate of teenage suicides when I was pastor in Spencer.  First one, then two, then three kids took their own lives, most frequently with a shotgun.  Each parent had the same thought: There but for the grace of God go I.

And what could I, as the Pastor of Spencer, offer to their paralyzing fear?  Certainly not lies.  It will be alright.  It probably won’t be.  God will protect you.  Why didn’t God protect my neighbor?  This is all part of God’s plan.  Really hard to believe that.

What can a Pastor do at a time like this?  He can tell the truth. The truth that there is a real and present danger, but it is not all present.  We will probably be a bit safer as public safety folks are hyper-vigilant over the weeks and months to come.  But then we will forget, and someone just crazy enough or angry enough will strike again.

The truth is that none of us are immune.  From violence, or from cancer, or from accidental death.  

But the point of life is not staying alive and happy and healthy.  The point of life is to do the will of God.

And that often involves the Cross, the Cross which gives meaning even to senseless and random violence.  God writes straight with crooked lines.  Even from darkness and pain and senseless suffering he can bring forth his light, and his truth, and true hope.

For Christ walks into the dark upper rooms of our lives and says “Be not afraid.”  Not because there is no such thing as suffering and death (he shows us his wounds and invites us to touch them).  He tells us not to be afraid because he is ever present and in our suffering we are drawn closer to his Cross, the Cross by which he has defeated Death and Darkness and Sin.  We have nothing to fear, ever again, as he whispers in our hearts: “Peace be with you!”

So what does the Pastor have to offer on dark days like these?  The same thing he offers each day...the same one he offers each day...Christ, and his cross and life in Him.

Lord Jesus, Gentle Shepherd.....have mercy on us!

Monsignor Moroney

Monday, April 15, 2013


Brothers and Friends of Saint John’s Seminary, 

Thanks to all of our friends for their prayers throughout the day.

We've heard from Mike Zimmerman and Callan Davis that they are safe and sound.  Mike was completing his run of the marathon and Callan was watching from near the stands at the time of the explosion.  Thank God for delivering our brothers.  

Join us all in praying for those who were killed and all who suffered casualties and for their families.

O God, merciful and strong,
be pleased to banish violence swiftly from our midst
and to wipe away all tears,
so that we may all truly deserve to be called your children.
 Through 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. 

Monsignor Moroney

Cardinal O'Malley's Statement from Jerusalem

The Archdiocese of Boston joins all people of good will in expressing deep sorrow following the senseless acts of violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon today.  Our prayers and concern are with so many who experienced the trauma of these acts, most especially the loved ones of those who lives were lost and those who were injured, and the injured themselves.

The citizens of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are blessed by the bravery and heroism of many, particularly the men and women of the police and fire departments and emergency services who responded within moments of these tragic events.  Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino and Police Commissioner Davis are providing the leadership that will see us through this most difficult time and ensure that proper procedures are followed to protect the public safety.

In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today.  We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.

Father O'Connor's Co-Workers Homily

The following homily was delivered by Father Christopher O'Connor, President of the Theological Institute, at the recent Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference.

Have you heard the one about the little girl who kept interjecting her faith into the public school classroom? Needless to say her teachers weren’t happy. One day the teacher was presenting in science class on whales and thought she was all set. But Alas, the hand went up and the little girls stated: A whale swallowed Jonah. Impossible, scoffed the teacher. Easily provable, commented the girl. I shall ask Jonah when I get to Heaven. The teacher rather annoyed asks: And what if Jonah is in Hell and not Heaven? The little girl responds: Then you can ask him!

Like that little girl we must have eyes of faith. Today’s gospel reveals people of faith. In St. Andrew we find our first youth minister who encourages a young boy to bring forward his gifts of bread and fish to the Lord.

From the young man comes a willingness to make an offering of the little that he has to the Lord.

With our faith, the Lord accomplishes miracles. We hear the miracle of the loaves and fishes but we experience and see the miraculous in the mystery of the Eucharist.

With eyes of faith, we see beyond the bread and wine, we see the Lord fully and wholly present to us. Miraculously, through the Eucharist the Risen Lord offers his constant presence to us. He invites us to draw near to Him.

Many of the popular images of the Eucharist teach about its savings effects.

The image of the fishes and loaves reveal that God’s love is abundant, lavish, excessive. Like an Italian meal, There is always plenty for everyone.
God will never be outdone in his goodness or generosity.

The Lamb of God image reminds us that Christ became a sacrifice for us. He made an offering of his life and he asks us to make a similar offering of our lives.

Then there is the pelican. It is often engraved on our tabernacles. The pelican is often pictured with her chicks. The legend of the pelican is that the bird used its beak to pierce its breast to feed the chicks with its blood. The natural gives way to the Divine: Christ feeds the Church. This is my body given up for you...This is the chalice of my blood which…..which will be poured out for you and for many.

These images help us to see the importance of the Eucharist in our lives.

Cars run on gasoline, lights on electricity, and the world on money….it must be the Eucharist which motivates, inspires, energizes and sustains the Christian.

There is a wonderful Native American fable about a young Indian brave who has witnessed arrogance, pride and evil in one of his clan members. He approaches the wise shaman and questions him about the origin of evil. The shaman responds simply: there are two wolves inside of every person one that is good and one that is evil. The brave considers this but questions him further: Which wolf wins? The shaman responded: Which ever wolf you feed.

That story hangs in the chaplain’s office at Norfolk prison…a powerful reminder for the men there, a powerful reminder for those of us involved in ministry.

We come to the Eucharist to be fed by Him who is Humilty, Goodness, and Love.

This is why on his inaugural homily as Pope, Francis told us what papal ministry should look like and so also what our ministry should look like:

Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the Eucharist, we encounter Christ. The Bread of Life feeds us his hungry. Here the divine Physician heals us his sick, wounded by division and strife. Here we the naked are clothed by Christ’s love and friendship. At this mass the once condemned prisoner now Resurrected shows us the way to true freedom, freeing us from the sins that imprison.

And if that’s not enough….like the word mass suggests, missa, to be sent, he sends us out to the vineyard to encounter the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the imprisoned.

And as his coworkers in the vineyard, the Eucharistic Lord whispers to us: As I have done for you…so you must do for others. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just 24 more days....

until the last day of class....

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Some Thoughts on SBNR

Monsignor Moroney gave the following address to the Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference in Newton on April 12th.

They don’t go to Church, do they?  You know who I mean. You know only too well.  They used to sit over there, and back there, and when the rest of the Church was full, they’d squirm uncomfortably into a pew closer to the front.

But now they don’t go to Church anymore.  And you don’t like to think about it too much.  Because it hurts, and, quite frankly (although its hard to admit) you’re afraid they’ll go to hell.

I’m talking about your son or your daughter, your friends, your parents or even your husband.

You love them. You want them to know “the peace that the world cannot give.”  You want them to know again what it feels like after you go to confession.  You want to see them come back from communion and bury their head in their hands.  You want them to come home.

But except for the days of lilies and poinsettias and the occasional wedding or funeral they won’t darken that big door back there.

And it’s easy to get mad and to cast stones. But they are the folks who will meet you at a party and hearing you work for the church proclaim, “Hey, I used to be a Catholic, but I left.  I’m no longer religious, but I’m still spiritual.”

Spiritual, but not religious. They even have acronym for it SBNR: they make buttons and T-shirts. SBNR: Spiritual, but not religious.  What does it mean? Where does it lead? And what do we do about it?

I bet you’ve heard it a lot. One survey reports that as many as 33% of people in the United States identify themselves as spiritual but not religious, and the Southern Baptist Convention's Life Way Christian Resources has reported that 72% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 say that they're "really more spiritual than religious."

As described in books like Robert C. Fuller's Spiritual but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America and Sven E. Erlandson's Spiritual But Not Religious: A Call To Religious Revolution In America, SBNR’s believe that knowledge of God, who he is and what he wants of us, is really a personal matter to be discerned in the quiet of my room by an act of individual revelation.

Such a personal discernment is preferred by SBNR’s in contrast with a Religious world view, which says that Divine Revelation is mediated through the Church.  The distinction is clear in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council.  Listen to Dei Verbum:

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature. Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends and lives among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself...

God reveals....we receive
So God reveals and we receive.  The only way we know God, the omnipotent and omniscient source of everything, is through the way he reveals himself to us.  As Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God “has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in [Christ].”

God reveals, we receive.  But how does God reveal.  Do I have to hike up to some mountaintop in the Himalayas with and sit at the feet of some mystic to hear the secret gnosis?  Do I need to learn the proper meditation techniques so that I can actualize the secret written in my heart centuries ago?  Do I need to discover some golden plates at the behest of an angel and translate them with the help of a magic stone?

No.  God reveals himself completely, definitively, and forever in the birth, death, and resurrection of his only-begotten Son.  Dei Verbum continues:

7...Christ the Lord in whom the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion, commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, and to impart to them heavenly gifts...But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, "handing over" to them "the authority to teach in their own place."

Christ is the Fullness of Revelation
Christ, then, is the fullness of Revelation.  Surely, Moses and the prophets revealed to us the face of God.  From a burning bush, by a Decalogue inscribed in stone, and from a pillar of fire leading his chosen people from slavery to freedom God revealed himself to us.

But reading the Old Testament alone, is like looking at the face of God through a veil.  “...Whenever Moses is read,” Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, “a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed.” ”For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.

There are things about God, about life, and about the world he created that are true and things that are false.  For Christ is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel.”  For in these last days, God "has spoken to us by a Son," and “in giving us his Son, he spoke everything to us. He has no more to say."

Christ passes on (traditio) the Revelation to the Apostles, who pass it on to the Bishops
Secondly, Christ passes on the revelation to his Apostles, who pass it on to the Bishops....or, as we say in the Roman Canon when we pray at Mass:

Be pleased to grant [your Church] peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant Francis our Pope and Sean our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

From the beginning, God does not reveal himself to a person but to a people.  Sure, he reveals himself to Abraham, but only to that he might seal a covenant with Israel that he might be their God and they might be his people.

Sure, he appears to Moses, but only that he might consecrate a people to himself and lead them from slavery to freedom.

Sure he sends the Lord Jesus to reveal the fullness of truth to his disciples, but only that he might consecrate to himself “a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people washed clean and consecrated in his Blood.”

In other words, revelation does not come through me or you or even Joel Olsteen....it comes through the Church.  There’s not my truth and your truth and his truth in the back of the room.  There is one truth, who is Christ Jesus our Lord, professed by the Church in the Nicene Creed, celebrated in the Sacraments and as lived in accordance with the scriptures which have been handed down to us.

8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter,and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all. Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

Contrast such a view with a DVD embraced a few years ago by Orpah Winfrey called The Secret.  The DVD was produced by an Australian by the name of Rhonda Byrne, who, following a divorce, bankruptcy and emotional collapse could not stop crying, until she discovered a hundred year old book called The Science of Getting Rich. "Something inside of me had me turn the pages one by one, and I can still remember my tears hitting the pages as I was reading it," Rhonda says. "It gave me a glimpse of The Secret. It was like a flame inside of my heart. And with every day since, it's just become a raging fire of wanting to share all of this with the world."

The insights of The Secret can be fairly summarized as follows:

1. Everything is energy
2. You are a spiritual being
3. Universe emerges from thought. 
4. We are creators not of our own destiny and of the universe.
5. We are all connected and all one.
6. Your power is in your thoughts.
7. The only thing you need to do is feel good now.

Mary Poplin is a professor of education at a University in Texas, who in 1996 published a book called Finding Calcutta.  It’s a great read.  In it she describes the two months she spent with Mother Theresa’s sisters in Calcutta, and the deep conviction she has drawn that the work of the Missionaries of Charity is “religious work and not social work.” 

In her book she describes a struggle to understand what is going on in Calcutta, characterized by a dissonance between the “leftist intellectual” who has “dabbled in feminist theology…forms of meditation, drugs, and the New Age movement” and a “small, curious-looking nun” who says things like “fall more in love with Jesus every day” and “our work is not social work; it is religious work.”

In a lecture for the Veritas Forum some years later, Poplin describes the Creed of the SBNR community, which rejects the essentially religious dimension of Mother Theresa and of all who believe the Church is the arbiter of all truth.

She articulates the SBNR creed as follows:

1. I’m better than you, because I don’t need any silly religion to be good.
2. You can be good without religion.
3. All religions ultimately lead to the same place.
4. There is one substance called spirit, which underlies all natural phenomenon.
5. We are all spiritual sentient beings.  No species is above the other.
6. All the universe is spiritual first,  The spiritual is power.
7. Humans can control the world of spirits.

While I lack the time this morning to contrast each of these credal statements to Catholic doctrine, it is obvious that each of them are wrong.  Dead wrong.  They contradict what God has revealed in Christ and which has been passed on to us by the Church through the Tradition.

But in addition to being wrong they are dangerous and can lead people, at times, to collaboration with powers of evil.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.... We still have one more question to answer....


What happens when we create our own religions, based not on Divine Revelation but the idiosyncrasies of our own hearts?  What happens when we create our own self-actualized Churches founded on the dogmas of our inner emotional needs and desires?

What happens is something like this:

Mike Stygal, is a secondary school teacher who practices paganism in his private life. He believes in a divine force in nature. “I believe everything is connected, I feel very in touch with nature and the changing seasons. Awe is a very good word for how I feel. It’s a sense of deep respect for nature. I can communicate with the deity.  I love Native American spirituality and paganism, and I’ve studied Buddhism. I think organized religion is one of the top problems of the world actually, so no, I’d say I steer clear of religion and go straight towards spirituality.”

Or even like this:

"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter...Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.”

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

You guessed it...

When Adolf Hitler the arbiter of all truth, his emotional needs become the definer of his morality.  When his voice is identified with the voice of God, his prejudices and presuppositions describe what is true and what is not.  When his intuitions are the signposts of my life, his prayer becomes “my will be done, both here and in heaven.”

And it’s the same for me.

I need God. I need perfect love.  I need perfect truth, lest I live a life caught up in selfish preoccupations and a spiraling narcissism of self-indulgence.  God is love, and love means dying to myself in the model of him who shed every drop of blood in a kenotic exemplification of what it means to live.


So what we do about all it?  We tell the truth.  And the truth is Jesus Christ and what he came to teach us by his birth and paschal death and rising and by what he told us.

We speak the truth always in love precisely because he taught us to “judge not lest we be judged’ and to ‘love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.’  Opening his arms on the cross they would nail him to, surrounded by a pack of howling persecutors, he told us to love others as he had loved us.

And that includes those who no longer sit in that pew, those who post blasphemy, who talk behind our backs and work for the destruction of Christ’s Church and his people.  Love and the truth.  It’s the only thing we got.  It’s the only thing we need.

1. When at work or at a party or in the aisle of Stop and Shop and they say to us: “The whole meaning of life is to hear the voice inside, to determine what’s true for me.”  Perhaps we can tell them Saint Benedict’s description of the three stages of truth, the three stages 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 a part of his plan. In other words, it is not my will but his, not me, but Christ Jesus in me, it is I, like the John the Baptist, who must decrease and he who must increase.

2. When at work or at a party or in the aisle of Stop and Shop and they say to us: “I am my own moral compass...I just listen to my heart and know the right thing to do.”  Perhaps we could recall when he said to us:

Love your neighbor as yourself
Forgive seventy times seven
Judge not least you be judged
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake

3. When at work or at a party or in the aisle of Stop and Shop and they say to us: “The whole reason we’re here is commune with the spirits of the created world and create healing and peace through the projection of our thoughts.” Perhaps we could invite them to come with us to confession, where the Prodigal Son is welcomed home, where sinners are raised up from their foolishness, and where we find pardon and peace.

And then we could invite them to come back to Communion, where he who gives the peace the world cannot give gives us his Body to eat and his Blood to drink that he might live in us and we might live in him.

And then they will find the whole reason we’re here....indeed, to find unity and peace, in the Lord, in whom we live and move and find our being.

Priest: Do you renounce Satan?    

Priest: And all his works?
Priest: And all his empty show?

Priest: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? 

Priest: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?

Priest: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

Well that, is what it’s all about.

Thank you.