Monday, July 29, 2013

More from Mark and Jim on the Camino!

In Lourdes.

In the Ruins of a Monastery.

Mark and Jim in Lourdes.

Mark in the Pyrenees

With fellow pilgrims.

A picture is worth a thousand words...

This Week at SJS

All sorts of activity at Saint John’s as July turns to August this week and we get ready for the return of the community in just a few weeks.

I flew to Pittsburgh today to meet with Dr. Dan Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools.  “More than 270 graduate schools of theology in the United States and Canada form The Association of Theological Schools. Member schools conduct post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines."

Renovations of the Business Office and the Crypt were completed this week.  Faculty storage has been relocated from the residence corridors to the crypt in order to free up enough rooms for the increased number of seminarians this fall.

Speaking of which, we accepted six new seminarians last week and have five interviews scheduled for this week.

Thursday night is the annual Vianney Dinner for Boston alumni with Cardinal O’Malley.  We expect several hundred priests for this great event!

We received word this morning that our new tabernacle has been delayed due to additional work required on detailing the columns and windows on this reproduction of Bramante’s Tempietto.  The tabernacle is now scheduled to be installed in early October.  It is shaping up to be a magnificent work of art and is worth the wait of a few more weeks!

Finally, we just received a picture of Jim Davila and Mark Olejnik who are walking the “Camino” or “Way of Saint James”, the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where the Apostle Saint James is buried.  Look closely and you will see that both our noble pilgrims are wearing the traditional pilgrim’s shell.   students and employ more than 7,200 faculty and administrators.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mid-Summer Chamber Music Concert at SJS

This afternoon, several dozen of the friends of Saint John's Seminary attended a mid-summer Concert featuring works by Bach, Biber, Handel, Fauré and others. I am grateful to Dr, Janet Hunt (harpsichord/piano/organ), Jennifer Hunt, (flute), Leslie Hunt (flute), and Philip Rhodes (violin).

Before we began, I recalled Natalie Babbit reflecting on this time of year, which "hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but [this time of summer] is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days..."

I was grateful for the ways in which this concert provided such beauty in the midst of our summer. Here's a sample of what we all so enjoyed:

Some Thoughts on Liturgy, Truth, Beauty and Good

I delivered the following talk at a Theology on Tap in Norwood this afternoon.  Thanks to the several dozen folks who came out to the talk, some all the way from Brighton!

I want to begin by showing you something beautiful.

It is a reproduction of a chalice which was given to me by some friends in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of my priestly ordination, more than a decade ago.

Here is an object, a sacred object, a liturgical object, a chalice based on an eighth century original of Anglo-Saxon design.  We believe that the original chalice was commissioned by Luitpirga, the wife of the Bavarian Duke Tassilo III on the occasion of the establishment of the Benedictine Abbey at Kremsmünster in Austria, as evidenced by the inscription on its base: TASSILO DUX FORTIS + LIVTPIRG VIRGA REGALIS. On this copy, fortuitously, the inscription is replaced by the Latin per ipsum.

Its material was and is not strikingly precious, the original being made of plated bronze and this of plated base metals.   So what makes it particularly beautiful?

First, the artistic technique and attention to detail.  Every square millimeter is lovingly inscribed with those long, broken interwoven knotted cords or plaits so characteristic of Northumbrian art in this early periodThe techniques for its decoration are lovely, including extensive niello engraving and chip-carving, expertly executed.

The design is balanced and sumptuous, dominated by five oval portraits around an oval cup, sitting on a graceful node held up by a base adorned with five more oval portraits, each interwoven by the same Celtic tracery to which I have referred.

But, for the Christian, there is still something more beautiful here in the iconography of the chalice.  Christ the pantocrator peeks out from a little celestial window, his right hand raised in blessing, his left clutching the law, as in many ancient Roman mosaics and sarcophagi.  Above are the letters I and S for Iesus Salvator.  The other ovals contain the four evangelists in typical stylized Northumbrian fashion, each accompanied by their proper iconographic signs of the bull, the angel, the eagle and the man.

While the portraits at the base differ from the original chalice, the ones you are looking at are of the  Apostles Peter, Matthew, and James and the young Bishop Timothy.


I have provided you with an encounter with this Chalice precisely so that you could experience in it the beauty with which it has enriched my life throughout the years.  The artistic skill, the exquisite design and the extraordinary craftsmanship which went into creating that delight for eye and heart and spirit is a wonder to behold.

We need such beauty in life, precisely because it draws us closer to the source of all that is beautiful and good and true.  Indeed, what we call beauty is nothing but a reflection of the face of the Lord, a glimmer of the refulgence of his glory, and to sprinkle our lives with such glimmering reflections is to sanctify each corner with what Dorothy Day used to call the “sacrament of the present moment.”

Such beauty, Dostoevsky once wrote, saves the world..."it has its own integral organic life and it answers man’s innate need for beauty, without which, perhaps, he might not want to live upon earth".  Our need for beauty is our need for the light of the face of God to overcome the shadows of our every day lives.

But, lo, there is something even greater here!  For the object which I have chosen to share with you this evening is not just an art object fit for a display case in the MFA or an honored place on that well lit table in your entry way.  What makes this object truly beautiful is the use for which it is destined.  It is not just an object, but a sacred object, made sacred by its use in the sacred liturgy.

How many times has this chalice been lifted up to offer “our spiritual drink”?  It is, in the words of the Roman Missal, the chalice of his Blood and the chalice of everlasting salvation, the Chalice of the new and everlasting covenant, the new covenant in his Blood the chalice of blessing, and the Chalice of the Christ, Christ’s chalice of suffering, the Chalice of the Lord.


For the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the “source and the summit of the entire Christian life,” is, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends"! (9 September 2007, Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria)

In his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis Pope Benedict reminded us of “the inherent link between the liturgy and beauty.”  “[the Liturgy] is veritatis splendor...a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion. As Saint Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source. This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love...The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery.(Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 35)

And herein lies an important point for my brief reflection tonight.  If it is true that the truest beauty is in the paschal mystery, and that the clearest image of the presence of God this side of Heaven is in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, then it is not the mere loveliness, the exquisite form or artistic execution of this magnificent chalice which makes the Liturgy beautiful, but its service of the holy and living sacrifice which consecrates it with a beauty which is beyond all imagining.

A concluding story.  This afternoon I sang the Church's prayer of Commendation of the Dying for a woman in her last days of life.  For many years her devoted husband has been her constant caregiver and now he and her loving family gathered around her bed.  She smiled when we began to pray and she was beautiful.

Not with the beauty she once bore in her wedding picture, wherein a lovely bride grasps the hand of the man to whom God would wed her, not with the beauty of youth and good health, not with the beauty of a devoted mother running after her little, the beauty which shown in Barbara's eyes was the beauty of faithful love, of a race well run, and of undefeated love.  And it was more beautiful than all the beauties which had preceded it, for it reflected most clearly the perfect beauty of the paschal love to which we now entrust her soul.  In those eyes, as they grow dim, we see the light of Christ and his eternal love.

And is there anything more beautiful than that?

Friday, July 26, 2013

On the Cape with Malta and our Retired Priests

Through the generosity of Craig and Nancy Gibson, the Knights of Malta served a wonderful lunch for the retired priests of the Archdiocese of Boston this afternoon in Woods Hole on Cape Cod.  It was so much fun being with the priests, all noble alumni who have provided hundreds of years of combined service to the Church in the Archdiocese of Boston.  The good folks of Malta, dedicated as they are to the Church and to the sick, took good care of these good shepherds on a lovely summer afternoon by the sea.

Archbishop Emeritus Al Hughes (a former Rector of Saint John's Seminary), Father Jack Schatzel, Senior Priest, and Bob Downing of the Order of Malta.

With two great men of the Church, Jim O'Connor, whose work with Malta locally and internationally is renowned and Monsignor Connie McRae, spiritual director at the North American College and former rector of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary.

With Nancy Gibson, who never stopped serving food and taking care of these great senior clergy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Visit with Bishop Francis

I was honored to meet with Bishop Antonisamy Francis of the Diocese of Kumbakonam.  Bishop has kindly sponsored Father Arockiasamy Kulanaisamy who has been working on his Master’s in Theology Degree here at Saint John’s.  Please keep Bishop Francis and the people of his Diocese in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yet More Seminarians in South Dakota...

Matt Grossi of the Diocese of Providence and  Matthew Conley of Boston were joined by Evan Ponton of Baltimore on yet another pilgrimage to South Dakota by seminarians on the Institute for Priestly Formation.

Matthew in the Badlands, practicing his presidential wave!

Matt and Evan with a new friend!

Five Great Men (four of them carved in stone).

"I don't think we have these in Boston....or Providence...or Baltimore!!!"

Monday, July 22, 2013

SJS in South Dakota

As the Institute for Priestly Formation heads into its last week, Jason Giombetti, Mike Solomon and Brian Cullen have sent some pictures of their excursion to the Dakotas!  

Brian Cullen in the hills of South Dakota
Here are the three of them at the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota

Jason Giombetti at Mt. Rushmore
Mike Solomon at Devil's Tower National Park

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pray for Pope Francis and WYD2013

Oh Father, You sent Your Eternal Son to save the world, and You chose men and women, so that through Him, with Him and in Him, they might proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to all nations. Grant us the necessary graces, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the joy of being the evangelists that the Church needs in the Third Millennium may shine in the faces of all young people.

Oh Christ, Redeemer of humanity, the image of Your open arms on the top of Corcovado, welcomes all people. In Your paschal offering, You led us, by the Holy Spirit, to encounter the Father as His children. Young people, who are nourished by Eucharist, who hear You in Your Word and meet You as their brother, need your infinite mercy to walk along the paths of this world as disciples and missionaries of the New Evangelization.

Oh Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and of the Son, with the splendor of Your Truth and the fire of Your Love, shed Your Light upon all young people so that, inspired by their experience at World Youth Day, they may bring faith, hope and charity to the four corners of the earth, becoming great builders of a culture of life and peace and catalysts of a new world. Amen.
Official Prayer for World Youth Day

Friday, July 19, 2013

Congratulations Deacon Micale!

Congratulations to Deacon Chris Micale on appearing on the cover of Vermont Catholic magazine.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Sneak Peek at our new Tabernacle...

The latest addition to our glorious Chapel of Saint John the Evangelist is a new tabernacle which will be placed in the center of the apse.  Based on Bramante’s “Temipetto,” the classic Renaissance Church of San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum Hill, the tabernacle has been crafted of onyx and alabaster.  With plans for its dedication in September, the marble craftsmen in Carrara, Italy have been hard at work and sent along some pictures as they completed the first stages of its construction.

Here’s what Bramante’s “Tempietto” looks like.
Here’s the artist’s conception of our Tabernacle.

Here are the first photos of the tabernacle as it is taking shape.  I can’t wait until the details are introduced.  I can’t wait until it is completed and in place as a worthy house for the Body of the Lord.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Faculty Changes for this Fall

As the summer months provide us with time to prepare for yet another exciting year of formation and growth, I am reminded of the great blessing which our seminary faculty is to each of our seminarians.  So I want to share with you some of the changes in faculty which the seminarians will see when they return to Saint John’s.

Father Pignato will assume the role of Director of Pre-Theology, as Father Scorzello assumes the role of a Spiritual Director and both of them continue teaching. 

Monsignor John Mclaughlin will succeed Bishop Barber as the Director of Spiritual Formation. 

Dr. Paul Metilly will join the Pre-Theology Faculty as a fulltime professor of philosophy.  Dr. Metilly has just completed his ecclesiastical Ph.D. in Philophy and also holds a  Ph.L. and an ecclesiastical S.T.M.  Dr. Metilly will also serve as interim Director of Academic Formation. 

Father Joseph Briody, a priest of Raphoe in Ireland will join the faculty as a full time formator and Director of Liturgy.  Father Briody holds a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, magna cum laude, and is an advisor to the Vox Clara Committee.  Up to now he has served as pastor of Holy Cross Church in Dunfanaghy.

Father Salocks will return to us as a formator and full time professor of Sacred Scripture, while Father James Conn, S.J. will join the formation faculty, while continuing as a professor in Canon Law.

Father McManus will continue as a Professor of Liturgy and formater, but will reduce the time he will be in residence in response to various requests for service from the Holy See and the USCCB.  His primary residence will be at Georgetown University.

Reverend Raymond Van De Moortell will serve as Director of Human Formation, building on the fine work accomplished by Father Pignato’s  in establishing policies and procedures in the previous year.

In summary, here is what the faculty will look like:

Formation Faculty
Reverend Christopher O’Connor, Vice-Rector and Professor Theology
Reverend Joseph Briody, Director of Liturgy and Professor of Sacred Scripture
Reverend Romanus Cessario, O.P., Theological Advisor to the Rector and Professor of Theology
Reverend James Conn, S.J., Professor of Canon Law
Reverend Dennis McManus, Professor of Liturgy 
Reverend David Pignato, Director of Pre-Theology and Professor of Theology
Reverend Edward Riley, Director of Pastoral Formation and Dean of Men
Reverend Stephen Salocks, Professor of Sacred Scripture 
Reverend Raymond Van De Moortell, Director of Human Formation, and Professor of Theology

Teaching Faculty
Dr. Paul Metilly (Director of Academic Formation)
Dr. David Franks, Professor of Theology

Spiritual Directors
Monsignor John Mclaughlin, Director of Spiritual Formation
Reverend Joseph Scorzello, Spiritual Director and Professor of Philosophy
Reverend Derek Borek, Spiritual Director and Professor of Theology

What a wonderful gift this faculty is to each one of us. Please keep them in your grateful prayers that God may reward them for all that they do for our seminarians!

Summer Concert on July 28th at SJS!

Music at St. John’s

An Afternoon of
 Chamber Music

Sunday July 28, 2013
3:00 pm
featuring works by Bach, Biber, Handel, Fauré and others

Jennifer Hunt, flute
Leslie Hunt, flute
Philip Rhodes, violin
Janet Hunt, harpsichord/piano/organ

St. John’s Seminary Chapel
127 Lake Street
Brighton, Massachusetts

This concert is free, air conditioned, and open to the public.

New men in Rome...

Word from Rome is that Kevin Leaver and Michael Zimmerman are enjoying the first days of their orientation at North American College, thanks to the solicitude of their arch-diocesan brother, Kevin Staley-Joyce.  Here, they pose in front of their new parish church!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Out of Africa...

Father Chris O’Connor and Father Ed Riley are visiting the Church in Africa these days and have sent back some pictures from Accra, Ghana.  As they travel around this continent, where the Church is so alive, I am reminded of Pope Benedict XVI’s opening words in Africae Munus, his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Synod on the Church in Africa: 
“Africa’s commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is a precious treasure which I entrust at the beginning of this third millennium to the bishops, priests, permanent deacons, consecrated persons, catechists and lay faithful of that beloved continent and its neighboring islands. Through this mission, Africa is led to explore its Christian vocation more deeply; it is called, in the name of Jesus, to live reconciliation between individuals and communities and to promote peace and justice in truth for all.”
Meeting to discuss seminary formation in Africa and the United States on Wednesday at St. Peter's Regional Seminary, Cape Coast, Ghana.
The Missionary Sisters of Charity operate a home for orphan & infirm babies, house homeless adult men & women, and run a school to teach women the skill of sewing.
Local men and women selling food & domestic items on a main street in Accra, Ghana
Fr. Fabian Hevi, SMA introduces Fr. Chris O'Connor to a local Catholic family, mother & five children, that he helps in Nairobi, Kenya. Fr. Fabian just completed building a Catholic Church and School in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya with the assistance of Catholics from Ohio parishes. In addition to his responsibilities as regional Provincial Superior of the SMA Fathers and building the church & school, he heads up their Vocations office.
The story of the Good Samaritan is enfleshed in a local Anglican woman who has given a small lot of land for a Catholic family consisting of a mother & her five children to build their modest one room dwelling place.

Start of a Roman Adventure...

Kevin Staley Joyce, a second year theologian for the Archdiocese of Boston, welcomed "new men" Kevin Leaver and Michael Zimmerman this morning at Rome's Fumicino Airport. Kevin and Michael begin their studies at the Pontifical North American College with a two month orientation, including an immersion program in Italian. After completing his work on orientation, Kevin (the elder) will depart for his summer pastoral assignment in Brittany, Please keep them all in your prayers as God unfolds the great plans he has for them in bella Roma!

Just a few nights before their departure, Kevin and Michael were feted by some of their brothers with pizza in the SJS seminarian lounge.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Teaching the little ones...

Ministry at the Seminary and the Theological Institute is not just about teaching seminarians and adult laity. One of the hidden aspects is the call to be of service to the local Church. Sister Jeanne explaining the mystery of the Incarnation to a kindergarten class....passing on the faith to the next generation!

Remembering Saint Benedict...

Yesterday we spent a good deal of the day at Maria Laach, a center of study and spiritual renewal for the Church since the twelfth century! The extraordinary contributions of Dom Odo Casel, OSB to the modern liturgical renewal came to mind as I prayed in the Church where he celebrated the Sacred Liturgy, and I recalled his words:
This real representation of the saving deed cannot not be, because the saving acts of Christ are so necessary to the Christian that he cannot be a true Christian if he doesn't live them after Him and with Him. It is not the teaching of Christ which makes the Christian. It is not even the simple application of his grace. It is total identification with the person of Christ obtained by re-living His life.
Here's the homily I later preached at Mass with our group for the Feast of Saint Benedict:
I've always been challenged by Saint Benedict's description of the three ways of loving God. At first, Saint Benedict tells us, we love God because we love ourselves. I don't want to go to hell, so I do what he wants. 
At the second stage, I love God because he is lovable. I have no choice. I have so deeply fallen in love within him that I want only to do his will.

And then there's the third stage of loving God, the one which few reach but the only state in which true holiness and purity reside, wherein I love me only because God loves me. Only then does my every waking moment seek the will of God. My next breath has value only if it is part of God's plan. My fondest hopes and my deepest desires are but cinder and ash unless they are his will. In other words, it is not my will but his, not me, but Christ Jesus in me, it is fiat, let it be done to me according to your word.
Perhaps that is why Saint Benedict leads us to such an affection for the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who is the perfect human model of perfect love, whose sole response to God’s command was “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

With Benedict and Mary, may we do the same.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Remembering Carl...

Sixty-four years ago, a young American soldier was killed in the Battle of the Bulge.  Carl Lyman was buried with close to eight thousand of his comrades amidst the rolling hills of the Belgium countryside.

Yesterday we were honored to accompany his grand nephew, Tom Lyman, as we visited Carl's grave at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.  We sang the In Paradisum and prayed for the repose of his soul.  

The courtesy of the cemetery administrators was extraordinary.  After we were walked to the grave and Tom was presented with American and Belgian flags, the administrator rubbed beige colored sand from the beach at Normandy into the letters inscribed into the white marble grave stone.  Then she presented Tom with American and British flags.  Her kindness and deep respect for the holy ground on which we stood touched us all deeply.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

Faces from Reims

Here are a collection of faces from the sculpted faces on the thirteenth century facade of the Cathedral in Reims.  Each has its own personality, and I find myself wondering who inspired the sculptor for his depiction of each of them!