Saturday, August 24, 2013

Welcome to our New Brothers!

Today is moving day, as twenty-five new seminarians move into Saint John's Seminary for the very first time.  What follows is a prayer we prayed with the seminarians and their families and some words I offered, first to the seminarians and their families, and then to the seminarians themselves.

Pray that God might bring to completion the good work he has begun in each one of them!

Heavenly Father,
your love for us is beyond measure.
Still the hearts of those who seek to do your will,
and give to them the confidence of the children of God.

Give them the peace which the world cannot give,
and send an angel to gently guide them
in this, your holy house.

Bless their families and their friends,
and give to them the assurance of your Holy WIll.
Bless them for their love, their care and their daily prayers.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, fore ever and ever.  Amen.

The New Seminarians with their families and friends.


Welcome to New Seminarians and their Families
August 24

Welcome!  God called.  You answered.  

How many different feelings must be running through your hearts right now.  Those of you who are about to become philosophers and theologians, discerning God’s call to a share in the Priesthood of Jesus, his Son must be scared half to death.  Wondering what he has in store for you, will you be up to the task? Will you be happy?

Be at peace, my brother.  For the same God who gave you birth, the same God who taught you to laugh, who is the way, the truth and the life...that God is all this place is about.  He is in the air we breathe and work we do.  He is the reason we rise and we rest.  He loves you more than you will ever know, and he has great things in store for you here!  Things more amazing than you have even dreamed. Like the little kid who has climbed the ladder to the great big slide, just take a deep breath and let go!  He’ll do the rest.

And be at peace, dear parents and friends.  My 85 year old mother has some advice for you.  Trust in God and he will do great things for your son.  He knows how much you love him and God will take good care of him here.  For God has called him and he has answered.  And that is very good.

I welcome you on behalf of an incredible faculty of wonderful priests, who once sat where you sit and once felt exactly as you feel today.  I welcome you on behalf of Cardinal O’Malley and our Board of Trustees.  I welcome you on behalf of our superb staff and our spiritual directors and pastoral supervisors.  I welcome you home.

So relax and enjoy.  You only have one first day of major Seminary,  Mine was 37 years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  That day was, for me, the beginning of a life so filled with joy and beauty and truth that I cannot describe it without tears in my eyes.  And that is just what God has in store for you.



Welcome to Seminarians
August 24th

Well, here you are!  You’re a seminarian.  All the agonizing, all the sleepless nights, all the questioning is over.  You’re here.  Relax!

And why are you here?  What is this place about and what do we try to help you to find?

Only one thing.  Joy.  Perfect joy.  The joy of knowing who you are, who God made you to be.  The joy of finding the place in this world which he he created expressly for you.

And it is a joy, which the world cannot give.  For from the time you were conceived in your mother’s womb, God has had a plan for you.  And the discernment and acceptance of that plan is what joy is all about. 

People look all over the place for joy...for anything which will fill the  aching voids deep within which suck all the energy out of life.  Sometimes they try to fill it with money, or with power or with prestige.  I’m a Monsignor.  I’ve worked in Washington and Rome.  My wall is covered with all kinds of framed pieces of paper which tell how accomplished I am.  Wait until you see my C.V.!

But none of that brings me joy.

“True joy,” Pope Francis recently told a gathering of seminarians, “is born of the encounter and relations with others, from feeling accepted, understood and loved; from accepting, understanding and loving; and not for the sake of a fleeting interest. … Joy is born of the gratification of encountering others, of hearing oneself say 'You are important to me', and not necessarily in words. This is beautiful, and this is what God helps us to understand”.

And perfect joy, is found in a relationship with Christ Jesus, so deep and so all pervasive that it calls me to obedience, to seeking his will alone, to doing his will alone, and to living for his will alone.

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 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.  There is perfect joy!
[The Story of Perfect Joy from the Fioretti of Saint Francis]
On another day, the story goes, Saint Francis was in the library of his monastery when he noticed one of the younger monks paging through book after book.  Francis asked him what he was looking for.  He said, Father Francis, I want the perfect book on how to live my life.”  Francis smiled at him, took the crucifix off the wall, and handed it to him.  “Here,” he said, “this is the book you need to study to understand how to live life.”

And such joy, our Holy Father Francis told those seminarians, such joy “is contagious, and sustains us. However, when you find a seminarian or a novice who is too serious, too sad, something isn't right! They do not share in the joy of the Lord. … Sadness is not holiness! St. Teresa said, “A sad nun is a bad nun” … Please, no more sour-faced nuns or priests!” .

Well, enough from me.  You’ve had a long day.

I’m the Rector, which means I’m your pastor.  I live on the second floor in an apartment a little smaller than the city of Providence and my office is at the end of that hallway.  My cell phone is in the student directory and you are my first priority in life.  I want nothing more than for God to do with you what he has in mind, and that, my brothers, is perfect joy.