Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homily for the Funeral of Barbara Yacino

The Seminarians have been on retreat these first days of the semester and I ask you to please keep them in your prayers.  The retreat ends on Sunday.  On Saturday I was privileged to celebrate the Funeral of Barbara Yacino.  Frank and Barbara have been longtime examples of what it means to be a good and faithful Catholic, especially in recent years, as Barbara suffered from Alzheimer's disease.  Frank was a tireless caregiver.  Here's the homily I preached this morning at Saint Denis' Church in Douglas.

Seventy-eight years ago, Henry and Anna brought their little baby to Saint Joseph’s 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, Barbara, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Thus began a great journey, as Barbara was joined to the death and rising of Christ Jesus.  She would learn how to pray, to make the sign of the cross (struggling to hit the right shoulder first), how to kneel down and say her prayers, to go to confession and to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.  

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, Barbara and Frank walked down the aisle and stood before the altar and promised to remain faithful to one another and to God: a promise they lived together for fifty-six years.  And have no doubt about it, the faithfulness of Frank for Barbara, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, would have been shown to him by the woman who loved him more than anyone else in the world, if he had been the one suffering from Alzheimer’s for all those years.  And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Frank and Brian and Pamela and Margaret, as a concrete sign of the willingness of Barbara and Frank 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, Frank and Barbara would have knelt before the altar as the Priest, extending his hands over them, would have 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 then that they lived to know and to love six grandchildren and even two great granschildren.

The Church has been for all the years of Barbara’s life, a sign of God’s faithful love.  From the first day she was carried in by her parents to this day when you, her husband and children and grandchildren carried her before this altar of God, this Church has embraced her, consoled her with sacred signs of Christ’s redeeming love, and drawn her to the Lord with whom she died in the waters of Baptism and who will raise her up on the last day.

I know that there were many gifts which Barabara gave to each of you throughout the years.  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 Barbara, 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 us to love others as he had loved us.

For the greatest memorial to Barbara will not be the finest monument in Saint Denis’ Cemetery.  It will not even be the wonderful stories you will tell of her faithfulness, the smile on her face as she rode in the boat across Webster Lake, or her goodness as a mother, a CCD teacher and an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.  No, the greatest memorial to Barbara, will be the lives of faithful love which you will live in the years God still gives you to reflect his love and his glory upon this earth.

For of all the great subjects which Barbara, mother and CCD teacher mastered and taught, the one she understood the best was one she first learned as a child from the Baltimore Catechism

Why did God make Barbara?

God made Barbara to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world
and to be happy with him in the next.

Go forth, good and faithful Christian.  May God have mercy on your soul, and grant you eternal rest in his presence forever. Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Scenes from a Pig Roast!

Our annual Pig Roast took place in the opening days of the Semester.  Here are some scenes from the event.










Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mass of the Holy Spirit with Cardinal O'Malley

His Eminence celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit this morning to open our academic year.  Here's a great picture of the entire Saint John's Seminary Community!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rector's Conference I: The Seminarian and the Sacrifice



For almost a third of you this is your first Rector's conference. And I'm delighted that you've already picked up the tradition of standing when I walk into the room. To be honest with you, it's the coolest thing about being Rector!

In fact, I am grateful for all the signs of respect you give me. They are signs of your respect for my role as pastor of this holy house. It is a role I take very seriously, pastoring this flock of shepherds, and one on which I will assuredly be judged when the Lord Jesus returns in glory.

Today I would like to very briefly address the topic of the seminarian and the liturgy then debut the new documentary film on Saint John’s Seminary produced by Catholic TV. I’ll conclude, as customary, with some open questions and a few answers.


The Seminarian and the Sacrifice

The work of the seminarian is little different than the work of the old priest: it is discernment of God’s will and formation: the cultivation of that obedient desire to let God do with me what he will: not my will, but His be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

And it is in the Sacred Liturgy that we work out that kenotic love, that we give our hearts over to the divine will and let go of all the grasping, self-indulgent narcissism which is the source of sin. That is why the Fathers of the Council so boldly proclaimed that the liturgy is the source of every authentic Christian virtue and the summit of every authentically apostolic endeavor.

That is why participation in the liturgy is the true focus of discernment, formation, and conformity to Christ. Only by standing with Mary and John beside the cross, only by joining our sacrifices to the Lord’s, only by our participation in this holy living sacrifice can we grow into what Christ asks us to be. 



TWA Many Years Ago

It's funny, while welcoming the new men last week, I recall the one time when I thought of leaving the seminary. It was midway through my second year at North American College, and I was so serious about leaving that I went down to TWA (see how old I am!… TWA was an airline!)...I went down to TWA to price the ticket home!

I came back that night and didn't sleep a wink. I was going through about every crisis you could imagine: emotional, academic, spiritual. I was spending most of my waking hours running away from Christ, trying to convince myself that this wasn't for me or at least that God got connected to the wrong James Moroney when he dialed up my heart.

I was running away from suffering and obedience and sacrifice, which is the same thing as running away from true love.

So after a sleepless night, I got up and went to Mass.


Going to Mass

I didn't feel much like going to Mass, I felt like going to sleep or running or flying away. But I went to Mass.

I sat there, arms folded, doing my best imitation of an irascible two-year-old. Good luck to you God, I pouted. Good luck to you.

And he did. As they carried up the gifts of bread and wine I recalled what I read so many times in all those old Liturgy books: of how the paten held something more than bread and how the cruet something more than the fruit of the vine; that mixed with those oblations were the sacrifices of our lives.

And from my pew, in the back of the chapel, from my heart and through my eyes I placed all the pain, the fear, the desperation and the doubt. I place them on that paten with the matter for the sacrifice, mixed them with that wine to be offered to God.

And Christ, through the hands of the priest, received my offering and joined my little sacrifices to the perfect sacrifice of Calvary, to the cross.

And it was with that action that Christ filled up my little emptiness with his infinite love, conformed me to his image and gave me the grace not to run to TWA but to embrace the cross, whatever cross he would send me, whatever cross he would share.

And it's been that way, and infinite number of times, ever sense. As a Priest I have sometimes raised a chalice of suffering, sometimes a chalice of thanksgiving and sometimes a chalice of joy. Sometimes I have begged God that this cup pass from me and sometimes I have raised it rejoicing in praise of His name. But in Thirty-three years as a priest I have never regretted that He called me to the altar and that He placed that chalice in my hands.

For the altar is the center of the universe, the locus of life and the full conscious and active participation in that sacrifice is the road to salvation, to discernment and to conformity to the image and likeness of Christ.

Such participation is our lifeblood, it is our ‘duty and our right...by reason of our Baptism,’ as each day we are called ‘to offer the divine victim to God the Father in the sacrifice of the Mass, and to make the offering of our own lives with Him.’

Such participation, in Liturgy and in life, is the most important work we do.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Touring Boston...

The New Men spent much of the day on a tour of Catholic and Historic Boston, narrated by veteran tour guide Dr. Phil Crotty!




Saturday, August 24, 2013

Offering the Sacrifice of Our Lives


Mass with New Men
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 25th

“In the celebration of the Liturgy,” the introduction to the Lectionary for Mass tells us,  “the word of God is not announced in only one way
 nor does it always stir the hearts of the hearers with the same efficacy. Always, however, Christ is present in his word, as he carries out the mystery of salvation, sanctifies humanity and offers the Father perfect worship.

How evident that is this morning, as you gather for the first time to celebrate these sacred mysteries as a seminarian at Saint John’s Seminary.  Through his word God speaks to you, directly and succinctly, as he will every time you come to this place to worship him in spirit and in truth.

For when Isaiah speaks of a sign that God will set among the nations, he is speaking of you.  Chances are, God willing, you will not be sent to Tarshish, Put or Lud, but you just might be sent to proclaim his glory in Leominster or Quincy, Bloomfield or New Bedford, Conway or Wilbraham that you might “bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD...”  Isaiah concludes by quoting the Lord: “Some of these I will take as priests and Levites...”

So how do you get form here to there.  How do you discern whether God is calling you and then conform yourself to the image of Christ, our great High Priest.  For that is now your work.  It’s your full time job.

By the way, it’s my job too, and the job of every priest who was ever ordained: to continually offer ourselves along with the oblations we place upon that altar, to join ourselves to that great sacrifice of praise which Christ offered for our salvation upon the altar of the cross.

Sacrifice.  There’s the key word.  By offering sacrifice the priest becomes priestly.  By offering first the sacrifice of his life, of himself...of his hopes and his dreams, of his joys and his tears, of his every waking breath...to join my life to the perfect sacrifice of Christ, my heart to his, my life to his.

Such a sacrifice, Christ teaches us, as he sheds every drop of blood in a perfect kenotic act of self-giving, is all about obedience.  Obedience to love and to truth, obedience to God.

And that is what your life is all about here.  Hear the author of the letter to the Hebrews:

“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. Endure your trials as discipline.”

Emotional trials, intellectual trials, spiritual trials, pastoral trials; each of them has a purpose in God’s plan for you.  Each makes you better, each carves you into what God wants you to be.

No suffering you will ever endure in the coming years is senseless, for each draws you closer to the cross and conforms you more closely to the image of Christ.

Last night I spoke of joy and this morning I speak of suffering, but both are really the same thing.  No, I am not a masochist.  Rather, I know that it is only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that we find true Joy and only in doing his will that we know that perfect joy which is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

“So,” the author of the Hebews tells us, “strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.  Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”

For the closing prayer of today’s Mass is the prayer of our life, my brothers, as we beg him to “complete within us...the healing work of your mercy and graciously perfect and sustain us, so that in all things we may please you. Through Christ our Lord.”

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.
CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE.

____________________________________________________________________________


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!

____________________________________________________________________________


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.

Welcome!





Thursday, August 22, 2013

Plenary Faculty Address 2013


At a plenary meeting of the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary this afternoon, Monsignor Moroney offered the following remarks:

Welcome.  To some of you, welcome back and to others, welcome for the first time to the work of educating, forming and leading these good and holy men in discernment of what God has in store for them.  Welcome!

This plenary will be shorter than last year's, because I want to share with you the Catholic-TV Documentary on Saint John’s Seminary entitled A Seminary Life: Saint John’s Seminary.  You will be the first to see it, after I finish speaking for what I hope will be about fifteen minutes.

I begin with two new and interesting statistics.

We will have 84 resident seminarians this year, twenty-six of them “new men.”  

76% of them are from non-Boston Dioceses, a figure which is 10% higher than ten years ago.  

There are 43 Roman Catholic Major Seminaries in the United States today.  The largest is the North American College with 232 seminarians, while the smallest is the Franciscan School of Theology in California with 6 seminarians.  While final figures for 2013 won’t be in for several months, it appears that we will probably be the sixth largest Theologate serving the dioceses of the United States in the coming year.

Speaking of size, you will note several updates to the Seminary building which were accomplished over the past few months.  In order to accommodate the larger number of resident seminarians faculty storage has been moved to the newly renovated crypt.  

We have also renovated the Business Office in the interest of efficiency and security.  Sensitive information will now be adequately secured, all business office personnel will be located in the same space, and much needed workspace will be provided.  Replacement of carpets in the Great Hall and in other parts of the building, as well as painting and repair of faculty and student rooms have also been accomplished.

The biggest news in terms of temporalities, however, has to do with the opening of the Our lady of the Presentation Campus in Oak Square.  On September 16th we will celebrate the ribbon cutting for the Our Lady of the Presentation Library and Lecture Hall, which will now be at the disposal of our whole Saint John's community.  This 500 seat lecture hall will grow to be an exceptional space for lectures, concerts and other gatherings.  Several major grant holders are presently considering requests for the funding of the next two phases by which all the bells and whistles can be added to this important project.

Development
The Development Subcommittee of the Board has been working diligently with me over the past year to fill the position of “Director of Annual Giving,” which I am delighted to report has been filled by Sandy Barry, whose imagination, dedication and expertise have already borne great benefit in the first few months of her work.

So, having reported on the practicalities, allow me one final reflection on who we teach and how we teach them in the light of the first lessons from our Holy Father Francis.

Growth in Understanding the Post-Modern Seminarian
There are a variety of take-offs of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Modern Major General, but perhaps in the present context few as amusing as this one:

I am the very model of Postmodern Seminarian
Liturgical, post-liberal, only somewhat post-sectarian
I stand in Easter, kneel in Lent, and genuflect and all of that
And each year on Saint Francis Feast I get a blessing for my cat

When I have learnt the progress of Von Balthasar’s theology,
Converted every member of the Church of Scientology—
In short, when I’ve a smattering of basic Catholicity—
They’ll say that I’m a cleric full of goodness and simplicity.

And though my Bishop is impressed by my enormous panurgy,
The man is rather wary at my love for Latin Liturgy,
But still in matters pastoral, canonical, and Marian,
I am the very model of postmodern seminarian.

The postmodern seminarian who you will teach is very different from the first philosopher or second theologian of even a decade ago.

Chances are, the last institution in which he was educated, even if it bears the name “Catholic,” is imbued with the same strains of constructivism which have infected most of the academy.  That is to say, the view that all knowledge is invented or "constructed in the minds of people” and that reality is a mere human creation.

In other words, the seminarian who you will teach has been taught up to this point by professors who assert that the seminarian's truth, your truth, the Pope or the Bishop’s truth, the blogosphere’s truth, and Denzinger’s truth are of equal worth, because "truth" has been created by people not because it is "true," but rather because it is useful.

Neither the threat of this presupposition to revealed religion nor the challenge to the teacher of Philosophy or Theology in a Roman Catholic Seminary can be overestimated.

So what is the antidote to an Academy and a culture which worships at the altar of  diversity, tolerance, and creative intuition? It is the antidote which has been preached by word and example by our Holy Father Francis, who perhaps more than most, understands how to evangelize our modern culture.  

Three antidotes, which I propose as our by-words as seminary professors: truth, authenticity and love.

Truth

The first antidote is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Neither the speculation of my favorite author nor my latest brilliant insight can hold a candle to the “religious submission of will and intellect” to the Magisterium, which each one of us promised to uphold and pass on by the oath of fidelity before God and his Holy Church which we took just a year ago.  

A few months before being installed as your Rector, a former Rector of this esteemed institution told me "there is no more important work than this, Jim.  What you and your colleagues do here will determine what appends to the Church in anew England for generations to come."

That's quite a responsibility, and one for which we will be held accountable when The Lord returns in glory at the end of time.  Our most important wok here is to the Tradition....to pass on the truth which is at the heart of the Faith we have received.  For, as our Holy Father Francis has just recently reminded us faith without truth is "nothing more than a fairy story, an illusion of happiness, unable to sustain us when the going gets tough."


Authenticity

The second antidote to the modern disease which so often infects our seminarians is designed to countermand the narcissistic cynicism, the smirking smarminess and anger which so pervades our society.  The second antidote is authenticity: to be who you are and who God made you to be.

In an age so pervaded by angry people hiding behind masks, just simply being yourself shocks and engages the world like nothing else.  Perhaps that is what has so engaged the world about "Papa Bergolio," who is nothing if not himself.  He is simply a man in love with Jesus and his Church and those whom Jesus called us to love.  To preach real love for the poor and to find joy in loving them, to preach chastity and to find joy in chaste loving....this is the kind of authentic faith that transforms a postmodern world.  What you see is what you get.

Or in his own words to you:

“To be joyful witnesses to the Gospel you need to be authentic and coherent...Jesus fought against hypocrites, against those who, to put it clearly, are two-faced. … This is a responsibility for all adults, all formators. And to those formators present here today, I urge you to give an example of coherence to the young. Do we want coherent young people? Then we must be coherent ourselves! On the contrary, the Lord recounts what the Pharisees said to the people of God: 'Do what they say, but not what they do!' Coherence and authenticity!”

Love

The third antidote I propose to you is love.  “If I have not love, I am nothing,” Saint Paul tells us,  for “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in him and God abides in him.”

I never learned anything worthwhile from a teacher who did not love me.  And as teachers of the Faith, as formators of shepherds, we must teach them by the way we love them.  In all their brokenness, their narcissism and their insecure arrogance, we must strive first and foremost to show them the love of Christ.

For faith without love, Holy Father Francis reminds us, is "cold, impersonal, oppressive, unable to transform the lives of others."  But faith preached with love saves lives and conforms men to the image and likeness of Christ upon the Cross!

Truth, authenticity and love.  

How many days and hours have we spent lamenting the spreading disease of relativism, cynicism and anger which so dominates the biosphere, the academy and even the Church.  But we have the antidote...you are the antidote when you form the next generation of priests with truth, authenticity and love.  A new year of formation, discernment and growth for bright eyed and somewhat fearful new men and for those who can do nothing but think of the first days of their Priesthood which, God willing, will come with the spring.

Love them.  Tell them the truth.  And be yourself.  Trust in your better angels.  And God will do the rest.

Thank you.

Faculty Day

Today was comprised of Faculty Meetings, beginning with the Faculty Advisory Council, pictured above.  There's a plenary meeting of the full time and adjunct faculty this afternoon.  Pictured above are, from left to right in the back row: Father Cessario, Father Pignato, Father O'Connor, Monsignor McLaughlin, Mr. Metilly, Father Salocks, Father Riley and Father Borek.  In the front row are Father Scorzello, Father Van De Moortell, Monsignor Moroney, Father McManus and Doctor Franks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ordination Class of 2013


There’s a great report on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the CARA Study of the Ordination Class of 2013.

Among the illuminating statistics which Father Sean McKnight, Executive Director of the Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, shared with us this morning at the Paluch Vocation Seminar are the following:

The median age of men ordained to the priesthood in 2013 is 32
More than a third have a relative who is a priest or religious
On average, respondents report that they were nearly 17 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. 
Sixty-seven percent say they were encouraged to consider a vocation by a parish priest. 
Thirty-one percent were born outside the United States
″More than half of the Class of 2013 (52 percent) report having more than two siblings, while one in five (20 percent) report having five or more siblings. Ordinands are most likely to be the oldest in their family (40 percent).
″Before entering the seminary, six in ten ordinands completed college (63 percent). Almost one quarter (23 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (29 percent) entered the seminary while in college.
″Ordinands of the Class of 2013 have been active in parish ministries.Two-thirds indicated they served as an altar server and about half (47 percent) participated in a parish youth group. One-fifth (20 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
″More than four in 10 of respondents (42 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate equal to that for all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (44 percent, compared to seven percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
″Many ordinands specified some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education, accounting, finance or insurance. Four percent of ordinands indicated that they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces at some point.
″The survey also found that new priests in dioceses and religious orders have educational debt. Just over a quarter (26 percent) carried debt at the time they entered seminary, averaging just a little over $20,000 in educational debt when they entered seminary.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Vocations Meetings in Chicago

I'm in Chicago for a few days thanks to the generosity of the J.S. Paluch Company. Each year for the past twenty-six years, J.S. Paluch has sponsored a national seminary for some 70 leaders in priestly and religious formation, providing a forum for continued collaboration between the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors (NCDVD) and the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC). You can see some of the participants at the dinner this evening in the picture below.

The day began with a meeting of the Executive Committee of the NCEA Seminary Division to which I was recently elected. All kinds of wonderful ideas in Chicago these days on vocations and seminary formation!



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We're Getting Ready at OLP Campus


Today they're beginning to lay the new floor in Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall and Library. We're working toward a ribbon cutting on September 16th, a grand celebration of the first major renovation on Saint John's Seminary's Our Lady of the Presentation Campus!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Welcoming Father Lazarus


Father Lazarus Anondee, Coordinator for the National Catholic Service Center of the Bishops' Conference of Ghana was our honored guest this week.  Father was very kind to welcome Fathers O'Conner and Riley several weeks ago during their visit to Ghana.  He is pictured here with seminarian Matthew Conley and Monsignor Moroney (in summer Rector's attire).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Remembering Jane, Who Never Forgot the Poor


Jane was born in Burgundy, France to a prominent politician and married a prominent Baron with whom she had four children.  At the age of twenty-eight her husband was killed in a hunting accident and she was left to care for her four children.  

But despite her deep sorrow, the young widow took care not only of her children,  but welcomed the poor and the elderly and the sick and nursed them to health.  She did that full time, and with her own resources, working day and night.

Which is what brought her to the attention of the Bishop of a nearby town.  The two became great friends and, with his support, when Jane’s children were grown, she sold everything she had left and founded the Congregation of the Visitation, which cared for the sick and those whom everyone else would forget.  

She was frequently criticized by those who believed women religious should always be kept behind a cloister wall, to which she would respond with characteristic buntness: “What do you want me to do?  I like sick people!”

By the time she died, she had attracted enough sisters to fill thirteen monasteries, many drawn from the aristocracy of her time.

He name was Saint Jane Frances de Chantal and her first Bishop friend was Saint Francis de Sales, while her confessor in her final years was Saint Vincent de Paul.

She cared for the poor, because she sought only to be like Jesus and to do his will, as she used to pray: "Lord, destroy, cut down, and consume everything that is opposed to thy holy will."  She sought only to “leave to him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and to retain only the desire of pleasing him, and of serving him well in all that we can?"

In the Collect today the Church calls her “radiant with outstanding merits in different walks of life.”  As a mother she was compassionate and self giving, as a religious, she extended those same charisms to the poor, the aged and the sick.  When she started her order, Saint Jane was famous for taking as members of the Congregation candidates who were so old or sick that no one else would take them in.
The Collect also call her ‘faithful in her vocation and a shining light, an example for all to see.’ And that example continues to shine today, through one hundred and thirty monasteries worldwide whose motto is simply “Love Jesus” and whose charism is humility and gentleness.
There has been a large Visitation Community in the Berkshires in Tyringham for the past twenty years.  So let us keep all the Visitation Sister in our prayers, that they might continue, for many years to come to be shining examples of gentleness and love for those whom everyone else might forget.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Week at SJS


As summer peeks around the corner into August, you can can hear the quickening pace as we prepare to welcome the new men in just seventeen days!

Most of the “in house” renovations are reaching completion, while we prepare to focus on the scheduled “ribbon cutting” for the completion of the first phase of Our Lady of the Presentation Lecture Hall in Library on September 16th.  This morning the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals changed the zoning on the property from Church to Religious Educational Institution.  This helps to relieve a considerable tax burden and paves the way to a whole series of great presentations scheduled for this new SJS Campus in the coming months.

In two weeks I head to Chicago for a meeting of the Executive Committee of the NCEA Seminary division, to which I was recently elected.  It is held as a part of the Vocations Seminar sponsored each year through the generosity of JS Paluch.

In the meantime, we’re sending out acceptance letters to new men, refining faculty assignments and conducting Trustee business by frequent e-mails.  We’re also putting the finishing touches on the Academic Catalog, the Student Handbook and the Calendar.  I hope to fit in a couple days away at the end of this week and the next as well.  

It was a joy to welcome one of our new faculty members yesterday, Paul Metilly, who will be teaching philosophy and serving as interim Academic Dean.  Fr. Joseph Briody flies in from Ireland sometime late next week or soon thereafter.

I met with Cardinal O’Malley a couple days ago. He was very helpful, as always.  His wise advice and constant support are a great consolation to me and an enormous benefit to Saint John’s Seminary!

Enjoy the waning days of summer!  

A Swiss Guard Reflects on Protecting the Pope

We are so proud to count Andreas Widmer as a member of our Board of Trustees here at Saint John's Seminary.  Rome Reports has just produced a reflection by him on his days as a Swiss Guard.  His recent book, The Pope and the CEO, is a great read!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Jim and Mark Arrive at Santiago de Compostella

We just received this picture and message from our Camino pilgrims: "We finally arrived to Santiago de Compostella. I arrived on the second and Mark on the fourth. We are going together to the end of the world, Finis Terrae, by foot. It will take us 3 days to get there.

Pouting...like a two year old...


The following homily was delivered at a Mass with the Diocesan Directors of Pro-Life Offices in Newton, Massachusetts today on the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

Like many of you, I travel a lot, mostly giving talks to priests and conferences like this one.  Some weeks I feel like wherever two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them.

And like many of you, I’ve had the privilege of sitting beside a two-year-old for a two and one half hour flight on British Airways.  I say privilege because, despite the occasional ear-piercing screams, the incessant pulling of my shirt sleeve, and the open juice box in my lap, this little fellow was a wonder to behold.

A wonder because his moods seemed, like most two-year-olds, to swing from joy to misery and back again in the blink of an eye,  joy was manifested by wide and darting eyes, a smile as wide as the ocean below, and a deep and satisfying giggle.  Misery resulted in a close approximation of the fetal position with every facial feature imploding into a pathetic scowl of rage.

But what most interested me about this impressive little boy was the clear and consistent cause of his joy or misery.  Each time his mother would smile at him, tickle him, play with him or otherwise give him her attention, he would launch into shrills of joyous laughter.  It was only when he was ignored, hushed, or otherwise made to feel neglected, that he would hunch down into pure misery.

And am I really that different from him?

When everything goes right, when we defeat assisted suicide and the abortion clinic in my town has closed down, when the new State Rep is pro-life and the Diocesan budget committee gave me the 5%, and I am convinced that God is caring for me full time and that he pays me close, personal attention, my heart overflows with joy.  I am the center of the universe, and any day now God will hear all my prayers and come in glory!

But when the least little thing goes wrong, and I fear that God really isn’t listening, that things may not change on my timetable, that he doesn’t really care...I am quickly tempted by Soren Kierkegaard once called “fear and trembling, and sickness unto death.”

And it’s so often over the stupidest of things.  I arrived in London a few months ago for a meeting and went to take my debit card out to get some cash to get a taxi to the meeting, when I noticed the strip on the back of the card had been scratched.  Sure enough, when I put it into the machine, it failed to work.

Great, I thought, no cash and stuck at Heathrow.  For at least a couple seconds I was tempted to believe there was no God, or if there was, he certainly wasn’t concerned with a Priest trying to get to central London.  So what did I do?  Did I pray?  Did I thank God for the safe trip thus far?  No.  I pouted.  Like a two year old.

And amidst my pouting it suddenly came to me that I could use one of my credit cards to get cash.  Grumbling through my wallet I stuck in the plastic, looked up the password, typed it in, and pounds came flowing out of the machine.  Thank you Lord! I muttered, more out of reflex than devotion.  And now my heart began to sing again and I was ready to preach a homily about how much God really cares for us.  Two minutes to the second after my infantile pout in despair over a God who no longer cared.

Each of our days is filled with such moments.  Moments when we reflexively blame God for every little thing that goes wrong.  Moments when we’re convinced, if not of his absence, at least of his delinquency in failing to make our debit cards,, our children, our parents, and our lives just as perfect as they can be.  We predicate our joy on everything going our way and protest life’s frequent and annoying little exigencies with the miserable pouting of a little child.
----

I’m like the Israelites sitting lst in the desert: “Would that we had died at the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!" I'm like the disciples looking for Jesus to multiply some more loaves and fishes, to do the next healing or magic trick. Skeptical, morose, and depressed.

And then he gives us bread from heaven, manna and even the flesh of the Son of Man, and we are filled with joy.

How different are we, really, than that two-year-old child...overjoyed when God does our will and depressed when he calls us to do his.

Let us instead, be like that two-year-old at the end of the flight to London, as he fell asleep in his mother’s arms...filled with trust...filled with hope....filed with peace... Not swinging from mania to depression depending on our moods, but trusting that our heavenly Father will look on us with mercy and save us ‘through the intercession of the Mother of his Son and our Lord.’

In trust.