Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Debt of Love on Holy Family Sunday...

The halls of Saint John's Seminary are fairly empty these days, as most of the seminarians have returned home to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. In the same way the Faculty return to their homes to celebrate these sacred days.

It's easy, therefore, to think about the meaning of home and family on this first Sunday of the Christmas Season, as the Church reflects on the ancient commandment: Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.


God calls us to honor our parents in gratitude for the “gift of life, their love, and their work.” (CCC, no. 2215) The author of the Book of Sirach tells us as much: "With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?" (Sirach 7:27-28)

It is a debt of love which we fulfill in all the various ages of our lives.

Childhood
As a child, we owe our parents not only respect, but obedience, for they are our first teachers of all the mysteries of life and living. As Proverbs reminds us: “keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. . . . When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” (Proverbs 6:20-22)

This is why Saint Paul reminds children of their obligation to "obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Collosians 3:20; Cf. Ephesians 6:1) Day to day, in everything from waking up to going to school, children should obey their parents: it is what God wants them to do. It’s their job!

Adolescence
As children grow up and move away and get a job or go to college, they still owe a debt of love and respect to their parents, although this takes on new and unique dimensions. For no son has ever grown up to be exactly like his father, and no daughter will be exactly like her mother. Which is why adolescence, the end of childhood and the beginning of being an adult, is such an exciting time! Easy for a celibate to say!

Saint Luke tells us the story today of Jesus on the cusp of being a teenager deciding to remain behind in the Temple without his parents’ knowledge. In fact they find out he is missing 24 hours later, and find him in the Temple only after frantically looking for him for three more days!

You can imagine their state of mind! It’s clear from their first words to him: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” “Why have you done this to us?” is a kind of responsorial refrain for parents of adolescents.

But when Jesus responds, we are told that his parents “did not understand what he said to them.” Jesus, a man like us in all things but sin, knew the pain of adolescence. Adolescents want to be adults, but they’re not yet ready. And parents still see them as children, but they’re not that anymore either. It’s a perfect storm of misunderstanding, where they don’t understand me and he doesn’t understand us.

Respect for parents is one of the biggest struggles for an adolescent, for at the same time I am defining myself over and against my father and mother, I am called to respect them! But despite the tensions, we are told, Jesus returned with them to Nazareth where be obeyed and respected them. For it is the will of God that parents at all stages of life be honored and respected.

Adulthood
As years pass into early adulthood, the obligation of obedience grows into an obligation of respect, as new challenges to emerge. For the first time, sons and daughters begin to see their parents for who they really are: as human beings with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. There is a wonderful opportunity at this stage of life to make friends of your parents and to learn from the couple of decades of experience they have under their belts.

There are temptations at this stage as well. Such as the temptation of allowing unresolved adolescent tensions to become petrified states of alienation between child and parent. The only cure for such temptations, of course, is the forgiveness and love which can lead to respect of another adult, who, with their gifts and faults, first helped you (literally) to stand on your own two feet.

It’s like the great story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi’s son, Mahlon, fell in love with and married Ruth. Then Mahlon died. So the widow Naomi, sobbing and all alone in the world, tells the still young Ruth that while she will miss her and bless her for all she had done for her now dead son, she must now go back to her own mother, for Naomi has nothing more she can give her.


But Ruth protests to her mother-in-law: "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried." (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth provides an example for every child of the debt they owe to their parents, to ever be their child and to love and respect them until the day they die. So Ruth returns to Bethlehem with Naomi and, with the help of God, provides for “the comfort and support of her old age.” (Cf. Ruth 4:15)

So it is with us. We all grow old, parents and children alike (although parents have a bit of a head start on their children). But when we are old, the obligation of respect and love perdures. “As much as they can,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, children must give their parents “material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress.” (CCC, no. 2218)


Which is where I, in my advancing years, find myself today. Like so many of you, aging ourselves, we find ourselves caring for those who first cared for us. For, as Sirach reminds us, “whoever honors his father atones for sins...when he is old...be considerate of him...for kindness to a father will not be forgotten...”

And even once our parents have returned to God, our obligation to them continues, as we owe them a debt of prayer, that God might look upon them with mercy and show them perfect peace. Our love for them, like theirs for us, cannot be stilled, even by the separation of death.

For what makes the Holy Family holy is the honor and respect which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph held for each other. May we follow their example, showing to those who brought us into this world that “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” which the Lord had shown to us.” (Collosians 3:13)



Monsignor James P. Moroney
Rector

Monday, December 22, 2014

An examination of conscience for seminarians...

Last month Father O’Connell gave a great homily on the following Gospel passage:

Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

His reflections were in the form of wonderful examination of conscience for the seminarian: 

Can you wear your clerics to your High School reunion? 
Can you comfort a family who just lost their baby? 
Can you get up in the middle of the night to bless the body of someone who just shot themselves in the head, and then go back to sleep? 
Can you represent your bishop to the people who do not understand why their parish is closing?
Can you sit down with a poor family and accept the food they put in front of you?
Can you accept the criticism on the front steps of the Church of someone who didn’t like your homily?
Can you celebrate Mass in one Church – get in your car - drive for an hour and immediately celebrate Mass in another?
Can you hear a sinful man’s confession and then meet him in the sacristy as if nothing happened?
Can you be the “fill-in,” “no-one-showed-up” chaperone of the Junior High dance in the parish hall without snapping at the kids?
Can you be obedient to your bishop when he moves you even if you think it a mistake?
Can you pray your Breviary at night even when you are exhausted?
Can you meet the woman of your dreams and be only her priest?
If you are seeking to be a disciple, consider first the demands of discipleship; for if you cannot give up everything, you cannot be a disciple.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Almost Over...

 The homily at Mass this morning was based on the Collect for December 18th: Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who are weighed down from of old by slavery beneath the yoke of sin, may be set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity of your Only Begotten Son...

It’s almost over.

Just a little more exegesis.   Just the last lines on that paper.  Just a final final exam.

And then its stuffing the trunk, and driving down the road to home or new home, Donegal or Spencer, home with friends or family with all the familiar warmth and challenge, be it Charlie Brown or National Lampoon.

It’s almost over.  The ancient prayer foretells it: We’re “weighed down from of old…”  Even the young know what it means to feel weighed down: exams, papers, worries, sins, fears and disappointments as the clock crawls by.  

But don’t worry.  It’s almost over.  The prayer tells us so, that soon we will be “set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity…”

When all will be new, when heaven is wedded to earth, and we, the companions of Christ have burdens lifted and made light.  For by his incarnation no fear, no death or even medieval philosophy can ever weigh us down again.

O Adonai, it is almost over.  And soon it all begins!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bishop Edyvean's Fiftieth Anniversary


At a Solemn Mass this morning at Saint John's Seminary Bishop Walter Edyvean celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest on December 16, 1964. Bishop Edyvean served for nine years as a member of the Seminary Faculty.  I greeted Bishop Edyvean with these words:

Is there anyone more dedicated to Saint John’s Seminary than Bishop Walter Edyvean? Which is why it is is my honor not simply to welcome you for this wonderful act of thanksgiving for God’s grace in blessing us by your share in the Priesthood of Christ Jesus…no, not simply to welcome you, but to welcome you home to this holy house. Your Excellency blesses us by your presence.

It is likewise my honor, having heard from his Eminence in Rome last evening, to convert Cardinal O’Malley’s evident fraternal esteem and gratitude for the example you have provided to each of us over these past fifty years.

That example has been evident from the beginning, even to those who first encountered a fresh-faced graduate of Boston College applying to be a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston. Of him, one good priest wrote:
"…I have nothing but the highest praise for the integrity of his character, the purity of his life, and the loftiness of his ideals. He is easy to get along with, affable, of pleasing character, emotionally poised, of well-balanced judgement, and in spite of his youthful appearance, of more than average maturity. I have rarely known a more sincerely pious, courteous, Catholic gentleman."

Nothing has changed. And we are deeply grateful for it. God bless you, Bishop Edyvean!




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lessons and Carols


This past weekend the Saint John's Seminary Schola and friends sang the annual Lessons and Carols to two sold out performances.  Many thanks to Dr. Janet Hunt for, once again, conducting a magnificent evening of Christmas song and reflections.  Here's a brief clip of the Schola on the first night.







Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our new Christmas Tree


Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus,
and do not delay,
that those who trust in your compassion may find solace and relief in your coming. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 

Ordination of Deacon Ramon Garcia

This morning we celebrated as Ramon Garcia was ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Blair in the Chapel of Saint Thomas Seminary in Hartford. Following the laying on of hands, the Archbishop prayed the ordination prayer, including these words: "We beseech you, Lord: look with favor on this servant of yours who will minister at your holy altar and whom we now humbly dedicate to the office of deacon. Send forth upon him, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Soccer Team at Dinner

The SJS Soccer Team celebrated their great season at the Green Briar this evening with good food, fellowship and song!

                   

SJS Jazz Quartet

Wow! I was delighted last night to join the seminarians in their lounge for the debut appearance of our very own Jazz quartet, with Matt Gill and Larry Valliere on guitar, Patrick Fiorillo on drums and Josh Wilbur on clarinet. A great time was had by all!

                  
IMG_6121 from James P Moroney on Vimeo.

The Year of Grace in Catholic Schools

Here are some excerpts from my presentation to the Catholic School Teachers of Worcester last week entitled "Inhabiting the Story of God."
  
             

Here are some links to the great videos on Busted Halo:

Advent in Two Minutes

Ash Wednesday and Lent in Two Minutes

Holy Week in Two Minutes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HugMM_3FfnI

Pentecost in Two Minutes


Vulnerability (December Rector's Conference)

"Vulnerability, openness to God and to my counselors, is the most indispensable ingredient to effective seminary formation.  It’s called by all kinds of names in your composites: openness to formation, transparency, …..  But its all the same.  Am I willing to imitate the kenotic self-emptying of Christ in order to die to myself and be born to what he wants me to be? Am I willing to let go of my yesterdays, so that God can show me his tomorrow?"

Last night's Rector's Conference was on vulnerability.  Here's a narrated version of the slides from my talk.

                       

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Knights of Malta in Advent...

This evening I was privileged to preach to the Knights of Malta for their annual Advent Mass and Dinner.  I offered the following reflections on the Season of Advent.

I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I’d press my little kid’s nose to the cold window pain in the front of the house and stare up the street as the shadows began to lengthen and I began to hope.

I was waiting for my father to come home from work, so I could show him what I had done in school that day.  An A with a little superscript of a plus hovering over it’s right side told me and my classmates and my mom and my dad that I had done good.  And I don’t know if I’ve ever known such joy or such a sense of accomplishment as when I heard the sound of his truck pulling over the graveled driveway and ran out to meet him, with my yellow-lined pride waving above my head.

He swept me up into his arms and cherished me, and carried me into the house as my mother enshrined the sacred text with a bright yellow refrigerator magnet.

That’s what it could be like, as the ancient collect of today’s Advent liturgy reminds us, when we “run forth to meet the Christ with righteous deeds at his coming...”

Imagine!  Our arms so brimming with righteous deeds, that we run forth to meet our judge with joy!

There were almost 3,000 Priests in Dachau who knew that feeling.  Almost three thousand Priests, almost half of whom died of disease, starvation, and hate.

Forbidden to celebrate Mass, the Priests received particular abuse
during Holy Week.  One Good Friday, their wrists bound with chains, sixty of them were hoisted on gibbets where they hung until they expired or until their arms were wrenched from their sockets.  On another occasion, a Polish priest working in the field, pretended he was pulling weeds, while he actually celebrated Mass on a small board he had taken as an Altar.  He was arrested, crowned with barbed wire, and set on a small stage until he died.

The first time I visited Dachau as a seminarian, I remember I cried.  Especially when I saw a long case filled with roughly wrought episcopal paraphanelia.  There was a Bishop’s ring smelted together from brass plumbing fixtures, and an oak crozier hacked from the branch of a tree, and a chasuble and dalmatic and stole and even gloves and a mitre in purple, all stitched from prisoners’ uniforms.

I cried because the display case told the story of the young seminarian with tuberculosis whom Bishop Piquet decided to ordain before he died.  So for months these Priests worked secretly to make everything they would need for an ordination, and on a Gaudete Sunday sixty five years ago, they risked their lives to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders in an unholy place. 

If they’d been caught, any one of them, they would have been tortured and killed.  But those Priests loved three things more than life itself: the poor young seminarian who would soon die, the Truth that burned in their hearts despite the surrounding darkness, and the Church, whose light could not be quenched even in the stinking dark Evil of Dachau.

Despite the darkness, they loved the seminarian in his brokenness. And Christ will judge them well.

But what of us, when he returns?  Will the poor, the forgotten, and the wretched ones whom we have known speak well of us?  What of the drunk by the side of the road, or the relative that no one talks to, or the sick old lady whom no one ever visits, or the kid in prison whose parents have disowned him, or the crazy guy who never shuts up.  Will we run out to meet Christ when he comes, our hearts over-brimming with the love we have shown to his little ones?

Despite the dark lies that surrounded them, they loved the truth in Dachau.  And Christ will judge them well.

But what of us, when he returns? Will the days we spent on our knees seeking God’s wisdom and trying to let go of our own foolish preoccupations have formed the choices and the plans of our lives into the image and likeness of him who is the way, the truth, and the life?  Will the words we placed before our eyes, the websites we surfed, the books we bought, and the thoughts which preoccupied our waking hours have so conformed our thoughts to his, that we might run out to meet Christ when he comes, our minds over-brimming with the wisdom he has taught us and the knowledge which has guided each moment of each day?

Despite the evil that enveloped them, the Priests of Dachau loved the Church. And Christ will judge them well.

But what of us, when he returns?  Will the fervor with which we celebrated the Sacraments and the devotion with which we ate his Body and drank his Blood have so detached us from the darkness of this world, that we will glow with the bright sanctity of the redeemed?  Will our love of the Priesthood prepare us to welcome Christ, our great High Priest?  Will we run out to meet Christ when he comes, so clothed in the ways of this Mystical Body that they will call us “a man of the Church, a true woman of the Church”?


Conclusion
What will Christ do, when we run out to meet him, our arms embracing all the righteous deeds of our lives?  The ancient collect give us the answer.  He will gather us to his right hand, sweep us up into his arms, recognize us as his obedient children, and carry us into his heavenly kingdom, where we will sit with him and all his children at the Heavenly Banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Such was the case with the young seminarian with TB, I am sure.  Father Karl lived for one more year, and saw the death camp liberated.  And just before he died, less than a year after his ordination, he wrote these final words in his diary: ‘O God, bless my enemies!’ 

He was beatified by John Paul II on in 1996 in the Stadium built by Hitler for the 1938 Olympics. And the Pope used the same rough hewn crozier at the beatification Mass that had been used at Karl’s ordination, with the words roughly inscribed on its side: ‘Triumphant in Chains.’

With Father Karl, may we run out to meet the Lord, and may Christ embrace us both, and cherish us, and lead us home to heaven.


Monsignor James P. Moroney

Rector

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Change of Seasons...

This past week the weather in Brighton went from cold to warm to cold to warm and now, on Tuesday night, we've seen a bit of snow turning to rain. The seasons change in God's good time and are all governed by his gracious will.

On Saturday we celebrated with great joy the ordination of Ryan

Sliwa as a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Springfield. The ordination took place in Ryan's home parish - Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield. Just a few minutes before Bishop Rozanski imposed hands on Ryan, we were all kneeling (while he lay prostrate on the ground) and singing the Litany of the Saints. When we stood, and just before the moment depicted in this picture, the Bishop prayed:

Lord God,
mercifully hear our prayers
and graciously accompany with your help
what we undertake by virtue of our office.
Sanctify by your blessing this man we present,
for in our judgment we believe them worthy
to exercise sacred ministries.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The next day I returned to Springfield for the wake of Bishop Joseph Maguire in Saint Michael's Cathedral. Cardinal O'Malley
celebrated the Funeral Mass on Monday, and Bishop McDonnell recalled how Bishop Maguire was a ‘‘true shepherd to all people’’ and found in retirement a role as ‘‘the diocese’s heart,’’ making personal visits to people in need. I remembered how Bishop Maguire had offered a retreat which I was privileged to take part in soon after I was ordained. He was "a priest's Bishop," a man of gentle compassion a real pastoral zeal. In paradisum deducante angeli!

Preparations for Christmas began, as well, as the Seminary enters into the last days of the semester. The favorite question in the
hallways is "How many more papers have you got to write?" Pray for the seminarians as they enter these days of last lectures, papers and final exams. And soon....very soon it will be Christmas and the words of the Advent hymn will be fulfilled: 


Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pope Francis on the Family

A couple of days ago, Pope Francis addressed the "Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman," underway through November 19th.  Our thanks to zenit.org for their timely English language translation.


Dear sisters and brothers,  

I warmly greet you. I thank Cardinal Muller for his words with which he introduced our meeting.  I would like to begin by sharing with you a reflection on the title of your colloquium.   You must admit that "complementarity" does not roll lightly off the tongue!  Yet it is a word into which many meanings are compressed.  It refers to situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other.  But complementarity is much more than that.  Yet complementarity is more than this.  Christians find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body's members work together for the good of the whole-everyone's gifts can work together for the benefit of each. (cf. 1 Cor. 12).  To reflect upon "complementarity" is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony.

It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman.  This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others' gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living.  For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity.  At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals.  But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions.  This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.  Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children -- his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth.  It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.

We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis.  We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.  This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.    

Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly.  It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.

The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection.  And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church.  It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.

It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.  The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.   Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity.  That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is "indispensable"; that it "transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple." (n. 66)  And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium's emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.  

In these days, as you embark on a reflection on the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage, I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage:  that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.   I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future.  Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.

Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact - a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can't think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can't be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se.


I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.

Homily for the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul

This morning we commemorate the dedication of two of the major basilicas built by Constantine in the fourth century: Saint Peter’s on the Vatican hill and Saint Paul outside the walls.

Although our Feast bears the name of the saints commemorated on the 29th of June, today’s feast is not so much about their memory, as it is dedicated to the Churches built on the site where Paul’s head hit the ground when he died by the sword and where Peter’s body was laid to rest when they took him down from the cross.

It’s about the building of a Church.

A Church built on Roman soil, sanctified by the blood of the Apostle to the Gentiles, who never stopped preaching, even when they martyred him and buried his body in a grave made holy by his sacrifice,

A Church built on the bold and fragile faith of the Prince of the Apostles, who though drowning in the turbulence of his disbelief, still cries out with his final breath: “Lord, save me!”


A Church once dedicated which has perdured, handing down the truth which comes to us from these Apostles and which endures undefiled in our hearts today.



Remembering the Dead

During the month of November, beginning with our commemoration of All Souls, we remember those who have died.  Here are a few reflections which I offered at a Prayer Service led by the Hospice Ministry at Notre Dame du Lac in Worcester.


Tonight is about remembering.

In each heart that beats in this Chapel there are remembrances.  You see the face of the one whom you love.  You can almost hear their voice.  You tell the old stories about how it used to be.  In the face of death, we remember.

We’re like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  You know the story. It’s Easter Sunday morning, and two of Jesus’ closest followers are walking away from Jerusalem.  It was a long walk, seven miles Saint Luke tells us.  And as they walked, they did what we do: these men who had just buried their Lord were “conversing about all the things that had occurred.”  They were remembering.

It seems from Luke’s account that they were doing three kinds of remembering.  The first probably consisted of stories about everything they had been through in the three years since the Lord first called them to come and follow him.  

Telling the stories is good, as Jesus tells us when suddenly, out of nowhere and in disguise, he begins to walk with them.  And what are his first words to them “What are you discussing?  Tell me the stories which ache in your heart.”

As he walked with them, so Jesus walks with us in our grief and he says the same to our hearts.  Tell me the stories.  The stories of how much she loved you when you were a little kid, of how he first taught you to ride a bike.  The stories of that funny hat they used to wear and how embarrassed they made you feel when you were a gawky teenager.  

The fond stories, the funny stories, but the hard stories as well.  Remembering the little and sometimes not so little hurts, the disappointments and the dreams unlived.    

I recently went to the wake of a large family from upstate New York.  As I arrived, I noticed amidst the flowers and pictures and video slideshows something I had never seen before.  It was an enormous moosehead, which had always hung in their family’s living room.  And in a frame on an easel, beneath the moose, there was this poem:

The moose that once presided over games
of Monopoly and crazy eights,
that loomed above us, goofy and majestic,
into whose antlers we threw paper planes,
still hangs over the great stone fireplace
like the figurehead of a ship.

All these years he hasn't flicked an eyelash
in response to anything we've done,
and in that way resembles God,
whom, as children, we imagined looking down
but didn't know how to visualize. A moose
over the alter would have been

as good as anything—better than a cross—
staring down on us with kind dark eyes
that would have seemed, at least, to understand,
his antlers like gigantic upturned hands
ready to lift us off the ground—
or like enormous wings outspread for flight.

Stories. So many stories, of family, of life, of loss and of wonder.

And to whom do you tell these stories as you walk your road to Emmaus?  Sometimes you tell them to people who love you, or who will at least put up with you while you tell them for the fourteenth time.  But each time you tell the story, someone else is there, as well.  Just as he was on the road to Emmaus, Jesus comes out of nowhere, listening to you, urging you, begging you to pour out your heart, to tell the stories of the one you’ve loved.  And he,  through whom all human hearts were made, listens with his own Sacred Heart to your sacred memories and he cries with you, standing there at the kitchen sink or in the quiet of the night when you can’t get to sleep.  He listens and embraces your memories and soothes and makes sense of the story of which you are now the sacred custodian.

And as if that weren’t enough, there is a second kind of remembering on this road we walk.  It is a bit more poignant, when, like the trio walking to Emmaus, we remember the pain, the disappointment and uncertainty which are the dark companions of those who have buried the one they love.

As they walked to Emmaus they were angry, verging on bitter words about Jesus’ death.  That’s so clear when Clopas, responding to Jesus’ question about what they were talking about, snaps back: ‘Are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened?’  

And so he tells the story of the past few days, including these extraordinarily painful words:  ‘we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel, but it is now the third day since this took place.’  We were hoping, but…

In the heart of every human being who walks away from the grave of the one they loved there is that aching suspicion that we hoped in vain.  Even Jesus knew it at the grave of his friend Lazarus.  You remember it, when he finally came to the grave and saw his friend’s body, what did Jesus do?  Did he preach a sermon or give a a great teaching or tell a parable?  No, Jesus the Son of the living God, the King of the Universe through whom all things were made wept.  He wept.  Not cried.  He wept, sobbing and gasping for breath.

Some stories can only be told with tears running down your cheeks.  Some darknesses are so dark, some crosses so heavy, some storms blow so strong that we cannot stand up to them.  And it is at just that moment when Jesus appears and drys our tears and strengthens our bodies and holds us up when we are about to collapse from grief.

It is one of the most sacred moments of life, when we let go of our well thought out plans and designs and all the ways in which we will control life, and just fall into the arms of God, embracing his plan and his will and his love for us.

For the great good news of the Cross is that we do not have to be in control.  We don’t have to figure it out.  We don’t have to fix it.  We don’t have to plot our next move.  All we have to do is discern the will of God, find the road to Emmaus and walked with him as he explains it, points out the way, and shepherds us home to green pastures and still waters which refresh our souls.

And finally, there is a third kind of remembering that took place on that road and that takes place here tonight.  It’s why we’re gathered in a Chapel, because this is where God lives and where his people gather to speak with him, adore him and receive him deep within their hearts.

In the climax of the Emmaus story, Jesus, whom they still think is a stranger, acts as if he is going on further, but they beg him to stay with them, have a meal and spend the night that they might continue to tell the stories.  

So he comes inside, but only because they have invited him, and they come to know him, Saint Luke tells us, in the breaking of the bread.

We too can invite Jesus inside, to continue to tell the stories of joy and of comfort, of pain and of hope. And he will sit at table with us and we will come to see him, in the breaking of the bread.

See his Risen body, which tells us that we need never fear death again.  Hear his promise that he will raise up everyone who have believed in him and lead them home to heaven.  Know his presence as he lives in us and we in him.

They came to know him in the breaking of the bread.  They came to know how much he loved them.  They came to know perduring presence.  They came to know him as he broke the bread, as he looked them in the eye and said, Do this in remembrance of me.

It is good to remember, that we might see the Lord, and he might lead us home to heaven to be with those whom we have loved forever in perfect peace.

Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed

Through the mercy of God rest in peace.  Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

John Allen at SJS

John Allen, internationally renowned journalist and Vatican observer, delighted a large crowd at Saint John's this evening with his reflections on the papacy of Pope Francis.  Here are my introductory remarks and some photos from this great event!



Welcome brothers, Fathers and friends.  And most of all, welcome, John.  When I think of you, John, I think of the search for the truth: for what really happened, what was really said, or what it really means.  And the search for the truth is a really tough job.

For whether you take your media new or old, hot or cold what really matters is not the form of the information, but whether it is true, without slant, without idealogical agenda or commercial interest. 

Now, admittedly, there are times I like to have my ears tickled, mornings when I google up those who will tell me how wonderful I am and what an instrumental role I play in the church, doing their part to reinforce my infallible world view, which I  have created to reassure myself that I am in control.

But on those mornings when my better angels surf the blogs, John Allen is the  voice of reason, insight, and well-informed sources to whom I consistently turn. I don't always like the truth he has to tell, but then again I'm not always thrilled by the observations of my spiritual director either.  But both of them speak the truth, in season and out.

I have known John Allen for a long time. We are both veterans of the translation wars of the mid 90s, the struggles for publication of the new Lectionary for Mass, and the seemingly endless process to produce a new Roman MissalAnd today, while I luxuriate as pastor of this holy house, John continues to help us to understand among other challenging topics the meaning and character and place of Pope Francis, the subject of his reflections this evening.  John, you are the original Vox Clara in a Church and a world which is sometimes very hard to understand.

It is not very often that I get to introduce a man whom I respect as deeply as this one.  My brothers and friends I give you John Allen.






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On Stained Glass in the North Country

A few weeks ago I was privileged to give some brief presentations on the beautiful stained glass windows at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Queensbury, New York and on the stained glass windows of that Church of the Sacred Heart Church in Lake George. Sacred Heart has some of the most extraordinary windows I have ever seen, depicting the life and death of the North American Martyrs.  I have only begun my study of the iconography of these windows and I look forward to many enjoyable hours learning more and more about them.  The three brief talks I give here reflect on the iconography of the Annunciation, the windows at OLA in Queensbury and two of the windows at Sacred Heart.  Thanks to Father Joseph G. Busch and the good people of Queensbury who gave me the opportunity to prepare these talks.


               

                            ON THE ICONOGRAPHY OF THE ANNUNCIATION


                  
                             THE WINDOWS OF OUR LADY OF THE ANNUNCIATION  

                
                                                            A FIRST LOOK AT
THE WINDOWS OF SACRED HEART IN LAKE GEORGE

Monday, November 10, 2014

Join us for An Evening with John Allen

John L. Allen Jr. is associate editor at the Boston Globe, a senior Vatican analyst for CNN, and was for sixteen years a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. The author of nine books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs, he is the most respected American analyst of news concerning the Church and the Holy See. I have known and worked with John since I first arrived at the Bishops' Conference in 1996 and have the highest respect for his professionalism, objectivity and knowledge of the Church.

Please join the Saint John's community a week from tonight in welcoming John Allen to the oldest and largest Seminary in New England!