Friday, February 28, 2014

Disciples in Mission

Father Paul Soper met this past week with the Faculty to discuss the Archdiocese of Boston's comprehensive plan for parish staffing entitled "Disciples in Mission."  We are very grateful to him for his very helpful presentation.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

At the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock

Three images dominate the vision of Knock: The Virgin, the Lamb and Saint John.  What could this mean for a group of New England pilgrims to the old sod?  What could God possibly have in mind for us in this venerable old place?

The scene, of course, is redolent of Calvary, where everyone had abandoned the Paschal Victim save his mother and the beloved disciple.  Its the scene we participate in at this and every altar: the offering of the Paschal Sacrifice which is the source and the center of all of life.

It is the mystery of faith which we proclaim at every consecration, a glimpse into the heart of God and his infinite sacrificial love for each and every one of us.

It is a mystery taught to us in three very simple figures, each one intimately familiar to us since first we learned to kneel down before a crucifix and pray: the Virgin, the Lamb, and Saint John.  Who are they and what do they mean to us?

The Virgin is purity, pure love…the unadulterated love of a mother giving birth to a child in a manger, singing a Magnificat of “let it be done to me according to your word,” of saying to us and to all the stewards of the world: “Do whatever he tells you.”  This Sorrowful Mother looks with love on a world exhausted by selfish filthiness and enfolds us in God’s pure love, making us whole and restoring us through the mystery of the incarnation.

The beloved disciple is adoring love, the kind that wants nothing more than to rest in Christ, that can find no place else in this world and so just stands there without counting the cost, seeking only to rest in him as the Precious Blood drips down upon him. And while we run about so desperately seeking to find others to worship us, the young John invites us to join him, to rest in Christ, seeking only perfect adoration and perfect peace.

For this Blessed Virgin beloved disciple know that this Christ is the Lamb, the one true Lamb once slain who washes away our sins in his Blood.  They know that he alone is worthy, the source of all power, wisdom, and honor and strength.  He is the Priest and the Altar, the giver and the gift, the one through whom all things were made and who will return to judge the living and the dead.  

So, what does this holy place have in store for us?  Only the quiet voice of God calling us back to that pure love and adoration which is the perfect peace for which we were made and which is our ultimate destiny.

Behold the Lamb of God!  And how blessed are we!

A Celtic Pilgrimage at Clonmacnoise

I'm leading a Celtic pilgrimage this week with a group of devoted pilgrims from the Theological Institute.  Yesterday we were honored to celebrate Mass at a Clonmacnoise, the site of an ancient monastery established in the sixth century by Saint Cieràn.  Please keep our noble pilgrims in your prayers as today we head to the great Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

Our noble tribe of dedicated pilgrims.
Aldona came prepared for the cold winds that blow across the Emerald Isle.

The beauty of the monastic site was exceeded only by the beauty of the faith of our pilgrims!

This modern statue is entitled "pilgrim" and after a dozen jet lagged hours, Michael could relate!

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Spiritual Schizophrenia

Here's my homily on James 4:7a for Tuesday of the Seventh Week of the Year.

James uses an odd word today.  In fact, its the only time this word is used in the scriptures.  Here’s the verse:

Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds. (James 4: 7a)

He creates a parallel between sinners and the double minded or two hearted, the dipsychoi (δίψυχοι).  The dipsychoi suffer from a kind of spiritual schizophrenia of the sort to which  the Lord was referring to when he said “No one can serve two masters.”

We’ve all suffered from a bit of dipsofrenia from time to time.  The little kid breaks the lamp, but when he gets caught he’s not the careless brat throwing the ball, now he’s the perfect child wrongly accused.  Or the married man who is the pillar of the community until he gets home and beats his wife, the priest who pretends to be celibate, while he’s having an affair.  The priest who preaches honesty while stealing from the collection or who tells others to be merciful, while plotting his revenge.

Nor are seminarians immune to the life of Jekyl and Hyde.  When to all appearances I'm purity and light, but I’ve given my heart to some secret sin.  When my surplice is without wrinkle, but my tongue is sharp and my shoulder cold. When my self-evaluation describes the Little Flower but my life looks more like Machiavelli.

So avoid dypsofrenia in all its devious little forms and you will live a much happier life.

Installation of Acolytes and Blessing of New Tabernacle and Ambo

Seven of our brothers were instituted to the ministry of Acolyte Sunday by Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester, who also blessed our new Tabernacle and Ambo. The following is the prayer of Blessing which Bishop Matano prayed over our new acolytes:

God of mercy, 
through your only Son
you entrusted the bread of life to your Church.
Bless + our brothers
who have been chosen for the ministry of acolyte.
Grant that they may be faithful
in the service of your altar
and in giving to others the bread of life;
may they grow always in faith and love,
and so build up your Church.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord and Father of all holiness, 
from whom the True Bread from heaven has come down to us, 
bless us and the tabernacle we have prepared
for the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Through our adoration of your Son present in the Eucharist, 
lead us to a closer union with the mystery of redemption.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
                 - From the Rite for the Blessing of a Tabernacle

May the word of God always be heard in this place,
as it unfolds the mystery of Christ before you
and achieves your salvation within the Church.
    -From the Rite for the Blessing of an Ambo

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A reminder of Christ's presence...

The tabernacle for Eucharistic reservation is a reminder of Christ's presence that comes about in the sacrifice of the Mass. But it is also a reminder of the brothers and sisters we must cherish and charity, since it was in fulfillment of the sacramental ministry received from Christ that the church first began to reserve the Eucharist for the sake of the sick and the dying. In our churches adoration has always been offered to the reserved sacrament, the bread which comes down from heaven.  - Book of Blessings, no. 1192.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The pillars of the earth...

As the skilled workmen placed the several thousand pounds of marble which make up the base of the tabernacle today, all I could think of was Psalm 75:3: "Though the earth and all its inhabitants quake, I make steady its pillars."

It is exciting to prepare for the completion of this long-awaited temple of the presence of the Lord in this holy house of discernment and formation. At the same time, as the workmen carefully put all the beautifully crafted pieces together, we are reminded of how the construction of a tabernacle is a lot like the discernment and formation what take place in a seminary.

We seek here to craft men into vessels of God's grace, a grace he dispenses in his own time and his own manner. 

Yesterday two men left Seminary formation and there is a real sadness in the house. We are reminded at such times that the making of a Priest, like the making of a tabernacle, is a slow and laborious process.

It is a work which sometimes takes place in a Seminary and sometimes in a family, sometimes in school, sometimes at work, sometimes in a parish, sometimes among friends, and often in the quiet prayer of an obedient heart.  But always the work is upheld by him who makes steady the pillars of the earth, for he made them and us and forms us slowly into his own image and likeness.

The Tabernacle is still an unfinished work, and so are each one of us. Pray for all who aspire to discern God's will, in Seminary and outside of Seminary, that God may bring to completion what he has so well begun.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Glimpses of what will be...

We're just beginning to get glimpses of the new tabernacle as they begin to uncrate the marble...

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The tabernacle, marble steps and presbyterium (all 9500 pounds of them) have finally arrived at a snowy Saint John's Seminary!  Workmen estimate seven to ten days for installation.  Here Costel Cristina, the foreman for the marble installation crew stands on the truck about to unload the crates.  Also on hand is Rolf Rohn, the designer of our new Tempietto.  Stay tuned as we build a worthy house for the the true bread come down from heaven!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

National Rectors' Meeting in Florida

I’m at Our Lady of Florida Retreat House in Florida for a few days for the National Meeting of Seminary Rectors sponsored by the National Catholic Education Association.  While we are spending a great deal of time examining the formation of formators, psychological assessments and other issues, we are also hearing reports from a number of specialists in Seminary Formation.

Father Shawn McKnight of the USCCB’s Clergy and Consecrated Life department reported on 2013 Ordination Survey, the Bishops’ approval of “Guidelines on the Use of Psychology in Seminary Admissions,” and the Annual Survey of Theology and College Seminaries.  

Dr. Emily Cash of the Saint Luke Institute gave an insightful report on the NCEA-Saint Luke Institute Human Formation Consultation which will be published by this time next year.  Finally, Jim Lundholk-Eades of the National Roundtable on Church Management addressed the group.

Tomorrow we will hear presentations from Dr. Rick Nlieve of In-Trust, Joan Rosenhauer of Catholic Relief Services, and Fr. Richard Chiola of NOCERCC.

Long days but a great opportunity for networking!  I already have ten pages of typed notes.  And, of course, it helps that it’s 80 degrees and sunny!!  Hope to be home before Thursday’s storm!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Discerning a Vocation...

The Saint John's Seminary Community was honored to welcome these men for Mass this morning as they completed a three day discernment retreat.  Monsignor Moroney preached the following homily:

So, here you are, at the conclusion of the discernment retreat, sitting in a Seminary, where, God willing, you may someday sit each morning and each evening, discerning God’s will and seeking to be formed in his image and likeness.

Why?  Because you think God might be calling you to be a priest.  And what does that mean?  To be a Priest?  

To be so conformed to Christ Jesus, that it is no longer you, but Christ Jesus in you. To be so conformed to Christ Jesus that you can celebrate the sacrifice once offered on the altar of the cross and now, through your hands, “for our good and the good of all his Holy Church.”

To be so conformed to Christ that you might speak his word, in season and out…with your lips, but his words…your emotions, but his heart…your mind, but his truth.

To be so conformed to Christ that you can shepherd a people, urging them on, seeking out the lost and carrying them home, leading them to green pastures and still waters, and so imbued with their smell that for love of them you would lay down your life.

What does it mean?  To be a Priest?

It means to hear him call my name…in the still quiet of the night, and to answer...You!  Yeah, you!  Come and follow me.

The life of a Priest is pure grace, seldom easy, but always exquisitely beautiful. I wish I could tell you what it feels like to hear a penitent weep when welcomed home after 35 years of being lost. I wish you could know what it’s like to give viaticum, anoint in faith, and commit a soul to God as she breathes her last breath. 

To be and be called “Father,” to so many, to be called to preach the Gospel with conviction and joy, to be invited to bring Christ’s healing presence and truth to the most intimate pains of the human heart. 

And most of all, to join the sacrifices of your lives to the one perfect Sacrifice of Christ offered upon this altar, and to receive the power through Christ to transform mere bread and wine into his own Body and Blood. To stand behind that altar before which I was ordained, and to offer the sacrifice which is the source and the summit of each and all of our lives. 

In almost thirty years, I have never doubted, even for a moment, that God chose me to be a Priest. Oh there have been good days and not so good days, trials and temptations, fears and exhaustions. But all that goes with being a human, and it is in my humanity, and with my weaknesses, and even with my sinfulness that God has chosen me to be your Priest and to make me strong in Christ.

God has called me to be his priest, not because I am strong or I am smart or I am so very bright, but because he looks upon me, just like his Blessed Mother, he looks upon me in my littleness and raises me up.

He calls me, as Paul says today “in my weakness and my fear and my trembling, to rely not on my weakness, but on his strength,
to trust not in my foolishness, but on his wisdom and to rely not on my selfishness, but his perfect love. He has called me to share my bread with the hungry and shelter the oppressed and the homeless. He has called me to be the light of the world and to shine before others, that they may see his good deeds and give him glory. He calls.  I answer.

How did I know I was called to such a life?

For me, it started when I was in High School, it started when God began to call my name, just as he called Samuel. And, like Samuel, it took me a long time to answer. But that never stopped God from calling. 

It started with prayer. I can remember when I would walk home from Millbury Memorial High School, I’d stop almost every day in Saint Brigid’s Church and just sit there and stare at the little red light over the tabernacle. And no matter what pains or confusions or adolescent angst was coursing through my veins that particular day, that light told me that Jesus was still there, and still calling my name, and still waiting for me to answer him. 

So, eventually, and slowly and with stops and starts and plenty of detours, I sought him out, and heard his words: “Follow me...come see where I live.” 

Follow me to green pastures and still waters where prayer will refresh your weary soul. Follow me to the cross and join all your sufferings to my sacrifice upon the cross.  Follow me in loving others as I have loved you, without counting the cost and unto death.  Follow me, and me alone, renouncing the world and all that might keep you from me.  Follow me.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Hateful Act

The following Rector's Conference was presented by Monsignor Moroney on February 6th.  For a Narrated Keynote Video of this presentation, please click here.

To know who you are, you must know from whence you came.
This is why, in the sphere of human formation, we spend so much time on families of origin.  If I know the gifts and challenges in my emotional DNA, I can grow beyond my limitations and serve not as an obstacle, but as a bridge to Christ and his Church.
This is why, in each of our courses of study, a thought, a practice or a doctrine is always studied within its historical context, that by reading about yesterday we might prepare to proclaim the Holy Gospel for the Church of tomorrow.
This is why spiritual directors urge us to remember how we prayed as an adolescent and as a child, in order to all the more deeply give our hearts over to God as an adult, in purity and trust.  This is why beside my bed there hangs an embroidery of an old Irish prayer made by my mother when she was sixteen years old.  It is the first prayer I learned to pray after I learned to read and I still pray it every night at the conclusion of Compline.
This is why, in the pastoral sphere, it is important to trace and critically analyze those presuppositions about parish life and ministry which so often form the foundation of who I will be as a pastor and a priest.

In order to understand where we are, and to plot a course to tomorrow, we must understand from whence we came.  

Which is why, this evening, I invite you to join me on a voyage back in time, to antebellum New England, to a time when the Archdiocese of Boston encompassed all six New England States…just one big diocese from Maine to Connecticut, from the Cape to Burlington.  And I would like you to meet a Bishop and a nun who, I suggest can form and inform our own ministry by their example and their experience

We begin in the 1830’s with the rise of the Know-Nothing party, an anti-immigrant, and thus anti-Catholic disease which infected the Yankees of Boston in a terrible way.  

This virulently anti-Catholic phenomenon resulted in innumerable little acts of discrimination, like the “Catholic tax” on Boston cemetery plots, priests being barred from visiting dying prisoners, a child beaten for refusing to recite the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, the tar and feathering of Father Ellsworth, to the burning down of Churches in Dorchester, Manchester and Bath, Maine.

Fortunately, though, the second Bishop of Boston was up to the task.  A remarkable character, he was ordained a Jesuit and spent the first decade of his priesthood in  New York, where he served as Vicar General and helped to build old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. From there he went to Washington as president of Georgetown and then to Boston in 1825 to succeed Bishop Cheverus.

Soon thereafter, he opened New England’s first Catholic College in the basement of the Cathedral, calling it Boston College.  But he had a hard time convincing other Jesuits to join him in Boston due to the anti-Catholic temper of the City.   In fact, when almost twenty years later he managed to assemble a respectable Jesuit faculty, the anti-Catholic fervor was so strong in Boston that he abandoned Boston College and opened the College of the Holy Cross, named after the Cathedral, 45 miles outside of the See City.

What was this anti-Catholic fervor which so defined the city which Bishop Fenwick was trying to evangelize?   Well here’s a popular broadsheet of the day, called the American Patriot.  And in its first edition it describes its purpose as being opposed to:

Papal Aggression and Roman Catholicism
Foreigners holding office
Raising Foreign Military Companies in the United States
Nunneries and the Jesuits
To being taxed for the support of Foreign powers millions of dollars yearly
To secret Foreign Orders in the U.S.

The Protestant majority was particularly concerned with the rise of Catholic educational institutions, often run by religious sisters and accepting both Catholics and Protestants into their houses.  Many prominent commentators, including FB Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, suggested that these schools were a means of instilling into Protestant children those Catholic principles which were antithetical to American Democracy in order to prepare for an imminent move to replace the American Constitution with Papal rule.

And so in this cartoon you see a tiara wearing figure with a club called violence and a pitcher of Holy Water peaking out from under the stars and stripes and looking longingly at the Public Schools of New England.

This one’s my favorite.  A good New England “school-marm” is teaching her Democracy-loving students about these great United States while the shadow of the tiara and cross are cast ominously across the American landscape.

This anti-Catholicism, especially as it related to the nascent Catholic School system, took many forms, including two books: one published here and another in Quebec.  Six Months in a Convent….sold 100,000 copies in the first week of its publication and 200,000 in the first four weeks. Recall that in those days only 50,000 people lived in the City of Boston!

The book was about Rebecca Reed, daughter of a Charlestown farmer, who at the age of 18 converted to Catholicism and entered the Ursuline convent.  A year later she left, returned to her Episcopal friends, and wrote of the ways in which she “was troubled in various ways by the Romans.”

The purpose of the book was “to open the eyes of Protestants, so as to convince them of the impropriety of entrusting the education of their daughters to a secret and superstitious community of Catholic priests and nuns.”

The suspicions fostered by Six months in a Convent  were explicitly set forth by this cartoon, in which a be-cassocked lech leads three innocent virgins in chains down the primrose path to the nunnery.  “Save the Girls!” it declares” “Batter down the Convent doors of Catholicism and the civilized world will be amazed!”

Well, if you did batter down the doors this is what you would have found.  Dedicated religious infused with the best educational principles of the day and a commitment to those girls who, as Pope Francis might describe it, lived on the periphery of society due to their Catholicism, their economic and immigration status.

Protestant clergymen were among the most serious critics of the Church and her schools, including Dr. Lyman Beecher, who preached the following sermon in  the Park Street Church:

The principles of this corrupt church are adverse to our free institutions, from the contempt and hostility which they feel towards all Protestants… Roman Catholic Europe is pouring her population into the valley in great abundance; and…if the subjects of the pope increased beyond the increase of our own people, in the proportion which they had in the last ten years, they would in thirty years outnumber our native inhabitants… [and have no doubt that] despotic Princes in Europe would empty their coffers of treasure liberally, could they by means of the Romanish church, subvert our free institutions and bring into disgrace all ideas of an effective government.

[Dr. Beecher claimed that Catholic schools were but a pretense for converting Protestant children], while the children of the subjects of the pope would be left to roam in ignorance, many of them incapable of either reading or writing. Hence the necessity that the Protestants should be on the alert in the work of early education.

But now to the story at hand.  After Reverend Beecher preached that homily, Bishop Fenwick presented a series of lectures at Holy Cross Cathedral in calm disputation.  Beecher’s congregation began to diminish and he retreated to Cincinnati, only to return to Boston a couple years later.

The occasion of his second campaign was the Ursuline convent and boarding school atop Ploughed Hill in Charlestown.  The Convent could be seen from miles away and was the largest such school in New England.  

When in 1834 Sister Mary John, known in civic life as Elizabeth Harrison, entered the Ursuline convent as a novice she did well.  

But after several months she suffered what was described in the press  as a “nervous breakdown,”  and she returned home.  After a few months rest, her family asked the nuns to take her back, and she was walked back up Charlestown Hill by her brother and Bishop Fenwick.

Reverend Beecher saw in this an opportunity and began to spread rumors of this poor girl who had now been forced back into the clutches of these evil nuns.  

A very odd article in the Boston Patriot, under the headline MYSTERIOUS, noted that while her friends had gone to the convent to see her, “she was not to be found, and much alarm is excited in consequence.”  

The rumors of her demise or imprisonment in a dark convent dungeon began to spread, fed by another best-selling convent captivity novel from Quebec, by the name of Maria Monk.  It describes “Roman Catholicism as deviant and dangerous…

[In fact] Monk describes a lime pit in the basement of the convent where the bodies of murdered infants are thrown, and the subterranean passages that give priests full sexual access to the nuns. The children born from these unholy unions are first baptized, then strangled… in Monk's account, a nun who objects to submission to a priest’s wish is crushed to death and smothered by a group of nuns and priests who place a mattress over her and jump on it until she dies. Monk claims she escaped to save the life of the infant she was carrying from certain death.”

Soon afterward, Beecher preached four homilies against the Catholics, instilling in his listeners fears for the mysterious missing nun.  The next day broadsides began to appear throughout Charlestown calling for the convent to be burned down.

The Selectmen of Charlestown tried to dispel the rumors by going to the convent and meeting with the mysterious nun who gave them a tour of the school and then invited them in for tea.  But even a statement by town officials in the Boston Globe could not stop the anti-Catholic momentum of a crowd with a lust for blood. 

And then it happened.

A mob armed with torches and axes was formed in the taverns at the foot of the hill, having just heard Beecher’s preaching in four Protestant Churches in the course of two days.  They stormed up Charlestown hill and banged on the front door of the convent.  They demanded to see the captive Elizabeth Harrison.  The Mother Superior refused, telling them that the nuns and their charges were all in bed.

Mother Superior stood firm, even in the face of an angry crowd.  Perhaps a bit injudiciously, she is said to have threatened them with the words: “Bishop Fenwick has twenty thousand of the vilest Irishmen at his command, and you may read your riot act till your throats are sore, but you'll not quell them."

At that they lit their bonfires and attacked the convent.  

“Thousands looked on as about 40 rioters dressed like Indians broke through the front doors and began to destroy the property. 12 nuns and about 50 terrified schoolgirls ran out the back door and took shelter at the home of a neighbor. From the windows of the house west of the convent, they watched their school go up in flames. Local firefighters arrived at the scene but stood by and did nothing. 

By morning the convent was in ruins.

As word spread through the Irish shanty-towns along the newly laid railroads of Worcester, Providence and Lowell, hundreds of Irish workers, pick-axes in their hands and revenge in their hearts, made their way to Boston.

The first reaction of Bishop Fenwick was to send every available priest to the train stations and threaten with excommunication anyone who would take part in an act of revenge.  

That night, while the state convened its own investigative bodies at Faneuil Hall and in Charlestown, Bishop Fenwick called a public meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.  

When he rose to the podium, every eye in the packed room was on him.  What would he say?   Would he follow the Mother Superior’s lead and call his legions of “the vilest Irishmen” to arms?

As you might expect, he preached on Matthew 5:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.  After denouncing all forms of violence, he looked at the expectant crowd and asked:

“What is to be done?  Shall we say to our enemies, you have destroyed our buildings, and we will destroy yours, no, my brothers, this is not the religion of Jesus Christ—this is not in accordance with the spirit of that blessed religion we all profess. Turn not a finger in your own defense, and there are those around you who will see that justice is done you.”

He also thanked the public authorities for their stand against the violence, and expressed confidence that they would prevent further outbreaks from occurring.

While the Bishop was effective in what he preached, he was not prescient in his confidence in the courts.  

Thirteen arrests were made later that month and twelve of them were acquitted by their peers.  Only one person was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor: 

Marvin Marcy, was a sixteen year old boy from Cambridge, who had joined the mob at the end of the night and burnt a bunch of books. Young Marvin was sick in an unheated jail cell and the kid was scared half to death at what awaited him for burning a few books at the end of a riot in which everyone else got off scot free.

So Bishop Fenwick and Mother Saint George started a petition, to which 5,000 people affixed their signature, and Marvin was pardoned.

In a letter to the sick boy’s doctor, the tough Mother Superior of Charlestown wrote this:

“I am deeply pained that anyone should suffer on our account; and it was my intention, from the beginning, to do all in my power to obtain pardon for any of the criminals who might be sentenced to punishment; for I am well convinced that they know not what they did. Moreover, Marcy was not one of those who concerted the plot; he was young, and joined in the riot for sport, as many other boys would. I beg of you to console him and his afflicted mother, and to say that I will supplicate the governor for his release. My sisters, as well as myself, would feel miserably, if his sentence were put into execution.”

The Sunday after the Ursuline Convent was burned down, the subject of Bishop Fenwick’s sermon was “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


So what’s to learn from this momentous event?  What can a fledgeling priest of the twenty first century take away from a time so far away and different from our own? Two lessons, I suggest, help me to be a better priest.

1. First, the riots against the Catholics of 1835 are not really that different from Tamberlan Tsarnaev filling his backpack with explosives because he hated Americans.

Satan is alive and active on the streets of Boston and the desire to kill “the other” is as old as Cain and as new as an Assisted Suicide Bill still sitting in the Great and General Court, the Forty abortion clinics open for business this morning in this state, and an Attorney General suggesting that Catholics shouldn’t work in emergency rooms because they are against abortion.

Indeed suspicion of the immigrant-other is as close as yesterday’s Globe where a woman wrote that “until they are all deported” there will be no real solution to the problem.

This fear of he who is different from me is born in the dark recesses of the heart, and fermented by a tribalism that makes them the enemy precisely because they are not like us.  In fact whether they look different or sound different or act different is almost irrelevant.  That they are different provides the fertile ground upon which Satan can sow seeds of sin, violence and hate.

Even in a Seminary, divisions arise based on a wide range of foolish concerns:  He kneels when I stand, he doesn’t wear a cassock, he’s from that diocese, he thinks he’s smarter than me, he’s more popular than me, he can sing, he used to do Life Teen, he serves the Iuvetentum Mass, etc. etc.

And in the parish, she’s a single mother, he wasn’t born here, she lives in that neighborhood, he doesn’t have kids, she’s a homeschooler, he was a friend of the last pastor, etc. etc.

"Teacher," said our patron, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, but it should disappoint us.

The fear, the resentment of “the other” as having committed the capitol sin of not being one of “us” is an ever present avenue for demonic intervention, hate and even violence.

2. So what do you do about it?  What is the best reaction to the bigotry, fear and violence in him and in me?

Bishop Fenwick and Sister Superior showed us the way. It’s love.  It’s the Cross.  It’s Christ.  Love which forgives and refuses to return hatred in kind.  Love which witnesses to the truth.  Love which turns the other cheek.

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Or: “if he takes your coat…”

Or: “How many times should I forgive my brother…”

Picture them nailing our Blessed Lord to the Cross and hear his words: ““Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

Speaking the truth in love, even when they are driving the nails into his flesh. 

Picture the martyrs staring at the bright pointy teeth of the lion as they rejoice to proclaim the Gospel with their dying breath, praying for their persecutors and blessing their God for the opportunity to love unto death in the model of their Savior and Lord.  

Speaking only love as they they beat you to the ground is the biggest pulpit any saint could ever pray for.

Why?  Because, as Saint Paul tells us, we have but one boast in this life, and its not our political skills or our PR strategies or our brilliant understanding of the post-modern culture…No…we have but one boast: the cross of our Lord Jesus.

And, in the end, what will convert the biggest anti-Catholic bigot and the most virulent enemy of the truth is not the most eloquent sermon or the best footnoted treatise or the most Machiavelian plan for revenge.  No, as Bishop Fenwick or Mother Superior taught us in the end, it is only the witness of the truth, of his Paschal dying proclaimed with our last and every breath that defeats the lie, the fist and every demonic fear.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Congratulations to Stephen Lundrigan!

Bishop Robert J. McManus admitted Stephen Lundrigan to candidacy and to the ministry of Lector this morning at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Worcester. Monsignor Moroney and Father Briody were present at the Mass to congratulate Stephen on behalf of the entire Seminary community. 

The following is excerpted from the homily in the Rite of Candidacy:

So now, dear brother, we address these words to you who have already begun your formation. Through this formation you will learn each day to live according to the Gospel and to be strengthened in faith, hope, and charity. By practicing these virtues you will grow in the spirit of prayer and in zeal to win all mankind for Christ.

Compelled by the love of Christ and strengthened by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, you have arrived at the moment when you are to express openly your desire to be bound in Holy Orders for the service of God and mankind. This desire we shall receive with joy.

From this day on, you must cultivate more fully your vocation using especially those means that can be offered to you as help and support by the ecclesial community entrusted with this task.