Monday, March 31, 2014

Catholic Music in the Tudor Period

Here's the introduction to a wonderful concert on Catholic Music in the Tudor Period offered on Sunday by Dr. Janet Hunt and a fine collection of local musicians and seminarians.

Toward the end of the period covered by today’s concert, when the practice of Catholicism was entirely banned in England, a Seminary was founded in the small city of Vallidolid in Northern Spain.  At the center of that chapel was enshrined an odd statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of La Vulnerata, or The Wounded One. 

The statue was originally a part of the altar in the major Church of a nearby town, located just off the market square.  When, in 1596, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Duke of Essex invaded the town, their rioting anti-Catholic troops dragged the statue from the Church and began to kick it like a soccer ball.  Then they hacked off the arms of the Virgin and the entire Body of the Christ child except for his two small feet.

The seminarians of the English College begged that the statue might be given to them and enshrined in their Seminary Chapel that they might offer their lives in reparation for the desecration. It sits there today, a part of the gloriously gold leafed reredos, but missing arms and legs and the head of the Christ as a testament to sectarian violence.

Twenty-two of the seminarians from that English College were martyred after ordination.  And the music they would have heard as they were formed in that Chapel of the Wounded One is the same Catholic Music you will hear this afternoon.

In some very real ways this music forms a bridge to those good men, not unlike the men who sit in this chapel every morning and every evening who seek to give themselves entirely to God.  I am grateful to Dr. Hunt  and each of today’s performers for joining us to the one faith through the holy beauty which they will so wonderfully sing.   Thank you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thirsty in the Desert...

Here's the homily from this morning's Mass, reflecting on Psalm 95:8: "“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert..."

No one is sure where Meribah and Massa are, but we know it’s where the Israelites hardened their hearts, because they were thirsty. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded of Moses “Why in the world did you bring us up out of Egypt—to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”

So Moses went to the Lord and lamented, “What will I do with this people?—a little more and they will stone me!”

All because they were thirsty.

Sometimes we get thirsty too. Sometimes we feel like we’re in a desert without a drop to drink. Maybe that thirst is loneliness or frustration or exhaustion…oh God, you call me to be a seminarian, but you didn’t tell me about mid-terms or composites or having to live across the hall from him! Why in the world did you lead me into this desert? So I would die of thirst?!

In the desert, with a divided heart, grumbling. It’s not fair! You don’t care! Why?

There’s a great new prayer from the Missal for such times and it tells the story of what finally happened at Meribah and Massah. Actually its not so new, it dates from the twelfth century and its a prayer for the gift of tears:

Almighty and most gentle God,
who brought forth from the rock
a fountain of living water for your thirsty people,
bring forth, we pray,
from the hardness of our heart, tears of sorrow,
that we may lament our sins
and merit forgiveness from your mercy.

By our tears of repentance, God slakes our thirst and washes away the hardness of our hearts.

Requiescant in pace...

We prayed this morning at Mass for firefighters Eddie Walsh, Jr. and Michael R. Kennedy, who lost their lives yesterday while fighting the awful fire in the Back Bay.  Please pause for a moment today and join us in this simple prayer for them.  It is an adaptation of the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero a couple years ago).

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
give eternal light and peace
to our brothers Eddie and Michael,

victims of this tragedy
simply because of their service to us.

Heal the pain of their grieving families.
Give them strength to continue their lives, 
with courage and hope.

Comfort and console us,
and strengthen us in hope.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Funeral of Dr. Dave Mousaw

This morning I concelebrated the funeral of a wonderful Catholic Doctor by the name of David Mousaw in Queensbury, New York.  Father Joseph Busch gave a great homily, and I wanted to share its outline with you.  Please pray for David and his wife Pat and their two sons.

Funeral Homily

How hard it is to say good-bye
       Dave’s last words to me: “my friend”
       I wanted to cry … yet, didn’t want him to see this
       There were mixed feelings –
           always hopeful that he would get better
                 didn’t want to see him suffer & prayed he would die
                 and perhaps the anger of the brevity of life

       Often times people think about how a person died, rather than how they lived
       Perhaps it is the shock of it … we can never really be     prepared no matter when it comes

How he died … “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith”
       He never gave up on life despite the pain he was in
       Not just a physical pain – but the mental anguish of seeing   people he perceived as “Idiots”
       His last words spoken were to Pat: I love you.

How he lived
Like St. Joseph who feast day was the day David died,
o   He cared for children
o   He was good father and husband
o   Like Joseph – he had his doubts, yet trusted

As a gifted doctor he shared his insights with his colleagues

From: Larson, Dan MD
Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:27 AM
Subject: David Mousaw, MD

I am sad to report the passing of Dr. Mousaw last night.  Dave had been with the Network since 1987.  His dedication to high quality patient care and to the mission of the Network was admirable over all these many years. As many of you know, he had been suffering various complications of lymphoma and its treatment for several years.  David was a friend as well as a colleague. He had a devotion to his craft, combined with a charming , curmudgeonly cynicism about some of the changes in modern health care.

As a trustee here at the Church, he brought perspective to the Pastoral Planning process – seeing in the meetings the “entertainment value” / I was very often angry

Each person here will have their memory of David and reflections on either how he died or how he lived …

       Maybe his red socks, maybe the beer … but we won’t forget him

But this is not the only reason why we gather today.
n  How do we move beyond the sadness and get on with life?

Our Faith.

God promises us a better life to come. Our first reading, “on this mountain, … the Lord will provide … ”

Getting to the top of a mountain is not an easy task.

I hiked up Hadley Mountain (Luzerne, NY) with Dave a few years ago. I really pushed to get to the summit in under an hour.

       To climb you need to be physically and mentally prepared
       You need endurance and persistence – to go all the way

       Sometimes the conditions are not right and we have to turn back to return again

       But when we reach the top and get the view, we forget what        it took to get there.

       It is a time to be silent in awe and   wonder … of God’s creation

And for David … today we pray that he has reached that pinnacle – being in the presence of God …

David's life is completed.

But what about us?

Nothing can take away the sense of loss, sadness
and maybe regret of not having more time

Our Gospel brings us comfort – “Come to me all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Again – Faith.

The Scripture speaks of a God

o   who gave us creation,
o   who became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ,
o   who is present when we gather
o   and speaks to us now: Come you who labor and are burdened

 How hard it is to say good-bye

David’s life was about Medicine – of healing and hope

For all who believe, it is the same: healing and hope

from the book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them … they seemed dead … but they are at peace.”

David may you be in the presence of God in awe and wonder.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thanks to Jim Brett

Thanks to our good friend Jim Brett, my day started today with a great breakfast meeting with some of Boston’s most generous Catholic businessmen.  Pictured here with Jim are Al Minahan (Preti Minahan Strategies), and Tom Kiley (Northeast Gas Association).  I was also able to share the great story of SJS with Jim Carmody (Seaport Hotel), Joseph Carroll (National Grid), Jim Gallagher (John Hancock), Bill Kennedy (Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP), Jim McManus (Slowey -  McManus), and John Pourbaix (CIMass  - Construction Industries of Massachussetts).  What a great joy it is to share the good news of this holy house!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More Saint Patrick's Day Pictures

Limericks and Photos from a Celebration of Saint Patrick

A Few of Deacon George Fitzsimmons’ Epic Limericks

We wake up excited for each new day
Full of new opportunities to learn and to pray
Yet there’s just one little thing
This is not Burger King,
You don’t get to have it your way.

At times, your complaints fall on ears of tin
And some days it feels like you just cannot win
To this there’s one man who can truly identify
And that’s none other than Karlo, the A.V. Guy
Just when he thinks he’s out, they keep pulling him back in.

In very many ways it is true
That being a seminarian is like being part of a crew
At times we’ve been nice, at times we’ve been naughty
Which leads me to just one question for Dr. Crotty
Do you think that Muldoon writes jokes about you?

For 4th Theology, the end will be here soon
And the future will bring both a challenge and a boon
One of us often out to Waltham springs
And it’s only on the Feast of the Korean Martyrs that he sings
Let’s hear it for the King - Jiwon “Straight A” Yoon.

Those guys from Manch-Vegas live large
5 gentlemen who academically are always in charge
Rather than die – they live free
As the go back and forth on 93
And what a fearless leader they have in Sarge

There’s a young man here who always has a ball
Be it winter, spring, summer or fall
You’ll never hear any gloom
Coming out of a certain 4th Floor room
With Billy’s trademark, Hey what’s up, y’all?

Back and forth each week from Georgetown he flew
And his classes contain many laughs, it’s true
And while he is seldom dower
Bad writing still always makes him glower
Fr. McManus, thank you for teaching us how
to be forewarned and forearmed against boo.

Now’s the last time I will return from this podium to my chair
As yes, this is the last ever limerick that I have to share
And if any of my words have offended
Please don’t be blue, but let your heart be mended
Remembering always that I only kid because I care.

A Limerick by Abishai Vase: The Examen

Who knows how long it will be
Whether there'll be 4 Hail Marys or 3
Or the length before the priest
Begins to bless our feast
Whilst the ending we long to see.

Many hope it'll just go away
Friends, the examen's here to stay!
No skeptics will there be
after yet another homily
on this "integral pause" in our day.

Limericks from the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council

This year we celebrate a half century since the third of four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, So I offer seven limericks written in the early 1960’s by the Council Father themselves and preserved in a collection of Father Joseph Komanchak as found in his blog, In verbo veritatis.  The first one refers to the propensity of some Council fathers to write limericks during long speeches:

The Limerick’s inferior they say 
To the poetry of Shelley or Gray.
But the Bishop of “X,”
Without wishing to vex, 
Composes at least one a day.

This one’s about the Archbishop of Boston, a great advocate of religious liberty, albeit in English:

Cardinal Cushing of Boston avows 
That he freedom to all men allows;
Though he’s no Latin scholar
He can certainly holler
At the Council he brought down the house.

Or the merits of Bar Jonah, the coffee bar in Saint Peter’s:

We are two thousand Patres in Session 
Who feel a great weight of oppression
What with Cardinals talking
And lesser lights squawking,
Thank goodness, the bar’s so refreshing.

Issues were debated at some length at the Council, like contraception, a question not fully resolved until several years later with the Encyclical letter Humane vitae.

Some moralists claim that the Pill
May be used even though you’re not ill.
It gives the ability
To banish fertility,
But I can’t really think it’s God’s will.

Or the restoration of the permanent diaconate: celibate of married?

We all admit that the deacon
Could shine in the Church like a beacon.
“But...with a celibate’s vows,
Or as a man with a spouse?”
Is the question whose answer we’re seeking.

There are several limericks on the subject of Coadjutor Bishops, those who enjoy automatic succession of the ordinary.  I recall, in this regard, one Bishop describing to me the difference between an auxiliary and a coadjutor.  The auxiliary comes in every morning and says, “How are we doing, Bishop.”  The coadjutor begins each day by asking “How are you felling today, Bishop.”  

Coadjutors are very intent
Lest their bishops whose lives are far spent
In a moment neurotic
Take an antibiotic
Without their advice or consent.

Finally, it’s easy to forget that the three great liberals of the Council were Rahner, Kung, and a young professor named Ratzinger.  Meanwhile, the archetypical curial conservative was Cardinal Ottaviani.  I conclude with a witty little limerick designed to describe the creative tension in their relationship.

There were Ratzinger, Rahner and Küng, 
Whose praises by Liberals are süng,
But said Ottaviani
“You just wait till domani;
I’ll have all those clever guys hüng.

Pictures from the Ministry of Lector

We were honored last weekend by the presence of Bishop Robert Deeley, an old friend of Saint John's Seminary and the Bishop of Portland.  Bishop Deeley celebrated the reception of our second year men into the ministry of Lector.  Here are a few pictures of this great celebration.

Saint Patricks Day Celebration

Last night was our Saint Patrick's Day celebration at Saint John's Seminary.  There were limericks galore, great food and great fellowship.  While there are more pictures to come, this was my favorite!

While we will also post more limericks, here is a particularly witty one concerning the tabernacle that too so long to arrive from across the seas!

It took forever to arrive by sea
Even longer than Father Briody
But friends, don't distress
Come now to SJS
The Taj Mahal behind the altar you'll see!

He does have a point!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ministry of Lector Workshop

Here are the slides from this morning's workshop on the Ministry of Lector.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Leaving.....March Rector's Conference

Leaving....March 2014 Rector's Conference from James P Moroney on Vimeo.

There’s an immemorial tradition in a small Eastern European town for leave-taking.  Whenever a child is about to head off to school in the big city or a son or daughter is about to move away or anyone is about to leave home for whatever reason, all the inhabitants would walk to the town’s border, a location uniquely located at the joining of two streets, one heading out of town and one returning and each separated by an increasingly distant crevasse.

The ritual to be scrupulously followed was for the person closest to the departing person to hold their hand and walk along the road into town while their beloved walked on the departing road.  As they walked along the crevasse would gradually increase the distance between them until clasped hands would turn to touching fingers and soon they would no longer be able to reach each other at all.  And then they would just follow the road in front of them and go where God was leading them.


Few things in life are as tough as change and few changes are as tough as taking your leave.  As a Priest, you will experience innumerable leave-takings, from deaths to transfers.  

And each is a rehearsal for the next and a preparation for that final leave-taking which is my death, that complete letting go, when you will be called to let yourself fall into the arms of God in a final great kenotic imitation of Christ upon his cross.

Like my father’s death last year.  It was a friend of mine who encapsulated my feelings best when, a few years ago, he buried his mom.  I remember asking him what was the most painful thing about burying a parent. He thought for just a minute and said, “The idea that I am next!”

My father's death helped prepared me to die by bringing me so close to the grave that I could smell it, taste it and feel it.  

Just as every leave-taking in life, each little death is a participation in Christ's death upon the cross, and an anticipation of the resurrection of those of us who follow the first born of many brothers.

If we have died with the Lord, we shall live with the Lord: that’s the root meaning of every death, big or small.

Leaving Seminary

Sometimes those deaths, big or small, happen in a seminary, for it is, by definition a place of formation and discernment.  Sometimes those leave takings are the result of long days of wrestling in a seminarian’s heart.  Sometimes they come from Bishops or rectors or faculty councils.  But always they are painful, both for the man packing his bag and for the ones he leaves behind.

For you see, leave-taking is never a solitary act.  It deeply affects entire communities of people, just like the folks in that small town gathering on one side of the crevasse.  

We were a bit like them a couple weeks ago when two of our brothers left, and those half a dozen times in the past years when others left.  It’s never easy. As at all leave-takings, we were filled with emotions.  Some with anger:  I don't understand!  It's just not fair!  Some were filled with fear: If him, then why not me!  And some with a kind of creeping nausea that started in the back of the stomach and crawls up the spine.

Some were overwhelmed with a sort of creepy bargaining, an attempt to make sense of things in order to gain some sort of control.  For you see, in the face of an uncontrollable reality, a drowning man will grasp at anything that happens to be floating by in order to keep afloat, to make any kind sense of it all.  That leads a person to cling to rumors and even make things up (although you never admit it to yourself) in order to try to understand: Did you hear why he left?  

I still remember the first time one my friends left the seminary.  He was asked to leave.  Actually that 's not true, they didn't ask him to leave, they told him.  It seemed like he left in the middle of the night with nothing but a one line announcement on the bulletin board.  And in the wake of his departure we were left with nothing but a raft of speculation.

Why? When? Where?  Who? What?  All tinged with free-floating anger and fear.

Over the past two years I thought a lot about those days.  I remember complaining bitterly about the rector...uncaring, incompetent and totally insensitive to the realities of life.  This just ain't the way it’s supposed to be done.

So God, the master of irony, made me a rector.  Good luck, he said, and then I think he smiled.

When it comes to leave-takings, however, I think, I've started to get a couple things right.  What is a rector supposed to do when someone is leaving?

First, I believe I owe this departing brother and son the unvarnished truth, spoken in love.  Otherwise he will never have the chance to grow to that full stature in Christ to which he is being called.  As a wise man once said, "the most loving thing you can tell somebody is the truth."

Second, Make sure, I tell myself, that he's ok.  Tell him you’re still his pastor, and mean it.  Follow up and support him and encourage him to continue to discern what God has planned for him.

Seek out his friends and make sure they're ok.  Sure, you can't tell them much, you can't tell anyone much out of consideration for good reputations and because, frankly, it's none of anybody’s business...but care for them, listen to them, and do what you can to let them know of God's presence and loving care

Then talk to all his brothers.  Encourage them to continue to be his friend.  Allay whatever fears you can, but always only speak the truth, with discretion and prudence and love.

That's what I try to do.  It's still not perfect, but be patient with me...I'm still learning how to do this thing.

Ways of Leaving the Seminary

There are, of course, different ways a person leaves the seminary.  

Sometimes the seminarian himself decides to leave.  It might be that there are some bumps in the road, some things about himself he needs to face, some ways he needs to grow.  He's still pretty sure God's calling him to be a priest, but he just needs to get off the conveyer belt and slow things down.  This is gonna take some time.

And so he takes some time in a parish, a natural place, since if he is eventually ordained a priest it's where he will spend the rest of his life anyways.  If he wants psychological counseling, we'll get it for him, if he needs to develop specific pastoral skills, we'll find the place to develop those, as well.  He's still in formation and he's still a part of this holy house.  He keeps his spiritual director and formator and comes back for house events and formation, and, eventually, he returns.

Then there's the seminarian who decides to leave, period.  He withdraws from seminary and withdraws from his bishop's sponsorship.  He's pretty sure God's not calling him to be priest, and when he leaves he will no longer be a seminarian.  By the way, I have an important message to share with all such men; never definitively burn bridges.  When you entered you never thought you'd be leaving, and after you leave?...who knows?  In fact, as several of you could attest, you never know where the road God sets before you will lead.  All you can do is follow it as best you can.  

Sometimes a departure from seminary is not voluntary.  Most of the time this is the result of a negative vote by the faculty, discerning that for one reason or another this is just not the right place for this man.  Which might result in a pastoral year or even an invitation to the man to withdraw.  Much of what I have already said above about both of these realities applies here as well.

And then there is dismissal from the seminary.  This can come about as the result of a Disciplinary Board convened by the rector or, for sufficient cause, by the Rector’s personal initiative.  

Dismissal is probably the most agonizing decision a rector is called upon to make and usually it is in response to an extraordinary occurrence or situation so potentially harmful to the seminary community and the individual that the only appropriate response is immediate dismissal.

But even dismissal is not always a dead end, but sometimes a well placed detour, and if a person deals effectively with the issues at hand, the Program for Priestly Formation provides the opportunity to reapply both to the bishop and to the seminary after a period of two years.

Finally there is the way most of you will leave the seminary, departure by ordination.  

But even here there are tensions to be understood and changes to be maturely embraced.  Seminary forms real and lasting bonds between men, a few of which will continue to nourish and challenge you for the rest of your priesthood.  

Where you went to seminary and who you went to seminary with will stay with you for the rest of your life. And while this leave taking is usually bathed in a flood of unmitigated joy (and a little bit of fear) that finally I am going to be priest, your heart will also ache a bit that you won't be with them and you won't be able to do that and the business of your life will keep you from being in touch quite as much as you'd like to.

So even leaving the easy way, isn't really all that easy.

Leaving the Parish

So, that's leaving the seminary.  But just as other deaths are a preparation for our own death, so leaving seminary is a preparation for all the other leave takings you will face as a priest as well.

Perhaps no one leaves as often as the diocesan priest.  In the beginning you get transferred a lot because you need a lot of experience.  And while I never really believed it when I was sitting where you are, there is nothing like experience.

And then you get moved for all kinds of other reasons, some of which will make sense to you and some of which will not.  But in obedience you go and do whatever he tells you, ever cognizant of what you said when you knelt before the bishop and placed your life in his hands.

I left my first parish after burying my first pastor, who dropped dead at the end of a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Then I went as an associate to Father Bill O'Brien at Saint Leo's in Leominster, then off to Catholic University for a year.  I came back as an associate to two parishes in Spencer and was then named pastor there.  After the two parishes were joined I went to the Bishops' Conference for thirteen years to run the Liturgy shop.  I left there to become Rector at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Worcester and now here I am as Rector of Saint John's Seminary

That's a lot of moving (an average of once every 5 years) and a lot of people to say good-bye to.  But as the contact list in my iPhone will tell you, I keep in touch with some.  But the leaving is never easy.

It's never easy because you have become their father and you have witnessed them at their very best and their very worst. You are there when they are perfect reflections of Christ's love and when they have been hateful and vengeful and spiteful.  Like any good shepherd you know and love your sheep.  You may not like them all, but you love them so much that you are willing to lay down your life for them.

And so leaving a parish can be very very hard. For when you leave, the tears and the smiles will make something very clear.  That some have loved you and through your personality, your actions and your good self, Christ was able to touch their lives.  And that some have not been fully appreciative of your presence and are more grateful at your going away than your arriving.  

And the truth is that whether they’re happy at your coming or your going usually has very little to do with you.  Oh sure, it’s your personality or other things they see on the outside that either excite or revolt them.  And yes, your pastoral skills and self sacrificing love will do a lot.  But most people will love or hate you not for what you do or what you are but what you remind them of from their past.  And like the father of an adoring child or a rebellious teenager, you just keep trying, through self sacrificing love, to decrease that Christ might increase for them.

And it is good to change assignments.  Change reassures us that we are not God, but only an unworthy servant doing whatever he gives us to do, for whatever time he chooses, through the wisdom of the Bishop.  Change is good for you and for me, for each time I have been transferred I may leave behind my successes, but I also leave behind my failures which, by the grace of God and the fading of the memory, will slowly disappear.

Change is good and the Bishop is wiser than we can ever know if we just give into God’s mysterious plan.  God taught me that lesson during the year I celebrated my tenth anniversary as a Priest.  

I was living at Divine Word College in DC, working to finish my license and doctorate in liturgy.  Bishop Harrington had given me three years to do so and I was nearing the end if my first year.  The license was almost done and I was working on the proposal for my dissertation.

I had returned to Worcester to celebrate my tenth anniversary as a Priest by celebrating Mass with a small group of family and friends at the same church where my first Mass had been celebrated.  I preached on obedience.

The next day, I got a call from the personnel director who told me that as the result of a fiscal problem the diocese was facing they were piling everyone out of school and I was to go to Spencer as a Parochial Vicar.

I remember smiling to myself and remembering that I had preached on obedience the night before.  And while I was disappointed…no more more world renowned more great liturgical guru.....I still had enough perspective to figure that God would make the best of it.

And you know what.  He did.

For if I had stayed in DC, I would never have gone to Spencer, and if I had not gone to Spencer I would not have gained the reputation for being able to get people together, and if I had never gotten the reputation for being able to get people together, I would have never been invited to direct the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, which means I would never have been made a consultor to Culto Divino, or edited the Lectionary for Mass, or directed Vox Clara, or come to the Seminary.

So, in God’s plan, I never got my doctorate, but I got you.  Go figure.


Leaving and arriving and leaving again.  Saying yes to it, opening your arms to it, accepting whatever he sends your way.  That’s doing the will of God, and what more could we ever want?

Thank you.