Monday, January 26, 2015

Second Annual Benefactors Mass and Dinner

The Faculty and Seminarians were joined by our most generous benefactors at a Mass celebrated by Cardinal O'Malley last night and a festive dinner.  The Archbishop Williams and Saint John's Medals were also presented.  Here are the presentations to our worthy recipients as well as some photos from the night's festivities as well as my homily from the Mass.


Our first award recipient is Secretary of State William F. Galvin, my friend, my counselor and this year’s recipient of the Archbishop John J. Williams Award.  

At just about the same time, a century ago, Cardinal O’Connell was consecrating a new Church off Oak Square and an expanded Seminary which Archbishop Williams had established before him.  Little did the Cardinal know that those two great holy houses would be woven into one in the first years of the twenty-first century.

But that would have never happened without our honorable first recipient, who as chief matchmaker these past two years has skillfully woven together the communities of Our Lady of the Presentation and Saint John’s Seminary.  

It was you who introduced me, Mr. Secretary, to some of the most beautiful Catholic souls I have ever met, whose belief in the Church and love of their Lord have grown deeper and prouder with each passing year.  It was you who helped me to form the inextricable bonds which now exist between the Seminary and the good Catholic community of Brighton not only leading us all closer together as brothers and sister, but bringing us closer to Christ, as well.

For your generosity of time, of wise counsel and for just being such a good man and example to us all, I am honored to present you, Secretary William F. Galvin with the Archbishop John J. Williams medal for 2015.


Our second award is given to two of the dearest friends of Saint John’s Seminary: Jim and Pattie Brett.  Jim and Pattie, I am honored to recognize you as this year’s recipients of the Saint John the Evangelist Medal, in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the spiritual life of Saint John’s Seminary.  

From the first days I arrived at Saint John’s, Jim and Pattie have been indefatigable supporters of the oldest and largest seminary in New England. Forever imprinted on my heart is the image of Jim, patiently introducing a new Rector to an endless line of new friends and benefactors of Saint John’s, or of Pattie helping prepare yet another event, celebration or fundraiser.

Neither one of them have ever said no to a single request from me and the year they chaired the Gold Tournament realized unparalleled success.  Why?  Because the entire Boston community recognizes their essential goodness, their deep Catholic faith and their dedication to everyone in need.

If I were to read a list of the infinite number of ways in which they contribute to the life of their community, we would be here all night.  Let it suffice to say that their love and support for the Church, the Priesthood and this Holy House make them worthy recipients of the Saint John the Evangelist Medal for 2015.


In the Acts of the Apostles we read of a Jew from Pontus, present day Turkey, near the Black Sea, by the name of Aquila.  A tentmaker by trade, Aquila moved to Rome, where he married Priscilla, where they both converted to Christianity, and were forced to leave Rome when Claudius exiled the Jews and the Jewish-Christians.  The couple eventually settled in Corinth, where Saint Paul had recently arrived from his latest missionary campaign in Athens.  

Paul, a Roman citizen himself, would have been attracted by their stories of the new Christian community in Rome and by the fact that they shared a common faith in Christ.  Pope Benedict once reflected further on their relationship:

“One can deduce that the couple had already embraced the Christian faith …and now they had found in Paul someone who not only shared with them this faith - that Jesus is the Christ - but who was also an Apostle, personally called by the Risen Lord.”

In any case, Priscilla and Aquila invited Paul to move in with them.  Paul, it seems spent most of his time in the synagogue preaching, dependent for room and board on his new-found friends. 

They were such supporters that they left Corinth and accompanied Paul to Syria, following him from town to town.  By the time they reached the seventh or eighth town, Priscilla and Aquila seemed to have become so well acquainted with Paul’s teaching that they were commissioned by him  to correct the great evangelizer Apollos.

At some point, the Apostle parted company with his patrons, but he does not forget them.  Three times he greets them in his letters to the Romans, the Corinthians and Saint Timothy.  In his letter to the Romans he writes:

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I am grateful but also all the churches of the Gentiles; greet also the church [that meets in] their house.”

Pope Benedict once reflected on the indispensable role of Priscilla and Aquila in establishing the early Church, recalling that the preaching of the Apostle Paul was foundational, but “the commitment of these families, these spouses, these Christian communities, and these lay faithful was necessary in order to offer the soil for the growth of the faith.”

He continued:

“This couple in particular demonstrates how important the action of Christian spouses is…[for] every home can transform itself into a little church. Not only in the sense that in them must reign the typical Christian love made of altruism and of reciprocal care, but still more in the sense that the whole of family life, based on faith, is called to revolve around the singular lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Looking around this Chapel, I am reminded that without these domestic churches, the Priesthood could not exist.  Not only are priests chosen by God from the sons of such holy families, but in every age, the priest is nurtured, encouraged and sanctified by their supportive love.

Just as the Lord would go back to the house of Lazarus and Martha and Mary for a meal, an extended conversation or just to sit among friends, so we can picture Saint Paul sitting at the generous table of Priscilla and Aquila, talking of tent making or Roman politics, but most of all, about the Lord Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in growing his Church.

Every priest remembers with fondness the families who have supported him at every stage of his priestly ministry.  The ones who kindly adopt a newly ordained and welcome him into their family.  The ones who notice when he looks a but worn-out and cheer him up with all kinds of support.  The ones who provide a constant example of holiness, generosity and a pure devotion to Christ.  

Such folks are not unlike those who sit between the men in black before me this evening.  You who know the importance of the priest who comes out at 2am to anoint your mother, who hears the confession of your children and who teaches them the mysteries of the faith.  You know the priest who through sacrifice and self-giving love each year comes to look more and more like Christ, so that eventually it is not Father-so-and-so whom you see, but Christ Jesus in him.  And most of all, you know the one who receives the sacrifices of your lives and joins them with the perfect sacrifice of Christ offered upon the Altar and returns to you the very Body and Blood of him who died for your salvation.

Saint Francis of Assisi once said that if he met a priest and a saint on the road, he would be nice to the saint, but he would kiss the hands of the priest, for through this earthen vessel God gives to us the inestimable gift of Holy Communion with him.

And if, indeed, the priest is made holy by this work of which he is so unworthy,  so too the Pricilla's and Aquila's of this world are sanctified by their support of the priesthood.  In today’s Gospel, Christ calls Simon and Andrew and James and John to come and follow him.  Just as today he calls you, our generous benefactors to hear his voice and discern his call.

And because of you, they are able to listen for his voice in the quiet of this chapel, seek his truth in those classrooms down the hall, grow in his ways in the parishes and the prisons and grow into the person whom he has called them to be.

Paul could do that because Priscilla and Aquila prayed for him and supported him in so many ways.  We can do that only because of you.

And so we pray for you, and for all our many benefactors.  That some day you and your families may be greeted by Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Aquila and all the Saints and be given your reward in the Kingdom of Heaven.