Monday, April 27, 2015

The Sheep Gate and the Doors of Wal-Mart

I went down to look at the doors at Wal-Mart the other day.  I kept walking in and out and watching how the doors worked.  They looked at me really funny, but no one stopped me because I was wearing a collar.

I wanted to see how the doors worked.  What makes a good door.  For those of you who are carpenters or builders this is probably rather elementary, but for me it was a discovery.  What makes a good door?  I drew three conclusions:

First, the door has to be able to open and close.  It’s really cool if it opens like magic, without your even having to push it or pull it. This is especially true if you’re visiting Italy.  I’m pretty fluent in Italian, but I still have to stop and think every time I see the words Tirare and SpingereTirare means pull and spingere means push.  That’s not so much of a problem in this country since by law all doors to public buildings have to open out after that awful fire in Boston so many years ago.  But in any case, every door must open and every door must close.

The second thing that makes a good door is that it is easy to enter and easy to find.  No sense hiding the door to Wal-Mart out by the loading dock.  It must be close to where you park your car and look inviting.

And finally, Wal-Mart executives would approve of a door that leads you into someplace you would like to be.  That’s why that nice lady stands right by the door to tell you where the dish-towels are hidden.  It’s worth walking through the door to hear her answer.

So a good door must open and close, be easy to find, and lead to a place I’d like to go.

That’s what Jesus means when he says that he is the Sheep Gate.  

Out in the middle of a field, every shepherd knows he needs to have a way of keeping their sheep together through the night, so he rolls rocks and logs to form an enclosure.  But what does he do about a gate to this sheep pen?  Most shepherds would lay down across the opening, his head on one rock and his feet on the other.  That way, if a sheep attempted to escape, he would walk over the shepherd and wake him up.

That’s what Jesus means when he says that he is the Sheep Gate.  

Jesus is the door that opens and closes. All who knock, all who are willing to turn away from sin, all who seek to join the flock of God’s holy people can enter through him.  In fact, this shepherd goes looking for sheep. (Lost sheep).  And he is the only way to enter!  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no other way to salvation and to eternal joy except through him  He’s the door that opens.

But Jesus is also the door that closes.  A door that closes when we refuse to be like the shepherd.  Make no mistake about it: there is a road to hell and any one of us is capable of choosing it.  Sin, selfishness and a refusal to love lead as surely to hell, as Jesus the sheep gate leads to the Kingdom of heaven.  Remember the story of the rich man who refused to love the beggar Lazarus: how he called to Father Abraham from across the abyss?  Remember the words of Jesus on the last day to those who refused to clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, and feed the hungry? “Depart from me your accursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” 

Oh yes, the door opens wide for those who approach it on their knees, the but door slams shut for those who refuse to do God’s will.

 And like the door at Wal-Mart, this sheepgate is easy to find.  He is present to us in his word proclaimed.  He is present to us to his own Body and Blood, given to us as food for the journey.  This sheepgate is present to us in the shepherds of the Church: the Bishop and his Priests.  And this Jesus, the way to the Father, is present to us wherever two or three gather in his name, and in the poor and the forgotten.  This door is easy to find and a constant invitation to enter in.

Lastly, this Sheepgate leads to a place beyond all our imaginings.  It is a place, as Saint Paul tells us, which we cannot even imagine.  “What we shall later be, has not yet come to light.”  But we know that even now, those who seek to enter God’s Kingdom, his holy Church, know the peace the world cannot give, the joy of the children of God, and the assurance that keeps us from mourning like those who have no hope.  Inside this door is not the lady from Wal-Mart, But Saint Peter, and Saint Paul and all the angels and saints, and all who have gone before us loving God and his church.  In that place we will know refreshment, light and peace.

Jesus is the Sheepgate which opens and closes, which is easy to find and which leads to joy unimagined.  But one last thing.  This gate is not suspended by hinges that neatly swing open and close. This gate is formed by him who laid down his life, that we might enter.  By his passion, death and resurrection this Sheepgate has been constructed of his Body and his Blood and the wood of the Cross.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Knights of Columbus Lantern Awards

On Monday I was honored to attend the Lantern Awards with the Massachusetts Chapters of the Knights of Columbus.  This year's recipient of the Lantern Award was Father Joe Bagetta, a Boston Priest who has dedicated his life to helping at risk youth.  It was a wonderful evening with many of the Bishops from across the state in attendance.   

Congratulations to Brian Morris!

Our own Brian Morris completed the Boston Marathon this week, despite the cold and rain! He was inspired to run in memory of his Uncle Greg who passed away last March after a long battle with Lymphoma. Brian's run benefitted the Leukemia/Lymphona Society of Boston. Thanks to all his generous supporters!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Resource Published by our own Dr. Hunt

Peter Philips, Baroque Composer
I am delighted to announce that Dr. Janet hunt has just published a major new edition of  the works of Peter Philips, under the title of Peter Philips: 75 Motets for Two Solo Voices and Organ Continuo from Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus (1628).  This is the first modern edition, as the last re-printing of the partbooks containing these motets occurred in 1641, after the composer’s death.

Peter Philips (1560/1-1628) fled Elizabethan England in 1582 “on account of his Catholic faith,” as he stated several years later in a Brussels certificate of residence.   Following a period of time spent in Rome, he settled in Brussels as a court composer and organist to the Spanish Habsburgs, Archduke Albert and Isabella.  

Albert and Isabella were sympathetic to English Catholic refugees, and were supportive of religious societies and their celebrations in town as well as at court.  Philips composed three collections of sacred motets for solo voices and organ in the new Italian style he had encountered in Rome. Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus was the largest, containing 107 motets for one, two or three voices.  The motets for one and for three voices are available in modern editions or as part of doctoral dissertations, but the 75 two-voiced motets were not available until now.

Most of the texts originate from the Bible and/or as antiphons from the Daily Office for various feast days.  There are several Marian and Eucharistic motets as well.    The edition can be purchased by clicking here or directly from Dr. Hunt at the seminary.

Congratulations, Dr. Hunt on the publication of this great new resource.

Friday, April 17, 2015

We Lost a Good Priest Today...

Cardinal George with Seminarians here at Saint John's Seminary 2013.
We lost a good priest today.  He has returned to the Lord who gave him to us and I am very sad.

I was privileged to call Cardinal George my priest and my friend for the past twenty years, since first we met at his birthday party the first year he arrived in Portland and I arrived at the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy.  During all the years I directed the Liturgy Secretariat he served on the BCL, chaired it for three years, and represented the USCCB to the International Committee on English in the Liturgy.  For the entire life of the Vox Clara Committee we served together and he was an indispensible source of wisdom.

It is true that Cardinal George was a brilliant intellect, perhaps the brightest mind I have ever encountered.  I remember how I would present him a briefing paper on a topic which I had explored for months and after a three minute speed-read he would come up with questions I had never entertained and conclusions I had never imagined.  

He had an unwavering love for the Truth, because he was unwaveringly and passionately in love with him who is the Truth.  He never seemed to give a thought to the reaction he would get from his listener, only to the necessity of speaking the truth, in season and out.  As he would stare at you, you had the impression he was looking right into your soul and that he loved you so much that all he wanted was to get you to heaven.  

I remember when he addressed the National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in 2002.  He chose not to speak of translation or any other current liturgical issues, but about authority and the liturgy.  Recalling that the Liturgy is the action of Christ and the treasure of the whole Church, he asked the gathered liturgists, advisors and co-workers with the Bishops in this great work, to seek after humility:

“Your point of reference as diocesan liturgists, then, is not simply the professional or the academic.  Your first point of reference, even though you are aware of the academic discussions, is the Bishop and the liturgical books themselves.  The diocesan liturgist is called upon to do his or her work with great discernment, particularly pastoral discernment.   In two thousand years, everything has been done once.  You can always find a precedent.  But precedent alone is not sufficient reason for change.  Only a true sensitivity to pastoral realities as discerned by the Bishop can serve as a guide in the implementation of the liturgical renewal. This requires a certain humility before the mysteries of our faith, which become real for us in the celebration of the liturgy, and a similar humility before the pastoral realities of our people, who are sanctified by these mysteries.  You, as part of diocesan liturgical teams, are called to participate in the Bishop’s charism of uniting people, and that takes a certain amount not just of discernment, but also of humility.”

Francis George could speak of humility because he himself knew what it was.  During the years he served as chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy I had the privilege of flying to Chicago to meet with him for an hour or so every month to discuss current liturgical questions.  One day, in the course of our meeting his private line rang.  He looked at his watch and excused himself, saying this would probably take a while.  He then greeted someone on the phone, telling his caller how glad he was to hear from her.  The next twenty minutes consisted of questions about how she was doing, quiet listening to her stories and strong interjections reminding her to “take her meds.”

When he returned, Cardinal George explained that his caller was a woman he had met at random after a confirmation years before.  She has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and had so enjoyed his gentle and patient listening to her that she asked for his private number, which he gave to her, with the agreement that she would call him only once a month on a given day.  And once a month the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago sat there like the good priest he was and listened to her struggles, encouraging and shepherding her in the model of Christ the Priest and Shepherd into whose image he had been molded.  

In the coming days praise will be heaped upon Cardinal George for his mighty accomplishments for the Church.  Each of them will be well deserved.  But all I can think of tonight is that priest, humbly and patiently listening to the travails of a troubled soul whom he loved so much that he just wanted to get her to heaven.

So tonight I will pray that prayer from the Order of Christian Funerals for the repose of his soul, that God might forgive whatever sins he might have committed and lead this good priest to heaven.

Lord God,
you chose our brother Francis to serve your people as a priest
and to share the joys and burdens of their lives.

Look with mercy on him
and give him the reward of his labors,
the fullness of life promised to those who preach your holy Gospel.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2015

One Week Later...Remembering the Easter Night...

Mission to El Salvador

I've been meaning to post these great pics from Spring Break, as Tim Hynes participated in a mission trip to El Salvador.  I'm not sure who was having more fun, Tim or the people with whom he was working!

Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, 
it alone is our title of honour!
Pope Francis

The 2015 Ordination Class - CARA Study course of USCCB

Ordination Class of 2015 Shows Increase in Number Ordained, Reflects Positive Impact of Support From Families, Catholic Schools, Parish Priests

WASHINGTON—The 2015 class of men ordained to the priesthood report that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent). On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.

The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.

The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the date for “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents include 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.

“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”

Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”

Among the survey’s major findings:
  • The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
  • Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  • One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
  • Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
  • Six in ten ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  • About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
  • Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

From Nazareth...



Scenes from Jerusalem...




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jesus to Peter: "Do you love me?"

Our Holy Land pilgrimage with "the Way" continued this morning with Mass at the Church of the Primacy of Peter, after which we were invited to venerate the rock from which Christ three times asked Saint Peter "Do you love me?"  After Mass I was privileged to join the Bishops in approaching the rock where Cardinal Guiltier Bassetti, Bishop of Pergia stood in for the Lord and asked each one us, "Do you love me?"  I responded "Yes, Lord," and then kissed the rock which has been venerated as the site of the Petrine Confession from the first centuries of the Church

A Week with "the Way"

 I write from the Sea of Galilee, where the Neo-Catechumenal Way is graciously hosting a week-long meeting of four Cardinals, forty-three Bishops and a dozen Rectors from around the world, in order that we might learn more about “the Way” and its service to the Church.

Our first full day was very full, from 8:30am to close to midnight!  I very much enjoyed the opportunity to hear Kiko Agüello, one of the founders of “the Way” reflect at length on this ministry and the impact it has had on the Church in recent decades. The primary language of the conference is Italian, which allows us to communicate with each other despite the barriers of our different languages.

Father Tony Medeiros, of our own beloved Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Boston, has been my shepherd and guide and through his many years of service to “the Way” has good friends here from China to Raykjavik!

Today we are off to Tabgha, which since the fourth century has marked the site of the multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Primacy of Peter.  Tomorrow we go up to Jerusalem where we will be visiting with the Latin Patriarchate and I hope to receive the pilgrim shell of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

What a privilege it is to have some days to reflect here during the octave of Easter, as we recall the post-resurrection appearances of the Lord just a stone’s throw from my front door!   I’m staying at the same shrine on the Mount of Beatitudes which I first visited as a seminarian in 1977 (the photo is from my bedroom window!).  While things have grown here, I experience a particular peace when I sit in the warm early morning by the entrance to the shrine of the Sermon on the Mount and think of all the places God has led me and all the wonderful people he has put into my life in the intervening years, including you!  

I have a list of all my brothers and sons at Saint John’s and, one by one, I am praying for you by name as the busy schedule allows.  I will offer Mass at the Church of the Multiplication this morning for all our benefactors and in Jerusalem tomorrow morning for all our seminarians.

Please trust in these prayers, and ask God to return me safely next week.  On my way back I stop briefly in Rome and enjoy a festive dinner with the Boston seminarians and Cardinal Seán.  Pray that I don’t eat too much!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Preparing for the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

The seminary is abuzz with preparations for the Great Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, from washing away the snow for the lighting of the Paschal Fire to flowers and books and rehearsals.  

"O most sacred night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, and the Church calls upon her sons and daughters, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Homily for Friday of the Passion of the Lord

 They all left him, except for the four.  And maybe that hurt even more than the nails and thorns. 

Remember Peter’s words: “even if everyone should desert you, I would never run away!”  Neither hide nor hair of him.  And what of his brother Andrew, or James?  Surely the ones who Jesus always kept close to him on the Mount of transfiguration and in the Garden would be there?  But no James.  And no Lazarus.  And no Martha either.

Only Mary (with her sister and Mary Magdalene) and John, the mother and the youngest of the Apostles.

Mary, who loved Jesus with a mother’s love, and the devotion of a disciple, who from the very beginning said “yes” to the Angel Gabriel in total acceptance of God’s will.  And that love was not just for a time, but for all time, even unto death.

Mary’s faithfulness was not without cost…late medieval depictions of the crucifixion always include the “woman of sorrows” collapsing to the ground in mortal grief.  But her love was learned from the heart of her child: a love which was faithful even in sorrow and desperate grief.

And beside her stood young John: the Beloved Disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  He is the innocent, the one to whom they all went when they wanted to know what Jesus was really thinking.  With Peter and James, he formed the inner circle.  He was the one who last night fell asleep on the Master’s shoulder because the supper lasted so late into the night.

The youngest Apostle is our stand-in at the foot of the cross, catching the grief stricken body of the Virgin in his arms, all the while seeking to be sustained by her unwavering faith.  The young John is us.

Thus does Jesus look down from the altar of the cross and say to his Blessed Mother: “Woman, there is your Son,” and to us: “There is your mother.”

And from that moment she, the Mother of Sorrows, is not only the Mother of Christ, but our Mother as well.  As she stands at the foot of the cross, so she will stand beside us in our agonies and our sorrows: consoling, interceding and weeping for us, ever seeking to unite our sufferings to the Blessed Passion of her Son upon the Cross.

From that moment upon Calvary, the Mother of God is the Mother of the Church and the Mother of all who seek peace.

Through her, let us join all our sufferings and all our sins to the Holy Cross which we will now kiss.  The Cross upon which Christ was crucified for us.  The Cross upon which the perfect sacrifice was offered, by Jesus, by whose wounds we have been healed.  With John and Mary and all the world let us acclaim: Come, Let us Adore!

Thursday of the Lord's Supper

O God, who have called us to participate in this most sacred Supper, in which your Only Begotten Son, when about to hand himself over to death, entrusted to the Church a sacrifice new for all eternity, the banquet of his love, grant, we pray, that we may draw from so great a mystery, the fullness of charity and of life.   - Collect