Monday, September 28, 2015

SJS by night

Here are a couple of great photos of Saint John's in the evening light taken by seminarian Paul Wargovich.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leading the Stranger Home...

Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of the Year

There are few frights as deep as when you are the stranger, an alien in a hostile land.  I was once lost in a little town in the West Bank. It was the most lost I have ever been.  Separated from my seminarian brothers, I tried to ask where I was, but no one understood me.  I tried to look at the signs, but they were just a bunch of squiggly lines.  At one point I stood there and just wanted to cry like a little lost child.

The Syrian refugee on the border with Hungary, the Afghan in downtown London or the Latin American in a small Mid-Western town know what that feels like every day.  The fright, the pure panic when you don’t know the language, the food or the customs.  And even worse, when they yell at you to go home.

Perhaps that is why God commanded the Israelites: 

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34.)

We were strangers in the land of Egypt and in the diaspora, when we, the followers of the one true God, were scattered like seeds at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  

But no matter the cause of the exile, God always promises to lead us home, even if it takes a very long time.  Thus from Zechariah we hear of old men and women, hobbling along with canes, still dreaming of the Jerusalem they knew in their youth, a city whose streets will once again be filled with boys and girls playing and singing for joy.

He knows that God has promised and will make it so:

Lo, I will rescue my people…
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God…

God’s promise is given to every stranger, every exile and each one of us when we are lost.  Lost in lands of selfishness and sin, lost in arid deserts of frustration and hurt, and lost on strange by-ways when we choose the wrong paths.

Be not afraid!  For the Father of the prodigal still looks for us on the road, the Good Shepherd seeks us out and the Heavenly Jerusalem, no matter how far away we wander, is always our ultimate home.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Meeting Peter in Francis: Seminarian Reflections

The great and generous George Martell has filmed and produced a wonderful collection of reactions of our seminarians to meeting the Holy Father in Washington D.C. I hope you enjoy this wonderful video.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Almost back...

In the next couple of hours the bus will return to Saint John's Seminary filled with weary seminarians.    They will carry with them the memories of a pilgrimage to see the Successor of Saint Peter and a visit to our roots as Catholics and Americans.  

None of this would have been possible without your generous support.  Here is a partial list of those who have helped us to defray the cost of this seminarian pilgrimage to see the Pope.  

You were in our grateful prayers 
every step of the way!

Fr. Mike Augustinowitz (class of 1973)

Mrs. Madeleine Boucher

Jim and Pattie Brett

Ms Jerri Lou Buffo

Mr. David Burke

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Burns

Mr. Michael Ciolek

Fr. Donald Clifford (class of 1961)

Miss Carol Connolly

Mrs. Susan Cullen

Fr. Paul Curran (class of 1959)

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dolan

Fr. Mike Dolan (class of 1995)

Bishop Wlater Edyvean

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Furbush, III

Mr. James Gallagher

Mr. and Mrs. Mike and Terri Gancarz

Mr. Charles Goulet 
and Fr. Raymond Goulet

Ms. Kathleen Hagarty

Father Jason Jalbert (class of 2003) 
and The Diocese of Manchester

Seamus and Annie Kane

Ron and Mary Jo Kriz

Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Barbara Leaver

Mr. and Mrs. Dwayne and Theresa Levasseur

Mr. Roland Malboeuf

Mr. John Materazzo

Msgr. Rene Mathieu 
and Good Shepherd Parish, Saco, Maine

Fr. Francis Mawn (class of 1982)

Ruth McDermott and family

Mr. and Mrs. Paul McNulty

Mrs. Joanne Murphy-Abbott

Fr. THomas Nestor (class of 1981)

Barbara and Daniel Norton and family

Ms. Ellen Oesterle

Ms Sue Pedro

Mr. Joseph Riordon

Ms. Kathy Riordan and Margaret Riordan

Mr. John Sears

Ms Sharon Smart and family

Ms Mary Stewart

Ms Margaret Thombs

Mrs. Janice Zika

Fr. Richard Trainor

And thanks to George Martell for his magnificent pictures!

They almost shook his hand!

Here are some pics of some of our SJS seminarians as the Pope walked through the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception yesterday on his way to Canonizing Saint Juniper Serra yesterday.

George Martell, photographer par excellence, accompanied us on this trip and took all of the wonderful pictures documenting our meeting with the pope and Mass at the Baltimore Cathedral.

Here are some more photos taken by George at the Mass of canonization.

We Met Peter...

While it will take quite some time to unpack the range of feelings brought on by yesterday's encounter with Pope Francis, we have all begun to prayerfully try to understand the extraordinary ways in which God touched our hearts at the Canonization Mass of Blessed Junipero Serra yesterday afternoon.  Let it suffice for now to say that we met Peter in the humble and authentic little man in white who got out of his cinquecento and touched our hearts.

I was privileged to be here with these great men of faith whom I call my brothers and sons.  Their joy rekindled in me the joy I first felt when I first saw Peter in Pope Paul VI almost forty years ago. To see the Vicar of Christ and to be touched by his plain preaching is to be touched by the Lord Jesus who ever chose the last place and continues to teach us how to love.

This morning we traveled to the first Cathedral of these United States where we will celebrate Mass before making the trek back to Boston.  Please pray for these weary pilgrims whose hearts are overflowing with God's grace.

At Mass this morning, I began by recalling the word spoken by the Holy Father to the Bishops yesterday afternoon.

The heart of the Pope expands to include everyone. To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of the mission entrusted to the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of the One who on the cross embraced the whole of mankind. May no member of Christ’s Body and the American people feel excluded from the Pope’s embrace. Wherever the name of Jesus is spoken, may the Pope’s voice also be heard to affirm that: “He is the Savior”! From your great coastal cities to the plains of the Midwest, from the deep South to the far reaches of the West, wherever your people gather in the Eucharistic assembly, may the Pope be not simply a name but a felt presence, sustaining the fervent plea of the Bride: “Come, Lord!” 
Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God… know that the Pope is at your side and supports you. He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.

Then I preached this homily.

We are not the first representatives of the Church in New England to set forth in this, the mother of all American Cathedrals.  For during the 195 years this building has witnessed the presence of the Church in these United States, many have made the long journey from Boston to Baltimore in witness to the unity of the Church in this country.

The first was the first Bishop of Boston, consecrated a Bishop at Saint Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, just down the street from here and four years after they broke ground for the building in which we now stand.  He was ordained by the imposition of the hands of Bishop John Carroll, the first Bishop of in our country. That is why the name of Bishop Cheverus is engraved in the bronze plaque at the back of the Church as one of the first Bishops ordained in this sacred space.

Bishop Cheverus was to return to Baltimore eleven years later, to take part in the consecration of this Cathedral, just two years before he would step down from the See of Boston to return to his native France 

And from that day to this, be it in Baltimore or Boston, one of the defining tensions of being Catholic in America has been the tension of the two realities: to be Catholic and to be American, that is, the relationship between the culture of the Roman Church and the ever-evolving culture of what it means to be an American.  Indeed, that marvelous tension, for God and country, is exemplified in this glorious structure, built by Henry Latrobe in the same Federalist style as the U.S. Capitol, but thoroughly Catholic in all its details.

✷ ✷ ✷

It is also reflected in the prayer written by the first American Bishop for the inauguration of the first American President, General George Washington, in 1791.  You have a copy of the prayer before you this morning.

It begins by addressing God by three titles: God of might, of wisdom and of justice.

God of might.  Not the might of aircraft carriers, drones or even nuclear bombs, but the might “that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.”  That familiar lyric was written by Isaac Watts in 1715 and was very popularly sung to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ new arrangement at the time this Cathedral was dedicated.  It reminds us that God puts a smidgen of his omnipotence in our hands in order that we might learn to use even power to do his will.  

This is a task which has grown all the harder as we have become a superpower, as the first Catholic President reflected in 1960. “The world is very different now,” from the first days of the republic, for “man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”  

What are our responsibilities in the face of a genocide half-way across the world?  How do potential civilian casualties change how we fly a drone?  What about nuclear bombs, or non-combatant internment camps or our economic interest versus the needs of less powerful nations?

God of might and of wisdom.  He who is wisdom, shares that faculty in some small measure with us, that in seeking it we might act in love and in truth.  He is the truth, he is all wisdom, not us.  Or in the words of Chief Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes on his 90th birthday to an inquiring journalist: “Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God.”

Abraham Lincoln understood the wisdom of God, as well, as in a letter written in the course of the Civil War where he described our nation’s task as simply to “work earnestly in the best light [God] gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends he ordains.”

And so do all those elected folks down the street from here seek wisdom every day, debating whether we so cherish our hard won liberty so all men might become libertines or that all men and women might grow to full maturity in the truth?  Struggling not to decide great matters based on the accumulated personal gain of our citizenry as on what’s the right thing to do.  Trying to discover the not so secret truth that the way we treat the homeless man three blocks from this basilica is the only true test of who we really are as a people and a country. 


And then Bishop Carroll addresses God as justice, as the judge who will return to adjudicate the world at the end of time.  Now you would think for a nation of laws, where the Judiciary speaks the final word (ask Al Gore about that one), that this would be the easy.  But it is not.  

For human justice is but a shadow of the judgements of a just God and “like all other mortal contrivances,” Oliver Wendall Holmes once wrote,” the courts “have to take some chances, and in the great majority of instances, no doubt, justice will be done.”  But human Justice, and even our Supreme Court, is not infallible.

That’s why we’ll be back here when it snows in January, to beg our justices to value the life of every unborn child.  That’s why we cringe when the definition of marriage is changed in the name of justice.  

But human justice will never be perfect and no law will ever really make men good. For Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life and everyone else who puts on a black robe or even a funny wig is merely trying to look like Jesus, who is the only real judge of the world made through him.

So here we are, in the Cathedral built at the beginning of this great American experiment.  An experiment which has seen its noble days, when God’s truth has, indeed, marched on.  But it has also seen days of selfishness and shame.

And in the end, all we, the sons of this great land can do is ask God to help us to love with the power he puts in our hands, to give us the grace to discern his wisdom and the humility to judge others as he would judge us.

That request, at the risk of being schmaltzy, has in our own time been most popularly embraced by a song sung throughout the great wars of the last century.  Allow me to conclude by quoting its opening lines as originally written by Irving Berlin almost a hundred years ago:

God bless America.  
Land that I love.  
Stand beside her and guide her 
to the right with the light from above.

And here are some more pictures from our visit to America's First Cathedral!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Buses Just Got Here!

It's 10:30pm and the two SJS buses just arrived at the Maritime Institute, just south of Baltimore, where we will be staying (along with the seminarians of Pope Saint John XXIII) for the next two nights.  Tomorrow we have breakfast at 7am and then leave shortly after 8am for the Basilica, which starts seating at 10am (for a 4:15pm Mass!).  It's going to be a long (but wonderful) day!

Just before they left, two of our seminarians, Patrick Fiorillo and David Harris, gave an interview with WGBH TV on what seminarians think about the Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to the United States. They did a great job!


On the Road to See the Pope!

SJS is off to see the Pope!

The National Shrine is Ready and Awaiting the Pope!

Monday, September 21, 2015

SJS's Celtic Clerics on CatholicTV!

Our own Celtic Clerics sang in the course of the recent CatholicTV Telethon.  They are provided here your listening pleasure!





Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pope Francis on Blessed Junípero Serra

In preparation for our pilgrimage to the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra, here is the homily which Pope Francis preached at a Mass concluding a day of reflection on the soon to be canonized missionary last Spring at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47; cf. Is 49:6). These words of the Lord, in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which we have just heard, show us the missionary nature of the Church, sent by Jesus to go out and proclaim the Gospel. The disciples experienced this from the first moment when, after the persecution broke out, they left Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8: 1-3). This was true also for the many missionaries who brought the Gospel to the New World and, at the same time, defended the indigenous peoples against abuses by the colonizers. Among these missionaries was Friar Junípero; his work of evangelization reminds us of the first “12 Franciscan apostles" who were pioneers of the Christian faith in Mexico. He ushered in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California, which, in the previous two hundred years, had been reached by missionaries from Spain. This was long before the pilgrims of the Mayflower reached the North Atlantic coast.

There are three key aspects to the life and example of Friar Junípero: his missionary zeal, his Marian devotion and his witness of holiness.

First of all, he was a tireless missionary. What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea, he was filled with joy and the Holy Spirit in spreading the word of the Lord. Such zeal excites us, it challenges us! These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings.

But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junípero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium.

Secondly, Friar Junípero entrusted his missionary activity to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that before leaving for California, he wanted to consecrate his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to ask her for the grace to open the hearts of the colonizers and indigenous peoples, for the mission he was about to begin. In this prayer we can still see this humble brother kneeling in front of the "Mother of the true God", the Morenita, who brought her Son to the New World. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was and has been present in the twenty-one missions that Friar Junípero founded along the coast of California. Since then, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become, in fact, the Patroness of the whole American continent. You cannot separate her from the hearts of the American people. She represents our shared roots in this land. Our shared roots in this land! Indeed, today's mission to the continent is entrusted to her, the first, holy missionary disciple, a constant presence and companion, our source of comfort and hope. For she always hears and protects her American children.

Thirdly, brothers and sisters, let us contemplate the witness of holiness given by Friar Junípero. He was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country. In this way may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church.

With the universal communion of saints and, in particular, with the assembly of American saints, may Friar Junípero Serra accompany us and intercede for us, along with the many other holy men and women who have distinguished themselves through their various charisms:

- contemplatives like Rose of Lima, Mariana of Quito and Teresita de los Andes;

- pastors who bear the scent of Christ and of his sheep, such as Toribio de Mogrovejo, Francois de Laval, and Rafael Guizar Valencia;

- humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord, like Juan Diego and Kateri Tekakwitha;

- servants of the suffering and the marginalized, like Peter Claver, Martín de Porres, Damian of Molokai, Alberto Hurtado and Rose Philippine Duchesne;

- founders of communities consecrated to the service of God and of the poorest, like Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel;

- tireless missionaries, such as Friar Francisco Solano, José de Anchieta, Alonso de Barzana, Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero;

- martyrs like Roque Gonzalez, Miguel Pro and Oscar Arnulfo Romero;

and so many other saints and martyrs, whom I do not mention here, but who pray before the Lord for their brothers and sisters who are still pilgrims in those lands. There has been so much holiness in America – so much holiness sown!

May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy! Confident in Jesus’ promise, which we heard today in the Gospel, we ask God for this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

We ask the Risen Jesus, Lord of all ages, that the life of our American continent may be rooted ever more deeply in the Gospel it has received; that Christ may be ever more present in the lives of individuals, families, peoples and nations, for the greater glory of God. We pray too that this glory may be manifested in the culture of life, brotherhood, solidarity, peace and justice, with a preferential and concrete love for the poor, through the witness of Christians of various confessions and communities, together with believers of other religious traditions, and people of upright conscience and good will. Lord Jesus, we are merely your missionary disciples, your humble co-workers so that your Kingdom may come!

With this heartfelt prayer, I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, Friar Junípero and all the American saints to lead me and guide me during my approaching apostolic journeys to South America and North America. I ask all of you to keep this intention in your prayers, and to continue to pray for me. Amen.

Getting Ready to See Pope Francis on the Feast of Saint Matthew

Here are some reflections offered on the Feast of Saint Matthew, as we prepare to see Pope Francis this week.

The Lord must really love us, to send us this Feast of Saint Matthew on the day before we leave to see Pope Francis, who like Saint Paul this morning, calls each of us to live a life worthy of our calling from God.

Paul, writing to the Ephesians counsels that in order to live a worthy life you need only three things: humility, gentleness, and patience.  Why?  Because the worthy life is lived in bearing with one another in love, so as to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Bearing with one another.  When that other guy so riles me that I want to smack him.  When I am so aggravated by my superior that I could scream.  When I have been so ill-judged, mistreated and abused by them that I am tempted to walk away and apply to be a greeter at Walmart.

And Francis understands that because Father Jorge Bergolio came to understand it first hand when, after completing six years as provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina, Father Bergoglio was named Rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, here he would become, in the words of the biographer Austen Ivereigh, “The Great Reformer.”

You see, in the 1980’s, all Jesuits worldwide, embraced the cause of the poor, the marginalized and the forgotten in an exemplary way.  Latin American Jesuits, many of whom were academics, largely believed these problems could be addressed by remedying the inequalities in political and economic systems.

Fr. Bergoglio begged to differ, suggesting that the problem was not out there, but in here.  His forum of action was the human heart, and specifically the hearts of his seminarians.  So, as Rector, he petitioned the Bishop to erect a new Church for the poor on the grounds of his Jesuit College.  It was called Saint Joseph the Patriarch, and it opened in little more than a shed on a dirt road which wound its way through three barrios of shacks.  Fr Bergoglio and his seminarians grew the parish into a bustling pastoral operation with a children’s kitchen, two schools and jobs skills workshops. Ivereigh writes of those days:

“One day Bergoglio appeared with four cows, four pigs, and six sheep. He had many more mouths to feed at a time of rising prices and squeezed donors, and had twenty-five empty fertile acres around the college. Trees were pulled up behind the college to make way for sheds and barns. The land was fenced off and dug for vegetables, and shelters were built to house livestock: eventually there were 120 pigs, 50 sheep, 180 rabbits, 20 cows, and a number of beehives.”

“‘Only by sharing the lives of the poor,’” he said, could they discover ‘the true possibilities of justice in the world’ as opposed to ‘an abstract justice which fails to give life.”  In addition to six hours of classes a day and studies, the students had manual tasks most weekdays. Inside were the kitchen, the laundry, and the endless corridors and bathrooms that needed cleaning. Outside, they took on tasks under the supervision of the Jesuit brothers who ran the farm day-to-day. Seminarians collected honey, milked cows, and cleaned out the pigsty, where they often met the rector in his plastic boots. “It was a mucky job and many objected,” recalls Guillermo Ortiz…“But they couldn’t complain against Bergoglio because he would put his boots on like the rest of us to get down in with the hogs.”

This radical association with the poor, however, upset many of his brother Jesuits, however, particularly when he began encouraging the novices to participate in the devotional practices of the poor.  This was seen as ‘taking us back to pre-Vatican II practices.’   Thus he was labeled as a conservative by some and a hyper-liberal by others, attracting critics from both sides.

It got so bad, that his enemies got him dismissed as Rector and exiled to Germany to get a Doctorate at the age of 50. So angry were his enemies that they would have tried any tactic to get him as far away from Argentina as possible.  Which is why Ivereigh writes that “The Argentine Jesuits today wryly joke that Bergoglio becoming pope was the obvious solution they never thought of at the time.”

And then they set about undoing all that he accomplished, as one contemporary writes: “Little by little the apostolate was abandoned, and in just a few years the churches were reduced to the bare minimum, among other things because there was a policy of “cleansing” the bergogliano Jesuits. And once there were no more of them, they sacked the lay people who remained faithful to Bergoglio’s project—that was the most painful and scandalous thing of all.”

In fact, Father Bergoglio himself was so hated that once he became a Bishop, he was asked to never reside in a Jesuit house again.

So how did he respond?  Remarkably, no one has ever been able to dig up one single word of bitterness nor resentment.  Rather, he accepted the will of his legitimate superiors as an expression of the will of God, received with obedience, humility and patient endurance. 

And he even tried to understand what he might have done wrong, later saying:  “Perhaps I did not always do the necessary consultation in those days.  Perhaps my authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems.”

And where did Father Bergoglio get the humility, obedience and patient endurance to face such adversity?  From the words we heard today from Saint Paul to the Ephesians, where he sets one goal for all the orders and ministries in the Church: to build up the Body of Christ, “until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”

So, when you see that old Bishop in white, walking slowly down the aisle in a couple days, don’t look at him as a remote ecclesiastic from some far off and mysterious place.  See a man like you and like me, who has known hardships and temptations, pains and sorrows, but who has striven only to live a life worthy of his calling, with humility, obedience and patient endurance for our good and the good of all his holy Church.  

Family Day at SJS

 Today was Family Day at the Seminary and the house is abuzz with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends. Here is how I greeted those packed into the Chapel and the homily I offered on this joyous day.

Welcome. Welcome to the home of your brother or son. Welcome to this Chapel, where he spends so much of every day: praying for you and for the whole world, but most of all asking God to enter his heart and conform him to the image of the one who hangs on that Cross.

These men work hard. They go through a lot. But your love and support of them make all the difference. And that’s why it is so good that you are here with then now in this holy house.


Picture the scene. Jesus is alone with his disciples, those who love him the most. Those who have left everything to follow him. And he tells them a secret about what is about to happen: Soon I will be ‘handed over to men who will kill me, and three days later I will rise from the dead.’

So what do they do when he tells them this awful secret? Do they console him? Do they cry? Do they promise to die with him?

No. These “faithful” disciples appear to say nothing to him. But on the way home, they begin to fight with each other like a bunch of kids at recess, each arguing which of them is the greatest.

I have long suspected that this was the most painful moment for Jesus. More painful than the nails in his wrist, the lance in his side and the thorns digging into his flesh. More painful than the taunts of the soldiers or the mobs demanding to “crucify him!” For the soldiers, the mobs and the Roman officials ‘did not know what they were doing.’ But here were his disciples, including the Apostles, who knew and loved him. And when they hear he is going to the Cross, all they can think about is getting the biggest throne in the Kingdom of heaven.

So what does Jesus do? Does he call down thunderbolts on these ungrateful wretches? (that would have been at the top of my list!). No.
Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the one through whom all things were made, kneels down in the dirt in front of his hot-shot followers, puts his arms around a little child and says: ‘Whoever receives a child like this receives me and the one who sent me.’

Be little, freed of all the grasping ambitions: be like the baby Jesus asleep, no crib for his bed; be like the crucified Jesus, arms opened on a cross; be like him who did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but took the form of a slave being born in the likeness of man. Be self-emptying love.

But its so hard for us to learn Lord. So hard for us who start in a fetal position, all wrapped up in ourselves, to learn how to love.

When John and Mary had their first child they were shocked at how selfish a baby can be. It doesn’t matter if you got up four times last night and have to go to work in two hours…if that baby wants something, he screams bloody murder! It doesn’t matter if that wooden block is hard as a rock, if you try to take a toddler’s toy he’ll bop you on the head for all he’s worth. It doesn’t matter if that hill has sharp rocks at the bottom, if that kid at recess gets mad enough at you, down you go.

For, as with his disciples, it takes Jesus a long time to teach us how to love. He does it through our parents, our families, our friends and through the Church. But slowly…ever so slowly, he changes us, transforms us into his own image and likeness…so that my first thought is not me…but you and my first love not us, but them…and my first instinct when I'm nailed to a cross is ‘Forgive them…for they don’t know what they’re doing.’

And that’s the whole purpose of life, what it means to go down into the waters of Baptism and die to the old man and be reborn in Christ, so that it’s no longer me, but Christ Jesus in me; no longer my will, but thy will be done; no longer my selfish, grasping narcisssim, but love…perfect love.

Oh, I know, there are times when we can get discouraged and stray from the path, just like the disciples. Discouraged by my own sinfulness and the jealousy and ambition, the foul wars and chaos of the world. But then I hear Saint James telling me how simple it is: Be ‘pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. Ask, and you shall receive.’

And then I see Jesus kneeling down in our midst, with his arms around that kid, looking right at me and saying: ‘Unless you become him a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.’

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cardinal O'Malley on Pope Francis' Pastoral Visit to the U.S.A.

The following Op/Ed was written by Cardinal O'Malley and appeared in yesterday's edition of the Boston Globe.  It provides a great starting point of reflection on next week's visit of the Holy Father to the United States.
During the course of the past 50 years, papal visits to the United States have been the subject of remarkable interest and recognition in the life of the church and wider society. Pope Paul VI’s historic journey to America in 1965, Pope John Paul II’s numerous travels, beginning with Boston in 1979, and Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in 2008 all captivated the attention of our socially and religiously pluralistic country. The upcoming visit of Pope Francis will surely continue this history of public respect and enthusiasm, of which Americans can be very proud, and also will be singular in its significance. 
Following the tradition of his predecessors, Pope Francis’ primary focus will be pastoral. The Holy Father comes to pray with us and to share the Gospel message that calls us to the service of people who are in need; those lacking the most basic provisions of life, those who seek meaningful and productive employment, those who yearn for understanding, acceptance, and peace. It is not surprising that the pope’s itinerary in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia includes visits to a soup kitchen, a prison, and a Catholic school in Harlem that seeks to lift children and families to the promise of a better future.

During his visit, Pope Francis also has three important and substantive engagements concerning our civic life and national identity. President Obama will welcome him to the White House, where they will exchange greetings and participate in a private meeting. Later that day, the pope will address a joint session of Congress, a first in our nation’s history, and in New York will address the United Nations. In each of these settings, we can expect the pope to address some of the most pressing issues in the world today. 
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has repeatedly held up a wide range of moral and political concerns that have particular significance for the United States’ position of international leadership. He has been a powerful voice challenging the world to respond to the needs of immigrants displaced by political and economic turmoil. In recent weeks, the Holy Father called for the Vatican and all European parishes and religious communities to welcome refugee families from Syria as their circumstances became more critical, and President Obama has established our country’s commitment to this relief. 
The pope has spoken of the need for substantive economic change to provide meaningful inclusion for individuals and nations at the edge of the global economy. He has drawn our attention to the increasing numbers of individuals and families who are experiencing instability and face an uncertain future, casualties of technological and economic forces that have overtaken their place in life, their sense of purpose, and their dignity. He has addressed the recent history of extreme disparity in wealth, calling for public and private policies that motivate people to strive for success and allow them to enjoy the benefits of their work without discarding those who might be deemed unproductive or not useful. The pope has pointed to the connections between human poverty and environmental degradation, consequences of a lack of care and respect for all of God’s creation.

The prompting for Pope Francis’ visit is the World Meeting of Families, which takes place in Philadelphia, the first time this event has been held in the United States since established by Pope John Paul II in 1994. The pope has consistently acknowledged the crucial role that families have for the good of the church and society. In his homily at the Mass for the World Meeting, we can expect the Holy Father to hold up the centrality of marriage and children for the progress and well-being of our civilization, and the importance of a society that encourages and supports family life. We can also expect he will affirm the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, emphasizing protection of the unborn and respect for the human dignity of all people at all times, regardless of age or infirmity. 
In all that he says and does, Pope Francis never wishes to be the center of attention in personal terms. Before his election to the papacy, he spent each day in humble and selfless service to the needs of the people entrusted to his care. From his office as the spiritual leader of more than 1.2 billon Catholics throughout the world, the Holy Father calls people of all faiths and all people of good will to raise their hearts and minds to see the needs of the world today. His message is always filled with the hope of our potential to come together as a human family, to join in the joys and the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, and together to work for a better future for all. 
Our nation is greatly blessed, even in the midst of our challenges. A prayer that we can share those blessings at home and abroad, striving for a more just and peaceful world, will be at the heart of Pope Francis’ visit to our country.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Board Formation Session

Eight members of our Board of Trustees participated this afternoon in a Webinar on Board Orientation and Governance presented by In Trust.  I am deeply grateful to these busy people, so dedicated to the mission of saint John's Seminary, for their participation in this educational opportunity!