Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year and the Mother of God

In just a few hours it will be January, the month which takes its name from the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. 

Thus it will be that these final hours of 2016 will be filled with endless retrospectives of the past year’s events, which no one truly understand, and the projection of New Year’s resolutions which no one really intends to keep.

The reason why neither the retrospectives nor the resolutions have much meaning, however, is that both are largely rooted in self-interest.  What happened to us in this past year and how did world events effect our self interests?  Or what could make my life better in the future and how could 2017 be better for me than 2016?

Our contemplation of past and present is usually rooted, therefore, in “what’s in it for me?”

The Blessed Virgin Mother, by contrast, looks at the past and the future in an entirely different way.  When the shepherds arrive at the manger and report what the angels have told them, we are told that Mary treasured these stories in her heart.  And, again, when in last week’s Gospel the child Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, we are told that Mary treasured all that was happening in her heart.

For the Mother of God, she who bore God’s Word made flesh in her womb, the events of the world were to be treasured and pondered by a heart ever seeking to find God and his Holy Will in the events of yesterday and tomorrow.

The meaning of recollection, then, has never really been about seeking my self, but looking for God’s will.  The meaning of resolution has never been about seeking self-promotion, but trying to find new ways to give myself away to God.

Why, then, do we always begin the year by commemorating the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary?  Because, like her, we are called to consecrate to God all our yesterdays and all our tomorrows; snd he who made all time, gives us another year to discern his plans and to do his will.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Funeral Homily for my Cousin, John O'Leary

Even though it was a long struggle, the end came awfully quickly the other night.  The stem cells just weren’t working and the infection was in his blood.  And as we stood around the bed, Lois stroking his arm and the side of his head, Patrick, Brian and Melanie to my left, he just let out a few short breaths and he was gone.

It must have been the same a lot like the moment when he was born.  In those days Jackie would have stayed as far from the delivery room as he could, but Dell would have heard as everything got quiet and they listened for the baby to take his first breath, like when God picked up the first clump of dirt and breathed on it and it became Adam.  God’s breath comes down from heaven and we live.  And then it leaves us, and returns to him.

And we cry.  Because we have come to k now the love of God through the love which eeked from every pore of this good man.  The comments on the obituary page say it best: they call him a pleasant man, a friendly spirit. a gentleman and lover of nature, a great man and a wonderful human being, and even “a leprechaun.”  A very very big leprechaun, as the pall bearers can attest.

They carried John into Church today, in the same well that Jackie and Dell first carried him into the Old Immaculate as a little Baby, to be baptised into the death and rising of the Lord. Ego te baptizo, the priest would have said as he poured water over John’s head:.  I baptize you, John, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


And thus began a great journey, as John was joined to the death and rising of Christ Jesus.  Jackie and Dell would teach him to pray, to make the sign of the cross, to kneel down and say his prayers, to go to confession and to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.  At five years old, he probably went to Danny’s Baptism too, struggling to see the water as it was poured upon his brother’s head.

Day by day and year by year, he came to know Christ Jesus.  He learned to love, to forgive and to live in the model of his Lord and Savior. 

And then, Johnny and Louis and stood before the altar and promised to remain faithful to one another and to God: a promise they have lived together for forty-five years.  And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Patrick and Brian, as John and Lois clung to faithful love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.

He loved you so much Lois.  As he did you Patrick and Brian, and Danny and Sue.  He loved you all, even more (although it’s hard to believe) even more than he loved the woods!


All I can see today is Jackie sitting in his car, staring into the woods this Fall, aching to be able to go hunting.  And he did, a little bit, even risking a tick bite as his immune system struggled to recover.

I wonder what he saw in the woods?    He gave us a hint in his monthly newspaper column almost a decade ago, when he wrote:

“There beats in the heart of most of us the memory of primal past, when furs from animals and leaves from plants were about the only insultaion we had we have from the wild. Animal wild, weather wild, contentious neighbor wild… A pure spirit that tells us that we are not necessarily Masters of all we survey.

For John, the woods were a spiritual place, they pointed to something beyond us…an earthly reflection of the heaven we pray he enjoys today.

For, if God has heard our prayers,John is standing at the edge of Eden, another deep and mysterious wood. Where instead of bird dogs and setters he is accompanied by angels and martyrs.  And the mysteries of this heavenly wood comes not from its darkness, but from its light.  The light of a little child, who our of love for John was born in a manger and who calls him to join the Magi in following the star and worshipping him there as he has worshipped here for all these years.  

Christ calls him to himself to rest with him in a place where there is no more suffering, no uncertainty, sickness or death, but only perfect peace.

May the angels lead you to that paradise, John.  May the Lord forgive your sins.  And may you know eternal rest.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Homily for Christmas Eve

I used to be afraid of the dark.  Like most little kids I was afraid of the dark.

The creaking floorboards, the rustling shutters, the random bump in the dark cold night filled me with terror.  So I hid under the covers, to protect me from the dark.

But you know what I’ve learned?  Even big people get afraid of the dark, and there’s a lot of darkness out there.  And there’s a lot of darkness in here.

The darkness of the man who sits in a pew and all he can think of is what he did wrong, and how no one can forgive him.  Certain he will be found out, his future is dark and foreboding…promising only shame and humiliation.

The darkness of the woman who buried her best friend this year, the man to whom she'd been married for fifty-six years, and after all the cancer and the pain and uncertainty he’s gone.  And when she went to get in the car to go to Christmas Mass alone for the first time in fifty-six years it seemed awfully  dark and cold out there.

The darkness of the parent whose child is in pain and in the hospital

The darkness of the mother in Aleppo who cradles her baby against the bombs

The darkness of the teen who feels unloved and unlovable and estranged from family and friends

The darkness of an addiction that grabs you from the gut and keeps pulling you down no matter how many times you get up and it just won’t stop

The darkness of the distance between you and the person you’ve been married to all these years who really doesn’t seem to like you any more

There’s a lot of darkness out there. And we we are the people who walk in darkness all of the time.  And Isaiah has a message for us:

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 
on them has light shined.

He’s talking about us, upon whom the “Son of God, love’s pure light” shines this night.

For the light of the love that shines through that Child dispels all darkness:

On this night the light of the little child shines upon the lonely and the forgotten, the abandoned and the fearful with the light of his truth that you will never be alone again.

On this night the God who for love of such as us let's go of his Godhead, power and glory and becomes a little child, born in a manger and nailed to a cross: a crib and a cross for the likes of me! He shines upon the corrupting and decrepit, the sick and decaying rot of sin, dispelling the power of death: love descending to a crib and rising from the tomb with the assurance that he is the first and we are to follow. Never to lose innocence again, never to be abandoned without hope, we live with the sure and certain hope that the heaven from which he came is our ultimate homeland and our final rest.

To the sinner he brings forgiveness!

To the weary he brings new life!

To those worn down by this world, he restores lost innocence!

To the fearful he brings his unquenchable light!

It’s awfully dark out there, and its often dark way down deep in here…in hearts that fear a world which threatens cold deadly pain.

But this night the long history of deadly darkness is flooded with his goodness, and the path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, reveals the inner brightness radiating from a Child. 

That is why, as Augustine once preached there is no place for sorrow on this night, and as Isaiah commands:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Candidacy in Portland

Bishop Robert Deeley celebrate the Rite of Candidacy for Patrick Finn and Kevin Upham at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine.  Here are some pictures and excerpts from an article on the diocesan website.

During the Rite of Candidacy celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley on Thursday, December 22, in the chapel of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

“They have come to know that Jesus is our light. He is the bearer for them and for us of joy and hope in the salvation he brings to us and the meaning that he gives to our lives,” the bishop said.

During the rite, Patrick and Kevin were called forward and the bishop asked them two questions: “Do you resolve to complete your preparation so that in due time, through Holy Orders, you will be prepared to assume ministry within the Church?” and “Do you resolve to prepare yourselves in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord and his body the Church?”

In both cases, the two answered, “I do.”
Expressing the joy of the Church, the bishop then accepted them into candidacy.

“It’s beautiful,” said Patrick. “It’s a beginning confirmation that this seems to be the Lord’s will for me.”

“I can see the fingerprints of God sort of at work in all of this and in all the steps I’ve had in my vocation journey,” said Kevin.

In the Diocese of Portland, the Rite of Candidacy is most often celebrated within a year of the candidates’ anticipated ordinations to the transitional diaconate.  While the seminarians have already been in formation for several years, it signifies they have reached a point in their discernment where they and the Church are ready to make their intentions public.

“For both Patrick and Kevin, the vocation story became more evident to them and the Church over time. In this ceremony, it moves a step further to completion as they publicly state their intention to become priests, and the Church accepts that intention and promises, through prayer, guidance, and direction, to journey with these new candidates for priesthood,” the bishop said in his homily.

“For me, it’s been a long journey. I have had my moments where I haven’t been sure. That’s natural to have those moments, but I feel at peace,” said Kevin.  “I felt nervous at first, but as I was going through it, I felt kind of giddy.”

“It was just the goodness of the Lord that was in the forefront of my mind and him bringing me forward to this point,” said Patrick. “The Lord’s plans always seem to be better than what we can imagine.”

Patrick, a Bath native, is in fourth theology at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts.  It is his second year of study at St. John's. He previously earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and a master of divinity degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Kevin, a native of Portland, is in his third year of theological study.  He is in his first year at Saint John’s but previously studied at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. He also participated in the clinical pastoral education program at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Both men have also had pastoral assignments.
Seventeen priests from around the diocese were present for the Rite of Candidacy, along with Father James P. Moroney, rector of Saint John's Seminary.  Fellow seminarians, young men in discernment, family members, and friends also gathered to show their support to Patrick and Kevin.

The bishop noted that support in his homily, saying that the journey to the priesthood, or to any vocation, is not something undertaken alone.

“In the Church, we are not alone as we seek to know God’s will for us. All along, that help has been given to Patrick and Kevin. They have been accompanied by loving families and parish and school communities which have helped them to begin to listen to God’s call to them. Then, they were accompanied by vocation directors and formation advisors in the diocese and the seminary.”

“It really is such a thrill to see so many people from different parishes that I’ve been assigned to -- a number from Sanford and a lot I’ve known through youth ministry -- just to see people coming to be present and supportive is really such a grace," said Patrick.

“It was just nice to have my family – my parents, my grandmother -- there and so many people,” said Kevin. “This was really a wonderful turnout.”

The bishop said celebrating the Rite of Candidacy so close to Christmas is appropriate because, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we also ask him to deepen our relationship with him and to reflect upon how we are called to bring his light into the world.
“Like Mary, we can be grateful for the gifts we receive and, in that gratitude, allow those gifts to transform our lives,” the bishop said. “We live in gratitude.  Patrick and Kevin have determined that God calls them to live this gratitude in priesthood. In living out their priesthood, they will strive to give thanks to God as they bring others to know the wonder that is Jesus and the light he brings to life.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fr. Scorzello's 47th Anniversary

Father Joseph Scorzello celebrated his forty-seventh anniversary of priestly ordinary with the Saint John's Seminary Community this morning.  We sat with rapt attention as the man receiving the blessing of a newly ordained priest in this picture shared his wisdom with us.  By the way, the newly ordained priest in the picture celebrated his anniversary yesterday!  Here's the homily:
Forty-seven years ago today, a twenty-five year old  Boston seminarian entered the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome with his forty-three (43) classmates and was ordained a priest and received the sacramental graces of Holy Orders.  This morning the old priest who is the principal celebrant at Mass was that young seminarian. Today I ask for your prayers on this my 47th anniversary.  Pray for me that I may more generously and more joyfully respond to the Gospel injunction to a continuous conversion of heart.  May the purification of my whole being as God’s gift deepen my commitment and my affection for Christ and His Mystical Body the Church. Pray for me that I might alive generously and faithfully the motto of St. John the Baptist “He must increase while I must decrease.”  May I totally and gratefully embrace and live out the gift and the discipline of chaste celibate pastoral love so that I may be an instrument of Christ’s love and presence to the people I am sent to serve; to each one of you.  I apologize for insisting on your charity in your prayer for me.  For me to serve you in the best possible way this morning I celebrate this anniversary Mass for each of you that this first semester of 2016-2017 will be most successful as we begin this period of exams.
May God bless you for all you have done for me.  Buona Fortuna.  Good luck!  God Bless.

Please Pray for Tom Galvin

I just received word that Thomas F. Galvin, beloved father of Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin has died.  Please pray for Thomas, that our merciful Lord will send an angel to lead him him swiftly home to heaven in this season of joyful hope, and say a prayer for Bill and Eileen Galvin and the whole Galvin Family, as well.

As you know, Secretary Galvin is one of Saint John Seminary’s dearest friends.  If you are able to attend the wake, it is at Eaton and Mackay Funeral Home, 465 Centre Street in Newton Corner on Wednesday from 4-8pm.  The Funeral Mass is at Mission Church, 1545 Tremont Street, Boston on Thursday morning at 10:30am.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Priesthood

Bishop Arthur Kennedy celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of ordination to the Priesthood at Mass yesterday, followed by a festive banquet.  It was a wonderful celebration of the life of this great priest.  Here is an excerpt from Bishop Kennedy's remarks at the conclusion for he meal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Caroling in Brighton...

A bunch of our seminarians went caroling on the streets of Brighton last night, and came back with this extraordinary story.  May it bring you comfort and joy!

"Tonight some of us went caroling around Brighton. One old lady who was brought to the door with a walker by her home health aide couldn't stop smiling. Several parents brought their children out so we could sing them Jingle Bells. Two Boston College students sang Silent Night with us then offered us Christmas cookies. 
"Two families who live in a duplex, both with children, came out on their shared porch to sing with us. An elderly neighbor who lives alone invited us in to sing in her living room. She then invited the college student who lives in the apartment above her to come down and we all sang her favorite song, Silent Night. She then suggested we go to the local Mexican restaurant to sing, which we did. Around 15 people joined us in We Wish You a Merry Christmas. 
"One old man, probably in his 80s, a former U.S. Marine who was there with his granddaughter told us 'this is what Christmas is about.' A man around 60 years old came out of his home with his wife and began to cry saying how many fond memories it brought back. He gave us $20 for pizza. 
At the end of the night, an Armenian gentleman, "Haig," who lives one street over from us came to visit us at Cheverus House (the Deacon residence on Lake Street). We had caroled at his house so he, in turn, came to us. He played his guitar, sang Silent Night to us and brought us fruit cake and Armenian candy. 
"And then there is the picture of a UPS driver who saw us and stopped and asked if we'd sing him a Christmas carol, which we were all too happy to do. 
"It was an incredible experience and it only cost the price of the candles we carried. 
"This is why I love Christmas, and being Catholic so much."

A Homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

He came here because he couldn’t feed his sister, brother and widowed mother back home. So he got a job in Lawrence, where he got married, and then moved to Milford and Hopkinton and finally Upton, always staying one-step ahead of the bill collectors.

But every place he went they looked down on him as something less than a real American and so he took the jobs that no one else would do, shoveling out the stables or unloading the ships or pushing big heavy carts.

A fifty-hour work-week back then paid new immigrants less than $4, a third of which got him a single nine-by-eleven foot room with no water, sanitation, ventilation or daylight. It was, of course, cheaper to get a room in “a cellar-hole” in Charlestown, but those used to flood with every tide and the rats would tend to go after the children.

Adult immigrants in those days lived, on average, just six years after stepping off the boat onto American soil. Yes, off the boat. That’s how Maurice Moroney, my great-great grandfather lived when he sailed to Charlestown from Cork, one hundred and sixty-five years ago.

But what got him through was his faith, especially in the Blessed Mother. That’s what got him through. Years ago, a small and faded picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary which I like to think he used to look at and wonder:…if God could make her blessed through the homelessness, the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents and even the crucifixion of her own son, then maybe there is some hope for me.

Not unlike Elsie who came with her husband came here from Latin America some fifteen years ago. They live not so far from Mission Hill and have 4 kids, including thee five-year-old who they think is autistic. Her husband is still undocumented because he can’t afford to pay for his green card and still put food on the table, so he moves from job to job. Last year his mother died back in Columbia, but he couldn't go because they would have stopped him from returning here to his family.

In Elsie and Juan’s living room there’s a picture of Juan Diego, kneeling before the Blessed Virgin at Tepayak. They pray each night before Our Lady of Guadalupe, looking a lot like the powerless little peasant at her feet, and Elsie often thinks “if she appeared to Juan Diego, then perhaps she can take care of us, too.”

They are like the more than 150,000 undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts, most of them are Catholic. Three times that number are recent legal immigrants to the Commonwealth. They are Hispanic, Asian and European, with more than 10,000 undocumented Irish living in Boston alone. More than a third of those who live here in Brighton arrived in the past fifteen years from Brazil, Asia and Russia.

Which is why our Holy Father has asked us to pray for immigrants on this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For we are immigrants, all of us, or great-grandsons of immigrants, who came here seeking a new life, and who through the intercession of the Mother of God found it.

Like the widower Juan Diego, who almost a half a millennium ago told the Bishop that he had seen the Virgin Mary. And when the Bishop asked him for proof, returned to the beautiful lady and, in the middle of winter, came back with a cloak overflowing with roses.

Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of Immigrants and Mother of Priests, keep them all safe, and lead them home to the Manger of your Son.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at SJS

After Mass this morning, some of the seminarians recited a prayer of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary and then took part in a procession with the newly repainted statue of the Mother of God to the common room.  Here are some photos of the procession with and blessing of the statue.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees met this afternoon and considered a wide range of issues.  We bid farewell to four Board members: Loretta Gallagher, Fr. Michael Drea, Janet Benestad and Father Robert Murphy.    The Board also welcomed Dr. Christa Klein to the Board of Trustees. The Trustees play an integral role in the governance of the Seminary and have made great strides on a number of fronts in the past year.