Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day One of the Favre Institute

These grace-filled days are devoted to preparations for the arrival of our thirty-two new seminarians and, after them, all the residents of this holy house.  We prepare by cleaning (they just started washing the rugs), renovating (the plumbing for the new faculty rooms is finally connected), and preparing endless talks designed to help these good men to enter into the hard work of priestly formation.  

We are also preparing by welcoming Father James Corkery S.J. and Father Stan Morgalla, S.J. of the saint Peter Favre Center for Formators to the Priesthood and Religious Life at the Gregorian University.  They have flown here from Rome to conduct three days of workshops in priestly formation for the members of our faculty.  We are also joined by faculty members from Our Lady of Providence, Mount Saint Mary’s and Saint John XXIII seminaries, as well as formators from several of our religious houses.

Here are some of the topics we will be covering in these workshops:

Anthropology of Christian Vocation
Ecclesial Perspective on Formation Today
Theology and Anthropology: Connecting the Two
How can we become alter Christus
Personal Accompaniement and Seminary Formation

Please keep us in your prayers these days as we seek ways in which to grow in leading God’s future shepherds into the wonders of his love.

Here’s the homily from this morning’s opening Mass.

There aren’t many people like the good shepherd of today’s Gospel.

He not only cares for his sheep, he lays down his life for them!  For sheep!  My appreciation of sheep grows from my affection for something served with mint jelly or a good warm coat on a winter’s day... But this good shepherd dies for his sheep!

And when the wolf arrives on the scene, snarling and growling, with rabies tinted saliva dripping from sharp fangs, does the shepherd do the sensible thing and run away?  No.  Incredulously, he lays down his limb and life for the sheep.  For sheep!
And what of his compensation?  Does he even get paid for this life-threatening work?  No!  Saint John tells us today that the good shepherd works only for the joy of knowing and loving his sheep.  For love of a sheep, he lays down his life.  He freely chooses to lay down his life for his sheep.

There aren’t many people like that shepherd

  • There aren’t many people like the good shepherd, except for the police officer who puts himself between the violent drunk and his beaten wife when there’s no one else there, just because it’s the right thing to do;

  • There aren’t many people like the good shepherd, except for the mother whose example of patient endurance teaches love better than any homily any preacher had ever proclaimed;

  • There aren’t many people like the good shepherd, except for the parent coming home from the second shift who instead of getting a coffee buys a toy he plans to give to the littlest one when he wakes up;

  • There aren’t many people like the good shepherd, except the judge whose model is blind justice, holding delicately balanced scales, but who, painfully, is not blind, but sees only too well the wretchedness and the suffering that processes by his bench every day of the week.

  • There aren’t many people like the good shepherd, except the young man who arrives here in two days time and seeks only to give his life to Jesus and to his Church.

And there are days, I must confess, when faced with such good and generous shepherds, I stand unworthy of the name Father and unworthy of the Sacred Ordination which has defined my life.  

But then again, they are equally a consolation to the aging cleric: the perfect antidote for cynicism and fear.  For these good young men, in seeking to be shepherds, form us who seek to form them, into the image and likeness of the one who teaches us how to lay down our lives for his sheep.

So let us give thanks for all the shepherds, old and young, whom Christ has sent into the world in his own image and likeness.  As we give thanks for Father Jim Corkery and Father Stan Morgalla, who have traveled many miles to help us to serve these good young men.

May Christ give us the grace, to form them as priests after his own heart.


And here are my opening remarks for our first session.

"Many times a day I prayed. The love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. In a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night. I used to get up for prayer before daylight whatever the weather--snow, frost, rain-- without suffering any ill effects. The spirit within me grew fervent.”

These words of Saint Patrick have come down to us as a description of what he called “his seminary” in the bogs and hills of Ireland, alone with the sheep.  It is, ironically, where God formed him to be the Priest Shepherd who would evangelize a people and lead them to Christ.

It is the same work we strive to do.  To make the spirit grow fervent within the hearts of each of the men who come to this Holy House.  A work which should keep us up at night, wondering how we could better serve them and the God to whom they seek to give their lives.

Which is where Father Jim Corkery and Father Stan Morgalla come in.  For they have devoted themselves wholeheartedly to preparing formators like us to be up to the task.  I am deeply grateful to the Gregorian University for recognizing the importance of providing a center for Priestly Formation and to Jim and Stan for their dedication to the task.

To our guests from other seminaries, I bid you welcome, trust you feel at home and hope you recognize this house as yours for the next few days.

By the way, Jim and Stan, the folks who are sitting in front of you are some of the finest priests I have ever met and I am proud to call them my brothers, my colleagues and my friends.  It is a great joy to bring you  together with them, and I pray that God will do great things in this room and this Holy House in the next three days.