Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Father Conn, SJ Celebrates Fifty Years of Religious Life

Father James Conn, SJ celebrated Mass with the community and many guests from the Jesuit community this morning in thanksgiving for fifty years of religious life.  At the beginning of the Mass I addressed the following greeting to Father Conn and to our guests.


Of all the gifts God has given to the Church through the Society of Jesus, perhaps none has propagated holiness quite so effectively as Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.  At a celebration of the fourth centenary of the vows of the first seven members of the Society, Pope Pius XI praised the Exercises as a way “by the safe paths of self-denial and the removal of bad habits …to the supreme heights of prayer and divine love.”


For fifty years, Father Jim Conn, SJ has shepherded countless men and women down the path of self-denial and purification, a path which leads to the heart of Jesus.  And how blessed we are, to be led by the example of this good priest, this faithful son of Ignatius and this man of the Church.  We rejoice with you, Jim, we celebrate the graces God has poured out on us through you, and we thank you for your fidelity to the way on which God has called you.  Ad multos annos.



Here is Father Conn's Homily from the Mass.


I AM GRATEFUL TO MY GOOD FRIEND, MONSIGNOR JIM MORONEY FOR HIS KIND WORDS AND FOR GIVING ME A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE FOR THIS CELEBRATION.  HE IS A GREAT FRIEND OF OUR SOCIETY.

FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY MY FATHER, MY MOTHER, AND MY GRANDMOTHER DROVE ME TO THE JESUIT NOVITIATE AT WERNERSVILLE IN THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH COUNTRY.

THERE WERE 25 NEW NOVICES THAT YEAR.  EVENTUALLY 5 OF US WERE ORDAINED, ONE HAS GONE HOME TO GOD, AND THREE OF US REMAIN IN THE LORD’S VINEYARD.  AT OUR ENTRANCE, MOST OF US WERE KIDS OF 18.

THOSE WERE HEADY TIMES, LESS THAN A YEAR SINCE THE CLOSE OF VATICAN II.
WE YOUNGSTERS WERE EAGER FOR CHANGE IN THE EXTERNALS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE, BUT OUR MASTER OF NOVICES GAVE US A GOOD TASTE OF THE RIGOROUS TRADITION OF EARLY JESUIT FORMATION: A FULL HORARIUM OF PRAYER, HOUSE AND GROUNDS WORK, SPIRITUAL CONFERENCES, AND LATIN CLASS.  LOTS OF LATIN – WE EVEN SPOKE A BIT OF IT – POORLY!

AND LOTS OF SILENCE TOO, EXCEPT FOR A HALF HOUR AFTER DINNER ON WALKS IN ASSIGNED GROUPS OF 3, NEVER TWO, IN ALL KINDS OF WEATHER.

EACH DAY THERE WAS A NOTE ON THE BULLETIN BOARD LETTING US KNOW WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF US THAT DAY. ON MOST DAYS THE NOTE READ SIMPLY “DE MORE” – ACCORDING TO CUSTOM, REGULAR ORDER.

AND THAT WAS A GREAT LESSON – BECAUSE MOST OF LIFE IS DE MORE, AND IT IS IN SUCH ORDINARY TIME THAT WE DISCOVER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO US AND HIS INVITATION TO BE FAITHFUL TO HIM – IN THE SIMPLE EVENTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE: SHOWING UP, DOING OUR DUTY, MAKING OUR CONTRIBUTION AS BEST WE CAN FOR THE COMMON GOOD.

IT IS PROVIDENTIAL THAT TODAY’S ORDINARY-TIME WEEKDAY READINGS ADDRESS SOME OF THE KEY THEMES OF CONSECRATED LIFE, AND IN MANY RESPECTS AS WELL THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO HOLINESS GIVEN TO ALL CHRISTIAN BELIEVERS.

IN OFFERING HIS COUNSEL OF CELIBACY, ST. PAUL REMINDS US THAT THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS PASSING AWAY.  SOMEDAY WE WILL HAVE TO GIVE UP RELATIONSHIPS, ACTIVITIES, AND MATERIAL THINGS, AND SO WE SHOULD NEVER TREAT THEM AS ENDS IN THEMSELVES.  RELIGIOUS CONSECRATION ANTICIPATES THAT TIME AND GIVES PUBLIC WITNESS TO THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF OUR EARTHLY LIFE.

ST. LUKE’S SERMON ON THE PLAIN WITH ITS BLESSINGS AND WOES IS DIRECT AND HARD-HITTING.

BLESSED ARE YOU POOR, HUNGRY, WEEPING, HATED, EXCLUDED, INSULTED AND DENOUNCED. 

WHY? BECAUSE WITH SUCH BLESSINGS WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO BE LIKE THE ONE WE LOVE – WHO HAS FIRST SUFFERED ALL OF THIS OUT OF LOVE FOR US.

IN IGNATIUS’ WORDS FROM THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: “THOSE WHO WISH TO GIVE GREATER PROOF OF THEIR LOVE, AND TO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES IN WHATEVER CONCERNS THE SERVICE OF THE ETERNAL KING AND LORD OF ALL, WILL NOT ONLY OFFER THEMSELVES ENTIRELY FOR THE WORK, BUT WILL ACT AGAINST THEIR SENSUALITY AND CARNAL AND WORLDLY LOVE AND MAKE OFFERINGS OF GREATER VALUE AND OF MORE IMPORTANCE.”

EACH OF US WILL DO THAT IN HIS OR HER OWN WAY – BUT ONLY AT GOD’S PROMPTING, FOLLOWING THE VOCATION THAT IN HIS FIDELITY HE GIVES US.

I AM HARDLY A MODEL RELIGIOUS.  A FAIR MEASURE OF ME AND MY LIFE HAS BEEN THIS-WORLDLY, BUT MY FRAILTY IS AN OCCASION TO PRAISE GOD’S MERCY FOR HIS CHOICE OF MY IN SPITE OF IT.  AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE, A GREAT ANNIERSARY LIKE MINE IS NOT ABOUT MY FIDELITY, BUT ABOUT THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.


WHILE I THANK HIM TODAY FOR MY OWN VOCATION AND FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED ME ALONG THE WAY, I THANK HIM ESPECIALLY FOR THE SURPRISE HE HAS GIVEN ME IN THESE LAST TWO DECADES: THE SPECIAL PRIVILEGE OF HELPING TO PREPARE MEN, BOTH DIOCESAN AND RELIGIOUS, FOR THE MINISTRY OF WORD, SACRAMENT, AND PASTORAL CARE OF GOD’S PEOPLE.  MAY HE GRANT YOU THE SAME HAPPINESS IN FOLLOWING YOUR VOCATION AS HE HAS GIVEN ME IN FOLLOWING MINE.