Friday, April 29, 2016

A musical interlude


Three of our seminarians (Paul Worgovich, Colin McNabb and Josh Wilbur) wait to get autographs from world renowned organist Diane Joyce Bish.  They were joined by Patrick Finn and Torin Bourke for her concert this evening.  Thanks to my friend Adam Cormier, his son Frankie and their friend Derek Mobilio, who recognized the famous seminarians at the concert and clandestinely shot this picture!

And here's a second shot of the whole gang!




Father Cessario at Lateran Conference

Here’s a recent EWTN news segment on a Conference at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est.  Among the esteemed presenters was our own Father Romanus Cessario, O.P. (starting at 2:25).  Saint John’s Seminary is honored by Father Cessario’s participation in this important conference.

         





In Thanksgiving for Witnesses to Life

As the semester slowly winds down, my brothers, allow me to impose on you for prayers for two witnesses to life, old colleagues and friends.

The first is a great man who is retiring from the Bishops’ Conference.  During my time there I was honored to call Richard and Lee Ann Doerflinger my friends.  Richard was Associate Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life activities and the cause for life never had a more articulate or devoted advocate.

I recall how their dedication to their four children was complete, as I remember being present for Matthew’s First Communion and, so very sadly, Thomas’ Funeral after he was killed by an IED in Iraq at the age of 20.

Through it all, Richard was not only the most articulate media spokesman for the Pro-Life cause (I can still remember how any I was by how he was treated on the Dianne Rheims Show!) but with Lee Ann, a living testament to Evangelium Vitae.

Well, now Richard is retiring from the office, and there’s a beautiful article on his work by CNS. I’d be grateful for a little prayer in gratitude for Richard and all the people like him who work behind the scenes to build up the Church and protect the most vulnerable among us.

And while you’re at it, please remember another great advocate for life from that same Secretariat, Susan Wills.  Susan has been retired a few more years than Richard, but with her husband Frank recently buried their beloved son Robbie, a seminarian for the Legionaires for Christ.  Robbie was preparing to begin Theology this Fall in Rome when he died from a tragic accident.

I know Susan would not object if I quoted a line from her last email to me: “I may be scandalizing some people, but I refuse to wallow in sorrow for "my loss" when the whole point of having kids is to make sure they get to heaven. And considering how happy he may now be, how could I not rejoice?”  That, my brothers, is Faith.  That is belief in the Gospel of Life.

Life and Death are ever before us.  The example of Richard and Susan makes us stronger and reminds us all to never tire of choosing life.

Monsignor Michael Heintz on Priesthood

Here are the reflections on Priesthood delivered by Monsignor Michael Heintz at Deacons’ Night a few days ago.

I have been quite fortunate in my twenty-three years of priesthood to have known some superb role models of priestly life and sacerdotal zeal; unsurprisingly, most of them are older than I am, but in fact a few of them are younger.  And the lessons I have learned from them in terms of pastoral fruitfulness can, I think, be boiled down to four simple – stunningly simple – principles.  Now I say “fruitfulness” rather than “success” not merely out of deference to Blessed Mother Teresa, whose advice was, quite similarly, “worry about being faithful, not successful,” but also because the language of success carries the baggage of a secular business model and I am not entirely persuaded that the Church at all benefits, least of all unwittingly, from shaping its life around the corporate paradigm; a crucifix is not, after all, an image of efficiency, productivity, or success.

What are these four stunningly simple principles of pastoral fruitfulness? In short: Show Up, Smile, Work Hard, and Be Nice to People.  Of course these lessons could be offered by almost any personal trainer or late-night infomercial, by Oprah Winfrey or even posted on a blog by some cyber-guru, clerical or otherwise.  But of course the context I am concerned with is quite specific, and at once liturgical, pastoral, and sacramental, and so these four principles have a very particular meaning in the life of one who is ordained to the service of the Body of Christ and so configured sacramentally to Him who is Head of that Body.

It goes without saying that you have been called to the sacred ministry in the Church in service to the royal priesthood of the baptized.  In the economy of grace, there is no gift, grace, or vocation bestowed which is given solely or even primarily for the benefit of the recipient.  Remember that.  Your ordination to the priesthood is not the terminus of your own spiritual Aeneid.  It’s actually not yours at all.  Quite the contrary, by it, God opens you up and as it were capacitates you, precisely by configuring you to His Son, for a radical and generous self-donation on behalf of His holy people.  The priesthood is given to you, but for them. You are now betrothed to them, and every grace given you is granted, directly or indirectly, for them: for their life, for their souls, for their sanctification.  Your own sanctification will come precisely by sanctifying them, and this means that you will always have to battle the temptation to self-referentiality, and resist the urge to place your priestly life (whether in its graces or its struggles) at the center.  All of us, ordained or not, have the tendency to make our spiritual life the center of our spiritual life, thus displacing the One who belongs there.  Jesus belongs there.  He is the center; and our priesthood only makes sense through Him and with Him and in Him.  And it’s His Body for which you are laying down your life, and for whom each day you will make His words, your words: “For this is my Body, which will be given up for you.”  Remember that we are ordained to act in persona Christi capitis; the capitis, often omitted in theological jargon, is essential to this.  The capitis defines the nature of our relationship to the people we serve; and lest we let this share in Christ’s Headship go to our own head, recall what Paul teaches about the husband as “head” of his wife – he’s to love her as Christ loves, which means by dying; it’s not about power; it’s about paschal love, what the New Testament calls agape.  This spousal orientation or disposition is, for the diocesan priest, absolutely imperative.  It is the foundation and ratio of, among other things, fidelity to the Divine Office and to the pastoral responsibilities entrusted to us.  This spousal disposition is the condition of possibility for a pastoral fruitfulness and a sacerdotal vitality which derive from the order of grace.

Number One:  Show up.  There are, in the pastoral ministry biz, numerous articles and books on the “ministry of presence.”  Of course this means more than occasionally being seen in the vicinity of those we serve.  It means engagement, relationship, and commitment.  It means, in words we hear again and again during this Easter season, that “we are [to be] witnesses of these things” – “these things” for us means the new life in Christ to which God’s people are called and into which we are to lead them.  It means discovering the joys, the needs, and perhaps most poignantly, the sufferings of the people we are called to shepherd.  This may sound quite obvious but I am often surprised by the number of clerics who presume that the people of God will be as dazzled and charmed by their priesthood as they are themselves by it, or who arrive on the scene with an entire theological and pastoral agenda to be imposed, usually in the first three weeks, upon God’s often longsuffering people.  In this regard many newly minted clerics feel compelled to cram their entire theological agenda into every homily.  Please don’t do that; I say this because I myself learned it the hard way.  Take time to prepare good homilies, words that will help draw folks more deeply into the Mystery.  Never forget that good preachers preach first to themselves (as I am doing tonight!), and this will prevent what might be called a homiletic chasm from developing between you and your people; after all, we are all of us viatores, wayfarers in this age, and we ourselves are by no means exempt from struggle, doubt, and sin.  As we build genuine relationships with the people we serve, our preaching will become better and better because we will not be waxing eloquent in abstractions but will be able to speak directly to the people we have come to know: cor ad cor loquitur, to use Blessed John Henry Newman’s motto; your heart will speak to their heart; but only if you have first listened attentively to theirs.

If we are genuinely invested in the parish or place we serve, it will not take long for the people to recognize that commitment, and their trust in us will grow; after all, they see we are genuinely invested in them.  And our capacity to lead them as good shepherds will increase proportionally; they may disagree in fact with a decision we may make, but at the end of the day they will follow us because they have come to trust us.  That will not happen quickly and that cannot happen at all when our ministry is pro forma, or simply 9 to 5, or mailed in, or selective, or when, as absentee landlords, we desire the fealty and benefit of those we lead, but from whom we remain remote, aloof, or disengaged.

Number Two:  Smile.  At the very end of the fourth century a rather disenchanted deacon from Carthage named Deogratias wrote to Augustine lamenting his own belabored and beleaguered experience of teaching, and wanting from Augustine pointers on how and what to preach.  The fruit of this request is the De catechizandis rudibus, a helpful little book not least because it reminds those of us who are entrusted with preaching that it’s not merely about imparting information or even conveying a message; it’s about drawing souls into a living history and that the heart of the faith isn’t an idea, but a Person and a salvific encounter into which we are drawn and participate by sacrament.  A millennium before Marshall McLuhan proclaimed that the medium is the message, Augustine was advising Deogratias that his preaching should be animated by hilaritas.   What he did not mean was that he should start every homily with a joke, much less that he should trundle about chortling or being back-slappingly giddy, but that he should be animated by a cheerfulness, his manner infused with a kind of levity, akin to that fruit of the Spirit, joy, which communicates a delight in the things of God.  Now, this is possible only for those who are dispossessed of themselves, who don’t consider themselves the center of the cosmic drama, and who recognize that it’s about Jesus, and not themselves.  Happy priests are priests whose affective life is balanced, whose spiritual life is solid, and who are thus both approachable and capable of leading others to God.  The last thing the Holy Roman Church needs is glum, disaffected, or whiney priests.  Vocations to the priesthood will blossom in parishes and schools where the people of God encounter priests who are vital, joyful, and whose love for the Lord is communicated as much by their bearing as by their words.  Augustine, who has lots to say about lots of stuff, knew that even if one is not the best preacher, the joy with which one lives and moves and preaches and prays will itself communicate the heart of the Gospel: the humble love of God, made flesh, embodied, in the face of human pride.

Number Three:  Work Hard.  Leo Aloysius Pursley, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend from the late 1950s until the mid 70s, was noted for having said, while chomping on an cigar, “Gentlemen, priesthood is the only life I know in which a man can retire at the age of thirty.  And some have.”  Now, over-commitment is the frequent vice of the newly-ordained, and it’s quite understandable; a new priest should be absolutely rife with enthusiasm for the work entrusted to him.  But I can also think of priests (I suppose we all can) for whom that first fervor has long waned, and who now, sadly, spend their days studiously avoiding pastoral work, browsing the internet, watching The Price is Right, golfing three or four times a week, and who at the same time have their flock utterly convinced that “Father is so busy.”  Such priests will rust out long before they burn out.  Don’t be that guy.  Hit the ground running. God’s People need you.  And they deserve the best from you.  Your vitality and energy will also inspire older priests like myself, who am always edified by the zeal of seminarians and of the the newly ordained. 

One of the great keys to genuine pastoral effectiveness is managing your time well, and learning now how to keep a calendar and to balance multiple and often competing commitments. In a smaller diocese like my own, most of us priests have at least two jobs; I think I work hard.  But I can honestly say I’ve never been overworked.  It’s not virtue as much as being borderline OCD; I keep my calendar – not my secretaries – and I carefully manage my own time. 

Further, and lamentably, for many of us, when things do become harried, the first place we often look to cut corners is in prayer.  Again, don’t be that guy.  Our pastoral fruitfulness is tied absolutely to our personal prayer.  And by that I mean more than just fulfilling our obligation to the Office, which I would note, we promise to pray, not primarily for ourselves, but for the Church and the world – that is, honoring that promise is about honoring our commitment to our spouse.  When a priest says to me, “I struggle praying the Office,” my reply is to ask him what he would tell his parishioner who says that they are struggling to be faithful to their spouse.  But our prayer needs to be more than just Office; the psalter should be the foundation, but hardly the pinnacle or sum-total of our personal prayer.  As Eugene Boylan, the great Irish Cistercian noted, there really can be no personal prayer without ongoing spiritual reading, which provides the fodder, so to speak, for that prayer.  So in managing your time, make spiritual reading and personal prayer an absolute priority (even if it means praying at odd or unusual times due to pastoral exigencies).

Remember that what is distinctive about priestly ministry is the sacraments.  Almost anyone can be an administrator; sacred orders aren’t required and it is debatable whether the grace of orders adds anything to that skill set anyway.  Often we are asked to teach (whether in schools, adult faith formation, RCIA, CCD, or some other context).  But such teaching is not distinctive of priestly ministry, and some may or may not have that gift.  Social Justice is indeed part and parcel of the Gospel, but social action and advocacy are not what is distinctive of holy orders.  No, what makes the priestly vocation distinctive is sacramental ministry.  It’s the most important thing we have to offer to God’s People.  So build your own life around that ministry.  Be faithful in offering the Mass; remember that it is not our private devotion, it does not belong to us, and that we are mere stewards of the Mysteries of God.  Be a generous and gentle confessor.  Make the sacrament available.  If you build it, they will come.  In any number of places it is no wonder we have seen a decline in the number of Catholics who make use of the sacrament: a parish of 2000 families which offers confession for thirty minutes on a Saturday (and, of course, by appointment) is a self-fulfilling prophet of that very decline.   Be generous in visiting the sick and offering the sacraments to them.  Finally, remember that “programs” in parish life are valuable, but not central – all catechesis, all preaching, all “programming” should lead people to the sacraments, and most especially the Eucharist, the faithful celebration of which, the Church assures us, is singularly the most effective thing that we do.

And as you begin your priestly ministry, beware from the start of the great bane of clerical life: resentment.  As you work hard, you will discover others who simply don’t, or who seem to be rewarded for bad behavior, or who, because they are not heavy-lifters, are simply not asked to do more.  It is a cardinal principle of the clerical life that the harder you work, the more work will be given to you (a clear corollary to an evangelical logion).  Further, it is an occupational hazard of celibates to seek affirmation, and there are many times others will be acknowledged or recognized long before you are; and as priests, we can easily personalize it when we seem not to be noticed, and this only kindles resentment.  But that resentment is diabolical, and can destroy the priestly heart and the pastoral charity which is its very life beat.  Fight against that with all your might, and ask the great Curé of Ars, St John Vianney, to intercede for you each day.

Finally, Number Four: Be Nice to People.  If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that, from the get-go, you will be surrounded, sometimes swamped, by people. Some of them very gracious and polite, others needy of attention, others combative or whiney, many others the silent majority who go about their lives never wanting to “bother Father,” and who are content to come to Mass say, every Saturday evening of their life, and who have never, or hardly ever, actually spoken to a priest; these are the ones who will send you a card and a check at Christmas and leave you wondering “Who are they?”.  And we are ordained to serve all of them.  Not just the ones we like, or whose company we enjoy, or who flatter us.  I am also convinced from my study of manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, that one variant reading which was not accurately recorded in the apparatus is Matthew 18.20: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there will be a problem.” Life in community, as you have no doubt expereinced during your years here on Lake Street, if not before, is always a school of charity and patience.  This was true in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is no less true today.  This is largely because original sin, at work in our members, is always encouraging self-promotion and self-assertion.  “Community” in any of its forms cramps and impinges on this unreflective and unrelenting impulse lurking in all the fallen, and we thus see others as objects, obstacles, or competitors.  Bishop Robert Barron, who went from Word on Fire in Chicago to Southern California where the prolonged drought threatens to make it Word on Wildfire, describes the Triune Life of God as one of “non-competitive co-inherence.”  And while such language is not likely to stoke in us the fires of a mystical eros, it is nonetheless that very Triune Life which we are made to share by grace, and into which we are called to lead God’s People by sacrament.

In this regard, learn peoples’ names.  It means the world to folks if you shake their hand leaving Mass and can say “Have a great week, Sharon,” or “Jack, best to you and your family.”  Even better if you come to know them: “Bill, how’s your wife doing after her surgery?” Or “Sarah, congratulations on the soccer championship!”  It’s also worth reading the local paper carefully.  When you see a parishioner – young or old – honored or noted, cut it out and drop them a note in the mail.  The ten or so minutes a day it takes to dash off a couple quick handwritten notes is worth the effort.  It communicates love and commitment.

There will no doubt be some among God’s people who will tax your energies and your patience.  Needy or whiney, angry at one of the teachers in the grade school, hurt that their annulment wasn’t granted, unhappy with the music at the 11 am Mass; the list goes on.  Here, perhaps more than anywhere, I am speaking first to myself.  I continually have to remind myself that the Lord offered His life for these people, even the ones who may annoy me terribly, and that I am to love them as He loves them, and with the love with which He loves them.  And there’s the secret, perhaps the secret of the Kingdom.  Even my love isn’t my own. It’s first His; given to me, and not just for me, but through me, for them. 

I am not a canon lawyer.  Two of my best priest-friends are canonists, and I often joke with them that, given my own academic field, I consider canon law to be a modern innovation introduced by Gratian in the middle of the twelfth century.  But in some ways, the last canon in the current Code encapsulates the telos of our vocation as priests: the supreme law of the Church is the salus animarum.  Our role in this has traditionally been called the cura animarum: the care of souls.  Now, it’s often not glitzy or exciting, but it is, or can be, deeply graced, as the frail young priest of Ambricourt discovers in Bernanos’ novel; and much of what we do is to plant seeds that, in the economy of Divine Providence, others will reap.  Like that Curé, we are to discover that, in the face of our own weakness, tout est grâce, everything is grace. 

The four principles I have enumerated are in one sense not only simple, but rather mundane and quite natural.  But remember that it is precisely nature, our humanity, which serves as the palette on which, in which, and through which divine grace acts.  As in the Mystery of the Incarnation, the human nature assumed by the Divine Logos becomes the vehicle, the instrument through which and in which we can gaze upon the very Face of God, so too our genuine humanity can and should become a vehicle, making us instruments in the saving grace of Christ the Head, who communicates His life to His Body through us, His unworthy instruments.  To use Paul’s language, this is the treasure we carry about in clay, a grace undeserved but which we are asked to live with fidelity, joy, and love.

I want to conclude not with my own words, but with those of Benedict XVI’s favorite theologian, Romano Guardini.  In speaking about the disciples being sent out on mission, he underlines how our pastoral effectiveness is linked precisely to our participation in Divine Vulnerability:

Faith then requires not only the simple will to God's truth, but also a certain responsiveness to precisely this 'weakness' of God.   In truth's very defenselessness must lie an unspeakable mystery of love. By that act of self-renunciation, known as the Incarnation, God's Son shed his glory to enter the world ‘in the form of a slave.’
Aren't the instructions given to the Twelve before departing on their missions (to take nothing for the voyage, neither breadbag nor money nor begging-sack; no second coat, no second pair of sandals, to teach without reward and to heal without pay) given to preserve that divine helplessness? Isn't this the real reason why money and power endanger the divine tidings, which remain so much stronger in weakness?  The word made known by force does not bring Christ.  Influence based on money and power does not bring God, for such means make void the means by which God himself entered the world.  Here we glimpse a new facet in the life of the apostle.  He must accept and constantly renew in himself the basic secret of his mission: the vulnerable Christ he bears within him in his sacred word is only endangered when power, property, or strategy of any sort contribute to the reception of his tidings.








             

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Evening draws nigh...


This blog is so often driven by "special events" that it's easy to forget that what really makes this place a holy house is the infinite number of ordinary things made extraordinary by the devotion and love with which they are done. 

In the hallway just now I overheard a brother exclaim, "I think I'll do a walking rosary and then study some moral theology."  A little earlier I spoke with one of those to be ordained deacon in a few days.  He was beaming with a joy welling up from someplace deep inside.  And there are the three guys kneeling in the dark in the main chapel, each quietly listening to God speak to them and one sitting on my favorite bench outside (it's finally warm enough at night!) staring up at the crucifix.

These are heroic men, who like Saint Therese only want to show God's love in their lowliness.  And they work so hard these days, from exams to pastoral assignments to required talks, all with a sense of the gloaming of the semester, with just two weeks and a couple days until the closing Mass.  From which they go forth to parish, or Institute, or a well deserved rest, or whatever God holds in store.

Pray for these good men: for good rest tonight, for peace and for that full measure of joy the world cannot give.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Deacons Night Banquet at SJS

Tonight we said farewell to our fourth year seminarians with humor, prayer and solemn reflection.  Monsignor Michael Heintz offered reflections on the Priesthood at the invitation of Fourth Theology. Here are some pictures of the evening, along with my closing remarks and prayer.  Monsignor Heintz's talk will be posted in a subsequent blog posting.




















Allow me, on behalf of all the men of this holy house, to tell you, our Reverend Brothers, that we will miss you. We will miss your fervor and your example, your commitment to Christ and your perseverance in formation, we will miss you as brothers, all the time knowing that you will soon be our fathers and our friends.

And we will pray for you, as we do now, in the name of the Father + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Hear our prayers for these good men, Lord, and form them after the image of Jesus your Son. Make them worthy shepherds, ever seeking to serve you and the people to whom you send them.

May they decrease Lord, that we might know you more clearly through them. Make them holy and humble, self-sacrificing and spontaneously generous. Form them after the sacrifice of Christ Jesus your only Son, that they might be priests like him, patient and gentle and loving and pure.


Through our Lord Jesus Christ, our High Priest and your Son, who lives and resigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.

Rope Climbing too far off the ground!

Just found these great pics of a seminarian adventure from Easter break at Nomads Outdoor Adventures in South Windsor, Connecticut.  I am relieved they came home alive!

















Monday, April 25, 2016

Rite of Candidacy



We are very grateful to Bishop Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester, who celebrated the Rite of Candidacy yesterday for sixteen of our seminarians.  Here is the homily he preached.


In  these  days  following  the  great  solemnity  of  Easter,  the  Church presents in her sacred liturgy readings from the Acts of the Apostles which narrate the first days of the Christian community. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles boldly proclaimed the good news of salvation and invited anyone who would listen to accept this salvific message and to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 
In  this  morning's  first  reading  from  the  Acts  of  the  Apostles, St. Luke speaks about the travels of Paul and Barnabas as they move with apostolic urgency from city to city, preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles and confirming the faith of those early Christians newly reborn in Christ.  And  in  the  face  of  misunderstanding  and  even  rejection, they continue to rejoice that they have been found worthy to suffer for the Gospel of Christ. 
The  zeal,  fortitude  and  joy  of  Paul  and  Barnabas  must  be paradigmatic for all the Church's efforts to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus. Courage, boldness and perseverance in the face of rejection characterized the first evangelization. It is these same apostolic virtues that must inform the lives of all of you who hope to be ordained priests of the New Evangelization. 
The  late  St.  John  Paul  II  often  said  that  for  the  person  of  faith, there is no such thing as chance or sheer good luck. For the person of faith, all good things come from the provident hand of God who wills only that we should be saved. 
Therefore I think that it is providential that we are celebrating this Rite of Candidacy during the Jubilee Year of Mercy when the entire Church is called to reflect deeply and with profound gratitude on the infinite mercy of God which has been revealed definitively in the Crucified and Risen Christ who is the human face of Divine Mercy. And you, my dear friends, are being called in God's providence to be missionaries of mercy, sent into a world that yearns for the healing touch of Christ, the Divine Physician. 
My  dear  candidates,  you  are  publicly  presenting  yourselves to the Church in preparation for your ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In a real sense, Christ our Eternal High Priest has called you by name and has invited you as a future priest to continue his redemptive mission by preaching the Word of God and celebrating the sacraments of the New Covenant. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has summoned all the members of the Church to engage themselves in the New Evangelization. It is true that in virtue of his or her baptism, every disciple of Christ is expected to bring the person of Jesus to others, that is, every disciple of Christ is called to evangelize. But it is the priest, the man who is configured to the mind and heart of Christ the Good Shepherd, who bears a primary responsibility in bringing Christ to others. 
Benedict  XVI  pointed  out  early  in  his  pontificate  that  being a Christian is not "the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea. Rather it is an encounter with a person who gives life a new horizon and decisive direction." (DEC P. 1) The person whom we encounter in faith is Jesus Christ risen from the dead and who today is living and working in the Church which is His Body. 
There  is  a  scholastic  axiom  that  states,  "You  cannot  give  what you do not have." As priests of the New Evangelization, you cannot introduce the person of Jesus to others unless you have first met Him and fallen in love with Him. Benedict XVI defined the priest as "a friend of Jesus." During your seminary formation, you have the unique opportunity to develop and deepen a profound and intimate friendship with Christ. So I urge you, do not waste such a grace-filled adventure. 
When  you  read  and  study  the  Word  of  God,  seek  to  learn  more about who this Jesus truly is. When you celebrate the sacraments, especially when you receive the inestimable gift of the Eucharist, open your heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and know that in and through these sacramental encounters, Christ is abiding in you and you in Him. And when you enter deeply into the silence of prayer, listen for the familiar voice of the Lord who is calling you to be his priest and rejoice that the words Christ spoke to the apostles on the night before he died for the salvation of the world, those words he now speaks to you, "I no longer call you servants but friends." (Jn. 15:15) 
In  many  Catholic  schools  in  the  Diocese  of  Worcester,  there is a plaque near the main entrance of the school that reads: "Christ is the reason for this school." Today as we celebrate the Rite of Candidacy, I remind you that "Christ is the reason for this seminary." Christ is alive and he has called each of you to bring Him to a world that is in desperate need of his unquenchable love and mercy. This is the goal of the New Evangelization; this is the reason for your ministry as future priests: to restore all things in Christ for the salvation of the world. 

During  your  years  of  seminary  formation,  I  would  ask  all  of you to turn your gaze towards Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization and to remember the words she spoke to the stewards at the wedding feast of Cana: "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn. 2:5). May your response and mine always be: "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Amen


A Homily on the Feast of Saint Mark



For the Feast of Saint Mark the Church chooses the command: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  And for the Epistle she chooses the way how: “Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another…humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”

And the truth is, my brothers, for everything that has been written about evangelization, new or old, it’s just that simple.

The effective apostle of the Gospel must clothe himself with humility, not just before God, but before everyone to whom he seeks to preach the truth.

Such humility is born in my relationship with God.  How can I possibly face the Creator of the universe than with a sense of my own littleness or the the one who hangs upon the Cross for love of me than with deep sorrow for my sins and my selfishness?

And in the effective preaching of such a Gospel I must maintain that same humility in imitation of the Word who was born in a manger and died on a cross.  As Pope Francis has said, “The style of evangelical preaching should be one of humility, service, charity and brotherly love [for] The Christian proclaims the Gospel with his life rather than his words.”  This do we carry the Gospel to others in the earthen vessels of our lives.

For the reality of all this humility, this sense that I am not in control, is that someone is in control, and that he cares for me as his adopted son, his beloved and his chosen.  Loves me as I am, ever ready to meet all of my needs.  He is the shepherd who leads me by still waters and refreshes my soul, the one who spreads a banquet before me and delivers me from the hands of my foes.


Which is why, as the final words of Mark’s Gospel predicts, I am humbled before the Lord and before every one to whom he sends me, to preach the Gospel by the manner of my life.