Saturday, December 30, 2017

As the year ends...

As we thank God for the many blessings each one of us have received in the past year, I thank God for the incredible graces he has shown to Saint John's Seminary during 2017.  Most of all, I am grateful for the 138 good men he has given us the privilege to shepherd to a sharing in the Priesthood of Jesus his Son.

God bless each of you who have supported us throughout the year by your prayers, your gifts and your patronage of this blog.  Please share the good news of what God is doing at New England's oldest and largest Seminary with all your friends.

If you are able to make a year-end gift to support this holy work, please click here.

But most of all, we rely on your prayers that the Lord continue for many years the good work so well begun in this Holy House!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Alex Boucher Receives Candidacy

Amidst the snows of winter, Alex Boucher, seminarian for the Diocese of Portland, received candidacy from Bishop Deeley last weekend.  The Candidacy celebration took place as a part of the annual Christmas gathering of Portland seminarians in their See city.  Here are some photos from the event.  Congratulations Alex!

Christmas in Hanoi

I just received some pictures from our seminarian Thuy Nguyen of Christmas dinner with his family and classmates from Saint Joseph's Seminary in Hanoi. Thuy was able to return home for Christmas this year. We pray for him and for all our beloved Vietnamese Seminarians, be they in Brighton or Vietnam this Christmas.

Giáng sinh vui vẻ

Christmas in the Adirondacks

We had quite a bit of snow, blowing and drifting with dropping temperatures on Christmas morning, here in the foothills of the Adirondacks.  Here's my homily for Christmas on The Crib and the Cross.


Once upon a time there was a great tall tree on a hill in the woods. He stood there all day
long, dreaming of what he might become.  Some days he would dream that he would be carved into a great treasure chest, filled with gold, silver and precious gems and decorated on every side so that everyone would admire his beauty.  On other days he would dream that he would form the massive timbers of a mighty ship which would carry kings and queens across the oceans to the four corners of the world.  He wanted to be great and powerful.

One day a woodsman came and looked up at the tree and cut it down, making it into
neither a beautiful chest nor a mighty ship, but a feed box for the animals. He placed it a barn and filled it with hay. The tree was very sad, because he would never be great nor powerful.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and placed her baby in the feed box, because there was no place for them in the inn.  But then a strange thing happened, as the whole manger seemed to fill with light, and there were angels and a star above the baby’s crib, and shepherds and wise men came to worship the child, not like a baby in a crib, but like a King upon the finest royal throne.

But soon they all left and the memory of that wondrous night began to fade, and over the years the barn grew old and the crib grew rickety, until it was sold for  scrap to some Roman soldiers and carted off to Jerusalem, where it was made into a Cross for the execution of criminals.

That was the cross they placed on the shoulders of a man who was made to carry the
it, a man who who seemed to glow with the same light as the baby so long ago in Bethlehem.  The man fell three times and was finally affixed to the wood with nails which dug deeply.  The people jeered at him and mocked him, while only his mother and a younger man stood weeping at his feet, until the man looked to heaven, prayed and breathed his last.

And three days later, when the sun rose, so did the man rise from the dead, and the tree stood taller and prouder than he had since he lived in the forest, for he knew now that now he was, indeed, great and powerful, having been made little and weak.  He had never been a chest for earthly treasures nor a ship for powerful princes, but he had been a throne for the Son of God, as his crib and his cross.

And what about us?  Do we want to be rich and powerful?  Do we want the whole world to acclaim our beauty and our strength?  Or am we willing to be a throne for the Son of God, making our hands ready to receive him in Holy Communion, making our hearts pure enough to be his manger and the sacrifices of our lives true enough to walk with him to Calvary?  Are we willing to be a throne for him: a crib and a cross.

For the secret is in that old Appalachian Christmas carol:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
Why Jesus our Savior
Did come for to die
For poor ordinary people
Like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky. 

Jesus was born a little baby in that crib, to come for to die,
For ordinary people like you and like I.

He came for to die.

For if you look really close at that manger, just behind the wood of the crib you will see a shadow of the wood of his cross.

Behind that little baby, a shadow of a man, stripped of his garments and nailed to a tree because he loved us.

Behind that Woman who kneels by his crib, a shadow of the sorrowful mother, weeping by his cross.

Behind those wise men who call him ‘The King of the Jews’ a shadow of the plaque that will be nailed above his head.

And behind his little body that sleeps his first sleep tonight, silently in his Mother’s arms, a shadow of the sleep of death we will see in Most-Blessed Pieta.

And behind that angel is a morning star, rising in glory, reminding us that someday that child will rise from the dead, destroying all death and sin, that it might never ever be dark again.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son in a crib and on a cross for our salvation.’

A Short Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

So, this is what real Catholics look like! The ones who go to Church twice in a long weekend because they believe all that stuff about obligation and being a good Catholic.

Because they believe you can’t find the meaning of Christmas online, even if you have Amazon Prime.

Because they find their Gospel in the Scriptures and not in the fourteenth screening of “The Christmas Prince.”

Because the force of their lives flows from a real child born to a real girl in a real manger, and not from the 9:40 showing of the Last Jedi in Aviation Mall.

No, you seek the meaning of Christmas and the meaning of life neither online, nor on T.V., nor on the big screen. You know that the meaning of life is found on that cross and in that crib.

And you seek him there, like shepherds and wise men before you. For you know, as Pope Francis teaches us that “If we remove Jesus, what is left of Christmas? Just an empty feast….[that] Jesus is the real Christmas…born poor and fragile among us, to give us his love.”

Which is why we come here twice in one long weekend simply to pray with Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The end of the semester

Phil Scheer and Valentine Nworah share a laugh as the semester draws to a close. The last of the Final Exams were this morning and professors are all grading papers. Cars were departing for Rochester and all points west, north and south all morning long. Tomorrow Alex Boucher receives candidacy from Bishop Deeley in Portland. Stay tuned for pictures, despite the predicted ice and snow!

And pray for all our seminarians, that they might have a joy-filled and safe Christmas Season, until returning for retreat in Kennebunkport on the weekend of January 7th.
Their Rector will be helping out with the Christmas Masses in Queensbury and Lake George, New York.  But more on that in future postings.

Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus,
and do not delay,
that those who trust in your compassion
may find solace and relief in your coming.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Roman Missal
Collect for the Morning Mass of December 24th

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Requiescat in pace

1931 - 2017

Archbishop of Boston
1984 - 2002

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, 
et lux perpetua luceat ei. 
Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Christmas Grinch

Rumor had it that the Grinch was skulking around SJS this week, and we finally tracked him down!  He was bearing gifts from BC Food Services and stopped a moment to pose with Stephanie Maggini, our resident expert in all things culinary.

This, of course, is the post-conversion Grinch, who we all recall from the great book by Doctor Seuss:
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!

And now that his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

With a smile to his soul, he descended Mount Crumpet
Cheerily blowing "Who! Who!" on his trumpet.

He road into Whoville. He brought back their toys.
He brought back their floof to the Who girls and boys.

He brought back their snoof and their tringlers and fuzzles,
Brought back their pantookas, their dafflers and wuzzles.

He brought everything back, all the food for the feast!
And he, he himself, the Grinch carved the roast beast!

Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer,
Cheer to all Whos, far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to grasp.

Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.

'Tis the Season...

Seminarian Dan Zinger is seen here with the Spanish-language youth group he is working with at Mission Church.  They have adopted the name “Cristo Joven."  'Tis the season!

Board of Trustees Meet

Here are a couple photos of our December meeting of the SJS Board of Trustees' meeting yesterday.  The Board considered a wide range of items and heard a major report from the Educational Affairs Committee.

Craig Gibson, founding chairman of our Development Committee, completed his term yesterday and was presented by Cardinal O'Malley with a reproduction of the Chapel painting of Bishop Williams presenting the Seminary to Saint John.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Lost and Found and Christmas

Here's my homily from this morning.

It scared me…looking at that little kid. He was no more than three years old, screaming and crying at the top of his lungs in the middle of the aisle at Walmart a couple weeks ago. I had gone in to buy a year’s worth of soap and shampoo (as old men do this time of year) and as I turned into aisle three I spotted him, all alone, a quivering mass of tremulous panic and primal scream. He was lost. Lost and alone.

Lost like the old lady whose family abandoned her, so she ended up in a ramshackle nursing home in the North End of Springfield. And while that aid from Ghana is nice to her, most of the time she just sits in her urine-soaked wheelchair and cries softly, struggling through a cloud of dementia to remember a time when someone loved her enough to smile at her. She’ll be alone this Christmas. She’s lost.

And then there’s the kid at B.C. who just a few months ago thrilled at the idea of being in College, at the freedom to hook up or drop into a rager and then tweet selfies to all his friends. He’s even tried other stuff and while it all felt great at the time, no one really texts him back anymore and he’s not sure they ever will…ever. He’s alone today. He’s lost.

Lost as the the guy who the day after he told his wife about that thing he did, watched her walk out the door with the kids in tow, or the fellow who got laid off last week before he could even buy Christmas gifts for the kids, or the old man sitting in his car and just staring at the steering wheel after hearing it was stage four cancer, or the old woman who has just buried her husband of fifty years, who can’t stop sobbing as she walks from the grave. Lost. All lost. Living in a desperate diaspora of hopelessness and convinced it will never end.

And then along comes Jeremiah, the Prophet, peering down the alley-ways and tunnels of our souls and shouting to us: Behold, the days are coming, when God will lead you out of dark despair from hopelessness to his inestimable light. Out of mourning and weeping and shame to his endless, boundless love.

For the Virgin will bear a Son, and they shall name him “God is with us,” and he will lead us home, and we will never ever be lost again.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pre-Theology Gathering as Classes End...

The last day of classes concluded with a gathering of the seminarians of Second Pre-Theology at Cheverus House for a festive dinner.  These good men, and all our seminarians begin Final Exams on Monday.  Please keep them in your prayers!

Christmas Thanks...

Last Wednesday the seminarians, faculty and staff celebrated our annual Advent Appreciation luncheon at which we expressed our thanks for the indispensable role of our staff and adjunct faculty in supporting the holy work of our Holy House.  

We were also privileged, if sad, to take the occasion of the retirement of Kaye Woodward to recall her service to the Seminary and to the Archdiocese of Boston since her graduation from High School!  Her husband, Frank (seen with Kaye, below) recalled how he would pick his teenage girlfriend up from the Boston Chancery to go out on a date!  

As a small token of our gratitude, we presented Kaye with a beautiful reproduction of a della Robbia Madonna from the Giust Gallery in Woburn.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Longing and Expectation

Here is my brief homily for this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Deacon House this morning.

The first time I saw it this summer I was surprised that it’s only four-and-a-half-feet-tall, but I should have realized it was imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak, so it couldn’t be much taller than that.

The second thing I noticed was the block ribbon which Mary wears tied around her waist. Most of it was blocked by her arms, but just below her joined hands you see the two ends of the ribbon.

The black ribbon would have been a sign to Juan Diego and all who looked at the image on his cloak that this woman was pregnant, for the Spanish word for pregnant (encinto) means, literally, “wrapped in a ribbon.” Encinto.

In English, we use the words “expecting” as a euphemism for pregnancy, a word which reminds me of the second Preface for Advent, which reads, in part:

…the Virgin Mother longed for him
with love beyond all telling…

The longing of this pregnant Virgin is the very essence of Advent, and is echoed in Prayer Over the Offerings for tomorrow, which asks “that no infirmity may weary us as we long for the comforting presence of our heavenly physician.”

Yesterday I spent four hours in the surgical* waiting room of Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, waiting in hope and fear for news that the Divine Physician had worked through the hands of a thoracic surgeon to bring new life, and healing and peace to the one whom we loved.

And, you know what? He did. And David will be fine. And the virgin encinto will give birth to a newborn child, and he for whom we long, will come and save us.

Pictures from the Ministry of Acolyte

Somewhat belatedly, here are some pictures from the Ministry of Acolyte installation last week!  Many thanks to Bishop McManus for leading us in this wonderful celebration!