Sunday, January 29, 2017

"He drives out demons"

Here is my homily for Monday.

I remember being afraid of the dark and the creaking sounds all around my bedroom, especially in the closet where the witches hid and under my bed where the green slimy monsters waited to devour little children like me.  With nothing but a sheet clung tightly to my neck, I prayed desperately for deliverance.

Now that I am older, I no longer fear the dark things that go bump in the night, unless I have watched a particularly frightening movie or read a chapter by Stephen King before going to bed.  But I still know that steel-hard grip of fear in the pit of my stomach when I am about to be scared to death.

I felt that feeling during my first year in College Seminary in Baltimore when I took a hard cover copy of William Peter Blattey’s The Exorcist to the crypt of the Seminary Chapel and read it cover to cover.  Regretting that decision, I finished at 10pm and I remember the moment as if it were last night.  I sat frozen like a deer in the headlights.  For a good long while I was too frightened to move, lest the demons who no doubt lurked behind that column grabbed my trembling self and dragged me down to the fiery pits of hell.

And that’s one reason why Fr. McManus’ course on exorcism always sells out.  Because we are afraid of the devil and his legions of demons.  And justifiably so.  They are not figments of an over fertile imagination.  They do go about like a roaring lion seeking to devour someone, and beware, for seminarians are particularly tasty morsels to the Prince of Darkness and his court.

But rejoice at the same time, for you are not helpless pawns as the movies would sometimes have you believe, but children of the one true God, called to be Priests of the One through whom all things were made.  Rejoice!  For by the pillar of fire, the light of the world who rose triumphant from the tomb, the darkness of sin is banished and the powers of darkness cast out.

So beware the devil and his minions, who plot light wily adolescents the pollution of purity, the obliteration of beauty and the betrayal of love.  But fear not mainly their rare and dramatic cinematic possessions, but their daily and hourly incursions of sin and darkness into our everyday lives.

William Peter Blattey, the man who wrote the book that so scared me in the crypt some 45 years ago, died of cancer on January 12th.  And one thing I will never forget about his book is the first two pages.  The first is an excerpt from an FBI wiretap in which two members of La Cosa Nostra giggle while describing their three days of torturing a man to death on a meat hook with an electric cattle prod.  “Jackie, you shouda' seen the guy.  Like an elephant he was.  And when Jimmy hit him with the electric prod…” And then there’s Dr. Tom Dooley’s recounting of a priest tortured in a communist Gulag with nails driven through his skull and seven little boys who prayed the Our Father while their teacher was impaled on a bayonet, followed by just three words: Dachau. Auhschwitz. Buchenwald.

That, Blattey was reminding us, was real life, not fiction.

And maybe he was able to scare me so effectively because he understood that the real incursion of evil into this world is most often by our own hands, or our tongues, our own deeds.  And the real victories of the powers of darkness are in the way we ostracize or refuse to love the one who needs us or the cruelty we inflict on those we refuse to understand.  The real and present victories of the prince of this world are in the thousand little sins, the thousand little betrayals of goodness and purity and love which so often make up our days.

So beware the devil and his minions, who plot like wily adolescents the pollution of purity, the obliteration of beauty and the betrayal of love in your life.  But rejoice in the Light of this world, who for love of such as us has risen from the tomb, and in the words of our most cherished hymn “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”  Even the mighty powers of darkness and death.

Friday, January 27, 2017

March for Life

Our seminarians took a train to Washington D.C. for the March for Life today.  Following last night's Mass for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, we settled into our hotel at the foot of Capitol Hill. This morning began with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Capuchin shrine of the Sacred heart.  Almost 1,000 pilgrims from Boston and Fall River were there.  Here's a picture of the seminarians:

Then we took part in the March, which ended at the Supreme Court.  It was one of the largest crowds I have seen and everyone was energized by the appearance of Vice-President Pence at the pre-March rally.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Extra! Extra!

Hot Off the Presses...

The latest edition of SJS Magazine is now available online, too. This issue features seminarians Dcn. Jason Giombetti, Phil Scheer, and Gregory Quenneville, faculty members Rev. Romanus Cessario, O.P. and Vice Rector Rev. Chris O'Connor, notable Theological Institute students Jack, Tim, & Mike O'Malley, and lots of info about our plans for the future of Saint John's Seminary. I invite you to check it out!

SJS Magazine - Winter 2017

If you didn't receive a copy in the mail but would like to, please email and we'll be sure to add you to the list for future issues.

Past issues of both our magazine and Currents newsletter are also available on the Publications page of our website. Happy reading!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Benefactors' Dinner

On Sunday evening we welcomed ninety-two of our benefactors to our annual Benefactor’s Banquet. Here are the remarks that were offered, followed by some pictures of the event.

Your Eminence, thank you for coming home to this Holy House as we honor our most generous of benefactors for their support. I am also delighted to welcome each and every one of you to this night as we honor our most generous Benefactors and all who have done so much to support this holy house by their generous financial and spiritual support.

Your gifts of close to a quarter of a million dollars in this past year have made the formation of one hundred and thirty two seminarians possible. I am deeply greatly to each and every one of you, whose sacrifices have made possible this holy work, as I am grateful to God for Sandy Barry, our Director of Annual Giving, Dick Bass, our Data Manager, Craig Gibson, chairman of our Development Committee and each of the members of the Committee.

But as important as your monetary support is, we depend even more on your generous prayers. Without prayer we are just an educational institution. As noble as education is, it is but one of the four pillars of our life here at Saint John’s, as we seek to form men to be the best pastors, the best spiritual leaders, and the best human beings: effective disciples of the Gospel of Joy so needed as we form the Roman Catholic Church in New England for the twenty-first century.

So welcome! I promise no long speeches, just this brief and heart-felt expression of gratitude, which now takes concrete form in the presentation of two Medals to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the support of this holy work: the Saint John the Evangelist Medal given in recognition of an individual's contributions to the spiritual support of the Seminary and the Archbishop John J. Williams Medal given in recognition of a person’s contributions to the temporal life of the Seminary.

We have several prior recipients to these honors present this evening: 

Loretta and Brian Gallagher, Jim and Pattie Brett, Secretary Bill Galvin, Craig and Nancy Gibson and Dr. Phil Crotty.  We are grateful to them and to each one of you for your continuing support of Saint John’s Seminary.

This year we once again have two very worthy recipients who follow in their footsteps.

 Our first award recipient is Ann LaRosee, whom I ask to come forward to receive the Saint John the Evangelist Medal.

“There is one thing I ask of the LORD,” the Psalmist tells us, “this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord and to gaze upon his beauty.” (Cf. Psalm 24: 7)

For 48 years (she started at three years old!), first at Our Lady of the Presentation and then at Saint Columbkille’s and now, thanks be to God, here at Saint John’s Seminary, Ann LaRosee has served as sacristan, cleaning, polishing organizing and preparing sacred vessels, candlesticks, vestments and endless details to bring beauty and dignity to the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.

And now, Ann, you have become an example of humility, faithfulness and self-sacrifice to the priests who will minister the sacraments to your children, grand-children and great grandchildren for generations to come. 

But to that self-sacrificing love of the Church, you have added a love of your neighbors in this community, including so many who gather with us in this chapel tonight.  Without you, Ann, Our Lady of the Presentation Campus would never have come back to life as the vibrant home of our Deacons and our Theological Institute.  Without your presence at innumerable meetings, sage counsel and persistent intercession, Saint John's Seminary would never have grown in the remarkable ways we have witnessed in these past four years.

You are an extraordinary woman of determination, sacrifice and deep faith, whose love for the Church, your family and this Seminary is apparent to everyone who meets you.  

And so, with profound gratitude, I am honored to ask Cardinal O’Malley to present you with the Saint John the Evangelist medal in recognition of the extraordinary generosity by which you have supported the work of this holy house.

Remarks by Mrs. Ann Larosee
Thank you God and his Blessed Mother for enabling me to do what I love to do.

Cardinal Seán, Monsignor Moroney and the Board of trustees of Saint John’s Seminary: I appreciate the honor of being presented withg the Saint John the Evangelist medal.  I am grateful for your presence here today to celebrate with us.  I am blessed to also have my supportive family and friends here to commemorate this occasion.

Our second award recipient is Father Jason Jalbert.  Would you please come forward Father?

Father Jalbert, tonight, you are the recipient of the Seminary’s Archbishop John J. Williams Medal, in recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the support of this, your alma mater.  

From the very first day I arrived at Saint John’s, Jason, you have been a constant source of encouragement, reassurance and support.  As Vocation Director for the Diocese of Manchester you supported Saint John’s in its lean years, and now, in a time of unprecedented growth, you have dedicated yourself even more as a member of our Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Committee on Formation and one of my most valued counselors and friends.  Your unwavering dedication and dedication to this Seminary’s mission is a constant consolation and source of strength.

And you do this, all the same time that you serve the Church in Manchester as Director of the Office for Worship, Secretary to our beloved Bishop Libasci, administrator of Saint Patrick Mission in Hampton Beach and now Rector of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral.  Last week, when I was privileged to be present as Bishop Libasci installed you as Cathedral Rector, I witnessed a man of the Church, acclaimed and embraced by his people for his Faith, and his willingness to sacrifice for them and for the Church.

But most of all, this good and holy Priest has inspired the seminarians of Manchester and all of our sending Dioceses and will make them, God-willing, better priests to serve God’s people for generations to come.

And so I am honored to ask Cardinal O’Malley to present the Archbishop Williams Medal to Father Jason Jalbert in recognition of his support of the work God does in this holy house. 

Remarks by Father Jason Jalbert
I am honored and humbled to be here in this chapel this evening to accept with all of you the Archbishop Williams Medal.

Of all that Archbishop Williams accomplished here in Boston in its early days, this seminary was the object of his greatest interest, pride and joy.  It has been said that he would do anything for this institution, not only because he built it, but because of what this place does, it prepares and forms men to be Roman Catholic Priests.  And St. John's has prepared many and has provided many good priests for the Church, locally and beyond.

I am honored to serve St. John's as a member of the Board of Trustees, but I am proud to be an alumnus of St. John's.  I first visited St. John's in 1991 for Evening Prayer at the invitation of my parish priest, it seemed so dark and dreary.  I later returned as a seminarian in 1996 to begin 7 of the greatest years of my life.  3 years at St. Clement's Hall over on Foster St. then 4 years here at the then newly refurbished and renovated St. John's Hall.  When we arrived back here in 1999 Archbishop Williams' "Seminary" had been totally renewed and restored to it's original grandeur.  We were thrilled to be the ones to break it in!

After ordination in 2003 and throughout the last 13 years of priesthood St. John's Seminary has continued to be a place that I have felt at home.  I have had the privilege of returning here many times as an alumnus, as a vocation director and as a board member- and it has been great to see and to be part of the continued growth of the seminary.

I certainly believe that Archbishop Williams would be proud and I believe that we can be proud of the work and prayer that takes place here in Brighton!

To the Rector, Faculty, Staff, Seminarians, donors and friends of St. John's Seminary.  Thank you!

I accept this Archbishop Williams Award with gratitude and hope.  God Bless you all.

As we honor these worthy recipients, we honor each and every one of you for your constant dedication to the work of preparing the men who join you for dinner tonight to serve the Church as Priests of Jesus Christ.  Most of call, we are grateful to our Faculty, staff, Cardinal O’Malley, our constant Father whose prayers and wise guidance make us who we are.

Lord, we thank you for these, our benefactors and friends.  Bless them, and bless the food we are about to eat in celebration of the Holy Work you you do in this place.  Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Good and Gentle Abbot goes home...

Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, OSB died yesterday after a protracted illness.  He was a friend, a respected colleague and a man who said his prayers.  His deep love for the Lord Jesus and for his Church were evident to all who met him and he will be deeply missed.

Abbot Johnson was the fourth abbot of Quarr Abbey, having made his monastic profession there fifty years ago. He earned a doctorate at the Pontifical Liturgy Institute at Saint Anselmo’s in Rome and made significant contributions to the study of the musical and textual sources of the Roman Liturgy in the years to come.  Abbot Cuthbert served as an official of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for eleven years and was a longtime advisor to the Vox Clara Committee.

Please join me in praying that this good monk know a full measure of the mercy of God and come to be with his father and brother, Saint Benedict, in the Kingdom of Heaven. Having worked beside the Good Abbot on the prayer for the feast of his patron, I can think of no more appropriate prayer than to sing the one which guided his life.

O God, 
who made the Abbot Saint Benedict
an outstanding master in the school of divine service,
grant, we pray,
that, putting nothing before love of you,
we may hasten with a loving heart
in the way of your commands.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Praying in the Desert...

Father Chris O’Connor and I have just returned from visiting with Monsignor John McLaughlin in his sabbatical hermitage in Tombstone, Arizona.  Monsignor has been spending this year in prayer in the desert and we joined him for four days in praying for our seminarians and benefactors.
Monsignor McLaughlin and Father O’Connor on the day we arrived.

Monsignor and I outside his chapel, dedicated to Saint Jude, where we celebrated Mass for you each day. 

The Benedictine Fathers have a beautiful pilgrimage site not far away in the town of Saint David.

Here is the shrine of Our Lady of Sierra, about a half hour from the hermitage.  Far up on the side of a mountain the peaceful shrine really provides an opportunity to meditate on the stark beauty of the high desert landscape.

This last picture is of the two of us in front of the fence separating the United States and Mexico.

While we all look forward to Monsignor’s return as Director of Spiritual Life, we should all be grateful for the deep faith and love of the Lord which has led him (literally) into the desert to spend these months with the Lord.  
One last thought as I return from these beautiful days. There are some lessons that only the desert can teach us well. Monsignor and I have often spoken of Carlo Carretto's book, Letters from the Desert. Father Carretto had worked successfully for over twenty years in Catholic Action and then, after the example of Father Charles de Foucauld, went to the desert to pray and write. Here's an excerpt from what he wrote:

"Night came, and I could not sleep. I left the cave, and walked under the stars above the vast desert. I stretched out on a sand dune and gazed at the starry vault above.
I cast my eyes back to Andromeda. The night was so clear that I could just discern it. It is the celestial body that is farthest from the Earth yet visible to the naked eye: millions of light years away. Such is the space in which is gathered the galaxy to which we belong – on a tiny grain of sand called Earth.
Beyond Andromeda are other galaxies, and thousands and thousands of stars which my eyes cannot see, but which God has created.It is true that Jesus said, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” But he also added, “Without me you can do nothing.” It is true that Saint Ignatius said, “Act as though everything depended upon you.” But he added, “But pray as though everything depended upon God.” God is the creator of the physical cosmos as well as of the human cosmos. He rules the stars as he rules the church. And if, in his love, he has wished to make us his collaborators in the work of salvation, the limit of our power is very small and clearly defined. It is the limit of the wire compared with the electric current. 
We are the wire, God is the current. Our only power is to let the current pass though us. Of course, we have the power to interrupt it and say “no.” But nothing more.…
The thought that the affairs of the world, like those of the stars, are in God’s hands – and therefore in good hands – apart from being actually true, is something that should give great satisfaction to anyone who looks to the future with hope. It should be the source of faith, joyful hope, and, above all, of deep peace...."

SJS at the SEEK Conference in Texas!

Fourteen of our seminarians joined nearly 13,000 college students from over 500 colleges and universities for the SEEK Conference in San Antonio, Texas last week.

The conference was filled with beautiful liturgies, adoration, confession, and powerful talks and personal witness by many great Catholic speakers from all over the country.

The delegation from Saint John's (plus some men from OLP studying for Boston) participated in the daily Masses, with Deacon Brian Morris ministering at Masses with Archbishop Gustavo of San Antonio and Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, proclaiming the Gospel to the 13,000 participants. David Madejski and Juan Munoz served the Masses every day during the week and most of the rest of the SJS seminarians assisted with communion distribution.

Adoration was amazing and over 4,000 young adults went to confession that one night alone (another 2,000 or so over the course of the whole week).

All that and an SJS first experience of Texas BBQ as well!  Here are some pictures from the week.

Monday, January 9, 2017

On Vulnerability...

The Winter Retreat which opens the second semester began this afternoon at the Franciscan Retreat House in Kennebunkport, Maine with the following Rector's Conference.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Boston's first major blizzard of the season has forced the postponement by one day of the Seminary Retreat in Kennebunkport.  Please pray for the safe arrival of our retreat director (stranded in an airport in Texas) and our seminarians in airports throughout the country! 

Installation of Father Jalbert

One of Saint John's dearest friends, Father Jason Jalbert, was installed as the Rector of Saint Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester this morning by Bishop Peter Libasci.  I was privileged to concelebrate the joyous celebration of his installation which was followed by a Cathedral Parish reception in the parish hall.  Father Jalbert will also continue to serve as Secretary to the Bishop, Director of the Office for Worship and Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Manchester.