Monday, October 30, 2017

Hellenic College Seminarians at Saint John's

It was a delight to welcome Fr. Clapsis and some of the seminarians from the Hellenic College to Vespers and Dinner this evening,  The fraternal affection of Greek Orthodox and Catholic brothers was much in evidence and we are very grateful for their having been with us tonight!

Halloween, Groaning and the Search for Holiness

This is my homily from the Deacon House Mass this morning.

This evening, in the dark, things will go bump in the night. Demons and devils and goblins and such, many disguised as little children during the day, will ring that door bell and demand a treat, lest they be forced to think up some dreadful trick to pull on the residents of Deacon House.
But this is not the only night that things will go bump in the this holy house, and you know what, that’s what makes it holy. For if we pick up the crosses God gives us, it’s often a very bumpy ride.

Saint Paul compares it to a woman in labor, groaning in pains from deep within, straining for the redemption of our bodies and of our very selves.

Such straining often takes place at night, as when Peter struggled to remain faithful to the Lord and failed. It was night.

It’s often after the gloaming of the day that such struggles occur, when the doubts and the fears come out to play, when old rages or panicky gasps crawl out from beneath the veneer of respectability that we maintain during daylight hours. At those moments when we are most like our primordial selves we work out our redemption, like Peter beside the campfire trying to choose Jesus or himself.

But it is such nights that make this journey blessed, my brothers. For when you face the bumpy ride you never do so alone. It is a blessed share in his blessed Passion, which transforms you, deepens you and makes you ever anew. It is the dark purgatory of the living, which refines you into the fire-tried gold he has called you to be.

Paul’s analogy to the woman groaning in labor is apt. For it is the greatest pain a human being can know, but it always ends in a birth to new life.

On calling God "Father"

Here is my homily for this morning on calling God "Father."

Each time we begin Saint Paul’s wondrous reflection on filiation, and our adopted share in it, I’m once again 22 years old with two of my brother seminarians on an old Arab bus bumping along a dusty back road from Tiberius to Jerusalem.  I think we must have just fought about something stupid, so I was in the front seat by myself, while the two of them sat behind me.

And an ancient, blind Palestinian man, tapping his white cane on the steps, got on the bus and took a seat beside me.  He was carrying a small white metal lunch box, from which he took an orange, which he proceeded to peel, throwing the peels to his left, into my lap.  Half way through the orange, my friends were in fits of laughter at my dilemma.  He was blind, I didn’t know his language, and I wasn’t about to grab the orange out of his hands…so all I could do was to try to catch each orange peel as he threw it.  This is a true story.  And then he took out a hard boiled egg.

But that’s not the point of the story.  The story is about the five year old boy who next got on the bus, holding the hand of his father.  Father and son were Hasidim, complete with dark pants, white buttoned shirt, and a black hat and the ultra-orthodox curls and the little tassels from their prayer shawls hanging below their waists.  The father spoke to the boy softly in Hebrew while they moved to stand in the back of the bus, all the seats having now been taken.

As we continued to bump along in this old Arab school bus, half the Israeli countryside crammed into that little aisle, including Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders and finally an old man with a goat.  Yes, a goat, which stood to the right of the blind Palestinian who by now was finished with his second hard boiled egg.

When the little Hasidim boy at the back of the bus spotted spotted the goat, his eyes grew wide, and overcome with curiosity he pulled his hand from his father’s and fought his way down the aisle as only a five-year-old can do.  When he got to the goat he stared, then smiled (I half expected the goat to smile back) and cautiously began to play with the goats beard, then pet him on the head and then conduct an extended conversation with him in their native Hebrew.

But, as five-year-olds do, he soon grew bored with his new adventure, so he turned to go back to him father, who had been smiling at him during the whole course of this wild adventure.  But the boy couldn’t see his father from way down there near the goat.  All he could see were the big Israeli soldiers with their guns, and the funny looking blind man with his lunchbox and the young Americans all staring at him and he panicked, yelling at the top of his lungs “Abba!  Abba!  Abba!”

He taught me to pray, that Hasadim boy with the little curls and the tassels on his prayer shawl.  He taught me like did when they asked him how to pray, the name we dare to say at the Savior’s command, the cry of our hearts when we are most afraid, at the moments when we are most desperately in need of his love.

It is the cry of a little boy, overwhelmed by the world, lost and alone and afraid, crying through the tears from his heart: Abba!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Seminarian Steve Lewis on Sirius Radio

SJS seminarian Steve Lewis (II Theology, Rochester) recently appeared as a guest on Sounds from the Spires, a program that airs nationally on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio (ch. 129).

The program is hosted by Jennifer Pascual, DMA, director of music at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Their discussion included his background as a church chorister, how music was involved in his vocation, life in the seminary, and this past summer's Early Music Academy (hosted here at SJS).

Musical interludes ranged from Gregorian chant to a contemporary setting of the Mass by Paul Jernberg, with a healthy dose of the sacred polyphony of the renaissance period.

You can listen to it by clicking here or on the image below:
images:; George Martell, Archdiocese of Boston;

Sounds from the Spires can be heard at the following times (all EST):
Saturday: 1:00am–2:00am & 11:00pm-12:00am
Sunday: 6:00am-7:00am & 8:00pm-9:00pm

The Catholic Channel • SIRIUS XM 129

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Monday's Homily on Greed...

Remember the older brother of the prodigal son? He is the oft-overlooked sibling, who may yet have as much to teach us as his younger sibling.

Some have suggested that the two brothers represent the two ways in which people try to make life work. The younger son opts for “self-discovery,” on a quest for self-fulfillment. The older brother pursues a more more socially acceptable path. He obeys all the rules and expects that he will be rewarded.

But then his disreputable little brother, after breaking all the rules, repents and is showered with the most extravagant mercy. No wonder he screams at his Father: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

The older son is green with seething jealousy. It’s unfair! I was supposed to be the good guy. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. I think I’ll just eat dirt!

It’s almost funny the way he stands there stamping his feet. He’s so pathetic. Thank God we never act that way. Or do we?

When that brother of mine does so well in that class I stayed up studying for for three nights, while he was watching TV and going out for pizza…it’s not fair!

When that ‘ner do well down the hall has more friends than he knows what to do with and I, good and gentle soul that I am, can barely hold onto the few friends I have while sitting up nights worrying if anyone really cares about me at all!

When that other one is always getting praised for being so helpful and so kind, but I know what he’s really up to and how obnoxious he can be, he has the wool pulled over all their eyes…

And when that pious little fellow goes to the apostolate and has that nun wrapped around his little finger…she thinks he just ekes compassion and warmth, but she should hear what he says about them in the car on the way home…

We are each and too often green-eyed with jealousy and greed. Not always greed for possessions, but for prestige, for success and for the admiration of the screaming crowds. So green we shout to the heavens: “Give me the share I have earned!”

And the Lord smiles patiently and turns to us, the wounds he suffered for our salvation still bleeding from his hands, his feet and his side…and smiling he says, “You have earned nothing. All is gift…even the air you breathe. It is but by the gratuitous love of God that you live and move and seek my face.”

Greed, my brothers, is a potent lie whispered, by the devil into innocent hearts tempting them to seek their own glory, and not the ways of God.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Three Homilies

Here are the homilies I preached at my mother's Wake, Funeral and an Anointing of the Sick at Notre Dame Nursing Home in the afternoon after the Funeral.  I cannot begin to thank you all for your prayers and support.  May the Angels lead her into Paradise and lead us each one of us along the ways of faith, healing and peace!


In the past five years there's been something just not quite right.  Peggy and Jimmy. It was a single word for sixty-six years. Call Peggy and Jimmy. I saw Peggy and Jimmy. Neither name seemed right without the other. It was like Lucy and Desi or Fred and Ethel or Nora and George.

There was no one he loved more than her, and no one she loved more than him, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health until death did they part. And so there was something unnatural about Peggy without Jimmy, something unfinished and something terribly uncertain.

Such is often the case with old married couples after the first one dies. Especially those who take seriously the promises they swore before the altar so many decades ago.

But today Peggy is gone, she's dead, she has returned to the God who gave her to Jimmy and to us.

Life was not free from suffering, or fear for Peggy, beginning with the turbulence which so often afflicts new immigrants like those who transformed Watch Hill into the North End in the decades after the potato famine and through a great depression and an even greater war.  Those fears, those traumas defined a good portion of her life and characterized the way she lived it and interacted with others. But despite the frightened child who lived deep within, she loved faithfully and completely the boy from Upton, and loved and nurtured two children as best she could.

There were so many good times. Like with Nora and George and Mary and Patty at Hampton Beach and Purgatory Chasm or the devotion she showed to her beloved Jimmy in his final days, or the two rosaries (one his and one hers) she prayed each night in those months right after he was gone.  There were even good days toward end, when despite the hallucinations and gathering dementia, she knew a certain calm and even renewed faith through the goodness of Vo and the sisters and their colleagues of Notre Dame du Namur.

There were dark times too. When old and not quite buried rages and fears reinforced the walls of a paranoia.  But God, who writes straight with crooked lines, can weave the fabric our lives even from the threads of a childhood stained with brokenness and fear.

For the great good news of this night is not that Peggy was perfect, but that God loves each one of us in our imperfection, and created us to love him as best we are able, to try to do his will as best we can, with all the weaknesses in our bones…just to offer it all to him.  And in the end that’s what she did.

On behalf of my sister Debbie and I, thank you for being here tonight, for praying for our mother through the intercession of the Mother of God.  

Peggy always loved the design for the gravestone which will now mark the Moroney plot in the Saint Timothy section of Saint John’s Cemetery.  She insisted on its design for her last two Christmas cards, because it portrays the Mother of God, into whose arms we consign little Peggy tonight.

As she used to pray in all those rosaries, may Holy Mary pray for her and for all of us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.


In the face of death, before the dark grave of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept.  And so they said, see how much he loved him.

We weep, because we loved Marguerite Mary O’Leary Moroney, Peg, Peggy, as a mother, an aunt or a friend. She is the one who taught Debbie and me to first make the sign of the cross, and who, at the age of sixteen stitched a cloth from which we first learned to pray, which still hangs beside my bed, and whose prayer I now pray with her:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep
if I should die before I wake
I pray thee Lord my soul to take.

She stitched that prayer with the faith she had received from her mother Nora and, in the few year she knew him, her father James…the faith brought by her great grandparents from places far away, like Cork and Kerry, where the prayer was first prayed among the Loughlins and the O’Learys, where the roots of our Catholic faith first flourished.

But this day is not about them or even about Peggy, the last of the O’Learys from the North end.  Rather, it is about the God who loved her. Loved her so much that he joined her to himself in the waters of Baptism, anointed her with the oil of salvation, and nourished her with the bread of those who will never really die.

The God who day by day and year by year, revealed himself to her, taught her to love, to confess and to seek to live in the model of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The God who led Jimmy and Peggy down the aisle of Saint Stephen’s Church and who heard them promise before his altar to remain faithful to one another and to God: a promise they lived together for sixty-six years.  And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Debbie and me, as a concrete sign of the willingness of Peggy and Jimmy to cling to faithful love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.

In fact, on the day they were married, Peggy and Jimmy knelt before the altar as Father Ahern, extending his hands over them, blessed them with a quotation from Psalm 128: videas filios filiorum tuorumMay you live to see your children’s children.  And so faithful was God’s love for then that they lived to know and to love Daniel and Meghan.

God so loved Peggy that he surrounded her with the love of a husband and children and grandchildren.  He so loved her that he has now taken her to himself, to the place he has prepared for each one of us.

And so it is into the hands of God, this day, that we commend her immortal soul. We ask angels to lead her into paradise. We ask martyrs to come to welcome her. And most of all, we ask God to look upon her with mercy, to forgive whatever sins she may have committed, to lead her home to a place of refreshment, light, and peace.

That same heaven for which our aching hearts long...that paradise, where we pray that one day she and her beloved Jimmy and Nora and James will run out to meet us and we will be together in Christ, in perfect love, forever singing the praise of God in the presence of the angels.

Lord, Jesus who was born as man that we might know that hope, make that day to come without delay!


First, I want to thank each of you for your love and support of my mother these past few years.  This is truly a holy house, where people of faith live together by the inspiration of the Sister of  Notre Dame de Namur, each day proclaiming by their lives the words first spoken by Sister Julie: How good is the good God!

Your day, like our lives, revolves around the Mass, so that the great Sacrifice offered by Christ upon the Cross might give us strength to love as he did, to accept the Crosses he sends us, and to believe the promise he gave us of life with him forever in the joy of paradise.

Thank you for the example you have given me of a joy that is born from the love of Jesus and his Cross.  And I look forward to continuing to learn from your example for years to come.

Just as I learn from the example of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant in today's Gospel.  There’s a strange word used by Saint Matthew in describing Jesus’ reaction to the Centurion, when he tells us that Jesus was amazed by the Centurion’s faith.

Why was he amazed?  Because the the occupation of this soldier seems antithetical to everything Jesus is and stands for.  He is a centurion, a soldier in charge of a hundred other soldiers whose main job was persecuting folks like Jesus and his brethren.  

And so Jesus is amazed of the faith of this Centurion who knows that is unworthy to so much as touch the hem of the Jesus’ garment, utterly unworthy to even gaze on his face.

Which is why the Centurion’s prayer is ours at every Mass:  “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”

So let us confess our unworthiness to God, our inability to be able to save ourselves in body or soul.  And, as Saint James tells us, he will hear our prayer and raise us up in this his holy house.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Congrats to SJS Soccer Team!

The SJS Soccer Team had a great last game in the Semi-Finals of the Boston College Intramural Fall Soccer League tonight.  Congratulations to all our great players!

On burying my mom...

Burial of the Relics of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
This is the homily I prepared for Mass with our Deacons on Monday, the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

During one of my years as a seminarian, the mother of one of our Faculty members died...  and on the day before he got on the plane to fly home to bury her, I remember staring at him from afar, wondering:  What it’s like?  How does he feel? How is he ever going to get through it?  And almost forty years later, I have the answer.

When I buried my dad several years ago (many of you were there) and in these days as I prepare to bury my mom, I am suffused with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  Sure, there are the waves of grief and tears and a kind of uneasiness about what it is going to be like to be a son without a father or a mother;  but more than anything else there is gratitude: for the Lord who rose as the firstborn of many brothers and left us his promise that we would follow, for the Church which nurtures and sustains me in this hope, and for those who love me and affirm me and just want me to be alright.  Deep gratitude. And, likewise, the Cross.

It all leads to the cross.  Standing beside my mom’s bedside in emergency rooms and nursing homes for hours at a time.  Holding her hand for the fifth decade, straining to understand her words.  Helping her make sense of a world increasingly remote and clouded by the illusions of the thickening fog of dementia.  You’re like Mary and John by the cross, just trying to remain faithful and show love until the end.

It all leads to the cross.  The sign that our waiting in joyful hope is not for a Godot who fails to show up, but for a God who will raise up and restore these decaying bodies as surely as he himself rose triumphant from the tomb.  The cross before which your mom will someday die, the cross beneath which you will bury her and the Cross to which we cling in days like these.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose feast we celebrate this morning, has always been a favorite of mine.  For he desired nothing so much as that Cross.  “More than powers over the farthest limits of the earth, “ he once wrote, “I prefer death in Christ Jesus.”

That’s what its like.  And that how you get through it.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SJS Victorious!

The annual softball tournament between the seminarians of Saint John's and Pope Saint John XXIII ("The Relics") took place this afternoon.  A great time was had by all!!  SJS was victorious with a score of 21-16!  Congratulations to our John XXIII brothers for a game so well played!

SJS Welcomes our New Priests Home

Just a few days ago, members of the the class of 2017 returned to Saint John's to celebrate Mass with the community.  Father Brian Morris was principal concelebrant, while Father David Harris preached an inspiring homily.  Here are some pictures taken at the Mass.

The Class Gift was a Beautiful Processional Cross, used for the first time at this Mass.

Dear Friends,

I am grateful to so many of you for your prayers and support over the past weeks and to ask you to pray to the Lord for my Mother, Marguerite Mary Moroney, who died last night.

The wake will be on Wednesday night at Callahan-Fay Funeral Home, 61 Myrtle Street in Worcester from 6:00-8:00pm.  The Funeral Mass will be on Thursday morning at 10:00am at the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, 38 High Street in Worcester.  Burial and Commital will be at Saint John’s Cemetery, followed by a reception in the Cenacle back at the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

Priests planning to concelebrate are asked are asked to bring an alb and white stole.  Also, if you plan to concelebrate please reply to this e-mail so that we may plan for your presence.  

If you have classes or other commitments which prevent you from being with us for these liturgical celebrations, I ask you to please join us in prayer.  Members of the Rector’s Advisory Council are dispensed from classes in order to represent the Seminary at the Funeral.

If you have any questions, please reply to this email or call Joanne Murphy-Abbott, my Executive Secretary, at 617-746-5411.

My sister and I thank you for your kind prayers, that the Lord who sent his only Son to bring us eternal life might, in his mercy, send his angels to lead my mother home to heaven.

In The Lord,

Monsignor James P. Moroney

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bling and the Basics

Last night's Rector's Conference was on "Bling and the Basics."  I am grateful to all who helped with this presentation, including the musicians!  Here are the narrated slides!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Catching Up...

Life at your favorite Seminary has been so hectic as of late that I have been unable to keep up with the blog!  My apologies!  So here's a brief recap of some of recent events.

Father Chris O'Connor, Monsignor Marc Caron, Father Jim Conn, SJ, Dr. Christa Klein and I were at the annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Theological Schools last weekend. This is the place where Catholic Seminaries come together, in this case, to discuss the new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis and the Program for Priestly Formation (sixth edition) which will soon follow.

We heard a day of presentations by Archbishop Jorge Carlos PatrĂ³n Wong, Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy. The Archbishop spoke to us about the new Ratio.

On the last day I attended a meeting of Seminary Rectors with Bishop Earl Boyea. On behalf of the Committee on Clergy and Consecrated Life, Bishop Boyea is chairing the writing Committee for the revision of PPF6.


Each year begins with an early morning Fire Drill.  I've often been struck by the beauty of all the rooms blinking on and off as the alarms go off in the courtyard.  This video (at 5am in the morning!) was quickly followed by a long line of bleary-eyed seminarians!  The drill went perfectly!

We have also had a meeting of our wonder Trustees, who for four hours deliberated the most pressing challenges our Seminary faces. I am so grateful to each and every one of them!

This evening our resident Priest Faculty will join the Jesuit community at Saint Mary's Hall at Boston College.  In the Fall they are kind enough to invite us to dinner and in the spring we return the favor at SJS.  What a wonderful group of scholars and priests!