Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mass Explained Queensbury: March 22nd

Here's the video for March 22nd answering questions from the folks in Queensbury studying the Liturgy of Word and the Mass Explained.

The Mass Explained II: Queensbury 22 March from James P Moroney on Vimeo.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Remembering Saint Joseph at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary

I was honored this evening to celebrate Mass with our brothers at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary.  Here is my homily.

Obedience.  That’s what Saint Joseph teaches us.  Obedience.

Do not hesitate to take Mary as your wife. And he obeys.  Take Mary and the child to Egypt.  And he obeys.

And it’s good for future priests to learn obedience.  For, in a very real way, obedience is their work.  Obedience to their Bishop, to their pastors, to their Faculty Advisor and Spiritual Director and even to their Rector.

But why are you called to be obedient to your legitimate superiors?  Is it because they are always right?  They are always brighter than you, more talented than you and always more capable of making the right decision?

Not necessarily.  Because sometimes your legitimate superior will be less bright than you, less experienced and sometimes even less capable of making the right decision.  

But you obey with docility because God has made this man your Bishop or your Rector of your Pastor and its up to God alone to make sense of it.  And for now God calls that man to make the decisions and you to obey them, as a participation, if nothing else, in the kenotic self giving, the obedience unto death which is at the heart of Christ’s perfect sacrifice of love upon the Cross for our salvation.

Saint Joseph helps us understand obedience in a very real way.  Actually Origen does, when he writes:

"Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph.”

I think of another Joseph, Joseph Ratzinger, our beloved Pope emeritus.  After experiencing the increasing weight of his physical limitations he set aside the Petrine office for a life of prayer.  "I am,” he told us, now a “simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth.”

And then he, the Pope did a remarkable thing.  Joseph of Bavaria made a promise of obedience, “unconditional reverence and obedience,” to whoever his successor will be.  A promise he has kept.

Did he do it because he knew his successor would be a better theologian than him, a more powerful preacher or a more effective Pope.  No.  He did it because there could be only one Pope, and he, the emeritus, would render him unconditional obedience and respect.

He did it because he belied the words he preached years before:

 “Only if we know how to lose ourselves, if we give ourselves, may we find ourselves. When this occurs, it is not our will that prevails, but that of the Father to which Jesus submitted himself: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’ (Lk 22:42)…. This is what St. Joseph has taught us, with his renouncing, with his abandonment, that in a certain sense foreshadowed the imitation of the Crucified Jesus, the paths of fidelity, of the resurrection, and of life.” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, homily 19 March 1992)

Just one more brief story.

I was recently reading an old favorite book, a diary from the middle of the last century.  “It tells the story of a prideful, loudmouthed, sensitive 14 year old boy who was tired of getting yelled at by his seminary superiors and the old ladies in his native town of Bergamo; it tells the story of a young man who didn’t believe he had what it takes to be a priest or even a faithful man of God; it tells the story of a young seminarian in Rome overwhelmed with his studies and who felt far from God …[it tells the story of a man] “radically in love with Jesus Christ, and completely disposed to doing the will of God no matter what.”  Despite it all, his episcopal motto said it all: “Obedience and Peace”

And that Pope is your saintly patron, and his diary, the Journal of a Soul.

So take this from our Feast of Saint Joseph the husband of Mary and custos of the Son of God: Obey.  Obey your Rector, or your Bishop, or any legitimate authority with humility, docility and love and you will grow into the image of him who was obedient unto death, even death on a Cross.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saint Patrick's Day Homily

Father Joseph Briody preached this homily for the Feast of Saint Patrick a few days ago. We are grateful for his inspiring words.

We know much about St. Patrick because of his writings, especially his Confession. Born in 389 he was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was about sixteen years old. He displays no self-pity in his writings. Indeed he notes in his Confession that he and thousands of others taken as slaves deserved this because, he wrote, “we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved.” In captivity in Ireland he turned with all his heart to God who had mercy on him. His task in slavery was to tend sheep on the slopes of Slemish Mountain. This he did for six years, the average time of priestly formation. This was probably the most formative period in his life. There Patrick fell back on the faith of his childhood and fell into the hands of God. His faith became so strong that it triumphed over the piercing cold of the mountain and the profound loneliness of isolation.

The six years of Patrick’s captivity became preparation for his future apostolate. He became proficient in the Irish language in which he would later preach Christ’s Gospel. He learned about the druids from his master, who was a druidical high priest. This knowledge would be essential later in his work of conversion. Through those difficult six years Patrick was equipped for his future mission. God uses everything to shape and prepare us for what he asks of us. God used Patrick’s capture and slavery to bring an entire people to the true God, a people who would in turn bring other peoples to God. God can use everything that happens to us. He takes account of everything from all eternity. He has factored in even what is most upsetting in our lives – like Patrick’s captivity. He brings good out of evil. “All things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

Eventually Patrick, under God’s guidance, escaped and returned home. He became a priest and bishop. A recurring vision drew him back to Ireland in which the voice of the Irish called out to him: “We beg you, holy youth to come and walk once more among us.” Patrick did return as the apostle of Ireland, with the blessing of Pope St. Celestine I, arriving on Irish soil in 433.

Apparently this was the final act of Pope Saint Celestine before he died. Just two years before that, in 431, Pope Celestine had sent another bishop, Palladius, to Ireland, but it didn’t work out. We’re not sure why it didn’t work out with Palladius. Put simply, Palladius didn’t want to be in a strange land and returned home again. It wasn’t God’s will – or – as the Book of Armagh states: “God hindered Palladius.”

When things didn’t work out with Palladius, St. Patrick, who, to his great disappointment, had been refused this assignment before, now received the commission a few days before the death of Pope Celestine. God’s will will never be thwarted! This is something we need to be aware of in our own lives. God is in control. Jesus is Lord! Knowing this helps us grow in surrender and obedience to God and those he has placed over us. It’s a lesson Patrick learned. It’s a lesson Jonah learned when he ran in the opposite direction from God’s will and God placed him right back in Ninevah where he wanted him.

It’s a lesson the young Irish Jesuit Frank Brown learned and cherished for the rest of his life. Fr. Frank Brown became a very famous photographer and gave us the last photographs of the Titanic. He was a seminarian in Dublin when his uncle sent him a ticket for the Titanic’s maiden voyage. He travelled on the Titanic from Southampton to Cork. He was to travel on to New York but sought his superior’s permission to do so. His provincial sent him a reply by telegram saying only: ‘GET OFF THAT SHIP!’ He obeyed, and the rest is history. Fr Brown kept that telegram in his wallet for the rest of his life claiming that holy obedience saved his life. Sometimes it’s better to ask permission than forgiveness!

Obedience and trust in the divine will is the lesson of the saints. “Obedience is the sure sign to us of the divine will” (St Maximilian Kolbe). “The awkwardness of God is that his will must always be first and must prevail” (D. Peter Burrows). “If there were another and better way, Christ would certainly have shown it to us by word and example” (St Maximilian Kolbe), he who was obedient even unto death. What struck me re-reading the Confessions of St Patrick was the immediacy and intimacy of his relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guided him closely and directed him clearly and vividly, just as the Spirit acted in the Acts of the Apostles. Christ acted in and through him, almost identifying with Patrick.

Looking back on his life, Patrick expressed great gratitude to the Lord for the wonders of his grace in him. He wrote: “Who am I Lord and what is my calling that you worked through me with such divine power?” “I didn’t deserve … that the Lord would grant such great grace … after so many years among that people. It was something which, when I was young, I never hoped for or even thought of.”

May it be the same for us looking back on our lives, that cooperating with God’s grace, through obedience and trust in the divine will, we may reap an abundant harvest and rejoice in gratitude for what God has done in us, “things we never hoped for or even thought of…”

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I was delighted to be invited by Monsignor Caron to lecture for two days in his Introduction to Communication course.  The topic of my presentations was Social Media and the Parish.  To download the slides from that presentation in Powerpoint format, please click here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Saint Patrick's Feast 2017

This evening we celebrated our annual Saint Patrick's Feast with the Saint John's Seminary community.  I began the evening with this blessing, which was then followed with songs, toasts, limericks and stories.  A wonderful evening was has by all!

Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is good, whose sun rises from the craggy shores of Kerry to Saint Botolph city’s bay, look upon us, the sons of Patrick in the Faith and imbue us with a full measure of his zeal, that through our ministry you might drive from these shores the serpents of deception and sin, the snakes of infidelity and fear.

And in their place, raise up good and faithful stewards of the Gospel, who like the Saints of Irish shores will lead this land to adore and embrace the Cross of your only begotten Son. Through the merits of his Passion and Death, bless this Feast of Faith, O Lord, and watch over us as your children, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Little Homily for a Snowy Tuesday in Lent

“Wash yourselves clean!” the prophet demands!  So clean that the scarlet becomes like the new fallen snow!

And then he tells us how:

By putting away our misdeeds. By ceasing to do evil. And by hearing the cry of the poor.

Put away your misdeeds
The two moments that open our every experience of reconciliation are contrition and confession.  Feeling so bad about my sin, being so completely convinced of how wrong it is, that I am willing to imitate Bartimaeus by the side of the road: “Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner!”

And the second moment follows: to confess not only my sinfulness, but my sin.  To say to Christ through his Priest, I, Jim Moroney, committed this sin, and I repent and beg God’s mercy.

But these two moments must be followed by the commitment not to sin again.  “I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace…to amend my life.”  Not to turn back like the pig to the trough of dissipation and darkness.  But to turn away from all that filth and follow the Lord.

And so the final moment of my reconciliation, the moment in which I am really put back together by God is when I return to hearing the cry of the poor, to living the virtuous life.  Having been cleansed from my sin I return to living the life of grace and by that grace to loving others as he has loved me.

We do all this intently, purposefully and with concentration during Lent: putting away our misdeeds, with a firm purpose of amendment and a determination to dedicate our lives to loving all the widows and orphans the Lord might send us.

We do it intently now, that we might continue to do it for the rest of our lives.

Arrives the snow...

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,

Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air

Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,

And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.

The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet

Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit

Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed

In a tumultuous privacy of Storm.”

                                                              From "Snow Bound" by John Greenleaf Whittier

Monday, March 13, 2017

Video for the Queensbury Study Group

Here's a video I prepared for the good folks at Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Queensbury, New York who have been studying my book The Mass Explained at a series of Lenten Soup and Study sessions.  Each week I am preparing a video to answer their questions.  Hope you enjoy!

Queensbury 15 March from James P Moroney on Vimeo.

Father Cessario Lectures at Quarr Abbey

Thanks to the Isle of Wight County Press, we have some pictures from the lecture given last week by our own Father Romanus Cessareo, OP at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight.  Here Father Ryan Connors is pictured with Father Cessario, Abbot Xavier Perrin, O.S.B., and Father Brian. O.S.B., who organized the conferences.

Snow Day on Tuesday

After consulting with the Dean and looking at the latest weather forecast, I have decided to cancel classes tomorrow, Tuesday, 14 March.  

SJS Offices will also be closed.

Morning Prayer and Mass will be at 8:00am and Holy Hour will be at the usual time.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Pics di Roma

Patrick Finn, Joseph Hubbard, Denis Nakkeeran (tour guide!), Matthew Norwood, Deacon Will Sexton and Alex Boucher are seen here at Saint Paul outside the Walls (with Cardinal Harvey) and sent along some pics from their Roman pilgrimage.  They are praying for all of us at each of the Holy Sites!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SJS Board of Trustees Meet

The SJS Board of Trustees met yesterday and approved several initiatives for expansion of the Seminary.  They also reviewed an early draft of the SJS Self-Study being prepared in anticipation of the Accreditation visit by the Association of Theological Schools this Fall.

The Board is made up of generous professionals from a wide range of areas of expertise and is composed of the Members of the Corporation, the Trustees and Representatives of the Board of Governors.

The Corporation

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM, Cap.

Monsignor James P. Moroney

Monsignor Dennis Sheehan
Vice Chairman

Bishop Peter Uglietto
RCAB Vivar General

Mr. John Straub
RCAB Chancellor

Bishop Walter Edyvean
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus

Representatives of the
Board of Governors

Bishop Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester

Bishop Salvatore Matano
Bishop of Rochester


Mr. James Brett

Dr. Francesco Cesareo

Sister Janet Eisner, SND

Mr. Craig Gibson

The Honorable Brian Hook

Reverend Jason Jalbert

Dr. Christa Klein

Reverend Kevin O'Leary

Reverend Thomas Petri, OP

Mr. John Riley

Mrs. Bonnie Rogers

Mr. Jack Shaughnessey

Please say a grateful prayer for each of these generous men and women, as I do every day!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Joy of New Life

Sandy Barry, our wonderful Director of Development, and her husband Craig just returned home with their new baby yesterday.  She writes:

"From our family of four! Miss Kayla Sue is perfection and we are all adjusting well after getting home from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. Big bro Dylan is particularly enchanted with his "new baby". Sending happiness your way! "

Our West Virginia Mission

Joseph Maurici and Matt Laird are reporting in from one of the two vans filled with seminarians which left on a Mission Trip to West Virginia yesterday.  They were guests of Mount Saint Mary's Seminary last night.

 \Father Tom Gignac celebrated Mass for them this morning in Saint Peter's Church in Welsh, West Virginia.  

This is Our Lady of Victory Church in Gary, their liturgical home base for the week.

The red brick building is the school for life, with the missionaries  are staying for the week.  It includes classrooms which are used to house mission groups from all over the country.  Father Riley can be seen praying in thanksgiving for their safe arrival!

Rite of Election in Hartford

Deacon Glen Dmytryszyn reports that the Hartford Cathedral of Saint Joseph was packed today with more than 1,000 people presented for the Rite of Election!

The Theological Institute in Lourdes

A group of intrepid pilgrims from our Theological Institute arrived in Lourdes yesterday under the intrepid leadership of Father O'Connor and Dr. Aldona Lingertat.  Here they gather as a group in Lourdes and celebrate Mass in a side chapel at Saint Gabriel's Chapel, new the Crypt in Lourdes.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Reverend Doctor is Celebrated!

Last week I was honored to join a celebration of the successful completion of doctoral studies by one of our most esteemed adjunct Professors at the Theological Institute.  All were so proud and grateful for the tremendous ministry of the Reverend Doctor Wayne Belchner, STD.  Pictured above (left to right) are Father Scorzello, Bishop Kennedy, me, The Reverend Doctor Belchner and Father O'Connor.

First Friday Club of Worcester

This morning I was privileged to celebrate Mass and speak to one of Worcester's most venerable institutions: The First Friday Club.  Here are my talk and homily.

Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years Ago, the purpose of the First Friday Club was established by the third apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Aloquoque.  She saw a vision of the Lord in glory with his five wounds shining like suns and she described how Jesus showed her his heart on fire with love for mankind.

In order that we might show that love in return Jesus asked Saint Margaret to to propagate frequent reception of Holy Communion, particularly at Mass on the first Friday of every month, a day consecrated to his Blessed Passion and Death on the Cross.

And so I am privileged to address this assembly of good Catholic men who once a month consecrate themselves to partaking of Holy Communion in obedience to the Lord’s command, knowing that in just a few days’ time we will enter into the holiest days of the year, when, we pray, God will give us all the grace to, in the words of Saint Margaret, “to make some return to the Lord, rendering him love for love.”

For both the First Friday Club and the Seminary of which I am rector share the same mission, even though the roots of my job go back only 131 years, when just a decade after the civil war, the second Archbishop of Boston, John J. Williams bought 264 acres of the Stanwood estate in the Oak Hill section of Brighton.  He dreamt of a Seminary to form Priests to spread the Gospel and celebrate the Sacraments from the rocky shores of Maine to the rolling Berkshire Hills.  

Throughout the years the mission of Boston’s Seminary grew. Today, we form not only seminarians but lay ecclesial ministers through our Theological Institute, as the vision perdures of a Seminary forming ministers for God’s Church in New England and beyond.

Chartered by an act of the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1884, the Seminary was first staffed by Sulpician Fathers from Baltimore and Paris, who brought with them a replica of a statue of the Madonna and Child from the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.  For the past 131 years that statue has stood vigil in the courtyard of Saint John’s Seminary.

Archbishop William O’Connell would replace the Sulpicians with a Diocesan Faculty just after the turn of the century, and set about more than doubling the Seminary in the 1920’s.  The  following years saw an even greater expansion, with the addition of a Seminary College and Library, as well as a Cardinal’s residence and Archdiocesan administration buildings.

The final decades of the twentieth century were a time of declining enrollment and consolidation for Saint John’s.  While the Seminary College was closed a major renovation of the major Seminary was undertaken.  

From 2004-2007 all the buildings of the sprawling Archdiocesan campus were sold to Boston College, save only the original Seminary building, Saint John’s Hall. 

Over the next eights years, under the guidance of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Seminary was regionalized and grew at an unprecedented rate.  Today, Saint John’s Seminary is the sixth largest seminary in the United States, with 132 seminarians from Dioceses across the Northeastern United States and a half dozen religious orders.  Nine of our seminarians were born on the hills of Worcester and I stand here, a simple parish priest from Millbury, as the first non-Boston Rector in the Seminary’s history.

And how does a Seminary prepare a man to be a parish priest.  Well, first there is SPIRITUAL FORMATION, which ”unifies the life of a priest, it stands at the heart of seminary life and is the center around which all other aspects are integrated.”
Our Seminarians spend nearly 2/1 hours in the Chapel each day, beginning with sung Mass and morning prayer at 7pm and ending with a Holy hour from 5-6pm.  At the center of our lives is the Daily Community Celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration and Personal Meditation, Lectio Divina: Praying with Scripture, the Word of God, Spiritual Direction, the Sacrament of Penance, Sacrifice and Self-Abnegation, as well as Annual Retreats, Days of Recollection, & Spiritual Conferences.
This is complemented by our program of INTELLECTUAL FORMATION through which each man ‘participates in the light of God’s mind’ and seeks to acquire a wisdom which in turn opens to and is directed towards knowing and adhering to God,” completing degrees in Philosophy and Theology in the course of our six year program.
And then there’s HUMAN FORMATION, by which we seek to make thus man a bridge to Christ and not an obstacle, a man of virtue, who demonstrates, in particular, the human virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice, humility, constancy, sincerity, patience, good manners, and truthfulness.  This is achieved through work with a personal formation advisor, all sorts of Formation Conferences and even Psychological Counseling.

Finally, the men receive a full dose of PASTORAL FORMATION by which they learn to serve you and your children and grandchildren as effective pastors and priests.

We also operate a Theological Institute, training over a hundred lay ecclesial ministers for service to the Church in New England. In the same period of time that the number of Catholics in New England has dropped by 9.6%, the number of seminarians at Saint John’s has grown by close to 17%.  

Nine years ago, Saint John’s was down to 33 resident seminarians today we have triple that number and are in the midst of an expansion and have just purchased $5million worth of real estate to add room for 26 more resident seminarians. 

The Resurrection of Saint John’s Seminary is a testament to the perdurance of the Catholic Faith in New England over the past 131 years; a faith which still lives in the preaching, the blessing and shepherding on the part of the more than three thousand men who have been prepared for ministry in that holy house.

So, you see, we are all part of the same history, the same gracious plan of God for the Church in New England.  It is a common mission we share, you and I.  It’s rooted in the revelations of the Sacred Heart to a French nun, and in the efforts of  to provide for Priests in New England in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

It’s a mission to not just keep the faith, but to spread it; to not just go to Church, but to be the Church; and not only to be good, but to be holy.

I thank you, I promise you my prayers, and I ask for yours as we continue to make the Church a shining light on the hills of Worcester, of Boston and, indeed, to the ends of the earth!

Thank you.

On Fasting

We hear about Fasting, and that’s only right, for it is a Friday in Lent.

But why do we fast?

We fast because it teaches us a lesson: that it’s not all all about me.  

When fasting, it hits me between the eyes (or maybe between the eyes and stomach) that neither food, nor money, nor power, nor my good health, nor  anything else I can see or taste or feel belongs to me.  It all belongs to God.  It’s all his.  

And by letting go of it, and placing it in his hands (even for a little while), and by waiting to hear what he wants me to do with it, I am doing his will. 

You think, when you give the poor man a piece of bread, Saint Leo the Great once wrote, that you are generously sharing with him something that is yours.  But you are a fool, he says, for all of creation has been given to us by God, nothing belongs to you!  You are just giving to the poor man the piece of bread which God created for him in the first place.

It all belongs to him.

The Priest as Public Person

Here are some excerpts from my Rector's Conference the other night on The Priest as Public Person.

The identification of the Priest with the presence of the Church was brought home to me years ago when, making the round of some First Communion parties, as I walked into one little girls’ homes.  She was in the front yard playing with her friends.  When she saw me, she ran inside the house and announced “The Church is here!  The Church is here!”

That cute little story illustrates well how from a very young age Catholics are taught that the Priest represents the Church in a tangible way.  We can talk about the triplex munera of Priest, Prophet and King or Sanctifier, Teacher and Shepherd…but fact is that whatever people may see the priest do, is secondary to what people believe the Priest is, and that is the visual manifestation of Christ and his Church.

With weaknesses 
But the Priest is also a weak human person, a real man with certain really impressive talents and certain really glaring weaknesses.  And the disjuncture between those two poles is where scandal breaks out.

We saw that so clearly in the sexual abuse crisis.  It was a scandal because people saw their priest as holy and yet some priests committed some really despicable, criminal acts.  Part of the reason that all happened in such numbers between 1972 and 1985, by the way, is that seminaries did not talk about what I am addressing today.  The fact that once you are ordained a Priest (and indeed, while you are even a seminarian) your life is not really your own.  

You are a public person representing Christ and his Church, and not just when you have a collar on, but on your day off and on the internet and even when you are with your family and friends.  You are a Priest forever, and whatever you do wherever you are reflects on the Church and her Lord.

Being a Priest 
Indeed, some of the best work a Priest does is accomplished by just being a Priest.  For example, what’s the most effective way a Rector can help his seminarians to be good Priests?  

He can administer the Seminary, overseeing everything from finance to properties to personnel.  But you hardly see any of that unless it goes wrong.

He can pray for you and even fast and do penance for your intentions.  But again, that’s all behind the scenes.

He can lead you in celebrating the Sacred mysteries and offer the Sacrifice with piety and self-donation.  But how many Mondays are there in a year and that’s 40 minutes at best.

He can agonize long and hard to give the most engaging and challenging Rector’s Conferences or preach the most thoughtful and well constructed homilies or post the most interesting blog posts.  But how many words does he really get to share with you on a given month or day?

He can sit with you one on one or in groups and tell you his old Priest stories, or better yet listen to yours.  

But that’s not how I do my best work for you as your Pastor and Priest. For the most effective formation is not in my doing, but in my simply being a good Priest.  By being Jim Moroney, the Priest…by getting out of the way so that Christ can shine forth, by letting you watch me offer sacrifice and work for you, by letting you see my successes and my failures, by bring transparent and authentic, by being the best Priest I know how to be without pretense or guile.  By being me and letting you see me, just as you, God willing, will someday let them watch you from up close and afar as their brother and Father and friend.

Come and See, Jesus said to them, come and see me teach and shepherd and sanctify, that you may love others as I have loved you.  It is the the way we propagate virtue and teach from the inside out the way of love.

The Public Person 
So in order to be a Priest (or seminarian) effectively, I must accept that I am a public person, both when I think you are looking and when I don’t.  When that faculty member does this or that seminarian says that or the other one is on his way out.  How does he handle it?  When I’m tired or hurt or over my head or have really screwed something up.  How does he handle it?  When I need to exercise or submit to authority or power or make really hard decisions or do really unpleasant things.  How does he handle it?

We always teach more by our actions than by our words and even more by who we are than  by what we do.  And the three ways to effectively BE a shepherd is by knowing, loving and being authentic.

The first step in being an effective leader is knowing your sheep.  I still remember the excitement of getting each assignment, including this one, and asking everyone I knew, “what are they like?”  What brings them joy?  What have been their successes?  What has made them cry?  What are the tragedies that have scarred them?

Demographic studies can help a lot in figuring out who goes to your church.  Federal and state census figures with everything from median education to income, language, poverty rates and other social indicators.  Demographics give you the meta-picture of your people.

But then getting to know them one-on-one is what really forms you into being their Priest.  And getting to know everyone.  In each of the last parishes where I served I had a habit of Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Tuesday nights were always Bible Study, where we could study the readings together for the next Sunday.  And then on Thursdays I’d cook supper for a dozen or so people.  I love to cook.  I’d usually invite one of the very active families and then a couple families I just happened to chat with for the first time on the front steps of the Church.  Have you ever been to the Rectory?  Why not bring the kids over for supper on Thursday night?  It told them that they didn't need to be popular to be cared for.  That I cared for them all.

That, after all, is all the people of a parish really want.  They will forgive almost anything, but they want you to care about them and pray for them.  Caring means looking them right in the eye and listening, dropping all the distractions and treating that person as the only person in the world.  Caring means getting on your knees every night and begging God to soothe their broken hearts and untie the knots of their most complicated worries.  

And that caring requires authenticity: being real.  I think it was Speaker O’Neil who once said the only thing you need to succeed in politics is authenticity.  And once you can fake that you’ve got it made.  

But there is no faking in our profession brothers, for God sees into your soul, and so do they.  And he has sent you to love them as he has loved you.  Not to look like you care, but to care.  To weep with them, laugh with them, tremble and rejoice with them.  And if you let them, they will change you, slowly form you into the image of His Son which they need you to be, and you will decrease that he might increase.  You will become the vessel, the lens through which he touches them, ever whispering the truth with gentleness and shepherding them to himself.

And in order to do that, they must be able to trust you, which means you must be exactly who you say you are.  A believer, striving along with them for holiness and purity and truth.  No two lives here…the public and the private.  One Jim Moroney, one Father Jim, one Monsignor Moroney.  One Jim Moroney, the priest in every moment of every day.

A Life Never Fully Your Own 
Now because you are such a public person, your life (like any father’s) is never fully your own.  Just think about it.  You live in someone else’s house, collect more of a stipend than a salary, eat the food someone else has paid for and, most of the time, live above the store.  You wear distinctive clothing, and everyone in the town knows you.  You are Father, whether on the clock or off, whether on duty or off.  And that means you are always caring, always authentic, always Father, always accountable, always watched.

That will seem unfair at times.  That you are being held to a higher standard.  But remember that you have been ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God who is the world’s salvation and who will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.  He speaks through you lips, consecrates through your hands and consoles with your heart.  It’s hard to imagine a work for which there should be a higher standard.

That means that like any good Father, your needs must often get sacrificed for the needs of your people and that you are ever thinking of them.  I may have strong political views, but if I profess them in any forum, I could end up compromising my ability to reach those who sit equally comfortably on the other side of the aisle.  I might personally prefer modern art, but if my people pray better before a nineteenth century kitschy madonna, their needs come first.  I might be a fan of polyphony, but if the last three pastors before me did Life Teen music at all five Masses all year long, I'm not going to change it all around the first week.

Indeed, there is the old axiom, watch for the first year and  twelve months later, slowly begin to make the changes that need to be made.  But always with gentleness, always with listening and always with love.  There’s also the saying of good Pope John: “See everything, overlook a great deal and change little.”

Sometimes priests fail at being leaders because they fail to be authentic. Sometimes even priests…even priests… abuse others, sometimes they lead a double life, sometimes they are deceitful and sometimes they steal.  

Why does this happen?  Is it because they are evil men?  Yet so many of them had given decades of their lives to selfless service.  How can we explain it?

I am afraid I have no complete answer to the mystery of the workings of evil in men’s hearts.  But I do know that often the priest who has “gone off the rails” starts to go wrong by making little compromises that lead to a second life which brows bigger and more toxic than they were ever willing to admit.  Until it all comes crashing down. 

They stopped going to confession, or at least being totally honest with their confessor.  Prayer probably began to take second place as well.  Any friends who would challenge them were marginalized and little by little they began to convince themselves that they deserved this private life because of all the sacrifices they were making in fulfilling their public duties.

It’s just like the devil whispering into the ears of our first parents, telling little lies and then building on them with bigger and bigger deceptions, until it all comes tumbling down as they lost the knowing and the caring and the authenticity so indispensable to a sharing in the Priesthood Priest of Jesus Christ.

Social Media
And for that matter, they are not unlike the 27 year old teacher who downloaded child porn twice and now sits in state prison for five years with a life sentence as a sex offender.

The College student who posts lurid details of his wildest fantasies to Facebook (sometimes illustrated), or the seminarian who publishes his infallible screeds against his Bishop, or the parish music director who joins a gay chat room, or.... I could go on and on...

And all these pictures and those comments and those screeds will be out there forever.  Long after the author has grown up, acquired wisdom, and known real maturity in Christ, their name will be forever associated with everything they ever wrote or posted or VLOGed.

I often think of how much God loves me, having made me young before the internet.  For I wonder, if my infallible views on the Church or politics or a myriad of other subjects when I was in College had been illustrated, posted and VLOGed, how it would impact my ministry today.  When you Googled James P. Moroney, what would have come up?  And what would that mean for my ability to minister as a public person and a pastor today?

So, be careful out there my brothers. Cyberspace is an unforgiving environment.  It has great potential for the new Evangelization, but it has gaping black holes that can eat you and your reputation alive.

If you’re posting to a site and you’re a priest, you are representing the Church, just as clearly as you would if you were wearing a collar and speaking to a crowd out in front of CVS.  Except it lasts longer and the crowd’s a lot bigger.

If you say you’re a seminarian in a big Northeast seminary, someone’s gonna guess, and you will represent Saint John’s and the guys who are sitting to your left and to your right.  And you will represent the faculty and the Cardinal and me too.

If you post anonymously some snarky comment, entirely lacking in charity for the poor victim of your wrath, Jesus still knows your IP address, and he will hold you to account.

Now, I am not suggesting by this that your next confession begin with “Bless me father for I have blogged.”  Even the Pope Tweets.  And not all aspects of this vast new world are evil (even Microsoft products can sometimes be used for good).

But, as Eve and her husband discovered the hard way, even an Apple can lead you to sin.  So be careful.  Be very very careful. 

Now I have one last story.  The most important of all.  Last week, I went home to Spencer (my first pastorate) to bury Ben, the oldest son of Paul and Mary Ann Gleason, two of my greatest supporters in my first pastorate.  No matter what I did they stood by me, encouraging, consoling and telling me the truth when I screwed up.  Now, through the years, even with those most dear friends, you can sometimes let months or even years go by without hearing their voice, so I was delighted when earlier last week I heard Paul’s voice on my cell.

He was crying and he told me that Ben had died tragically. The next day I got in the car and drove to Spencer, tears in my eyes  and singing the in paradisum and various Marian prayers for the dead.  (She always listens to prayers for the dead!)

Paul and Mary Ann were devastated, but they kept coming back to asking me to do the Funeral, which, of course, I said I would be honored to do.  He asked for you, Paul told me.  He asked how Father Jim was and said he would love to see him sometime, remembering stories of when I was his Priest and he was one of the teenagers who would come over and hang out in the Youth Lounge on Saturday nights.

And so Father Jim buried Ben on Friday.  And it was only right, for Ben had learned that Jesus knew him and cared about him and loved him somehow through the poor vessel which was Father Jim, his priest.

And as I walked away from his grave, my brothers, I thought of you, and all the Pauls and Maryannes and Bens you will know,  from birth to death and all the messiness in between.  Of how you will teach them and shepherd them and offer sacrifice for them.  Of how you will pray for them and cry with them and rejoice with them for the rest of your lives.

It is a public life to which you are called, and not always easy.

But despite it all, I thought to myself as I walked from the grave, how very blessed we are to be called, in all out unworthiness, to be called by Him to be a Priest.

Thank you.