Monday, February 26, 2018

Catholic Schools at SJS

Father Peter Stravinskas of the Catholic Education Foundation spoke to forty of our seminarians this afternoon about the priest and Catholic Schools. The Catholic Education Foundation’s goals include providing meaningful assistance to Catholic high schools through teacher formation programs and recruitment and retention of quality educators through competitive compensation.

When there's snow on the dome, there's no school in Rome....

When I was a student in Rome, forty years ago, we went by the adage, "When there's snow on the Dome, there's no school in Rome..." Since the Eternal City is renowned for its' adherence to eternal truths, seminarian Lucas LaRoche informs me that the Pontifical Universities cancelled classes yesterday after the first major snowfall in six year. There was a snowball fight in Saint Peter's square between seminarians from the North American and Venerable English College seminarians, and even some rather clerical looking snowmen made an appearance!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rosslyn Chapel outside of Edinburgh, Scotland

In a few days I will be leading a pilgrimage with our Theological Institute to the shrines and Churches of Scotland and Ireland.  As part of my preparation, I have been studying many of the Churches we will be visiting.  One of the most fascinating is Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh.  So, I prepared a little video introduction to the Chapel, which I hope you will enjoy, whether or not you will be flying with us to the wintry Celtic isles!


If you would like to learn more about Rosslyn Chapel, you can make a virtual visit by downloading a great App for your iPhone by clicking here!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Here's a talk I delivered at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Manchester this evening.

The Bible does not say a lot about Saint Joseph. Granted, Matthew and Luke, with their extensive accounts of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus, do tell us something.

Matthew, of course, begins his Gospel with the genealogy of Joseph (to which we will make reference later), to his discovery of Mary’s pregnancy, his decision to divorce her quietly,1 and his obedience to the angel who appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife. Likewise, we hear from Matthew of the second dream warning Joseph to take Mary and the child to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. But once they have returned from Egypt, Joseph disappears from Matthew’s Gospel.

In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph is less prominent. Mary is described as "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,” and throughout the second chapter he is constantly mentioned with Mary by name or as “they," referring to the parents of Jesus. Luke also presents Joseph as the genealogical father of Jesus, and as his reputed father

And even Mark and John make oblique references, consistent with Matthew and Luke. Mark, for example, the earliest Gospel written, does say that Jesus comes from Nazareth (five times, in fact3) and he is the only evangelist to say that Jesus was a carpenter.4 Which fits in with Matthew’s description of Joseph as a carpenter and the fact that anyone who ever does mention Joseph says he comes from Nazareth.

John's Gospel mentions Joseph twice: when Philip acclaims Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”
5 and in a sarcastic utterance "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”6

Beyond that, it’s all apocryphal, relying on much later non-biblical material of doubtful authenticity. But for the Church, the Biblical record has been enough to help us to understand who Saint Joseph is and what he means to us.

Beyond a retelling of the Biblical record, the Catechism of the Catholic Church7 affirms that Jesus, like any good son, fulfilled the commandment to honor his father and mother perfectly “and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven.” the Catechism goes on: “The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will…” and that “The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.”8 Finally, the Catechism also affirms Saint Joseph’s role as “St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.”9

But perhaps most importantly, Saint Joseph is the patron of this Diocese and this, its beautiful Cathedral. And while, as you have seen, there is much we might say of your blessed patron, allow me to offer three brief reflections on his role in our lives and the life of the Church concerning Joseph as Guardian of Jesus, Patron of the Church and a good Lenten example for each one of us.


First, Joseph as Father and Guardian (or as the Latin says, Custos) of the Christ, a title first bestowed on him by It was Pope Leo XIII.

Joseph was the husband of Mary and was given the role of father of Jesus. This is why Saint Matthew starts his Gospel with the words: “The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”10 That’s why Joseph has always been called “Mary’s spouse,” why the angel says to him “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife,”11 and told him to name the child, Jesus. Because Joseph was his father.

Saint Joseph, then, through all those “hidden years” cares for Jesus, just as any father cares for his child.

And there is a certain irony in all this, not to be missed. For here you have Joseph exercising authority over the one through whom he was made, explaining the scriptures to the one who is the source of all truth and protecting the omnipotent Son of the Living God.

Nonetheless, and here is a great mystery, Joseph was, day in an day out, the guardian of the mystery “hidden from ages past,”
12 the revelation of the face of God.

Like any good father, Joseph sacrificed for his Son. He got up with Mary for the two am feeding, he dropped everything whenever his son needed him, forsake the pursuit of money or sleep or any other human necessity for the sake of his son.

All because he loved Jesus, showering him with “all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father's heart can know. Joseph cared for Jesus, nurtured and protected him above all other concerns. And Jesus, in turn, obeyed him as his father and rendered to him that honor and reverence that children owe to their father.”
13 And through this filial and fatherly love, human bonds were deepened.


And it is because he is guardian of the Christ, that Saint Joseph has been recognized as the patron of the Church by Pope Pius IX.

It was 1870, and it seemed the whole world was against Pope Pius IX. “In these most troublesome times,” he wrote, “the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her…”

The Papal States had just been taken away from the Pope by Garibaldi, a large portion of the people of Italy had turned against him, to the extent that he was defended against the populace by Swiss and German troops.

Times were changing rapidly and the Pope was often besieged, sometimes not recognizing the signs of the times imperfectly, as when he wrote to Jefferson Davis in the opening days of the American Civil War, addressing him as the “Illustrious and Honorable President of the Confederate States of America.” I understand that Mr. Lincoln was not pleased.

So it seemed to Pius that the whole world was against him and against the Church he sought to steer, so he turned to heaven and in 1870, the second year of the First Vatican Council, he declared St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.

What this meant, Pope Leo XIII would later write is that, “in the same way that Saint Joseph once kept unceasing holy watch over the family of Nazareth, so now does he protect and defend with his heavenly patronage the Church of Christ.”

That’s the same Pope Leo XIII who in 1884 founded this Diocese and this Cathedral under the patronage of Saint Joseph, and who five years later published his Encyclical letter Quamquam Pluries promoting devotion to Mary’s spouse.

What does it mean that Saint Joseph is patron of the Church and Patron of this Diocese and this very Cathedral? It means the same thing for us as it did for Jesus.

Like any good father, Saint Joseph s first an example for us of what it means to be a good man. I have always loved the quote from Lewis Mumford that people learn ideas “not by discussion and argument, but by seeing them personified and by loving the person who so embodies them.”

By loving Saint Joseph, the personification of the sanctifying love of Jesus his son, we become sanctified, we become loving. By adopting the paternal patronage of the just man, we become just.

Thus because Joseph teaches us how to be a follower of Christ and how to be a Church which hears the word of God with reverence,16 we find in him, as Pope Saint John Paul II described it, “the model of obedience made incarnate…the man known for having faithfully carried out God's commands.”17

Picture this holy patriarch cradling the Christ child in his arms as Mary sleeps, sheltering mother and child on the flight into Egypt, and in the home at Nazareth.

Up until recently, except for Padre Pio, St. Joseph was the most popular saint in Italy, although St. Francis of Assisi always gave him a good run for his money.

It’s because St. Joseph is the accessible saint, the quiet father in the background, the good man, achieving sanctity not through mighty deeds but, through “a life lived in the greatness of every day life, but with steadfast faith in Providence.”18


And he is the best example for us when he is sleeping.

When an angel comes to him in a dream and tells him the will of God, he is “receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own.”19

• Finding the virgin he loves to be with child, he prepares to divorce her quietly in order to spare her whatever shame he can. But when an angel whispers into his sleeping ear: “Do not fear to take her as your wife,” he does it.

• Threatened by Herod’s wrath, he hears the angel yet again, now telling him to take mother and child and flee to Egypt. And, again, he listens and obeys, “discreetly, humbly and silently, even when he finds it hard to understand.”20

Perhaps this is why so many depictions of Saint Joseph show him sleeping. But his is not just any kind of sleep. It is the sleep of a man so inwardly in tune with God that even at rest “the depths of his soul are open and receptive.”21 It is the kind of sleep described by the Song of Songs: “I was sleeping, but my heart was awake.”22

And herein is the lesson this Patron of the Church leaves with us for Lent. Listen to the quiet of your heart,

Ours is a world of sensory overload, imbued with a cacophony of beeps and tweets and incessant talk. All trying to sell us, convince us and distract us from the sanctuary of the silent heart. As Cardinal Sarah reminds us: “There is no place on earth where God is more present than in the human heart. This heart truly is God’s abode, the temple of silence… The Father waits for his children in their own hearts”23

And Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us in his great Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos24 that this silence extends beyond our Saint Joseoph’s sleep, as we can imagine him silently plying his trade as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth.

For while we so often speak of the great deeds of men, the secret of Saint Joseph is in his silence, his putting away of all the distractions, his listening to God alone in the silence of hid heart. Or, as his namesake, our beloved Pope Emeritus once pour it:

“Joseph, who sleeps, but who at the same time is alert to hear the voice that rings out in his soul and from on high…someone who unites inner recollection and promptness…, inviting us to withdraw a little from the tumult of the senses; to recover our inner recollection; to learn to look inside ourselves and to look up, so that God can touch our souls and speak his word to us.”

So let us thank the Lord for thus Custos of the Christ, this Patron of this Cathedral and the Church throughout the world. And let us learn from him, in littleness, silence and joy.


1 Matt. 1:19.
2 Cf. Luke 3:23 and 4:22.
3 Mk 1:9,24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6.
4 Mk 6:3.
5 Jn 1:45.
6 Jn 6:42.
7 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 532.
8 Cf. Rom 5:19.
9 CCC, no. 1014.
10 Matt. 1:1.
11 Matt. 1:20.
12 RC, no. 25.
13 Pius XII, Radio Message to Catholic School Students in the United States of America (February 19, 1958): AAS 50 (1958), p.174.
14 Sacred Congregation of Rites, Decree Quemadmodum Deus (1870).
15 Lewis Mumford, The Conduct of Life (1956).
16 Cf. Second Vatican Council. Dei Verbum. Constitution on Divine Revelation.
17 RC, no. 30.
18 Pope Francis, Inaugural Homily (19 March 2013).
19 Ibid.
20 Ibid.
21 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Homily (March 19, 1992).
22 Song of Songs 5:2.
23 The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicolas Diat, Translated by Michael J. Miller, Ignatius Press, 2016. page 23.
24 Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (August 15, 1989).
25 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Homily (March 19, 1992).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On Touching Lepers

Here's the homily I preached at Our lady of the Annunciation in Queensbury, NY this weekend.

There is perhaps no more stark a contrast between the Old Testament and the New, than the partial revelation of God’s will through Moses and Aaron and the fullness of revelation in Christ Jesus in the answer to the question: “How should you treat a leper?”

Leprosy was a frightening thing, for as soon as someone spotted a scab or a pustule or a blotch, the poor leper was dragged before the priest who was declare him unclean and instruct him to be cast out of the camp, commanding that when anyone approached the leper was to yell “unclean! unclean!” in order to drive them away.

The filthy, the sinful and the unclean were to be exiled, excommunicated and condemned to a hellish solitary existence, lest anyone get close enough to catch their sin.

But it’s different with Jesus, moved with pity, he breaks the old law, fulfills it…that we might understand God completely. They must have gasped, maybe some of then screamed when he stretched out his hands and touched the leper. Touched his oozing open sore and said three little words: “Be made clean.”
And then the Lord did another remarkable thing, Remember how in the old law when you found someone unclean you sent them to the priest who condemned and exiled them. Jesus turns to the healed leper (I think he may have had a smile on his face while he did it) and said: Go and show yourself to the priest.

The priest, who probably recognized him as that stinking leper, that unclean wretch, would have been amazed and was probably the first of those who were forced to believe in the face of this miracle.

That’s how Jesus treated lepers. He did not cast them out, did not run away or make them feel unworthy. He touched them.

And who are the lepers in our lives? The ones we look upon as unclean?

Maybe that lady down the street who was married three times and now is living with that guy half her age who no one speaks to when they see her at Price Chopper and whom everyone avoids at Aviation Mall. Do we cast her out like Aaron, or touch her like Jesus?

Or that kid your son went to school with who never graduated because he got into drugs and his folks threw him out and he’s never really held a job and I swear he must steal money to keep buying those pills. And when you see him outside Friendly’s in the cold and he walks up to you with his hand out, are you Aaron throwing him away, or Jesus stretching out his hand and touching him?

Or that Mother of yours who said those hateful things and is still half inebriated even through she’s old, and just as foul mouthed as she was before your father left her. And now she’s in that nursing home and no one wants to go see her. Do you cast her out, or seek her out, stretch out your hand and touch her.

All those sinners, all those folks who smell, who reek from dysfunction, whose skin is rotting from desolation and fear and isolation. Do we cast them out like Aaron, or do we seek them out and embrace them like Jesus?

Jesus who came to seek out and save the lost, Jesus who touched the leper and forgave the sinner and ate with the unclean.

Jesus who calls Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple, who lets the sinful woman anoint his feet with her hair, who one right after another tells the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Jesus who calls the notorious Zacchaeus to come down so he can take him to dinner, whom they call “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” and whom the Pharisees hate because he ate with the unclean Levi.

Jesus, who looks down from the Cross at us in our brokenness and in our stinking selfishness and sin, who reaches down and touches us deep within with his Body and Blood and says “as I have loved you, so you are to love them.”

They are waiting for you out there, sometimes far away and sometimes in the same house where you live. All the lepers. And all you need to do is touch them with his love. “Be made clean.”

Praying for our Beloved Pope Emeritus

Five years ago this Sunday, our beloved Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI announced his retirement as Supreme Pontiff. This past week, in response to an outpouring of letters from the readers of La Stampa newspaper, he wrote these words. May they remind each of us to pray for him in these final days of his pilgrimage to the house of our Heavenly Father.

I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper would like to know how I am spending this last period of my life. I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home. It is a great grace for me to be surrounded in this last, sometimes a little tiring, piece of road, by more love and goodness than I could have imagined. In this sense, I also consider the questions of your readers as an accompaniment along this stretch of road. This is why I cannot but be grateful, assuring all of you of my prayers.  

Best regards,  

Benedict XVI

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A bit of snow today...

     The cold earth slept below;
       Above the cold sky shone;

                        PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

As we pray and study (and goes to endless meetings), this holy house is blanketed in snow.  They say it will turn to ice and rain, but for now it is just very beautiful, as we pray that all our friends stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Deacon House

 The master chefs of Deacon House are working their way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking all while they master the art of Rectory living!  With these kind of experiences, their first pastors will be very blessed!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Saint Agatha

Here is my little homily from this morning's Mass for the memorial of Saint Agatha.

So revered is St. Agatha that she is one of only seven women to be commemorated in the Roman Canon. She alone is celebrated in frescoes, mosaics and Sacramentaries of such disparate locales as Rome, Ravenna and Paris. Yet we know little else about this third century Sicilian, except that she died a martyr.

Not that we lack the sources, mind you, but as in the case of most of our venerated forebears, her passio is unremarkably similar to most others in the genre and the earliest manuscript can be dated no earlier than the tenth century.

So why do we venerate a woman whose image is so heavily veiled in the ancient past? Precisely because we know the single fact that has made her memory worthy of preservation.

She was a martyr. She gave her life for Christ. In imitation of the Divine Victim, she offered not just what she possessed or loved or hoped for. She offered her life, her very breath and beating heart. And in the offering, she invites us to do the same.

The ancient Collect we just prayed says as much: that Agatha found favor with God “by the courage of her martyrdom.”

As does The Council’s degree on the Ministry of Priests, recalling that in imitation of our Great High Priest, who emptied himself and took the form of a slave for our salvation, gave himself in sacrifice for our sins, and gives his own Body and Blood as our food, we are called to ‘offer ourselves entirely to God.’ Entirely.

It’s so simple, Agatha. Look down on us and pray, that God may give us the same grace.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Encountering Christ

This morning at Deacon House we celebrated the Presentation of the Lord, a feast celebrated in the East as The Encounter. The reference is to Simeon and Anna encountering the Child Jesus in the Temple.
It’s been forty days since we encountered the Newborn Lord and it will be forty more until Lent begins. After another forty days of penance and prayer we will celebrate Easter and witness the
Risen Lord, and shorly thereafter the incorporation of our Deacon brothers into the ministry of Christ, our great High Priest (as this countdown sign on the refrigerator at Deacon house reminds us).

Last night our Deacons shared with me a twenty-nine year old picture of when I was a Deacon.
(courtesy of Father John MacInnis…he’s the one in the brown shirt behind the stuffed bear…and yes, I’m the one with all that hair and a blue shirt...Fr. Busch is in a brown sweater and our Rector, Msgr. Murphy of Maine, is in the middle)
The Picture reminded me how we encounter the same Christ in each of the ages of our lives. Monsignor McRae celebrated the fifty-seventh anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood this morning.

Simeon was promised that he would not die until he had seen the Lord, while we are blessed to see him every day and to be touched by his Body and Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. We forget that sometimes. Which is why it is good to keep a lookout for him today, on this Feast of the Encounter.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

On Vigor, Fifty Five Years Later

Here is a video of tonight's Rector's Conference, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium.