Sunday, April 29, 2018

Candidacy for Holy Orders

We are grateful to Bishop Edgar De Cunha, Bishop of Fall River, who celebrated candidacy with us this morning!

Candidates 2018

Diocese of Rochester

Diocese of Manchester

Archdiocese of Boston

Diocese of Kumbakonam

Diocese of Fall River

Archdiocese of Hanoi

The Vine and the Branches

Here's the homily I preached at Saint Joseph's Basilica in Webster last night.

Did you ever pick a grape? I remember a few years ago I visited a vineyard, and as I walked down the aisles of heavy wooded vines, there hung from each of them a myriad of big heavy clusters of rich red grapes, seemingly bursting with juice and with flavor. And I couldn’t resist picking one of the fattest of the grapes, popping it into my mouth and relishing its fresh sweet flavor.

It was a great cluster of grapes. But then, as I walked along, I notice another cluster, very different from the first. You see the famous thunderstorms in this part of Tuscany must have hit a few days before, and the winds must have hit this cluster of grapes in just the right way, so they it blew to the side and its step ripped, ever so slightly from the vine…so that now, instead of a big cluster of juicy red grapes, it held a repulsive collection of wizened red grape-corpses, dangling grostesquely from its branches.

Unless the branch is securely joined to the vine, it dries up, wizens and dies.

And so it is with us and Christ. He is the vine, the source of life. He tells us that repeatedly: He is the way, the truth and life. And when we are joined to him, we thrive, eternally filled with life. But when we are separated from him, we wizen and die.

The Eucharist joins us to Christ the true vine when we drink his Precious Blood and eat the Body which he offered for us in the perfect sacrifice of the Cross. Indeed, as I commemorate the six month anniversary of the death of my mother, my greatest consolation is that she who ate his Body and drank his Blood will never really die, but grafted onto the true vine, will live with him forever.

Prayer joins us to him, each time we get down on our knees, in adoration and intercession, placing our lives in his hands and joining our broken hearts to his Sacred Heart.

Acts of love join us to him as we meet him in all who are hungry or lost or forgotten, and in loving them love him, knowing that whatever we do to the least of our brothers we do unto him.

Thus, without the Eucharist, without prayer and without charity, we wizen and die and become empty, shriveled up corpses, fallen from the vine which is our life and our only hope.

It’s like that wonderful poem by Freda Hanbury about the little Branch which is you and me.

T’is only a little Branch,
A thing so fragile and weak,
But that little Branch hath a message true
To give, could it only speak.

"I'm only a little Branch,
I live by a life not mine,
For the sap that flows through my tendrils small
Is the life-blood of the Vine.

"No power indeed have I
The fruit of myself to bear,
But since I'm part of the living Vine,
Its fruitfulness I share.

"I fear not the days to come,
I dwell not upon the past,
As moment by moment I draw a life,
Which for evermore shall last.

"I bask in the sun's bright beams,
Which with sweetness fills my fruit,
Yet I own not the clusters hanging there,
For they all come from the root."

A life which is not my own,
But another's life in me:
This, this is the message the Branch would speak,
A message to thee and me.

Oh, struggle not to "abide,"
Nor labor to "bring forth fruit,"
But let Jesus unite thee to Himself,
As the Vine Branch to the root.

So simple, so deep, so strong
That union with Him shall be:
His life shall forever replace thine own,
And His love shall flow through thee.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Soon they will call you "Father"

This is my homily from the Deacon House Mass on Friday morning.
In twenty three days we will be in Boston, two weeks later in Portland, and two weeks after that in Fall River. Then, in two weeks, it’s Hartford, and then, on the last Sunday in June, in Springfield. On that last same weekend, 38 years ago, I knelt before Bishop Bernard Flanagan in Worcester, as he prayed:

Almighty Father,
Grant to these servants of yours
the dignity of the priesthood.
Renew within them the Spirit of holiness.

May they be worthy coworkers with our Order,
so that by their preaching
and through the grace of the Holy Spirit
the words of the Gospel may bear fruit in human hearts…

There’s a remarkable intimacy to that prayer, addressing three new relationships in your life.

The intimate relationship between the Priest and his Bishop. Respectful and obedient sons, co-workers and sharers in his ministry. Ordained by the laying on of his hands and sustained by his paternal care.

The intimate relationship between a Priest and the People he is called to sanctify, shepherd and teach. You don’t even know their town yet, never mind their names. But you dream of them, already you pray for them: the old ones and the young, the troubled and the enthusiastic, the pious and the not-so-certain, and even the ones yet unborn. They wait for you, my brothers, they wait to be touched by Christ through you. For soon they will call you Father.

All of which, is grounded in the most intimate relationship of all: the one between you and Christ, the great High priest, in whose name you will be Priest, with whose power you will sanctify and by whose example you will shepherd a People made holy by his Blood.

I can understand why it is hard to stop smiling these days. For how blessed you are, in a very new way, to be called to the Supper of the Lamb.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cathedral Musicians Guild of Boston at SJS

Last evening the Cathedral Musicians Guild joined us for Holy Hour and Dinner, after which I spoke with them on "Ecumenical Dimensions of the Translation of Liturgical Texts." A lively discussion followed.  Here is my talk.

Forty eight years ago I was in seventh grade, just about five years after the Second Vatican Council had approved the idea of translating the Latin Prayers of the Roman Catholic Mass from Latin to English.

The first guidelines for this new endeavor were published in January under the title Comme le prevoit. Later that year, the now six year old International Commission on English in the Liturgy undertook an ecumenical outreach in the hope that some of the translations might be developed in concert with those churches which also used these same ancient texts in their worship.

Thus was born the International Consultation on English Texts, which over the next six years produced common texts for use in each of their denominations under the title Prayers We Have in Common. Those prayers consisted of the

Apostles' Creed
Nicene Cree
Athanasian Creed
Lord's Prayer

In 1975 the translations of the Creeds was incorporated into the new Roman Missal proposed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, approved by the Roman Catholic Conferences of English-speaking Bishops and confirmed by the Holy See.

ICET was succeeded by the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) in 1985, the American section of which was comprised of the Consultation on Common Texts. The new organization, formed here in Boston during a meeting of Societas Liturgica was given “a more clearly defined membership and even broader goals for ecumenical-liturgical collaboration.” National or regional representatives were drawn from the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed (Presbyterian), Roman Catholic, and United/Uniting traditions, while at a later date Orthodox and other Eastern Churches, as well as representatives of the Free Churches began to take part in CCT meetings.

In 1990 ELLC produced an updated and expanded edition of common texts under the title Praying Together. This revised collection of texts included

The Lord’s Prayer
Kyrie Eleison
Gloria in Excelsis
The Nicene Creed
The Apostles' Creed
Sursum Corda
Sanctus and Benedictus
Agnus Dei
Gloria Patri
Te Deum Laudamus
Nunc Dimitis

By the late-1990s many of the prayer texts had been adopted by the various denominational bodies involved in their composition. However, an ELLC survey published in 2001 reported widespread modification of almost all of the texts by most denominations. Let’s look at three of the most popular texts by way of example: The Gloria in Excelsis, the Nicene Creed and the Sanctus and Benedictus.

Gloria in Excelsis
The ELLC survey reported widespread dissatisfaction with particular words in the translation, although it had been widely adopted. But most notably there was difficulty with the systematic avoidance of masculine pronouns referring to God.

Here was an important indication of a growing disagreement among the churches in regard to masculine prenominal references to God.

Some maintained that the predominantly masculine references to God in the scriptures (at least numerically predominant) should be taken as a mandate (so to speak) for masculine images of God in our prayer texts.

On the other hand, many saw masculine prenominal references as growing from a sinfully patriarchal view of God and authority which it was the responsibility of those seeking justice to dismantle.

More intense expressions of the conservative point of view saw in the inclusivists a tendency to strip personhood from the heart of trinitarian Doctrine and an attempt to censor or at very least critique the scriptural writers with an evolving gender-inclusive ideology.

More intensive expressions of the more liberal point of view resulted in formulations for Baptismal formulae invoking God as ““Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier,” as well as the avoidance of the use of masculine prenominal references as universal collectives.

This brief sketch of the emerging debates of inclusive language in liturgical texts is not designed to adequately describe the subject, so much as to mark one of the significant sources of contention which still exist among the Churches in the translation of liturgical texts.

Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed, as one might expect, has been modified by various denominations along doctrinal lines. The Evangelicals in the Church of England, for example, modified references to Mary, while multiple denominations approached the translation of consubstantial in creative ways, an irony if there ever was one since the very word consubstantialis and homoousious before it were “invented words” for a fairly indescribable concept. As the ELLC survey concluded:

“It is beyond the scope of this report to suggest any resolution. For the time being we should accept that the difficulty will be dealt with by “local” amendments…The importance of the Nicene Creed is seen in the weight of comment its attracts. However, it alone led respondents to offer complete texts as alternative models.”

Sanctus and Benedictus
And finally, the Sanctus and Benedictus. Here, too, there were major points of diversion from the ELLC text, some revolving around the Christological nuance of “Blessed is he.”

Some saw this as a rather explicit Christological referent, while other, preferring “Blessed is the one,” thus providing the major source of variation. Those who defend “Blessed is he” see a direct Christological reference. Those who advocate “Blessed is the one” expressed “a referred Christology in which the congregation who come are the Body of Christ, ‘neither male nor female“. The Australian Lutheran Church preferred a stronger translation of Sabaoth, etc. etc.

So where do we go from here? The fabric of the attempt to reach a solid ecumenical corpus of prayers in common had, therefore, begun to fray by the turn of the millennium along the lines of doctrinal, linguistic and translation lines. All of which presaged the seismic shifts experienced by Roman Catholics in the move from dynamic to formal equivalence promulgated by the publication of the instruction Liturgiam authenticam in 2001, at the heart of this was this revolutionary paragraph:

25. So that the content of the original texts may be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any special intellectual formation, the translations should be characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves these texts’ dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision. By means of words of praise and adoration that foster reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s majesty, his power, his mercy and his transcendent nature, the translations will respond to the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people of our own time, while contributing also to the dignity and beauty of the liturgical celebration itself.
A more ambitious presentation could unpack this paragraph by describing the transition from dynamic to formal equivalency and its consequent impact on precision, canonicity, proclaim-ability and whole raft of other issues. But this presentation limits itself to the ecumenical dimensions of liturgical texts.

So where does that leave us today in seeking common renderings of those ancient prayers which have the potential to remind us of our common roots, giving voice to a common lex orandi which would lead to a common lex credendi? For the weaving of such an intricate tapestry of belief and praise is our heart’s desire and an answer to the Lord’s own prayer of ut unum sint.

It leaves us, I would suggest, with several major challenges which it may well take another generation to unravel. But as long as we’re setting out challenges, let me add one more.

Rhetorical Style
It is one of the most puzzling of all the questions of translation faced by any denomination and has been the major point of conflict in the Roman Church’s struggles in rendering liturgical texts over the past twenty years, an enterprise to which I have given much of my professional life.

As a Church and as a society we are, as the linguists would say, shifting registers. All you need do is listen to the ways in which the genre of presidential addresses have changed in the past fifty years. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson sound entirely different from Presidents George W Bush and Trump.

For an extreme but illuminating example, take President Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in which he sought to use poetry to knit together a broken country:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Compare that, if you will, to this excerpt from our most recent President’s inaugural address.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body. And I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules -- buy American and hire American.

Substance aside, the change in rhetorical tone bears similarities to the shift in tone from middle to modern English. The first is resonant with chiasmatic structure, soaring poetic visions and calls to arms. The second is characterized by the staccato rhythms of a teletype and the pithy headlines of the Tabloid.

And I present these examples not to stand in the long line of those who would beat up on our President, for he is what we, as a country, have chosen. But the fact is indisputable that, as a culture, we have effectively banished from the courtroom, the classroom and the political rostrum is the high rhetoric of even a few decades ago.

Let’s take a look at a a Christmas Collect, found in most Christian service books, by way of example.

The Latin original dates from the 9th century Gelasian Sacrmanetaries and has always been used for Masses during the night before Christmas:

Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem
veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere,
da, quaesumus, ut, cuius in terra mysteria lucis agnovimus,
eius quoque gaudiis perfruamur in caelo.

Here’s the new precise translation, written like its Latin original, in pretty High Rhetorical style:

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendor of the true light,
grant, we pray,
that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
may also delight in his gladness in heaven.

It’s not dissimilar to the rendering in the1979 Book of Common Prayer:

O God,
who hast caused this holy night to shine
with the illumination of the true Light:
Grant us, we beseech thee,
that as we have known the mystery of that Light upon earth,
so may we also perfectly enjoy him in heaven;

Compare the rhetorical style of those prayers to the 1970 ICEL Sacramentary:

You make this holy night
radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ our light.
We welcome Him as Lord, true light of the world.
Bring us to eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven
where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

or the 1985 Book of Alternative Services:

Eternal God,
this holy night is radiant
with the brilliance of your one true light.
As we have known the revelation of that light on earth,
bring us to see the splendor of your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Or still more, these lines from the second form of the Christmas Litany in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship:

God of grace and truth,
In Jesus Christ you came among us
As light shining in darkness.
We confess that we have not welcomed the light,
Or trusted good news to be good…
Forgive our doubt, and renew our hope,
So that we may receive the fullness of your grace,
and live in the truth of Christ the Lord.

Lots of good prayers, but written in two essentially different registers: maybe described as high Church and low Church, transcendent and imminent or uppity and low brow. But that tone, I would suggest, the choice of thick poetry or crisp prose, is one of the most important challenges before us.

For beyond the words, our denominational worship and identity is formed as much by the way we say the words as what those words are, by the way we approach the Godhead as what we say to him when we get there.

And maybe there’s a message in there somewhere: that, as the philosopher Rudolph Otto once reminded us: before the numinous all words ultimately fail and all we can really do is bow down very low.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Sheep Gate and Unity

Here is my homily from this morning.

The most important job of a shepherd is to keep his sheep together.

Out in the middle of a field, every shepherd boy has to keep his sheep from wandering away during the night, so he rolls rocks and logs to form an enclosure. But then what does he do about a gate to this sheep pen? He lays down across the opening, his head on one rock and his feet on the other. That way, if a sheep tries to escape, he would have to walk over the shepherd boy and wake him up. And if a wolf tries to get in, it is over the body of the shepherd.

That’s what Jesus means when he says that he is the Sheep Gate. He is the way into the sheepfold and he is the gate which keeps the thief and the robber away; and of anyone who would aspire to be a shepherd in the model of Christ the Good Shepherd, the same must be said. Our most important job is to keep the sheep together. One in belief, one in prayer and one in charity.

Like the shepherd boy in the middle of the field, we use whatever we can find to keep the sheep together and protect them from wandering off where the wolves will get them. And so we build a sheepfold out of our example, the Tradition as expressed in the Magesterium and the Catechism, our preaching at Sunday Mass, and the Code of Canon Law.

Right out there in the middle of the field, we use every resource at out disposal to keep the flock together, including laying down our own lives, as Christ the true sheep gate laid down his, for the sake of the unity of the flock. Our willingness to speak the truth in season and out. Our willingness to let go of our own brilliant ideas and preach only Christ, and him crucified. Our willingness to die to ourselves and seek only the unity of the Church in her Risen Lord and Savior.

For the one true Sheep gate, the only guarantor of the Church’s unity is Christ, and we act in imitation of him, laying down their lives that all might be one in him.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ping Pong at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary

The first annual SJS/J23 Ping Pong Tournament took place this afternoon, including a bit of pool as well.  Here are some photos. The afternoon completed with a cookout and a good time was had by all!


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Knights of Malta, Lourdes and the Sick

Many of the Knights and Dames of Malta who are preparing to go to Lourdes with those who are sick (malades) gathered at Saint John's for Mass and reflections on Lourdes, the sick and the Knights of Malta.  Here are the homily I preached and the reflections I offered to the group.  To view my talk in Lourdes last year, click this link.

The 14 year old peasant girl named Bernadette was with her sisters Toinette and Jeanne collecting firewood to sell in order to buy bread, when suddenly she heard the sound of two gusts of wind, blowing in the direction of a niche in the rock, where a single rose was growing.

So she walked closer and heard a third gust of wind, and in the place where the rose was growing, she saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, and from the niche there streamed a dazzling bright light…Thus was the first vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Lourdes to Saint Bernadette 157 years ago.

Notice the apparition began with a driving wind, three winds, which blew from heaven to the stone niche where the lady dressed in white would reveal the mystery of her coming.

Wind is a curious thing. We can’t trace where it has comes from and we can’t see exactly where it ends up. It’s most like a flame or a breath exhaled. Indeed, that’s why there is only one word in Hebrew for breath or fire or driving wind. The word is ruah, and we hear it in the reading from Genesis today.

God picks up a handful of dirt (the Hebrew word for dirt is adamah), and into it he breathes the ruah…the spirit, breath, fire, driving wind. And the adamah is changed by the breath of God into Adam, man.

It’s like the Christ, who is born of the Virgin. You see it in a lot of late medieval Italian paintings of the Annunciation, as the Angel appears to Mary and just behind her is a long drape covering an open window, blowing in the wind. It’s as if the spirit, the breath of God, the ruah is overpowering her, incarnating life in her virginal womb, bringing forth Emmanual, the Christ to set us free.

So, this morning, let us ask God to renew the life he first breathed into our flesh.

And let us ask Our Lady to beg him to heal us. To heal whatever is broken, diseased or tired. Our faith. Our love. Our hope. Our hearts. Our minds. Our bodies. Let us beg the Lady dressed in white, to pray to her son, through whom she and we were made, to send forth his Spirit once again, to renew the face of the earth.


There were two kinds of people in Lourdes in 1858: the children and the skeptics.  By the children I mean not just Saint Bernadette, but all who made the trek with her out into the woods.

By the children I mean all the pilgrims who put aside everything else in order to walk to the grotto and kneel before the Beautiful Lady and listen. By the children I mean the thousands who have come to these waters seeking mercy and healing and been filled with a superabundance of both. By the children, I mean all who look to Mary in a world overwhelmed by confusion and despair. By the children, I mean us.

And then there were the skeptics. France in the 1850’s was a hotbed of skepticism. Scriptural commentaries by Strauss and Bauer, one denying the divinity of Christ and the second denying that Jesus ever existed, were popular among scholars; while villages like Lourdes were rife with superstition about ghosts and spirits of the dead wandering the woods. Indeed, when they first heard of Bernadette’s report of a beautiful lady, many of the townsfolk were convinced that the little girl had literally seen a ghost in the woods, a revenant (just like the movie last year), silently returning from the dead to prowl the stony woods of the grotto.

Even the Priest told Bernadette not to go back to the Grotto. For skepticism is always our first reaction when God reaches unexpectedly into the predictable pattern of our lives and upsets the apple cart. Easier to say its a revenant appearing to a confused child than that God is about to turn my life upside down. And even after the indisputable revelations and cures, skeptics remained and remain.

Four years after the apparition here Darwin published his Origin of the Species, and a mighty struggle for the hearts and minds of humanity set off in earnest. Now Science is good, Darwin was substantially right and sometimes even skepticism is commendable, but the deep down struggle was for those who saw man’s Reason as displacing God; replacing God with the mind of man.

Which was precisely what God was doing in Lourdes. He was speaking to a skeptical world so full of itself, so caught up in its own petty struggles and incomplete answers, so set on stuffing itself with the pleasures and insights of a new age that it failed the most essential test of what it means to be a human being: the ability to so empty myself that God might fill me up, to bow very low before the one who made me in adoration, praise and obedient love.

So skeptics found it hard to believe. Hard to believe that God chose a virgin from an out of the way backwater to be the mother of his Son. Hard to believe that God chose a little girl in a forgotten hamlet in the Pyrenees to bring forth healing waters from beneath the feet of the Mother of his Son. Hard to believe a message of repentance in a world wracked with violence and despair, brought by the Beautiful Lady.

But Bernadette did believe, just as the beautiful Lady, the most Blessed of all women believed even when it was hard. For what makes Mary most blessed among women is that she was obedient to God, that she emptied herself of ego and gain and the search for pleasure. This new Eve was the opposite of the first Eve…not grabbing for the gusto, but letting go and letting God. Like her Son upon the cross, she emptied herself and welcomed the swords that would pierce her heart. She made room for God and God alone.

And that, by the way is what it means for the beautiful Lady of this place to reveal herself as the Immaculate Conception, a title which proclaims that there was holiness about her from the very beginning God began knitting her in her mother’s womb she was freed from sin’s original stain.

For sin is a self-replicating contagion, which drives out light as its all-consuming darkness grows. Selfishness, arrogance and lust take up an awful lot of room in the human heart—until there’s no more room for God. So in this one who was immaculately conceived, where there is no room for sin, there is ample room for God.

And by her example, the Immaculate Conception urges us poor banished children of Eve, to follow her example. So when she proclaims “all generations will called me blessed,” this is not mere act of human hubris. Rather, she foretells that her words of humble obedience will be sung in all our vast assemblies until the end of time!

So, when you arrive in Lourdes, gaze into the eyes of the beautiful woman and see the beauty of a heart so emptied of human ambitions and cares that she can say “Fiat,” ‘Let it be done to me as God wills’ with her whole, being.

And that’s why the Blessed Virgin is usually depicted as kneeling as the Angel announces to her that she will be the Mother of the Christ. So too we, whenever we approach God, we do so like the publican in today’s Gospel, by bowing, genuflecting, submitting to the will of God in respect, humility, reverence and obedience.

Abba Appolo, a desert father of the Church in her first days used to say that "the devil has no knees; he cannot kneel; he cannot adore; he cannot pray; he can only look down his nose in contempt. Being unwilling to bend the knee at the name of Jesus is the essence of evil." 

Which is precisely the reason for Jesus’ love for the poor, the sick and those who are in pain. They thirst with him on the Cross. So emptied of the preoccupations of this world that they long only for him to fill them up with his merciful grace.

That is why the malades among us are such a gift. For they teach us by their vulnerability how vulnerable each of us are. They teach us by their pain our desperate need for God. They teach us by the example of their patience, their faith and their joy to make a space within our hearts for a God who is so rich in his healing mercy.

The sick, then, know pain and fear, and even emptiness at times, and Mary did too. That’s why the Angel said to her: “Be not afraid, Mary.” For that fear neither sinful nor wrong, was but an invitation to Christ’s grace to fill her up and make her whole.

And that is the secret of Lourdes, which will soon experience: That we are closest to God in our littleness, our brokenness, our sickness and our pain. For God has called me to follow him, not because I am strong or I am smart or I am so very bright, but because he looks upon me, just like his Blessed Mother, he looks upon me in my littleness and raises me up.

EOHS Pilgrimage Draws to a Close

The pilgrimage of the Northeast Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre concluded with a celebratory dinner with Cardinal O'Malley.  Here are the homilies from our last two Masses at the Basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul Outside the Walls.


Gathered in this Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the first Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cannot help but draw a contrast between those about to stone Saint Stephen to death, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the gate to eternal life.

The first are, in Stephen’s own words, a stiff-necked people, who always oppose the Holy Spirit, who murdered anyone who spoke of Jesus.

And then there is Mary, full of grace, whose fiat (let it be done to me according to God’s word) resounds through all the ages as perfect docility, humility and obedience to God’s will. She is the one on whom the Holy Spirit descends in conception of the Son of God and she is the one who brings us Jesus: God made flesh for our salvation.

In contrast to the first martyr’s murderer’s she tells us, “Do whatever he tells you,” and joined to us by Jesus as he looked down from the wood of the Cross, she is our mother, our constant intercessor and the most blessed example of what it means to be an obedient child of God.

So let us lay our prayers at her feet in this temple of her glory and make our prayers known to her. Our prayers for Cardinal Law, for whom we beg eternal rest. Our prayers for the Church in Boston and the Church in New England, and for our shepherd, Cardinal O’Malley. For our Bishops and our priests and for all seminarians.

And for all those prayers which you carry with you on this pilgrimage. May Mary, Mother of God and Mother of all Christians present them to her Son for our good and the good of all his Holy Church.


How hungry we are! How way down deep inside the hunger gnaws at us!

We call it emptiness, loneliness, isolation or pain. We call it fear, depression, confusion or loss. We call it seeking, grasping, despair or need. But whatever the name, it is the same. A deep gaping pain, like a black hole of fear that threatens to eat us alive.

But the great message of this place, built upon the bones of the one who preached the hope in which we are saved, is that you never need hunger again, for Christ waits for you with the life-giving drink that quenches every thirst and the bread that takes away all hunger.

He waits for you. He waits for you who are tired of fearing pain and dreading death, who long for relief and are desperate for hope.

He waits for you! He took your pain upon his shoulders with arms nailed to a cross, a pierced heart and a crown of thorns. He longs to gather your pain to his and to transform it by his Passion, to redeem your sufferings in the Paschal sacrifice of this Altar. 

He waits for you, this Jesus, this Christ, this good shepherd, this way, this truth, this life, who all along the pilgrim paths of our lives feeds us with finest wheat, the bread of angels and the remedy of all our fears.

He waits for you! The one who looks down from the Cross, looks into our hearts and promises that ‘whoever comes to him will never hunger, and whoever believes will never thirst again.’

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pilgrim Paths in Rome...

Our pilgrims were at Saint Peter's Basilica this morning with Cardinal Edward O'Brien, head of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Monsignor Francis Kelly, an old friend (and fellow Worcester Priest) and Canon of Saint Peter's Basilica.  Here is Monsignor standing next to the closet where all his vestments are stored in the sacristy at Saint Peter's.

Then we took the tour of the excavations beneath Saint Peter's.  I think it has been twenty years since I went on the "Scavi" and it has improved immensely!  At the end we prayed before the bones of the Prince of the Apostle.

Yesterday we celebrated Mass at the Pontifical North American College.  We were originally hoping to have Mass at San Onofrio, the patronal Church of the Knights of the Holy Speulchre.  Here is the homily I prepared for that Mass.  

We look for God. It’s what life is all about. Looking for God, the one who made us, and asking him “what do you want us to do?”

It’s what the disciples were doing on the road to Emmaus. Asking this stranger what the crucifixion of Jesus meant. And he told them, and then he showed them in the breaking of the bread.

Which is why we come to the Church of San Onofrio for the Sunday Mass of our Pilgrimage.

We’re not the first to make a pilgrimage to this site seeking God. Indeed, the Church was built on the side of an old hermitage of Blessed Nicholas of Forca Palena, who is buried under this altar. Blessed Nicholas came here, as did the monks who followed him, to find the God who made him, and ask “what do you want me to do?”

It was easy for us to get here with the escalators in that big modern parking garage, but for Nicholas and those monks there was a donkey track along the ridge of the hill just to the west of here which ran to the Porta San Pancrazio, and then there was a very steep footpath (the present Via di Sant'Onofrio) which plunged down the hill to the river, and then continued along the riverbank. Each times the monks ascended this hill they took their lives in their hands!

But they did it, because they wanted to find the God who made them and ask him “what do you want me to do?” It’s why Godfrey de Bouillon sold all his possessions and joined the crusades and it is why you came on this pilgrimage, like the disciples to Emmaus and Blessed Nicholas climbing up the hill and our founder on his way to Jerusalem: to find the God who made you and ask him “what do you want me to do?”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Time to Dust Off Your Clubs...

...Registration is now officially open for the 17th Annual Saint John's Seminary Golf Tournament & Auction!

We hope you will be able to join us on Monday, July 9th at Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, MA for what is sure to be a wonderful day. We are currently seeking event, hole and advertising sponsors, auction items, dinner attendees, and, of course, foursomes to play.  All proceeds from this, our biggest annual fundraiser, benefit the seminarians currently in formation as well as the Reverend Daniel J. Kennedy, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.

PATRIOTS DAY PROMO: Anyone who registers today will receive a free bonus gift for all members of your foursome!

Visit to sign up or learn more, or download the invitation here.

Questions? Email and someone from our Golf Committee will get right back to you.

Thank you for your support of Saint John's Seminary!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

From Fear to Faith that Christ is Really There

Here's the homily I preached this morning in the fourteenth century Chapel of the Holy Corporal in the Orvieto Cathedral this morning. 

The Priest visiting the Church of Saint Catherine in nearby Bolsena was afraid. He was afraid that he no longer believed. Maybe he was coming out of a really bad mid-life crisis, or maybe he was just the skeptical sort. But he doubted, nonetheless that God cared about him anymore or maybe even ever died for him, and he certainly doubted that Christ was present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the host he was holding in his hand.

He doubted because he was afraid, until the Host began to bleed on the corporal which is enshrined up there, above my head, and covered with drops of Blood. He doubted because he was afraid.

And what are you afraid of? That you will get sick and linger with a painful and uncertain disease? That your grandchildren will make the wrong decisions and end up in all kinds of trouble? That everyone you love will die and leave you all alone? That the market will crash and you will live retirement living from hand to mouth? That the temptations will win out over the graces and you will go to hell? We are so often afraid.

We suffer anguish over the things that wake us up at two in the morning. We are distressed by the things that assault us throughout the day. We are persecuted by those who resent or just don’t trust us. We hunger for love and fulfillment and hope. We are naked, when we come into this world and when we leave, and desperately try to clothe ourselves with artifice in between. We bleed from the slings and arrows and don’t always see them coming.

And we fear.

But God smiles at us in our foolishness, like a knowing parent looking down at a three year old, and with love he says to us, disciples, “Be not afraid!”

You will not drown. You will never be alone. And I have died that you might live. All evil, darkness and death have been conquered, and those who are my children, who eat my body and drink my blood, will live forever in perfect joy with me in heaven.

Believe him. Trust him as a baby trusts the mother who hold him in her arms. And rest in the Lord, who brings you peace.

We were also blessed to be joined by scores of children who had just received their First Holy Communion.  After the homily in English I was delighted to greet them and thank them for having reminding us of our First Communion, when he Jesus came to live in our hearts that we might never be afraid again!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Saint Francis, the Cross and Perfect Joy

I preached this homily at the tomb of Saint Francis this morning.

The man who is buried in the grave behind me is often remembered as a sweet-faced saint around whom birds twittered, not unlike Snow White in a Disney movie.

Yet, Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, knew Francis the man. He once wrote of how a very serious temptation of spirit came upon Saint Francis, and how “Because of it he was filled with anguish and sorrow; he afflicted and chastised his body, he prayed and wept bitterly. He was under attack in this way for several years.”

And yet, we are told, despite his suffering (and maybe even because of it) Francis never failed to be loving, compassionate and beaming with the joy of the Gospel.  Maybe this is what he was talking about when he once said that the devil “is most delighted when he can steal the joy of spirit from a servant of God…He carries dust which he tries to thrown into the tiniest openings of the conscience, to dirty a clear mind and a clean life.”

So here he is, suffering greatly, but somehow emanating Christian joy. How did he pull that off?

I think the secret may be in his most beautiful prayer, the Prayer Before the Crucifix, which begins with the words “Most High and Glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my soul.”

Kneeling before the Cross, the great outpouring of the love of God, he seeks not an analgesic to this world’s troubles, but the light by which he might see the love which flows with blood and water from the side of crucified.

Through the grace of the poverello, this little poor one, may we join our sufferings to the cross of Christ, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer with him, and therein find perfect joy.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Holy Sepulchre Pilgrims in Assisi

I preached the following homily this morning as the pilgrims of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre began their pilgrimage at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi.

Not far from where we pray is the Porziuncula, that little Chapel inside this great big Church. It was one of the first chapels that Francis and his brothers rebuilt and was the place where he chose to die. Which is why it has always been for me a prototype of what a church should be.

Unpretentious but washed in Grace, with a beauty which points beyond itself, its walls encrusted with the prayers and the tears of generations of folks like you and me.

I remember visiting the Porziuncula for the first time as a seminarian. And I remember an old woman kneeling on an ancient wooden kneeler, her rosary-clad hands emerging from the dark corner where she prayed. Her fingers praying the beads as she whispered to God the names of

grandchildren and the sick, elderly friends and the beggar on the front step. There she knelt in quiet conversation with the God who had drawn her to this place for decades on end. By her prayers and Saint Francis’ sweat, the words on the threshold to this shrine came true: HIC LOCUS SANCTUS EST. (This place is holy)

May our pilgrimage be graced by our prayers and the holy shrines where we will pray them. And when our week is done, may it be true that this place and each one of us is holy.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Passion Sunday Eve

Here are some photos by the wonderful George Martell from our Passion Sunday Eve Mass and dinner with Cardinal O'Malley, thirty-four of our generous benefactors, and seminarians from Saint John's and Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary! 

Installation to the Ministry of Lector

Here are some pictures from the Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter, at which Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Diocese of Rochester installed our new Lectors!  It was a wonderful celebration with many family and friends joining in the celebration.