26 July 2021

On Getting Hungry...

 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.  And especially on some days, we are tempted to quiet the beast with all kinds of perverse delights, passing pleasures to calm the soul and quiet the ache.


Sometimes we choose power as our balm while at other times we embrace money or chemicals or sex. Sometimes we bask in satisfactions of reputation or prestige while at others we build castles of self-indulgence and self-congratulation.


The snake oil salesmen of sin offers many a remedy for the pains of life, though each, at the end of the day, but deepens the hurt, extends the alienation, and leaves us alone and hurting and desperately sad.


So, I join my voice to Holy Wisdom in asking: “Why spend your money…. for what fails to satisfy?” For only one satisfies, One who is a he and not a thing, One through whom all was made. One who died and rose, destroying death. One who waits for you here on this altar. One who waits with the life-giving drink that quenches every thirst and the bread that takes away all hunger. He waits for you.


And you who have grown old and bent, 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.  For the bread of life is a healing remedy unto eternal life and the cup of salvation the Blood of the Lord which makes us ever young in him.  He waits for you!


You who have tried it all…experimentum ad absurdum.  You whose trail of sin and self-exploitation looks back on broken relationships, broken promises, and bleeding hearts… He waits for you, with his bleeding Sacred Heart.  He waits to bleed for you, to die for you, and through offering you a chalice of himself to make you like himself: a Victim for the world who loves the least as he first loved us.  He waits for you. 


And you who left the practice of the faith out of boredom or resentment or offense, you who sometimes turn the channel to the Mass out of a curious nostalgia, seeking a combination of infomercial and local news: He waits for you!  He knows your name,  and he calls to you from this altar to receive from the hands of the apostles and their helpers the bread which he has broken, which is the Body of the Lord, offered to give you strength for the journey.  He calls you to this altar to come without money and be filled.  He waits for you.


And You whose sin has kept you away…he calls you too…To lay upon this altar with those gifts of bread and wine the futility of your best efforts, the brokenness of your fears, and the stupidity of your narcissism.  He is waiting here for you…he whose body was broken like the hosts he longs to place in your hands….that by his brokenness you might be healed.


He waits for you, this Jesus, this Christ, this good shepherd, this way, this truth, this life waits for you no matter your pain, no matter your fear, no matter your sin or excuses.  He waits for you.


All you who are heavily burdened, he waits for you, and looks upon you with pity, as upon sheep without a shepherd, and he says to me and to my brother priests: Do not send them away, but gather them to me around this altar and give to them the bread that I break and they will be filled.


So come home for supper….come home to God…come home eat well the bread of angels. For the real miracle of the multiplication of the loaves was not that Jesus once fed so many men upon a hill in Galilee. The real miracle is that he feeds me and you today and that he calls everyone who hears to my voice to Holy Communion with him that he might live in you and you in him.


That we might know the peace which his world cannot give: He waits for you.

On Being a Shepherd...

I am your pastor, a word that means shepherd. But what does that mean? 

Certainly it means I preach the Gospel, I look at the administration of the parish, I try to get people back to Church, I try to get to know you and help to draw you closer to Christ. It means I am called to get you to heaven, by way of the Mass, Confessions and all the sacraments celebrated with our hearts, souls and whole beings.


But that’s all but an outgrowth of who the pastor is supposed to be: a reflection of the Good Shepherd; the Lord, who in that iconic image (reflected in today’s Gospel) cradles a lost lamb on his shoulders, so that, in the words Jeremiah uses this morning, “they need no longer fear and tremble.”


Sheep tremble a lot, I am told. In fact, when they are lost and really scared they become petrified: their joints literally lock and they cannot move a muscle. Which is why the Good Shepherd has to gently pick them up and carry them back on his shoulders.


I’ve always loved the way the prophet Isaiah described the Good Shepherd: “He shall feed his flock…he shall gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently leading those that are with young.”


Thus does Saint Paul instruct the young Timothy how to shepherd souls: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Timothy 2:24)


That’s all because Jesus tells us that the ultimate job description of the Shepherd is to “lay down his life for his sheep,.” (John 10:11). My responsibility to you is, quite to literally, to be willing to lay down my life for you in the same way that the Lord laid down his life on the wood of the Cross for us.


The Rite of Ordination reminds us that “with the charity of a father and brother, [the priest must] love all whom God places in [his] care, [especially] the poor and the weak, [and the stranger].” 


This is what Pope Saint John Paul II was talking about when he insisted that “the priest ... must exercise towards the men and women to whom he is sent a ministry of authentic spiritual fatherhood, which gains him "sons" and "daughters" in the Lord.” 


In another Holy Thursday letter, the Holy Father continued: “The Priest, by renouncing this fatherhood proper to married men, seeks another fatherhood...recalling the words of the Apostle about the children whom he begets in suffering.” 


Such love, such charity to all whom God sends to the priest, breathes life into that which is dead, sheds light into the corners which have grown dark and defrosts with its warmth all that has grown frigid and cold. 


The story is told of a meetings of  two of the founders of Communio e Liberazione, who approaching death, were reflecting on what characterized the ministry of a good pastor.


“The essential thing…for “a pastor…is charity. Charity is what is fruitful, what changes and converts people...Charity is what regenerates love. The world does not forgive. Charity always begins loving again...There’s no greater miracle than discovering in yourself charity, a love that wasn’t there before.” 


"What does love look like?” Saint Augustine once asked. “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like." 


Perhaps the Saintly Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it best: "We can cure physical diseases with medicine but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more who are dying for a little love. Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So spread love everywhere you go." 


So the pastor’s job description is really simple: to love you as the good shepherd loves his sheep cradling them in his arms and carrying them home, laying down my life, that you might live and love in peace and joy. 


Saint Cecilia. Pray for us!


13 July 2021

How to be Happy

What do I need to be happy?

Maybe success? 


Way too many people, even priests, think that success will bring them happiness. Like the seminarian who tells himself that he will finally be happy once he is ordained a Deacon. Then the Deacon, who will finally be happy once he’s ordained a Priest. Then the Priest who believes he will finally be happy if he is just made a Monsignor. Then the Monsignor who will never be happy until he is made a Bishop. Then the Bishop who wants to be an Archbishop. And the Archbishop will finally be happy when he is named a Cardinal. Then the Cardinal who will only be happy when he attends a conclave to elect a Pope. And then he hits 80 and retires and asks himself, in the immortal words of Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”  


The road to success may be satisfying for brief moments, but it’s not the key to happiness. 


Well how about money?  Will money make me happy? There’s a friend of mine who likes to say that if money can't buy happiness, at least it can rent it for a little while.


What if I won a million bucks; would that be enough to make me happy?  Would it? Maybe not. One study shows that most young people who win the lottery or inherit a windfall will, after just five years, lose half of the money through poor spending and bad investments.


Another study tells us that 10 years after winning the lottery, the average winner has only saved 16 cents of every dollar originally won. Even worse, around 70 percent of people who win the lottery or get a big windfall eventually end up in bankruptcy. 70% of the time!


So neither money nor success will make me happy. But something else, or rather, someone else, will.


Did you hear Jesus instructing his disciples on how to preach the Kingdom of God, a few moments ago? Go from town to town, he tells them, and proclaim at the top of your lungs: “the Kingdom fo God is at hand!”  But then he says something strange: “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in your belts.” Don’t even bring a change of clothes.


Because none of those things are necessary. None of those things will bring happiness. The only thing we need, and the only thing that will make us happy is the love of God.


The Psalmist says as much: “The LORD himself will give his benefits; [in him] our land shall yield its increase.”



So, you wanna be happy? Just listen to Saint Paul: “be holy and without blemish before him.” Love God and love everyone he sends your way. It’s that simple.


Saint Francis of Assisi understood how to be happy. One cold winter’s day he was walking with Brother Leo, coming down from the Carcere, the winter retreat where he would pray for weeks at a time (even in the wind and the snow). Brother Leo turned to him and asked, “tell me, Father Francis, how to be happy? What is perfect joy?”


That’s a good one!  Francis replied. For if we could perform all sorts of miracles, cure the lame, exorcise demons, make the blind see and bring speech to the dumb, and even raise people from the dead, if we could preach sermons that would convert the world…if we were successful enough to do all these things, we would still not have perfect joy.”


Then how do we find perfect joy, the puzzled Leo asked him.


Trudging through the snow, the shivering monks could see smoke coming from the chimney of a farm house in the distance, and as they got closer they could see a family gathered around a table before a roaring fire, each with a big dish of pasta in front if them, laughing and singing. 


Ahhhh, brother Leo shouted. Now I understand, for soon these folks will invite us to sit by the fire and warm our frozen fingers and feed us a big bowl of pasta and sing with us and laugh.  That is, assuredly perfect joy!


No, Father Francis said. That is not perfect joy.  So they trudged on toward the monastery, where from a distance, Brother Leo could smell supper and knew that after the prayers the brothers would gather around the fire and sing together as brothers do and eat and be merry. That, he turned to Francis again, now I know what perfect joy is, Father Francis.


No, Father Francis replied. Now would not be perfect joy.


So the puzzled companion approached the big door at the front of the monastery with the the equally frozen Saint Francis. It seems that the door was manned by the youngest and newest of the monks, who had not yet met Francis or Leo, both of whom now looked like two scruffy and smelly bums, half frozen by the wind.


So when they knocked on the door, the young porter answered, and thinking them ne’r do wells, grabbed them both by the scruff of the neck and threw them into the snowbank, slamming the door behind them.


Brother Leo dusted himself off and ran to Father Francis, who smiling, looked up from the snowbank and said, There Brother Leo is perfect joy. To share in the suffering of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the most rejected of men. That, brother, is perfect joy.


Not in money. Not in success. But in littleness, joined to the cross of Christ. That’s the way to be happy. The only way.

07 July 2021

First Homily as Pastor of Saint Cecilia Parish

I am Monsignor Moroney and it is so good to be with you and with Father Shaunessey, a great and holy priest, as we begin to walk together a new road which God has set before us. 

Of course, it is not really a new road at all, but a well trod path, begun by Father Balthasard and his flock, who sought to fix their eyes on the Lord and plead for his mercy (Cf. Psalm 123: 2cd). He, and the people he first shepherded here were described by the historian Rameau de Saint-Père as “very simply, a decent people—very mindful of one for the other, very religious and very devoted to their families, living happily in the midst of their children without a lot of worries. One can characterize these people in two words: they were happy and they were honest.”


One of the authors whose works our first pastor would have studied in seminary was by the great French spiritual writer Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard. He wrote that to be happy we must «rencontres de regard avec la Vierge Marie » …[Pourquoi] En cette manifestation toute simple de tendresse qu'est un sourire, nous saisissons que notre seule richesse est l'amour que Dieu nous porte et qui passe par le cœur de celle qui est devenue notre Mère.


to gaze frequently “into the eyes of the Virgin Mary”! For in the very simple manifestation of tenderness that we call a smile, we grasp that our sole wealth is the love God bears us, which passes through the heart of her who became our Mother.


After such a good start came the gentle Father Chicoine who sought to fix his eyes on the Lord and plead for his mercy, raising up a people devastated by the great depression, a town of shuttered factories and breadlines…raising up from these ashes the glorious monument to God in which we worship this day.

As during the Second World War, as Leominster’s sons were sent to defend freedom in Germany, Japan, Italy and the South pacific, Father Boutin sought again to fix his eyes on the Lord and plead for his mercy, inspiring the people to light candles for the troops and offer endless prayers for the defeat of Evil and the triumph of the Good.                      

And then God sent Father Lucier, to lead us through a tumultuous time, during which the very the future of this towering monument to the faith was questioned from below and struck by lighting from above. And when lightening struck a second time, Father Denomme the Church on French Hill to quite literally lift hight he Cross atop our steeple, so that from miles around they might see that which is our hope and our salvation.


Inside this sacred temple, as well, those years saw a deepening of the spiritual meaning of this Domus Dei, this house where God comes to meet his people. So that the child who just received her First Communion could be inspired by that magnificent tabernacle and dream of what God had in store for her, while the old man could kneel on creaking knees before the kind eyes of the Virgin and her Son. 


Allow me to make a confession here. For through the years I have often snuck into your Church (now our Church) to pray before the recumbant image of Saint Cecilia over there, recalling for me Cecilia’s example of how the purity of love, even in the face of a vicious world, can move human hearts to sing the “hymn which is sung throughout the ages in the halls of heaven.”


The artist whose chipping at that block of wood so moved my heart was a personal friend, but more on Edmund another day. He preached by carving, just as Louis Charpentier, who carved the Christ upon the Cross above our heads from a single tree, was a beloved son of this great Church who even from heaven invites us still through the work of his hands to join our sufferings to the perfect sacrifice which gives it all meaning. Indeed, we are surrounded by so much beauty, beauteous not just in its artistic accomplishment, but in the wondrous ways it leads us to God. 


And who can forget the work of Father Denomme’s protégé, Father Goguen, seeking again to fix his eyes on the Lord and plead for his mercy. His love for this place was as deep as any of his predecessors, as he urged the parish to look back at a glorious 100 years as it prepared for a new millenium of challenges,. Each corner of this place, including the cemetery and school, bears the mark of his care as he literally gave his whole heart to this holy place.


Then, as a mason lays stone upon stone, so Father Bruso sought to fix his eyes on the Lord and plead for his mercy, bringing renewed stability and a steady spirit to Saint Cecilia’s in increasingly challenging times, going home to God to intercede for us (it’s now his full time job) just one year ago.


And then there’s me and you and Father Shaunessey.  Here we are, inheritors of this great work on French Hill, called to be bearers of the Gospel to a world emerging from unimagined pandemic suffering and uncertain of the truth. And like those who went before us, we are faced with confusing and sometimes frightening challenges. How do we get them back to Church (sometimes even our sons and daughters)?  How do we preach the Gospel to a world rife with division and hate? What is God asking of us in this time and in this place?


God assures us that the answers to those questions will come, in his good time, as they did for those who went before us. And be assured that God will give us the graces and the strength we need to do his will. For it is only our job to listen to him, to trust in his mercy and to do the work he sets before us.


Saint Cecilia, pray for us!





04 July 2021

Homily for the Funeral of Jeffrey Turbide

Death is never easy. Especially the death of someone like Jeffrey, whose indefatigable spirit perdured through so many obstacles that would have stopped lesser men. In the middle of the woods with a hickory bow, or running down the emergency room corridor or figuring out how to play a cord on the guitar or piano….he let nothing get in his way…not the diabetes, not the Parkinson’s and not those endless night classes to become a nurse. 

Indeed, not even death could defeat this good man, for he man was tough enough to kneel beside his bed every night and pray to God for the graces he would need to know his will and to do it…begging even for the grace to die to die a good death, and to fall into the arms of God when his time had come.


Jeffrey got that from somewhere. In the beginning he got it from the day that Raymond and Aquitina brought their little baby to this Church to be be baptized, when, in the presence of the Bissonettes, his godparents, Father Hebert  took water in a small golden shell and pouring it over the Jeffrey’s forehead said: Ego te baptizo, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sanctus.  “I baptize you, Jeffrey, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

And thus began a great journey, as Jeffrey was joined to the death and rising of Christ Jesus.  He would learn how to pray, how to kneel down and say his prayers, and to be a good Catholic. He learned it from his mom and dad, and his sisters Karyn and Judi and Lisa and Jane, and even the sisters in the school next door. 

And then he met Donna. And while I’m not sure of all the details, I know their meetings had something to do with Lisa and some lounge on Main Street. 


And so, Jeffrey and Donna stood before the Altar at Saint Anna’s and promised to remain faithful to one another and to God: a promise they lived together for forty-six years. And from that faithfulness, God brought forth Amanda as concrete signs of the willingness of Jeffrey and Donna to cling to faithful love in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.  


In fact, on the day they were married, Jeffrey and Donna knelt before the altar as Father Porello, extending his hands over them, blessed them with a quotation from Psalm 128: videas filios filiorum tuorum: May you live to see your children’s children. And so faithful was God’s love for Jeffrey and Donna that they lived to know and to Anthony and Anastacia, and even Alaiyah, his great grand-daughter.


It is that same faithfulness which Donna and so many of you showed to Jeffrey to the end: a foreshadowing for Jeffrey of what the Communion of the Saints must look like in the Kingdom of Heaven, where someday, we pray, he will run out to meet us and welcome us home. The faithful love which you showed to him, Donna, is a sign to all of us of the faithful love of God, who never forgets us and is with us always until the end of time.


And that faithfulness came from somewhere.  It came from the waters which poured over the head of that little baby sixty-nine ago. It came from the Holy Communion he received and the Confessions he made, the promises of marriage he kept, the sick whom he cared for all the good that he did. 


I know that there were many gifts which Jeffrey gave to each of you throughout the years, but today he gives you the greatest gift of all.  For today He reminds each one of us of the journey we’re on.  It starts in the arms of our parents…it starts at the font of blessed water where we are first joined to Christ and to his Cross.  And then it leads us to all kinds of places.


And it ends in the same place it began: before Christ, who will judge each one of us on the last day. Christ, who calls us to turn away from selfishness and sin, and cling to faithful love. Christ, who urges us to forgive, even as we ask to be forgiven. Christ, who laid down his life for the world, and asks us to do the same. Christ, who loved us faithfully and then commanded: love others as I have loved you.


And so we pray for Jeffrey, and ask God to forgive him whatever sins he may have committed and to welcome him home to heaven, as we pray for ourselves, and ask God to give us the grace to be faithful to the love to which Christ calls, a love without measure, a love which redeems and leads us to eternal life.


Final Homily as Rector of the Cathedral

Sunday, June 20 - XIII Sunday Ord Time


In forty-one years as a Priest, it was the tenth time I had a meeting like the one I had with Bishop McManus a month ago. “Monsignor,” he began, “I’d like to speak with you about a personnel matter.” I interrupted him at that point and said, “Bishop, I have never said no to anything, and I never asked for anything either. So whatever you are about to ask, I will embrace it with joy.”


And so I am off, from this beloved Cathedral to Saint Cecilia’s in Leominster, what some call “The Cathedral of the North.” And I will embrace my tenth flock with the same joy that has filled my heart with every new assignment.


Admittedly, especially when I look at you, there is also a deep sadness in saying goodbye to this Cathedral community for the second time. In a way, it is not really goodbye, however, for this Cathedral Church will always be my home, as it is yours. But I will leave a piece of my heart with you, whom I have come to love and admire. Thank you for all the ways in which you have inspired me to be a better priest. And remember, when a priest does something to lead you closer to Christ, it is only because he got out of the way and let the Lord work his grace.


And for whatever ways I may not have been successful in that task, I ask for your forgiveness. I am so very proud of what God has accomplished through us in this holy place, for we are worthy of the great heritage with which God has endowed us.


When Father John J. Power founded this Church in 1866, Worcester had been a city for only eighteen years. President Lincoln had been killed by an assassin’s bullet just a year before and Saint John’s Church was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. The “new immigrants” were predominantly from Ireland and Sweden, including my great-grandparents, Honorah Lynch and Stephen Loughlin, who would be married in the Cathedral eighteen years later.


You and I have become a part of that history.  And beginning next week, a good and holy priest, Father Hugo Cano will join with Father Diego Buriticá in helping you to write the next chapter.


For we are so very different today than we were in Fr Power’s say, but in a remarkable way, we are very much the same. Our “new immigrants” are now predominantly from Latin America and West Africa and their energy, spirit and faith help us to evangelize an increasingly secularized American culture. While 38% of our city self-identifies as Catholic, close to 50% describe themselves as having no religion at all. 


Of all the places that my almost forty years of priesthood had led me, this Cathedral Church has always been the center.  I’ve lived and worked in Rome, in Washington and in Boston for protracted periods of time, but Saint Paul’s on High Street is the place I always come back to. Maybe it has something to do with a line from W.C. Fields: “Home, is where they always have to take you back.”


———-


When Father John J. Power laid the corner stone of this great Church, 152 years ago this week, Worcester had been a city for only eighteen years. President Lincoln had been killed by an assassin’s bullet just a year before and Saint John’s Church was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.


As Worcester’s young sons went off to die in the First World War, Father Goggin offered the Perfect Sacrifice in this place for their safety and safe return.


As we suffered the devastation of the Great Depression, the rich and the poor alike ascended Chatham street to beg God to show them a way to get through it all, as Father McGann received them, and led the people in feeding and clothing them in their need.


As the Second World War sent our sons to fight in Germany, Japan, Italy and the South pacific, Father Slattery and Monsignor Kavanagh inspired the people to light candles for them and offer endless prayers for the defeat of Evil and the triumph of the Good.


As Father Elwood and the same Monsignor Kavanaugh before him, welcomed a new Diocese and a new Bishop Wright, who like his successors, Bishops Flanagan and Harrington, Riley and McManus, would gather the people of Worcester to the Cathedra in this Church and weave their voices into one holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, a song whose strains perdure to this very day.


As on the day President Kennedy was assassinated, and Monsignor Daley welcomed the overflowing masses to enter these doors, weeping in sorrow at the death of the young President in whom they had placed such hope.


Then through the chaotic 60’s and the Vietnam War, Father Burke and his associates tried to help people to make sense of it all and to beg God to give us some peace.


And then came Father Kelleher and Father Manahan and his Monsignor Mongelluzzo. And Father Reidy, Monsignor Johnson and me. And now Father Hugo Cano takes up the reigns as the Rector of the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul.


God bless him, and you. For what God has begun so well in you, he will, most assuredly, bring to a glorious conclusion.


God bless you!

03 June 2021

RESOURCES for Altar Servers, Greeters/Ushers and Ministers of the Liturgical Environment


FOR ALTAR SERVERS

Diocesan Guidelines for Altar Servers (Lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) can be accessed by clicking this link.

Guide for Servers, by Liturgy Training publications can be ordered by clicking this link.    It's also available in Spanish.







FOR MINISTERS OF THE LITURGICAL ENVIRONMENT

Built of Living Stones, the USCCB guideline for liturgical art and architecture can be downloaded by clicking this link.









FOR USHERS AND GREETERS

Guide for Greeters, Ushers and Ministers of Hospitality, by Liturgy Training Publications can be ordered by clicking this link.     It is also available in Spanish. 











FOR EVERYONE
Monsignor Moroney's popular guide to the Mass is available on AMAZON by clicking this link.



  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,...