Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Come, Follow Me" Is As New Today As It Was Then

It's been a long while since I've blogged.  Between a pinched nerve and some laziness, I haven't had the discipline to write recently, but I encountered such beauty during the past few days, that I wanted to share the experience.

Each summer, the Vocations Office for the Archdiocese of Boston hosts a retreat for the Boston seminarians up at the Franciscan Guest House in Kennebunk, Maine.  The retreat is more of a relaxed atmosphere and strikes a healthy balance of prayer, talks, sports, and fun.  This year, I was the speaker for the retreat. The general path that my talks took were: 1. The Seminarian and the Priest need to be faithful to the purity and certitude of their original encounter with Christ; 2. Fraternity and living the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, help us to live the memory of our encounter with Christ; 3. Living in the Gaze of Christ makes us able to be Good Shepherds who better prolong the presence of the Good Shepherd in the midst of the flock; 4. And lastly, just some practical advice about being a parish priesthood.

The focus of my talks was that the priest's humanity is critical to being a good shepherd and that we should help one another to live our humanity more fully.  Although that was what I spoke about, of far greater import was the visible witness of the seminarians themselves.  The few days were an extraordinarily beautiful testimony to what fraternity ought to look like.

The retreat was for men studying for the Archdiocese of Boston and included seminarians studying at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, St. John XXIII in Weston, the North American College in Rome, the Redmptoris Mater Seminary in Boston, and Our Lady of Providence College Seminary in Providence Rhode Island.  Since the men attend different seminaries, they have few opportunities to be together.  Several of them commented to me about how great it was to be all together.  The priests from the Vocations Office, Fr. Daniel Hennessey, Fr. Carlos Suarez, and Fr. Eric Cadin did a tremendous job making the retreat a time of true fraternity. Being vocation directors can often be a thankless job.  They deserve to be thanked.

There were other people staying at the Guest House during these days.  This morning, as I was sitting on the porch, a woman came outside and asked, "So, was that you singing last night?"  I asked if we had kept her awake.  She said, "Yes. I went to bed at 9 pm, and I could hear all of those voices singing and instruments playing, and I thought, "Isn't it great to be young? Isn't it great that these seminarians are so joyful?"  She was referring to the fact that last night, all of the seminarians were playing instruments, singing songs, and having an amazingly beautiful and joyful time.  Somebody should have filmed it because it was the best vocation promotion possible.  In front of my eyes were young, joyful men living a true fraternity.

Another joyful part of the days together was hearing the seminarians share their testimonies.  There really is something so moving about hearing them testify to how the Lord called them and how they are responding to that call.  Repeatedly over the past few days, other guests staying there commented how wonderful it was to see such good and joyful men studying for the priesthood.  

It has been my experience that when people see joyful, healthy, intelligent, normal seminarians and priests living in friendship together, they are really moved by the experience.  It is encouraging.  For the readers of this blog who are from Boston, let me assure you that you have some really extraordinary men preparing to be your priests. God is answering your prayers! You will LOVE these guys.

I went to the retreat with the intention of conveying the critical importance of priests being men with a deep humanity and living that humanity in friendship. My words, however, were really just an affirmation of what these men are, in fact, already living and doing.  The retreat was filled with men praying, surfing, fishing, playing soccer and frisbee, singing, and living their calling with a profound humility and sincerity. I'm telling you, what I saw was extraordinary! I went to this retreat hoping that I might impart some words of wisdom. Instead, I simply stated what was already entirely obvious to these guys.

I am very grateful to the priests from the vocations office and to the Boston seminarians for the privilege to be with them these past few days.  In these days together, they allowed me to stand once again in front of Jesus Christ, to see his eyes upon me, to be moved, and to hear once again his invitation, "Come, follow me."


  1. The diocese and church has hope. I hope this is reflected in the October Synod by USCCB. Very uplifting post. Thank you.

  2. It is so depressing that the media attack on the Church and the priesthood would never report on this type of event. Even if they reported, they would twist it through their hate-filled lens. I'm glad that the parishes where I go to Mass always have people praying for priests and for vocations.