Summary of today’s show: Fr. Joseph H. Casey, S.J., is a native son of Lynn, Mass., but has been a Jesuit for 75 years, a priest for 63, and he’s assisted at St. Julia Parish in Weston for 56! Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell talk with the 94-year-old Fr. Casey about how he came to his vocation, his many years teaching theology and philosophy, and his relationship with one of the pre-eminent moral theologians in the Church today, Germain Grisez.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Fr. Joseph H. Casey, S.J.
Links from today’s show:
- New England Jesuits Oral History Program: Fr. Joseph H. Casey, S.J.
- Guiding Your Own Life On The Way Of The Lord Jesus: Liberated By The Profound Theologian, Germain Grisez
Today’s topics: Priest Profile: Fr. Joseph H. Casey, S.J.
1st segment: Scot and Fr. Mark talked about how Fr. Mark got a few people who volunteered to work in the tribunal in expert fields based on his bulletin announcements in parishes last week. He has up to 4 people volunteered. He also hired a new employee to fill an open position.
Fr. Mark also talked about how Fr. Kevin Sepe, the pastor of St. Francis in Braintree, threw a barbecue for Fr. Mark’s family on Memorial Day.
Today’s guest is Fr. Joseph Casey, S.J. Fr. Mark said Fr. Joe has been a key advisor and mentor for him, especially over the decade Fr. Mark has worked in the Pastoral Center. They noted that Fr. Joe has been a priest for 63 years and has been active, teaching classes up into his 80s.
2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Mark welcomed Fr. Joe Casey to the show. Fr. Joe said it’s been an inspiration to work with Fr. Mark.
Scot said Fr. Casey grew up in Lynn and asked him about it. Fr. Joe said he was born in West Lynn. It was a very Catholic atmosphere. Their parish was St. Patrick’s, which had a building with a school downstairs and a church above. It was ghetto-lie, but he was very content. He attended daily Mass with his sister. Then he went to St. Mary’s Boys High School (which is now St. Mary’s High School). It was the second year it was open.
Fr. Casey talked about the priests of the parish and school and how he related to them. He said he first began thinking about the priesthood when he was in grammar school with the Dominican nuns. In high school it was encouraged by the atmosphere. He did half-expect to see an angel appear to tell him to go, but it didn’t happen of course. He went on to Boston College and met Fr. Tommy Feeney. He suggested Fr. Joe enter the Jesuits. After a time, came to love the Society more after spending a week at St. Mary’s in the North End when his mother was dying at Mass. General. Fr. Mark said it was interesting that he gained his calling to the Jesuits in the novitiate.
Scot said there so many religious order priests in the archdiocese and have been blessed by them. It sounds like Fr. Joe was thinking of the diocesan priesthood and it was just happenstance that God put the Jesuits in front of him and it was only then that he felt the call to the order.
Scot asked about Jesuit formation. Fr. Joe said they have two years of novitiate and two years more. He did those years at Weston College, which is now Campion Center. He said there were 24 men in his class.
He did three years of philosophy at Weston and then went to teach at the new prep school in Fairfield. After that he went for a Master’s degree in Philosophy at Fordham. That’s where he also discovered his love of Broadway plays.
Then he went back to Weston College and did four years of theology. He was ordained after the third year of theology. In the fourth year, they helped in the parishes. Fr. Mark asked him how many years he has lived in Weston/Campion. Fr. Joe started there in 1940 and with a few interruptions, including going to Rome and Belgium between 1950 and 1953, he has lived there ever since. That’s 57 years. And for 56 years, he has helped at St. Julia’s in Weston. He recalled many of the pastors who had been there over the years. In fact, Fr. Joe served as pastor for six months in the absence of Fr. McGlinchy.
Fr. Joe said in the early 1960s, he was absorbed into the faculty of Boston College when Weston’s classes were sent there. He taught until he was 87 in 2004. He taught natural theology and linguistic analysis. Natural theology is what we can know about God through reason. God is intelligent because he made intelligent people. But he’s intelligent in a super-eminent way.
When Fr. Joe moved into BC, he was assigned to a core course on philosophy and ethics. In doing that he used Germain Grisez’s text “Beyond a New Morality.” Fr. Joe got to know Grisez. Fr. Mark said he’s a married layman who is a moral theologian at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He wrote a four-volume work called The Way of the Lord Jesus, and he would send each manuscript to Fr. Joe for him to comment on. When the Vatican had said Catholic moral theology needed to new revamped from the ground up, he set out to the work himself. He spent a whole year just outlining his work ahead of him. When he published the first volume at 791 pages, he got the Knights of Columbus to subsidize it and sold it for $35 each. He hasn’t yet published the fourth book.
Scot said Fr. Joe has just published a book about Germain Grisez and claims to have read every word written by Grisez. The book is called “Guiding Your Own Life On The Way Of The Lord Jesus: Liberated By The Profound Theologian, Germain Grisez”. Fr. Mark clarified that Fr. Joe is one of the readers who helps Grisez, editing each book before it comes out.
Scot asked Fr. Joe what motivated him to write a book about Grisez at 94. Fr. Joe said Grisez has had a huge impact on his spiritual life to the point where he’s requested that at his funeral a copy of Grisez’s book be in his casket. The key point is that God elected to expand the divine family by creating human beings who could become the adopted children of God, that we would be divinized.
Scot said it’s wonderful to hear how a layman father of 4 deeply impacted a well-educated Jesuit priest. Fr. Joe said Grisez is a profound thinker and devoted to the Church. When he presents a position, it is always profoundly logical.
Fr. Mark said Grisez is hard to read, except for a little book called Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone by Name. Fr. Joe said this book was written in the middle of the third volume of his great work. It was co-written with Russell Shaw, a Catholic journalist. They write a history of the idea of the personal vocation, which began in the New Testament, lasted until about the 3rd or 4th century and only came back strongly around Vatican II.
Fr. Mark said there are neutral choices. It’s not good v. bad, but multiple options that are neither good nor bad. We can choose the option that best serves our vocation. Scot said the sense he’s hearing that there are 3 levels of vocation: be a Christian; a state of life (marriage, religious, ordained); and personal vocation, a unique blend of skills and talents to serve God’s plan of salvation. Fr. Joe said Grisez so emphasizes this personal vocation that it’s a grave error the way we’re pushing vocations today. Have people seek their personal vocations and the priestly and religious vocations will come.
Scot asked what it’s like to be serving Communion to the great grandchildren of people he served 56 years ago. Fr. Joe said it’s very comfortable. He’s still asked to give the homily on occasion and concelebrate. He never got too involved in the parish and so he was never party to any politics, which made everyone comfortable with him.
Fr. Joe recalled his ordination retreat and he asked how much pastoral work he should do and the response was enough in order to keep it incorporated with his apostolic teaching.
Fr. Joe has also seen Blessed John XXIII Seminary from its beginning in Weston. He said he was impressed by the many men who have come to the seminary after long careers in the secular area.
Fr. Mark said it’s amazing how many diocesan priests this Jesuit has affected. He’s like a diocesan Jesuit with a split heart for both the archdiocese and the Society of Jesus.
About he priesthood, Fr. Joe said it’s a glorious vocation filled with joy and awe that he can celebrate Mass. He’s recently become so aware that at Mass he’s standing with Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus. Secondly, to know that God was so condescending to our weaknesses that he gave us the sacrament of reconciliation and that God uses Fr. Joe as a conduit. Jesus tells the penitent through Fr. Joe that he forgives and loves him.
3rd segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”
- Second Reading for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 3, 2012 (Romans 8:14-17)
Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.
- Gospel for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 3, 2012 (Matthew 28:16-20)
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Scot asked Fr. Joe about how we can overanalyze the Trinity, which is the communion and relationship of Three Persons in love. Scot said we are called to call God “Abba” which is the equivalent of a child calling his father “daddy”. FR. Joe said it is mystery, but he always starts with Jesus, because he is easier to understand in his humanity. And Jesus tells me that there is a Father, but he is not the Father, and that he is sending the Holy Spirit. And because he trusts Jesus, he believes in the Trinity.
Fr. Mark said his favorite passage on the Trinity is by Romano Guardini that we don’t want to understand the Trinity because to understand the Trinity it would limit God. Fr. joe summed up that if you understand the Trinity, then you are a heretic. The Trinity teaches us that to be a human person is to be a member of a community of persons in love.