Summary of today’s show: Msgr. James Moroney will assume the mantle of rector of St. John’s Seminary on July 1 and Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor talk with him about his background, his work at the US bishops conference and with the Vatican on liturgy, and what it takes to form a “Swiss Army” priest for today’s Church.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Msgr. James Moroney, incoming rector of St. John Seminary
Links from today’s show:
- Msgr. Moroney’s blog
- St. John Seminary
- St. John Seminary Rector’s blog (starts July 1)
- The Mass Explained
Today’s topics: Msgr. James Moroney and the Formation of Priests
1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Chris O’Connor to the show. There’s been a lot going on over the last three days, starting with the Ordination Mass on Saturday an on up to the live, town hall on CatholicTV last night. Fr. Chris said the cathedral was filled with people celebrating thesis new priests.
- Slideshow of the Ordination (with audio from the liturgy)
- Photos (BostonCatholicPhotos)
- CatholicTV Broadcast
Fr. Chris preached the homily at Fr. Eric Cadin’s first Mass on Sunday night at St. Mary’s in Dedham. This was during the Life Teen Mass and he thought there will be some more vocations coming from among the teens who were there.
Vocations come from families, from moms and dads, including asking them if God was calling to them to the priesthood or religious life.
Fr. Chris said on Monday, the men went to Regina Cleri to celebrate Mass with the retired priests. They will also be with Cardinal Seán on Wednesday with their families and the faculty of St. John’s Seminary for a luncheon.
Last night was the live town hall meeting and CatholicTV will be re-broadcasting it several times, including tonight at 8pm. Scot encouraged everyone to get more involved.
2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcomed Msgr. James Moroney to the show. Scot said formation of future priests is one of the most important ministries in the Church. Msgr. Moroney has been involved in formation before, but now he will become rector of St. John’s Seminary. It was a different perspective this year for him at the ordination Mass. He looked at the men and thought to himself how good how God is to us.
Fr. Chris and Msgr. Moroney were both very moved during the Mass. They know how beauty it is, even in the cross that it comes with. Msgr. Moroney said Fr. Chris has taught him to survive in this new job. As the vice-rector he’s the one the monsignor relies on. He said day to day you come to know these men like a pastor knows his people. Scot recalled that the greeting of the priests at the Mass to the newly ordained is a fraternal embrace, a brotherhood even if they have just met.
Msgr. Moroney said we are not saved individually, but by being baptized into the body of Christ. In the same way, the presbyterate is all of the priests joined to the archbishop. The men were ordained into that presbyterate, now sharing the three part ministry of being shepherd, teacher, and sanctifier.
Scot asked Msgr. Moroney about his background. He grew up in Milbury, Mass. in Our Lady of Lourdes parish and then St. Bridget’s parish in the same town. He didn’t go to Catholic school because one wasn’t available. He recalls the town was 80 to 85% Catholic. He recalls his teacher leading the public school kids in prayer every day. As he walked home from school every day, he’d stop in the church to pray and he learned to listen to God, quieting all the problems in his own life.
Msgr. Moroney said it’s important that every young man listening pray for God to open up to him what his plan for him is.
After high school, he went to a college seminary in Baltimore for one year until it closed. Then he stayed in Maryland for a year, working as a community organizer for the Quakers against the draft. He came back to Worcester and was sent to North American College in Rome. He’s been a pastor in several different places. He’s also worked for the US bishops conference for 13 years as director of the liturgy office.
Scot said Msgr. Moroney has prepared two different series on the liturgy for EWTN and CatholicTV, as well as other media. Msgr. Moroney said he had been told that the Church needed someone to explain the liturgy for the average man and that’s why he studied for it in order to promote it. Once he was pastor of two parishes separated by a parking lot and lots of old feelings. They used the promotion of beautiful liturgies and Eucharistic adoration to bring them together so that the two eventually became one parish.
Msgr. Moroney was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a consulter to the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. He’s also executive secretary of Vox Clara, a committee of bishops who advise bishops’ conference on English in the liturgy around the world.
Fr. Chris noted that Msgr. Moroney is a priest of the Worcester diocese. Msgr. Moroney said Cardinal Seán has promoted St. John’s as a regional diocese. They have seminarians from every diocese in New England and other countries too, including Saudi Arabia.
He sees the role of rector as being pastor of the seminary, which is how John Paul II saw it in the document Pastores dos Vobis. Being a pastor of a flock of shepherds is one way to put it.
Scot said he’s the first diocesan priest not of Boston to be appointed rector. Scot recounted some of the other rectors over time.
Msgr. Moroney said Bishop Arthur Kennedy, the outgoing rector, is an old friend from when they both worked at the US Bishops Conference. Bishop Kennedy working in the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. When Bishop Kennedy became rector in St. John’s, he asked Msgr. Moroney to come teach there as well. He said Bishop Kennedy is the “second founder” of the seminary, expanding the seminary, not just in numbers, but in programs and quality of formation.
3rd segment: Scot asked the essential aspects of forming a priest today. Msgr. Moroney said it’s centering on Christ, a personal relationship with Christ. The same Christ, Cardinal Seán prayed to in the ordination prayer. The same Christ the new priests prayed to on Sunday in their first Masses. Whether you’re a newly ordained priest or a priest living in Regina Cleri, to know Christ personally, to be led deeper into the mystery of Christ. “That I may decrease, that Christ may increase,” is the heart of priestly formation.
Msgr. Moroney said every generation faces particular challenges. The challenge we face is that all the demands made of me to look at this and that, to grab my attention, to be able to put that aside and center on Christ. The device and media might be able to help, but it’s a challenge.
He noted that book, “I Am Not A Gadget”, asks a lot of philosophical questions about living in a digital world with social media and everything. If Christ is not there, then all the digital stuff is a clanging symbol.
Scot said 50 years ago we lived in a much stronger Catholic culture. We had 75% or higher Mass attendance then. Now the new priests will serve where the majority of Catholics don’t attend Mass. Msgr. Moroney said the zeal and purity of vision is just the same as when he was was ordained. However, the men come from a different culture now. Msgr. Moroney came from an atmosphere where everyone was imbued with catechism and devotions were the norm.
A few years ago, the US bishops acknowledged that we need two extra years of formation for priests because they’re not getting that like they used to.
Msgr. Moroney taught a course on homily preparation. About 5 years he played tapes of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and the seminarians were not that impressed. Msgr. Moroney realized he was speaking to a different culture and a different world. There’s more skepticism about even the fact of ultimate truths. Fr. Reed of CatholicTV will teach a course next year on media and the new evangelization.
Scot said Msgr. Moroney leads days of recollections across the country for priests and to teach in seminaries on many subjects. Scot asked if there’s a vocations crisis. Msgr. Moroney said the crisis is in believing God will take care of us. When we say to young men, “Have you thought about becoming a priest?” the result is magnificent. God only asks us to pray and do a little work.
He said he saw a young man at Fr. Cadin’s Mass who looked particularly intent and so he went over asked him if he ever thought of becoming a priest.
Scot said in the Archdiocese of Boston on a Sunday morning you can find a Mass every 30 minutes within a 15 minute drive. In other places in the country, you have to drive 1-1/2 hours to get to the next church. Msgr. Moroney said the numbers of priests in the 60s was a result of the baby boom. We are doing very well for priests in the United States today.
Fr. Chris asked about the type of priest to ordain from St. John’s. Msgr. Moroney said they want to form the Swiss Army priest. They want a priest who could go to a parish centered around the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass or a Life Teen parish or a Brazilian parish or whatever. The priest has such a pastor’s heart and skills to go beyond himself, he’ll be able to minister wherever he goes. Like St. Paul who was able to be all things to all men wherever he went.
Scot said there’s a pressure on young priests to be defined by their parishioners as a type of priest. Msgr, Moroney said the biggest obstacle to the Swiss Army priest is the self-confidence of the young man. The temptation is to compromise in order to get people to like you. We should preach Christ, not just tickle people’s ears with what they want to hear. He said they should preach in kindness, but in truth. Fr. Chris said the Gospel is meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Scot noted that the age of new priests is creeping upward. In the past they would have to be 25 at least. Fr. Chris said most men coming into seminary are 23 to 24 or so. Fr. Chris said when men come in right from college, they often left soon after. Now men who have been out in the world are leaving something behind, and have already thought long and hard about this step, so they are less likely to leave. The men are generally ordained in late 20s/early 30s.
Scot asked if it’s easier or tougher to have men that are older who more experience as well as more habits to break. Msgr. Moroney recalled one of the first seminary classes he taught had a former doctor, a former lawyer, a former engineer. They were very accomplished and used to calling the shots. Now they are living a simple life and having to listen to others tell them how to grow and improve. Fr. Chris said seminary is meant to stretch and challenge the men because priesthood will do the same.
Msgr. Moroney said during the ordination Mass the men lay flat on their face while the litany is prayed around them. In reality, they laid down on their face when they entered seminary by embracing the humility of openness to formation.
Scot asked Msgr. Moroney how his background on liturgy will affect the formation of seminarians. Msgr. Moroney said over the last five years he’s monied into a reflection on priestly spirituality. Without a conformity to Christ on the Cross, the people will see it as inauthentic. It is from hearts that hearts learn. He said we’re on the cusp of a revival of spirituality among priests today.
Msgr. Moroney asked people to pray for seminarians every day. Go to the St. John’s website, pick a seminarian, and pray for him every day.