Summary of today’s show: There’s more for a Catholic in Boston to see than Holy Cross Cathedral and St. John Seminary. Dr. Phil Crotty takes Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor on a virtual tour of Boston, the same one he gives to the new seminarians, taking them to sights with both obvious and not obvious connections to their Catholic faith, but also to Boston’s and America’s history.
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Watch the show via live video streaming or a recording later: BostonCatholicLive.com
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Dr. Philip Crotty, Professor of Latin at St. John Seminary
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: A Catholic Pilgrim’s Tour of Boston
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Fr. Chris O’Connor to the show and said they were recording on location at St. John Seminary. They’ve been recording episodes of the show with some of the great people at the seminary. They discussed their Thanksgiving celebrations. Scot said his family acquired a church organ with an eye toward teaching his children to play so that perhaps someday they might play in church. They then talked about the playing of music in families and how music lifts our spirits.
Today’s guest is Prof. Philip Crotty, who will talk about the places in Boston that everyone should visit. Fr. Chris said Phil is a man of faith who loves to show off Boston to the new seminarians who arrive at St. John’s. He’s also a man of great faith.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Phil Crotty to the show. He said Phil’s resume is extremely long and distinguished. He asked why at this stage in his life he decided to teach Latin in the seminary. He said because it’s a return to his boyhood experiences of Latin. Scot said all of his four Latin teachers he’s had all loved Latin. Phil said part of the reason is the historical context. It’s not just language, but it comes alive with significance and history. Phil said Pope Benedict has started a new Pontifical Latin Academy in Rome. An American has been appointed to head it and another American, Fr. Reginald Foster, has long been the dean of Latin scholars in Rome. Phil said he often said that it’s strange for priests of the Latin Church not to know Latin.
Scot said he took it in high school because he thought it would help on the SATs and vocabulary, but he thinks it also helped with math because it taught logic. Phil said he never really understood English as a subject until he studied Latin. Many of his students tell him that they are learning as much English as Latin.
Phil said before coming to St. John’s, he worked at Northeastern University for 30 years, rising as high as Senior Vice President of Administration. They then discussed a story of how Phil helped a hardworking undergraduate student 30 years ago who has now just made a $30 million gift to the university and credits Phil for helping all those years ago.
Fr. Chris asked Phil about his faith. He said when he was 18 he remembers being at Mass on a Sunday and he made a decision that he will always give the Church the benefit of the doubt and not her enemies. He attended Catholic schools, including Holy Cross College. The Jesuits there wanted to prepare you for your profession and make you a Catholic gentleman. He remembers learning apologetics during his freshman year. He internalized his faith in those courses and that stayed with him ever after. He talked about his experiences in the Army, which challenged his moral uprightness, and in industry and then academia afterward, where he didn’t find challenges to his faith. In those days, they were still quite friendly to faith. He started on the faculty of the business school in the mid-1960s. At the time the university had about 40,000 students total.
3rd segment: Fr. Chris asked Phil what he loves him about his Catholic Church after all these years. He said the Church is so big, with so much history, culture and music with something in it for everybody. Scot said his favorite saying is “Here comes everybody.” Phil said he’s a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, which was founded in 1099 to provide an honor guard to Christ’s tomb. The Knights of Malta were founded at the same time to provide aid to pilgrims. They remain essentially true to those missions even today, in different ways.
Of places that everyone should see, there are some obvious ones like the cathedral and St. John Seminary. But there are others that aren’t obvious. Phil said he starts with Mission Church, a beautifully maintained and enormous church. Scot noted it’s one of only about 70 basilicas in the US. Fr. Chris said a basilica is a church designated by a pope as a church of particular honor. Tradition is that when a pope visits a city with a basilica, he will make that particular basilica. Fr. Chris said there are many crutches hanging in Mission Church from people who have been healed from illnesses. He also said Ted Kennedy was buried from that church. It is maintained by the Redemptorists. Scot said because it’s in the Mission Hill area, many people won’t see it unless they’re going there specifically.
From there he takes the tour to Harvard Medical School, the second oldest medical school in the country after U Penn and Columbia. That complex was built in 1907. It’s at the head of Avenue Louis Pasteur. He said Pasteur was from a French peasant family. He related an anecdote of Pasteur’s Catholic faith. Phil said he brings the seminarians there as a way to tell this story of faith.
Then they go to Boston Latin School, the oldest school in the country, founded in 1635. This is Phil’s alma mater. It has always been a public school, which has graduated many famous personages in history. Scot asked when Catholics started to go there in large numbers. Phil said the first Catholic headmaster was Patrick Campbell and later became first Catholic superintendent of public schools in Boston in the 30s. So Catholics began going in the early part of the 20th century. They were drawing largely from the city of Boston. Phil said Bishop John Fitzpatrick attended Boston Latin. This was one of the reasons Protestants were so supportive of the building of Holy Cross Cathedral.
Next is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Gardner was eccentric and an art collector and the terms of her will was that nothing in her home-turned-museum should ever be changed. Fr. Chris said her connection to Catholicism was her friendship with Cardinal William Henry O’Connell.
After that is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Phil said it’s nice but not really grand as you might think.
Then there’s the Museum of Fine Arts, built in 1907. The Boston wealthy didn’t have great wealth but they did much of it. After that is Northeastern University. This is where he usually takes a break on the tour. He points out Horticultural Hall, which is now used for offices. There’s also Symphony Hall, built in 1903. Henry Lee Higginson was the major donor for the Hall and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Then through the Christian Science Center, where he usually tells some stories about the founder Mary Baker Eddy. The building itself is neo-Baroque with a Romanesque building and a cloister, all of which architectural styles come from Catholicism.
Next they go to the Top of the Hub for a panoramic view of the city. Then to the Boston Public Library. Phil told a story of an Italian pushcart peddler who went to Haymarket every day but spent all his free time in the reading room of the library. When he died, he left $1.5 million to the Boston Public Library, saying all the pleasure he ever had in life, he had in the reading room.
Then they look at the John Hancock Tower. They visit Arlington Street Church, which is where Massachusetts ratified the Constitution of the United States. then Old Granary Burying Ground and then King’s Chapel. This was the first Anglican Church in Boston and then later became the first Unitarian Church in Boston. To this day it’s high church Unitarian and they use the Book of Common Prayer. the first Catholic Mass in Boston was celebrated in the basement of King’s Chapel, which was a funeral for a French sailor.
They go to Quincy Market, whose lower floor is always to be a market by the will of its first owner. Over to the North End to Christopher Columbus Park and then St. Stephen’s Church), which was formerly a Unitarian church that the Catholic Church bought. Cardinal Cushing spent $1 million to restore it to its original historical form from its Protestant days. Then the tour goes to the Old North Church, which is Episcopalian.
Phil said perhaps his favorite stop on the tour is Top of the Hub at the top of the Prudential Building for the panoramic view of Boston.