Dear Friends in Christ,
I mentioned in my recent homily that I spent last Saturday at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary offering a Day of Recollection to the community during the Forty Hours Devotion. This devotion consists of hours of prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Today is the Feast of Saint Charles Borromeo. A number of wonderful priests and friends from our diocese attended the seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and we form a bond that is like any group with shared experiences. I was nervous about what to say to the seminarians and especially, to the faculty who are very much involved in the academic aspects of our faith. My pride did not want me to come off like a country bumpkin from South Jersey! I worked in priestly formation for twelve years including preparing men for the priesthood, as Dean of Men in the Theology Division at Saint Charles and serving for three years as Vocation Director for our diocese. It is always a boost to be with seminarians as they continue their journey towards the Priesthood and I was taken back to my earliest days of seminary life. As usual, the Lord offers graces to us. I was concerned about what I would offer the men on the Day of Recollection and instead, I received so much more and I believe I truly needed this blessed day. One can really become low with the things that are happening in the Church and in society in general. Our Lord is so mistreated and unloved. It is so easy to wonder at times where it is all going. The Catholic culture I was blessed to enjoy seems to be slipping away along with teachings that only widen one’s eyes. I arrived at the seminary in early morning on Saturday and there were seminarians in Saint Martin Chapel praying before the Holy Sacrament. The chapel sanctuary was beautifully appointed with flowers and I noted that there were a number of relics of saints on the two side altars from the Feast of All Saints. I was taken back in time to the hours and hours I spent in that chapel. I had celebrated Forty Hours seventeen times on the campus at this powerful, yearly event. We celebrated a beautifully chanted Morning Prayer after which I offered a conference. I and some priests heard confessions until the Holy Mass. How blessed I was to be the celebrant of the Mass. The music was Gregorian chant which was so moving and holy. No little ditty songs sung at that Mass! I enjoyed giving the homily and adoration continuing while some men went to lunch. We heard more confessions. At 6:00 PM we celebrated Vespers or Evening Prayer. Again, beautifully chanted and we were all blessed with the Holy Presence of Our Lord. I then said goodbye to priests I have known for years and bade farewell to as many as possible of the 165 seminarians present. As I left, the seminarians were gathering again to pray for deceased loved ones and the souls in purgatory. Why did I need this day? I was with committed young men who presented themselves strong in faith, strong of character and men who want to be future warriors for Christ. I came home to take dinner with our visiting seminarian Timothy Mulranen who gave a great talk at all our Masses including one in Spanish on Saturday night at Saint Jude’s! We dined with Fathers Mohan and René, truly enjoying the evening. On Sunday night, our seminarian Cesar joined us for pizza before he and Timothy had to return to the seminary up in East Orange. When I prayed Sunday night in chapel, I could not help but thank God for calling me to the Holy Priesthood, for allowing me to serve at Our Lady of Hope with great priests and to see the Lord raising up men against the onslaught of Satan. They are truly being assisted by Our Lady. On that feast day, dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, I gave thanks to my Lord that I spent time at Overbrook – eight years as a seminarian and nine years as a priest. Forty years ago I entered those gates and I am blessed to be here all these years later. Praised be Jesus and Our Lady! Give us holy priests!