Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Making of Priests

Back in 1985, an approving New York Times article described the newly adapted mission of the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. Openly predicting that the Church would have more lay ministers than priests by the year 2000, the administration was actively expanding its role in educating lay people and women religious. As the article explained, the seminary was now perfectly content to see ‘itself more as an educational resource than as the monastic theological academy it once was.’

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Immaculate Conception Seminary, circa 1930

This change in mission would have been surprising news to Immaculate Conception’s founder, Archbishop Thomas Molloy. I recently came across his 1930 speech at the Seminary’s dedication. In it, he outlined the new Seminary's purpose and usefulness in an extraordinary speech. Bishop Molloy was a noted orator, and this speech is no exception.

I was instantly struck by the energy and vitality of the lines. It is obvious that the bishop was no shrinking violet. Though brief, the speech is elegant but forceful, liberally sprinkled with powerful phrases and rich theological language. The man clearly knew how to pack his punches!

Some excerpts from his extraordinary speech: ( I couldn’t resist highlighting the best parts.)

On the mission of the new Seminary:

"Within the walls of this institution by means of devout prayer, worthy reception of the Sacraments, faithful practice of piety and diligent study (the Catholic students) will earnestly seek to acquire supernatural grace, spiritual enlightenment, intellectual culture, moral discipline and a Christlike love for their fellow human beings so that they may later realize their vocation and fulfill their mission as spiritual leaders, religious teachers, ambassadors of Christ and zealous priests of God."

How’s that for starters? As if that weren’t clear enough, he adds this little gem:

"In this school of Christian piety and learning, moreover, our young candidates for the sacerdotal state and office will strive to learn clearly and accurately the mind, will and plan of God regarding the sanctification of human souls."

"Salus animarum Suprema lex" (The salvation of souls is the supreme law), by the way, was the motto on the Bishop’s coat-of-arms and is inscribed on his imposing episcopal throne which is still preserved and on display at the Seminary.

On the spiritual mission of the new priest:

"After six years of careful, thorough study, discipline and training and, found to be duly qualified and worthy, they will be sacramentally endowed with priestly character and formally delegated by ecclesiastical authority to preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and to regenerate, revivify, purify and sanctify countless souls of saints and sinners by public prayer, by celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and by the administration of the Sacraments of the living and the dead."

Notice, if you will, the Bishop’s very Roman practice of using verbs, adjectives and phrases in clusters of three and four. This is found in the Roman Canon, e.g., ‘hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam.’ Some may find this stiff and legalistic, but it is an economical way both to clarify and, at the same time, amplify the concepts being discussed.

On the public mission of the new priest:

". . . the intellectually trained, morally sound, spiritually motivated young men will . . . preach and teach in season and out of season obedience to law, respect for authority, regard for the rights of others, and love for one’s fellow man."

Priests as public advocates and guardians:

"They will also prove to be, moreover, staunch defenders of the weak, of the unfortunate, of the under-privileged, and even the unborn. They will serve as fearless advocates of liberty under law, of the sacredness of property right, of the sanctity of marriage, of integrity of character in public office and of faithful fulfillment of the duties of honorable, useful private citizenship."

What a compelling vision of the priesthood! He expected his priests to take an active, vocal part in the community and be watchdogs of sorts for the weak and defenseless, while maintaining a vigilant watch on the laws and the lawmakers.

With such a bold leader and clearly defined purpose, it is no wonder the Seminary thrived under Bishop Molloy’s direction. Well over 500 priests were ordained from its founding to the time of his death in 1956 (an average of 35 priests a year!). There was certainly no confusion and disorder in his ranks—as anyone might guess from reading his speeches! But, despite his dignified and imposing presence, he was well-loved and esteemed by his students and by many who knew him, and that makes his amazing legacy even brighter still.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Hermeneutics of Continuity: Part II

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Cardinal Ratzinger begins the second part of his discourse to the Chilean bishops with this stunning admission:

“One of the basic discoveries of the theology of ecumenism is that schisms can take place only when certain truths and certain values of the Christian faith are no longer lived and loved within the Church. The truth which is marginalized becomes autonomous, remains detached from the whole of the ecclesiastical structure, and a new movement then forms itself around it.”

The chief value he is referring to is the historical Mass of the Roman Rite, which was almost universally abandoned after the Council, even though the Council never called for its abrogation. Yet, as the saying goes, “perception is reality”, and this “reality” became the number one “perception” after the Council.

Thus, the widespread desacralization that sprang up in many places after the Council , combined with a very effective campaign to make the layperson believe that the Council had discarded the pre-Conciliar rite, led to the formation of what the Cardinal calls “a new movement” in and around the pre-conciliar Mass, in order to preserve it.

Cardinal Ratzinger then identifies the chief reason that many were led to join this 'traditional movement' was because they were looking for a place to worship where the sense of what they believed was most sacred could be kept alive:

“While there are many motives that might have led a great number of people to seek a refuge in the traditional liturgy, the chief one is that they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there.”

He attributes this phenomenon to the fact that there were many who chose not to treat the Council as part of the Church’s entire tradition, but rather to use it as the starting point of a new reality, something seen as quite divorced from what came before it;

“ The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero.”

Acting with great courage and frankness, Cardinal Ratzinger identified the chief tactic used by those who saw Council as a “new start from zero”, was to proscribe the pre-Conciliar Mass as the most “forbidden” and “prohibited” of all things;

“This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy -- the form in which the liturgy was handed down -- suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited.”

This unfortunate reality is why so many felicitous press reports are announcing that Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is about to 'free' the “old Mass," thus restoring a long-lost treasure.

So we pray daily, awaiting joyfully with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary the words of freedom from the Holy Father, allowing us to sing the “Ressurrexit” and “Te Deum, Laudamus” together.

Maria, mater ecclesiae, ora pro nobis.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Hermeneutics of Continuity: Part I

In a remarkable address given on July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile before that nation's bishops, the then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shared with the world his thoughts on why French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers had felt compelled to consecrate four bishops without permission of the Holy See, thus incurring the penalty of excommunication.

The then Cardinal-Prefect began his talk by stating that

“…the Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest."

For those of us now living in that portion of the Lord’s vineyard which is the Diocese of Rockville Centre, these words are nothing short of prophetic, as they give us the first official explanation by the Church as to the “how and why” we traveled from the exalted vision of Archbishop Molloy for a Catholic Long Island, to the present position we find ourselves in today.

What was the Cardinal referring to when he spoke about those theologians and teachers of the faith who had tried to turn the “pastoral council, which had chosen to remain on a “modest level”, into a “superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest”?

Was he not trying to give comfort to all those Catholics who, for the last forty years, have been stunned and bewildered as to why so much of the glorious doctrinal and moral patrimony of the Church has been either attacked as no longer true, ignored as now irrelevant, or redefined in a way as to lose its previous meaning ?

Was not the then Cardinal Ratzinger telling us, in this stunningly frank address, that the prime reason for the crisis of faith is that “…the Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero”?

Concretely, then, the Cardinal confirms for us what we have known for a long time: that the Church never intended to mandate any break with her doctrinal or moral tradition. Furthermore, those few points that the Council taught which are new, e.g., religious liberty and ecumenism, must be interpreted in the light of the constant Tradition of the Church.

What this means is that the Council is neither the starting-point of a new Catholic reality which the modernists have made it out to be, nor is it the ending-point of the Church’s traditional faith which extreme traditionalists have accused it of being. (Extreme traditionalists does not refer to those exemplary moderate European members of the SSPX who have either been regularized by the Holy See, or are presently seeking such status.)

Rather, the Council is a bridge to the modern world explaining the beautiful patrimony of the Catholic faith in terms which people of this age, starving for truth, beauty and goodness, can understand.

There is much more to this key address of Cardinal Ratzinger which we will examine in our next installment.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Friends & Family:

I have decided to respond to the urging of a dear friend to produce a blog with a few other Catholic men and women:

It will deal with some of the important issues confronting us in the world today. The intent of this web-log is to focus on the essentials as seen from the perspective of Catholic optimism.

In these times which we find ourselves in, man's pessimism, self-destruction and self-hatred are given ample space on the net. The loss of dignity, the hypersexualization, the gossip, greed & gluttony of a world where God is marginalized confronts us at every turn. And so we wish to point to a different reality which is the TRUE way for man and woman.

Our name, nolite-timere means literally 'fear not'. We hope to be able to provide some useful texts... and we hope to highlight greater minds than our own in this small endeavor.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

Recapturing the Vision

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Seminary of The Immaculate Conception,
Huntington, New York.

Living on our long, fish-shaped island, one can not fail to notice the many spectacular church buildings gracing the landscape. In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, there are impressive schools, retreat centers and religious houses. Grandest of all is the Immaculate Conception Seminary located in the northern part of the island on a magnificent 230-acre waterfront property. Most of these buildings, fortunately, were built in the pre-Conciliar era and share a remarkably elegant, classic architectural style. In fact, the more one looks and admires these beautiful Catholic structures, visible in every town of Long Island, one begins to realize that there was a master-planner behind this very visible Catholic institutional presence. In other words, it didn’t happen by accident. Who was this intelligent designer? What did he believe and hope to accomplish?

Thomas Edmund Molloy was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Sept. 4, 1884, his parents having moved there five years earlier from Brooklyn Heights. Beginning his college studies at the local St. Anselm’s, Providence brought him to St. Francis College, Brooklyn, in 1904 to conclude his undergraduate studies. After entering St. John’s Seminary in Brooklyn, Msgr. George Mundelein, Brooklyn’s Chancellor and future archbishop of Chicago, sent him to study at the North American College in Rome, where he was ordained on Sept. 9, 1908, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
After ordination, he returned to Brooklyn, where he became secretary to then-Auxiliary Bishop Mundelein. With the latter being sent to Chicago to be archbishop, Fr. Molloy accompanied him for a year there as secretary, eventually returning back to Brooklyn to serve as Spiritual Director for Cathedral College and Professor of Philosophy at St. Joseph’s College for Women. Named Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn in 1920, he was to become the Ordinary of the Diocese a year and a half later, at the unusually young age of 37, upon the death of Bishop McDonnell. Quickly laying his mark on the Diocese, Bishop Molloy conducted a synod in 1926.
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Bishop Molloy, Matic Beach, 1949.
He began the building of Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, overseeing every detail until its dedication in 1930. Remarkably, he went on to establish 90 parishes, and 100 elementary schools in the four counties of Long Island, presiding over the diocese’s centennial celebration in 1953. Archbishop Molloy died November 26, 1956, at the age of 72, and is buried along with four of his successors in the crypt of the Seminary in Huntington. Among the ninety churches that he built are some outstandingly beautiful structures whose exteriors alone lift up the soul and brighten the landscape, testifying eloquently to the grandeur, mystery and permanence of the Catholic vision. Among these treasures are St. Agnes’ Cathedral whose spire elevates thousands of souls who pass by on the LIRR every day, commuting to and from work.
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St. Agnes Cathedral.

Another is St. Patrick’s in Bayshore, which dominates the whole South Shore with its gorgeous Romanesque facade. Cure of Ars in Merrick is another splendid spread of buildings, consisting of not only a church, but also a school, a convent and rectory—all of them large, impressive and solidly crafted. This imposing cluster of buildings in Merrick testifies to the reality behind the comprehensive vision of Archbishop Molloy which was precisely this: the parish, far from being a ‘one-hour weekend spiritual pit stop’ between sporting events and shopping trips, was meant to be the heart of the daily life of a large Catholic community. As if this parish were not enough, he constructed Sacred Heart Parish a short distance away. Obviously, Archbishop Molloy, like a caring father, meant to provide for his children’s needs in every community for many years to come.

He built large, state-of-the-art schools that every Catholic child in the community could attend, as well as large, spacious convents that would serve to house the sisters who would serve as teachers and spiritual mothers to all in the parish community. There is much to learn from this amazing man and his vision, which was meant to produce generations of Catholics who would bring a deep and abiding faith into the world around them and bear effective witness to the Gospel. It was no doubt his hope that this island would be solidly Catholic, from head to tail, so to speak.

Instead, as one looks around today, Long Island is what can only be called a ‘devastated Catholic vineyard.’ Many of the schools and convents are empty, others fighting for their survival. We are afflicted with dwindling Mass attendance, scant vocations, broken homes, contracepting Catholic families, pervasive pornography, cynicism and a general widespread lack of belief. How we got from there to here in a span of less than forty years will be the subject of future articles. In conclusion, let us remember this extraordinarily gifted and faithful prelate, Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy, on the fiftieth anniversary of his passing:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the gift of this great servant, Thomas Molloy, and we pray that we may strive to recapture some
of his extraordinary zeal for souls. Direct us, we beg You, to play our part in the re-evangelization of this island and the restoration of Archbishop Molloy’s enduring Catholic vision.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Reflection

A dear friend of mine suggested we include a reference point pertaining to our name "Be Not Afraid"... since almost every Catholic knows that this was the motto of Karol Wojtyla when he took the name John Paul II.

So here I include some excerpts from our new Pastor's sermons.

But before you read it, I would like to draw your attention to the latter part of the paragraph... and so I have taken liberty to bold font this since it strikes me as so personally true.

A link to the original text is found in the title, which will take you to the entire sermon.

I conclude that without Christ, we have MUCH to be afraid of. WITH Him we have nothing to be afraid of AND EVERYTHING to be Thankful for. Enjoy!


St. Peter's Square Sunday, 24 April 2005

At this point, my mind goes back to 22 October 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter’s Square. His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free. Yes, he would certainly have taken something away from them: the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But he would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society. The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.

Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Beginning

In an effort to provide a compelling vision of the Splendor of Truth which IS our Catholic Faith, and to offer an alternative to the exhausted project (to quote Francis Card. George) known as liberal or "Cafeteria Catholicism", several Catholic families have decided to get together and produce an authentically Catholic blog.

We expect to have articles dealing with a host of issues with an intent to educate, inform and inspire. Subjects will deal with Family Life, Vocations, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Catholic Colleges, the Saints, Magisterial Documents, Sacred Music, the New Catechism, and various liturgical movements.

We simply wish to live the teaching of the Vatican Council in a spirit of continuity with the whole of Tradition, and enjoy the rightful aspirations of our liturgical heritage as Catholics.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see y'all soon.