Father Barron inspires priests at annual convocation

Priests fill the ballroom of the Four Points Sheraton in Norwood for the May 6 gathering. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

NORWOOD -- Speakers at the annual priest convocation spoke about the challenging nature of the priesthood in current times, May 6, at Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood.

Father Mark O'Connell, judicial vicar and adjunct faculty member at St. John's Seminary, introduced the keynote speaker Father Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and rector of Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In his remarks, Father O'Connell also said that, in a sense, he wanted to introduce the priests of Boston to Father Barron.

Father O'Connell spoke about how priests make themselves available to the people they serve and face the challenging realities of the priesthood regularly, often to the sound of a certain phrase.

"Father, could you come down? Someone needs to see a priest," he said.

He said that the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston had faced the sex abuse crisis, scandals and personal hardship of recent years, but had grown stronger for it.

"So, Robert Barron, I am so honored today to show you who we really are, not the elite, not the insular, not the unsuspecting priests we used to be, but Cardinal Seán's men -- smaller, but faithful servants of God 'til the end, helping him rebuild the Church. Because when God asked us to come down, we, we said yes," Father O'Connell said.

Father Barron said he had originally planned to speak about his series "Priest Prophet King," but instead gave the priests a DVD of the program and spoke about three spiritual paths for a journey of renewal.

"I think you'll find that all three of these are all through the Bible. They are in all the great spiritual masters in different ways. Path one -- you find the center. Path two -- you know that you're a sinner. Path three -- you realize your life is not about you," he said.

First he spoke about the path by which a person finds the center of their spiritual life and grace breaks through into their life -- like in Isaiah 6:1, when the prophet responded to the call of God in the temple, in "the year King Uzziah died."

He said grace broke through into his life when as a freshman at a Dominican high school outside Chicago, he listened as a Dominican friar laid out one of Thomas Aquinas' arguments for God's existence.

"This was complete news to me that you could think about God in a deeply serious intellectual way. Now I was 14 years old, what did I know?" he asked.

For a student who would go on to earn multiple degrees in Catholic studies, write several books, and run a media apostolate dedicated to the new evangelization, the lesson became an earth-shaking and definitive moment -- one that Father Barron attributed directly to his presence with the priests at the convocation.

"For some reason, that for me was the year that King Uzziah died. That's when I got the vision, when grace invaded my life," he said.

He repeatedly urged the priests to recall that moment in their own lives, either during the convocation or in prayer later. He said sometimes the center comes to you itself, like when Jesus climbed into Peter's boat on the Sea of Galilee.

"What was the time when Jesus got into your boat, without being asked, without being invited, but he got into your boat and started giving orders? Because, that's the moment of the breakthrough of grace. That's when the center entered your life, and now sought to bring everything else around it. I think it's a source of renewal for us to find that time when King Uzziah died -- the time when Jesus got into your boat," he said.

He said once the center presents itself, the second path becomes obvious.

"The center has burst into your life and now wants to draw everything magnetically around it. Good. But in light of this center that's precisely when we know we are sinners," Father Barron said.

He compared the awareness of sin with the light on a windshield while driving.

"When you're driving at night away from direct light, you can actually see pretty well, right? I'm doing fine, but then the next morning you drive your car into the rising sun, and now it's just opaque," he said.

"It's when the soul is turned toward the light that it becomes more, not less, aware of its sin," he said.

He noted that sometimes the second path calls one to really deeply consider the nature of their own sin, to go down into the depths on a quest to rise up.

"Find the center. Know you're a sinner. Thirdly, realize your life is not about you," Father Barron said.

He said in both the case of Isaiah and Peter, the Lord purifies the sinner for a greater destiny, both having acknowledged openly their own sinful nature in their encounter with God, before God sends each on a mission.

"See brothers, we're all involved in apostolic spirituality. Diocesan priests, ours is an apostolate. "Apostolian" means to send. We have been sent by our bishop. We have been sent on mission. It's very important, I think, for us to get onto path number three," he said.

Speaking after Father Barron's remarks, vicar general Bishop Peter J. Uglietto pledged his support to the priests, before he recognized priests celebrating significant anniversaries of ordination, including the 45th anniversary Cardinal O'Malley.

Cardinal O'Malley closed the convocation with a joke that segued into a remark on the importance of discipline and fraternity in the life of a priest.

"We know that here in Boston there is no clerical narcissism, laziness, self-pity, or high-maintenance personalities," he said, as the priests laughed.

"But if there were," he continued, "a real conversion is the only solution, and that conversion is possible only by having a deep friendship with Christ and with our brother priests. The example, encouragement and support that we give each other is crucial in molding our hearts into an icon for the Good Shepherd."

Father Peter F. DeFazio, a priest ordained in 2015 who serves at St. James and St. John the Baptist in Haverhill, noted a synergy between the talks given by Father Barron and Father O'Connell.

"My take away from all that is that, boy, somehow both Mark O'Connell and Robert Barron, both of these great priests, have managed to give a great description of what I think all the priests in the room probably have experienced, but as a newly ordained -- myself having only been ordained now just under one year, about 11 months -- my experience already relates to that," he said.

Father James M. Broderick, a retired priest in residence at Immaculate Conception in Newburyport ordained 55 years ago, said Father O'Connell gave an excellent description of the life of a priest and the recovery of the archdiocese in recent years.

"He obviously faced up to all the negatives, and then I thought very wonderfully brought out all of the positives and the recovery that has been affected under the present cardinal. I would applaud him for giving a really true reflection on what is today's priesthood," Father Broderick said.

Nation
Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

World
Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Nation
Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

World
Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

World
God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

World
Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

World
Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Nation
Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

Nation
N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Nation
Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Nation
Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Nation
Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

Nation
#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Nation
Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Nation
Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...