Hello and welcome!
Last Friday, I attended the annual New York Encounter hosted by Communion and Liberation. This gathering is modeled after Communion and Liberation’s annual event in Rimini, Italy called “Il Meeting,” which is the largest annual cultural event in Italy.
I was asked to give a talk for the opening session of the weekend, in which I spoke a little bit about my experience with Communion and Liberation over the years and the way that many of the themes of CL resonate with Pope Francis’s priorities.
Also, since the conference began on St. Valentine’s Day, I joked with the people that this year men had an extra option for a Valentine’s gift for their beloved – in addition to chocolate and roses, they could also offer them an evening at the New York Encounter!
We were so pleased to be joined at the Encounter by a number of people from Boston, including Father Michael Zimmerman. We are blessed to have Communion and Liberation present in our archdiocese, including the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, the group of consecrated laymen Memores Domini and, of course, so many young people and families who are involved in the Communion and Liberation movement and follow the spirituality of Father Luigi Giussani.
At one point, I was able to spend some time with some of those families taking part in activities for young children, which included such things as singing songs and building a bridge out of popsicle sticks. (It looked a lot like the Zakim Bridge, actually!)
Msgr. Albacete, who died a few years ago, was one of my closest friends. I knew him even before he went into the seminary, when he was working as a scientist at NASA. He was ordained a priest for Washington, and I preached at his first Mass.
He was a brilliant man and a very gifted speaker who was often asked to appear as a commentator on television. He was an excellent spokesman for the Church and interpreter of the Church to the secular media. But in addition to all that, he had a terrific sense of humor, and I know he would have approved of these T-shirts and mugs!
Unfortunately, I was unable to stay through the entire New York Encounter, because I had to leave for Rome for meetings of the Council of Cardinals. The council met Monday through Wednesday, and we devoted our time during this session to re-reading the text of the new Apostolic Constitution on the Reform of the Roman Curia, as well as incorporating some suggestions that we have recently received. The Holy Father was present with us for all of our meetings, except, of course, on Wednesday when he had to leave us for the General Audience.
Also with us for the Mass were members of the bishops’ conference for the Middle East, which included the Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa and the Capuchin Bishop of Dubai, Bishop Paul Hinder. Bishop Hinder told me that Father Abishai Vase, who studied at St. John’s Seminary, is now serving in his cathedral.
Tuesday evening, I was able to get together with Brother Giuseppe and Brother Thomas, two of our Capuchin Friars in Rome, for dinner. Brother Thomas is from my province and Brother Giuseppe is from the Province of Loreto where, of course, the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto is.
Finally, this morning we began our weekend discernment retreat that is being held at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. A similar retreat for potential candidates to St. John’s Seminary is also being held Saturday and Sunday at the Marian Center in Medway.
We began this morning with having the retreatants join us for the Mass with the seminary community. As it turns out, every Friday they have the Mass in Spanish, so I was very happy to oblige. However, I did explain to our guests that they had not turned to the wrong channel, but that the weekly Spanish Mass was part of the pastoral formation of the seminary.
The men on the retreat come from many different backgrounds, and a couple of them had even been in the seminary many years ago but, at this point in their lives, are reconsidering a vocation. We certainly were pleased that so many men are participating in this weekend of discernment. We are also very grateful for the presence of Pope St. John Seminary, with its special mission to train older men for the priesthood.
As I mentioned, there is also a second retreat taking place at St. John’s Seminary, and the two groups will come together for a closing Mass on Sunday. I will share more about that and the remainder of these retreats with you in my next post.
Until next week,