Author: Cardinal Seán

‘Quis alter Christus es’

Good afternoon,

Yesterday, the Archdiocese released its financial report for fiscal year 2007. Years ago, I committed to report annually on the financial condition of our Archdiocese. I encourage you to review it by visiting the archdiocesan website.

I want to share with you the message I wrote to accompany the report:

My Dear Friends in Christ,

For 200 years, the Archdiocese of Boston has been serving the pastoral needs of the local Catholic population and the wider community through its parishes, schools, hospitals, social justice agencies and many other programs. As we begin our next century of service, we have been blessed with the inspirational outreach, pastoral care and concern of Pope Benedict XVI during his recent visit to the United States.

This annual report shows that the financial condition of the Archdiocese is improving and that we face a number of challenges. We are committed to improving the services provided to our parishes, schools and agencies and to responsible planning. These efforts will include responding to the changing needs of our parishes as presented in the Pastoral Planning Report published last year.

An important part of our planning is the 2010 Initiative for Catholic Education, which is strengthening and improving our schools and the communities they serve. In Brockton, at Trinity Catholic Academy, and in Dorchester/Mattapan, at the Pope John Paul II Academy, many families have new opportunities for their childrens’ education. In Gloucester and Cape Ann, there is great enthusiasm for the new St. Ann school that will open next year. These new beginnings are in great part the work of very generous benefactors who are committed to building a better future for young people.

During the past year we have completed the sale of the majority of the remaining available property on the Brighton campus to Boston College. Our central operations have now moved to the new Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Braintree, where we will be able to more efficiently respond to the needs of our parishes and agencies.

St. John’s Seminary was not part of the property sale and will remain at its current location in Brighton. I am pleased that the seminary has seen higher enrollments in recent years as we experience more vocations for the Archdiocese. It is also encouraging that neighboring and regional dioceses increasingly send their candidates to St. John’s in recognition of the quality of the formation program offered there.

The Archdiocese also made significant gains in strengthening Caritas Christi and its member hospitals. Among the most important developments was the naming of Dr. Ralph de la Torre as the system’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Dr. de la Torre, renowned for his achievements in cardiac surgery and healthcare administration, is already announcing plans to strengthen Caritas’ commitment to excellence in healthcare.

The many social service and social justice ministries administered by the Archdiocese are challenged by the growing needs of the poor, including the working poor who despite their best efforts cannot make ends meet.

One of the distinctively Catholic aspects of our mission is that we will not depart from our commitment to serve the needy. While working diligently to respond to immediate needs, the leadership and staff of Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s Women and Childrens’ Center and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs continuously engage in strategic planning in order to ensure long-term presence.

As we continue the Archdiocese’s journey of healing and rebuilding, we offer a message of hope to all. To those who are actively engaged in parish life and Christian service, please know how much we value and appreciate your presence. For those who have been absent from the life of the Church, allow me to personally share that you are welcomed and needed. St. Patrick, patron of the Archdiocese, dedicated his life to the service of others with the conviction that he could help them experience the love of God. Let us work together in the name of the Lord with the confidence that we can make a difference by bringing the light of Christ to the world in which we live.


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As I did last week, I’ve asked one of our newly ordained priests write a guest post on his experience.

This week’s reflection come from Father Mark Barr, who serves at St. John the Baptist Parish in Quincy. I hope you enjoy his reflection as much as I did.

– Cardinal Seán

– – –


When first I began to seriously consider the priesthood, it seemed a nebulous and distant reality. I thought God was calling me to a priestly vocation and I wanted to pursue it, but I really had no idea who the priest is or what he does. I attended Mass regularly and Mass I understood. I could even see myself acting as a sacramental minister but I could not grasp what it would mean, for me, to actually be a priest the other twenty-three and a half hours of the day.


Processing into the Cathedral for the ordination

The priesthood is a great gift, the indispensable and necessary pattern of mediation, the order of the new covenant, the definitive way in which God has chosen and continues to act through His Church. This we all know, that priestly vocations are a very great good, but it is somehow hard to concretize that knowledge and see the priesthood as a good for oneself; to see the life of a priest as something that I, personally, could live and do and in it find happiness.


We hear of others pursing vocations, we hear people talk the need for vocations, we might even think that God is calling us to a vocation, but it is so hard to flesh that out and see in it a way of life, a path to actually choose among so many others in the world. We have so many opportunities in our lives, so many gifts from God that enable to be what we want and flourish in the world.


When we grow up, we carefully weigh out options in life, we balance our gifts and skills against what the world offers and asks us to do, and so make our decisions, decisions that will lead us, hopefully, toward prosperity, health, wealth even prestige. In the midst of this we see the priest, we see pockets of his life and what he does, the Masses and funerals and baptisms. We see the functionary only, the dispensing of the sacraments. So it is that we all tend to understand who the priest is based solely on what it is he does.


Listening to one of the lighter moments of Cardinal Seán’s homily

A priest is not a set of actions, sacramental or otherwise, though certainly there are proper and necessary actions for the priest. Priesthood is not a job or a career, not a set of functions or tasks, but rather a commitment of one’s entire life to a privileged relationship with Christ for, and only for, the service of God’s holy people.


The imposition of hands

A priest is most a priest in the quiet, hidden moments of his day when he is confident in his identity as alter Christus, consoled by his sacramental proximity to the fountain from which graces flow, and humbled before the God who chooses men to be his representatives and instruments in the world. Actions flow from the center of a priest’s identity, they do not constitute it.


The priest is the man who has become Christ by his own life of virtue, his sacramental ordination, and by the way he is able to love. A love that must be slowly taken upon ourselves by our own choice to persist in love and by the gift of Almighty God who enables and consecrates us in own heart.


Bishop John Boles exchanges a sign of peace with me during the ordination


To prepare men to live and love with Christ’s own heart, there exist seminaries and carefully prepared years of formation before Ordination. The seminary strenuously, ardently teaches you theology and philosophy, what to do, how to act, what to say, how to say it, all the while subtly instilling in the man what it means to be a man for others. Men do not simply attend seminary, they do not simply study there, but rather they are formed. Formed foremost by prayer, then study and then all the practicalities of life to be that representative of Christ for others.


Giving blessing following the ordination Mass

I have been a priest now for one month (and a few days), I have lived this reality for so short a time but it is abundantly clear to me that it is doable and it is worth it. The priesthood, the lofty and distant image of Christ made manifest in an individual soul, is a real and fruitful way of live that can be lived.


Celebrating my first Mass at my home parish of St. Patrick’s in Natick

It can be done, though not by our own strength or effort alone. And it is worth it, the days are filled with grace, they are not always filled with happiness or ease, but there is always joy. We cannot take the measure of a priest’s life by the actions we see or even the actions we do for they are so very fluid. One day is quiet with simply a morning Mass, the next day filled with funerals, grave calls, nursing home visits, and sudden emergencies. The only constant in all these situations is Christ, Christ whom we represent, Christ whom me make present to others. This is what it means for me to be a priest, to make the invisible God visible through my life, and to make the sublime perfection of Christ known through my own numerous failings.


During this first month of priesthood I have wondered daily how it is I am able to do and be something so great while my own life is so insufficient to this purpose. The answer is Christ and Christ alone. It is He who acts through the priest for the good of His Church. It is He who sustains us through all the happy and all the painful situations that we face, it is He who gives us strength and joy when we must be the comfort of the afflicted and the hope of the sorrowful. In all this Christ gives us the joy of doing His will, the joy of loving His people as a father his own children, the joy of bring hope to a world that cannot see it.


My sister, Kristin, and my mother, Elynore

This too is why a joyful priest is a better encourager of vocations than one who is very experienced, very skilled and able but angry or dour. It is not how good we are at our “job” that makes the priest a better priest, but how much we love. How much he loves, loves the people of God with Christ’s own pierced and Sacred Heart, the heart he receives in ordination, this is the measure of a priest. And this is not a distant or nebulous thing, but a real and good life, a life that ought to be pursued by all who are called, something that is concrete and doable.


Blessing a rosary for the child of a friend of mine

We can do it. We can live this blessed life through God’s gift and call. The priesthood is not just for others, though the priest himself is ordained for others, the priesthood is for you, for you who are called or have even the slightest inclination or interest. It ought to be pursued, it ought to be done and lived and it can be. What is the priest and the priesthood? It is the call to love, to serve and to be Christ for the world. Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote this about the priest:

O sacerdos! Tu quis es?
Non es a te, quia de nihilo.
Non es ad te, quia es mediator ad Deum.
Non es tibi, quia soli Deo vivere debes.
Non es tui, quia es omnium servus.
Non es tu, quis alter Christus es.
Quid ergo es? Nihil et omnia,
        O sacerdos!

O priest! Who art thou?
Thou art not from thyself, because thou art from nothing.
Thou art not to thine own self, because thou art a mediator to God.
Thou art not for thyself, because thou ought to live for God alone.
Thou art not of thyself, because thou are the servant of all.
Thou art not thyself, thou who art another Christ.
What therefore art thou? Nothing and everything,
O priest!

God love you and keep you all,

– Father Mark Barr

June 2022