Monday, November 19, 2018

Rector's Ruminations, November 19, 2018

Rector’s Ruminations
November 19, 2018
Dear Seminary Community,
GrĂ¡tias tibi, Deus, grĂ¡tias tibi. We have much for which to give thanks and I give thanks for all of you and for the grace that we all have to be here at the Mount.
Much has been happening these past few week, especially last week. We had a beautiful Byzantine Rite Liturgy celebrated by our own Fr. Lee Gross. The Byzantine schola did a fantastic job in leading us in sacred music and chant. Indeed, to echo the words of the delegates of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.”
Despite the early rise on Friday morning due to “wet steam” causing a steam valve to pour out so much steam that it set the fire alarm off, we had a very prayerful Day of Recollection. We were privileged to have the relic of the heart of St. John Vianney with us for an entire day and we are grateful to the Knights of Columbus, Deacon Andrew St. Hilaire, and Msgr. Cummings for organizing the visit. It was a clear reminder to me of the famous phrase of the Cure d’Ars – “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”
Friday was also the faculty In-Service Day. We had an insightful presentation from Fr. Tad Pacholczyk from the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Humanae Vitae and also on the topic of gender and the many moral and cultural issues surrounding gender ideology which Pope Francis has called “the annihilation of man as the image of God.”
We give thanks to Bishop Mark Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, who conferred Candidacy on 45 of our seminarians. Moving forward we will follow the practice of conferring Candidacy on those beginning the Configuration Stage of priestly formation in first theology.
This past Saturday the “Go Forth” mission served a record number of households (138) and brought food for Thanksgiving to a total of 369 people. With the help of 48 deliverers, including undergraduates from the iLead program, and $2,250 of donations, many of the local poor received the charity of Christ and sustenance for the holiday. Many thanks to Robby Renner and his organizing team for their hard work.
Msgr. Frontiero, Diane Favret, and I had the privilege to attend the Archdiocese of Military Service Benefit Dinner this past Saturday evening. It began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Broglio and served by some of our co-sponsored seminarians. Mass was followed by a delicious dinner. Archbishop Broglio gave the Mount a “shout out” when he announced to the attendees that the Mount was represented at the dinner and that we have the largest number of co-sponsored seminarians of any seminary in the country.
After Thanksgiving on the First Sunday of Advent we will begin using the St. Michael Prayer at all Seminary Masses after the dismissal. More than 12 dioceses have instituted the regular praying of the Prayer to St. Michael in order to beg his protection against the evil one and for the protection of the Church. Other dioceses have done so for a specific period of time.
Upcoming events include the cookie baking party on December 1, the Open House and Office of Vigils on December 2, the Christmas Dinner and entertainment on December 7, and, of course, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join the community for the Christmas Dinner because of a wedding rehearsal for a former parishioner of mine, but I look forward to celebrating the Mass for the Immaculate Conception.
May the Lord continue to bless each of you and your families this Thanksgiving. “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness” (St. Gianna Beretta Molla).
In Christ,
    Msgr. Andrew Baker

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Luke 1: 26-38

An orchestra is only as good as its harmony. A single wrong note can completely ruin the beauty and joy of any song. In the Book of Genesis we hear God conducting the harmony of His creation and he introduces two protagonists, Adam and Eve, to whom he gives the ability to follow his musical score and direction or not. Unfortunately, it only takes them until the third chapter of the first book of the Bible to strike the wrong note.
Original Sin
Original Sin is a note of pride, mistrust, and arrogance. It is a note embodying the cry of the serpent, “Non serviam,” “I will not serve.” And it rings out over all creation and into the depths of humanity causing enmity between God and man.
Adam and Eve notice this disharmony in their nakedness. Before sin entered the world, they gazed upon each other with purity of heart. Now their gaze has been distorted – their hearts soiled by sin. As a result, the serpent is sent crawling away and humanity is banished from the garden.
But, in the hands of a master conductor, the wrong note can be the first note in a new song.
Genesis predicts the restoration of the orchestra. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel,” we hear in the first reading. The plan of restoration and the beginning of a new song for humanity starts in the conception of a young girl by the name of Miriam, the daughter of Joachim and Anne. By way of the future merits of her divine son, Mary begins her existence free from the effects of the wrong note.
She is full of grace, the angel tells us, precisely because nothing of her is in the serpent and nothing of the serpent is in her. She and he are at “enmity.”
God brings about His victory
In Mary, the Immaculate Conception, we see how God brings about his victory and the restoration of harmony through the anawim or holy remnant of Israel.
St. Paul say to the Ephesians that God has had a plan for us “before the foundation of the world.” He destined us to be his adopted children and “to be holy and without blemish before him.” We were meant to be like the lambs of sacrifice which are brought to the Temple without blemish; that is, without sin.
Yet, mankind strayed from holiness. But God will not be defeated. He forms a rescue mission. He has a plan of salvation. He sets apart an anawim – a holy remnant – who remains faithful to Him. The word in Hebrew means “those who are bowed down.”
Mary is the exemplar of this holy remnant. She is the embodiment of the true Zion, the pure living dwelling place of God. She is the perfect house for God. Her life boldly proclaims that God has not failed.
She says “yes” to the Lord and becomes his living Temple. Through her, the Temple presence of God, stifled in the garden of Eden, breaks forth definitively into the world. Her immaculate conception is a living sign and beacon of the new note that God has used to start a new song and restore harmony to his creation. In her begins the glorious victory of grace and holiness.
Sin and death are not the last word. He comes to us through Mary to bear our sins to death. It is through Mary that God takes humanity’s defeat and turns it into divine victory.
Man trusts God again
In Mary, mankind also begins to trust God again.
Adam and Eve think that God, in some way, is taking something away from them. They harbor suspicion and mistrust in the garden. They view God to be a rival. When they taste the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they are reaching out to shape the world by themselves. To make themselves into a god. They trust in deceit rather than in truth.
Mary on the other hand completely reverses this wrong note. She is totally dependent upon God and trusts him implicitly. She gives herself over to him completely and will do nothing but His will – not her own. She profoundly recognizes that her very existence, every breath, is dependent upon Him. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The non serviam of the serpent becomes the serviam of the handmaid. If we live in opposition to God, if we view him as our enemy, then we end up destroying not only ourselves but the world.
On the other hand, if the devil is at enmity with us and we with him, it means that our friendship with God is governed by our total “fiat.” We love him. We trust him, and we depend on him for everything. This is not only a good way to live our lives. It is a life in accord with who we are. While we say that the Immaculate Conception is an exception to humanity's fate, in fact, the Immaculate Conception is the premier example of what it means to be fully human. In her God brings about his victory and restoration of humanity and, in her, humanity turns back to Him in complete dependence and trust.

On our patronal feast day we give thanks to God for Our Lady. Whenever we look toward the stain glass window which graces the front of this church, we see the brightness of light shining through. We can only make out the image of the Blessed Mother if there is light shining through. It is no accident that the light first hits the choir loft. The light that is Christ shines through the Immaculate Mother in order to restore the harmony torn asunder by Adam’s sin. The light that is Christ shines through the Immaculate Mother in order to raise our voices to heaven. The light that is Christ shines through the Immaculate Mother in order to take the wrong note of sin and death and begin a new song – the song of redemption. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Homily for the Office of Vigils

Immaculate Conception Chapel
Mount St. Mary's Seminary
December 3, 2017
Luke 24: 1-12

Did the deacon make a mistake? It appears very odd that our Gospel for the Office of Vigils – for this liturgical celebration of our preparation for Christmas – is a resurrection Gospel, an Easter Gospel.
Of course, deacons never make mistakes! This Gospel is the one provided by the Church. As we begin our Advent celebration, this resurrection Gospel contains many elements for our consideration in preparing for Christmas.
Keep the end in mind - hope
The first aspect of our preparation for Christmas during the Advent season is to keep the end in mind. It is a word of hope. Whenever we begin a journey, we should keep in mind where we’re going. The reason for Christ’s first coming is the Cross and the empty tomb which was found empty by the women and disciples. We are not preparing simply to celebrate the birth of a famous person but the Lord and Savior of all mankind.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote, “[E]very other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die… The story of every human life begins with birth and ends with death. In the Person of Christ, however, it was His death that was first and His life that was last.” (Life of Christ)
There was only one who came into the world to die and He did so at the first Christmas. We are preparing for the birth of a Savior – THE Savior. We must remember that all-important end. It is the Son of God who comes into the world to save us from sin and death. His birth is the beginning of his earthly journey toward suffering, death, and resurrection.
Is it any wonder that immediately following Christmas we have several days in which we celebrate martyrs? The very day after Christmas we celebrate the Protomartyr Saint Stephen. Two days later we celebrate the Holy Innocents. Advent is helping us prepare for the coming of the Messiah who through his passion, death, and resurrection gives us not a new kind of earthly life but a divine life – a life that comes by way of death. We are preparing for the birth of our Savior whose very death brings forth for us new life, the life which we see revealed to us in the Resurrection.
Tell the story
Another theme for our Advent season that is found in the Gospel this evening is the importance of telling the story. Some have called it the greatest story ever told. It is the most true story in the entirety of human history.
With the tomb empty Luke tells us that certain women try to tell the story “to the Eleven and the others.” To them, “the story seemed like nonsense and they refused to believe them.”
During Advent we must tell the story, the true story, of Christmas. It is not about trees, buying presents, snowmen, Jingle Bells, or even about a fireplace on 4th floor McSweeny! Christmas is about the truest story ever told. Our secular age needs to hear this story again and again – with boldness.
A few days ago, the Archdiocese of Washington filed a legal action in federal court challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's advertising guidelines. The Archdiocese wanted to put up an advertisement for their “Find the Perfect Gift” initiative. On a blue background there were three shepherds, two sheep, and several stars with the wording “Find the perfect gift.”
Metro wanted nothing to do with this advertisement. Obviously, they hadn't heard the story or, more probably, they don’t believe it. Secularism has gone so far as to reject any public manifestation of the true meaning of Christmas. If Christmas is only about packages and sales, I guess that’s OK to advertise. But if Christmas is about the birth of the Savior, if Christmas is about the greatest True Story Ever Told, then secular society wants nothing to do with it.
We need the boldness of the women who went to the Eleven and others and told them the true story about Christ. It is not nonsense. Even if others refuse to believe us, we should cheerfully and courageously tell about the birth of the Savior.
All good things come in due time
The final element that connects our Gospel with this first Sunday of Advent and our celebration of the Office of Vigils, is Peter’s plight. St. Luke says that Peter went to the tomb, “stooped down but could see nothing but the wrappings.” Peter had to wait to see the Resurrected Lord.
Waiting is difficult in our age. We are fed by the media instantaneously. We have so much at our fingertips. We don't like to wait in line or sit in traffic. We might even be impatient about getting back a paper from class. Although trying to avoid being trite, it is good for us to be reminded that “all good things come in due time.”
Peter had to wait some time before he encountered the Risen Lord. The people of Israel had to wait hundreds of years before the coming of the Messiah.
We use these four weeks of waiting for the celebration of Christmas to live the virtue of hope. This season becomes a practice for our entire lives. Christ has come once, and he will come again, whether that be at the end of time or at our own death. But just as assuredly he came the first time, He will come again. As we wait with patience and hope for the celebration of Christmas, so our lives are a time of waiting. But rest assured, just as Peter encountered the Risen Lord, we will celebrate Christmas in a few short weeks. Likewise, the Lord will come again.

An Easter Gospel tell us much about our Advent season. May we heed the Word of God – a word of hope, of boldness, and of patience – so as to better prepare for the coming of Our Lord and Savior. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rector's Ruminations, November 20, 2017

Rector’s Ruminations

November 20, 2017
Dear Seminary Community,
As we head into the Thanksgiving break, I want to let you know how thankful I am to God for the blessing of being here at the Mount. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill us with the wisdom to see just how God has blessed each of us and how much we are a blessing to each other. May the few days of rest be a time of renewal and joy for you.
Over the past several weeks the fourth theologians have been involved in their Penance practicum. It will continue over the next few weeks. Several priests are taking the role of the penitent with some specific sins and scenarios to relate to the fourth theologians who are taking the role of the priest. I must say that I am enjoying being a penitent to these future priests!
Last Tuesday the Mount sponsored a breakfast at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Assembly meeting. We welcomed 15 – 20 bishop to our breakfast and Archbishop Lori and I had an opportunity to highlight the great things happening here.
We congratulate the third theologians who were admitted to Candidacy by Bishop Hartmayer, Bishop of Savannah, this past Friday. As I announced last week, next year we will invite all first, second, and third theologians to petition for Candidacy and the following year the Mount will regularly invite first theologians to Candidacy. I believe this change better reflects the understanding of the Rite of Candidacy as envisioned by the new Ratio Fundamentalis which sees Candidacy as a sign that “the Church chooses him and calls him so that he may prepare to receive Holy Orders in the future” and it is “an invitation for him to continue with his formation, in configuring himself to Christ the Shepherd, through a formal recognition on the part of the Church” (67).
While the seminarians were participating in the Day of Renewal on Friday, the entire faculty was engaged in an In-Service day conducted by Cameron Thompson. Cameron provided us with insights on virtuous leadership and how this approach can be incorporated into the human formation program at the Seminary.
The “Go Forth” Mission for the Poor, conducted this past Saturday, was a great success. 99 bags of Thanksgiving food were delivered to over 250 people by 47 deliverers including many seminarians and faculty as well as some Mount University students. We are grateful to Jim Bors and his core committee for the great work in accomplishing this wonderful work of charity.
Last night we had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner sponsored by a local Knights of Columbus Council. Keep in mind that, for those who will be at the Mount during the Thanksgiving break, the Adamczk family and the Knights of Columbus from Germantown, MD, will graciously host both breakfast and dinner. We are grateful to both of these Councils for their kindness and generosity.
After Thanksgiving we will have a very special visit from one of our partner bishops – Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM, Cap., from the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia. This apostolic vicariate encompasses the countries of United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen. He has accepted our invitation to speak to the seminarians about his episcopal ministry in a predominately Muslim area of the world on Thursday, December 7 at 4:15 pm in OLH. My regularly scheduled Rector’s Conference will be canceled and Bishop Hinder’s talk will take its place. All seminarians are obliged to attend and I encourage the faculty and staff to join us.
Don’t forget about Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Christmas dinner, and the Talent Show which will take place on December 8. Believe it or not, Advent is just around the corner with the Nativity of Our Lord to soon follow.
In Christ,
   Msgr. Andrew Baker

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Rector's Ruminations, October 22, 2017

Rector’s Ruminations
October 22, 2017
Dear Seminary Community,
Many great things have been happening at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary since the beginning of the semester and the arrival of 52 new men. Speaking of which, we were featured in a wonderful article in the National Catholic Register. Check out the story and the picture of our new men:
The Big news this semester is, of course, the beatification of one of our own – Blessed Stanley Rother. 16 seminarians with Ms. Julia Parker, Director of Music, formed a special schola and sang beautifully at the Mass on September 23 in the Oklahoma City Cox Center. This 1963 graduate of the Mount was martyred in 1981 and now he intercedes for us in heaven. Archbishop Coakley, Archbishop of Blessed Stanley’s home archdiocese of Oklahoma City, gave the Mount a first class relic of the new Blessed. We are in the process of having a special statue made and will display both the statue and the relic in St. Bernard’s Chapel. A number of Mountaineer priests came to the Mass and we all had the privilege to concelebrate. Here is a video filmed in part at the Mount about Blessed Stanley’s life and his time at the Mount:
After the beautification, Msgr. Frontiero, Vice Rector and Director of Human Formation, and I went to New Orleans to participate in the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors. We were able to meet many vocation directors, tell them about the Mount, and share the story of Blessed Stanley. Yes, gumbo and grits were on the menu!
The following weekend our soccer team successfully defended the Vianney Cup with victories over St. Mary’s Seminary and St. Charles Seminary. Go God! Go Mount!
The Seminary Alumni reunion brought many of our graduates back to campus October 3 – 4. It culminated in a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop William Lori, class of 1977 in which Blessed Rother was honored.
During their fall break, 36 of our seminarians organized an Evangelization Mission Trip to Temple University in Philadelphia. They went out two-by-two to engage people on campus in conversations about life, God, faith, the Catholic Church, etc. Many people’s lives were changed and our seminarians became instruments of divine grace as well as better evangelizers.
On the weekend of October 20 -22 we hosted 136 family members of 47 seminarians for a total of 183 participants in our 12th Annual Family Weekend. Through Our Lady’s intercession, God provided us with outstanding weather. It was heartening to see just how much our families support us and have been a real seed bed for the vocations of our men. Diane Favret and Mary Anne Shields, from the Seminary Development and Alumni Relations Office, had everything well organized.
Tomorrow, October 23, the seminary will participate in the Inauguration of Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. as the 26th President of Mount St. Mary’s University. There will be a special Mass at 10 am and an inauguration ceremony at 2 pm. Let us together pray for President Trainor, who has been a tremendous support of the Seminary since his arrival at the Mount, and for a strong future for the university.
Coming up in the near future is, first of all, the ever-popular Oktoberfest party on October 27. We look forward to all the wonderful food and drink and the great comradery and fraternity. Then we will have our special All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrations with the traditional procession to the cemetery on the hill. Throughout November many of our vocation directors will be visiting us in order to see their seminarians and to hear of their progress in formation. On Sunday, November 12, the entire Seminary community will attend the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop in Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore.
Please continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.
In Christ,
   Msgr. Andrew Baker

Friday, October 20, 2017

Rector's Ruminations

Here is a Rector's Conference I gave at Mount St. Mary's Seminary on Blessed Stanley Rother:

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Here is a video about Blessed Stanley Rother made at the Mount:

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Blessed Stanley Rother blessing parishioners