Fr James Martin, SJ – Daniel J. Harrington, SJ Lecture

Fr James Martin, SJ – Daniel J. Harrington, SJ Lecture


(audience applauds and cheers) – This is a very generous
crowd, I appreciate that. My name is Tom Stegman, I’m the dean of the School
of Theology and Ministry, and I’d like to extend a
very warm, heartfelt welcome first to the alumni of the
School of Theology and Ministry, including the alumni of the Institute for Religious
Ed and Pastoral Ministry and the alumni from Weston
Jesuit School of Theology. Welcome. (audience applauds) Also a warm welcome to our
generous benefactors and friends of the School of Theology and Ministry. A welcome to our colleagues
from across the campus and to our present students,
faculty, and staff. To start the program, I’d like to introduce someone who doesn’t need an introduction, the president of Boston College, Father William Leahy of
the Society of Jesus. And I told him I was gonna
say one thing about him. Anyone who knows Father Leahy knows how important having a game plan, a vision for the future is very important, a clear map of where to go. Father Leahy had a vision for the School of Theology and Ministry years ago that those of use who were
involved at Weston and the IREPM I don’t think appreciated, and it was a hard move at first, but 10 years later I think that vision has born great fruit and we’re very grateful for Father Leahy’s vision
and general support, and the school would not
be up and running as it is without his support. Father Leahy. (audience applauds) – Thank you all for being here. I did wanna come tonight because, as we look at the 10th anniversary of the School of Theology and Ministry, I think it’s not only a time to celebrate and we should do that, because there is much
for us to look back on with appreciation, with generosity. The appreciation and generosity for the students, faculty, and staff of two units that came together to form the Boston College
School of Theology and Ministry. So we should celebrate. But tonight is also an occasion
on which we can remember. And I think about Father Bob Manning who was the president of Weston Jesuit. And really within months of
my arrival at Boston College he came over to visit
because he had this idea about how Boston College and Weston Jesuit could come together, and together we could do more than we would be able to do separately. But his vision was that together we could serve
the church and wider society in ever greater ways. So I think about Father
Manning and his vision, his tenacity, and at times his charm. He could persuade people to do things. And so tonight there are
I’m sure many memories of Weston Jesuit and the
Institute for Religious Education and how we came to be here. And then I think tonight
is a moment to rededicate, to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the School of Theology and Ministry, and to rededicate ourselves
to the renewal of the church. We’re in a time when Roman
Catholicism is in great turmoil, perhaps even crisis, and it needs individuals who
are involved in ministry, whether they’re faculty,
students, alumni, donors, people who believe in what we can do to help make our church more
alive, more revitalized. And so tonight we celebrate, naturally, 10 years have gone by since the School of Theology
and Ministry was established, and we remember lots of people, moments, but most of all I hope tonight we say we’re going to rededicate ourselves to helping revitalize the church, live up the mission of the
School of Theology and Ministry, and do our part to enable Boston College to ever more live up to
its motto of ever to excel. So tonight I’m grateful that you’re here, that I could be here, and most of all I’m delighted
that so many supporters of the School of Theology and Ministry are present tonight to help us celebrate. Thank you. (audience applauds) – Today has been a day of
special celebration for the STM. We released our new strategic plan, which you can find on the website. We had a beautiful
anniversary liturgy at 12:15 at St. Ignatius Church presided by Father Leahy and with Father Tim Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference and the vice-chancellor of this school, he gave the homily. And now tonight we’re having the first Annual Daniel
J. Harrington SJ Lecture. I wanna suggest a few words about Dan because Dan embodied the best of the School
of Theology and Ministry. He was a wonderful pedagogue,
a prodigious scholar, including his commitment to
make biblical scholarship accessible to non-specialists. He was outstanding in his service. And he was marked by four characteristics that I think are exemplary for any of us. Gratitude, generosity, simplicity, and humility. And I hope you received
a card or take a card, the card for Dan, which is a wonderful
picture of him in action but on the back are the
lyric of his favorite song. A very simple song, Give Me Jesus. And it really I think
captures his spiritually. I’m pleased to say that Dan’s
brother and sister-in-law, Ed and Marilyn Harrington, are with us this evening, and I’m not sure where you’re seated but if you would please stand up so we can acknowledge you. Wonderful. (audience applauds) (Tom and audience applaud) Now it’s my pleasure to introduce the person who will deliver
the first Harrington lecture. Father James Martin of
the Society of Jesus, a person who has little
need for introduction around these parts, so I’ll keep this very brief. Jim’s current position in ministry is editor at large for America Magazine. By virtue of graduating from Weston Jesuit School of Theology with the M.Div. in 1997
and the Th.M. in 1998, he became a Double Eagle in one fell swoop on June 1st, 2008, when the school was founded. Not quite an ontological change but not an insignificant one. (audience laughs) Jim is the author of several books, including The New York Times best seller’s The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which Dan agrees is one
of the best books on Jesus that is out there. His latest book is Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and
the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect,
Compassion, and Sensitivity. Jim has been named by Pope Francis as a consultor for the Vatican
Dicastery for Communication, an apt appointment given his
effectiveness and popularity as a media commentator. He’s recently returned from Ireland where he was invited to give a talk at the Vatican’s World
Meeting on Families in Dublin. I could go on and on but you came to listen
to him and not to me, and besides that we don’t
want him to get a big head, so please welcome
(audience laughs) a great friend of Boston College, Father James Martin. (audience applauds) – Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Father Leahy,
very much for coming. I’d like to thank all of you for coming. I also want to thank Melinda
Donovan for all the logistics. When Tom called me about a year ago, he said, “We’re having the
10th anniversary of STM, “would you be able to come
up and give the talk?” And I said, “Well, I’m kind of busy.” And he said, “It’s the
Daniel Harrington Lecture.” And I said, “I’m in.” (audience laughs) That’s how much I thought about Dan. What I owe to Weston, as you know it was Weston
and IREPM that combined and formed the School of
Theology and Ministry. What I owe to Weston and to my professors, some of whom are here tonight, Meg Guider, Jim Keenan,
Janice Farnham, Dick Clifford, and some others may be here tonight, is immeasurable. So I’m very happy to be back. Of all the Jesuits who I’ve
known over the last 30 years, there are a few whom I
would consider saints or at least saintly. Or saint-ish. (audience laughs) John Donohue, an editor and writer who worked for decades
at America Magazine. Bob Gilroy, a Jesuit artist
and spiritual director. Dan Berrigan, the famous
peace activist and poet. And Cardinal Avery Dulles,
the great American theologian. But there is only one for whom I think we could legitimately open an official Vatican
cause for canonization, and I’m talking about
Daniel J. Harrington SJ, to whom this lecture is dedicated. Now, I’m aware that there are many people
here in this audience who did not know Dan and must wonder if he
really was that holy. Or more generally, what
all the fuss is about, why is there a lecture named after him. I’m even more aware that
there are Jesuits and priests, religious and lay people
who worked with Dan at Weston Jesuit and STM, and in the case of the
Jesuits, lived with Dan, maybe at Linnaean Street. Needless to say, those who
encountered Dan on a daily basis would have known his foibles
and maybe even his sins better than me. There is an old Jesuit
expression you may have heard, street angel, house devil. (audience laughs) As you might guess, it refers to Jesuits about whom people in our
colleges and universities, high schools, parishes,
and retreat houses say, “Oh, he’s so wonderful.”
(audience laughs) And those who live with
them say, “Hm-hmm.” (audience and James laugh) But as far as I saw, Dan was always kind, patient, and prayerful, and so, holy. And as Tom was saying, simple and humble. Other than bumping into
him at Jesuit events in the old New England province, I first came to know Dan
as the professor who taught Introduction to the New Testament, aka NT101, at Weston Jesuit School of Theology when I was a student
there in the late 90s. NT101, which met at 8:30 a.m.,
like all of Dan’s courses, instilled in me an abiding fascination with the New Testament, a lasting affinity for the
historical critical method. And, by the way, I’ve never understood how anyone could have any problem with wanting to understand
the books of the Bible in the context in which they were written. And most of all, a deeper
love for Jesus Christ. Listening to Dan talk about the Gospels was like listening to
one of the evangelists. Mark, if I had to choose. Very simple and direct. Based not only on his vast learning but also thanks to his
role as a longtime editor of the scholarly journal
New Testament Abstracts, where he read and reviewed every important book to come
out on the New Testament, Dan knew the Gospels inside out. His knowledge of the New Testament, at least in the English-speaking world, was nearly unparalleled. In fact, the joke going
around among the Jesuits when he died too early was that Jesus called him to heaven because he needed someone to explain the Book of Revelation to him. (audience laughs) (James laughs) Dan Harrington’s immense knowledge was at first surprising
to us, at least to me, because he was so mild mannered, the opposite of what one might expect of a world renowned academic. When I was a Jesuit novice, for example, I heard the story of
another Jesuit scholar highly renowned, now long dead, whose name would be familiar
to everyone in this auditorium but whose name I will not mention. I’ve heard this story many times. The great man was once
asked by another Jesuit if he was going to an academic conference, and he sniffed, “I don’t go to conferences,
I give conferences.” (audience laughs) Apparently that story was supposed to show how important he was or how clever he was or how he didn’t suffer fools gladly. But all I thought when I
heard it was, what a jerk. (audience laughs) Dan was the opposite. At the beginning of my time
at Weston Jesuit, for example, I contracted or got
carpel tunnel syndrome. It came upon me very suddenly, the result of a year of almost
straight writing and typing at America Magazine, where I’d spent the previous year in the period that Jesuits call regency. The full-time period between
first studies and theology. In any event, the carpel
tunnel was very painful and I ended up not being able to type or even at the beginning write, even like hold a pen. Only a few months after being
missioned by my province to study theology at Weston, I could neither take
notes nor write papers. I had a very hard time understanding what I was supposed to do, and an even harder time understanding what God was supposed to
be doing with all this. So I went to my faculty
advisor, Meg Guider, who was as always caring and helpful, and she said, sensibly, “Well, why don’t you ask your professors “to see if you can do everything orally. “If you can take your tests orally.” The first professor I
decided to ask was Dan. So the next day I climbed
this creaky staircase of the Weston administration building at 3 Phillips Place in Cambridge. And there he was in his office,
of course, hard at work. Today, with some age and experience, I might be more detached
about the whole thing, because we all have physical limitations. But at the time I was so embarrassed. As I entered Dan’s
office, I was mortified. Here I was, a relatively young man, about to tell this older man that I couldn’t do
something that seemed easy, type. What’s more, there was Dan
at his computer, typing away. To be honest, I was ashamed. After I sat down I explained my situation and told Dan what Meg had said and asked if it would be okay if I took my tests for his class orally. Dan said, “Of course you can. “But I will miss reading your papers.” It may seem strange to say, but that was one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me. It was so compassionate. Such a kind thing to say, I thought, because in my mind Dan clearly
will not learn anything new from my one-page paper
on the Gospel of Mark. (audience laughs) Dan had already forgotten more about Mark than I would ever know. (audience laughs) I thought it was a very
pastoral thing to say, even if, as some of my
friends said afterwards, it clearly wasn’t true. (audience laughs) But over the years I’ve realized that Dan probably wasn’t lying. First of all, it was not in his nature. More to the point, I think
that Dan, in his humility, did enjoy reading our papers, even my own absurdly elementary
papers on the Gospels. I think he meant it. As I said, Dan’s knowledge
was a wonder to us. So we weren’t surprised
when we noticed one day that the New Testament text
he was reading from in class, out loud, on the table,
with no hesitation, was in the original Greek. That blew me away.
(audience laughs) And we weren’t surprised
when someone in our class, I will never forget this, I took as many classes
with Dan as I could, our class on the Letter to the Romans, asked a question about
Paul’s image in Romans 11 about the graft into the olive branch and wondered aloud whether
it wasn’t in fact backwards, horticulturally. Dan said, “Does anyone have the
Anchor Bible commentary “for Romans here?” Believe it or not, someone in
the class happened to have it. If you go to that section in Romans 11, there is a footnote about that question. (audience laughs) There was utter silence as the person, (audience laughs) slowly flipped to the
page, found the footnote, and said, “He’s right, it’s here!” (audience laughs) Dan knew the Gospel so well
that you also weren’t surprised that he could boil things
down to understandable, and as Tom Stegman was
saying, accessible summaries. He drew a grid on the board one morning, which I still have, which summarizes the major
themes in the Synoptic Gospels in one word or phrase. Across the top of the grid
were Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Down the side were Jesus,
disciples, and Christian life. So in the box for Mark and
Jesus, ‘suffering servant.’ In the box for Matthew and
Jesus, ‘Old Testament fulfilled.’ And in our Romans class, he once summarized the
entire Letter in one phrase. You ready? Now you don’t have to
take a class on Romans. (audience laughs) “Free from sin, death, and the law, “freed for life in the Spirit.” Perfect. Since then, I’ve taken
as one goal for scholars, not that I am one, the ability to take your years of learning and say things simply and clearly. Now, my talk tonight is on ministry. But I hope you will see that I’ve already been
talking about ministry when I talk about Dan. Because these vignettes illustrate his own way
of being a minister, which is characterized by
three things, as Dan would say. One, careful preparation for the ministry. Two, diligent work at the ministry. And three, compassion for people with
whom you’re ministering. To that end, I thought I
would turn more explicitly to the topic of ministry and share with you the most helpful things that
I’ve learned as a Jesuit in the last 30 years. I’ll try to make this
as practical as possible for all of you, and I’ll share some stories, some from Dan but some from
my own experience in ministry, to help illustrate the point. Number one, you can’t know everything. (audience laughs) In our NT101 class, a student from a nearby
university, in Cambridge, (audience laughs) once asked a memorable question about one of Jesus’ miracles which we had just covered in that session. The student, I will never forget this, we were in Cheryl Hall,
that big lecture hall, stood up, which was a surprise, no one stood up in class
to answer a question, and he had a little
clipboard in front of him, and he said, so we all spun around, and he said, “Father Harrington, “with what we know about Jesus’ identity “as the second person of the Trinity, “and his intimate relationship “vis-a-vis the Father and the Spirit “and the hypothetic
union of his two natures, “when he is performing
this particular miracle, “what is going through his mind “in terms of his self-conception
as the Son of God?” (audience laughs) And Dan said, “I have no idea.” (audience laughs) (James laughs) So, when it comes to ministry, you can’t know everything. And that’s okay. Of course, you prepare as best you can. You study hard, like the
students here at STM. You take your work seriously. And you give yourself
fully to your ministry. But you know that you’re
not going to be able to answer every question,
solve every problem, meet every ministerial challenge, or, for scholars, know
everything about your field. In pastoral ministry, you may not know what to say to someone who has lost a job, contracted an illness, had a death in the family,
been abused by a priest. And, again, it’s important
to take, for example, pastoral counseling courses, as I did at Weston Jesuit, and learn the best practices
for accompanying people. But you can’t know what to
say or do at every turn. That’s when you’re called to remember who called you to this ministry. God. And more to the point, that God put you in front
of this person in need. Not Pope Francis, not Mother
Theresa, not Jean Vanier, not Helen Prejean, and not Dan Harrington. And not a know-it-all either. God did not call a
know-it-all to your ministry. God called you. God put you in this place at
this time before this person, which means that God wants you there, with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Trust that. Because this will free you
up for life in the Spirit. Number two, you can’t
do everything either. For my first two years of
regency between 1992 and 1994, right before I came to theology, I worked with the Jesuit
Refugee Service in Kenya. My work was helping refugees
from across East Africa who had settled in the slums of Nairobi to start small businesses to support themselves and their families. We sponsored dozens of what are called
income-generating activities for the refugees, from a Ugandan women’s tailoring project called the Agali Awamu Project, to a Rwandese bakery
named The Ndangira Bakery, to Ethiopian restaurants, all three of them named The Blue Nile, (audience laughs) to a Mozambican woodcarver
named Agustino Alecutepa. In time, we opened up a small shop in the slum in Nairobi
where we were working which marketed the refugee
handicrafts to expats, tourists and wealthy Kenyans. It was the most enjoyable
and fulfilling ministry I’ve ever had, even considering America and
how much I love working there. But after a while, I started to burn out. At the time, I was helping
to both run the shop and oversee the refugees’
small businesses, which meant meeting the
refugees at the shop every day, visiting their homes in the slums, and in the process helping them with not only their business problems but also the many concerns that are typical to refugees everywhere. Health problems for
them and their children. Landlord problems. Legal problems. As well as fear, anxiety,
hunger, depression, and worst of all, for many
of the refugees, loneliness. One day I said to my spiritual director, a Jesuit named George Drewry, who also taught spirituality at Weston, and I just said, “I’m so overwhelmed. “I don’t know how I can do all of this.” And he said, “Well, who
says you have to do it all?” And I said, “Well, this
is what I’m sent here for “and this is what Jesus would do, “he would help all these people.” And George said, in his sort
of thick New England accent, “Well, maybe, but I have news for you. “You’re not Jesus.” (audience laughs) I needed to hear that. Or, as my current spiritual
director, Damien O’Connor, likes to say, “There is good news and better news. “The good news is that there is a Messiah. “The better news is, it’s not you.” (audience laughs) Speaking of Jesus, we need to remember something
about his own ministry, and I think Dan would agree. When Jesus left Galilee and Judea, there were still some sick people there. In other words, Jesus
did not cure everyone. Even Jesus did not do everything. In his public ministry, Jesus dealt with the
people in front of him, as we are called to do. That doesn’t mean you
don’t work, for example, for structural change, but it does mean that
you can’t do everything. Number three, you can do some things. One of the more unusual
ministries I’ve ever done was working at what eventually
came to be called Ground Zero in the days and weeks following the September 11th
attacks in 2001 in New York. I was already working at
America Magazine in New York, and two days after 9/11, I made my way down to a
place called Chelsea Peers on the West Side where they were staging
some rescue operations. I ran into a police officer
who said out of the blue, “Do you want to go down there?” I said, “Yes.” And suddenly I was in a police car being driven down to Ground Zero. This is September 13th. In the backseat with me
happened to be a psychologist, and I said to him, “Do
you have any advice?” He said, “Have you ever
dealt with trauma victims?” And I said, “No,” somewhat terrified. And he said, “Just listen to them.” When we arrived at the site, the police officer said, “Good luck.” (audience laughs) We got out of the car and I saw the site familiar to most Americans, maybe not to some of
the young people here, from the news. The ruined towers, the
smoldering buildings, the ash, the paper, the debris everywhere. It was, as you can imagine, overwhelming. Someone said to me, “The
morgue is over that way.” And this is where really
my Weston pastoral training and my Jesuit formation came in. I knew myself well enough and knew my own limitations well enough to know that I probably
couldn’t work in the morgue. I don’t think I could do that. So I stood there on top
of all the papers and ash and truly tried to
discern what I could do. And I realized, well, I can at least minister
to the firefighters and the EMTs and the policemen. That was something I could do. So that’s what I did. Listened to them, let them
grieve, accompanied them using a lot of the tools
that I learned here. That was a very important
lesson from my formation here. You can’t do everything
but you can do something. I would’ve been, in
retrospect, overwhelmed or probably paralyzed if I thought that I had to
do everything at Ground Zero. Instead, I did what I could. As we used to say at Weston,
the ministry of presence. And along with my Jesuit brothers, I worked there for several
days and then weeks. Number four, you can
always learn something new. Let’s go back to Dan Harrington. As I said, I really do
think that Dan was curious about what we students
would write in our papers. He was, it seemed to me, always learning. And a few years ago, when I started to write that book on Jesus that Tom mentioned, I naturally relied on him. That’s kind of an understatement. At the start of my project, he enthusiastically recommended the work of Amy-Jill Levine, for example, the scholar who writes, as you may know, about the Jewishness of Jesus. Dan was very excited about her new book, The Misunderstood Jew, which he had just read, and suggested that I
read her and contact her, and many other younger scholars. Dan said, which really struck me, he had learned a lot from her book. More recently I’m learning a great deal about what I consider
a new ministry for me. Outreach to LGBT Catholics. Last year, I wrote a book
called Building a Bridge about how the church can more
compassionately reach out to LGBT people. A few months after the book was published, I was invited to the IgnatianQ Conference at Loyola University in Maryland. It’s an annual gathering of student representatives
from the LGBT groups from all the 28 Jesuit
colleges and universities. The Great 28. I hadn’t heard that before. The conference organizers
invited me to speak with these young, you know,
college kids, LGBT Catholics. At the start of my talk,
an interview, really, I started off by saying that
I didn’t know everything about LGBT ministry, something that was made
abundantly clear to me over the course of the weekend. The LGBT students were way ahead of me in almost every respect, and I found myself having
to learn a new language, a new tone, and a new appreciation for their lives. My experience, which I summed up to a Jesuit
friend of mine that weekend, was basically my saying
to them, “God loves you,” and they saying, “Yeah, we know.” (audience laughs) – (laughs) It’s true. My confession that I was still learning seemed to make the students
more open to teaching me. At one point in my talk I
mentioned transgenderism, and a hand shot up. “Father, I’m not an
ism,” said one student. “Okay,” I said. “Should I say transgender experience?” And they all snapped their fingers. (fingers snapping)
(audience laughs) Appreciatively. You can always learn something new. Five. You can’t be liked by everyone. (James chuckles) (audience laughs) As I just mentioned, (audience and James laugh) last year I wrote a book
called Building a Bridge. (audience laughs) (audience applauds) I should probably just leave it at that. (audience laughs) The book was, essentially, an invitation to dialogue and prayer and an encouragement for
the institutional church to treat LGBT Catholics with respect, compassion and sensitivity, three virtues mentioned by the catechism in dealing with what it
calls homosexual persons. At the same time, the book invited the
LGBT Catholic community to treat the institutional church with those virtues as well. Even though I should point out that the onus is on the
institutional church to reach out first to the LGBT Catholic because it is the church that has made the LGBT
Catholic feel marginalized, not the other way around. In any event, I thought
the book was pretty mild. It is rooted in the Gospels, based on the catechism, and had the approval of
my Jesuit provincial, the official imprimi potest, which is what Jesuits are asked to get when they write books, as well as the encouragement
of our Jesuit Superior General, Father Sosa, and the endorsement of several cardinals, archbishops and bishops. Plus, it was very short. So, I didn’t think it
would be too controversial. Boy, was I wrong. (audience and James laugh) Overall, I underestimated
the strong reactions, both positive and negative. To be clear, the vast
majority of Catholics, both the hierarchy and people in the pews, welcomed the book. And at first it was the positive
reactions that astounded me because, as I said, I thought
the book was rather mild. One of the very first talks
I gave was here in Boston at St. Cecilia Church in the Back Bay, which has a flourishing LGBT ministry. The talk was scheduled
for a weekday night, I think a Thursday, and I had just spoken at the
parish a few months before on Jesus. And I figured they also
would probably know all the stuff in the book and it wouldn’t be too much of a big deal. So, I thought there wouldn’t
be that many people. Wrong about that too. There were 700 people in a
standing room-only crowd, and I signed books for three hours. Afterwards, people, to my
surprise, burst into tears, hugged me, and told me their stories. LGBT Catholics, their
parents and grandparents. Honestly, I was shocked. I think it had something to do with a priest saying these things, you know, in a collar, in a church. So that’s another insight for ministry. You never know what the
Spirit is going to do. You never know how the Spirit
is going to move in people. By the same token, the strong negative reactions
caught me by surprise. A few days after the book was published, I started to get attacked by a group of far-right
websites and commentators who called me, and I quote, heretic, apasteid, sodomite,
homosexualist, fairy, pansy, wait there’s a lot, (audience laughs) false priest, wolf in sheep’s
clothing, and heresiarch. Fortunately, my time
at Weston had taught me what a heresiarch was. (audience laughs) Though not what a homosexualist is. (audience laughs) (laughs) We didn’t cover that
in Francine Cardman’s class. (audience laughs) Heresiarch, we did. Those attacks later intensified. Francine Cardman taught
Church History one, just so you know. Then came attacks from Catholic
commentators and columnists and a few bishops, including one bishop in a
diocese not too far from here who will remain nameless who critiqued my book in
his diocese’s newspaper and the halfway through the article admitted that he hadn’t read it. (audience laughs) But as Jesuits would say, I
will pass over that in silence. (audience laughs) Following that… (mumbles) Following that, several talks that I
had been invited to give were canceled by
Theological College of CUA, by CAFOD, the UK equivalent
of Catholic Relief Services, by the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, and by a Catholic parish in New Jersey. Each of these talks was canceled because of online petitions and campaigns targeting the parish or the group, which were sort of whipped
up by hatred and homophobia and for good measure called me some of the names I just mentioned. Each of the canceled talks,
by the way, was on Jesus. Then came pushback from the other side. Cardinal Blase Cupich,
the archbishop of Chicago, invited me to give two
lectures during Holy Week at his cathedral. And other cardinals and bishops
spoke up to endorse the book and offer invitations. And a few weeks ago, as you heard, I was at the Vatican’s
World Meeting of Families. Ironically, when that talk was announced, a group immediately organized
an alternative conference, also in Dublin, at the same
time of Concerned Families. Two days after the talk, Cardinal Raymond Burke, the
former archbishop of St. Louis, attacked the book. And just in case I was getting bored, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican Nuncio
to the United States, critiqued me and the book
in his now famous testimony for corrupting youth. Which was odd, since it was
the World Meeting of Families, not World Youth Day. It was even odder because the Vatican had
vetted and approved the talk and had even come up with
the topic and the title, quote, Showing Respect and
Welcome in Our Parishes to LGBT People and Their Families. Okay, now, what does all that have
to do with ministry? Just this. Not everyone is going to like you. (audience laughs) Remember the story of
the rejection at Nazareth in the Gospels? And since this is the Harrington Lecture, that’s Mark 6:1 to six, (audience laughs)
Matthew 13:54 to 58 and Luke 4:16 to 30. Notice how Jesus is treated after he proclaims his
identity as the Messiah. Initially, the people in
Nazareth, his hometown, whom he would’ve known, Nazareth is a small
town, now, as you know, 200 to 400 people. Could’ve fit into this auditorium. They praised him. But then they turned on him. Drive him from their midst and make ready to throw him off a cliff. That is, they tried to kill him. But he passes through their midst. Once on retreat it dawned on me that most of the preaching about this is how the people of Nazareth couldn’t see what was
right before them, right? How often do we overlook
God’s presence in front of us. But on retreat at
Gloucester at Eastern Point a few years ago, I remember thinking, wait a minute, Jesus knew them too. Jesus knew these few hundred people. How was he able to do this? How was he able to stand up knowing, or intuiting at least, that they would probably reject him? So, to share more personally, I asked Jesus on retreat, “How were you able to do this? “Because I certainly could
not stand up before people “who I think would reject me.” Occasionally in prayer for me, sometimes you intuit words. It doesn’t happen a lot. But this one time, what
I heard in prayer was, “Must everyone like you?” Good question. In ministry, it is essential
to let go of the need for everyone to approve of you,
love you, or even like you. Now, simply because you face opposition doesn’t mean that you’re
necessarily doing the right thing. As my novice director
used to say, (laughs) “If people disagree with you, Jim, “it may not mean that you’re a prophet, “it may just mean that you’re wrong.” (audience laughs) But it does mean, it does mean that if you are
ministering in Jesus’ name, you will inevitably face opposition and maybe even some persecution. What keeps you going? First, the knowledge that
Jesus went through this too. Think of the rejection at Nazareth. Second, the trust that if you
are doing the right thing, Jesus is with you. Third, some good old
fashioned Jesuit detachment, aka freedom. Whenever I see these attacks
that are clearly cruel and not at all constructive, I repeat a helpful theological mantra, which is, who cares. (audience laughs) Free yourself, free yourself of the need to be liked because that frees you
for life in the Spirit. Sixth, you can be like Jesus. In my 30 years as a Jesuit, I still can’t believe I’m saying that, I’ve met hundreds, maybe
thousands of people, who minister in Jesus’ name. Scholars and writers, pastors and pastoral associates, bishops and priests, sisters and brothers, spiritual directors and counselors, writers and editors, social justice activists and peacemakers, college and university administrators, high school presidents and teachers, on and on and on, you could add to the list yourself. And very very occasionally,
among some of these people, Jesuits and religious, clergy and lay, single, vowed, and married, I notice something. A few of them are cruel. Not often, but enough that
it really registers with me. They’re short-tempered with their staff, they denigrate others with their tongue, and they are, to use a word
that I would like to recover in our theological vocabulary, mean. (audience laughs) For me, meanness, meanness, in the setting
of Christian ministry, is scandalous. A few supposedly Christian ministers treat some people with utter contempt, shout at their colleagues, and say the cruelest
things masked by sarcasm. They think they’re being Oscar Wilde when they’re just being mean. When that happens, I always think, what’s the point? What’s the point of what you’re doing? You’re teaching theology
or running a parish or raising money in Jesus’s name and you’re mean? What is the point? There are always excuses, of course. Everyone who is mean,
I don’t excuse myself, I’m that way sometimes too, has an excuse. You’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re in the middle of a
difficult work environment. And in those cases, I
remember Dan Harrington. Always busy. Probably tired. And yet always kind. Even in the midst of
hardships in ministry, personal difficulties in your life, sickness and pain, opposition both public or private, you can always be kind. In fact, lately I’ve started
to think of Christian ministry in terms of what you might call the aestheticism of kindness. Always being compassionate. Always being kind. Always being helpful. Now, needless to say, I do
not always achieve that goal. Ask anyone who works, or
better, lives with me. But it’s a good goal. Be kind. Be like Jesus. Seven. Finally, you were called
by God into your ministry. Let that knowledge strengthen you. You know, as Father Leahy said, these are difficult times in our church. Historically difficult. And it could be hard to be a Catholic, let alone minister as one in the church’s name. But remember, at your baptism, God called you into the church by name. And in your ministry,
God made a further call. It’s important to remember that. Whenever things get tough for me, I always think, truly, of Peter and Andrew and James and John and Mary Magdalene and all those disciples Jesus called at the
beginning of his ministry in Galilee, during the Galilean Spring time. After the resurrection and the ascension, when Jesus’ time on earth was over, these people faced
tremendous difficulties. Can there’ve been any doubt of that? Even martyrdom. And I would bet that at the worst times, they thought back to that original call by the shores of the Sea of Galilee and remembered who called them. Speaking of remembering who called you, that brings me back, by way of conclusion, to Dan Harrington. Besides, if I didn’t do a little inclusio, I think Dan would be disappointed. (audience laughs) Toward the end of my time at Weston, I edited a book on how people
of different faiths find God. Editing a book is very easy as long as you get the right people. So, this is a true story, so I told Dan that I was doing this book and I was looking for
some Scripture scholars to talk about finding
God through the Bible. But I already had too many
Jesuits in the book, I thought, so I wasn’t gonna ask Dan. And all my friends said, “You idiot. “Ask Dan Harrington.” And I said, “No, no, no. “I already have too many Jesuits already.” So one day after class, I asked Dan, could he recommend one or two
good New Testament scholars? (audience laughs) He did. And I wrote them letters, and they sent back essays that were good but really didn’t seem to get to the heart of finding God in Scripture. A few weeks later, at 3 Phillips Place, Dan said, “Jim, have you found
any New Testament scholars “for your book?” And I said, “No, Dan. “I’m still looking for one
that would fit the bill. “Do you know anyone else?” (audience laughs) “Yes, I do,” he said, and recommended another scholar. In a few weeks I got
another essay that was good, by the way, this is pre-email, so I’m mailing these things away, I got another essay that was good but still didn’t quite hit the mark. Surely afterwards, I can
remember this as clear as day, I was going up the stairs
of 3 Phillips Place, and Dan was at the head
of the stairs and he said, “Have you found any New Testament
scholars for your book?” And I remember looking
at him and thinking, Jim, you idiot, ask him. And I said, “No, Dan. “Would you be able to do it?” And he said, “I’d love to.” (audience laughs) The next day, in my mail box, (audience and James laugh) (audience applauds) Everyone who’s applauding knew Dan. (audience laughs) A little letter appeared with a perfectly typed
answer that made me cry as I stood at the mailbox. I think it’s the best thing
I’ve ever read on Scripture, and many people tell me, “You know, Jim, “some of those other essays
in the book were nice, “but that one is amazing.” And it tells us about
remembering who called you. Dan starts off his essay
with his trademark clarity. “I find God largely in and
thorough the Bible,” he wrote. “Most of my academic,” this is quote, “most of my academic,
spiritual, and pastoral life “revolves around the Bible. “It is for me the most important way “to know, love, and serve God.” End quote. Then he tells a story. As a young boy, Dan stuttered. One day, he read in the
newspaper something surprising. Moses had stuttered too. Dan didn’t know that but he
looked it up in the Bible and there it was. Moses says, quote, “I am slow
of speech and slow of tongue.” Dan read that story
over and over, he said, and it made a deep impression on him. In his essay, Dan goes
on to talk about the ways that he has been able to study the Bible and to teach the Bible, and even offers as an
aside a great little precis with four points in his
clear way of Lectio Divina. Then, at the end of the essay, Dan brings his life full circle and reminds us who it is who called him to ministry, who called me to ministry, and who calls you to ministry. Quote. “The God of the Bible is
the God of Jesus Christ. “I experience God in and
through the Bible and my life. “It is my privilege as a Jesuit priest “to study and teach Scripture, “to proclaim and preach God’s word, “and to celebrate the church’s liturgy, “which are largely cast in
the language of the Bible. “In the midst of these
wonderful activities, “which are my greatest joy, “I occasionally stutter. “And this brings me back “to where my spiritual
journey with the Bible began. “Though I am slow of speech
and tongue like Moses, “I still hear the words of Exodus 4:11-12. “‘Who gives speech to mortals? “‘Who makes the mute speak? “‘Who makes the seeing see? “‘Is it not I, the Lord? “‘Now go, and I will be with your mouth “‘and teach you what you are to speak.'” End quote. Thank you very much. (audience applauds)

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