"The Call" December 2020: On the Incarnation and FOCUS Conference
A blessed Advent to you.
As we prepare for Christmas, I wanted to take time this month to reflect on the Incarnation. Also in this issue, Derek Mobilio writes about his experience at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference last year, known as the Student Leadership Summit. Last year through the generosity of mission partners to the diocese, we were able to provide some financial assistance to send Derek to the conference, which is an important formational experience. We were also able to help one of our discerners with his trip. (Two other of our current seminarians were there as well, although neither was a seminarian at the time.) It was my hope to bring a different seminarian to the conference this December, but the Coronavirus has moved this year’s conference to a virtual format. The conference is for adults of any age, as evangelization and mission is lifelong work. The amazing thing is the virtual format makes it even more accessible to most people, and I include information at the bottom of the newsletter regarding how to register a parish or a small group. I will still be able to have one seminarian who has not been to the conference before in my small group of ten, along with eight college aged or recently graduated young men. It won’t be the same without 18,000 of our closest friends there, but it will still be amazing, as God is always at work. (If you are wondering why I estimated this year’s attendance at 10,000 more than last year’s, it is because the theme varies each year. This was one of the “big” years. Two years ago attendance topped 17,000.)
The WORD Became Flesh:
Some of my favorite lyrics of any Christmas hymn are found in “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.
It is quite the commentary on the Prologue of John’s Gospel and the Nicene Creed!
A group from the vocation office volunteered sorting Christmas gifts at the Urban Missionaries Little Store.
On the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Father Donato consecrated the Office of Vocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Today, increasingly, Jesus is understood to be a wise teacher of morality but the full truth that he is the Second Person of the Trinity is not fully grasped. He is God from God, Light from Light, Begotten Not Made, Consubstantial with the Father. While the feast we celebrate this month remains important to many people in our culture, without grasping who Jesus is, Christmas celebrates a historical figure, whose teachings include love, generosity, peace, hope, and an awareness of God’s presence. All of those teachings are true and good, but I often wonder if all the emphasis on those things we miss the main thing: the WORD became flesh.
That first Christmas must have been beyond our imagining: angels appearing with the glory of God shining around them, stars appearing in the sky, and Magi coming to worship from afar. This was no ordinary teacher. How remarkable he is appears throughout all his life. Recently, I was discussing an academic article with another priest and a seminarian as part of a book club on the Transfiguration. The article was looking at the question of, “What happened during the Transfiguration?” according to different theologians in Western and Eastern Christianity. Jesus, the Son of God, was given in that moment a special grace, in which the glory of his divinity overflowed into his human soul. It shined for the three Apostles to see, to strengthen their faith before the horror of Good Friday was going to take place. That glory is now given to his human soul eternally, on account of the Passion and Resurrection. It is promised to all of us in Heaven, where we shall by like him, by his grace. All of that begins when Jesus is born. In the early Church, there was a saying that what was not assumed by the Son was not redeemed by the Son. He took on our very human nature in order to redeem it, and now our human nature is in God forever. The WORD became flesh.
It is marvelous. There is a beautiful section in Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth volumes in which he writes,
“Did not, and does not, the Redeemer of the world have to prove his credentials by feeding everyone? Isn’t the problem of feeding the world — and, more generally, are not social problems — the primary, true yardstick by which redemption has to be measured? Does someone who fails to live up to this standard have any right to be called a redeemer?...
“He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him,… Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God, and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little.”
I wish for you all that you experience a Christmas full of faith, hope, and love. I pray that you encounter the God who has come among us. May the Word Made Flesh fill your life with peace and joy.
May God bless you.
Father Donato Infante
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End of Year Giving:
Earlier in the year, the US government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (‘‘CARES”) Act. While I am not a tax expert, I did notice in the news the changes made in regards to charitable giving, which the Office of Vocations is, as part of the Diocese of Worcester,.
You may deduct $300 in charitable giving even if you do not itemize.
You may deduct more of your adjusted gross income (AGI) - up to 100% - for charitable cash contributions, compared to the normal 60%.
Corporations can deduct more charitable giving from their taxable income - up to 25% this year, up from the usual 10%.
It is always good to check with your own accountant or tax attorney on these things, but this is what was reported in the news. Seminary tuition remains the largest single expense, so please consider supporting our tuition fund in your end of year giving. Together, we are ensuring the presence of priests for the next generation.
Donations can be made on our website here
Traveling Holy Hour:
In January, the Office of Vocations and the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry are coming together for a special event: the January Ascend will be the monthly traveling holy hour for vocations. Come join the young adult community in Eucharistic adoration and praise and worship at 7 PM on January 8 at Our Lady of Providence Parish at 236 Lincoln St in Worcester as we pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Worcester. All are welcome. Facemask required.
Encountering Christ at the FOCUS Conference
By Derek Mobilio
Preaching to around 8000 college students, missionaries, priests, seminarians, and religious gathered for Mass at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) Student Leadership Conference in January 2020, Gerhard Cardinal Müller declared, “The crisis [of faith] in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God.”
That weekend, one might have forgotten such a crisis exists in the world, as throngs of energetic and faithful students took over downtown Phoenix. They had traveled from college campuses all around the world to grow in friendship with one another and with Jesus Christ and to learn how to better evangelize their campuses. I was blessed to be among these good young men and women, and many graces came from that week in Phoenix among friends old and new.
There is an adoration chapel open all day during the conference. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and that is made quite clear in the way that the conference is structured.
As many of you probably know, FOCUS exists to encourage college students to pursue truth and meaning in their lives and to invest in relationships with Jesus Christ and their fellow students. FOCUS missionaries serve on 170 campuses in five countries, including our own Assumption University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to help young people go and share the good news with everyone they meet, bringing Christ to the world and transforming the world through Christ. The work they do on these campuses is amazing, and provides much hope for the future of Catholicism in the United States. I sincerely invite you to pray for their apostolate as much as you pray for the work of the vocations office and for us seminarians in formation for the Diocese of Worcester.
I was not entirely sure why I wanted to go to the conference, except that I knew that God had placed the desire in my heart. I had heard from brother seminarians who had previously attended FOCUS conferences that the experience would be well worth it. At the very least, I would get to listen to some of the best Catholic speakers in the world, I would be able to pray a lot, and I would have the chance to meet plenty of good people.
All of that happened. I made great friends with the seminarians from Nebraska with whom I shared a hotel room. I had one of the best confessions of my life in a ballroom where hundreds of confessions were being heard at the same time. I had great conversations and meals with awesome people. From the Sisters of Life, I heard the best talk on priesthood that I have ever heard, anywhere. To say the least, it was all good, as advertised. But God, of course, had planned something even greater for me that week.
The FOCUS approach to evangelization is summarized in the slogan “Win – Build – Send.” I had heard this before, and it made good sense to me. People in this era generally do not become missionary disciples faithful to their baptism by Catholicism-by-osmosis. No, they have to be wonthrough attractive holiness of life, they have to be built by solid catechesis and preaching, and they are sentonly by encounter with Christ in the rich sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. Only then will they be able to “go out and teach all nations” themselves.
People come from all over the world to the conference. Here, Derek is reconnecting with a friend, Adam, from Slovakia.
Throughout the day, there are smaller break-out sessions in between the keynote talks.
However, what I had not realized fully, and what God wanted to tell me, was that “Win – Build – Send” is not just a model of evangelization for specially-trained missionaries working in the moral wastelands that our American university campuses can be. “Win – Build – Send” is a model for all evangelization, from the original proclamation of the Gospel in Judea centuries ago to our present-day work in the parishes and schools in the Diocese of Worcester. It follows, then, that the diocesan priest must be a man whose deliberate goal is to win, build, and send others for Christ and the Kingdom of God. He must understand that investing much time and effort even in just few people can bear great fruit, just as Christ invested so much in the Twelve, and even more exclusively in Peter, James, and John, who would themselves continue the work of evangelization which continues to this very day.
This triple-tiered approach to evangelization closely parallels priestly life. The priest exercises his service for the People of God by pastoral governance (munus regendi), teaching (munus docendi), and divine worship (munus sanctificandi). In the munus regendi, the priest wins souls. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “Every pastor is a means through whom Christ himself loves men. It is through our ministry, dear priests that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them.” Likewise, in the munus docendi, the priest builds, so that the souls under his care may know the fullness of truth that is Christ himself. In the munus sanctificandi of divine worship and the sacraments, the priest is the instrument through whom the people receive the grace to be sent out: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
I left the conference personally challenged to be a priest whose life is entirely motivated by winning, building, and sending in governing, teaching, and sanctifying. God called my brothers and me to be men who are not content merely to manage whatever is left of the Church’s first evangelization in Worcester, as if the forces of secularization and moral depravity are inevitable realities never to be overcome. God has called us here and now to be missionaries in what has once again become mission territory—the very parishes, schools, and homes where we came to know and love God ourselves. As Jonathan Amidon pointed out in October issue of this newsletter, it is up to us to get everyone to think this way, so every place where the faithful lay people live, work, and play in our diocese becomes a venue for winning, building, and sending.
Ricky is from Our Lady of Providence Parish, where Derek had a prior parish assignment. He attended the conference last year for the first time and was inspired to spend his summer working at Focus’ Summer Missions.
Father Donato Infante
on Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 4:37PM