07 March 2016

Father Harman visits the Casa Santa Maria

An artistic rendering of the Casa Santa Maria
Father Peter Harman, rector of the Pontifical North American College, as part of his first official visit, celebrated the Holy Mass at the Casa Santa Maria and joined us for a nice lunch afterwards. The Casa Santa Maria is the original home of the American seminary in Rome and now serves as a residence for American priests pursuing advanced degrees.

Since Father Harman and I are both priests of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, the president of our House Council asked me to offer a prayer before meals and invited me to offer a few words of welcome to the rector.

I drew inspiration for the prayer from the life of Father Augustus Tolton, from the first letter of Saint Peter, and for the readings from yesterday's Mass:
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal high priest, who have called us, unworthy though we are, to share in your priesthood and to be instruments of your merciful love, help us to always remember when you first called us to follow you.
Turn your gaze toward Father Harman now as he undertakes the formation of future priests and helps them to discern your will for their lives.

Illumine the way before him and fill him with your love; comfort and inspire him, and deepen his love for you so that he may form shepherds after your own heart.

As those under his care return to their dioceses, may they be heralds of reconciliation and ambassadors of your love, imitate Father Harman’s love of your priesthood, and clothe themselves in humility.

Bless the food that has been prepared for us so that, strengthened by these gifts and remaining always with you, we may give to all a reflection of your love who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
I intended my words of welcome to lead into the prayer, but it didn't quite work out that way and so I offered them as a toast after the lunch:
When he left St. Joseph’s church in Quincy to begin his ministry at St. Augustine’s in Chicago, the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton published a few words of gratitude in the Quincy Daily Journal. After expressing his appreciation for their generosity, Father Tolton said, “Catholics will love and respect a priest regardless of nationality; at least that is the spirit of those people in the Gem City who knew me for twenty-nine years or more. Never will I forget the happy hours spent in the little St. Joseph church.  I wish them all the blessings that can be bestowed upon them” (13 November 1889).

You and I, Father Harman, are both sons of the Gem City and know, with Father Tolton, the great love that the Catholics of Quincy have for the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We both experienced this love in countless ways in St. John the Baptist parish and it was instilled in us at a young age. We are but two of the eleven priests produced by our home parish in its 119-year history.

As rector of the Pontifical North American College, the Church has called upon you because of your love of the priesthood. Use this love that you received in the Gem City and instill it in the seminarians under your care as you “tend the flock [of future shepherds] that is your charge” here in the Eternal City (I Peter 5:2). We priests here at the Casa Santa Maria welcome you, congratulate you, and promise our prayers for you, asking all the blessings that can be bestowed upon you.
Please continue to join me in praying for Father Harman and his important work in forming seminarians.

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