JOHN J. CONNELLY
On June 4, 2013 I resigned as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in the Garden City of Newton – after thirty years of pastoral ministry – and at the age of ninety years. Prior to my work at Sacred Heart Parish, I was privileged to teach theology at Saint John Seminary for over three decades. I also taught at Boston College for a five-year span at the time Father Bill Leonard was charged with revamping the Boston College Theology Department in the late sixties. After my ordination and three years of priestly ministry in Hopkinton, I studied at the Gregorian University in Rome for my doctorate in theology. My mentor at the “Greg” was Father Bernard Lonergan in his early years of teaching in Rome.
A good friend of mine, with the good intentions, no doubt, of keeping me out of trouble in my retirement years, suggested that I begin this blog. Other good friends concurred. For thirty years at Sacred Heart Parish, I had the custom of writing a column in the parish bulletin, a sort of “theology for thoughtful parishioners” type of column. It has long been a conviction of mine that a parish priest, among his many important duties, ought to be a theologian among his people, helping parishioners to interpret their lives and sufferings and all the events that take place in the public square, and to do so in the light of the Gospel and teachings of the Church. Perhaps this blog might be the occasion for me to continue this practice in a more developed and professional way.
“Prayer and Intelligence” is the title I have chosen for the blog. This is not something original. In 1922, Jacques and Raissa Maritain wrote a delightful and most helpful booklet which they entitled “Prayer and Intelligence”. This was their effort to offer a modest treatise on spirituality and to do so in the spirit of the Christian tradition in general and of Saint Thomas Aquinas in particular, in a manner suitable to the spiritual lives of persons living and working in the world, and, in particular, engaged in matters intellectual. After all, what good is theology, if it is not prayerful? What help to eternal life is theology if what begins at the study desk does not end up in prayer, and how important it is that our prayer also be intelligent as well. Maritains’ booklet was privately printed in London, Sheed and Ward, 1922.
This proposed blog will feature an image of the Byzantine Trinity, a theological explanation of which could become a blog entry. Everything begins and ends with the Mystery of the Trinity. The Maritains, thinking of the expression of Saint Thomas about the Word of God breathing forth love (“Verbum Spirans Amorem”), write in their little volume – “In us as well as in God, love must proceed from the Word, that is, from the spiritual possession of truth in faith, and just as everything which is in the Word is found once more in the Holy Spirit, so must all that we know pass over into our power of affection by love, there only finding its resting place. Love must proceed from truth and knowledge must bear fruit in love. Our prayer is not what it ought to be if either of these conditions is wanting.” (And I would like to add – Our theology is not what it ought to be if either of these conditions is wanting.) Many years ago, I noted someone’s remarks, the reference for which I have long forgotten and have not been able to locate, “Truth without love need not die but merely teach. Love without truth need not die but yield. With both truth and love, there is the cross.” This means, I presume, if you don’t value the truth, you can still teach, however disastrously. If you are not willing to die for the truth, no one will lead you to martyrdom.
As I try my hand at this project, I just want to say that my little offerings do not have theological colleagues in mind. I’m writing primarily for the wonderful parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, now collaborating with the wonderful parishioners of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in the City of Newton. I hope these offerings may also be of interest as well to the wonderful parishioners I’ve met since I took up residence in Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Wellesley. Perhaps the blog will grow in audience; perhaps it will not.
I decided to begin this blog on August 6, 2013, the Feast Day of the Transfiguration. This first entry is entitled “The Meaning of the Lord’s Transfiguration”.