Monday, December 29, 2008

School Cyber Bullying Law in California

I was reading the Sacramento Bee this morning and one of the front page articles was focused on one of the new laws passed in the California State Assembly. The law, which was entitled Bill 86, was proposed by Ted Lieu, D-El Segundo and was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on Sept. 30. So what is so important about this law? This law takes aim at stopping cyber bulling. Unfortunately it doesn't call for the end of social networking sites but it does however tell our children that we are aware of what is happening on the internet. The interesting part of the Sacramento Bee article was how it started. The article began, "It was bad enough when middle school students in Novato last year harassed and ridiculed 14-year-old Olivia when she suffered a seizure on campus.

But her torment only worsened when the girl went online and discovered a MySpace page full of taunts, slurs and threats directed at her. Her classmates had dubbed the page "Olivia Haters."

The case of the Novato teen would inspire a book, "Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope." It would also stir a hand-wringing discussion over the emotional cruelty of school bullying and the power of the Internet to make it even more severe." According to, "The law gives school administrators the leverage to suspend or expel students for bullying other students by means of an electronic device such as a mobile phone or on an Internet social networking site like MySpace or Facebook; the law, however, only applies to bullying that occurs during school hours or during a school-related activity." One of the main influences for the bill being made into law was the case of Megan Meier in Missouri (Megan's case was the subject of another blog that I had written). I found some suggestions for parents if they believe that their child is being cyberbullied on the website,

# Stay calm. Plan out what you are going to say to your child's teacher and school administrators. Stay sensitive to your child's feelings and concerns.
# Report the bullying incident as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Listen to your child with an open heart and mind, and let them know they have done the right thing in coming to you with the problem.
# Document everything! Pretend you are a lawyer and put everything in writing. Tape record statements, type them up and have witnesses sign them. Take pictures of injuries and date them accordingly.
# If your child is being bullied online, print hard copies of all the messages. Save all e-mails and instant messages. Build a file.

The interesting part of the Sacramento Bee article was how it caught your eye. The article began, "It was bad enough when middle school students in Novato last year harassed and ridiculed 14-year-old Olivia when she suffered a seizure on campus. But her torment only worsened when the girl went online and discovered a MySpace page full of taunts, slurs and threats directed at her. Her classmates had dubbed the page "Olivia Haters." The case of the Novato teen would inspire a book, "Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope." It would also stir a hand-wringing discussion over the emotional cruelty of school bullying and the power of the Internet to make it even more severe."

Hopefully we can all move forward to stop cyber bullying and stop any dependence on social networking sites.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Into the Wild

Just a note before this post. Most seminarians have already started their Christmas break but mine starts today. WOOHOO! So you won't hear from me for a couple weeks as I'll be outside the country, Italy that is, for a bit. But with all that has been contributed in the past couple weeks, it looks like I won't even really be missed. I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and may you come to know Christ more deeply than ever as we look to the birth of our Savior. AMDG.

I recently watched the movie, "Into the Wild", which ended up reminding me of another film, "Into Great Silence". For those who have never watched the first, it's a real life story about a young man fresh out of college and disillusioned both with his family and the world. He sets off on a mission of self-discovery, in my opinion, and discovers so much about who he is and what life is really about through a series of encounters with others. It is also interesting that much of what he uncovers comes through others, through this sense that we need other people.

The second film is a documentary on the life of Carthusian monks who live in the French Alps isolated from the rest of the world. They spend most of their time in prayer or in manual work, only spending an hour a week, I believe, talking freely with their fellow monks. These men flee the world and they too are searching. In fact, they've also found something.

What am I getting at? There is this great search within the human person for something that matters, for the purpose of life, for some sense of fulfillment. We are searching. I've discovered this so quickly in Italy where I have run into people who have simply left everything and moved to Italy because they just want to do something else - they want to find something else. It also reminds me of this man in Australia who put his entire life up for sale and decided to move away. Searching...people are searching.

It's amazing to hear the story of the young man because he moves across the country towards Alaska. There is a sense that he has to go somewhere else to discover what he is looking for. Likewise with people I've met here and even friends from home, they have to move away from where they are to discover what they are looking for. But I think the Carthusian monks have something so wise to say. That it does not really matter where you go while you search. The search everyone undertakes in life is a search for God, for his face in the world, it is a search for his son Jesus Christ. In the end, it is a search for what truly fulfills, love, ultimate divine infinite love that Christ showed on the cross and which we desire to know. I have a feeling that this is something like what is in the film The Human Experience. Sadly I have not had a chance to watch it yet. But this searching continues.

I think this is one thing that always excites me about ministry now and in the future. I am gifted with the opportunity, through having received faith, to give Christ to others. As people search and come up empty, I can in some small way point them towards the only love that fulfills. Because in the end, we crave this love. We crave this divine love of the Creator who made us in love and for love and calls us back to our original purpose to be love as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What I did over Christmas break

Every seminarian has a spiritual director and an academic adviser. The spiritual director helps you with your internal formation and to conform your heart and your spirit to Christ which is undoubtedly the most important aspect of priestly formation since the priest stands in persona Christi during the Mass. The academic adviser doesn't just help you with academics, but ideally he also helps you with the external, visible aspects of living a priestly life. My adviser gave me an interesting task to work on over the Christmas break, although he was quick to point out this will probably occupy me for the rest of my life.

In case you're just joining us, I'm a fairly recent convert to the Faith - four years this Easter. I haven't had any trouble with academics thus far, so Fr. Stevens said he wants me to work on converting my imagination as well. I understand and believe (in some cases the latter more so than the former) everything the Holy Catholic Church approves and teaches, but I never got to experience Catholic culture growing up.

When I told my fellow pre-theologians about this at St. Patrick's, the most common reaction I got was, "You mean Catholic books and movies and stuff? I haven't read or seen many 'Catholic' books and movies." That may be so, but you've been living the faith since birth. If you're here in the seminary or discerning a vocation to the priesthood, it's reasonable to assume that your parents did a good job of teaching you and raising you in the faith. Even if you've never had any catechesis since your confirmation classes, you've had a certain way of looking at the world since you attained your reason. Much of my conversion process has included "unlearning" and rejecting a lot of modern assumptions which lead, as our Holy Father put it, to a dictatorship of relativism. God has His reasons for everything, so I trust that I grew up the way I did because He was shaping me to be the man I am today with all of the experiences, memories, and history that goes with it.

Good literature, music, or cinema points us toward the true, the good, and the beautiful. All of those things are ultimately grounded in God, who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. As Cardinal Newman once put it, the real conflict is not between faith and reason, but faith and imagination.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life at the Angelicum

Though I'm sad not to be at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park this year, there has been one great joy after my first couple weeks of class. And that is....there are sooo many people from other countries and other religious orders in my classes. It's awesome. I've met Indians, Panamanians, Pakistani, Nigerians, Swedes, Irish, Scots, Canadians, Chinese, English, and the list goes on. There are Missionary of Charity Fathers, Norbertines, Dominicans, Benedictines, Sisters of Charity, and on and on. There is a certain beauty of seeing the Church in this universal way. And we get to talk to them about the life of the Church around the world.

I study at the Angelicum which is the Dominican run school in Rome. It's nice. We call it the happy place in comparison to the Gregorian which happens to be run by the Jesuits. The joy is...well...we speak in English all the time and everyone is friendly. It's hard to put into words. It's kind of like the difference between these 2 following pictures. See the Angelicum is just a place of light...angels even.

The Gregorian is just a bit more intimidating...

The greatest danger here is not wondering if you understand anything the professor is saying or whether you are going to suffer from heat exhaustion in a small lecture hall packed with 150 students, but whether an American seminarian will start throwing rocks at you or if you will get sprayed in the face by the water spicket with no control. Yes, these things have happened to me.

Plus we have good classes :) and funny professors like the father who commented yesterday as I was sitting in the back of the class something to the effect of, "Would any in the back of the class like to add anything. No wait, you guys aren't even awake." Haha...well he was partially right. On to some pictures for your entertainment. This is one of the entrances. It's usually closed so we have to take these ginormous stairs to the right of it. Chapel is on the left but I forgot to take a picture of it. It's pretty nice. Next time...

This is the inner courtyard. To the left is the evil water fountain spicket type thing that sprays water in your face. Rocks are down below. It's quite nice. We also have this big quiet garden in the back, a little coffee bar with all kinds of food, a library, AND...a Blessed Sacrament Chapel where we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 8-6pm everyday. It's pretty nice.

This is my classroom. Fits about 50-60 people if everyone shows up. :) This is not always typical though. We have some big classrooms too kinda like the university style lecture halls except it's all wood and there is that big ol' crucifix too.

And that's a wrap. AMDG.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What is a seminarian like?

So, this is my first post here on the Sactown Seminarian blog, and (un)fortunately it isn't going to be my vocation story, just yet.

I am going to start this off with a response to questions that I have been receiving lately in regards to my vocation. See, I had the blessed opportunity to return home recently. When I arrived home, so many people had so many questions for me. The most common questions sounded something like this: "How do you like it?" or "So, what's the seminary like?" Eventually, it would get to this question: "So, What are the other seminarians like?"

Now that is an interesting question, and one that I found myself responding with this answer: "Ridiculous."

That may not be the most descriptive term for seminarians, but it is the word that always comes to mind [I am not sure if my fellow Diocesan brothers would agree, but I think they might]. Now, before any of the readers get scandalized, when I use the word "ridiculous" I don't mean that they take their vocation lightly, or that they treat their faith as a joke. No, what I mean with that answer is this: seminarians are ridiculously human.

A few months ago, after just having settled in to the seminary, a dear friend who is very involved in the faith called and he posed a similar question with a slightly different spin. Paraphrased, he asked me, what, as someone promoting vocations, should I look for as a defining factor when targeting men for priestly vocations? What do all you seminarians have in common? My response: nothing. I take that back, we all have a love for Mother Church, and a desire to follow God's will, but other than that, nothing.

I say this with sincerity.

See, you can walk down the halls of our building and you will hear the sounds of very different music styles, smell the unique types of food being consumed, and participate in conversations of varying topics. We come from different cultures from across the world. We come from different social groups. Some went to public school, some private, others were homeschooled. Young and old, tall and short, round and less-round, we come in different packages. Some are funny, some not-so-much. There are former engineers, professional musicians, farmers, rocket scientists, and more. Some seminarians enjoy soccer, basketball and/or volleyball. And there are those that prefer not to break a sweat. On Sundays, there is a group of us that share the enjoyment of watching our favorite teams go at it playing football! San Diego Super Chargers! There are seminarians that like Sci-fi, others romantic comedies, and then there are those that enjoy High School Musical (*ahem* Patrick Arguelles).

We are different.

Much like every part of the Body of Christ is different.

As children of God, we are all unique, and so are all those called to be priests. There isn't some cookie-cutter prototype of what a seminarian is. There isn't some cookie-cutter prototype of what a priest is. We are men, and we are called.

My advice to those trying to help promote vocations, cast the net wide. Don't look for a type. Support any and all who might be discerning. As made clear in the bible, God will and does use every type of person to accomplish His work.

Who knows? The fellow sitting next to you in the pew, that attractive, young, college dropout who enjoys sushi, board games, and taking pictures of walls, and is wearing a Walgreens Photo Department Uniform, just might need one word of encouragement to push him in his discernment.

What are seminarians like? Ridiculous. Ridiculously human.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Document on Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Seminarians

On October 30th of 2008, the Congregation for Catholic Education put out a document on psychology and seminary formation that has been in the works for years. The title is Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood. I think it's a valuable document so as I read along through it I will post different parts of the document.

This document shows at the very least a great care and concern for vocations to the priesthood and for seminarians as well. I know as a seminarian who has already gone through 2 psychological evaluations that these things are not always the most pleasurable experiences but nevertheless necessary. And it's interesting to know the role that the Church desires psychology to play within discernment and formation.

The first section comes largely from Pastores Dabo Vobis (well worth reading for discernment purposes) if I am correct. And it reiterates some key points that I think even today we largely forget.

“Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God's gift. However, it is never bestowed outside of or independently of the Church. Instead it always comes about in the Church and through the Church [...], a luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.”

The Church, “begetter and formator of vocations”, has the duty of discerning a vocation and the suitability of candidates for the priestly ministry. In fact, “the interior call of the Spirit needs to be recognized as the authentic call of the bishop.”

In furthering this discernment, and throughout the entire process of formation for ministry, the Church is moved by two concerns: to safeguard the good of her own mission and, at the same time, the good of the candidates. In fact, like every Christian vocation, the vocation to the priesthood, along with a Christological dimension, has an essentially ecclesial dimension: “Not only does it derive `from' the Church and her mediation, not only does it come to be known and find fulfillment `in' the Church, but it also necessarily appears – in fundamental service to God – as a service `to' the Church. Christian vocation, whatever shape it takes, is a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and to increase the kingdom of God in the world.”

Therefore, the good of the Church and that of the candidate are not in opposition, but rather converge. Those responsible for formation work at harmonizing these two goods, by always considering both simultaneously in their interdependent dynamic. This is an essential aspect of the great responsibility they bear in their service to the Church and to individuals."

It's easy from the side of the seminarian or a man discerning his call to the priesthood to see it simply as him deciding whether God is calling him to the priesthood. And indeed, that is a huge part of discernment. But this second part, a part I did not really recognize in my own discernment, is this discernment that the Church must make of his suitability. This comes from the reality that the priesthood is never oriented to the oneself but always to the sake of the Church and the glory of God. We can never simply claim priesthood. It always comes as a gift.

Now I truly recognize this as a blessing. In fact, the Church is not simply watching out for herself but really for me. My vocation is only truly authentic when I know God is calling me to the priesthood and the Church believes this as well. It is a double confirmation. And this helps especially when there are doubts in discernment to see the wisdom and the advice of the Church that has helped men discerning this call for the last 2,000 years.

So that part was good. Next time I'll get into the meatier parts of the document.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gozo y Esperanza

That is the episcopal motto of the new ordinary of Sacramento, Bishop Jaime Soto (it translates as "Joy and Hope" for those who no habla español.) Our previous ordinary, Bishop William Weigand, retired yesterday which also happened to be the fifteenth anniversary of his installation as Bishop of Sacramento. In some ways, I feel like I have to say goodbye to Bishop Weigand right after saying hello. Although I haven't known him as long as some of my brother seminarians have, his concern and devotion to our welfare shone through in the times we have all spent with him at retreats and dinners. The Diocese of Sacramento, and the entire Church, has been blessed to have him as a shepherd. We will all miss him, but after twenty eight years as a diocesan bishop - thirteen years for Salt Lake City and then fifteen for Sacramento - he has certainly earned his retirement! We will all pray that it proves restful and spiritually fruitful.

One thing I like about being Catholic is we get to celebrate New Year's early: yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, the start of a new liturgical year. Advent and Christmas are my favorite times of the year. It seems providential that Bishop Soto became our new bishop yesterday. I believe his motto comes from the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. There certainly are many problems in our country and in our world. But it is important to avoid the two errors one can make here: either throwing up one's hands in despair, or pretending that the problems don't exist through a false optimism. Part of our mission as future priests is to lead souls to the source of all joy and hope: our Lord Jesus Christ, ever present in the Blessed Sacrament. He is the rock upon which authentic joy and hope for the future can rest. Keep your heart and your soul focused on Him, whatever your state of life, and you will be filled with the joy and hope that comes from knowing that the greatest victory has already been won.

I look forward to the day, God willing, when I will be able to serve our new bishop as a priest. Finals are almost here, which means I only have six and a half years to go!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And then we lost...

Well the football game was close but not that close. Old Men over the New Men 35-22. Not too bad a showing considering we were playing against a former college division 1 quarterback. Pictures to follow...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Count down to New Man/Old Man football game...

One of the great traditions at the NAC is the New Man / Old Man football game this Sunday. The men have been hard at practice. Weather looks like rain. It'll be a good one. A couple shots from the last day of practice...

By the way, this is our brand new turf field given to us by amazing donors.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Human Formation

There are four major parts of seminary formation: Spiritual, Intellectual, Pastoral, and Human formation. Each element is addressed in different ways in the seminary system. Obviously the intellectual flows from academic studies, spiritual from a consistent prayer life, pastoral from experience in ministry, and then human, which flows from a life of community but also from all sorts of interactions with people in ministry and in other social situations. Each Thursday night at the NAC we have Pastoral Formation nights. Now this can be some dreaded words among seminarians but these nights can actually end up being quite good. These nights cover all sorts of topics on formation. I thought I'd just mention some of the subjects we've covered so far and some of the things we will cover in the future. They're quite interesting...

Receiving Spiritual Direction and Movements of the Heart

Priestly Fraternity and Jesus Caritas Fraternities

Time Management

Intimacy Skills I: Transitions and Relationships

Intimacy Skills II: Cybersex and Pseudo-Intimacy

Spiritual Friendship

Evangelical Counsel of Poverty & Simplicity of Life

Evangelical Counsel of Chastity

Evangelical Counsel of Obedience

Brokenness & Spirituality of Imperfection

The Priest Praying For and With His People

Priestly Identity: Spiritual Physician of Souls

Asceticism in Human and Spiritual Growth

And the list goes on. A number of these are first year conferences. They get more practical in terms of ministry as the years go on.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lori Drew/Myspace Trial

Before I get into this post, I'd like to thank everyone for having followed all of our postings so far. I would especially like to commend my fellow Diocesan Brothers for their contributions and I would also like at this time to encourage the ones who have not posted to do so.

If you have been following the blog that many of you are well aware of the opinion that I have towards social networking sites. If you haven't then I would highly suggest you read the post that I wrote on September 13, 2008. I am going to borrow my introduction from that article before I begin to talk about this particular story that I have been following.

"I'm going to put a quick disclaimer on this one. If you have a social networking site I do not think any less of you. The words I may use in this post may be very loaded but that is because of my strong feelings towards this subject."

Lately I have been following the story of the suicide of Megan Meier and the trial of Lori Drews. Megan Meier was a 13 year old young woman from Dardenne Prarie, Missouri who committed suicide on October 17, 2006. According to a Wikipedia page about Megan, "Her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace." Megan was a member of the social networking site, and was in contact with a fellow Myspace user named "Josh Evans." According to Wikipedia, Megan was a depressed individual but after having been messaging "Josh Evans," her spirits seemed to be "lifted."
"On October 15, 2006, the tone of the messages changed, with "Evans" saying "I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends". Other troubling messages were sent; some of Megan's messages were shared with others; and bulletins were posted about her. After telling her mother, Christina "Tina" Meier, about the increasing number of hurtful messages, the two got into an argument over the vulgar language Megan used in response to the messages and the fact that she did not log off when her mother told her to. After the argument, Meier ran upstairs to her room. She was found twenty minutes later, hanging by the neck in a closet. Despite attempts to revive her, she was pronounced dead the following day" This was taken from Wikipedia in regards to Megan's death.

It was discovered later that a neighborhood mother and her daughter were responsible for the user account "Josh Evans." The mother is Lori Drews, a mother of a friend of Meier's. After a period of time, criminal charges have been brought against Lori Drews and as of recent her Defense Attorney has moved to have the case dismissed. My information was taken from this recent blog,, and it resparked my interest in this particular case.

At this time I would like to apologize for my reliance on I know that it is not normally a reliable source but some of the links related to news with this case are either dead or have been removed from their website.

So you're probably wondering why I posted this article. Again I feel that it is necessary to expose the evils that Myspace and other social networking sites can create. Yes, Megan took a risk by participating in this particular website and yes her parents could have monitored her usage on such website. However, this event should never have happened. It was driven through this particular website and it shows how easy internet predators can harm not only our youth but ourselves. I implore all seminarians, priests, laity, and the world to suspend their connections with such a website.

I'd like to hear some of your opinions not only by our readers but my fellow seminarians and brothers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And another spoonful of homily...

Sorry, it's been more than a week since my last posting. I've gotten lazy. But not to worry. There is much to discuss in the next few days. Though the three of us seminarians in Rome do not quite get the Thanksgiving experience back stateside, we do a lot to make it seem just like home. We've got our Turkey feast, Big New Man Dinner, New Man show (which basically turns into a burn fest and I'm the curtain guy!), and of course the classic football game. So just wait...

Meanwhile here is another homily from Aaron Rose, another seminarian here in Rome. This is based off of the fourth Sunday in Advent.

May it be done to me according to your word.

My brothers and sisters in Christ,
With these words, Mary gives a home to live in. All of our Scripture readings this Advent have been exhorting us to prepare for the Lord’s coming. In today’s gospel from Luke we celebrate that first coming of Christ in His Incarnation. The Church teaches that Jesus Christ, eternally begotten by God the Father from all eternity, the Second Person of the Trinity, took upon himself a sinless human nature. He inherited everything we as humans have, a human body, a human soul, a human will. He also remained a Divine Person, God, with His Divine Will and Divine Intellect. This mysterious union of Jesus’ humanity and divinity is the Incarnation.

The Incarnation of Christ is the definitive coming of God among mankind. The gospel is very clear how this came about. God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to ask Mary the most important question in the history of the world. “Will you be the mother of God?” As Fulton Sheen used to say, “Will you give God a human nature”?

Mary’s response we know well: May it be done to me according to your word.

I once heard a story about a 12 year old boy who, every day for two years of his life meditated on the Incarnation. He later would enter the Catholic priesthood and give the Church over sixty years of ministry before he died. He gave God his human nature to be used for sixty years as a priest of Jesus Christ. After I heard that story, I thought that God must have used that time of meditative prayer as a foundation for what that boy would later become. What is it about God becoming a Man that drew his attention?

In our first reading from 2 Samuel, King David is sitting “in his palace,” and he is confiding in God’s prophet, Nathan. How can I live in a house of cedar while all of this time, the Ark of God dwells in a tent”? It must have seemed to David that, compared to his cedar palace, a tent is not worthy of God. David wanted to give God something better.

God’s response upsets David’s expectations. God proceeds to remind him, “Should you build me a house to dwell in? I have been with you wherever you went.” It is as if God is saying, David, I do not look at things the way you do. I chose you, the youngest of your brothers, and I made you the king of Israel. I will bring forth a son descending from you, and of His kingdom there will be no end. God did not allow David to build the temple for him because He had another house in mind. He wandted to dwell in David’s human nature.

What made that Catholic priest’s response so wonderful, and what made Mary’s Fiat, her Yes, so wonderful, is that it provided a house for God to work among us. During Jesus’ human life there were many who accepted Him, His way of life and teaching. There were many others who rejected Him. Everyone who ever heard of Jesus had to make a choice.

In God’s Providence, we have been born between the first coming of Jesus in a human nature and his Second Coming in glory at the end of time. Not everyone has been so priveleged. Today, in this fourth Sunday of Advent, God is asking us all the same question He asked King David, the same question he asked that priest, that He asked Mary His Virgin Mother. Will you give me your human nature?

In between Christ’s first and second Coming, He dwells not in a cedar palace. The house God wants to dwell in is found in the Church in the heart of every believer! Right there, in your heart, will you build God a house to dwell in?


Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Homily From a Seminarian...

I am proud to present something else new on this blog. Practice homilies from seminarians! This one comes from Brian Soliven, 3rd year seminarian at the North American College in Roma. This is based off the readings for this Sunday, the Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Enjoy. Don't worry. He was not preaching during this picture. :)

"We have just witnessed the power of our American citizenship, this past week with the presidential election. Regardless of how we voted, whether Democrat, Republican, Green Party, or Independent, we had the opportunity to cast our vote and in some small way influence the direction of the most powerful country on earth.

Yet, how many of us realize we are still citizens of something even greater then this. Something that is seen and unseen. Something that is much older, which in fact stretches into eternity. Brothers and sisters, we are citizens of Heaven! As Pope Leo the Great once reminded his people:

Christian, recognize your dignity… you share in God’s own nature! Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” -Pope Leo the Great

This is our birth-right. This is our truth. Imagine Jesus Christ telling the Jewish people, 2,000 years ago, that they share within themselves God’s very nature, his very essence. For them the Temple in Jerusalem was God’s chosen dwelling place. It was so holy in fact, only the Jewish high priest was allowed into the inner sanctuary once a year. It was this very place where Jesus commanded the Jews in our Gospel reading today-- “destroy this temple!” And I will raise it up in THREE days! Imagine the utter shock on their faces. He just told them to demolish their most revered site in the universe and he will build a new one in a matter of days. But they scoffed at him.

They did not understand the immensity of his words.

Jesus was not speaking about another building of brick and stone. No—something new was about to unfold. Jesus was referring to his Resurrection, when he would rise on third day ushering the Kingdom of God. This is our new citizenship. Through our baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ, the new Temple. We are living stones, every single one of us.

Like our American citizenship, our Heavenly home also comes with advantages. I am not merely speaking about the ease of traveling abroad with an American passport, as great as that is. I am talking referring to our divine passports written in our very souls which give us access to something far more valuable--- God, here and now. We don’t have to wait until we die to call upon the fruits of our true home.

By sitting where you are now, on those hard wooden pews, listening to my raspy voice, you are caught up in the very mystery of what it means to belong to the body of Christ. All over the world, millions of fellow Christians, millions of fellow citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom are sitting on similar hard wooden pews, listening to some other preacher’s raspy voice, united not only through spirit but through the Body of Christ, His Church. The fullest sense of being a part of the body, is to be united through its visible expression in the world—the Roman Catholic Church. When we profess the creed at every Mass with the words: we believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we are not just saying mere words, but professing our faith in the institution Christ established.

Wherever I go out in public, I always make it a point to wear my roman collar. Regardless, if I am at the grocery store, the movies, walking in the park, even at the gym at where I’m bench pressing 300 lbs weights with one hand, you will always find me with my collar. Okay, maybe I don’t go to the gym, but you get my point. I want people to know that a Catholic priest is around. At the same time, this little white collar also invites everyone who disagrees with the Church to express their opinion to me . I don’t mind at all. One of the biggest issues people always bring up is “why?” “Why do I have to go your church? Can’t I just worship in any other church? It’s all the same?

To them I answer: “NO it’s NOT the same.” The ONLY possible reason why anyone of us should be here and call ourselves Catholic, is because it is Christ who established it. It is not of our own making or creativity. It is for this reason that martyrs sacrificed their lives for the faith, why missionaries today, leave their homeland to enter the jungles of Indonesia and the cities of China and Africa to spread the Gospel. That is why. Christ does not leave us alone on earth to figure things out for ourselves. He founded his Church on the rock of Peter, the first pope, and has been passed down through history in a unbroken line of succession up until today.

As a testament to this, the Church celebrates today the dedication of the Cathedral in Rome, Saint John Lateran. It is the seat of the pope, just how the bishop in our diocese has his seat in the cathedral in downtown Sacramento. The cathedral of the pope, however, has one small difference-- it is the mother Church of all Christianity. It was given to successor of Peter in the 4th century by the than Roman emperor, Constantine. It the sign of the unity of our faith and the confidence we hold that what we practice comes directly from Christ.

With all these gifts at our finger tips, the history and the continuity of our 2,000 year old faith, can we honestly say we are taking advantage of our opportunities. I’m sure many of you have benefited from living in this great country of ours, and rightly so. Whether we realize it or not, we have the opportunity for greatness here. We have the chance to get a good education and make an honest living. We can move about freely in our world. We can speak our mind and protest without the fear of our government threatening us, like they do in other parts of the world. Relatively speaking, we have it good here.

How much so, then, should we take advantage of being baptized into the body of Christ? Christian, recognize your dignity…”

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day of the Dead

Well in Italy it's just called All Souls Day but who doesn't like the Spanish translation? One of the big traditions at the North American College is going to celebrate Mass at the big cemetery in Roma where there is a mausoleum for NAC faculty, seminarians, and staff. We went about a couple weeks ago but I'm only posting this now because well I have not had a lot of time. :)

Fr. Kurt, the director of liturgy at the NAC, gave a great homily. One of the specific things I held on to from it was his short reflection on the lives of these seminarians who traveled so far from home to be formed as priests and never completed that task. Rather God called them to their eternal home. There is something to be said about the sacrifice of men, most of these seminarians dying in their 20's, who leave family and home and even country, to go and serve God. It is not the easiest thing. It stretches one beyond the normal capabilities of any man. Yet it answers the call of God to serve anywhere and everywhere.

One of my favorite saints attached to this go anywhere, do anything mentality is Blessed Junipero Serra who became a missionary - leaving Spain to do work in Mexico before ending up in California and eventually dying there. This is the challenge. But it also prepares us for the task of priesthood. Every apostle eventually left their homeland traveling around to evangelize and many saints as well. In the end, it's a recognition that our home is always in heaven.

There is a seminarian buried at the NAC mausoleum by the name of Frank Parater who is currently a Servant of God and may possibly one day be a saint. He died back in the 1920's. In a final note that he left sealed only to be opened upon his death, he wrote:

"I have nothing to leave or to give but my life and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be used as He wills...This is what I live for and in case of death what I die for.Since my childhood, I have wanted to die for God and my neighbor. Shall I have this grace? I do not know, but if I go on living, I shall live for this same purpose; every action of my life hereis offered to God for the spread and success of the Catholic Church in Virginia. I shall be of more service to my diocese in Heaven than I can ever be on earth."

Today and everyday we continue to pray for all those who have died, especially our beloved family and friends.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Discernment Tactics

I think I've waited too long to talk about the modes of discernment. If we keep talking about the priesthood and seminary life, when are we going to give out tools to make this possible? So I'm just going to mention things I used and feel free to add on. There is a lot of stuff out there. :) These are by no means in order of importance.

1. One of the most important things I rediscovered during my discernment was the power of confession to really conform my soul to Christ. I tend to have high standards - most especially for myself. Looking into my heart and seeing my own sinfulness and weaknesses, I always had the tendency to make a plan to overcome them. And it took me forever, FOREVER, to realize that this change, this conversion of myself, does not happen on my own power - no matter what my mental capabilities. Only through God's grace does change take place. Yes it takes my yes - but I was always saying yes. But I was just saying yes to myself. Skeptical as I am, I found out how powerful God's grace is only through His healing of me. And this healing, became a step on my own road to the priesthood. There is something amazing about realizing you don't have to do it alone. I like what someone once said of confession, it's like eliminating those last pockets of resistance. Yeah we're not big sinners, well hopefully, but we've still got these places where we resist God's call to love Him completely.

2. One of my other favorite discernment moves was something I just really like to do. I read so many biographies of saints. I started with JP2 and the monster that George Weigel wrote. Then I moved on to Padre Pio, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Mother Teresa, and on and on. A good one I finished last year was St. Jean Vianney and now I'm working away at St. Thomas More. They've always inspired me. They start with so little and have so little support yet they rise to the heights of sanctity. What is it? I think it's love and it's trust. It's this sense that we can just keep it simple and love with everything we've got. And they make me want to live my life for Christ and find the happiness that only He can give. Plus, since I never really had a spiritual director during my discernment, I found my spiritual life growing through the spirituality I discovered in these books. If you aren't so good with books...the movie...St. great too.

3. Try doing something crazy for Christ. What do I mean? One of the things I look back on with fondness during my time of discernment were the days when I'd wake up ridiculously early, which at that time was like 6am but now that I wake up at 430am isn't so crazy, so I could get to an early daily Mass before work. Or I remember during Lent taking a bus out to this parish for the Good Friday liturgy after work and the rain just started pouring down. Other days I'd go to this place where they had perpetual adoration in Downtown LA. What I am getting at is just making these spaces for God in random places of your life.

4. I kinda already used this one in the last part but the Eucharist was really the center of my discernment as well. There is something to be said about receiving Christ into the depths of your being and realizing he is transforming you in those moments of intimate communion. Though I did not have a lot of faith in myself that I could become a priest, I realized I had a lot of faith that if God wanted me to be His priest, He would work it all out. It's the strength of the vocation that has gotten me here and will take me everywhere. I think Trevor also talked about this so I'll stop. :)

5. Try some experience in the parish - it's where you'll be if you do become a priest. :) I think this is once place where I was absolutely confirmed. My four years at the Newman Center in Davis were moments of complete change for me. I found myself leading and teaching - both things I had never done. Yet God called me to serve His Church through ministry at the Newman Center. And if anything, it just inflamed my heart with a desire for ministry, a hunger for souls, and a joy in serving Christ. I think this is so important to finding your calling. I remember, seriously, daydreaming about being a parish priest and serving in so many different ways. And this is when I was still in a relationship. Haha...

6. Spiritual Direction! I didn't do this, as I've already mentioned, when I was discerning. So I'm not a good example to follow. But I think this was at least in part because my first experience of spiritual direction turned into a lecture on prayer. That was a complete turnoff. Another time I tried talking to a priest, he had to go on vacation. I didn't have the perseverance I guess. But the reality is finding a spiritual director isn't easy. But thank God, if you need one, you can always ask the vocation director and he'll put you in touch with someone or just ask one of us. :) It's so important to find a spiritual director. And especially if you are considering a call to the priesthood, spiritual direction helps you to hear what is going on in your heart and in your relationship with God. In fact, everyone really needs spiritual direction and all the more if priesthood is on your mind.

7. There are also a lot of good books out there on discernment and priesthood. Just a few off the top of my head that are well worth checking out.

Priests for the Third Millennium - Archbishop Timothy Dolan
The Joy of Priesthood - Fr. Stephen Rossetti
Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood - Fr. Thomas Acklin

I can vouch for The Joy of Priesthood and most seminarians I know have read Priests for the Third Millennium. I haven't read it yet because I can't afford it. :) Anyways...I'll stop here or I'll never finish. Guys, feel free to add on as well. These are just some of my own thoughts. AMDG.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day of Recollection at Mt. Angel Seminary

Tommorow is a Day of Recolllection for Mt. Angel Seminary. Here is the schedule and information that was handed to us:

Day of Recollection

October 31, 2008

Bishop Joseph Pepe, Director

Schedule for the Day

7:00 Breakfast
7:30 Morning Prayer
8:00 Mass
8:45 Lectio Divina or Spiritual Reading & Reflection
10:00 Conference by Bishop Pepe
Followed by reflection, rosary, prayer, time before Blessed Sacrament,
lectio, journaling, quiet walk
11:45 Lunch - in silence
Followed by rest, exercise, personal prayer
2:30 Conference by Bishop Pepe
Followed by reflection, rosary, prayer, time before Blessed Sacrament,
lectio, journaling, quiet walk
4:15 Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Quiet time, Gospel-Homily, Benediction
5:15 First Vespers of All Saints
Abbey Church
5:45 Dinner - in silence
Followed by prayer or spiritual reading
7:30 Rosary
Followed by Compline & Marian Hymn

The day is to be spent in silence from after breakfast until after Compline.

Studies, including academic reading and writing, are not to be engaged in.
TV, DVDs, Videos, internet email, etc. are not to be used.
Classical or religious musical CDs are acceptable when played softly.
During the Day of Recollection each seminarian is encouraged to learn how to use
Silence as a tool for spiritual growth and development on the interior life.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ordination Time Again

This coming November 21st, the Diocese of Sacramento will ordain its third priest this year, Rev. Mr. Jacobo Caceres.

The Diocese's newspaper, the Herald, has a good article covering his vocation story. Check it out. Please pray for Deacon Jacobo as he prepares for ordination to the priesthood and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Former Soccer Pro turned Seminarian

I think this was already highlighted a few months back but NOW we have a bit of an update and summary of a man who just entered the seminary this past fall after playing soccer professionally in Chile and in the U.S. It's continues to amaze me how God calls people and this one is just as unique.

That's one of the things faculty members here at the NAC always say. They are constantly amazed at the vocation stories they hear. Men are being called to the priesthood. Men keep stepping up. The Holy Spirit keeps calling. And that's what I think is so crazy. Where do these men come from?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

2008 National Conference for Seminarians in Hispanic Ministry

Los días 10 y 11 de Octubre se llevó a cabo la Convención para Seminaristas en Ministerio Hispano 2008, teniendo como sedes el Seminario Conciliar de México, la Insigne y Nacional Basílica de Guadalupe y la Parroquia de La Esperanza de María en la Resurrección de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, sede de la VI Vicaría Episcopal de la Arquidiócesis de México y siendo anfitrión el Seminario Hispano de Santa María de Guadalupe.

El tema a reflexionar fue el fenómeno migratorio, desde cuatro perspectivas:
- La migración como posible problema político. Ponencia a cargo del Dr. Alberto Patiño, quien trabaja para la Secretaría de Gobernación de México, en la Subsecretaría de Población, Migración y Asuntos Religiosos, Dirección General de Asociaciones Religiosas.
- La migración y su impacto psicológico. Ponencia experiencial trabajada en la perspectiva del RP. Lic. Antonio Armendáriz, MSpS.
- La migración dentro de un marco antropológico, cabe destacar una presentación magistral acerca del Acontecimiento guadalupano, y elementos que han marcado la historia del pueblo mexicano presentes entre los migrantes hecha por el Ilmo. Cango. Dr. Eduardo Chávez.
- La migración vista desde la perspectiva religiosa, contemplando a la Sagrada Familia como migrante, y contemplando a un Cristo que se hace manifiesto en el migrante hoy. Esta presentación estuvo a cargo del RP. Eduardo Quintero, CS.

More facts will be published in future posts.

Best wishes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ordination of Deacons

We recently ordained about 25 men from the North American College to the order of deacon this past week. Well about a week and a half ago but I could not get my hands on any pictures so I waited to post until now. So this will be mostly a picture post. Ordinations are always amazing liturgies to be part of because there is something amazing going on. It's kinda like a wedding. Men are giving up their lives in a real way to serve Christ and God provides His grace to prepare them for this service. There is so much going on you can almost sense the Holy Spirit as everyone falls quiet while the bishop lays hands on the candidates for diaconate. Never gets old for me.

St. Peter's, more specifically the chair of Peter behind the main altar where the remains of a chair, not one necessarily 2,000 years old, resides.

Soon-to-be deacons getting ready. He's listening to Gregorian Chant if you didn't know. The other guy is also known as Joe Prevatali, a seminarian and now deacon from the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It's the closest we have to Sactown this year so we'll follow him through the rites.


More processing...

I'm in there somewhere in the choir on the right...

Prostration during Litany of the Saints...

Laying on of hands followed later by the prayer of ordination.

Being vested...

And that's all folks...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Silent Retreat

So one of the big events of the year at seminaries is the annual retreat. Depending on the seminary, it can end up being a week of conferences, spiritual direction, or whatever else. At the seminaries I have attended, they have always been silent retreats. If you want to find an intense retreat, this is it. And it can really be intimidating. But there is so much that can happen in a week of silence that you'd be amazed how beneficial it is for your relationship with God and your direction in life. Silence slowly filters out all the cares of the world and leaves just you and God. So the time can end up being you and God conversing or you running away from Him. All depends. But if you do use that time to be with Him, you'll discover so much - so much about yourself - and maybe the stuff you never wanted to know.

Here is a quote I received during the retreat from Mother Teresa: "I worry that some of you still have not really met Jesus - one to one - you and Jesus alone. Have you seen with the eyes of your soul how he looks at you?" I think this is a scary thought. One seminarian revealed just this during our retreat - somewhere along the way he'd lost his relationship with Christ and he rediscovered it. This is a haunting question but one that is well addressed in a silent retreat.

So anyways, 58 of us went to Greccio which is in the middle part of Italia for a weeklong silent retreat with conferences and some direction. (Sanctuary of Greccio where St. Francis built the first creche)

One of my favorite things about every silent retreat is I end up reflecting on God's action in my life that has led me up to that point in my life. It leaves me with a great sense of gratitude and the readiness for a weak of consolation, desolation, or whatever else the Lord has in store. I won't go into big details about my retreat besides the fact I survived. But, at the end of it, we shared graces and I thought I would share the grace I received from God as well. I think I received a certain confidence that I am still listening to the voice of God in following this vocation to the priesthood. I had certain doubts that were simply washed away and found myself more convicted on my state in life. There is something amazing about simply listening to yourself and listening to God over days and days that leads you to see the truth of your life and where God wants you to be and where you, in the end, really want to be as well.

At the same time, these retreats always have their humor. We try to keep silent and we do for the most part. But sometimes you have to laugh. We were having this one conference in the morning but there was this huge flying bug in the room. It kept banging up against the lights and caught the attention of most of us. So before we could start the conference, we worked together to shoo the thing out. It was hilarious. I also remember another day we were all sitting in the dining hall where they serve us each meal. And they came around with this monstrous breaded mushroom thing that simply got rejected by almost every table. Poor ladies...I kinda consider in the Mushroom Revolution. :) Anyways, little things just cracked me up. (see the crickets? quiet leaves a lot of time to observe all the crickets)

Oh and if you wanted to know what a schedule of a silent retreat would look like, here it is:

8:00am - Breakfast
8:40am - Morning Prayer
9:00am - Conference
9:45am - Prayer hour + free time
11:45am - Mass
12:30pm - Pranzo/lunch in US :)
4:00pm - Conference
4:45pm - Prayer hour + free time
6:40pm - Evening Prayer
7:00pm - Cena
8:00pm - Adoration and Exposition of Blessed Sacrament

You really have a lot of time by yourself...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Synod on the Word of God in Rome

So just got back from silent retreat in time for...the opening Mass for the 12th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. It was amazing to see so many bishops from all different countries. I believe there were over two hundred from all over Africa, Latin America, Asia, and of course the good ol' North America. Such universality was amazing to see. Plus it is always interesting to see who you meet at these things. I met two couples from Bavaria in front of us and a woman on our side from San Francisco. Woohoo. And a fellow seminarian actually got to shake the Holy Father's hand. It was a nice experience. Some photos to remember it.

Getting into St. Paul's outside the walls...They actually had a real American line!

Some of the most interestingly vested bishops...

Of course the Bishop of Rome himself...

And the exit. I was amazed. Very prayerful experience with good German efficiency. Mass was only two hours. And that included the huge procession in and out...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The memorial of St. Francis

Greetings to you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ. My name is Kevin, an unworthy sinner who was accepted as a seminarian by the Diocese of Sacramento by the grace of God. This is my first post and by way of introduction, I will relate some of my own conversion story.

I was born on December 22, 1980, the only child of Larry and Karen. This means I never learned how to share my toys or get along well with others (just kidding.) I don't come from any particular faith background. At the time my parents were both believing Christians in the sense that they believed in God and that Jesus Christ was His only Son who died for our sins. Other than that, it never really affected any of our lives very much then. For kindergarten and first grade I attended a private, non-denominational Christian school. It closed due to lack of funds at the end of my first grade year, so from that point on I attended public schools in a little town outside of Sacramento called Cameron Park. For those of you who know the area, you'll pass through it if you're driving east on US 50 towards Lake Tahoe.

After I graduated from high school in 1999 I enlisted in the US Army. During basic training at Fort Benning, GA, I suffered a heat stroke. While I was in the hospital and connected to the EKG, the doctor discovered I have a heart disorder that I had not known about before. So the Army decided to medically discharge me and send me home. At the time I was sorely disappointed, but looking back on it now I believe God was acting in my life. Clearly He did not mean for me to be that kind of soldier. If I had not been discharged when I was, I would be in Iraq or Afghanistan right now, and knowing me, I would have surely been injured or killed through some foolish mistake.

All through those years I never lost my faith in God completely, though at times it was especially dim. While I was in the hospital, thinking about what I could possibly do with my life, the only book I had to read was the Gideons Bible inside my bedside stand. At the time I didn't think much of it, but I took it up and began to read whatever random chapters and verses were there when I opened it. I think God was reaching out to me then because when I came back home, dejected at my apparent failure, a thought occurred to me: I really ought to resume the practice of the faith. At the time I was thinkig more about myself, and finding a direction for my life, but God can work with us even if our motives are not solely based on the love of Him.

I enrolled at my local community college with a mind towards transferring to a four year university later on. History has always been my favorite subject so my goal, at first, was to acquire graduate degrees in history so I could teach at the university level myself. I took whatever jobs I could find to help pay my way: as a clerk in the college bookstore, and as a reporter for my local newspaper. All the while I was studying whatever I could find about Christianity. Open the phone book and look under "church" and you'll appreciate my problem. There are so many different denominations - which one was the "right" one? Were they all essentially the same? Did God care which one you joined? This was in early 2002, right around the time the horrible scandals in Boston were first coming to light.

Everyone around me started saying things like, "Well what do you expect when the Church expects celibacy from grown men? Only perverts or weirdos could do that, etc. etc." It occurred to me then that all of my life I had heard this sort of casual anti-Catholicism. I knew from my history studies that for a long time, Americans thought of the Church as being weird or too foreign. I started wondering what it was the Church said and did that inspired such things. So I picked up an encyclopedia of Catholic doctrine.

I was enthralled. At first I just looked up the usual subjects: Papal supremacy, devotion to the saints, moral theology. Then I found myself compelled to read on other subjects too. Before long I had read the entire book and I wanted more. Grace builds on nature, so I think God worked through my love of history. I was especially fascinated by the lives of the saints and how everything we believe was worked out at various councils. Through the grace of God, I came to accept the truth of Catholicism. I realized that it was the Church founded by Christ Himself, whose leadership He entrusted to St. Peter and his successors. So I drove to the closest parish, Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills, and said, "Let me in!" This was in the summer of 2004. I was enrolled in the RCIA program and on Easter Vigil, March 26, 2005, I was baptized, confirmed, and received my first Holy Communion.

That is my conversion story. Some day I will share my vocation story as well. I've been at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, CA for a little over a month now and I love it here. Midterms are rapidly approaching (where does the time go?!) Until next time my dear brothers and sisters, may almighty God bless you all. St. Francis, pray for us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hello there guys...

I'm writing to let you know that here in Mexico City we are working really hard in the preparation of the 2008 Conference for seminarians in Hispanic Ministry. During the last Conference, the Hispanic Seminary here in Mexico City was designed to be the host this year.

The reflection this year is about the Migration phenomenon, but the analysis will be about real situations in the lives of the migranst before they arrive in the USA.

Today’s Migrant Christ.

Migration, a global phenomenon that gives life and hope to new generation, is also the font of a mixture of culture, religion and some other aspects of humanity worldwide.

Every year a large amount of people walks the earth looking for a better way of life and there is something in particular that we, future pastors of the Church, care about, they carry their faith with them.

At this very moment, more than forty million migrants from foreign countries live in the US, and the number increases as the time goes by. Most of these people are Catholics from all over Latin America and mostly of them are from Mexico and Central America, that’s why the focus of the new Annual Conference for Seminarians in Hispanic Ministry – VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ – is the migratory phenomenon.

One goal is to give our seminarian guests an analysis of migrant families from four different campus of knowledge: Politics, Religion, Psychology and Anthropology. This way, we -seminarians in Hispanic Ministry- will have some tools to attend our migrant faithful.

VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ, will take you out of your US context and insert you in a Latin American context to give you a general view of the roots of the migratory phenomenon.

Within this vision, the topics to discuss will be: Migratory Laws, Deportations, Human Rights and Economic Impact.

A pastor from the Church will make an analogy between the Sacred Family and the Actual Migrants.

A specialist will analyze the migratory families as well as the individuals themselves from a psychological point of view, this will embrace: Family, Enculturation, Affectivity and Identity.

The migrant phenomenon will be viewed Sociologically and some History will complete the theme.
VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ, Mexico 2008 will give you a great experience of culture and knowledge.

For more info, you can email me or in where you can find a link to a pdf that has the program of activities.

Best wishes.

Alberto Enriquez

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feast of St. Matthew

Random silent retreat for the week starts this Sunday. Please keep me in your prayers. I have a feeling I'm in for a ride. :) I'll report back something next week.

Ok, the feast of St. Matthew was this past Sunday and since it was on a Sunday, we didn't really get to celebrate it. But it's a good feast worth noting. Heck, that's my brother's name too! The calling of St. Matthew has always rung deep in my heart. There is something about seeing St. Matthew caught up in the affairs of money and is daily routine and hearing the words of Jesus, "Come, follow me", that strikes a clear chord to me. How could you not get up? How could you not just leave everything behind and go? He is calling. He is calling you! GO!

So on the feast of St. Matthew I quote not from myself but from a homily of a wise priest who tells this story and much more.

The link to the site is here. And the author is Fr. John Jay Hughes.

"A cardinal was visiting a community of Carmelite nuns in Italy. After celebrating Mass for them, he asked the Mother Superior if he could see how they lived. Carmelite nuns are enclosed. They don’t leave the cloister. And visitors talk to them through a grille. The cardinal’s request violated their rule. But when a cardinal asks, you don’t say No. So the Prioress asked one of the nuns to show him round.

They visited the refectory, where the nuns sit on wooden benches without backs to eat their simple meals off bare wooden tables. The cardinal saw one of the cells where they sleep: a small room furnished with a narrow bed, a table to serve as a desk, and a hard wooden chair; a single light bulb overhead and a gooseneck lamp on the table. Instead of a basin with running water there was a large washbowl on a stand, and on the floor next to it a large crockery jug. The nun explained that water was brought from the bathroom down the hall.

At the end of the short tour the nun led the cardinal up a narrow stairway to the flat terraced roof above, furnished with hard benches and a railing all round. “On feast days like Easter and Pentecost,” she explained,”we can come up here, if the weather is fine, for our recreation period.” The view was beautiful. Across a valley they could see a magnificent villa surrounded by formal gardens and several fountains. It was summer. A gardener was cutting one of the hedges. Children were frolicking in the swimming pool. A couple were playing tennis on one of the two courts.

The cardinal turned to the nun who was showing him round.
“How long have you been here in Carmel, Sister?” he asked her.
“I entered twenty years ago next Easter,” she responded.
“Sister,” he said, “if the young man of that house had asked you twenty-one years ago to come and live there with him there as his wife, do you think you would be here today?”
“Your Eminence,” she replied. “That was my house.”

Why? Why would a young woman give up all that luxury and all that beauty? I think if we could have asked her, or hundreds like her round the world, she would have said something like this:
“I wanted to be with Jesus”...

...Jesus is offering you something he offers to only a few, something precious beyond words. He is offering you a life that will sometimes be hard, but which will be filled with meaning and filled above all with joy...When Jesus calls you, go for it! And one day you too will be able to say what I say to you right now: What a wonderful life! I have experienced already here on earth a little bit of heaven. Is God’s call just for religious professionals, priests and nuns? Don’t you believe it! While you were still in your mother’s womb, God already had a plan for your life. He calls each one of us, as he called those four rough fishermen in today’s gospel. He calls us to walk with him, to be so full of his love that others will see the joy on our faces and want what we have. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught.

“I could never do that,” you’re thinking? You’re wrong. Here is a list of some of the great people in the Bible. Every one of them had a reason for thinking God could not use them. So the next time you feel like God can’t use you, remember:

Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused by his brothers. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy thought they were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah thought himself unworthy. Jonah ran away from God’s call. Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. Martha was a perpetual worrier. The Samaritan woman was five times divorced. Zaccheus was too small. Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying. At Jesus’ arrest, they all forsook him and fled. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer. And Lazarus was dead!

So what’s your excuse? Whatever it may be, God can still use you to your full potential. Besides, you aren’t the message. You’re only the messenger.

When you were born, you were crying, and everyone around you was smiling. Start today (if you haven’t started already) living your life so that when you die, you’re the only one smiling, and everyone around you is crying."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Lady of Peñafrancia

This year I decided along with a friend of mine to join and actively participate in the Filipino Community at Mt. Angel Seminary. For most students, it is usually custom to learn Spanish and observe the Hispanic Community to prepare yourself for the cultural diversity in your home diocese. In Sacramento, although we do have a large number of Hispanics, I feel that some priests are very unfamiliar with Filipino Culture. In our Diocese, we have many Filipino Priests and Seminarians but I feel it a necessity to be aware of the customs and traditions of many of our people.

This past Saturday, I joined the Filipino Community in celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. ( I enclosed information about the feast and a link to a website at the bottom of the article.) A mass was held in Beaverton, and a reception was hosted in the parochial school cafeteria following the mass. It was splendid to be able to hear the Word proclaimed in Tagalog and to be able to sing parts of the mass in their native tongue. I have enclosed some pictures of the event and I hope you read more information about the story of Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the bottom.
Thomas Dooley of Mt. Angel Abbey, Joseph Malinis of Sacramento, Manolito Jaldon of San Francisco, and myself and Michael pose with a parishnor

Michael Andrade, Ysrael Bien and I all wearing Barongs. Barongs are a formal garment in the Filipino Culture.

"The official coronation of Our lady of Peñafrancia our Patroness of Bicolandia took place on September 2, 1924, offiaciated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guillermo ______ their Apostolic to the Delegate. The image therefore of Our lady of Peñafrancia enshrined in her sanctuary in Calle Balatas is about 275 years old. It is an antique statue that has even become the object of desire for many an antique collector. On the morning of August 15, 1981, this miraculous image was stolen from her shrine at the Peñafrancia Church. The entire region was shocked by this news and every devotee of Our Ina could not believe that such a dastardly and sacrilegious act could be perpetuated. Immediately a network for the massive search of the image was military and civilians alike. In the course of following leads to the theft, a policeman was killed and a police lieutenant was wounded when the jeepney they were riding in were ambused by heavily armed men somewhere in Bolo Sur, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.

It seemed that the search would be futile altogether and people almost resigned to the sorry fate of having lost a most beloved image. Most of the leads proved a haux. Meanwhile the approaching feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia necessitated an image to be borne during the translation and the colorful fluvial procession. One was made at the instant of church authorities and another image was donated by the First Lady.

A little over a year later, the region was shocked, with equal unbelief, with the news that the image has been returned to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Florencio Yllana, P.A.,Liaison Officer of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and former Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia here in Naga City. On September 8, 1982, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the motorcade from Manila bearing the Image arrived in Naga City at the height of typhoon Ruping. The inclement weather did not deter thousands of devotees who braved the raging winds and the devastating floods to welcome the image of Our beloved Ina. At 10:00 in the evening of the same day, the image was safely enshrined at the Metropolitan Cathedral where a pontifical concelebrated mass offered in thanksgiving for the return and safe arrival of the image.

The image is now enshrined at the Basilica Minore at Calle Balatas in the City of Naga. She has returned to her flock and her people have gratefully built her a home worthy of her dignity, honor, and maternal position."
(2005 - 2008 Our Lady of Peñafrancia. All rights reserved)