Saturday, August 30, 2008

Orientation Week for a returning seminarian

This year I'll be starting my second year at Mt. Angel Abbey and Seminary and I am looking forward to a year of academic, vocational, and spiritual rewards.

My father and I began the trip back up to Portland from Sacramento this past Monday at 5 am. The trip was great and there were no problems. The time that we did not spend conversing, we spent listening to Dark Side of the Moon and other great road music.

When I arrived at the seminary I happened to meet one of the three new priests on staff this year. Fr. Pitstick of the Diocese of Spokane gave my father and I a warm welcome. We then moved my stuff from this summer back into my old room and I was greeted by various old classmates as well as some new ones. I also discovered that Fr. Terry Tompkins of the Diocese of Oakland was joining us on staff this year. Fr. Terry spent the fall semester of my first year here at Mt. Angel on sabbatical.

There has been an interesting development this year as well. There are no Pre - Theology Students in the college building, Anselm Hall. Last year the hall was intermixed with Pre - Theology students and collegians. This year they have moved the Pre - Theology 2 students to Aquinas Hall and the new Pre - Theology students are below Anselm in the Subiaco building. ( If one can call Subiaco a building, but I'm not living there so I can't complain. )

Last year during my own orientation, there was quite a bit of conferences that we had to attend as new seminarians and students. I quickly made a point to avoid attending some of those conferences with the new students but I helped out by taking pictures for the A/V Department.

Traditionally at the end of the orientation week, the orientation team takes the new seminarians to Silver Creek Falls, which is a state park near Silverton. There is always a lot to do including a barbecue, various hikes, and games. As well as a water balloon fight that happens at the end of the event. Last year, I started my year off incorrectly by nailing Fr. Richard Papperini, the President-Rector of Mt. Angel Seminary, with a water balloon. He is on sabbatical this semester so there was no other seminarians doomed to make my mistake. *laughs*

Today I took out two of my diocesan brothers to a local restaurant called Markum Inn for some burgers and dessert. Tonight is a Pizza social.

This year's group of new seminarians is a pretty quiet and calm group compared to the group that entered last year so we'll definitely have to see how the interaction goes. The old students begin arriving today, tomorrow and Monday.

School starts on Wednesday, I believe. This coming up weekend is the College Beach Weekend. The following weekend is Oktoberfest down in the town of Mt. Angel.

Please keep me in your prayers and you are in mine.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All that is gold does not glitter

I recently read from St. Therese's The Story of a Soul and she has this story of charity where as a young novice she volunteered to take this old nun from the chapel to the refectory every evening. Each night this nun would complain and groan at every slight offense - and complained that St. Therese either moved too fast or too slow. There was no pleasing this grumpy nun. It was tough work.

Though I would love at this point to highlight St. Therese's continual desire to find founts of grace to grow her soul into union with God, the beauty of this story is one day where she is leading this old decrepit (hey, this is the wording she used :) ) sister on a dark cold day in a hallway covered with bare brick and she receives this vision of a warm well-lit lovely furnished drawing room with young well dressed women discussing worldly things. In this moment, God shines his light of truth on her life, showing her the fading colors of this other life and the beauty of the life she lives.

We do not often get reminders that a life filled with charity, and as a result much suffering, fulfills the will of God most completely and is the beauty beyond all comparison. And it also becomes quite penitential. Charity, truly lived, forces one to love and live with the impossible - like close living conditions, an unfriendly roommate, a bad work environment, selfish parents, or whatever other cross. It pulls us out of ourselves and teaches us to love as Christ loved. It does what penance does, draws us out of ourselves.

But I will be honest. This image St. Therese gives us is not exactly the temptation we face today. Rather it may be good to think of going out dating beautiful women, having a great successful career with lots of money, and taking amazing trips around the world. Think about the life that the current culture sells. Is it really full of joy and happiness or an empty delusion? The opposite is finding yourself waking up at 3am in the morning to rush off to the hospital to comfort and pray with a dying elderly man. I often think at a moment like that of Tolkien's words from Lord of the Rings:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

Ok I only really care about these first words but this idea that so often the great beauty in life is hidden in darkness and not revealed to those who do not want to see. But the life of a priest is one that shines brightly. And I think it was St. Jean Vianney who said:

Oh, How great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in heaven. If he understood it on earth he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold if you had nobody to open the door. The priest has the key to the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth.

There is something wonderful here. An easy temptation to fall into is that the life of the priesthood is not the treasure we seek and there is so much else we would rather have. The devil loves to use this because it works so well. Worldly things are an easy sell. And not without reason. All things, even those things we should not have, have some good in them as they find their creation in God. Yet it is when things are darkened or used for an evil purpose that they remain good in our eyes even as they are soaked in sin.

We must be wary and on guard for the reason we seek what we seek. What do we desire when we want a life of fame, money, and power? And obviously it may not even be that obvious. Even a desire for family can be done for a selfish reason. I know I had to discern these same temptations. I remember one day soon after I entered the seminary taking a day retreat and hiking up into the hills. As I sat down I thought to myself, "What am I doing here? I'm young and intelligent. There are so many other things I could be doing." But I realized there is nothing better than this. As priest, one brings souls to Christ. His work seems so simple yet it is so utterly important. Simply understanding this calling was and continues to be enough to brush away any questions in my heart. The vocation to become a priest may not be that which shines brightly in our day and age but it shines before Christ...and that's what matters in the end.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let's talk about: Music

As encouraged by Colin, I'm going to take a more serious attempt at posting at the blog. This uncomfortable for me because I have a negative opinion of blogs and social networking sites but that will be discussed in my next post. = )

As a quick disclaimer, I am a seminarian. I am not a priest. I have had a year of seminary training so I will not pretend to be a biblical scholar, amazing philosopher, or kick butt theologian.

As a 19 year old college student today, many of my peers are listening to music like Katy Perry's "Kissed a Girl," "Lollipop," by Lil Wayne or the newest Linkin Park track.
As a college seminarian today, many of my peers are listening to music like Matt Mahr, Fr. Stan Fortuna or composers such as Mozart and Marin Marais.

For myself personally, I listen to quite a bit of rock both modern and classic. I am proud to proclaim myself a Foo Fighters, Fleetwood Mac, Angels and Airwaves fan as well as other modern and classic rock bands.

It is a definite amusement to see both sides, the secular and the religious, clash on my Itunes play list. But it is a definite question we must ask ourselves. What music is appropriate to be listening to in our position as seminarians? As I am typing this I am currently listening to the acoustic side of the Foo Fighter's 2005 album, In your Honor. Recently I flew to Portland and enjoyed a concert that they played at the Rose Garden. As I left the stadium that night, I asked myself what would a parishioner say if they saw me attending the concert. I personally find no problem with the band and I recently introduced them to a priest and he is now a big fan.

I pose this question for the other seminarians and people on this blog: What kind of music do you listen to? Is it something that would be appropriate to be seen singing?

In Christ,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Questions from the Audience: Too Young

I had someone ask me the other day how old I was and after discovering my age (24) noted, "Man, you sure are young to be making such a decision." I have definitely heard this before, mind you. But it struck me that people continue to think that to decide that you want to become a priest, give your life completely in the service of the Church and never marry is something difficult and maybe even impossible at such a young age. Well, can anyone really make this kind of decision?

I think to understand the decision to enter the seminary at a young age we must refute the modern view that experience equals knowledge equals wisdom. The old are not necessarily wise because they are experienced. St. Therese at 18 was a lot wiser than women twice her age. And I know adult men who have no wisdom to impart at all. Wisdom is not simply life lived. Rather wisdom is a gift from God, the knowledge of what is true, good, and right...including what we are called to do in this life. Knowledge of what we are to do with our lives in a grace from God which we can and should ask for in this life.

There are many a priest who entered the seminary at age 14 as well as saints like St. Catherine, St. Therese, St. Padre Pio, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and more who knew at a young age what they were called to be. Experience does not necesarily provide all components to discovering a vocation.

That is not to say that experience is not important. I think it is wise to get involved in ministry at a parish before entering the seminary as well as doing different forms of social justice ministry like work with the homeless, disadvantaged, disabled, and with right to life type ministry. All these experiences helped to contribute to my own decision to enter the seminary. As well, I would seriously suggest trying out some type of work that is similar to what you would want to do if you did not enter the seminary. That is actually a question on the application to the seminary and diocese. What would you be doing if you did not enter the seminary? So experience is important but I would be careful of those who suggest you must turn in every other direction first. So many young men and women are already doing just that...turning every which way to avoid answering the call that will bring them the greatest joy in their lives...becoming a priest or sister or brother for Jesus Christ.

In the end I think the best answer to the statement by someone questioning your ability to accept a life long vocation is "of course not". Why? I have found something worth giving my life for. My greatest possession I give up, I sell, so that I may buy the pearl of great price, so that I may answer the call deep within my heart to say yes to Jesus Christ whose words, "Follow me" continue to resonate within my soul. Yes, a priest gives up marriage and a young man gives up the best years of his life. But he has made the greatest investment, one that can never fail, he has said yes to his maker to shine forth the light of Christ into the world. He has chosen rightly and though he gives all he has, he receives a 100 fold in return. AMDG.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Kickoff for Vocation Prayer Campaign

Information is below from the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Sacramento.

Unase a La Celebración Eucaristica
15 de agosto del 2008 7:00 p.m.
Catedral del Santísimo Sacramento1017 Calle 11, Sacramento, CA
Obispo Jaime Soto, Celebrante

Para más información, comuniquese con la:
Oficina de Vocaciones Sacerdotales y Religiosas
Diócesis de Sacramento
2110 Broadway Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel: 916-733-0258 Fax: 916-733-0224

¡Campaña de oración con las reliquias de los mártires Mexicanos!

Diocesan Campaign to Pray for Vocations.
Join us for a Eucharistic Celebration (In Spanish)
August 15, 2008 7:00 p.m.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament1017 11th St., Sacramento, CA
Vocation Prayer Campaign with the relics of the Mexican Martyrs