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.