Thursday, December 31, 2009

Too many parties all at once I'm sure

Happy birthday to his excellency, the Bishop of Sacramento, Jaime Soto! And may you all have a happy and blessed new year! I myself will be going to a party at the house of one of my old coworkers from the days of Longs Drugs (before they became CVS.) I always enjoy these opportunities because it won't just be people I know, but many people I don't know. And when people I don't know find out what I'm doing and where I am, they always have lots of questions about the faith and the Church. St. Peter tells us to always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is in us. I'll admit it can be daunting prospect given all of the false notions of the good life my generation has been raised on, but then I remember that it's not me I'm talking about. Whatever I say to people as a seminarian and some day, God willing, a priest, should not be about me. "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

I clearly remember last year's New Year's Eve party. It made me grateful that all seminarians must have some philosophy before being admitted to theology. One guy I spoke with was something else. It was like pulling teeth just to get him to concede that there is an external reality which is independent of our own subjective perceptions. I think of it as a good experience though. Part of a priest's vocation is to teach Truth (Truth with a capital "T" is a person, remember.) The flip side of that is a priest must be able to refute error. The dictatorship of relativism the Holy Father once spoke of does not like the latter one bit. It is wrong to hold that some things are wrong. It is an error to tell someone they are in error. But that is precisely what we need our pastors to do today: 1) Lead people to the Truth that is Jesus Christ; and 2) perform the spiritual work of mercy of correcting those in error.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prayer request

Today would have been the 89th birthday of Monsignor Richard Schuler, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. He died in 2007, and I would like to request that you say a prayer for the repose of his soul. Everyone who loves sacred music owes Monsignor Schuler a debt of gratitude for keeping it alive during a time of great upheaval in the Church. I also wanted to post a true story about Monsignor that shows what it really means to be "pastoral."

Msgr. Schuler did have friends in high places (which didn’t shield him from regular criticism from the chancery or attempts at sabotage), but he also had friends in “low” places. One of my favorite memories of the few months I lived at St. Agnes was the afternoon that Monsignor knocked on my door and asked if I was doing anything important. I said no, and he said, I’d like you to come with me for a bit.

We drove to a pretty decrepit-looking apartment building and walked up a couple flights of stairs. On the way he had explained to me that the woman we were going to see was agoraphobic. she had contacted him several months ago, saying that, though she seldom left her apartment, she did a lot of reading. In the course of her reading, she had become convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. She wanted to be baptized. He met with her several times, instructing her in the faith until he was convinced she was ready for baptism. He set up a date and time and waited for her in the Church, but she failed to show up. When he called her, she said that she couldn’t bring herself to leave the apartment that day – her anxieties were just too severe. So, he told her he’d be over to visit the next week – that is what we were doing.

When we got to her apartment, he introduced me, and she welcomed us in. He spoke with her at length, in the most pastoral way I had ever witnessed. When she said that she was second-guessing her decision to become Catholic, because she wasn’t sure that she could make it to Mass on Sundays, owing to her psychosis, he reassured her that no one is bound to the impossible, and if it was truly impossible for her to make it to Mass, she was not under that obligation. He encouraged her to continue in counseling and medication, and to make every effort to come to Mass.
He also cautioned her about the ways in which Satan would use her mental condition to prevent her from joining the Church. In the end, he convinced her to be baptized.

He baptized her then and there in the kitchen sink, using the ritual in Latin at her request, with me as her godfather, confirmed her and gave her her first Holy Communion from the pyx in his pocket. We stayed with her for awhile after that, chatting – the glow on her face was amazing. As we were leaving, the bells from St. Agnes were ringing in the distance. He told her that she should remember, everytime she hears the bells ringing, she should know that she has a parish praying for her – and that she now has an obligation to pray for her parish, and especially her pastor (with that trademark twinkle in his eye).

I saw her once or twice after that at Mass, always in the back, by herself. I didnt get her address, and can’t even remember her name, but I pray for her often.

After that experience, anytime someone would speak of Msgr. Schuler as cold-hearted and reactionary – “Msgr. Rigid J. Schuler” – I would laugh and say, you have no idea what you are talking about.

Comment by Tim Ferguson

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to all from across the divide!

I am enjoying my time here in Madrid with the Missionaries of Charity. It´s been an interesting time to say the least and I will definitely have something to write about when I get back. There is just nothing quite like cleaning, feeding, and take care of every bodily need of adult men suffering from AIDS. I frequent prayer, especially at the beginning, was just, ¨Jesus help me!¨ Help me do this and to do it with love. Things are a lot easier now. The routine has set in. People know me. I sort of know Spanish. It´s good. Every day is a bit different. Which when dealing with the sisters is always expected and for the better. It´s a true experience of abandonment to Divine Providence. I cannot wait to share some of it when I get back to Rome. :)

Hope everyone is enjoying their time at home and with family.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The House of Christmas by G.K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Break

I will be heading out to Madrid this Christmas for a couple weeks to work with the Missionaries of Charity. They run an AIDS hospice for men as well as a number of other things.

I hope to keep posting through Christmas. We'll see what access looks like.

If I do not get to say it later, Merry Christmas to all.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Talking Tough

This priest brings up an interesting idea. He uses funerals as a place to reach fallen away Catholics who will attend funerals and weddings but not much else. Though I support his idea, I wonder if it comes on too strong. Anyways, it's definitely worth a read. It's from the Archdiocese of DC blog.

"I celebrate just over 50 funerals a year; about one a week. (People are dying to come to church here). And most of these funerals feature large numbers of fallen away Catholics and unchurched individuals. Most of these people I see ONLY at funerals and sometimes weddings. For this reason, in recent years, I have altered my approach at funerals and direct almost half of the sermon to the unchurched and call them to repent and return home. Surely in the first part I speak of the deceased, offer thanks to God for their life, entrust them to God and ask the congregation to pray for the repose of the deceased soul. I never fail to menton judgment and purgatory as reasons for this prayer. That is too often not mentioned at Catholic funerals, a terrible oversight if you ask me. But the bottom line is that I spend the first half of the sermon commending the deceased person to God’s benevolent mercy and care.

But given the terribly high loss in the practice of faith and the consequent grave condition of many of the souls at any given funeral I cannot allow (any longer) an omission to be made of summoning them to Christ. How can it be that God has led them to my parish and I would say nothing to them to dissuade them from their path away from God and his sacraments? So many souls today are not only unchurched and backslidden (fallen away), but they are often locked in serious, mortal sin. I cannot know this about any particular individual but it is clear that many are lost like sheep without a shepherd. While conscious of my own sin, I cannot remain silent (any longer) and fail to call the unchurched and fallen away back. And trust me, even at the funeral of strong Catholic families there are MANY who are fallen away. Add to that the fact that many funerals I celebrate are for people who themselves were not always fervent in the practice of the faith. Families of such as these have even more members in need of a sobering wake up call."

Full Article


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catholics come home

Are you a fallen away Catholic? Do you know a fallen away Catholic? The Diocese of Sacramento is participating in the nation-wide "Catholics Come Home" project. Check out the website, starting with Bishop Soto's welcome to visitors. I enjoyed the video about famous Catholic converts. I'm the lowest of them all, but I'm in good company :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Heroic Priest

"Foley is one of 14 Catholic priests serving in Afghanistan and spends much of his time traveling around the country to visit soldiers at forward operating bases and smaller combat outposts. He also handles nine Masses on weekends including a Mass in Spanish.

"You have to remember it may be your fourth or fifth Mass of the day but to them it's their first Mass, and to some out in the field it may be their first Mass in four or five weeks. For some it may be their last Mass," Foley said.

Among Foley's duties is visiting patients and staff at the hospital at Bagram as well as mortuary affairs. He frequently is called at all hours to go to the hospital to comfort a wounded soldier from his battalion or a service member who is Catholic; he performs the Catholic ritual of anointing of the sick as well as comforts the fallen soldier's buddies.

"It's very somber, very respectful - there's a love for that fallen comrade," said Foley, adding that he's inspired by the attitude of wounded troops.

"You'd be so impressed with the soldiers. When they come in (to the hospital), their first question is, 'How are my battle buddies?' And the second question is, 'When can I get back out there?' It's a pretty inspiring place to be'."

Whole article here.


A culture of vocations or a culture of death

I heard a story from a friend of mine the other day. Someone said to him, "I know what we can do to stimulate more vocations: the Church needs to change. It needs to allow priests to get married, ordain women, and be more gay friendly." He replied, "The Episcopal Church does all of that, and they have an increasing shortage of laity." His interlocutor responded that the Catholic Church is not the Episcopal Church. He then said, "Let's keep it that way."

I don't believe there can be such a thing as a "vocations shortage." God always calls enough men and women to serve His Church as priests and religious, but today not enough of them are answering that call. Why? In Pope John Paul II's letter on priestly formation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, he diagnoses two causes: cultural disease and ecclesial malaise. For 18, 22, 29, or however many years they've walked the earth, young men have been told that the world is here for them. They are unique consumers defined by what kind and how much of the stuff they buy. Virility is defined by how many women you've slept with. You are only "educated" to the degree you subscribe to rationalistic scientism. Certain strains of feminism demand that we accept that "to be equal" means "to be the same." And above it all, the implicit assumption that "truth" is a quaint medieval notion only held to by right-wing troglodytes. Sacrificial love - the kind modeled by Christ - is an almost foreign concept today.

JPII proposed the solution offered by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: sacrificial obedience to the Faith. Most of the people who read this blog are surely lay people, and I must tell you that it is part of your mission as a lay person to create a climate of vocations to the priesthood. So I ask you: 1) Would your life in Christ inspire a young man to become a priest? or 2) Would your life in Christ cause a young man to go running into the arms of the culture of death? Think about what all young Catholic men who are considering the priesthood face today: an atmosphere of suspicion because of the sex scandals, parents who want him to find more remunerative work, impurity as a way of life for his friends, and priests and DREs who allow error to contaminate the faith, if not kill it.

Every diocesan event I go to - no matter how big or how small - I always ask at least one young man if he has ever considered being a priest. And you know what? None of them has ever outright said, "No." Even if they did, that doesn't mean they don't have a vocation. Speaking for myself, I definitely said "No way" the first time someone ever suggested the priesthood to me. But you, the laity, are primarily responsible for leavening the culture. And it is part of your unique vocation to live and work in the world to create that culture which encourages priestly vocations. If a seminarian ever stays in your parish, take a moment to encourage him. Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. And above all, pray a lot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

We still Kant have that

I've successfully completed another semester at St. Patrick's, thanks be to God. This semester was more difficult than the previous two, mainly because I've been entrusted with more responsibilities around the house. But with Christ and the Blessed Virgin's help, it's all over. Pre-Theology just finished setting up for our end of semester Christmas banquet, so now I can finally relax.

My adviser, Fr. Stevens, is also the academic dean. I've noticed that all of my classes overlapped this semester: information I learned in my Ethics class became invaluable in my class on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. My philosophy courses have been invaluable. Part of what it means to be a priest is to know the world in which you will be living and speaking to the people. Many people - including many Catholics - are good Kantians now in that they believe faith and reason are completely separate spheres. Every time you hear a Catholic pol say, "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." he is revealing himself as a child of Kant.

This generation of priests and seminarians faces a unique challenge in the history of Christendom: we live in a secular world. We no longer possess a religious imagination. I'll quote a line from one of Fr. Stevens' favorite poems: So much depends on a red wheel-barrow. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to unpack the meaning of that sentence. Those of us who went to public schools never really got to learn skills like that. Much of my seminary education thus far has been picking up skills and ideas I should have learned in childhood. Philosophy helps me understand why I didn't - because my teachers' teachers were operating with a specific philosophy of education and epistemology in mind.

Truth is truth no matter the source, so we cannot simply dismiss modern philosophers out of hand. Believe it or not, even Michel Foucault had some unique insights into the human condition that are valuable for understanding the world we must engage. So take the time to sift through them, testing everything, keeping what is good, and bugger all the rest. If you're thinking about the priesthood, I strongly suggest learning some basic philosophy too since you'll need to know it later on if you pursue it. At the same time, don't lose sight of the most important thing. Academics are important here, but your spiritual life is the most important.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Monthly Discernment Group in Sactown

We are starting a monthly discernment group for men 17-35 years old. Here is the info.

photo by roadsidepictures

Place: Leatherby's Ice Creamery (2333 Arden Way, Sac, CA)
When: Second Monday of each month
Time: 6:00 p.m. for dinner and ice cream ($5) followed by a talk

If you have any questions, feel free to call the Vocations Office (916) 733-0258.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Priestly Model

Try this priest out. He was embedded with soldiers in Korea when the Chinese entered the war.

"For days, the 3rd Battalion fought off mass charges of Chinese. They ransacked bodies for weapons and bullets when they ran low.

Kapaun and Clarence Anderson, a doctor, set up an aid station in a sandbagged dugout.

The GI perimeter shrank to 50 yards end to end, but Lt. Walt Mayo saw Kapaun run 300 yards outside it to drag wounded inside.

During one of those runs to help the wounded, Kapaun was captured and led away at gunpoint. But Mayo, as he told author William Maher later, shouted a command and GIs rose up and fired, killing the captors.

McGreevy heard officers yell at Kapaun to leave the battlefield.

"No," Kapaun called back.

The officers yelled again.

"No," Kapaun said. "My place is with the wounded."

The priest looked as calm as he did at Mass."

Full article here.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some Christmas Humor

I cannot but post this picture and the commentary, especially as my seminary is in the midst of decorating our hallways for Christmas.

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."


Monday, December 7, 2009

Growing in Charity

What prepares one to take the step to be a priest or religious? Among other things, perhaps one of the greatest is charity or love. A vocation without love will become a cross rather than a joy. With a vocation for a lifetime, it must be love. Only love can last forever.

St. Therese was always one to discover certain fonts of grace in daily life that would help her to love. She tells the hilarious story of how she is washing with another sister who keeps splashing her with the dirty water. Rather than telling her to stop annoying her, she accepts them and as she says, "I decided to turn up as often as I could to that lucky spot where so much spiritual wealth was freely handed out." She also tells the story of sitting next to the most distressing nuns during prayer who annoy her with small noises. And she uses the opportunity to simply offer it as a prayer as she cannot pray with others.

In many ways, one prepares for the long haul, a life consecrated to God or the married life, by beginning with the smallest of things. Rather than complaining about that one thing that always gets on your nerves, start going out of your way to brighten the day of a co-worker who drives you nuts. I find this all the time in the seminary, whether it's fellow brothers who I much rather avoid than each lunch with or particular events in the seminary that become moments of interior complaining. But they can also be moments to love when you just don't want to or pray when you would just prefer to complain.

I think we are called, and I am so especially, to find those fonts of grace God has already put in our paths and that we constantly avoid. It is not easy but the practice of true charity will bring such good into the world and prepare our hearts to say yes to God in the smallest of things and the greatest - so that our yes today reverberates through our entire lives.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Discernment Retreat

I just heard the word that the annual discernment retreat at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park (my alma mater sorta) will take place from January 15th to the 17th, 2010. If you areinterested, contact the vocation director in your area. It's a great weekend to meet seminarians, get the feel of the seminary, and receive some tools for discernment. There is not any kind of formal commitment to seminary required.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Or maybe I'm just long-winded

Sometimes I forget this is a house of formation and not a regular post-graduate academic institution. We often have oral exams. Many guys leap at that opportunity, but in many ways orals are more difficult than written exams. You don't have as much time to think since the professor is sitting across from you at his desk, waiting. You have to study harder in order to have the information readily available.

I just had my oral final exam in ethics. Fr. Andrews asked me to explain Kant's deontological theory of ethics and stopped me after two minutes or so. "Ok, you obviously know that. Tell me about natural law." Another two minutes, "Ok ok, you know that pretty well too. Anything else on any other topic we've studied in class?"

They do oral exams because in a real sense all of the seven years I'm here will be aimed toward making me a good preacher. Most of the people in the parish will only see you on Sunday morning. The sermon/homily is your one interaction with them all week so you have to have that gift of cramming as much information as possible into ten minutes or less. You have to hold their attention, communicate real content, and resist the temptation to easy one-shot gimmicks. And as many, many lay people have told me, not many priests have that talent. Fr. Stevens says you should always look at the readings for that Sunday and ask yourself, "What questions do these readings pose to us?" Do that, and the homily is already halfway finished.

Monday, November 30, 2009


We do Thanksgiving weekend big at the College. In part to celebrate the holiday and build up community but also to keep our minds off home.

Thanksgiving morning we prepare our own breakfast by hall before the big Mass and feast at noon.

Guys cooking up the bacon

Eggs and gravy

Me with the finished product


Friday the New Men do their big dinner for themselves.

Saturday we have the New Men and Old Men shows which basically make fun of the College, faculty, old men, new men, and everything and anything else. It's hilarious. Sorry I cannot post pictures from that. :)

Sunday is our big Spaghetti Bowl that pits the New Men vs. the Old Men in a flag football game. The Old Men have a streak going and even though the New Men played well this year, picking off four passes, they still went down to defeat 36-33. They had a great comeback though, outscoring the Old Men in the second half 21-7.

National Anthem


Old Men on offense

New Men on offense

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. There are truly so many things to be thankful for.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy anniversary

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the one year anniversary of Bishop Soto's installation as the Ordinary of the Sacramento Diocese. It is also the fortieth anniversary of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, heretofore known as the "Novus Ordo Missae" or the "Mass of Paul VI," as opposed to the Extraordinary Form or the "Tridentine Mass." That last is something of a misnomer, for the Mass as it was codified by Pope St. Pius V (one of my favorite popes) had actually existed for many centuries before the Council of Trent.

To mark this occasion, the New York Times of all things published this op-ed from a traditionalist Catholic commenting on Pope Benedict's desire to restore a greater sense of the transcendent and the holy to the Mass. The Ordinary Form isn't going anywhere, but it is the Holy Father's wish that through greater availability of the Extraordinary Form, the two forms of the one Rite will influence each other. It drives me crazy when people say that the priest "turns his back on the people" when he offers the Mass ad orientem. What is actually happening is the priest and the people are facing the Lord together.

Friends of mine who are old enough to remember the pre-conciliar Church say that while the priest offered the Mass, the people were in a sort of spiritual free for all in the pews. Some followed along in their missals, some said the Rosary, some just stared off into space, or slept. Although the words have been much abused, I agree that there ought to be "full, conscious, and active participation" by the people (what that entails exactly is a long discussion all by itself.) What I do not and cannot agree with is the once prevalent belief that Vatican II represented a rupture and repudiation of the Catholic past; that was taken for granted and the argument was whether that was a good or a bad thing.

I believe the Holy Spirit gives us the popes we need (and once in a while the popes we deserve.) Our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, held the line on moral issues when there was enormous pressure to change the Church's teachings on everything from women's ordination, to contraception, to homosexual activities. John Paul, in an inspired bit of wisdom, spread his hands and said people were attributing to the Pope far more power than he actually possessed. Pope Benedict XVI is transcending the squabbles of the past by rejecting their major premise: Vatican II was not a rupture with the past. The Church was not born in 1965. We must reject the hermeneutic or rupture for the hermeneutic of continuity, as Benedict said back in December of 2005 to the Curia.

It's an exciting time to be a seminarian and to be a Catholic!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Practice Homily

This is supposed to be a homily to high schoolers but I think it has wide application. This is like my 6th practice homily. Only 20 more to go! :)

Readings from Thursday of the 33rd week of Ordinary time.

We hear in the Gospel today that Jesus is weeping. He is weeping over Jerusalem. We can find that hard to believe. We imagine God as this stern fellow or a man demanding justice for sin. But to see him expressing emotions, and especially one of sorrow, comes to us as a shock. And why is he weeping? Just before this scene, he had entered Jerusalem to crowds of followers so happy to see him and celebrating him as the promised savior of Israel. But he knows what is to happen next. He will suffer and he will die. The party is over. He is truly weeping because he came to remind his people of who they were yet ultimately they did not accept him or his message. They had forgotten that they were God's chosen ones and God's only son could not wake them from their slumber.

And Jesus continues to weep today. The Jews are not the only ones who have forgotten who they are. So have we. We have a certain amnesia. I don't mean we've forgotten the last week of our lives or the last 15 years of your life, but I mean who we were meant to be. Our identity.

We stand out from every other living creature on the earth. We have to sew together clothing and cover ourselves. We have to fashion houses and furniture. We have to do so much differently from every other animal. We are almost like strangers on this earth. But this is a sign. It is a sign that you and I, all of us, were made by God as the high point of creation, above all other things, in his very image, for his very glory. And our identity, who we were and are still meant to be, can be discovered only in God.

With that, we look around the world today, we realize something is not working right. The poor, the hungry, the marginalized, not just materially but spiritually, they are everywhere, even in our own streets, often in our own families. If God had this great plan in mind for all of us, someone or some people really screwed up. What do we see? We live in a culture that emphasizes, promotes, even worships independence, self-sufficiency, pride, ultimately the self. We worship the self. Our entire culture, from the tv set to the computer worships before us. We work to make everything as convenient as possible. For us. We indulge in every kind of pleasure because it suits us. Our neighbor is forgotten.

We have settled for ourselves. We have settled for self-satisfaction. But we are called to self-gift. This is our identity. We are called to give ourselves away. The ultimate question man asks, who am I, is only answered in Christ. It is answered with the gift of yourself.

The life Christ led was one of gift. From his descending from heaven to live among us, to his preaching, his teaching, his suffering, death, and resurrection, all for us. He offered his complete life. And we are called to that same task. This is our identity. We are called to be gifts of ourselves. It will ultimately mean finding ways to love others through a sacrifice of our time, energy, and money. It will mean entering into people's lives and simply being present for others. And we will each discover how to do that in unique ways, whether you are called to spend more time with family, maybe lonely grandparents or friends that are alone or depressed. But the core of it is this self-gift. Our great joy here on earth is to discover how we are each called to this self-gift. Jesus calls out to each one of us today, reminding us of what we have forgotten, of our great vocation to give of ourselves. Let us not disappoint but answer his call, knowing that our response will fulfill the deep desire of our hearts to give of ourselves until the very last breathe.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to all

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.

That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

- George Washington

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Dangerous Prayer

One of my brother seminarians on my hall was telling his vocation story and he said the following: "And then I said that dangerous prayer that we all know about..."

What's that dangerous prayer?

It's probably the one Mary said much of her life.

"Lord, show me your will and I will follow you always."

You say that prayer and you entrust God with everything. And He takes you on the craziest ride of your life.

Almost every seminarian and religious I have ever met has had some sort of experience like this. It is the letting go and letting God lead. It is no longer saying what do I want with my life but rather what does God want me to do with my life. It is that reorientation.

And the moment that occurs, the moment that begins, is really the true beginning to our lives. Because then God can really get inside us and lead us where He knows we are called to go. And we can rejoice that we are fulfilling the deepest desire of our hearts and God's. It's good stuff. :)


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Living Alone in a Rectory

We just had a conference on living alone in a parish. It is a reality that many parish priests face today and tomorrows future parish priests will face on a regular basis. In Sacramento, it's a fact of life. I have already spent time in two rectories where the priest was the only one there.

So what do you do?

We had four priests who combined have probably served as priests for over 130 years give us some advice and suggestions.

Among other things, find and keep friends of all sorts. Priests, laity, family. They are all essential. Keep yourself connected to the diocese and the events. Plug yourself into a priestly support group. Have a priest mentor early on. Catch yourself if you are falling into addictive behaviors or self-isolating ones. Listen to your superiors. There is definitely something to be said for trusting your bishop and his appointed representatives.

They also made an interesting note. As you get settled into priestly life, you get used to time alone. But it is important to realize what this time alone is like for you. It should be a chance for solitude and not loneliness. It should be a chance to enjoy the quiet and rest in the loving arms of the Father. Not a moment where depression hits and we try to fill our thoughts with things that will distract us.

photo by cuellar

Anyways, it was nice and refreshing. I always like hearing what it's like out on the front. You can get isolated from it all, especially in Rome.


Friday, November 20, 2009

S-E-M-I-N-A-R-Y Music Video

Jeremy Santos asked me to post this on the blog.

Another look at Seminary life. Enjoy. =)

Via the Youtube Description:

S-E-M-I-N-A-R-Y Music Video
Jeremy Santos
Featuring James Balajadia
Directed by Patrick Arguelles
We made this rap song for the 2009 seminary talent show. The song covers the history of the seminary, four pillars of formation, places where people are from, and challenges you to think about your vocation and where God is calling you to be! We all have a vocation, trust in God and He will guide your way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the annual Bishop's Conference in Baltimore

Here is the text of Francis Cardinal George's opening address, which has many good insights on the life of a priest. Rocco is calling this afternoon's session "[Bishop Donald] Trautman's Last Stand," because it really looks like it will be the end of an era. I, for one, am greatly looking forward to the new English translation of the Roman Missal. If this last block of translations doesn't get sent to the gibbet, it should be coming to a parish near you next year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

4th Central Hall

Well I thought it was about time for a random post.

Here at the NAC we all live on different halls. Each floor has a hospital wing (because it looks out over the hospital next door), a central wing (because it connects the two other wings), and the convent wing (because it looks out over the convent). We have about three floors of this so our house is divided into about 9 halls. We have a nice rivalry between halls that culminates with our Christmas decorating contest this December.

But I thought I would give you a very small glimpse onto my hall. We are one of the smaller halls and tend to be a bit more monastic in outlook, that is quiet and early sleepers.

This is our lounge. It's usually stirring very early in the morning with a pot of coffee.

You can find this one on a few of our doors. There are some seminarians known to invade the lounges of other halls in search of food. We try to keep that to a minimum around here.

It helps that we have a scorpion killer on our hall...

We also have a number of safety precautions in case of emergency.

Yes, spitting is a problem around here.

And a couple of views from my door.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Priest Video

Opus Dei is putting out a series of videos on the priesthood in this Year of the Priest. Here is number four.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Falling Asleep

I have to admit. I have a bit of a problem. But I will start with a story to illustrate my point.

A priest told me about a group of cloistered sisters. One of the sisters worked as an extern, meaning she was the contact between the sisters and the outside world. But she nevertheless had a lot of free time so she would find herself in the main chapel with all the people who would wander in and out to pray or look around. The priest told me that so often when he would come into to celebrate Mass for the sisters, he would find her sound asleep before the Blessed Sacrament. But you knew she was so holy. Her face just beamed holiness. Yet there she would be, asleep before the Blessed Sacrament.

Now perhaps you know my problem. I have been known to fall asleep during my holy hour. Maybe I should say I have a reputation.

When I was with the Missionaries of Charity in Milan, it was hot. In the afternoons after pranzo we would do a holy hour. Now I was good at resting after pranzo so that I was ready for this holy hour but one day I was just too tired and it was too hot. As we were praying the rosary I just kind of knocked out. Head back, leaned over to the side, dead asleep. I woke up somewhere after the rosary. The funny part came as we were leaving chapel and one of the sisters turned to me and said, Buona Notte, aka Good Night!

photo by mimk

But just the other day I was praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the Angelicum as I was assigned for an hour of exposition. And of course, being that it was right after pranzo, I was out like a light. The sad thing is it just happens. I do not even really remember waking up or going to sleep. I just tend to realize the hour has gone so quickly. As a returned to class that afternoon, two sisters looked over at me and just smiled. They knew! There I was konked out again.

Why am I writing about this? Good question. Partly for humor, partly a reality check. I am not advocating sleep during prayer but do not let it get you down. Our whole life is a work in progress. So is that darn holy hour. But it's a good place to continue to work and grow.

But I encourage you to find that time of prayer during the day. In the seminary it's almost assumed everyone does one. Every religious order does. So if you are not, why not start today, even if that means a holy half hour or a holy 15. It's a real chance to prepare for seminary if that might just be your direction in life.

And if it is any consolation, St. Therese would often fall asleep while at prayer and said that God loves her just has much as she does when she is asleep. And it has been added, sometimes children are in fact more lovable when they are sleep. :)


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Priest as Fashion Designer

I keep hearing stories about all kinds of priests who do all sorts of things. There was the former professional soccer player now in the seminary. There is a priest who was exceptionally good at poker and participated in a tournament with the approval of his bishop and donated all his winnings to his parish. And now there is a priest on the East Coast who designs clothing with material made in Guatemala and sewn in New York City. He is able to provide good wages for all involved. Talk about the ways in which God can call you to serve. Check it out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Seminarian.

One of the Monk's at Mount Angel recently wrote an article for the Catholic Sentinel, the Archdiocese of Portland's Official Newspaper. As Abbot Peter explains, a short article cannot take the place of visiting our hilltop, but nonetheless it should a provide a small taste for those interested in knowing what a seminarian actually does.

Oh and look at who earned themselves spots on the front page of the newspaper - three Solano Deanery guys, two that are studying for our Diocese [FYI, I am just to the left of JR there... if anyone cares].

Manolito Jaldon, Jr., Jeremy Santos, Carmelite Br. Raymond Bueno and Patrick Arguelles.

Day in the life of a seminarian: a look at Mount Angel life
Occasionally in the course of the school year, Mount Angel Seminary hosts young men who are interested in the seminary. They are invited to join the seminarians in their daily life because it’s the best way to see what seminary life is all about.

Reading a short article describing a day in the life of the seminarian runs a poor second to such an experience, but it might give the reader some idea of what seminary life is like.

The first challenge of the day is getting up.

Unlike seminaries of 40 or 50 years ago, there are no wake-up bells to rouse everyone out of bed. Each man is on his own. Some get up quite early, in time to pray and exercise and eat breakfast at 6:45 a.m. Others cut it significantly closer to the 7:30 a.m. time for morning prayer that is followed by Mass in the seminary chapel.

The school day begins at 9 a.m. The morning is taken up with three 50-minute class periods, punctuated with 10-minute breaks between classes.

At present, most courses are taught in Annunciation, the new class and administrative building on the southwest side of the hill. In fact, now that we have the building, we wonder how the seminary ever managed without it for almost 120 years.

Finally it’s time for lunch, and by 11:45 a.m. the cafeteria becomes the hub of the seminary’s activity.

Lunch can be anything from a simple salad, to soup and sandwich, to quite a hearty meal selected from the several entrees offered each day.

Not many linger over lunch because classes resume again at 1 p.m. As in the morning, so in the afternoon there are generally three class periods of 50-minutes each.

Of course, the day is taken up with other things beside classes and study. Each seminarian must find time to meet bi-weekly with his spiritual director, as well as his formation director.

He is also strongly encouraged to find time to exercise regularly and to devote time each day for private prayer and visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

The afternoon is soon gone and before he knows it, it is 5:30 p.m. and time for evening prayer in the seminary chapel.

Supper follows immediately afterwards though some remain in the chapel to pray the rosary. Not only do they have the satisfaction of receiving merit for their good deed, but also when they do get to the cafeteria, the long line of people waiting to be served has disappeared.

Evenings are generally free for studying except for Mondays when activities are scheduled, such as: a President Rector’s conference, a Jesus Caritas meeting, or an Evening of Silence. In addition, many seminarians have pastoral ministry one night a week, usually on Thursday. If he is free, the seminarian uses his evenings for study or exercise, or usually both. But by 10:30 p.m. lights in the rooms begin going off one by one, as everyone settles down for a night’s sleep and the arrival of another day.

The writer, Abbot Peter Eberle, is director of human formation at Mount Angel Seminary.

--- Catholic Sentinel, 10/22/09

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Difficult Time

Our former Director of Spiritual Formation at the NAC, Fr. Richard Tomasek, recently received news he had cancer on his heart that does not allow for surgery, radiation, chemo, or any other kind of treatment. The news was shocking. He just updated us on his status and I have posted part of that letter below. It was really striking for me. A wakeup call really. This priest is a holy man and a faithful servant of God. He is a great model of a priest, pastor, friend. He has so much left to do. Why would God take him now? I do not have an answer to that question.

I often get the idea that I will be a priest till I am 75 and then God will take me right after I celebrate Mass one day. But we never know when God may perhaps be calling us home. We do not know the work He wants us to do. 50 years of priesthood or just 5. It is all His.

I have been praying for his healing through the intercession of Servant of God John Paul II. Feel free to join me.

"You are probably interested in how I've been handling this whole thing spiritually. Well, as many of you know, I'm a follower of deCaussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence. I know that "not a single sparrow falls from the sky without our Father permitting it" and that "every hair on our head is numbered." Of course, there is nothing to drive home such faith convictions like actually facing death. One has fears, feels isolation, questions faith (like, Is God and the resurrection all true or just a palliative or poetry?) I found myself at the edge of the busy world looking in at all the people going about their daily lives, planning for a future, etc. I felt alone there, detaching now from it all, and I saw more poignantly how beautiful and precious human life is as well as how little we appreciate it and use it well. I was full of gratitude for life, both mine and humanity's, and at the same time I was in greater grieving over the sin and violence and thoughtlessness and waste that was going on. Lord, please wake them up! So I was exercising my faith muscles a lot, even as my bodily muscles were not getting much workout. The Lord has given me the grace of accepting an early death (usually sarcoma patients have 1-3 years to live) and going Home earlier than expected. He has assured me that from Heaven I will be able to serve the brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ as much or more than when I was on earth. On the other hand, since there is so much more I'd like to do for the Lord and His Body in this life, I am asking for more years of health to do it--providing it is within His holy, perfect and loving will. There are so many graces of trust and intimacy with God and of gratitude and zeal that He has poured out into my heart. I am more alive than ever. Whether in the body out of it, I will continue to love and serve you as you engage in your own journeys of priestly service. May we joyfully meet again either in this life or in the Next."


Friday, October 30, 2009


Michael Baricuatro, Michael Estaris, and Mauricio Hurtado are being ordained deacons this Saturday with other seminarians from St. Patrick's Seminary. I've known these men for about 3 years now and know they will be good and faithful transitional deacons. Congratulations brothers!

Please keep them in your prayers!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I have not posted anything a bit personal recently so here goes. This past week we've started our classes again and for once, I have actually started prioritizing my life. Prayer is actually coming first. Sleep second. Studying third. And random laziness is a far back fourth. Life is actually making sense.

I have also had a lot of time to reflect about celibacy. A lot of what I am going to say flows from my retreat a few weeks ago and continuing reflection in these past couple weeks. I realized recently I was still working on an essential part of my priestly identity, that is, not being single but celibate. I found I was still thinking at times as though I were a single man and not someone preparing for lifelong celibacy. But that is exactly what I am doing! So it was a bit of a shock to realize this and decide what steps to take to begin this transformation towards seeing myself as taken or as a friend told me a while back, "You're married!"

photo by thecaucas

But what did my friend mean by marriage? Obviously I do not marry in the traditional sense of the word or what modern society terms marriage. But I do have a spouse. And this is my key to growing in my celibate identity.

Now I know what you might be thinking. You don't have a spouse! Well that's what a patient at the hospital recently told me when he asked for my defense of celibacy and I told him I have a spouse. Of course I do! I have the Church. And she is a great spouse. He replied that this was just an idea in my head. This could not be my spouse.

The funny thing is how wrong he is. If the Church is not my spouse in my heart, and just an idea in my head, there is no way this crazy adventure is going to last. No way. I could not make it without a spouse. We all desire to make a gift of ourselves. What would I be doing with my life? I could not last in the priesthood.

But how is the Church my spouse? She is the one to whom I give my time, energy, and very life. I will sacrifice everything for her good. I will love her forever. And I will care for her children, the people of God. Sounds very spousal to me - well if I hold up my end of the bargain.

I have learned that to really take on this idea of the Church as my spouse comes as I begin to realize what my spouse looks like. Part of this is imagining the sacraments I will celebrate with the people of God and part of it is praying for my future spouse the Church each and every day.

It was almost odd talking to this patient because I ended by telling him I am living my relationship with my spouse even now, by being at his side. I do not know if he quite understood but for me it is something incredibly amazing and true.

I have and continue to pray for the grace to grow in my priestly identity as a celibate and for the grace to love my spouse the Church more and more. Thankfully, God in charge with this one so I am not too worried.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Questions from the Audience - How can I Know-know that I am called?

I had an interesting email exchange that I thought I would post on here. I do not know how helpful it is but I like the questions that are raised.

Here is part of the email I received:

I think another question I had was exactly how did you KNOW-KNOW God wanted you to become a priest? I just cant picture ever really KNOWING for sure there's something that God wants to tell me.

And I can't help feeling like it's all maybe in vain. And you might say "You can't expect Him to just be a booming voice in the clouds telling me what to do." But then I guess my main question is "What then CAN I expect?"

And it's just really hard for me to grasp that like if I don't know what God's calling me to do then how am I EVER going to know I'm "doing it right?" How am I EVER going to know I'm living my life and doing the job I'm supposed to be doing?

And if I don't know what He wants me to do, and I end up doing something I'm not called to do, would I...know? And would I realize that I'm not happy? Or would I think that I'm happy but actually not really be happy?

Or would I end up doing it even if I feel like I don't know what He wants me to do? I'm so confused.

photo by marcobellucci

This is part of my response:

These are tough questions. There is no "know-know". But there is definitely a strong sense that we are called. After I broke up with my girlfriend, I struggled for about two weeks after I told her, praying and crying, going back and forth, wanting to call her and tell her it was all a joke. But every night I kept praying. I trusted even though I didn't know why. Then one day this peace came over me. And I realized I had made the right decision. It was a lasting peace – a peace that still rests in my heart.

Where there is peace is where God is calling you. If you go out and do med school and have peace. Well there you go. But if you go out and go to law school and find yourself restless and anxious, well that's not where you are supposed to be.

That is why you should go out and find different internships, volunteer opportunities, work, and take different classes to figure out what draws you. I did all kinds of random stuff, working with disadvantaged kids, foster kids, homeless, migrants, driving a bus, working in food service, doing leadership and so on.

Just keep stretching out and keep your heart open to the interior movements of the spirit. Not on a superficial level of money, prestige, or power, but what draws you within, as something that could be fulfilling and what God asks of you. And you will know. If you continue in prayer and you are in touch with He who is, you'll know when you're happy with what your doing or dissatisfied.

This may not sound consoling but trust. He who calls us doesn't want to make it so blatant. Otherwise where is the adventure, where is the struggle, where is the joy in discovering that God has been calling you to this all your life? It is through this whole journey, of discovering yourself and your relationship with God and how you are called to impact the world that prepares you for the greatest joy of all, heaven.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Priest Needs Friends

A seminarian I know was introduced to a fellow classmate at his Italian language school and after hearing that he was a seminarian, asked, "Molested any children recently?" Obviously the man had a distaste, maybe even hatred towards Catholicism and the sex abuse scandal made it all that much easier to hate. Yet it is interesting to hear people blame things like the sex abuse scandal or alcoholic priests on celibacy. Celibacy is supposedly so unnatural, so happiness destroying, it drives priests to sexually abuse children and abuse alcohol.

One thing you quickly learn in the seminary is how much focus and attention is paid to living a healthy celibate life. It isn't easy . Neither is the married life. But through the grace of God and good formation it is not only possible, but it is life giving and soul-saving powerful.

But back to the subject at hand, are priests, because they are celibate oppressing their own sexuality and living a mediocre existence? If you trust studies, you will have to agree that the Catholic priesthood has one of the highest rates of satisfaction among occupations. Priests love their lives. But don't they get lonely or depressed from being celibate? Yes and no - not if they follow the wisdom of most priests who have a family of relatives as well as many families and friends they have met along the way. Further, every priest should be in a support group of priest that meet once a month as well as develop fraternal connections with the entire presbyterate of the diocese. But a certain loneliness is a part of everyone's life, even a priest. A man with a huge family can still find himself alone. And some of that aloneness is good because we share it with Christ. Priests who fall into the bad habits are like people in any occupations, they often isolate themselves. This is always a first step towards bad news since man is made for relationship, not isolation.

As well, a result of celibacy is the ability to give oneself 100% to ministry, not working 9-5 but 24/7. The priest enters into the lives of his people at any moment and acts as the Christ in the flesh. No wonder job satisfaction is so high! You are truly doing things that matter.

Don't think celibacy is too much because you will find yourself alone. Just the opposite. You will find yourself at the center of the greatest family you have ever known.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"I just don't get it. I mean, you're such a smart guy..."

My high school reunion went splendidly. The class of 99 for Oak Ridge High had almost 400 students but less than 100 came. Imagine their surprise when I arrived in a Roman collar. Most of my closest friends from those days declined to attend, but nonetheless I still met people with whom I attended grade school up through high school. The night before then I hung out with some old friends I used to work with just before entering the seminary. An increasingly common phenomenon - particularly when I wear clerics or the cassock in public - is people will express to me an interest in Catholicism and in joining the Church. God works in mysterious ways indeed!

It works the opposite way too; if you wish to be a priest, you cannot be afraid of confrontations, especially today. Some classmates wished to interrogate me on the Church's stance on same-sex "marriage." Not that I'm complaining; I want people to approach me with these questions. Looking at it from anything other than man-the-measure-of-everything secular materialism is a huge philosophical dislocation for most people these days. One old friend whom I hadn't seen in many years was getting increasingly furious with me as our conversation went on. "How DARE the Church tell anyone what to do, how does it affect you, why are you so hateful, etc.," as he poked his finger on my chest. At one point we discussed the nature of truth and how one can have sure knowledge of truth. I said, "Let's take this chair. If I say the chair is here, and you say the chair is not there, we cannot both be right, can we?" He said, "That's a bad analogy and it's a trap and I won't fall for it!"

We actually agreed more than we disagreed. He conceded, for example, that right and wrong are not determined by human wishes, and that we are social creatures by nature. My favorite part of the night was when someone else said to me, "Now Kevin, I know you're a smart guy and all but... how on earth did you ever decide to become Catholic? How can you know that it's TRUE?!" That's really the crisis of the modern mind, isn't it? We've deconstructed, disestablished, and disowned everything except the fulfillment of our own subjective desires. But like St. Augustine, we find ourselves restless even in the midst of so much material plenty. We've been told that the only absolute truth is there is no absolute truth, but everyone knows, even if it's only at a subconscious level, that this is a contradiction. The hunger for truth is still there. St. Augustine had the skeptics number 1600 years ago: there may be any number of "truths" out there but they cannot all be right. Some people say it's the search that is more meaningful. To be sure there is some truth in that: it's far better to be searching for the truth than to be indifferent to it. But a search for something that cannot be attained leads to despair instead of joy. Think about your own life. Who has always been happier and inspired more devotion: the man who knows the truth and lives it, or the caustic cynic who never believes in anyone or anything? "But how do you know what is the truth?" The truth is not a thing but a Person: Jesus Christ. As Cardinal Newman said, there is more than enough evidence for Christianity to be worthy of a firm conviction. But since Descartes, we now subject everything to what I think is a most unreasonable doubt.

It's funny: we have blogs, blackberries, youtube, facebook, twitter, and any number of communications devices. But I wonder how much we really communicate with each other anymore. I didn't realize how much I missed all of them until that night. I think I had more pictures taken with classmates on Saturday night than in all four years of high school put together! And I will pray earnestly for their conversions. If my seminary years are uninterrupted, by the time our twentieth reunion arrives I will have only been a priest for four years :p

Friday, October 16, 2009

All growed up

Tomorrow is my ten year high school reunion. Very few of them know what I'm doing now so I'm going to show up in a Roman collar and surprise them :) Opinions are mixed on the clerical suit among seminarians. Some of them will not wear it at all outside the seminary building unless it's to an official Church event. They say they're not priests, and that's that. I disagree. Seminarians in Theology and Pre-Theology are permitted to wear clerics and I think wearing the clerics is an important witness today. The feedback I get from lay people is overwhelmingly positive; they tell me it's inspiring to see young men willing to devote themselves to the Church as future priests. Some pious church ladies I know always sound slightly disappointed when they greet me when I'm not in clerics. This year my field education assignment is at Villa Sienna Retirement Home in Mountainview. The staff there requested that Ray and I (he's my classmate and my partner for field ed) wear our clerics whenever we go over there because the old folks just love seeing young seminarians like that. Complete strangers have actually come up to me to ask me questions about the faith and the Church. Fr. Chuck Kelly, our vocations director, once told me that he happened to be wearing clerics while at a gas station. A man came up to him and asked to make a confession. It had been twenty years since his last! If people stop to make conversation, it's a simple matter to let them know you're a seminarian and not a priest yet. The joke I like to make is, "I'm not a priest yet, so if you tell me anything I can't absolve you and I can tell whomever I please." Nonetheless, I think that external signs of inward convictions and spiritual realities are very important today.

Examination of Conscience

I just found an examination of conscience for priests based on the 8 capital vices. It's worth a look. Obviously some of the reflections might not apply in regards to sacramental duties but most of it is well worth your time. Here's the link.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vocation Boom

Our Vocation's Director recently sent us a link to It's a website that's providing resources and information for those discerning a call to the priesthood. Check it out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

30 New Transitional Deacons for the Church in the USA

It's a good day. If you are looking for some good news, here it is. Today Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis ordained 30 men to the diaconate at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter. They, along with 10 or so of their brothers who were already ordained deacons, will serve our community as transitional deacons this year before receiving the ordination to priesthood in the Spring.

Pictures below.

This is a picture from the prayer vigil the night before the ordination.

So is this one.

These are the deacon candidates processing in.

A shot from the back. Actually, directly to the right of the photo is the papal altar and the tomb of St. Peter.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Read the rest of "Lepanto," by G.K. Chesterton

Until the 20th century, today's feast was known as "Our Lady of Victory." It's difficult to overstate how delirious with joy was the whole of Christendom at the Ottoman Turks' defeat; even Protestant nations like England celebrated the triumph of the Christian League, thanks to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Conferences All Week

We just finished a week of conferences on celibacy and priesthood. They were good but there is no way I could summarize all the stuff we covered. So I will just give you some memorable quotes. By the way, we are ordaining 30 men to the diaconate on Thursday. Keep them in your prayers. Pictures will be up soon enough.

To be celibate involves loving the community you serve. If you don't love them, you are not being faithful.

Don't be surprised that when you offer yourself to the Church she says yes.

You live in a glass house. (Meaning, everything you do is public, even what you eat)

photo by seier

One of the priests told the story of his bishop who had this woman constantly come up to him at different events where he would be celebrating Mass and ask to concelebrate. Each time he would politely explain that she could not. Later, at a USCCB meeting, he saw her outside protesting with some others over women's ordination and he went out and spoke with her. When he returned, the other bishops asked him what the heck he was doing talking to that crazy protester. He replied, "She may be crazy but she's my crazy."

You only love God as much as your least favorite neighbor or parishioner in this case.

Our hearts should be broken that love is not loved.

To live in the midst of the world
without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family,
yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering;
To penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds;
To go from men to God
and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men
to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity,
and a heart of bronze for Chastity;
To teach and to pardon,
console and bless always.
My God, what a life;
and it is yours,
O priest of Jesus Christ.

- Lacordaire


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Speaking of seminary life

Yesterday at St. Patrick's we had what is called a "Day of Recollection," in which classes are cancelled, we all attend one or two talks by one of the faculty members, and spend the rest of the day in prayer with time for confession and Eucharistic adoration. Our speaker this month was Fr. Howard Bleichner, a former rector of St. Patrick's who now teaches History of Philosophy to the Pre-Theology I men. His first talk yesterday was on the generational differences between priests. He described three types of priests: Fr. Finster, ordained in 1958; Fr. Pat (last name uknown) ordained in 1974; and Fr. Klein, ordained just a few years ago.

Fr. Finster grew up in a rich Catholic culture where it wasn't uncommon for men to enter high school seminaries when they were 13. Ordained at 25, Fr. Finster was always on time for Mass, never missed an appointment, never missed a communion call for those in the hospital, recited his breviary in Latin five times a day, and wore his clerics even on his day off. Was there another Finster beneath the priestly identity that had been formed by over twelve years of formation? No one knew, and frankly, hardly anyone - least of all Fr. Finster - was sure it even mattered. Fr. Pat - that's what he insisted everyone call him - went through three and a half years of seminary formation and a one semester internship in a parish. He wore jeans and sandals with a clerical shirt (collar always undone of course) because he thought of himself as just another one of the people.

Fr. Pat became Fr. Finster's curate (parochial vicar we would say today.) Fr. Finster was utterly appalled the first time he heard Fr. Pat greet the congregation with "Good morning." I can sympathize; after seeing a priest in chasabule and stole process down the aisle with a crucifix and book of the Gospels preceding him, it's like a huge "thunk" to hear a secular greeting like "Good morning" afterward. Fr. Pat would then ask how everyone was doing and for everyone to turn to their neighbor and say hello. "How about them Steelers? They're playing today so I'll try not to go too long," he said, and everyone laughed. Fr. Pat felt free to improvise as he went along if he felt this or that prayer was a little too formal or hard for the people to understand. He brought guitars and drums into the choir's instrumental repertoire. Although he never would have said so out loud, Fr. Pat looked forward to the retirement of Fr. Finster's generation, because then they could start the real work of remaking the Church according to the spirit of Vatican II. Four years after his ordination, Fr. Pat left the priesthood. Years later he would look back on it and speak of it in the same warm tones that middle-aged liberal suburban parents would speak of their hitch in the Peace Corps.

The Fr. Finsters of the world are dwindling every day as they go on to their eternal reward. The Fr. Pats are all retired or getting very close to it these days. That leaves Fr. Klein. Fr. Klein is difficult to pin down because more Fr. Kleins are entering the ranks of the presbyterate every year. He grew up with Fr. Pat, and grew to strongly dislike his improvisational, personal style. Fr. Klein wants everything in the liturgy done by the book. He expresses interest in everything that emphasizes a strong priestly identity, such as those cassocks with forty years worth of dust just hanging in closets throughout the diocese. He finds it difficult to understand why the Church in America seemingly lost so many popular devotions such as Eucharistic adoration, processions, the rosary, and all the rest. Some Fr. Kleins have unrealistic hopes of recreating the 1950's; some of them just want there to be more continuity with the Church's rich traditions.

If you're ever in a large gathering of priests, it doesn't take long to figure out who are the Fr. Finsters, Pats, and Kleins. Sometimes there is real tension between them, which is most unfortunate. The priesthood is supposed to be the greatest of all brotherhoods. Fr. Bleichner added one final piece to this puzzle: the Church needs more holy priests, not more jackasses. So ask our Lord for the former, and to save us from becoming the latter :p I will write more later.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Different Seminary Life

I always like a look into other Catholic seminaries and how they run the place.

There was a recent article on a seminary that is a whole lot different from any diocesan seminary. No, I am not talking about the FSSP seminary in Omaha but a Neocatechumenal Way seminary in Denver.

Here's a snippet.

"The seminarians' wallets are empty, except for driver's licenses and insurance cards. To buy clothes or anything else, they must ask their superiors for money -- an exercise in obedience and a reminder that material things aren't important.

They have virtually no time alone, on or off campus, and are required to travel in pairs, like Jesus' disciples. They live in a world without cell phones or personal computers, and their evenings end promptly at 10.

No Roman Catholic seminary is a resort, but few men who study for the priesthood endure the sort of rules that govern life at the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, which is in a leafy residential neighborhood in southeast Denver.

Redemptoris Mater is a new experiment in molding Catholic priests who are faithful to church teaching and authority, and zealous in their desire to lead other Catholics down that same road.

On one hand, the rules are a throwback to 50 years ago, when would-be priests led regimented existences apart from the rest of the world. But Redemptoris Mater men also teach the faith at parishes and spend two years on mission trips, knocking on doors looking for Catholics in Bronx housing projects or Minneapolis suburbs."

Here's the link for those who want to read more.

I remember thinking seminary would be something like this when I first thought about joining. But every seminary I have been to is much more worldly. We have a schedule and a ton of rules. Yet we are still very much in contact with culture, whether good or bad. Obviously there needs to be a healthy balance in every seminary. There needs to be a certain amount of structure, lest we become like a seminary of the 70s or 80s but not too much that we become like a seminary of the 50s. That's the beauty of seminary formation right now. We have kind of struck a balance and at least from my perspective, it's working. We are producing good, strong, and healthy priests ready to bring souls to Christ.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where are the Men?

This is my fourth and last post on the Missionaries of Charity in Milan.

One day I did something no man should ever attempt to do. Well he can, but be warned, it is energy sapping. The Missionaries of Charity have a house that serves as a residence for over 25 women, some with young children. I went with the sisters and all of their women and children on a big outing to visit the shrine of St. Gianna Molla.

This time with all these women got me thinking, where are all the men? I was happy to be there. Overjoyed in fact. When else do I get to play with all these little children? But these children need fathers. Where are they? For me it was a reality check on how grave is the crisis of true masculinity in our world today. These men, for whatever reason, are not in the lives of their children. They have checked out.

As seminarians or future husbands, we need to continually rediscover what it means to be a man today so we can pass this on to future generations. We need good men to be good men.

We need men who are willing to sacrifice, to give up their lives, and it is not easy. I have learned from these women that caring for children is anything but easy and the only way it works is with sacrifice and ultimately with the grace of God.

The text I found enlightening on all this is by Fr. Roger Landry. Actually the one I will post here is more an outline of a larger text.

But I think we to constantly be deepening our own understanding of what it means to be a man. We cannot fail. Too many lives depend on us being what God has called us to be.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Cutting Edge of Missionary Work

This is my 3rd of 4 postings on the Missionaries of Charity in Milan.

After being in China for 7 weeks with the Maryknoll, I thought I had seen the missions. But my time spent in Milan has been the missions of a different sort.

Missionaries of Charity are on the cutting edge of missionary work. I guess for some reason I never quite saw them in that way. I saw them as providing charity all over the world, often in places with few if any Catholics. Yet there mission is not simply charity, not simply social workers, but missionaries in the true sense. Everywhere they go they seek to share their greatest joy, a living and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are missionaries and they are working so much to save souls for Christ.

Part of the way I discovered the role of the Missionaries of Charity in true mission work was simply working with them in Milan. You would think a place like Italy would have no need for missionaries because it is ubber-Catholic but the reality is far from it. And here too there is great poverty. Not so much poverty of material means but a poverty of the presence of God. As Mother Teresa said:

"There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God."

photo by jenmaiser

I think the Missionaries have found in Milan a place hungering for the love of God and they are indeed sharing it. And they do not work simply with the poor, homeless, and hungry, but also with each volunteer who walks in the door. I have met many random Italians working by my side and hearing how much they love encountering God in the poor in the spirit of Mother Teresa. It draws them.

One of the sisters told me that Mother used to say, "We must go everywhere the priest cannot go." And so it seems they do. They meet the poor in the streets and those ordinary people longing to do something more. They meet all of them and point them directly to Christ.

There is a song they sing during one of their prayer periods which goes as follows:

Sweet Lord, Thy thirst for souls
I satiate, with my burning thirst all for Thee.
My chalice will be filled with love,
sacrifices made all for Thee.
Evermore, I will quench Thy thirst Lord.
Evermore, I will quench Thy thirst, Lord,
For souls,
In union with Mary our Queen
I will quench Thy thirst.

The words ring deep. They speak of the thirst of Jesus for souls and our desire to satiate that thirst. There is little need for explanation.

One of the sisters told me how when Russia finally invited Missionaries of Charity to come, she sent 5 groups and they were in the hospitals. They had no work to do and they could not leave the hospitals. Eventually, they started cleaning the toilets and halls. Mother came and encouraged them saying, "This may not be the exact work we want to do but even here we are witnessing and that is enough." What an image of the missions, cleaning toilets in a Russian hospital. But who knows where God will take you from there. They eventually were able to start serving the people of Russia in other ways.

photo by jimg944

I am no Missionary of Charity and I doubt I could ever be. But I realize that their zeal for missions should really find an outlet in my own work. One of the ideas that I think is most available for seminarians as future priests is to take the list of registered families in a parish and find out which ones do not attend Mass regularly or at all. Then simply start visiting one house at a time, dropping in just to introduce yourself as the parish priest, talking about upcoming events in the parish, and perhaps asking for any prayer requests. I always hear summer is the slowtime in a parish so why not use an hour a day and drop by a few homes. Perhaps this is even already being done in some places.

Ultimately, I think we need to discover new ways to evangelize, to satiate the thirst of Christ, to bring Catholics home. We need new energy and new creativity. That is our vocation. That is our salvation.