Thursday, April 30, 2009

For the Apostleship of Prayer

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2009 ( Benedict XVI will be praying in May that the faithful become responsible promoters of vocations.

The Apostleship of Prayer announced this general intention chosen by the Pope: "That the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations."

The Holy Father also chooses an apostolic intention for each month. In May he will pray: "That the recently founded Catholic Churches, grateful to the Lord for the gift of faith, may be ready to share in the universal mission of the Church, offering their availability to preach the Gospel throughout the world."

Vocations begin at home. If any of you dear readers have children, have you ever encouraged them to consider a priestly or religious vocation? How would you react if one of your children said to you that they wanted to be a priest or religious? In your charity, please take a moment to say an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the Holy Father's general intention for the month of May. Now, off to Vespers and then my last paper of the semester is calling me. Eight pages? No sweat.

Tu es Petrus, et super ficabo Ecclesiam meam

Deus, qui ad conterendos Ecclesiae tuae hostes, et ad divinum cultum reparandum, beatum Pium Pontificem maximum eligere dignatus es: fac nos ipsius defendi praesidiis, et ita tuis inhaerere obsequiis: ut, omnium hostium superatis insidiis, perpetua pace laetemur. Per Dominum nostrum...

O God, who for the overthrow of the enemies of Thy Church and for the restoration of divine worship didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Pius as supreme Pontiff: grant that we may be defended by his patronage and so cleave to Thy service, that overcoming all the wiles of our enemies, we may rejoice in perpetual peace. Through our Lord...

Today is the feast of Pope St. Pius V. Born Antonio Ghislieri, the future pope was a poor shepherd boy who from the start had a powerful devotion to Our Lady. He felt a desire to be a priest but his poor family could not afford to pay for his studies. Two Dominican friars happened upon him one day and they were impressed by his obvious piety. They invited him to come with them and try his vocation with their order. Ghislieri took the religious name Michael after the Archangel to whom he was also strongly devoted. He was a real prodigy in his studies and was allowed to take the habit at 16. By 20 he was a professor of philosophy for his Dominican province, and he was ordained a priest at 24 in 1528.

He was elected Prior four times and would have preferred to turn down his election each time if it were not the manifest will of God. In 1542 he was appointed to the Roman Inquisition (to be distinguished from the Spanish Inquisition.) Ghislieri wasn't the least bit shy about excommunicating or imprisoning heretics during the height of the Protestant Reformation. "Nothing can be too severe," he said, "for those who attempt to hinder the ministers of religion in their rightful duties by means of the civil power." Despite his frequent use of his juridical powers to punish, no Inquisitor was more gentle and charitable with repentant heretics. He was soon elevated to bishop and then cardinal.

After the death of Pope Pius IV, the cardinals as one body marched to Cardinal Ghislieri's cell. Knowing their intention, he made clear his refusal. Forcing their way into his room and virtually carrying him on their shoulders, the cardinals hauled Ghislieri out to the Chapel. One by one each cardinal said, "I, Cardinal so-and-so, choose you Cardinale Alessandrino [as he was then known] to be our Holy Father." When they had finished, at first the cardinal remained silent. The Cardinal-Dean asked him if he accepted and he finally responded, "Mi contento su."

Pope St. Pius V was only pope for six years, from 1566 to 1572, but the stamp of his papacy remained on the Church for the next four hundred years. His reform of the Roman missal still exists today, now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, along with minor revisions made by subsequent pontiffs, the most recent being Bl. John XXIII. He set out to vigorously enact the other reforms mandated by the Council of Trent including a new breviary and a new catechism. As a temporal ruler, Pius organized the Christian forces which triumphed against the Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, one of the greatest and most lopsided naval battles in history. Pius attributed the victory to the intercession of Our Lady through the Rosary he had asked all of Christendom to recite together; October 7, until recently, was known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories.

The Holy Spirit always ensures we get the pope we need (and occasionally the pope we deserve.) Our Lord raised up Pope St. Pius V to reform and strengthen the Church from within against heresy, and from without against the Turkish threat. Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's slowing down

It's slowing down on the blog I mean. This week will be the last week of classes at St. Patrick's followed by finals week. So you can imagine it's busy around here! Despite the usual stresses that come with finishing papers and studying for final exams, it's important to still make time for your prayer life. A man can have all of the natural talents in the world - a genius level intellect, a photographic memory, an irresistible personal magnetism, charismatic speaking powers - but still wash out of the seminary or get burned out in the priesthood if he doesn't make time for prayer. Whatever your state in life dear reader, whether you are currently married or considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, don't give in to that temptation to put off your prayers because of some temporal business. If you get into the habit of putting them off every time any little thing comes up, it won't be long before you stop altogether. And don't give us that "My work is my prayer" stuff. Remember the Benedictine motto: Work and pray. They are two separate things.

I've managed to finish The Soul of the Apostolate which says everything I've just written much more eloquently and spiritually. The author penned it specifically for those hard working souls who are prone to discount the spiritual life in favor of their apostolic labors - for the Marthas among us. All of the good works that you do should be the result of an overflowing from your prayer life. Don't be a flowing river; be a reservoir of grace, as St. Bernard said. What that means is, whatever it is you do in life, always replenish your interior life through regular prayer.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Visitors to Rome

Happy Easter! It's still Easter season...

This past Holy Week I had a couple groups of friends in town. I was a joyful time and a struggle as well. Having visitors is no vacation! :)

But nevertheless, this Easter Vigil made me realize something. One group of visitors which I took to the Easter Vigil were friends I had not seen since before I entered the seminary. See, I lived with these people for a year in a volunteer group before entering the seminary, and we spread out across the country as soon as the year was complete. But coming together again, I simply marveled at that way in which God so forcefully impacted my life. How could I have possibly known that a few years after my time volunteering, I would be in Rome on Easter Vigil with these friends? Who would have thunk it? Not me - heck I did not even want to see Rome ever again (I had a bad experience the first time).

Another point that hit me was talking to a young man in line for the Easter Vigil about his own desire to become a priest and my own joy and heartfelt prayer for him to courageously say yes to his vocation. I know these experiences are only because God wants me to realize He's in charge and there really is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I find immense peace in it. God continues to amaze me. This Holy Week as been an amazing opportunity for me to recall His goodness and the reality that the priesthood is a giving over to God and in my own words, holding on for the ride. Pope Benedict during the Chrism Mass in Rome, quoted the following verse and said:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:17ff.) To consecrate something or someone means, therefore, to give that thing or person to God as his property, to take it out of the context of what is ours and to insert it in his milieu, so that it no longer belongs to our affairs, but is totally of God. Consecration is thus a taking away from the world and a giving over to the living God. The thing or person no longer belongs to us, or even to itself, but is immersed in God. Such a giving up of something in order to give it over to God, we also call a sacrifice: this thing will no longer be my property, but his property. In the Old Testament, the giving over of a person to God, his “sanctification”, is identified with priestly ordination, and this also defines the essence of the priesthood: it is a transfer of ownership, a being taken out of the world and given to God. We can now see the two directions which belong to the process of sanctification-consecration. It is a departure from the milieux of worldly life – a “being set apart” for God. But for this very reason it is not a segregation. Rather, being given over to God means being charged to represent others. The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he is available for others, for everyone. When Jesus says: “I consecrate myself”, he makes himself both priest and victim. Bultmann was right to translate the phrase: “I consecrate myself” by “I sacrifice myself”. Do we now see what happens when Jesus says: “I consecrate myself for them”? This is the priestly act by which Jesus – the Man Jesus, who is one with the Son of God – gives himself over to the Father for us. It is the expression of the fact that he is both priest and victim. I consecrate myself – I sacrifice myself: this unfathomable word, which gives us a glimpse deep into the heart of Jesus Christ, should be the object of constantly renewed reflection. It contains the whole mystery of our redemption. It also contains the origins of the priesthood in the Church.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where were you?

Today, April 19, is the fourth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's election to the Chair of St. Peter. Where were you and what were you doing on this day four years ago? Back then I had been a formal member of the Catholic Church for only a few weeks. Pope John Paul II died only a few days after Easter that year. I didn't know very much about the inner workings of the Church back then so I was endlessly fascinated by the media coverage and the documentaries about previous papal conclaves (looking back on them now, I want to groan about some of the things the media got wrong.) Imagine that: most of the seminarians for our diocese can only remember two popes in their lifetimes. It was darn near impossible not to know who John Paul II was even for non-Catholics like me.

I remember I was attending class at Sacramento State that day. I had just gotten out of the morning lecture on US history and went to the library to check my email before lunch. I first learned about Benedict's election from a fairly jokey entry on someone else's personal blog. He wasn't a Catholic himself, and when I told him his blog was how I first learned about Benedict's election he sheepishly said he would have been more serious about it if he had known I would be reading.

I didn't know very much about the man who was Cardinal Ratzinger back then either. I knew he was feared and/or derided in some circles as the reactionary Grand Inquisitor. But much like my experience with the Church as a whole, the more I learned about him the more I liked him. Everything that Pope Benedict has done in his papacy thus far is in accord with the ideas he has explicated in countless writings over many decades as a theology professor and prefect for the CDF. One of Benedict's goals is to reinvigorate Catholic identity, particularly through the liturgy.

Heavenly Father, we humbly beseech thee to grant thy servant, Pope Benedict XVI, good health and length of days. We pray for all of his intentions, and we beg that Mary, the Mother of thy only begotten Son, and St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, may pray with us for our beloved Pontiff. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Ready for Poverty?

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now of New York, mentioned the following story in his book, Priests for the 3rd Millenium. I highly recommend it. He has such a great way of mixing storytelling with the faith in order to challenge seminarians, and even the faithful in this book, to live the Christian Gospel.

When I was doing graduate studies in Church history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., I used to drive back to St. Louis at Christmas and summer for a visit home. The midway point on that fourteen-hour drive was Zanesville, Ohio. Except for it’s “Y” bridge and the Zane Grey Museum, not worth much of a stop, but I enjoyed spending the night with the Dominican fathers at their parish right off Highway 70. I always relished a visit with a crusty but wise old Dominican assigned there, and we would usually chat for a half-hour or so after supper. The frugality of his room always amazed me: one room, which served as his bedroom and study, one closet with all his clothing, one bookshelf, a desk, a crucifix, a few religious and family pictures, a reading chair, and lamp. That was it. One visit I asked, “Your room is so plain. Where do you keep the rest of your stuff?” “This is it,” he replied. “But it is so simple,” I countered. “Well, if I walk down to your room all you’ve got is your suitcase!” “Well, sure, but, after all, I’m just passing through.” Never will I forget his reply, “Aren’t we all?"

I've been struck recently by the reality that as seminarians and future priests, we are called to a life of simplicity. But I do not think we generally take this point seriously enough. In my wanderings through the lives of different priests and seminarians, I have always found they tend to collect something or indulge in this one thing as though they had a right to it. I find myself doing it as well. But I think the radicalness (I sure hope that is a word) of our ministry as alter Christus calls for an intense simplicity. Yeah, I have been told that we do not take a vow of poverty but I think our challenge is to get as close to that vow as we can in what things we own and the spirit in which we live with the things we do have. Archbishop Dolan makes a good point here mentioning Fr. Benedict Groeschel who says:

Poverty is the fundamental virtue because all things flow from that: poverty of the will, that we call obedience; poverty of the desires of the body, that we call chastity; and then the obvious poverty, freedom from material possessions. Poverty is the ultimate freedom.

And I am pretty sure as priests we are called to obedience and celibacy and therefore if they are so bound together, we should take this simplicity challenge more seriously. By the way, did you know Fr. Benedict Groeschel took the name Benedict after St. Benedict Joseph Labre? Check out his story. His life of poverty is amazing.

The question I think we should ask ourselves is, are we able to surrender things if they get in the way or someone else takes them from us? It's always hard. I realize this every time I go to a store and say to myself, I could use this or that. There is always that lingering temptation to buy buy buy. This past year or so has been a real challenge for me to simplify. I remember arriving in Rome with just 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons. And that is what I have basically lived on for the past 8 months. And I am doing just fine. Yes, it would be nice to have a couple extra books or another jacket, but is it really all that important? Perhaps that should be the measure of how much we should have. Can I pack up in a day or so and move across the world and not force my diocese to pay hundreds of dollars in shipping fees. :)

I think the the model for us is the life of a diocesan priest, St. Jean Vianney, whose radicality in terms of simplicity meant he had practically nothing. And anything he did have, his coat or bed, he would freely give away. I think it is this simplicity, so radical to the point of utter poverty, that we are called to embrace even as diocesan priests. I can only begin to imagine the effect it can and will have on the faithful when they see their priests truly living the words of the Gospel and staking everything on Christ. And even more, how many men will be attracted to this truly authentic life of the Gospel.

Archbishop Dolan mentions 5 main reasons for simplicity: Keeps us close to God, keeps us close to the poor, reminds us that God is our ultimate possession, forces us to trust in God alone, and finally, it's a witness to the faithful. It's this last one I am focusing on.

And when it comes to evangelizing young people and especially in encouraging vocations, simplicity of the priest has such a strong role to play. This is from Pastores Dabo Vobis in which JP2 writes:

The lure of the so - called "consumer society" is so strong among young people that they become totally dominated and imprisoned by an individualistic, materialistic and hedonistic interpretation of human existence. Material "well - being," which is so intensely sought after, becomes the one ideal to be striven for in life, a well-being which is to be attained in any way and at any price. There is a refusal of anything that speaks of sacrifice and a rejection of any effort to look for and to practice spiritual and religious values. The all - determining "concern" for having supplants the primacy of being, and consequently personal and interpersonal values are interpreted and lived not according to the logic of giving and generosity but according to the logic of selfish possession and the exploitation of others.

This is especially important considering the world in which we live. Young people are disillusioned by the culture of materialism and consumerism where having more is the ultimate goal in life, even if it is not explicitly stated. You always have to have the nicer car or the good food or the designer clothing. The desire is there. And if we as seminarians and priests, show the faithful, that we buy into that same culture, our message will fall short of the recipients. They will see us for what we are, hypocrites. If we are going to stand and be messengers of Christ, we must do it with everything we have and every moment. Obviously we fall short and we continually call upon God's grace. But I think we must desire this simplicity that goes beyond the bare minimum of donating some of our salary to the Church and assuming that our lives of service as priests is enough. Especially today, when seminarians and priests are the ones who do not feel the direct effects of the economic recession in the pocket, are we not called to witness with not only our words but our actions, the poverty of Jesus Christ?

Hope you are all enjoying your Easter season. Christ is risen! Alleluia! AMDG.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ad multos gloriosque anos

We, the seminarians of the Diocese of Sacramento, wish a very happy birthday to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI! Please say a prayer for Pope Benedict today. Pray that he be with us for many more years, and for his general intentions for this month.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vidi aquam egredientem de templo, a latere dextro, alleluia

Something occurred to me, perhaps inspired by our Blessed Lord, at the Easter Vigil last night. It marked the second occasion when I had to "work" during the holiest night of the year. The first time was the Easter Vigil of 2005 when I was received into Mother Church. My home parish, Holy Trinity, has a baptismal font large enough for full immersion. Monsignor James Kidder, my pastor, made sure I was completely submerged with each invocation to the Three Persons of the Trinity. Four years later - last night - came the second time. This time I was in cassock and surplice instead of a baptismal garment. The last time I became a new person in Christ, the scarlet of my sins made white as snow by His blood. This time I was wearing the garments of one who serves our Blessed Lord in the Mass. My duties were quite simple on the surface: hold the book for Bishop Soto to read, carry the bowl for the rite of sprinkling, and carry one candle in procession. "He who is faithful in little things will be entrusted with greater things." I am nearly at the end of my first year in the seminary with six years more to go. Seeing the forty catechumens and candidates be received into the Church - seeing them where I was four years ago - filled me with peace and joy.

Our Lord granted me the grace to love them as the People of God. I applied to our Diocese and I desire to be a priest because I sincerely believe it is God's will for me. Seeing the newest members of our Church also confirmed me in my zeal for souls. I want to be a priest because I want to win souls for Christ. I want to receive them into the Church, to reconcile sinners to God, and to be with them at the moment of death to give them their last taste of the Heavenly food on their earthly exile before they enjoy the Presence of our Lord forever.

I will be forever grateful to God for being so generous to me, far more than a sinner like me deserves. If the words we write on this blog inspire even one man to answer the call to serve our Blessed Lord as a priest, or one sinner to reform his life, then we must once again give thanks and glory to God for working miracles of grace through weak vessels of clay like ourselves.

Friday, April 10, 2009

He trusted in God

A Missionary Priest in China

In the interior of China, north of Beijing, a Spanish priest is giving theology classes in an old ice plant. It’s 2 a.m. The students drink in his lessons on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They know it will be a long time before they hear something like this again.

After class, they will all return home and the next day go to work like everyone else. Only they and a small group of faithful know that they are seminarians in China’s persecuted Church. As for the teacher, Esteban Aranaz, he will pick up his guitar and continue his role as "visiting musician."

On his trip through China, many "concerts" are awaiting him: classes for seminarians, retreats, Masses for small groups, visits to priests. "Almost always at night, when the police aren’t watching. Fear? That’s irrelevant. No, I’ve never been afraid."

Check out the full article here. It's an inspirational story on the day of our Lord's passion and death. Are you ready to follow him to the cross?


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Well done, thou good and faithful servant

Fr. Michael Dalton, the most decorated Catholic military chaplain in Canadian history, enters into eternal life at 106.

I'm speaking about an old friend, Rev. Mike Dalton, who passed away Monday afternoon at Sacred Heart Nursing Home in Courtland, Ont. He was 106, a month shy of his 107th birthday.

This son of a Goderich farmer is the most decorated padre who ever served in the Canadian Army. He marched at the front lines with his fellow soldiers, often carrying their weapons when they tired of battle.

Besides the Military Cross for bravery, Father Dalton was the first Catholic priest to receive the Member of the British Empire. The day King George VI pinned the decoration on his tunic at Buckingham Palace, he dug deep into his pockets and handed the monarch a Catholic religious medal.

Fr. Michael Barber SJ is the director of spiritual life at St. Patrick's. He's also a Navy Chaplain who ministers to the Marines when he is on deployment. St. Patrick's recently hosted a military discernment weekend for young men who were discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and to seminarians who were thinking about becoming military chaplains. Fr. Barber is going on a well deserved sabbatical next year and he will be keenly missed.

All of us are on break for Holy Week. Those of us seminarians who are staying in the Sacramento area will be serving at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament for Triduum and Easter. I, a most unworthy sinner, will be participating in the Easter Vigil and the 11 am Easter Sunday Mass. Check thou it out! Especially if you've never visited our splendid Cathedral before! May you all have a blessed and holy Triduum - the fulcrum of the liturgical year as the Holy Father recently described it - and Easter season.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hey, hey, hey, how long has it been?

Shouldn't you make a good confession before we head into Triduum? It's great for giving you that almost baptized feeling!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vocation Video: Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Go here to see the video. I couldn't post it on here for some reason. This vocation video is put together by the seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. They give an excellent understanding of the priesthood and an interesting peek into the life of seminarians.

Hope everyone is having a Blessed Holy Week. Some seminarians from St. Patrick's Seminary came to visit and we just went over to Palm Sunday Mass with the Holy Father. We get a couple weeks off for Holy week and Easter week. It's a great time to just relax a bit during the semester and take time to enter the greatest mysteries of our faith, the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So I pray it be a time for all of us to be renewed in our faith and filled with the same Spirit of Christ to live the Gospel and give our lives over to God completely and without reservation.

We sat behind some Belgium youth. Today was World Youth Day. It is actually held every year in Rome but only every three years is it held in a foreign country with hugo attendance. So there were over a hundred sitting in front of us with their palms.

And this is just a nice shot of the Tiber early in the morning on the walk to one of the station churches. Beautiful...


Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Break 2009 - Camaldolese Hermitage

For Spring Break this year, two of my buddies and I went on a road trip. We drove from Portland to Sacramento to Vallejo to San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Big Sur to Avila Beach and all the way back up again. We had a great time and here are some pictures of us at the Camaldolese Hermitage in Big Sur, CA. The Hermitage is located off the Pacific Coast Highway and is nestled in the cliffs bordering the road.

'The view from the top of the Camaldolese Hermitage.

We were able to meet a priest who showed us around the Hermitage and took us for a private tour in the Cloister!

This is us in front of the Hermitage Church.

This is the three of us at the furthest point up the mountain that the Camaldolese own.

This is James and I at the base of the Hermitage.

This is me standing at the base of the Camaldolese Hermitage on Thursday Afternoon

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Father Brian Bustin' a move.

Mat was knockin' me for never posting here, when I post on other blogs... so while I finish writing up another post about Seminary life, enjoy this video of Father Brian dancing during the Diocesan Youth Convention.