Monday, June 29, 2009
Today is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Many times people tell me they can't relate to the saints because they seem so far above us in holiness. Well, consider these two: Peter denied our Lord three times after promising to die with Him, and Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, was one of the most vicious of the early Church's persecutors. Today marks the conclusion of the Year of St. Paul proclaimed by the Holy Father last year on this solemnity. It overlaps with the Year of the Priest which began ten days ago, so for your consideration I leave you these articles:
Thank you, Father. Being a priest has its trials just like any vocation. So some time during this year for priests, approach your own parish priest and thank him for being another Christ, and making Christ present to us in the sacrifice of the Mass.
Pope: St. Paul Is a Model Priest.
May you all have a blessed and grace-filled Year of the Priest!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Priests never become biological fathers, but they are spiritual fathers to countless spiritual children throughout their lives. Fathers must be infinitely patient with their children, always loving, sometimes correcting. When the USCCB published the executive summary of the Holy See's Apostolic Visitation to American seminaries, the report commented that today's seminarians all too often come from broken homes. We are inevitably influenced by our times and of course we cannot choose our families. God is the Lord of history too, and He still continues to call men to be the priests of His Son. He surely allows the evil of divorce so that He may draw a greater good from our errors. We may never know it in this life, but we shall know His purposes in the next.
How has your father shaped your life? To the casual observer, it doesn't appear that my father and I have much in common since we have very different personalities. But I can assure you, with each passing year I realize I take after him more than I ever suspected as a youth. And I love my dad for all that he's done for me. Mom came into the Church the year after I did, and I'm still praying for dad's conversion. He's not Catholic but he's been 100% supportive of me ever since I announced I was going to apply to the seminary. I hope that having a good father myself will help me be a better spiritual father some day.
Friday, June 19, 2009
For those first year seminarians at the NAC, we have a different plan. I will be joining two seminarians from Mobile, Alabama as we head to China for what will hopefully be an eye-opening experience of the Church in China.
Our plans have changed dramatically because of the swine flu but we'll be traveling around to a number of parishes and leper colonies on the mainland while spending a lot of time in Hong Kong as well. I will not be able to post new things for a while. But I have scheduled in some posts to cover some of my absence. They're good, I think. :) But come August 6th, I will be back in Rome with much to say. :)
Until then, God bless.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person. I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry. Yet the expression of Saint John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. I am also led to think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister. How can we not also think of all those priests who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even at times to offering the supreme testimony of their own blood?
...The Curé of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”. He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host…”. Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”.
Do please read the whole thing. St. Jean Marie Vianney, pray for us.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
-St. Philip Neri (HT: The Practicing Catholic)
Sunday, June 14, 2009
These are obviously sensitive topics but I think it's necessary to discuss them anew because the restoration of a vigorous Catholic identity is probably the defining goal of Pope Benedict's papacy. Over the past forty years, Catholics have lost a sense of the supernatural, of the transcendent. It is both necessary and important to work for social justice, but what about sin, grace, and salvation? Fr. Stevens once told me that one of the questions he always asks prospective seminarians in their admissions interviews is, "Why do you want to be a priest?" The answer he hears most is, "I want to help people." He replies, "That's very good that you want to help people, but how specifically do you want to help them? Social workers help people too."
Today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, seems like a perfect day to keep these things in mind as it is a day devoted in a special way to the Body and Blood of our Lord. The eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and brings us into contact with the supernatural as nothing else can. That is why people go to church - that's the only reason anyone should go to church. I don't think the Church should try to imitate worldly trends so as to attract people; anything we do along those lines will always be just an imitation, and why should people settle for that when they can find the real thing out in the world? I think we need to recover that sense of transcendence, of mystery, of awe in the Church. Some of the schools I've visited in our diocese say something like, "Let us remember that we are in the presence of God," before class or an assembly begins. Just so.
Of course, dear reader, if you are thinking about the priesthood at all you probably already have a healthy appreciation for the supernatural. As Archbishop Bruguès said, our culture doesn't support us as strongly as it used to, so men who come forward for Holy Orders today tend to be "priests of conviction." None of this is meant to denigrate the very important and very necessary works of those who minister to the poor and fight for social justice. But for whose greater glory do we do those things?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
"On many occasions, I have spoken about generations: about my own, about the one before me, about the future generations. This is, for me, the crucial point of the present situation. Of course, the passage from one generation to another has always posed adjustment problems, but the one we are living through now is absolutely exceptional.
The theme of secularization should help us to understand better, even here. This secularization saw unprecedented acceleration during the 1960's. For the men of my generation, and even more for those who preceded me, who were often born and raised in a Christian environment, it constituted an essential discovery, the great adventure of their lives. They therefore came to interpret the "openness to the world" called for by Vatican Council II as a conversion to secularization.
In this way, in fact, we have experienced or even fostered an extremely powerful self-secularization in most of the Western Churches.
The examples are many. Believers are ready to exert themselves in the service of peace, justice, and humanitarian causes, but do they believe in eternal life? Our Churches have carried out an immense effort to renew catechesis, but does not this catechesis itself tend to overlook the ultimate realities? For the most part, our Churches have embarked upon the ethical debates of the moment, at the urging of public opinion, but how much do they talk about sin, grace, and the divinized life? Our Churches have successfully deployed massive resources in order to improve the participation of the faithful in the liturgy, but has not the liturgy for the most part lost the sense of the sacred? Can anyone deny that our generation, possibly without realizing it, dreamed of a "Church of the pure," a faith purified of any religious manifestation, warning against any manifestation of popular devotion like processions, pilgrimages, etc.?
The collision with the secularization of our societies has profoundly transformed our Churches. We could advance the hypothesis that we have passed from a Church of "belonging," in which the faith was determined by the community of birth, to a Church of "conviction," in which the faith is defined as a personal and courageous choice, often in opposition with the group of origin. This passage has been accompanied by startling numeric variations. Attendance has visibly diminished in the churches, in the courses of catechesis, but also in the seminaries. Years ago, Cardinal Lustiger nonetheless demonstrated, setting out the figures, that in France the relationship between the number of priests and that of practicing Catholics had always remained the same.
Our seminarians, like our young priests, also belong to this Church of "conviction." They don't so much come from rural areas anymore, but rather from the cities, especially from the university cities. They often grow up in divided or "split" families, which leaves them with scars and, sometimes, a sort of emotional immaturity. The social environment to which they belong no longer supports them: they have chosen to be priests out of conviction, and have therefore renounced any social ambition (what I am saying is not true everywhere; I know African communities in which families or villages still nurture the vocations that have arisen within them). For this reason, they offer better-defined profiles, stronger individuality, and more courageous temperaments. In this regard, they have the right to our full esteem.
The difficulty to which I would like to draw your attention therefore goes beyond the boundaries of a simple generational conflict. My generation, I insist, has equated openness to the world with conversion to secularization, and has experienced a certain fascination regarding it. But although the younger men were born in secularization as their natural environment and drank it together with their mother's milk, they still seek to distance themselves from it, and defend their identity and their differences...
...The first leads us to observe that secularization includes values with a strong Christian influence, like equality, freedom, solidarity, responsibility, and that it should be possible to come to terms with this current and identify areas of cooperation.
The second current, on the contrary, calls for keeping distance. It maintains that the differences or points of opposition, above all in the field of ethics, will become increasingly pronounced. It therefore proposes an alternative to the dominant model, and accepts the minority opposition role.
The first current emerged mainly during the period following the council; it provided the ideological framework for the interpretations of Vatican II that were imposed at the end of the 1960's and in the following decade.
Things were reversed beginning in the 1980's, above all - but not exclusively - under the influence of John Paul II. The current of "composition" has aged, but its proponents still hold key positions in the Church. The current of the alternative model has become much stronger, but it has not yet become dominant. This would explain the tensions at the moment in many of the Churches on our continent."
I would be very interested in your opinions. I realize this is a tension that is happening across the U.S. and elsewhere. But I think hearing about what has brought about this divide, so to speak, can help to bridge the gap as well.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Fr. James Reutter
I know several men who first felt the call to the priesthood very early on in life, even as young boys receiving First Communion. But in my case, the call to serve the Church as a priest of Jesus Christ didn't come nearly that early. In fact, I took a very circuitous path to get to seminary.
I grew up in a large Catholic family of thirteen children whose faith was very strong. Thanks to the devotion of my parents, we were very serious about attending Mass each and every week (like it or not!); about knowing what the Church taught; about doing works of charity such as helping the elderly residents in the neighborhood; about observing the liturgical seasons by special ceremonies in the home; and making the most of the sacrifices my parents made to send all of us to parochial elementary schools and Catholic high schools by taking our studies seriously. So I grew up with a great appreciation for the faith, and the truth and beauty of the Church and her teachings.
But despite all this, I never really gave much thought at all to the priesthood as a young man. In fact, I admired and respected many of the Jesuit priests who taught me in high school. But when one of them told my parents at a teachers' conference that I ought to think about becoming a priest, I just laughed.
It wasn't until graduate school, when I joined a Catholic fellowship group when I really had a chance to take a good hard luck at my faith. In that student fellowship, we talked and prayed a lot about how we could put our faith into action and make the great gift of our Catholic faith the center of our lives. We attended Mass together, organized praise and worship sessions, and become very dedicated to pro-life work on our campus. We worked to transform what Pope John Paul called "the culture of death" into a culture of life and love. Through all of these, I developed a personal prayer life I had never had before. I began to pray very hard about what my faith meant to me, began to read the Bible more devotedly, and began to ask the Lord in prayer how he wanted me to respond to Him in faith...
But I have also inserted his discernment advice below if that's what you really want.
So my advice for any young man considering the priesthood, or wondering if he is called or not, is to make your prayer simple. Just ask the Lord for two things: the wisdom to know His will for your vocation, and the courage to follow it, even if that means making great sacrifices to get there. Pope John Paul the Great was a great priestly model for me, and an inspiration for me following the Lord into priestly service. He was very fond of reminding young people throughout his pontificate: "Do not be afraid!" The same words that the angel Gabriel proclaimed to Mary Mother of God at the Annunciation, the Lord speaks to you. If you sense a call to the priesthood, Do not be afraid to follow after the Lord, to answer the call and challenge to do the greatest work any man could ever do on earth: to save souls and bring them to Heaven.AMDG.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
My World Youth Day pilgrimage to Rome and Pope John Paul II
Sr. Malina Zachman, OP, Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
The Lord’s call did not come in the form of a loud, audible voice but in a quiet, steady tug on my heart that persisted despite my many attempts to brush it aside. Undoubtedly God opened me up to His will through the grace of staying close to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, as well as through my pilgrimage to Rome in the Jubilee year for World Youth Day. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II, was also instrumental in my vocation, as his own life was a living testimony to me of total, selfless love.
My response to this tugging took time, however; four years of college including a semester studying in Rome. It was only gradually that I matured in understanding of the gift of Religious life in the Church and the beauty of giving oneself to the Divine Spouse. As the end of college neared and the next phase of my life approached, I decided to carefully look into different Religious Orders and to be willing to give God my life in this way if that was what He was asking.
I eventually met the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and their love for the Church and the Blessed Mary, their monastic traditions and young, vibrant Community life. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament especially drew me to seek further if this indeed was God’s will for me. So I trusted that, if I was generous with God, He would continue to reveal His plan and, on August 14th, 2005, I entered the Dominican Sisters as a postulant to discern more deeply God’s holy will for my life.
My spiritual director told me prior to entrance that the Lord can never be outdone in generosity. There could be nothing more true! Yes, there are many sacrifices in fully living one’s vocation, particularly in Religious life, but God is so generous and the joy He gives to those who follow Him whole-heartedly is immeasurable, as I can personally testify to as a young Religious Sister.
I love vocation stories that mention JP2 because he was so instrumental in my own vocation as well. I never knew of him in life but only after his death did I finally come to know this great saint of our age. He may have inspired so many in his life but so many more so in his death.
Monday, June 8, 2009
About Being a Priest - Suarez
Against an Infinite Horizon - Fr Ron Rolheiser
Apologia Pro Vita Sua - Cardinal Newman
Beowulf - Anonymous
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
Can We be Saints? - Frank Duff
Christ, The Life of the Soul - Blessed Columba Marmion
Christ, the Ideal of the Priest - Blessed Columba Marmion
Clowing in Rome - Henri JM Nouwen
Collected Works of St. John of the Cross
Come Be My Light - Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk
Confessions of St Augustine - St Augustine
Dark Night of the Soul - St John of the Cross
De Rosarium Virginis - Pope John Paul II
Descent into Hell - Charles Williams
Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year - Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD
Devotion to Our Lady: The Marian Life as Taught by the Saints – Fr. Stafano M Manelli
Edmund Campion: A Life - Evelyn Waugh
Elizabeth of the Trinity - Spiritual Writings - MM Philipon, OP
Encounters with Silence - Karl Rahner
Epictetus, the Art of Living - Sharon Lebell
Frequent Confession - Benedict Baur
He Leadeth Me - Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ
How To Deal With Annoying People: What to Do When You Can’t Avoid Them - Bob Phillips
I Believe in Love - Fr Jean D’Elbee
I Believed - Douglas Hyde
Imitation of Christ - Thomas Kempis
In the School of the Holy Spirit - Rev. Jacques Philippe
Interior Castle - St Theresa of Avila
Introduction to the Devout Life - St Francis de Sales
Letters in the Desert - Carlo Carretto
Life of Christ - Fulton Sheen
Life of Christ - Fr. Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
Mary, the Mother of God - Fulton Sheen
Mary, Mother of the Church - Fr. Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman - Philip Boyce
Master of Hestviken - Sigrid Undset
Maxwell Leadership Bible - John C. Maxwell
Medicine of Immortality - Fr. John Pasquini
Mystics and Miracles - Beat Ghezzi
One with Jesus - Fr. Paul de Jaeger, SJ
Opening to God - Thomas Green, SJ
Praying with St. Paul - Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP
Priests of the Third Millennium - Archbishop Timothy Dolan
Seeds of Contemplation - Thomas Merton
Self Abandonment to Divine Providence - JP de Caussade, SJ
Seven Story Mountain - Thomas Merton
Sister Wendy on Prayer - Sr. Wendy Beckett
Song for Nagasaki - Fr Paul Glynn
Story of a Soul - St. Therese of Lisieux
The Ballad of the White Horse - G.K. Chesterton
The Cloud of Unknowing - Bernard Bangley
The Conferences - John Cassian
The Cure D’Ars: St Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney - Abbe Francis Trochu
The Dignity and Duties of the Priest - St Alphonsus de Liguori
The Discernment of Spirits - Fr. Timothy Gallagher
The End of the Affair - Graham Greene
The Fathers of the Church: Selected Sermons of St Peter Chysologus, Vol III
The Fire of Love - Richard Rolle the Hermit
The Friendship of Christ - Robert Hugh Benson
The Grunt Padre - Fr. Daniel Mode
The Hermitage Within - A Monk
The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth - Scott Hahn
The Life of Faustina Kowalska by Sr Sophia Michalenko, CMGT
The Life of St Teresa of Avila - by Herself
The Light of Love - Patricia Devlin
The Power and the Glory - Graham Green
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
The Priest is Not His Own - Fulton Sheen
Therese and Maurice - Patrick Ahern
The Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning
The Reed of God - Caryll Houselander
The Revelations of St Bridget of Sweeden
The Rule of St Benedict - Timothy Fry
The Sadness of Christ - St. Thomas More
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers - Benedicta Ward
The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton - Thomas Merton
The Spiritual Direction of St Claude de la Colombiere - St Claude de la Colombiere
The Trojan Horse in the City of God - Dietrich Von Hildebrand
The Way of Perfection - St. Theresa of Avila
The Way of the Pilgrim - Helen Bacovan
The Way of the Heart - Henry JM Nouwen
The Ways of Mental Prayer - Rev Dom Vitalis
The Wellspring of Worship - Jean Corbon
They Speak by Silences - Anonymous Carthusian
Those Mysterious Priests - Fulton Sheen
To Know Christ Jesus - Frank Sheed
Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings - Bert Ghezzi
What Does God Want? A Practical Guide to Making Decisions - Michael Scanlan
When the Well Runs Dry - Thomas Green
Wild at Heart - John Eldredge
Wisdom in the Desert - Thomas Merton
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I am always thankful to receive these cards because it reminds me how much and how many people are constantly praying for myself and my vocation. I tend to attribute the graces I receive to the love of God and my own prayer. But I always forget that so many graces are obtained for me through the prayer of others who are constantly at work in the Lord's vineyard.
So I give thanks for all those who pray for me. I know a number of parishes who do this for all of us seminarians. THANKS!
This card also reminds me of what awaits. It is almost as if I am can hear them calling me home to serve as a priest. I was just talking to a fellow seminarian this evening, reflecting on how many years have already passed by so quickly in the seminary, and yet still feeling just as anxious and excited about jumping straight into ministry as the day I entered seminary. There is something about priesthood that never changes for me. There is something that excites me to no end. I think it is the grand adventure to work with Christ in the greatest mission of all, saving souls.
They left some words from St. John Vianney for my own meditation so I end with these words:
"Let us go often to the foot of the Cross. We shall learn there what God has done for us and what we ought to do for Him."
Well, I am eagerly waiting for the day when I can hear those words. And I just realized, I have already completed 3 years of formation, only 4 left to go! Yikes! Meanwhile, as this year comes to a close, another round of seminarians are receiving the call to orders and leaving the NAC. We had our closing banquet a few Fridays ago and we used that very phrase to congratulate and send off about 25 men to their respective dioceses.
Those words really struck me though. In the Gospel of John (20:21-23), "Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
There is a real sense of our being sent. We are called by Jesus Christ to go out and be witnesses to the faith. We are called out of comfortable former ways. You can think of the Gospel of Luke where the 72 to are sent out with not so much as a change of clothing and told by Christ to wander through towns preaching the Gospel.
Obviously we may not always take on the same difficulties as those first disciples. But as seminarians, future priests, we are called to we enter the seminary and adapt to seminary life, to change seminaries and re-adapt, to head out for summer assignments in parishes and pastoral activities throughout the diocese, to get to know a new group of seminarians each year both in the seminary and in our diocese, and finally, to be sent to be a priest in a parish (or God forbid, to the chancery :) ).
My own experience serving a parish during Holy Week near Mt. Lassen with a hundred or so faithful was a challenge for me. The town was quiet, the parish was old, and there was not much I could do. I almost felt like the parish was dying. Why was I here? But even in that experience I found that Christ was needed. He needed to be preached to those in a nearby hospice. He was needed for those who had recently lost loved ones and almost lost the faith. He was needed for the few youth wondering what it meant to be Catholic. He was needed. Even there.
There is no moment when we can really 'settle in' for we are always being sent once more somewhere else. But this brings such a sense of adventure that our vocation can never grow stale. There is always a call to be sent to preach the Gospel, to the person in the hospital, to the man on the street, to the family that has not been to Mass in years, and to our own family members. Our work is never done.
And so while I cannot wait for the day to come when I can return to the Diocese of Sacramento and begin my service as a priest for the people of God, I likewise rejoice at the quiet hidden time I can enjoy in seminary life, preparing and forming myself in the Holy Spirit, to be the other Christ I need to be to save souls.
Monday, June 1, 2009
WHETHER NAPS ARE NECESSARY FOR SALVATION
(Utrum Siestae Necessae sunt pro salute)
Objection I - It would seem that naps are not necessary for salvation. Salvation consists in becoming like to God. God is most actual. Hence, we must be actual. Now, naps are opposed to actuality and are hence opposed to salvation.
Objection II - Besides, the Apostle says, "Be watchful and awake, for your salvation is near at hand." Naps are opposed to being watchful. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.
Objection III - Furthermore, Aristotle says that virtue consists in activity. Naps are not activity and are therefore not counted as virtuous. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.
On the contrary, the Psalmist says, "He pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber." Now, salvation is a gift, and we must sleep to receive the gifts of God. Hence, naps are necessary for salvation.
I answer that naps can be spoken of in two ways: naps in a relative sense (secundum quid) and naps simply speaking (simpliciter dicta).
Relatively speaking, naps are neutral in that they can be used for a good or a bad purpose. Naps, simply speaking, are those naps which give us the rest that we might wake "refreshed and joyful" to praise God (as the Roman Breviary says). To this end, naps are necessary for salvation, since praising God is necessary for salvation.
Furthermore, contemplation is said to be "rest in God." Now, contemplation flows from Charity, and Charity is necessary for salvation; it follows that naps, which are also a kind of rest, are necessary for salvation. Likewise, contemplation is said to be a foretaste of heavenly beatitude. Naps are a foretaste of heavenly beatitude.
Furthermore, Jesus slept in the boat. Hence, we are to sleep in the Church, for the boat is a type of the Church. Hence we are to sleep during church, often during homilies. Consequently, it must be said that naps are necessary for salvation.
Reply to the first objection - One cannot mistake immobility for potency. For a man acts even in immobility; for instance, the liturgy compels us to times of silence. Sleep is perfect silence. God is all perfection. Hence, God is most actually napping.
Reply to the second objection - The Apostle spoke figuratively, not literally. For Saint Joseph was watchful in his sleep, that is why God spoke to him in a dream. So also God spoke to many Saints in dreams. Hence, we are to nap watchfully, that God might speak to us.
Response to the third objection - Aristotle was a pagan and cannot be expected to have understood the deep mysteries of God's napping. Had he known the revelation, he would have slept much more than he did.