Sunday, August 30, 2009
In gratitude for the great love that Jesus Christ gives to us, we decide to unite ourselves to form a community to care for needy children and to promote the development of a productive society of devout Christians
They do offer like 2 and 1/2 year volunteer assignments. I wish I had heard about this when I finished college.
Anyways, just giving you some ideas if you are struggling with discernment and need some hands on work to let God speak to you.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
During my first week traveling alone, I met a Chinese woman at the cathedral in Beijing who was visiting there. She asked me if I believed in God. I said of course. And she said she did too. It was a nice grace for the first day in China. I did not feel so alone. The next day in Shanghai I met a brother and sister who were Catholic. Their English was poor so we communicated through a lot of hand gestures. But we shared the faith so she sang me a Catholic song in Chinese and then I sang a Catholic song I knew. It was a blessing.
Later in Shanghai, I met a guy at my hostel who discovered I was a seminarian and we launched into a huge debate about God, life, and the world. I was surprised how close he was to the vision of the world from the eyes of a Catholic. His morals might have been a bit off but he had a deep sense of the objectivity of the world and some higher power. I just thought in my head, this guy is not far from the kingdom. Please consider praying for him.
On my way back to Beijing to meet up with the other seminarians, I shared a sleeper with a fallen away Catholic. He was encouraged to see a young seminarian and had his doubts about how this was possible. I tried sharing the gift of God's love from my own life. It was tough. :)
So even before I began real ministry or anything, I had already spoken to all these people about faith, even if just for a moment.
Among the many things we did, we had chances to either speak in village parishes before Mass or with the youth. Each time I spoke, a pattern became more and more apparent. The ultimate thing I had to say was that God's love compelled me to become a priest, to be in China, to live for others, and ultimately to respond in love. And all I wanted to share was that this love was something we were all called to share in and spread to others.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Maryknoll was established in 1911 as the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America by the Bishops of the United States. Responsibility for its development fell to two diocesan priests, Fr. James Anthony Walsh of Boston and Fr. Thomas Frederick Price of North Carolina, with the commission to recruit, send and support U.S. missioners in areas around the world. On June 29, 1911, Pope Pius X blessed the founding of Maryknoll. Maryknoll's first missioners left for China in 1918. Today there are over 475 Maryknoll priests and Brothers serving in countries around the world, principally in Africa, Asia and Latin America." (from the Maryknoll website)
While I was at the Maryknoll house in Hong Kong, I read the short biographies of the many men who have passed through the ranks of Maryknoll over the years. Mission work had its up and downs. Some lives were long and others incredibly short. Illness cut short mission work but zeal for souls kept men doing whatever it took. Most of these men entered at such young ages and dedicated their entire lives. Their heroism still shines today.
"For most of the 20th century, the history of Maryknoll intertwined with the history of Asia. Japanese imperial expansion, World War II, the Chinese Communist Revolution and wars in Korea and Vietnam all took their tolls. Maryknollers were imprisoned or expelled from China and Korea. Bishop Francis X. Ford died in a Chinese prison. Bishop James E. Walsh (no relation to the founder) spent 12 years in prison and under solitary house arrest. Some missioners followed the Chinese people into exile in Taiwan; others opened missions in the Philippines. Bishop Patrick Byrne died on the North Korean Death March. Sister Agneta Chang was captured and never seen again. As a chaplain in Vietnam, Father Vincent Capodanno was killed in 1967 as he ministered to a wounded soldier." (again from the website)
Today I think Maryknoll is at a unique point in their history. They, like most religious groups and dioceses, suffer from a vocations shortage and their ranks are getting old. But their work is far from complete. Starting this summer, I must admit in my honest manner, that I had serious questions about Maryknoll. A priest in Maryknoll assuaged many of my doubts through his own words and actions. In fact, though Maryknoll may struggle like any other Catholic organization, they have and continue to do much to witness the Gospel. The men of Maryknoll are unique to say the least. But I think in their diversity of personality, they have found beautiful and glorious ways to serve God and His Church. And we need to find ways to support them and support vocations for them as well.
I write about Maryknoll because I believe we need to continue mission work. China and other places as well need missioners. Have you considered the foreign missions? Have you considered their lay programs that allow you to serve in places like China and Africa for a year or longer? I know that my summer in China has given me a great desire to bring both young men and women to consider Maryknoll as their vocation but also to bring youth and young adults to do mission work abroad. Further, they also have programs where diocesan priests can serve a few years in a mission location on loan from their diocese. And perhaps, considering the dirth of vocations, is it not part of the responsibility of dioceses in the U.S. to provide a few priests for the missions? And this is not necessarily contrary to the charism of the diocesan priest considering the fact that Maryknoll priests are diocesan too. The failure to see the Church as universal can only hurt the Church, even as the local level, by creating this sense that the Church is just us. But in fact the Church is all Catholics everywhere. We know this. There is so much that can be done but we must have the zeal and courage to go and do it.
Bishop James Walsh, one of the founders of Maryknoll, once said that "a missioner is someone who goes where he is not wanted but needed and stays until he is wanted, but not needed." Right now, many places are wanting. Are you willing to fill the need?
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The archbishop noted three big obstacles that prevent young people from embracing the faith today. The first of these is the denial of Christ's uniqueness as our Savior and the way to God:
The origins of this difficulty lie deep in the mentality of post-Enlightenment modernity and its multifarious theological progeny. According to this mentality, all religions express some experience of the absolute or ultimate or transcendent reality--however it is named and described--that encompasses worldly existence. No religion can claim to possess a privileged description of a reality incomprehensible and ineffable to all equally, nor to afford unique access to a realm in principle available to all equally. We might call this mentality and the religious outlook it fosters the culture of pluralism. It surrounds us on every side and helps to shore up a barrier that stands in the path of many Catholics today, young and old.
In order to clear away this barrier, we need in the first place to make clear that our faith in Christ's uniqueness does not entail a devaluation of the world's religions. The religions of the world are monuments to the human search for God. As such, they are worthy of respect and study because of the immense cultural richness of their witness to the desire for God planted in every human heart.
But the Christian faith attests not only to the human search for God, but principally to God's search for us. And what God wants to share with us is nothing less than a communion of life, a share or participation in the divine trinitarian life. This is the basic starting point for understanding the unique role of Jesus Christ in the salvation of the human race.
This comes directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The second obstacle which must be overcome is the belief that to be Christian means to sacrifice those things that make you authentically you. This is exactly backwards: you are not truly yourself until you have been transformed in Christ. The Orthodox don't believe that the way we are now is our true selves, but our selves as distorted by the Fall.
Like the aforementioned culture of pluralism, the supporting matrix of ideas behind this sense that "each of us has an original way of being human" (Taylor 1992, 28) is a ingrained feature of modernity and penetrates popular culture at every level. Sometimes called expressive individualism and resembling moral relativism, it actually functions as a kind of moral ideal for many people: "[T]he soft relativism that seems to accompany the ethic of authenticity [asserts]: let each person do their own thing....One shouldn't criticise the others' values, because they have a right to live their own life as you do. The sin which is not tolerated is intolerance" (Taylor 2007, 484). Not only is it immoral to be intolerant of the values of others. It is immoral to allow some extrinsic measure to displace one's authentic self. Fundamental to this "moral ideal" is the understanding "that each of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one's own, as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious and political authority" (Taylor 2007, 475).
These ideas pose a considerable barrier to a true understanding of what Christian discipleship really entails for every human being. In response, the first thing that needs to be affirmed follows directly from Christ's unique mediatorship. To become sharers in the communion of divine life, we must become like the Son so that the Father sees and loves in us what he sees and loves in Christ. We become conformed to Christ in order to be "at home" in the shared life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The third obstacle to be overcome is the belief that the moral law isn't actually a law at all but the arbitrary opinions of the powerful:
In legalistic moral doctrine, the principal virtue is obedience: one obeys the commandments, whatever the content, because they are enjoined by God. In classic Catholic moral theology, the observance of the commandments is meant to foster the specific virtues with which they are concerned and thus the overall good of the human moral agent. In other words, the commandments of the moral law treat primarily of good and evil rather than of the permitted and the forbidden. They thus express an order established by divine wisdom--as St. Thomas Aquinas insisted--in which the moral law accords with the divinely created finalities of human nature and is given to make human beings good and virtuous.
To use an analogy of which St. Paul might approve, the commandments are more like an athlete's daily exercise and diet regime than they are like the traffic laws. Traffic regulations require that we stop on red and go on green, but it could just as well be the other way around. But the athlete follows the daily regime enjoined by his or her coach in order to achieve and maintain a certain level of performance otherwise unattainable. There is a fit between the regime and the results. The moral law is like that. It contains non-arbitrary injunctions that guide us steadily toward the good in every action and thus toward our ultimate Good.
HT: Rod Dreher
Monday, August 17, 2009
The Missionaries operate a house for single women and pregnant women or with very young children. They also do a daily mensa for men. It seems easy enough, considering the other work they do, treating the sick and dying. But it is anything but. The work is tiring and even prayer becomes a workout with the heat. :)
It is real easy to get caught up in the work and forget why you are there. The other day I heard a prayer from the sisters during the holy hour that said, "and when the unborn are forgotten and unloved, we will love them even more."
It just clicked in my head that this house saves babies. These women who come here pregnant are the same ones that abortion proponents argue need the choice to have an abortion. They cannot bring these children into the world because they cannot economically support them. We should only let children who are wanted be born. On and on...
This house stands in contradiction to all those statements. And it stands in contradiction with the face of a child. Everyday I walk past these cute little children and realize they are the great contradiction. They should not be alive. This world is too harsh for them. Yet because of the love and faith of these sisters, there is a place of charity that will care for them.
In a world that so easily dismisses the unborn child as a "punishment" or a "burden" or focuses simply on the mother, my time here has given me a new face for this thing in the womb, it is beautiful. It is a child. And it is these Missionaries who strive to love even more those who are unloved. Perhaps this is also our challenge, to take on a bit of the charism of the Missionaries, to love even more for those who cannot or will not love. Love the unborn, love the elderly, love the disabled, love the migrant, love them all. It is love that will ultimately outlast everything. It is love that is the strongest weapon. And the Missionaries know it.
Friday, August 14, 2009
But I was blessed to speak with many priests and religious about the Church in China and at the least, get the varied opinions on where the Church is in China. Plus I had time where I just hung out with Chinese Catholics.
There is still a division between the open church and the underground church in China. Despite the pope's recent letter to Chinese Catholics, reconciliation has been incredibly difficult. The difficulties come from both sides and from the current situation with the government. I think there can often be doubts about whether the Catholics in the open church are faithful to all the teachings of the faith, among others, recognition of the pope's office. But the reality is that the Chinese Catholics love the Holy Father like any other group of Catholics. Everywhere I went his picture was up, though not necessarily his nicest photo, and everywhere they prayed for and with the Holy Father. I spoke with a sister who had debated entering an open or underground church convent. She listened to the words of the Holy Father and realized she could join the open church convent without rejecting any part of her faith. I spent all my time with Catholics in the open Church. It is impossible at this point to even consider visiting underground Catholics.
There is a lot of hope for the Church in China. I met most of the seminarians for the Diocese of Jilin. They are good men desiring to serve the Lord with their whole hearts. I also met a number of the younger priests of Jilin who are striving to be men of God at the service of the Church. They have difficulty with vocations like we do though their problem is also in part because of the one child policy.
I visited the main religious order in Jilin, the Sisters of the Holy Family, who do basically any kind of work the Bishop of Jilin assigns. They are working hard yet also struggling for vocations.
I met a few very old Chinese sisters who survived the Culture Revolution. Some spent up to 18 years in forced labor, tempted with good jobs and benefits if they would only give up their faith. But they never gave up or surrendered. They continued in the faith. What a witness to the faith!
I also met a 94 year old priest who gave us seminarians the following advice about priesthood.
1, keep a regular schedule that is rooted in being with the people.
2, have a regular and strong regimen of prayer.
3, stay close to the Blessed Mother.
And then he added the extra comment, watch your relationships with women. :)
We visited 3 very Catholic villages where at least 500 people went to Mass daily. It was amazing to see and to meet so many faithful and zealous Catholics. One of these villages is responsible for over 7 seminarians, 20 priests, and 40 sisters in Jilin.
I also saw the amazing work Maryknoll is doing in China to bring people to the faith. I cannot mention specifics but I can say that there is a great openness to the faith and many conversions taking place. The Holy Spirit is very active. I myself had some great conversations with people about the Christian faith. All I did was speak about my own encounter with God in life and how God brought me to the place I am today.
My own perspective of the Church in China is that it is young and growing. They are facing difficulties, not always the same as ours in the U.S., but nevertheless trusting in the grace of God. In a way, it felt a bit like seeing the early Church where the difficulties are many but the zeal and passion for the faith is there and spurring on the spread of the Gospel.
This experience in China has given me a greater zeal for the missions, to encourage missionary work, and to pray for the missions. I think it is a challenge for us all to continue to have a missionary spirit in everything that we do, realizing the call of Christ for all of us is to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Monday, August 10, 2009
In adoration angels bow before their divine Lord, the creature before his Creator. But how and why? Not as a man who journeys on the sea in a frail boat and is compelled to bow before a storm. Not as a physician who has fought for the life of a man and is obliged to acknowledge himself helpless before the advance of disease. In both cases this would mean bowing to a superior force. But certainly not adoration.... The angels, the elders, the four living creatures prostrate themselves before God for a very different reason, not only because He is all-powerful, but because He is worthy.
This thought it is which determines our relation to God, and we must understand it well. We are as nothing before Him, nevertheless we have the dignity of our personality. Not from ourselves, but from Him. Yet a dignity which is really ours. And it places an obligation upon us. Before a God who were only power, we could not bow low, we could only submit. But God is not mere power, He is mind as well. As great as is God's power, just so great is His truth. As perfect as is His sovereignty, just so perfect is His justice. As truly as He is real, just as truly is He holy.... The hymn of the Mass, called the Gloria from its opening word, contains an expression which at first may appear meaningless. "We thank Thee for Thy great glory." What does that mean? Do we not thank a person for what he gives, rather than for what he is"? But the words express the thought exactly. That God exists and that He is what He is constitutes no mere necessity, or fact, but a grace and a blessing. Yes, it is true. we are permitted to thank Him for His mere being.
And here lies the root of adoration. It is the bowing down of all creation before God, not only because He is all-powerful, but because He is worthy as well.
A great and blessed mystery is adoration. In it man fulfills his ultimate obligation to God and at the same time safeguards his own soundness, for it is the instrument of truth. Adoration is not merely all act by which we reach out to the knowledge of God, but a movement of man's whole being. The very foundation, the pillar, the arch, the essence of all truth is -- God is God; man is man....
Adoration is the safeguard of our mental health, of our inmost intellectual soundness. But what do we mean by that? Can the mind of a man fall ill? It can indeed.... Illness of the spirit finds entrance only in so far as it reaches the mind's seat of health, of soundness, namely, truth and justice. A man's mind falls ill when he relinquishes his hold on truth-not by lying, though he lie often, for in that case the injury to the spirit can be repaired by contrition and the renewal of good will-but by an inward revolt from truth. True illness of the mind and spirit sets in when a man no longer cherishes truth but despises it, when he uses it as a means to his own ends, when, in the depths of his soul, truth ceases to be to him the primary, the most important concern. In such a case, a man may not appear ill, indeed he may be functioning efficiently and successfully. But the order of his being is deranged. The scales with which he measures are out of balance. He no longer distinguishes between ends and means. He can no longer tell the destination from the way. He has lost the inner certainty of direction. He lacks answers to those final questions—why? For what purpose? And his whole being is affected.
What has all this to do with adoration? In fact everything. For the man who worships God will never risk losing his balance entirely. Whoever adores God in his heart and mind and also, when the moment arises, in actual practice, is being truly protected. He may make many mistakes, he may be deeply bewildered and shaken, but in the last analysis the order and direction of his life are secure.
We do well to see this clearly and to actually act—accordingly. But our resolve to practice adoration should not be simply one among many good resolutions as, for example, to keep one's word, or to do one's work properly. For here we arc concerned with the very center and measure of being. Everything depends upon whether or not adoration has its place in our lives. Whenever we adore God, something happens within and about us. Things fall into true perspective. Vision sharpens. Much that troubles us rights itself. We will distinguish better between the essential and the nonessential. The end and the means, the destination and the way. We discriminate more clearly between good and evil. The deceptions which affect daily life, the falsifications of standards are, to some extent at least, rectified.
As has been said, we must make a practice of adoration. The important thing is not to wait until obligation requires it, which might happen seldom enough; if we limit ourselves to such occasions, they would grow less and less frequent. Religious acts must be practiced if they are to grow into strong habits. God desires our adoration and we need it for our soul's health.
Whenever possible we should kneel. Kneeling is the adoration of the body. And in kneeling, we share the posture of the four-and-twenty elders who represent all creation in adoration before God. Then we should be still, cast aside all unrest of body and mind, be quiet in our whole being.
At the moment of adoration we are there for God. And for God alone. This very detachment from the oppression of care, from the cravings of the will and from fear is in itself adoration, and floods the soul with truth. Then say: God is here. I am before Him as are those forms in the vision, bowing down before His throne. I cannot see Him, for everything here is still in the obscurity of time, still earthly. But I know by faith that He is here. He is God; I am His creature. He made me; in Him I have my being. And now there is probably no need to write further. The one concerned must look up iota the face of God—His God-and tell Him what his heart bids him say.
Then he will experience for himself how really blessed and healing adoration is. So much that has been tormenting subsides. So many anxieties show themselves to be groundless. Desires and fears become regulated. Man gathers strength to meet the demands which life imposes upon him, is fortified at the very core of his being, and takes a firmer hold upon truth.
Man's adoration of God, here and now, with the limited vision possible in time, has a beauty all its own. It anticipates that stage when all will be clear and comprehensible. For whenever man adores God, the new creation breaks through. Is this not a wonderful thing to achieve? Wonderful, too, that a man can give glory and honor to God even while that same God is permitting Himself the appearance of weakness, and that a man may keep faith with Him Who, for the sake of truth, allows Himself to be dishonored; to recognize that here and now God is worthy to receive glory and honor and power. Perhaps the greatest experience that can come to a man is that he, a transient being, still caught in the confusion of this life, can give what is due to a God who is unintruding, can erect a throne for Him in his own heart, and, for his own part at least, establish the true order of things.
Eucharistic adoration is what made the difference between my calling the vocations director and remaining a layman who would have probably spent the rest of his life wondering what might have been. Are you unsure of which state of life our Lord calls you? Go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Are you at the end of your rope and don't know where to turn? Go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Do you wish to acquire wisdom and virtue? Go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
(HT: Pertinacious Papist)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
My plan is four posts. It would be too much information for one. So plan on hearing a lot about China if you keep checking back over the next week and a half.
1. The Church in China
2. Maryknoll and the Missions
3. My Ministry Time in China
4. What I Learned about the Priesthood
The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen
“The tragedy of Christian ministry is that many who are in great need, many who seek an attentive ear, a word of support, a forgiving embrace, a firm hand, a tender smile, or even a stuttering confession of inability to do more, often find their ministers distant men who do not want to burn their fingers.”
For me this line captured in a very simple yet profound manner the main objective of Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer. This line is packed with immense challenge and implication about our ministry as Christians. It is, indeed, sad to see this tragedy as an ongoing reality in today’s pragmatic world where the essence of ministry is shaped gradually to feed one’s own self-centeredness and egoistic desires. What do I mean by this, Nouwen puts it clearly in Chapter 1 that our human existence faces an impending “explosion of death” as “nuclear man” continues to become unaware of his potential for self-destruction. I found this imagery very powerful and profound.
With the use of some scientific terms, I tried to explore Nouwen’s use of this “nuclear man” imagery. In nuclear physics, a nuclear reaction is the process in which two nuclei or nuclear particles collide to produce products different from the initial particles. A nuclear chain reaction occurs when one nuclear reaction causes an average of one or more nuclear reactions, thus leading to a self-propagating number of these reactions. A nuclear explosion occurs as a result of the rapid release of energy from an intentionally high-speed nuclear reaction.
Connecting this scientific explanation with the imagery, I realized that the potential self-destruction can happen in a nuclear man when he is not aware of his own dynamics and limitations. These dynamics and limitations pertain to what Nouwen called as: (1) nuclear man’s lack of a sense of continuity/history where he only values the here and now and where he is paralyzed, bored and feel the sense of apathy; (2) nuclear man’s lack of a well-grounded believe in truth where he only lives by the hour as a post-modern pragmatic man who gets a piece of anything from everything; and (3) nuclear man’s lack of a sense of “what is to come” where he has the difficulty to go beyond his own existential limitations.
Nouwen explores deeper this dynamic in Chapter 2 by presenting us with the generation which he coined as “rootless”. This rootless generation pertains to the self-centeredness, captivity towards one’s self, and deep seated unhappiness, lack of vision and perspective. Where do we go from here? The imageries of the nuclear man and the rootless generation are like doors that lead us deeper to understand the real meaning and implications of being a Christian minister. What I was getting from Nouwen is the sense that to be a minister who is not grounded and lacks awareness of these given realities is to be another nuclear man who, instead of bringing genuine service and ministry to others, brings worse [a potential destruction to others]. For me, this is the tragedy that Nouwen talks about in our Christian ministry. Again, this is tragic because instead of helping our brothers and sisters to be healed, we are bringing a more fatal reaction to their system. Thus, in a deeper sense, we just trashing the very essence of ministry that Christ himself taught us [which is, in a blunt way, a direct insult to the person of Jesus]. Is there any other tragedy worse than not giving justice to Christ’s profound gift of ministry expressed in his life and love on the Cross?
Nouwen helped me in a very profound way to understand that my work as a future minister in Christ’s Church is truly serious and demands full submission to the working of the Holy Spirit. I loved Nouwen’s insight about how a minister can actually reverse the possible explosion or self-destruction through the awareness that our own woundedness as ministers. It is only in recognizing my own woundedness as a minister that I can truly start a genuine ministry to others. My own woundedness will help me to become aware and fully connected in every nuclear man’s need for healing and liberation and for all who belongs to this rootless generations that need someone who can articulate well their own inner events, a compassionate brother to them, and who touches them genuinely at their darkest hour. A minister who is aware of his own woundedness does not have the compulsion to redeem everyone nor save those to whom he ministers; rather, he allows Christ to be revealed in his ministry and make everyone known that they are already saved once and for all by Christ himself. Only through, my own woundedness as a leader that I can really enter other’s woundedness and that in my own needs and limitations I can allow true healing to enter in my life and in others. In the wounds of Christ that we are all saved and liberated, thus in our own woundedness that we can fully share the joy and gift of Christian ministry.
"Relatives and friends of those who'd been inside the fitness center eventually were directed to the Bower Hill Volunteer Fire Department on Vanadium Road in Scott to await word on the dead and wounded.
There, they were comforted by crisis counselors and priests from the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese -- the Revs. Kim Schreck, John Naugle and Joseph Freedy, who were sent to the fire hall by Bishop David Zubik.
Father Freedy had been one of the first to the gym after the shooting, Father Schreck said. Father Freedy, who had been passing by, ministered to panicked club members in the fitness center parking lot and also comforted some of the wounded before contacting the bishop.
Bishop Zubik then dispatched the three priests to the fire hall, and the bishop himself visited the wounded and their families at the three hospitals.
"We're here so we can help, perhaps, some with their spiritual needs," Father Schreck explained.
The priests listened to, counseled and prayed with more than a dozen people inside the fire hall "whether they were traumatized by the incident or here for a loved one," he said.
Asked what he told people in such situations, he said, "Evil is real. For whatever reason, this man acted in a horrible way, and we suffered because of it. Some people blame God, but He is here in us. The Lord is with us in our suffering."
Read more here.
The Lord is always there. In fact, He sent his own guys, his priests, to be present. Fr. Freedy just finished his studies here at the NAC. May we imitate these men of God.
I hope to post quite a few reflections on China in the next few days or weeks.
Tomorrow I leave for Milan to work with the Missionaries of Charity for a month. The guys stateside start seminary a lot sooner than we do in Rome.