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.