Monday, November 30, 2009


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

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

Guys cooking up the bacon

Eggs and gravy

Me with the finished product


Friday the New Men do their big dinner for themselves.

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

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

National Anthem


Old Men on offense

New Men on offense

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


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Practice Homily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to all

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

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

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

- George Washington

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Dangerous Prayer

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

What's that dangerous prayer?

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Living Alone in a Rectory

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

So what do you do?

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

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

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

photo by cuellar

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


Friday, November 20, 2009

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

Jeremy Santos asked me to post this on the blog.

Another look at Seminary life. Enjoy. =)

Via the Youtube Description:

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the annual Bishop's Conference in Baltimore

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

4th Central Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, spitting is a problem around here.

And a couple of views from my door.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Priest Video

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Falling Asleep

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

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

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

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

photo by mimk

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Priest as Fashion Designer

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Seminarian.

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

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

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

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

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

The first challenge of the day is getting up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--- Catholic Sentinel, 10/22/09

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Difficult Time

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

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

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

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