Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our blog has moved!

Today our blog has moved to! This is the new vocations website for the Diocese of Sacramento and the new place from which our blog will operate.

Please update your links and bookmarks to reflect this new web address.


Monday, May 17, 2010


This just happens to be a very common symptom in the seminary. We get everything we could possibly need, food, housing, entertainment, prayer, brotherhood, financial support, and we somehow still find the time to complain. I am probably the number one offender here. :)

But it is a bad sign for our humility and a challenge for us to move beyond ourselves. As my spiritual director always says, we have to stop feeding that ego of ours that wants what we want it, when we want it, how we want it, and on and on. If you want to grow in your discernment, try putting the kabosh on your complaining. It sure is not the easiest for me.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

From the Week

Sorry this is a bit late. I ran out of town on Friday and forgot to post this.


It's been a slow week. My friend is still in the hospital so it's becoming part of the daily routine. Please keep him in your prayers.


We pulled out another victory beating Sedes Sapientia 3-0 and are on to the semi-finals. That game will happen in a couple weeks.


We have all heard about the sex abuse scandals that have stretched into Europe. That said, I was glad to finally hear these clear spoken words from the Archbishop of Dublin.

"There are those who think that in today’s culture what we need is a sort of efficient ‘Catholic Church in Ireland Incorporated’, with its own CEO and with management structures administered efficiently from the top right down to the lowest level. The Church can benefit from appropriate management structures, but renewal will always be the work of prophets rather than management consultants. The message of Jesus Christ is lived in localized faith communities not in national bureaucracies...

...The Catholic Church in Ireland, as I said, will have to find its place in a very different, much more secularized culture, at times even in a hostile culture. It will have to find that place by being authentic and faithful to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. The agenda for change in the Church must be one that comes from its message and not from pressure from outside and from people who do not have the true good of the Church at heart. We all have reasons to be discouraged and to be angry. There is a sense, however, in which true reform of the Church will spring only from those who love the Church, with a love like that of Jesus which is prepared also to suffer for the Church and to give oneself for the Church."

I have started to get a sense of the disillusion myself with my hospital visits. People are confused, weary, no longer interested. What is needed, deep down, are saints. Holy priests, holy sisters, holy lay faithful, holy everyone. Perhaps it is most challenging to be a priest right now because of the scandal and the many struggles we continue to face. But as I told a couple ladies from the south, that is stateside, it is also an amazingly exciting time to be a priest. There is much to be done and much grace there to do it with.


All my diocesan brothers are out of school back home. If I used the word jealous, I would be understating my current state. Enjoy fellas!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There's no such thing as a coincidence

Today, May 13, has much significance in the recent history of the Church. On this day in 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father attributed his survival to the protection of Our Lady of Fatima because on this same day in 1917, three shepherd children in the Portuguese village of Fatima reported the first of several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. On the same date - May 13, 1917 - Fr. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, was consecrated a bishop. Pius XII was one of our great Marian popes, and formally exercised his ex cathedra authority to promulgate the dogmatic definition of our Mother's Assumption into Heaven. May 13 is also the birthday of Blessed Pope Pius IX who also explicitly invoked his infallible ex cathedra teaching authority to promulgate the dogmatic definition of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception. Today is also the forty-third anniversary of Monsignor James Kidder's (my pastor's) ordination to the priesthood. Happy anniversary Monsignor!

Scripture tells us the hairs on our heads are all numbered, and not a single sparrow falls from the sky without God knowing of it. For that reason, I don't believe there's really such a thing as a coincidence in our Blessed Lord's divine providence. Looking back on my own life, it's still amazing to me that I, someone who wasn't even born a Catholic, am now studying to be a priest. At the same time though I have to believe that if it is indeed God's will that I be a priest, He would have known that from all eternity before I was even conceived. God arranged things to happen in my life to 1) bring me into His Church and admit me to His sacraments, and 2) inspire me to apply to our diocese and the seminary.

Our Holy Father is currently engaged in a pilgrimage to Fatima for the anniversary of Our Lady's appearances to the children there ninety-three years ago. He just delivered an awesome sermon which touches on Our Lady's message of prayer, repentance, and conversion. Pray the Rosary for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and for peace in the world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are we there yet?

This is another seminarian symptom I think. We want to be already there, ordained priests, but we are not even close. What I have come to realize recently is that seminary is not something to be endured. I know I should already know that. But it has finally become something interior to me, that it is good to be here, and this time in itself is blessed

Pope Benedict reflecting on life in the seminary said "The seminary is not so much a place but a significant time in the life of the follower of Jesus (Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005)." That is how we too need to see it.

And Mother Adela, superior of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary said "The seminary is a time of formation, of communion, of intimate dialogue with Christ, of preparation for the mission. It seems to me that we could call the seminary the time of Nazareth."

The challenge is to love where we are. The challenge I think is to abandon ourselves to Divine Providence and rejoice in whatever the Lord has for us and asks of us each day. Jesus did that despite perhaps an eagerness to start his own saving mission for all humanity. He waited until the time was right. We've got to put in our time too.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Is priestly celibacy healthy?

Fr. James Martin takes apart some common misconceptions about celibacy in the article below. It's worth a read.

In light of the recent explosive news of sexual abuse by priests in Europe, many in the media are wondering again if celibacy leads to abuse. Can you be healthy and celibate?

The irony is that some of history’s most loving and generous persons — those that even nonbelievers admire — were chaste. Think of St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. Would anyone say that they were not loving? Or somehow sick?

Better yet, think of Jesus of Nazareth who, most serious Scripture scholars agree, never married. Does anyone doubt that Jesus was not a loving person? Was he sick?

Click here for more.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

I just turned in my last paper. Pre-Theology is over, and I will begin First Theology in the fall. I still have a long way to go but I feel like I'm making a huge step. It's time to leave the parlor and enter seminary proper now.

From the Week

From the Week


photo by julie70

A good seminarian brother of mine has been in the hospital for the past few weeks with some health issues. What started as an overnight stay turned into day after day of questions and few answers. Hopefully he is getting better, especially after surgery a few days ago, but please keep him in your prayers.


God always seems to bless situations even like the one mentioned above. It has been an opportunity for me to see how the priests of this house exercise their spiritual fatherhood. One of them has visited him every single day and when he went into surgery a couple days ago, he spent the whole day there. Another has dropped in quite often, always encouraging him and giving him a blessing. This may not sound so significant but for priests here at the NAC who are constantly asked to do so many things, taking time out to visit their own brother who is suffering is a sign of true fatherhood, an earnest desire to share the love of Christ. It's been an inspiration and a great witness for me.


photo by rene_ehrhardt

We had our final BBQ of the year last Sunday and we were joined by the Legionaries of Christ who brought over some of their men from Regina Apostolorum to play a few sports against us. After having a clean sweep last year in all 3 sports, we fell to the Legionaries by losing 2 out of the 3. We got beat badly in basketball and frisbee. They have some amazing athletes. Luckily, we beat them in the American classic...well not baseball...rather softball. 14-3. So at least we can glory in one blowout victory.


I headed up our hall dinner this week. We have a real nice student kitchen on our 5th floor that we can check out every once in a while to make a nice meal, either for a small group or something a bit bigger like a hall dinner. We put together a very American meal - 3 types of meatloaf (NY, Minnesota, and California), twice-baked potatoes, buttered garlic stringbeans, spicy chicken taters, salmon and cream cheese on crackers, and, for desert, brownies and chocolate cake. It was a good time but I think we all need to run off the cholesterol. :)


This week our NAC soccer team takes on Sedes Sapientia in the first round of the Clericus Cup playoffs. Let's hope for a win!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This week at St. Patrick's

We're in the middle of finals week here in the States. This morning our academic dean, Fr. Bud Stevens, gave an excellent homily as he usually does. When he started out as academic dean at St. Mary's in Baltimore, the then rector asked him if he could teach a course called "theology of God." You're surely thinking that that comes from the redundant department of redundancy. The study of God of God? But consider that back then traditional courses on the Trinity had been crowded out by the likes of dream interpretation, theology of politics, and the theology of culture. Now those are important (well, probably not dream interpretation) but they're losing sight of what it's all about: God.

This semester I took a course on the philosophy of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. In one of his sermons, he said that worldliness means accepting the values of the world which tell us that this life is the only one there is. I wonder how many of us Catholics are worldly without even knowing it? We worry endlessly about which school we'll go to, what career we want, finding a spouse, etc. If we don't listen to the right music, or watch the right movies, or have a house of our own by a certain age, then we think of ourselves as misfits or failures. But where does God enter into our thinking? Should we not always be trying to please Him more than the world?

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking about seminary as just another secular university. We study hard and get good grades so the bishop will send us to Rome after we're ordained, so we can become canon lawyers, so we can eventually become bishops ourselves some day. That is NOT how one should approach the seminary. We study hard in order to understand what the Church teaches. We want to understand what the Church teaches because some day, God willing, we will be teaching God's people what the Church teaches (and nothing but.) We teach them what the Church teaches all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

If you're discerning whether God calls you to the priesthood, that is what you should always have as your primary motivation: the love of God and neighbor, and a great zeal for souls. Being the fallen creatures that we are, we all come to the seminary with other motivations thrown into the mix, but always ask God to grant you greater love of Him and His commandments. Study hard, do well on your tests and your papers, but never forget why you're doing so.

France's Recruitment Efforts

Associated Press just put out an article on the Catholic Church in France and their priesthood recruitment efforts. It brings up some tough questions facing the French Catholic Church today.

Among the questions the author Katie King proposes are the challenges of celibacy, the permanency of priesthood, and the low income.

I have talked quite a few times about celibacy myself on this blog so I will put it aside for now. The permanency of priesthood is an interesting question. I have come upon the idea of a temporary priesthood both in articles online and with people in the hospital here in Italy. It makes sense if the priesthood is what many characterize it as, another career. Except for the fact that it is not a career choice. It is a life choice.

I wonder whether if people took the promises of baptism seriously, they would not see the lifelong priesthood as something so far outside their desires or capabilities. Ultimately when we are baptized, we take on the promise to live forever in relationship with God and in service of His people. It's permanent, just like the priesthood. I think what we really have a problem with today is the ability to make a commitment, to sign a contract with permanent ink. We prefer the pencil. But the Christian life, as the call to priesthood, religious life, or marriage, require and demand life long commitment.

Perhaps the only way out of this sense of temporary priesthood is a deep formation in the Christian faith, an understanding that we are called to live our lives completely for Christ. The priesthood is one unique way to live out that calling. Should it be temporary? No, because like any vocation, it requires its permanency to allow for a complete gift of self. Would you tell a spouse before a marriage, "Well, this does not need to last forever right?" You destroy the very reason for marriage. Love, that is absolute, uncompromising, till death do us part love, and the priesthood, flows from this same idea. We marry our spouse as well, the Church, and we do it in a complete and absolute sort of way. Temporary priesthood takes that all away.

This other idea of income is, well, kind of funny. It is funny, in part, because I have never met a priest who was lacking, at least stateside. The Church and most especially the faithful take great care of their priests and even their seminarians. And two, because history, man's search for happiness, has proven that material goods never satisfy the deepest yearnings of man for fulfillment, authenticity, purpose, and ultimately, the one thing goods can never do, love! There are few greater ways to encounter and give love than the calling to priesthood, religious life, or marriage in a quite permanent way. With permanence, love comes to full fruition. You can trust the other because you know they are in all the way just like you are. There is no escape route. You enter in for the long term, all the speed bumps included. You can offer everything and know that it will be completely returned in love. Who needs money? :)

King finally concludes:

"Pourquoi Pas Moi?" or "Why Not Me?" is the slogan for the recruitment campaign — which today may prove a tough question for the Church to answer.

I could not agree more. That is, it is a difficult question. But it is not for the Church to answer. She presents the challenge to the young men of this generation and it is up to them to answer that call. It is up to them to ask, "Why Not Me?" God needs good and holy men to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel. The words of Jesus, "Come, follow me" never grow old but in each age beckon forth another generation of priests ready to offer everything to bring one more soul to God.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Priestly Vestments

This is from Pope Benedict's Chrism Mass Homily from 2007 and explains the rich symbolism underlying the vesting of oneself in the amice (although today this is not necessarily used) and the alb. It was passed on to be by a fellow seminarian as we prepared for acolyte installation.

"I would therefore like to explain to you, dear Confreres, on this Holy Thursday, the essence of the priestly ministry, interpreting the liturgical vestments themselves, which are precisely intended to illustrate what "putting on Christ", what speaking and acting in persona Christi, mean. Putting on priestly vestments was once accompanied by prayers that helped us understand better each single element of the priestly ministry.

Let us start with the amice. In the past - and in monastic orders still today - it was first placed on the head as a sort of hood, thus becoming a symbol of the discipline of the senses and of thought necessary for a proper celebration of Holy Mass. My thoughts must not wander here and there due to the anxieties and expectations of my daily life; my senses must not be attracted by what there, inside the church, might accidentally captivate the eyes and ears. My heart must open itself docilely to the Word of God and be recollected in the prayer of the Church, so that my thoughts may receive their orientation from the words of the proclamation and of prayer. And the gaze of my heart must be turned toward the Lord who is in our midst: this is what the ars celebrandi means: the proper way of celebrating. If I am with the Lord, then, with my listening, speaking and acting, I will also draw people into communion with him.

The texts of the prayer expressed by the alb and the stole both move in the same direction. They call to mind the festive robes which the father gave to the prodigal son who had come home dirty, in rags. When we approach the liturgy to act in the person of Christ, we all realize how distant we are from him; how much dirt there is in our lives. He alone can give us festive robes, can make us worthy to preside at his table, to be at his service. Thus, the prayers also recall the words of Revelation, which say that it was not due to their own merit that the robes of the 144,000 elect were worthy of God. The Book of Revelation says that they had washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb and thus made them white and shining like light (cf. Rv 7: 14).
When I was little, I used to ask myself about this: when one washes something in blood, it certainly does not become white! The answer is: the "Blood of the Lamb" is the love of the Crucified Christ.

It is this love that makes our dirty clothes white, that makes our clouded spirit true and bright; that transforms us, despite all our shadows, into "light in the Lord".
By putting on the alb we must remind ourselves: he suffered for me, too. And it is only because his love is greater than all my sins that I can represent him and witness to his light. But with the garment of light which the Lord gave us in Baptism and in a new way in priestly Ordination, we can also think of the wedding apparel which he tells us about in the parable of God's banquet.

In the homilies of Gregory the Great, I found in this regard a noteworthy reflection. Gregory distinguishes between Luke's version of the parable and Matthew's. He is convinced that the Lucan parable speaks of the eschatological marriage feast, whereas - in his opinion - the version handed down by Matthew anticipates this nuptial banquet in the liturgy and life of the Church.
In Matthew, in fact, and only in Matthew, the king comes into the crowded room to see his guests. And here in this multitude he also finds a guest who was not wearing wedding clothes, who is then thrown outside into the darkness.

Then Gregory asks himself: "But what kind of clothes ought he to have been wearing? All those who are gathered in the Church have received the new garment of baptism and the faith; otherwise, they would not be in the Church. So what was it that was still lacking? What wedding clothes must there be in addition?" The Pope responds: "the clothes of love".

And unfortunately, among his guests to whom he had given new clothes, the white clothes of rebirth, the king found some who were not wearing the purple clothes of twofold love, for God and for neighbor. "In what condition do we want to come to the feast in Heaven, if we are not wearing wedding clothes - that is, love, which alone can make us beautiful?", the Pope asks. A person without love is dark within.

External shadows, of which the Gospel speaks, are only the reflection of the internal blindness of the heart (cf. Hom. 38, 8-13). Now that we are preparing for the celebration of Holy Mass, we must ask ourselves whether we are wearing these clothes of love. Let us ask the Lord to keep all hostility away from our hearts, to remove from us every feeling of self-sufficiency and truly to clothe ourselves with the vestment of love, so that we may be luminous persons and not belong to darkness."


Friday, April 30, 2010

From the Week


If you want a easy way to increase morale in the seminary, try this. 3 weekends in a row with a BBQ and softball game. My morale is very high. :)

This past weekend we had a BBQ and a softball tournament with teams divided by the university attended. Santa Croce lost big time to the Gregorian but once again, the Angelicum held off the Gregorian in the final game 10-9 to continue their dominance.


We won. We won. We won. We're in the playoffs! We beat the French College 1-0. If you don't know what I am talking about, then look here. The Clericus Cup tournament starts in another week so we have this weekend off to rest up and prepare for another championship run.


I always like to say one of the advantages of NAC is the cultural experience. We get a sense of the universal Church (then again I already get this in California) but also the local Church, that being the United States. One most recent example was a conversation I had with a number of non-west coast seminarians. They mentioned this little critter called a chigger. I have never encountered one but supposedly they dig into your skin and if they are females, they plant eggs in you!

Admittedly, they are not as big as the picture below suggests.


A big congratulations to Fr. Avram Brown, a priest from the holy Diocese of Sacramento, who just completed his thesis for his license in Biblical Studies. Now if he can just get through the comprehensives, he will be back in the diocese in no time. I believe June 18th is the big day so consider saying a prayer for him.


Tonight is the big Cal-Neva social and dinner that gathers California and Nevada cardinals, priests, sisters, seminarians, and brothers from all across Rome. It should be a good time.


And lastly, for those who might care, there are ONLY 4 weeks left in the semester. That said, I believe my brothers at St. Pat's and Mount Angel are weeks away from finishing out their semester. Good luck and God speed as finals approach.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Do Not Despair

Do Not Despair

This address was delivered at the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, Houston, Texas, April 13, 2010 by Most Rev. John R. Quinn, archbishop emeritus of San Francisco.

I am here to pay tribute to you, the priests of the United States. You stand on the front line. You meet the angry or confused or troubled people at the Sunday Masses in your parishes and missions. You have to try to answer their questions about the worldwide crisis caused by priests and bishops around the world. You are the ones out there in the parishes whose...

To view the rest of the article, click here.


Good Shepherd Sunday

Good Shepherd Sunday is kind of like the day of priestly vocations and it just passed us yesterday. Here are some words from the Pope:

"On this day of special prayer for vocations, I particularly encourage ordained ministers, stimulated by the Year for Priests, to feel a commitment 'to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world'; to remember that the priest 'continues the work of redemption on earth'; to pause 'frequently before the tabernacle'; to remain 'completely faithful to their vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism': to make themselves available for listening and forgiveness; to undertake the Christian formation of the people entrusted to their care; and to cultivate 'priestly fraternity'".


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sleeping at Mass

Well the way I see it, if the pope can doze at Mass once in a blue moon, it can't be that bad if I end up doing it every once in a while at 6:15am in the chapel. :) I'm kidding of course. But poor holy father, they really put him through the wringer with all these trips.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

This week at St. Patrick's

Colin's entry below reminded me that Sacramento is blessed with many young vocations. Things are different now, but it wasn't that long ago that I would have been considered a "late vocation." In today's Church I'm still a child - I turn 30 this December.

This year marks a major transition for me: the faculty has judged me ready to leave philosophy and enter First Theology in the fall. I can finally put down Heidegger's Being and Time! No offense Father Rojas ;) The diocesan priest is necessarily a social creature, and I'm getting a small taste of that now. The student council end-of-the-year dinner was on Thursday; yesterday I went to lunch with my support group to Amato's in Mountain View (best cheese steaks in the West), and after that the Pre-Theology end-of-semester dinner with pizza and beer. Some faculty members like to unofficially "adopt" a class every year. Fr. John Kselman, one of our resident scripture scholars, took us out to Applewood Pizza in Menlo Park last semester. This time we treated him. I was the Pre-Theology class representative on the student council this year, and I'm already urging the Pre-Theo I guys to consider running in the fall. That way I can extend my reach and influence throughout the future ranks of the priesthood! Just kidding :)

Last Saturday was the Sacramento Diocese's 57th annual Youth Convention. This year it was held at Divine Savior parish in Orangevale. The keynote speaker this year was Mike Patin. This was the first time I had ever heard him talk, and I thought he did a great job! He has that rare talent for speaking to teenagers without talking down to them, and at the same time delivering solid orthodoxy in his talks. The Sacramento seminarians took turns minding the vocations cafe. Right next to us were the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Our diocese is very blessed to have them. I love any religious order that still wears the habit.

Only two weeks of the semester left - one week of classes, and then finals. If you enter the seminary, depending on your educational background you're looking at anywhere from five to nine years. That sounds like a long time when you're just starting out, but trust me, it goes by fast. I've been at it for two years now and I still feel like the new guy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From the Week


We lost our big game against Redemptoris Mater in the Clericus Cup and now fall to 4-2 for the season. The playoffs are still in sight but we are going to have to push hard to get there.


This weekend is our annual softball tournament between the Gregorian, Angelicum, and Santa Croce students. Us Angelicum students have won the past few years and there year looks no different.


I returned to the hospital this week and met my friend from last week. She was so happy to see us. We spoke a bit about her friend who was still holding on after another difficult week. We spoke about John Paul II and how he suffered just like her and I told her how it was John Paul II, most especially after his death, that inspired my vocation to the priesthood. She spoke about his way of drawing people to God and we spoke about the love of God. It was a really good talk. She reminded us that we must be totally dedicated in this vocation or we should leave it. And I said of course but we need her prayers too. She looked at my funny and said are you kidding me and I said of course we need them. It was indeed a graced time. And at the end of the conversation, she gave us her number so we can have a true Italian dinner sometime soon.


The guy next door, a good man of God from San Francisco, just received his call to orders the other day. This is the letter every seminarian waits for. It is the letter that declares that being found ready and prepared to be ordained, the bishop calls you to be present at a certain day and time to be ordained to the priesthood. These are exciting times. :)


And old man Brian Soliven, soon to be ordained deacon in the fall, just turned 30 over the past weekend, that's almost as old as the Holy Father who turned 83 over the weekend. Ad multos annos.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Class of 2010

These are some of the statistics for the class of 2010, possibly numbering about 440, from the USCCB website.

• The average age of ordinands for the Class of 2010 is 37. More than half (56 percent) are between the ages of 25 and 34.

• Almost one-third (31 percent) of ordinands were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Columbia, the Philippines, Poland, and Vietnam. On average, responding ordinands who were born in another country have lived in the United States for 11 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.

• Before entering the seminary, three in five ordinands completed college (60 percent), and one in five received a graduate degree (20 percent). Among those who completed college before entering the seminary, seven in ten entered the seminary at the pre-theology level and 19 percent entered at the theology level. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college.

• Ordinands of the Class of 2010 have been active in parish ministries, with about half to three-quarters indicating they served as an altar server, lector, and/or Eucharistic minister in their parish. One-fifth (19 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.

• More than nine in ten ordinands (92 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Less than one in ten has served in the U.S. Armed Forces. One in six (16 percent) report that either one or both parents were career military.

• Two-thirds of ordinands report regularly praying the Rosary (67 percent) and participating in Eucharistic Adoration (65 percent) before entering the seminary.

Vocational Discernment

• On average, responding ordinands report that they were about 18 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. About eight in ten (78 percent) were encouraged to consider the priesthood by a priest. Between 40 and 50 percent report that friends, parishioners, or parents encouraged them to consider priesthood.

• Half of responding ordinands report that someone discouraged them from considering the priesthood. Respondents are more likely to cite a friend or classmate, or a parent or family member as discouraging them.

• Relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising were instrumental in their discernment. Two in five (42 percent) participated in a “Come and See” weekend before entering the seminary. Eight in ten (85 percent) report that they have seen the “Fishers of Men” DVD published by the USCCB.

To the Class of 2010, may God bless you as you prepare for ordination to the priesthood.

Ad Multos Annos!

Friday, April 16, 2010

From the Week


Thursday was our big Rector's Dinner where we are given a chance to thank those who have generously contributed to our experience here in Rome. It is also a good community event for us and a beneficial fundraiser. Here's us setting up below. The nice thing about having 220 guys in house is that a ton of work is made easy with so many hands.


Fr. Robert Barron, of the famous Word on Fire website, gave us another talk this week on Newman and and his biography, Apologia pro Vita Sua.


My vocation director, Fr. Chuck Kelly, has been in town for the week and I have been asking a lot of questions. I'm truly excited for the summer. It seems like we'll be running all over the diocese. Among other things, we will be doing Wilderness Outreach, which is a weeklong work camp out in the wilderness cutting trail. Its emphasis is on developing an authentic masculine spirituality. I'll be going out with Fr. Chuck, a few other seminarians, and then some guys who are discerning. If you are interested and discerning, you might try to reach our vocations office and see if there are any openings. The dates are July 23rd-30th. We'll also be visiting parishes, promoting vocations, and whatever else presents itself. I cannot wait to get back home. :) Here's Fr. Chuck, Aaron and myself up on the roof.

Fr. Chuck was speaking to us a bit and said something that struck me. He said you are never going to be comfortable with what you are doing. And to be a priest, you have to get comfortable with always being uncomfortable. It's not an easy life and new dilemmas always cross your path, you have to be ready for the unexpected. There should be a certain fear. That can be healthy because it keeps your head screwed on straight and you do not just go charging into battle. A former police officer was explaining how there is always a bit of fear going in a house knowing you are in for a battle. So also with the life of a priest.

He also spoke about confession. There is a real deep sense that you do not know what is really taking place in confession as the confessor. God works in deeper ways than you can imagine so you may experience little if any consolation in the confessional but God can be saving souls right in front of your desolation. This is a powerful reality to enter into but honestly so very difficult as well.


I was just at the hospital on Monday and I met a woman who was visiting her dying friend in the hospital. She was unconscious and on oxygen. I mentioned I would be praying for her friend but she responded, God does not answer us. God is not love. He allows her friend to suffer for some 40 years and even now will not let her go. He is not love. I was just starting to get my bearings when she continued that Jesus died for nothing because we still suffer and God sits idly by.

You know, I did not have the answer. I knew I did not have the answer. Who has the answer to suffering? But I responded that God must be love and though it was hard to see, God was with them in this suffering. We can say that we do not understand why we must suffer and why good people must suffer but we cannot deny that God is love.

Well I am not sure if it was the right move but I could not let a statement like that stand, ultimate for her own well-being. There is just no way to let it stand. I think in some sense she knew it had to be countered. What kind of world would this be if God were not love? Impossible!

But she responded that I have never seen suffering. She has. She has accompanied many of her friends to their deaths and she lived during world war 2. She knows suffering. And when I know suffering, I will know that God is not love.

Yikes! I had to admit my lack of experience but I insisted that God truly is love, completely and always. Yes I might be young and suffering is a great mystery but God answers it in the best way possible, with His Son sharing in our suffering.

Please pray for her and her friend who is on her death bed that the Lord may receive her into his arms.


We play Redemptoris Mater this weekend's Clericus Cup game. Say a prayer for us. They beat us last year in the finals. :/


This just in. Our numbers for our new man class of 2014 has just crept up to 60. I think they are trying to break the record my class set 2 years ago. :)


Thursday, April 15, 2010


Our Holy Father made some excellent off-the-cuff remarks the other day. From Vatican Radio:

Speaking without a prepared text, the Holy Father said that in modern times we have seen theorized an idea of man according to which human being would be, “free, autonomous, and nothing else.”

This supposed freedom from everything, including freedom from the duty of obedience to God, “Is a lie,” said Pope Benedict, a falsehood regarding the basic structure of human being – about the way women and men are made to be, “because,” he continued, “human being does not exist on its own, nor does it exist for itself.”

I think it was Chesterton who said that all arguments are ultimately theological arguments. If everything comes from God and returns to God (exitus et reditus), a worldview that denies God is going to make errors in its anthropology. How many young people do you know who think life is nothing but a never ending search for more stuff? Who think all their problems will disappear if they can only marry the right person? Or who think maleness and femaleness are irrelevant social constructs?

The Pope said it is a political and practical falsehood, as well, because cooperation and sharing of freedoms is a necessary part of social life – and if God does not exist – if He is not a point of reference really accessible to human being, then only prevailing opinion remains and it becomes the final arbiter of all things.

Chesterton also said that the Catholic Church is the only thing that can save a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his time. I fell in love with the Church because it is always simultaneously behind and ahead of the times because it is timeless. In contrast, if the Church were to wed itself to the spirit of the times, it would always be five minutes behind, huffing and puffing to catch up. What the people want is Christ. If we tell them that religion is a jolly fine thing and no spoilsport, and everyone is perfectly fine just the way they are with no need for repentance or conversion... well, they can get all of that outside the Church and get it better.

The Holy Father also stressed that for Christians, true obedience to God depends on our truly knowing Him, and he warned against the danger of using “obedience to God” as a pretext for following our own desires.

This touches on Colin's entry below about the nature of obedience. If you only follow the directives of your superior because you agree with them or because you like your superior personally, then you are not practicing true obedience. Once again, Jesus is the model here: He asked the Father to take that cup from him, but also said, "Thy will be done." Can you still hear the voice of God in your superior when he asks you to do something you'd rather not do?

“We have,” he said, “a certain fear of speaking about eternal life.”

“We talk of things that are useful to the world,” continued Pope Benedict, “we show that Christianity can help make the world a better place, but we do not dare say that the end of the world and the goal of Christianity is eternal life – and that the criteria of life in this world come from the goal – this we dare not say.”

I think people mean well when they talk about all of the material good Christianity has done throughout history. It's perfectly true that we essentially created hospitals and the modern university system. It's true that the Catholic Church does more charitable work than any other institution today. It's true that all Catholics have a moral obligation to work for social justice in ways suitable to their state in life, whether it's going on the Walk for Life or donating time and money to the relief of earthquake victims in Haiti or China. But if we concentrate on those things alone to the exclusion of our final goal, we're missing the point. The Church was founded for the salvation of souls. In the end, you and I will be in either Heaven or Hell, forever. How often do we meditate on the Four Last Things anymore? How often do we hear about the need to repent, confess, and do penance anymore? In my prayer life, I always ask God to grant me a burning charity for Him and for my neighbor, and an ardent zeal for souls. If it's not about eternal life - if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead - then our faith is in vain and priests are overworked bureaucrats who can't get married.

I recently finished The Cure D'Ars Today, which I highly recommend. Everyone is familiar with what St. John Vianney said to a child on his way to the parish in which he would spend most of his life, and I think it is a good encapsulation of what the priest is and he is supposed to do: "You have shown me the way to Ars, and now I will show you the way to Heaven."

Monday, April 12, 2010


Obedience can be defined as attentive listening.

I have to be honest. My obedience has not been tested. Then again, I have yet to take a promise of obedience. But I still have not been tested so my knowledge of obedience is scant to say the least. Coming to Rome under obedience is probably not a good example. :)

But I have met men here who even in terms of their formation have allowed the spirit of obedience to rule their hearts. I know a priest recently ordained whose bishop asked him to come back and study to be an ambassador for the Vatican. From what I get, it was not exactly his choice but under his own discernment and understanding of obedience he said yes. I doubt he could have dreamt that his priesthood (in Christ of course) meant serving overseas for much of the rest of his life, rarely staying and serving in a local parish.

Likewise I met another recently ordained priest who was sent here to study for a licentiate in dogma or something only to be told after a year to starting studying for a doctorate in philosophy because that was the need of the diocese. And he obediently and faithfully agreed to his bishop's request, knowing that it would add another 3 or 4 years on to his time here in Rome.

A Benedictine recently came and spoke to us about obedience.

He said obedience is not destroying your own will, creativity, initiative, and energy but harmonizing it with that of the authority in charge. That does not mean that you creatively decide how to obey without really obeying. But it means finding in obedience a life-giving strength that only helps you to give glory to God.

There are three ways to help build obedience. One is to develop respect for your superiors. Another is to look at the broader perspective and not just your individual situation, your parish, but the whole diocese and even the good of the universal Church. Finally he said, you need to be cheerful with your obedience. Don't complain and drag your feet but be faithful in your duty.

Obedience. Tough word. But if you want to be a priest, religious, or really any kind of Christian whatsoever, it requires obedience. Obedience to your bishop yes, the pope, your pastor, your fellow brother and sisters in the pews, oh yeah, and God too.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Some Humor

I think I can relate to this.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Christus resurrexit. Resurrexit vere.

This past Easter Vigil marked my fifth anniversary as a Catholic. My entrance into the Church coincided with the death of Venerable Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI to the Chair of Peter. In God's divine Providence, of course, there's no such thing as a coincidence. As Colin said in a previous entry, please pray for our Holy Father. Pope Benedict is, I think, being unfairly attacked in various quarters even though he's done much to combat and correct these scandals. Please pray that through these latest trials, he may be conformed ever more to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Eternal Priest. Please pray for him through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of all Priests.

A parishioner in my home parish told me yesterday that one of his sons is firmly resolved to become a priest. He's still very young but I encouraged him to pray much on his vocation, and in particular, pray that Mary may nurture it and strengthen it. And of course I told him to go with the diocese of Sacramento :) But the conversation reminded me of something that came up in my own vocational discernment and was brought up on the military discernment weekend several weeks ago: How does one decide between diocesan or religious priesthood?

These are just a few suggestions to bring to your prayer life and to a priest friend or spiritual director. Is there one religious order in particular that strongly appeals to you? Do you feel as if each order's charism has aspects that you find attractive but you can't settle on only one? The latter was how I felt. What helped me make my decision was that I found my vocational discernment kept returning me to parish life. In the war for souls, the parish is the front line. In the old days, diocesan priests used to be called the secular clergy. Now that doesn't mean the diocesan priest should be worldly. But as a diocesan priest you are called to be in the world but not of it, as our Lord said. What that means is you must learn enough about the world to speak to your flock where they are. The favorite example of my academic adviser was a bright, young, newly ordained priest who was assigned to a parish in the inner city where you had to literally step over drunks and crack addicts on your way to church. He said in one of his homilies, "As John Locke tells us..." Now do you think the average parishioner in a parish like that is overly familiar with the finer points of Locke's philosophy? That priest didn't know his audience. This does not mean that we ought to water down the Faith in our preaching; Lord knows there's been quite enough of that already over the past few decades. Nor does it necessarily mean we should always appeal to the lowest common denominator. It's a difficult balance to be sure, but it's one we have to strike nonetheless.

This raises another question: if each religious order has its own spirituality, what is the spirituality of the diocesan priest? I always tell everyone that since the priest is entrusted with the Word of God, he must know the Word of God. That means regularly reading and praying with Sacred Scripture. The priest alone has the power to confect the Eucharist; adoration of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament is a must. And as Jesus entrusted His mother to the beloved disciple, so must all priests take Mary into their hearts just as he took her into his home. It's easy to neglect all of that in the seminary what with all of the assigned reading, papers, and exams. I get up very early in order to do a Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament, to read Scripture, and say my rosary. I know myself well enough to know that if I don't do it early, I'll never do it. I'm firmly convinced that doing all of those things will help the priest accomplish far, far more in his apostolate than he could ever hope to do without them. Remember - it's Christ working through us. We just have to show up.

Martyrdom in the True Sense of the Word

We've been learning about Martyrdom in the Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance class at the Angelicum taught by the ever so wisened Fr. Williams. Martyrdom requires among other things a willingness to suffer injury and ultimately death for the sake of witnessing to the faith. "What makes the martyr" according to Augustine "is not the suffering but the cause." We can sometimes speak of martyrdoms of purity or obedience but the true martyrdom, which the Church honors to the highest degree, are those who give their lives in the service of the Gospel. As John 15:13 says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" and truly for the sake of the Gospel. The photo below is a fresco from San Stefano Rotondo that has images of many martyrs on each of the walls of the church. This is just one.

photo by sacred_destinations

After class I was speaking to one of the sisters from Pakistan and we were talking about final vows and ordination dates and she said, "Oh you must visit when you are a priest." I responded, "I will wait until it is safer perhaps." This brought on a much more serious tone to our conversation and a stark reality. The majority of the houses of her congregation are in Lahore, Pakistan which is currently under attack by Muslim extremists. You can look here or here for more info on it. She recently told me that one of these bombs destroyed the front of one of the Catholic churches in Lahore and damaged a convent so that the sisters there had to move in with another community.

map by thewazir

She explained that "When we go out, we do not know if we will return." How real is that? How real martyrdom is for some of the very people I am currently studying with.

Fr. Williams recommended a great book on martyrdom which is Robert Royal's book on the Martyrs of the 20th century.

Who knows what this new century will bring. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

Holy Martyrs, Pray for us.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter to All

The Lord is risen, alleluia.

“We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living.. . Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.”

Saint Ephrem, deacon


Saturday, April 3, 2010


Well perhaps because of the difficult coverage of the recent discovery of sex abuse scandals in Europe, ABC news decided to drop in on the NAC.

They called their special "Seminary Sex Ed" though I do not think the insinuation is quite correct. Obviously we authentically discern our calls to the priesthood and celibate life, grow and develop in our understanding of our celibate identity, and prepare ourselves for a regular living out of this life. But it is not some crude sex ed course. Anyways, take a look and see what you think.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

From the Week

I am going to start a new weekly update of house events just so you get some sense of what goes on each week rather than my scattered coverage of random events.


We are spending all of Holy Week in house this year. It is a tradition that every other year we celebrate Holy Week in house so we can see how the liturgies are done within the American Church. So we started Palm Sunday outside in the courtyard with the traditional palm branches and also a large number of olive branches. That's new for me.

Here's our rector Msgr. Checchio

And the procession line


Fr. Robert Barron, of the famous Word on Fire website, is our scholar in residence for the next couple months while writing a book. He gave us a talk in preparation for Holy Week. As you can see, he really loves to use the hands.

He spoke of the passion narrative in Luke which has heavy messianic overtones. He went through three promises of the Messiah, the promise to unite the tribes of Israel, purify the Temple, and defeat all of Israel's enemies.

The promise to unite the tribes of Israel was fulfilled in a more extreme way than the Jews could imagine. It was not about uniting just the physical tribes of Israel but all people in communion with each other and with God. This union was effected by the destruction of sin through Jesus' death and resurrection because it is sin that truly divides.

And the devil is the one who loves to divide us (demon literally means to divide). The devil also loves to make us accuse each other (satan literally means to accuse someone). Barron points to satan entering into Judas and then Judas accusing Jesus. And he challenged us to get in the way of the satanic and the demonic, to stop the divisions and the accusations, which is so common, especially here. Barron said we sit around the table and maybe we start with talking about the weather but eventually we love to point out the foibles or mistakes of others. Indeed how true.

But he also pointed out that when we pick a fight with the demonic and the satanic, when we smoke the enemy out, we get everything coming out to meet us. And the way we win out, is not by battling the enemy on his own terms, but like Jesus, we overcome them through forgiving love, which swallows the darkness up.


We tried out a game of touch rugby yesterday. I consider it cultural immersion. We did not look quite this tough.

photo by jessflickr


I just found out we have 56 guys signed up to come in next year as part of the class of 2014. After classes of 61 and 58 the past 2 years, I don't know where we are going to put all of them. But that's never a bad thing. :)


Monday, March 29, 2010

Station Church: Santa Prassede

Holy Week has arrived. Today we made our way to Santa Prassede which lies down near the Basilica of Mary Major in the center of town.

photo by jimforest

She is traditionally said to be the sister of St. Pudenziana and joined her sister in the collection of the bodies of martyrs. It is believed she suffered martyrdom along with her sister. There was a church named after her as late as the end of the fifth century and was first based in an apartment block nearby. It was only in the early ninth century that the church was replaced with the current church. Following St. Prassede's devotion to the martyrs, Pope St. Paschal I brought the relics of 2300 martyrs from the catacombs to rest here.

One of the famous relics in this church is a column that was brought here in 1223 from Constantinople that was said to be the same column on which the flagellation of Christ took place.

photo by wm_archiv

St. Charles Borromeo was a cardinal titular here in the late 16th century and did a lot for the physical structure of the church as well as ministering to the people of the area, going so far as to invite the poor to eat at his table. This table is now part of the church in the chapel of St. Veronica.

This church has a beautiful mosaic in the apse drawing from the book of Revelation. The lower section depicts the 24 elders while above is the Lamb surrounded by 7 candlesticks and the four living creatures. Christ is in the middle with Saints Peter and Paul beside him as well as Saints Prassede and Pudenziana, Pope St. Paschal I with another blue halo, and St. Zeno.

photo by Allie_Caulfield

One of the most brilliants works from the medieval period is also found here in the side chapel of St. Zeno which was built for the tomb of Pope St. Paschal's mother Theodora. Check it out below.

photo by sjmcdonough

In today's readings Jesus is anointed by Mary as a symbolic preparation for his death and burial. And she does this in love. We too this Lent have given of ourselves through penance and prayer in order to move farther away from sin and move more closely to our Lord in love. Today let us push on in our journey to the cross and the empty tomb, knowing that our loving efforts through God's grace, most especially the gift of his Son upon the cross, will bring us to a joyful reunion one day with our Lord in paradise.

For more info about this church check out pnac or wiki.

For more info on the Station Church series click here.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prayer Request

Please pray for the Holy Father if you have a couple minutes. He's under attack and if you have been reading, not necessarily because of the greatest of reasons.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Consecration to Mary

We recently finished a weekend of Recollection with Fr. Cihak. And by recently, I mean about a month ago.

Perhaps the most prominent thing I took away from the time of conference and prayer was the importance of Mary in the life of a priest. We need to take her into our homes, into our hearts, and let her teach us how to live a life of chastity, of celibacy in a fruitful life-giving way. We cannot be cold and bitter men of God but ones who are alive because we have given our sexuality, consecrated it to God and so we now live it out as Mary did, loving everyone but in a chaste way.

I recently finished the 33 day preparation for Consecration to Mary on the Annunciation. I had never done it before. It's a first. And I had been waiting. I never really felt quite ready or quite called until a little over a month ago, at the end of my class on Mariology. I realized it was so necessary for me to have Mary in my life in this unique and beautiful way.

Any man (or woman), especially any man discerning the priesthood or currently a seminarian, needs Mary in his life. He needs her to intercede for him, to show him how to live this life, and to guide him into a fruitful ministry as a priest.

St. Louis De Montfort, the great promoter of Marian devotion and Marian consecration wrote: "...this devotion consists in surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her, and then performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary".

There are so many temptations that come, especially for those who answer the call to the priesthood. The devil hates priests because they are so often working directly against his cause. He fights tooth and nail. Mary protects us. Fr. Cihak told the story of sitting in on a exorcism here in Rome and watching as the priest spoke prayers over the possessed man who was doctor. He was writhing, cursing, and going on. At one point he turned to Fr. Cihak and a number of other priests who were there to learn and in an octave lower than his normal voice said, "She's protecting you." Mary, the one person in all the world, who has never been a friend to the devil. We have all been his friends in some way through our sinfulness but she has never never surrendered over. So she acts as a great and perfect intercessor for us. The devil hates her because he knows he cannot win against her.

So anyways, hopefully that encourages your own relationship to our Blessed Mother. It's been a great joy for me to realize this relationship in my life.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Station Church: San Crisogono

We are almost there. It's the last week of Lent! Today we visited the church of San Crisogono which may perhaps be the site of the oldest purpose-built church in Rome.

photo by ndalls

It is named after a 4th century military officer who was martyred in 304. His cult became popular and his name would eventually be included in one of the Eucharistic prayers (the Roman Canon). As soon as the persecutions were over, a large hall was constructed on this site. This would have even been before the Edict of Milan which granted religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire.

photo by jrm_tomburg

The remains you see above are from the first church building. The current church building is from around the 12th century. In the mid 19th century, the church was placed in the care of the Trinitarian Order which still serves here today. Their original purpose was to free Christian slaves. Inside the church, at the end of one of the aisles, is a chapel dedicated to Jesus the Nazarene. This chapel has a lot of significance for the Trinitarians. When negotiations to free slaves were successful, a statue of Jesus the Nazarene was used as a sign of the freedom of the slaves.

photo by jdtreat

Today's readings remind us that Christ is the light of the world and though we walk in darkness, though we struggle under our slavery to our own sinfulness, and perhaps struggle to accept the knowledge of how weak we are, He is at our side to walk with us. We are never alone in our battle to live free from sin. As the psalm today says, "Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side."

For more info about this church check out pnac or wiki.

For more info on the Station Church series click here.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Models for Priesthood

This comes from the Anchoress. She has a great post on some of the most heroic priests of our age. Check out the link.

One of my favorites is Fr. Tim Vakoc. It was 2004 when he was traveling in Iraq as an army chaplain and was hit by a roadside bomb. He had severe injuries to his brain and lost an eye. Though he struggled to recuperate over the years, his injuries proved to be too much and he passed away in 2009.

He said this to his sister shortly after joining the military:

“The safest place for me to be is in the center of God’s will, and if that is in the line of fire, that is where I will be.”

Truly, he is a model for us all.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Station Church: Santi Quattro Coronati

Today we visited the church of Santi Quattro Coronati. I am unsure what the correct English translation would be here, perhaps the four holy crowned ones. It refers to two groups of martyrs from the time of the Roman persecutions. The first set were four soldiers, Severus, Victorinus, Carpophorus, and Severinus who refused to worship a pagan deity and were killed. The idea of crowning may perhaps have come from a military decoration of a small crown that they received during their service.

The second set was a group of five stonemasons, Claudius, Nicostratus, Sempronianus, Castor, and Simplicius who were martyred because they refused to carve a statue of Asclepius.

photo by xti_8143b

The oldest parts of this church date back to a hall built here in the 4th century. Some time before 595 this became one of the titular churches in Rome. It was in 630 that Honorius I built the first purpose-built church on the site and in the 9th century when Leo IV placed the relics of the nine martyrs underneath the altar. In 1084 it was almost completely destroyed by a Norman attack and was rebuilt in 1116.

In 1560 Augustinian nuns moved in and have remained until this day. There are also some new occupants. The Little Sisters of the Lamb have taken up residence here as well. These sisters are very new, founded within the last 20 some years, and have even taken up a post in Kansas City, Kansas. They have found their way back to a very simple religious life, begging for their meals, and sharing the Gospel will all those they meet. They are amazing revolutionaries of our day and age - changing the world through their love.

An interesting note for any West Coast readers, this is actually the titular church of Cardinal Mahony. The elections of the pope from early on in the Church were usually done by the local clergy of Rome. This practice was eventually standardized in the 11th century with the institution of cardinals who were senior clergy in Rome, each serving in a particular parish. Cardinals today are much more international yet they receive a titular church here in Rome to signify their honorary status as members of the clergy of Rome and therefore their duty to elect a new pontiff.

photo by Michael Tinkler

Today's readings remind us once again to trust in the Lord. We cannot expect signs and wonders but we can expect that God will answer us according to His will and desire and ultimately for our salvation.

For more info about this church check out pnac or wiki.

For more info on the Station Church series click here.