Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Rumor

There is word out that the Diocese of Sacramento is working on a new vocations website that will include this blog. Keep your eyes open for the change. This, of course, could be months down the road but I might as well drum up some excitement now.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Walk For Life West Coast Pics

At the Cathedral in SF for the Mass

Archbishop Niederauer processing in

At the plaza before the Walk

Numbers growing...


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The key to Benedict's papacy

The National Catholic Reporter is a modernist fishwrap and hotbed of dissent, but it has a real treasure on its staff in the person of John Allen. Mr. Allen concisely described the key to understanding our current Holy Father's vision:

Here it is in a nutshell: Benedict’s top priority is internal, directed at the inner life of the Catholic Church. His aim is to restore a strong sense of traditional Catholic identity, in order to inoculate the church against infection by radical secularism. That’s not just a personal hobbyhorse of this pope, but rather the culmination of 50 years of mounting concern inside Catholicism that the church has gone too far in accommodating the ways and means of the secular world. Today, this wave of “evangelical Catholic” energy is the most important policy-setting force in the church.

As a result, when Benedict XVI says or does things that affect Judaism, the key is often to understand that he’s not really talking to Jews but to other Catholics.

Thus, Benedict’s decision to revive the old Latin Mass, including that infamous prayer for the conversion of Jews, was certainly not crafted as a statement about Judaism. Instead, Benedict sees the old Mass as a classic carrier of Catholic identity, an antidote to any tendency to secularize the church’s worship. Likewise, Benedict did not lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including one who believes the Nazis didn’t use gas chambers, to endorse their troubled history with antisemitism. Rather, he did so because the traditionalists act as a leaven in the church, fostering appreciation for the Catholic past — even if their ideas on some matters lie far from the pope’s own thinking.

The Holy Father's declaring this the Year of the Priest is part of his overall strategy of revitalizing Catholic identity. We've seen a blurring of the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful over the past forty years. The priest is not superior to the laity, but he is nonetheless different from the lay person at the very center of his being. As the seminarian approaches candidacy for Holy Orders and his diaconate ordination, he needs to pray hard and meditate on that priestly identity. He has not been ordained yet, but he should have internalized his vocation and future identity as an alter Christus. As my adviser put it, "If you make it to candidacy and you still haven't resolved the questions that ought to be resolved at the college or pre-theology level, then you have cheated yourself and holy Mother Church."

I have a long way to go before candidacy, let alone, God willing, priesthood. But at the same time, a seminarian is not just another lay man attending Secular U where we rock and roll all night and party every day. The seminary is where you need to form the habits that will be with you throughout your priesthood, above all a solid spiritual life with much personal prayer. That's not to say the seminary is not also a place of continuing discernment. No matter what God wills for you, you must allow Him to work in your life, above all through prayer and regular spiritual direction. I've seen it in our fourth year men - they grew in their time in the seminary. They became more and more secure in the faith that this is what God wills for them. You can see it yourself. I've met many seminarians of whom I thought, "He'll make an awesome priest." It might be you some day.

"Hey, you're from the blog!"

Last Friday seminarians from all over the west met at St. Patrick's before the Walk for Life which took place yesterday. When I was introducing myself to our guests, one of them asked me, "Are you the Kevin from the Sacramento blog?" It's good to know we have a regular readership! Then he said, "It's pretty much just you and Colin, isn't it?" I hope my diocesan brothers take the hint ;)

Our day began with Mass at San Francisco's Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. Archbishop Niederauer concelebrated with many of California's bishops, including our own Bishop Jaime Soto who processed in alongside Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland. What I remember most vividly from the Mass was Archbishop Niederauer opening his homily with, "I will be a priest for forty eight years this April. This is only the second time I've heard the wrong Gospel for the day." He has a dry sense of humor like that, heh. But he gave a powerful homily afterward. He didn't name names but we all knew whom he meant when the Archbishop said that many members of the Catholic family do not accept Mother Church's teachings on abortion. But, he said, the sanctity of human life is not something on which good Catholics can disagree. All of us are morally obligated to oppose the evil of abortion no matter our state in life. He said it deeply gratified and humbled him to see so many of the lay faithful from all over the west to walk for life in a city that is hostile to our teachings on human life and the family, to put it mildly.

We gathered in Justin Herman Plaza near Fisherman's Wharf to hear the guest speakers. One of them was Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee, who through God's grace came to see the evil of abortion, repented, and is now a dedicated pro-life activist. I was deeply moved to see so many thousands of people come out despite the pouring rain. The thing you have to understand about the Walk for Life West Coast is the local media doesn't care for us. Last year a local columnist described it as a "dog and pony show." At 30,000 people last year, that's some show! I don't know how many people came this year. It was difficult to get an accurate count in that sea of umbrellas, but a good rule of thumb is to add at least ten thousand to whatever number the local media reports, and to divide by two whatever number of counter-protesters they name. From my point of view, the opposition definitely declined from what it was last year.

Almost all of St. Patrick's seminarians made it out there in addition to men from Mt. Angel (including our own Raj Derivera, Josh Sia, and Patrick Arquelles), St. John's in Camarillo, and St. John Vianney in Denver. We all quickly became separated in the ocean of people. What I like best about the Walk is getting to meet lay people from all over the Western United States. Coincidentally, I met a woman from St. Stephen the First Martyr parish in Sacramento, where my ex-girlfriend is getting married in April. I didn't run into anyone from my home parish this year, but from what I've seen on Facebook, they were there!

Abortion is the greatest of the many evils which plague the world today. We must fight it by every moral means at our disposal. I think it's vitally important for seminarians and clergy to be present with our people in this struggle. They're the ones who are taking time off from their lives to witness to a culture of life in a city which is in many ways an epicenter of the culture of death. The least we seminarians, and the priests, can do is to be there with them. The theology level seminarians, and the pre-theologians, all wore their collars. That way the laity know that the next generation of priests support them in their endeavor with our presence, and with our prayers.

I'm a poor seminarian myself, so I do hope one of my diocesan brothers - or maybe one of you kind readers - will submit some more pictures to post.

More here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Straight from the Holy Father

On Jan 23, 2009, in his message for the 44th World Day for Social Communications, Pope Benedict calls for priests to "make astute use" of available technology in becoming a presence as community leaders on the web.

A few quotes to get an idea:

"All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of His saving grace in the Sacraments. ... Responding adequately to this challenge amid today's cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. ... Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word."

"Using new communication technologies, priests ... must learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a 'soul' to the fabric of communications that makes up the 'Web'."

"Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, 'that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another'. Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today's world?"

"The development of the new technologies and the larger digital world represents a great resource for humanity as a whole. ... But this development likewise represents a great opportunity for believers. No door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others. To priests in particular the new media offer ever new and far-reaching pastoral possibilities, encouraging them to embody the universality of the Church's mission, to build a vast and real fellowship, and to testify in today's world to the new life which comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus."

As I have read on a number of other blogs, perhaps the Holy Father is saying, "Go forth and blog." :)


Stories from the Church in Haiti

Some updates from Haiti.

Father Augustin Almy, a diocesan priest who was in the Port-au-Prince seminary at the time of its collapse on January 12, spoke to CNA this week sharing the story of his survival and describing the devastation in Haiti following the earthquake.

Speaking to CNA outside the remains of the seminary this week, Fr. Almy explained that at the time of the earthquake, he was in his second-floor room of the seminary watching television. “Suddenly I heard a noise...then I saw the walls coming down as the whole house began to collapse.” The Whole Story here.

This is a part of an email from Fr. Don McEachin, C.S.Sp., who runs a mission in the Dominican Republic, dated January 20th.

Fr. Werby just got back last night from delivering a truck load of medicines which are badly needed, to an inland hospital in Haiti, in the Diocese which he is from, which was not damaged and is now full of injured from Port au Prince. We are planning more trips, and collecting more supplies. There are 60,000 refugees from Port au Prince in this town in Haiti where Werby went yesterday with two Diocesan trucks, and the needs are great, from clothes to medicine, and of course food. Our parish and our diocese will now partner with the Diocese that Werby is from to direct all our relief efforts there, since it is easier to get there from here, and there are no security issues like those now affecting Port au Prince. We have been warned not to try to drive again to P au P with supplies because of the armed bandits which have been attacking trucks coming in from the Dominican Republic. We are using a border crossing much closer to us and with more security. Also, at the border, the security forces send an armed escort to accompany us. I am impressed with the generosity of the Dominican people. Local business have contributed bottled water, rice, and medicines in considerable quantity which helps us greatly to keep the out of pocket costs down and increase what we can deliver. There was another earthquake in P au P a couple of hours ago, measuring 6.1 on the scale, and some of us felt it here although I did not. That's a pretty serious earthquake and we are praying that there will not be many more deaths as a result.

Below is news received from Fr. Joseph Philippe who starting in 1988 built Fondwa from the ground up. Fondwa was a rural community developed by him and the peasants and provided the surrounding communities with water, clinics school, literacy classes, stores, radio station and a credit union. It’s heartbreaking for the Spiritans and all who know of Fr. Joseph’s work.

Thanks for your concern, your support and prayers. We have lost about 25 people in Fondwa including a member of the Sisters of St. Anthony of Fondwa: Sr. Odile Damus and a child of 2 years from the Fondwa Orphanage: Jude Dubic. They both died at the APF Guest Center which have been destroyed completely. Everything in Fondwa has gone. The infrastructure that we have built in 22 years: the Orphanage, the School, the APF Center, the Clinic, the Radio Station ( Radyo Zetwal ) the Sisters' Convent, the buildings of the University of Fondwa ( 7 of them). Everything has gone. The epi-center of the earthquake was in Fondwa, between Leogane and Jacmel. The big building of Pastor Luc Guerrier has gone. The Roman Catholic Church in Fondwa has gone also. The Church of Philadelphie ( a Protestant Church) has gone with about 15 young people under the concrete blocs. The Spiritan have lost one Seminarian, Stephane Douge who died with 12 other Seminarians ( Oblates, Montfortans ) at CIFOR. CIFOR ( a theological school for religious in Port-au-Prince) is gone completely. The Cathedral of Port-au-Prince has gone also. The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Mgr. Joseph Serge Miot died and will be buried on Saturday January 24. A big part of St. Martial College has gone, specially the Elementary Section which was also used as the Spiritan Pre-Noviciate House. All of the buildings of St. Martial are damaged a lot. Our Spiritan house in Senghor where I live with Fr. Patrick Eugene is seriously damaged. Our court-yard is used actually as a Refugee Center for about 200 victims of the earthquake. The other Spiritans are Ok. Fonkoze has lost 3 employees - one Branch ( Bizoton near Port-au-Prince) has gone and 6 other branches very damaged. The Central Office and the Port-au-Prince branch are among them. But the rest of us are alive and are in strongly in solidarity with the rest of the Country. Together, we can rebuild Fondwa and Haiti.

Let's keep up those prayers.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Priestly Vocations Back in the Spotlight

Wow...check out this headline. Baseball prospect heading to the seminary.

"Well, here's a story you don't see every day.

Grant Desme, a 23-year-old minor league outfielder in Oakland's system, is retiring from baseball to follow a calling into the Catholic priesthood.

The story was first reported by Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi — perhaps appropriately with that first name of his — and this isn't a case of a struggling player going through an early-life crisis. Desme was ranked the A's eighth-best prospect by Baseball America after hitting .288 with 31 home runs and 89 RBIs in A ball in 2009 and he was just named MVP of the Arizona Fall League.

Desme might have even been a late-season callup to the big league club in 2010. Our Y! Sports 2010 fantasy guide has him ranked the 40th-best minor-league prospect for near-term fantasy purpose. However, ESPN's Rob Neyer disagrees, saying that he didn't see Desme as a future star by the Bay.

Susan Slusser has more on Desme's decision to leave playing against the Padres and Cardinals so he can start praying with other padres and cardinals at a Catholic seminary in Orange County. He said the news came as bit of a shock to Billy Beane, but that the Oakland GM and entire A's system have been supportive of his decision.

Said Desme on a Friday afternoon conference call:

"I'm doing well in baseball. But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more. It took awhile to trust that and open up to it and aim full steam toward him ... I love the game, but I'm going to aspire to higher things."

Desme spoke with Baseball America last year about baseball being only "a game" and we wish him success on his spiritual path. In a selfish age when churches struggle to recruit young male Americans, his sacrifice of possible riches is a very admirable thing."

Here's the link.

But Silverado, California...that has to be...the Norbertines? :)


National Day of Penance

Today we pray for all the offenses against human life, most especially the unborn. For all of you walking in the Walk for Life West Coast and the East Coast Walk for Life we're united with you in prayer from Rome.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Vocation Story from a Dominican

A Dominican at my university recently told part of his vocation story to us in class so I thought I would share some snippets because I think what he said was extremely valuable.

He said that when he was young, he had all his plans figured out. He was going to be a physician. He had a wonderful Christian woman in his life that he was going to marry in a couple years. They would wait until he finished school and she had finished her nursing program so that she could move to wherever he would go to medical school and be a nurse there. They even had the names of their first two children.

That summer, he was taking some extra classes in Berkeley, spending his time going to class, Mass at noon, more study, and some more prayer. He was living a life in solitude. Phone calls were expensive so he did not call his girlfriend much. There was no internet as he likes to say. He was alone. And each day after receiving communion he would say, "Lord, help me to pass my classes so that I can go to medical school and be a good physician." But slowly that began to change. The words remained the same but the Lord became the bigger part of that prayer.

One day, while taking a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in SF God asked him a question. "Why do you want to be a physician?" He responded, "To heal people." God replied, "Is that the only way?"

From here began a long journey.

He would finish his studies in Berkeley that summer and rush down south to see his girlfriend. As any female member of the human race, she knew right away something was up. So did he. She got into the car with him to head down to the beach but he read very quickly, all was not right. There she was, sitting with her arms crossed, looking out the window. Not good.

Finally she spoke. "Who did you meet in Berkeley? Your heart has changed."

It was the conversation he did not want to have yet wanted to have. They agreed to pray with it and one day, she came to him and said, "Christ is calling you to be a priest. That is what you need to do." And he agreed.

He would eventually move towards applying to be a diocesan priest but a vocation director stopped him, saying, "I have been praying a lot for you and I have to ask you if you have ever considered religious life."

That became a turning point. And some 30+ years later he is still a holy and faithful Dominican priest teaching to this very day.

He says many wise things. Among others, God takes us places and gives us our vocation in life not because that is how we can best love God but rather how God can best love us.

I, like this Dominican, have discovered that God best loves me as his priest and how true it is, that it is his love alone that initiates, sustains, and completes this vocation that he has placed in my heart.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

It Will Decide Everything

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” Pedro Arrupe S.J.

This is one of my favorite quotes. It helps give you a quick intuition about your own life and just how far you have let God penetrate into it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help HAITI - Giving To Haitian Relief Via Cell Phone

Truly sad and horrifying! that hundreds/thousands lost their lives in Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake devastated the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Relief slowly beginning to arrive in the area from all over the world shows the instinctive power of of love and solidarity that we all have to all the victims and their families (who are in deep pain and anguish). This also means that in our own little way , it's never too late to extend our "hands" to Haiti.

Just Click this link for further instructions.

God Bless Us! God Bless Haiti!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Urgent Time for Prayer

"The body of Msgr. Joseph Serge Miot, 65, was found under the rubble of the archdiocese, and may be one of only hundreds of victims trapped in the ruins of Church buildings on the island.

The apostolic nuncio in Haiti, Msgr. Bernardito Auza, said that the cathedral and all the major churches and seminaries in Port-au-Prince were leveled by the most powerful temblor to strike the island in two centuries. Hundreds of seminarians and priests were trapped in the rubble, he told Vatican Radio." (Source)

Please pray for the victims. A large number of the seminarians here gathered together just a few minutes ago to pray the Rosary for the many victims, especially those priests and seminarians still trapped under the ruins of their buildings. Please join us in prayer.


Advice from Someone on Leave

I would not usually post part of a letter from a guy who recently left formation but I thought what he said was very relevant and I assume he would not mind if I put this on the blog. Here are some of his words on leaving.

"Basically, it just became clear that I needed to step back and see where God was leading me in all of this. I have had a lot of peace with the decision and prayer has been better than ever. So I feel good about it all right now. It just seemed like I was trying to achieve the priesthood rather than receive it, which is never a good thing (as my formation advisor back at SJV had said, "Mary didn't say she was going to be the Mother of God come hell or high water"), so it seemed prudent to get a bigger perspective by stepping out for a while."

I think it's wise advice, especially for us in formation. There comes a point in time where the zeal for the priesthood can wear off a little bit, it has for me, and you have to ask yourself why you are really here. And if the doubts and questions set in, you need to address them, not just press on the gas petal.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Straight from Vatican News

VATICAN CITY, 9 JAN 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the Holy Father received the rector, students and former students of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, in a meeting marking the 150th anniversary of the foundation of that institution by Blessed Pius IX.

"The present reunion", said the Pope speaking English, "is an opportunity not only to remember with gratitude the time of your studies, but also to reaffirm your filial affection for the Church of Rome, to recall the apostolic labors of the countless alumni who have gone before you, and to recommit yourselves to the high ideals of holiness, fidelity and pastoral zeal which you embraced on the day of your ordination".

Recalling his own pastoral visit to the United States in April 2008, Benedict XVI noted how he had then expressed his "conviction that the Church in America is called to cultivate an intellectual 'culture' which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the pressing issues which affect the future of American society.

"As Blessed Pius IX rightly foresaw", he added, "the Pontifical North American College in Rome is uniquely prepared to help meet this perennial challenge. In the century and a half since its foundation, the College has offered its students an exceptional experience of the universality of the Church, the breadth of her intellectual and spiritual tradition, and the urgency of her mandate to bring Christ's saving truth to the men and women of every time and place".

The Pope expressed his confidence that, "by emphasizing these hallmarks of a Roman education in every aspect of its program of formation, the College will continue to produce wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ's infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America's Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation".

At the end of his remarks the Pope recalled how the college chapel, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, contains portrayals of "four outstanding models and patrons of priestly life and ministry: St. Gregory the Great, St. Pius X, St. John Mary Vianney and St. Vincent de Paul. During this Year for Priests, may these great saints continue to watch over the students who daily pray in their midst; may they guide and sustain your own ministry, and intercede for the priests of the United States".


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Face time with the Pope

We're currently celebrating 150 years at the North American College. Among the other big events was a meeting with the Holy Father this morning. Every previous pope from Pius the 12th, John the 23rd, Paul the 6th, and even JP2 visited the NAC. Ok JP1 did not visit the NAC but we had a pretty good streak going. Pope Benedict invited us over to his house instead today for a short gathering.

Somehow, my dumb luck or something, I got to shake his hand. :)

Here are some pictures from the event. It was raining, hard, but that did not stop all the fun.

A long dark trail of black across St. Peter's.

The famous bronze doors that we just happened to pass through...

Everyone anxiously anticipating the Pope's arrival.

The Pope is that white dot up there. As you can see, Rome has yet to catch on to the U.S. idea of seating everyone so that they all have a good view of the Pope.

Pope giving out handshakes...


Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas Decorations Contest!!!

We decorate our halls here in Rome every Christmas as part of a friendly contest. Sadly my hall did not pull out a victory or any other sort of award this year but we put in a lot more effort. Perhaps next year. Here are a few pictures from the 4th floor. These were not exactly the best decorated halls.

Family Room Christmas scene

And my own 4th Central

We did an Advent Calendar on our doors

Along with some Christmas trappings

The winning hall did a lot more. That's all I will say. :)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back in Rome

The great thing about visiting and really living in a new place is that you form a new family. The sad thing is that you always have to leave it behind when you go.

It was a real joy to spend Christmas and the New Year in Madrid with the Missionaries of Charity and the many volunteers and men who lived in the houses. And honestly, I was sad to go. Yes I did and still yearn for the comforts of home (like laundry facilities) but ultimately it's the people that make it home. Madrid became like another home but like all the others, there comes a time to leave. So I packed my bag and headed out in the door in the darkness of the morning knowing the good I leave behind and unsure of the many goods that await back here in Rome. I want to pass on some of my stories but I will leave that for this weekend. Here is the chapel in the house for men with AIDS.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Genuine appreciation

The truth is, that all genuine appreciation rests on a certain mystery of humility and almost of darkness. The man who said, “Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,” put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth “Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.” The man who expects nothing sees redder roses than common men can see, and greener grass, and a more startling sun. Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall possess the cities and the mountains; blessed is the meek, for he shall inherit the earth. Until we realize that things might not be we cannot realize that things are. Until we see the background of darkness we cannot admire the light as a single and created thing. As soon as we have seen that darkness, all light is lightening, sudden, blinding, and divine. Until we picture nonentity we underrate the victory of God, and can realize none of the trophies of His ancient war. It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing.

- G. K. Chesterton, in Heretics

May the blessed and holy Mother of God watch over us and guide us through this new year of 2010!