Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pope Benedict's Thoughts on the Priesthood

picture by miqul

Pope Benedict's thoughts on priesthood:

"The essential foundation of priestly ministry is a deep and personal bond to Jesus Christ. Everything hinges on this bond, and the heart of all preparation for priesthood...must be an introduction to it." (Cardinal Ratzinger, Called to Communion, 1996)

"This is the profound meaning of being a priest: to become a friend of Jesus Christ. We should commit ourselves again to this friendship every day...This means that we must know Jesus in an ever more personal way, listening to him, living together with him, spending time with him." (Homily at Chrism Mass, 2006)

"Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time dedicated to Christ in silent prayer were time wasted. on the contrary, it is precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service come to birth. There is no need to be discouraged on account of the fact that prayer requires effort, or because the impression is that Jesus remains silent. he is indeed silent, but he is at work." (Address to Clergy in Cathedral of Warsaw, 2006)


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Missionaries of Charity, Madrid, Post 2

My 2nd and last post on Madrid. :)

One of the things that has stuck with me from my time in Madrid was a new sense of who the Church is. I always like to imagine the parish I will serve and all the different programs I will help run and get involved in. And it's all nice and pleasant. If anything, Madrid showed me a whole different side. The Church I will serve, and in a certain sense marry, has a lot more 'personality' than I tend to think. And this makes her even more beautiful.

Willy helping one of the guys down the hill

This was shown to me very quickly on the first day and every day that followed. We would pray the rosary at 5pm each day. The men would pray too fast or too slow, too loud or without a sound or just plain garbled. They would make side comments, especially if someone said one Hail Mary too many. They would add their own prayers. Or they might just stare off into the distance. But I realized, despite the difficulty of praying like this, that this was the rosary of the people of God. This was what the Church is like. It's a mess. But that's the spouse each priest weds. It's not always the prettiest but its his spouse. And she is well worth everything, youth, career, or family, that we have given up to have her.

One of the 2 bedrooms

Perhaps my favorite incident in Madrid was with the one resident there who probably did not like me at all. But one night he asked for my help getting ready for bed. I helped him onto his bed and was in the process of changing his urine bag when he started peeing. The urine started spraying all over the floor and he was yelling at me, "Bolsa, bolsa, dame una bolsa." For some crazy reason my brain could never connect that the bolsa, which I always attribute to a bag, could also be this plastic urine container that is meant to catch or drain urine. So I ran around the house getting something else. Definitely not what I needed. Let's just say, he was not too happy. But he is most definitely part of the Church and I needed to serve him despite my lack of will.

Me folding another load of laundry

And just a random note...

My time is Spain was also a chance to discover a renewal happening in Spain. Though reports say that Catholicism is fading in Spain, I met Spanish sisters, new aspirants, others just visiting, as well as a number of young priests and seminarians all passionate about their faith and living it out in the service of their neighbor. One of the seminarians had three sisters who are all in religious life. I also heard of another who had a young friend recently enter the cloistered Carmelites here in Spain. In fact, every cloistered Carmelite monastery here in Spain is full, with many young sisters as well. I also met a lot of young people who would dedicate their time to helping out once or twice a week. One seminarian told me how he was taking 1000 youth on the Camino this year in celebration of the anniversary of the Camino. The Church in Spain isn't quite so dead. There is a new springtime.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Year of the Priest Video

Check it out. There is three parts to this one.

Race to the Clericus Cup

It's begun.

We beat out the Brazilians in a shootout after tying 1-1 at the end of regulation on Saturday.

Here are some shots from the game via Victor.

You can find more info about the Clericus Cup here.

Join the fans on Facebook.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Station Church: San Pietro in Vincoli

Early Monday morning we were off to St. Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), which lies in the middle of the city on the Oppian Hill or in other words, a long walk from the NAC.

This church was first established in the late fourth or early fifth century by Pope Sixtus III. It would be destroyed soon after by fire or earthquake. It was repaired by the Byzantine Emperor in 450, just about the time that the chains for St. Peter's jail time in Jerusalem were given to the Church in Rome. They were placed with the chains from St. Peter's imprisonment in Rome and the two fused together. They were originally kept in a shrine in the left transept but were moved into a confessio constructed in front of the new high altar.

photo by roblisameehan

Pope Julius II would add a number of improvements including space for his tomb. He would eventually be buried in St. Peter's. But his tomb is notable because it was completed in 1545 by Michelangelo and includes his famous Moses. This church also contains the remains of the seven Maccabee brothers. For more info about this church check out pnac, wiki, or sacred destinations.

photo by ndalls

It is no coincidence that we celebrate today's Lenten Station Church at St. Peter in Chains. This is also the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. This feast was first celebrated as early as the 4th century and commemorated the day on which Peter was first chosen as pope through his proclamation of faith and the words of Jesus.

photo by scuba04

We know that St. Peter or Simon (Greek) Bar Jona, Son of John, was a native of Bethsaida, the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, from the town of Capernaum. He had a brother Andrew and a wife who he took on his travels with him. He was partners with James, John and his brother in a fishing business. They are often portrayed as poor and uneducated. But Peter would have at least known the Scriptures well and considering he owned a couple boats with hired hands, you could say he was a small businessman. In fact, if there was a Yellow Pages listing, it might read: Johnson Brothers Inc., Wholesale and Retail Fish.

He was generous, impulsive, good-hearted, though often without even thinking. One only need think of the transfiguration, the remonstration before the passion, or the drawing of the sword in the garden. His heart was always in the right place but his brain was not always engaged. But after the Resurrection, the hapless Peter of the Gospels was gone and only the leader was left, minus the incident in Antioch of course. He was a transformed man as though the words of Jesus in today's reading from Matthew's Gospel finally took root and he was truly ready to be the rock.

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrates what the early Church eventually came to understand as the moment when St. Peter was given a unique authority and charism over the whole Church. But there are two other passages that can also help us to understand the role of St. Peter, the role of any pope in the Church, besides exercising authority. In John 21:1 and following, Jesus meets Peter on the shore and here there seems to be more a conferral of responsibility and authority. John does not speak of power and hierarchy so much as love and service. And again in Luke 22:31-32, Jesus foretells the denial of Peter but also that when he has turned back, he will strengthen his brothers. Peter's mission will not simply be one of authority but also one who unifies, acts as a bridge, stands as a mediator.

Perhaps today as we gaze upon the chains that twice bound St. Peter, we can offer a prayer for our Holy Father Pope Benedict, for his intentions and his health, for his courage and faithfulness to his vocation as supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church, knowing that to be faithful to this vocation requires a prudent and just exercise of authority, a deep love and self-sacrificing service, and a man willing to bridge the divides of peoples and nations to bring all to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

For more info on the Station Church series click here.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Preaching it up

Fair warning, I am posting this practice homily of mine that I just gave recently for Ash Wednesday. The comments were not too harsh so I think it's readable for the public. Then again, it might come off a little harsh. :)

I sometimes wonder why so many people come out for Ash Wednesday. Is it perhaps because we just like receiving something. Ashes are a novelty. Is it a chance to discover who else at work or school is Catholic. Perhaps you are like me and enjoy laughing at people who have received big smudges on their foreheads instead of the symbolic cross. Or maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the words we will hear today as we receive the ashes. "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" or "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return."

These words should echo in the depths of our hearts. And they should sting. They remind of us two well known but rarely discussed facts of human existence. We are all sinners and we are all going to die. That seems a bit drastic perhaps. But it's the truth.

These ashes remind us today that an event thousands of years ago, an event that defined life for everyone of us, still effects us today. Adam and Eve told God, I think I will go it my own way, I think I'll do it myself, basically, I don't need you.
This is where it all began. We continue in the path of Adam and Eve each day.

And we do this at times in very subtle ways. Sometimes it's a matter of turning to Jesus in prayer only when something tragic happens, a car accident, a sickness, or a death. We live without Jesus until the very moment we need him desperately. We live on auto-pilot until the plane is going down and we need to find someone to fly the plane again. Or it's living our own set of morals, choosing what to buy, how to live, and what kind of work to do based on what will most satisfy our dreams rather than God's dreams for us. We just do our duty each Sunday and then go back to living for ourselves.

How do we get back on the right track? How do we turn from this self-sufficient, self-independent attitude that is so deeply ingrained in all of us? How do we turn from sin? How do we free ourselves from our death sentence?

This Lent, we are called once more to conversion, to turn our hearts back to Christ, for he has the answer. He is the answer to our stubborn hearts, our sinfulness, our future deaths. These darknesses no longer need to rule. What we have to do is let Jesus into our every part of our lives. That is the only way he can heal us from sin and bring us to eternal life. We have to define our lives by our faith, by our relationship with Jesus. We have to move from preferring to go our own way, make our own decisions, deciding what will make us happy and move towards living in the love of the Lord.

He opens wide his arms, that's what Jesus spread out on the cross represents for us, God reaching out as a Father in love. And Paul exhorts us today, Reconcile! God, even while we were still sinners, reached out to love us. He has overcome every obstacle. Sin and death no longer rule. He's just waiting for your response. How do we let him in?

There are two things that we need. We have to first recognize that we are sinners, that we are fallen, that we are weak, that we ultimately need a savior. We need to realize the need for conversion after seeing our real selves, after knowing the score. The second is to realize that God loves us in an absolute way and reaches out to us in love. He makes us his sons and daughters. This is the foundation of true relationship with God. And from here, from these two points, we can begin to grow towards eternal life. This is it. What's stopping you?

Perhaps you are afraid to go deeper, to jump in the water. You know if you get into the water, you are going to have to change your life. That's right. But would you rather live life in the kiddy pool or swim in the ocean? God is offering you everything. Complete absolute love. And as Joel says today, he is slow to anger and relenting in punishment. He is giving you a shot.

Maybe you are afraid if you really get to know your God, He won't possibly be able to love you. You'll dirty the water. You've messed up too much. Didn't you hear the words of Joel, for gracious and merciful is he? He is loving like a mother to a child. He loves you since before you were even born and he still loves you today.

Or maybe you are afraid if you put yourself out there he won't respond. You'll get in and you'll drown. But Joel again tells us that he is rich in kindness, always faithful. He already sent his Son to free you from sin and death and he responds everyday with the gift of another day, the gift of life, the gift of those around you. What are you afraid of? Jump off that diving board. Go deeper.

This Lent we have the tools. The tools of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting which we are offered during this Lenten period can bring us to Christ. But we have to use them right. We can't do as the hypocrites do in the Gospel today, using these to look good in front of audiences. It has to be about growing in relationship with God.

Almsgiving is giving back to God what is already his, freeing us from material things and allows us to be free for God. It is an act that needs to be done with love.

Prayer is simply talking with the Lord. Make time for it. Turn off the TV or the radio in the car. Just speak to Him. He's waiting.

Fasting allows us to exercise discipline in our lives, checking our stomach yes, but as a result, our interior desires for food, for comfort, for whatever else. We can also fast from cynicism, skepticism, self-worship. We can then reorient our heart to the highest and greatest good, God and his will.

Confession should also be added on here. Jesus offers the greatest gift in confession and its absolutely free. Forgiveness! Only in confession do we experience true forgiveness. Don't forget to experience his mercy this Lent.

God uses each of these tools, He works in them, if we let him, to turn out hearts completely, utterly, to Him alone. Each of these tools, the almsgiving, the prayer, the fasting, confession, to move us beyond the self, beyond our egos, to God, to our neighbor. It is this movement that brings conversion. Let God be God in your life this Lent. Dive into the waters of faith, rejoice in the love God has for you, freed from your sins, let eternal life grow in you that you may one day rejoice in heaven with our merciful and loving Father. As Paul says, "Now is a very acceptable time; Behold, now is the day of salvation." Today is the day of your salvation.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

My House Job

Lent started yesterday and so did my house job. Most of us in the house have some kind of house jobs throughout the year, like sacristan, magazine editor, sports prefect, etc. I'm the assistant Lenten Station Church Coordinator. Talk about a title. :)

For an idea of what the Lenten Station Church thing is all about check out our website. This is a tradition that goes back to as early as the second century where the pope would visit the different communities in Rome as a way to foster unity. The NAC only recently started up the Station Church tradition for English speakers.

So I have been and will be leading people, mostly seminarians, out to the different Lenten Station Churches, hopefully on time and to the right location.

I joined on to an initiative with some fellow brother seminarians and one former NAC guy now priest who happen to blog as well and we are attempting with our combined efforts to cover all the Station Churches with a blog post. So feel free to check out Victor's, Doug's, Dave's, Fr. Rust's, Francis', and Andrew's blogs as we proceed through Lent. I will post once a week or so on a different church but with our combined efforts, you can get a glimpse into every single one.

Happy Lent to one and to all.


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Parents of St. Therese

I wanted to share the stories of the parents of St. Therese because they witness the openness to the will of God in their lives. Their process for beatification is in process. Both her father and mother discerned a vocation to religious life before ultimately answering the call to married life. This is the challenge. We are called, each one of us, to be open to the call to priesthood, religious life, marriage, or the single life. That does not mean we must be a priest or a husband. Rather we must be open. The beauty of God's will is that He will give us only what we truly need and desire. The lives of Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin are an exemplary model for us all.

Her father, Louis Martin, was only 21 when he discerned a call to monastic life with the Augustinians at the Monastery of Mount St. Bernard in the Swiss Alps. But without any knowledge of Latin, he was told to wait until he had completed his Latin studies. He studied hard for a year until illness required him to give up the studies and he never returned to them.

He became a watchmaker and was quite successful at it. He continued to live a very devout Catholic life. It was only at the age of 35, and just three months after their first meeting, that he married Zelie Guerin in 1858. They both desired to live the religious life so they continued to be chaste during their marriage. It was only after a confessor suggested they consider the vocation to family life that their ideas changed. He would be a faithful husband and father even while losing his wife to illness and all of his daughters to religious life.

Here are a couple interesting quotes from him:

When Louis took his first daughter Marie to St. Pierre de Monsort to be baptised he remarked to the priest, ‘This is the first time you have seen me here for a baptism, but it won’t be the last!’

Towards the end of his life he suffered a stroke. He once remarked to a doctor, ‘I was always accustomed to command, and here I must obey. It is hard! But I know why God has sent me this trial. I never had any humiliation in my life; I needed one.’

Her mother, Zelie Guerin, sought to enter religious life but perhaps on account of her poor health, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul would not accept her as a postulant. She decided that if God did not want her to be a religious, she would marry and have many children who would all be consecrated to Him.

One day while crossing a bridge she noticed a man passing by and heard an interior voice. "This is he whom I have prepared for you." It was Louis Martin.

Still convinced that she was called to religious life, she agreed with Louis to remain chaste. That did not last long. They would eventually have 9 children in 13 years though only 5 would survive to adult years.

I have not done justice to these two future saints but hopefully the little I have said will inspire you to read a more complete biography of their lives at this website.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Words from Oprah's Special

This is from the Oprah website. The last quote is striking.

Sister John Dominic has been a nun for nearly 30 years and says the transition to the Church is often harder on the sister's family than the woman herself. "Any mother, the moment they lay their eyes on their child, they have dreams for them," she says. "And they [ask], 'What is my child going to be?'"

She says her own mother was upset with her decision. "I became a Catholic when I was in high school," she says. "Not being Catholic and not being exposed to it was very difficult for her. I had a family member that had been in a cult, so her idea was that I would be cut off from the world, I would be brainwashed and I wouldn't be able to think for myself."

Over time, Sister John Dominic says her mother realized she was still the daughter she'd always known. "They begin to see that we become who we are. My personality hasn't changed," she says. "They begin to see the freedom and the joy in that and there's an acceptance, and she's my biggest supporter now."

Sister Mary Judith says her brothers are always amazed she hasn't become a different person. "[They're] quite amused that I'm just the same person I was before—but almost more so," she says. "If it's your calling, if this is what you're meant to be, you're going to become more of yourself over time."

Full Article

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow in Rome

Well folks, I never thought I would see it, but it is actually snowing in Rome. We'll see if the snow 'sticks' around though. :)

Here the snow is just starting to fall a bit.

Now it's picking up.

It's covered over the chapel and the courtyard.

Our campo sportivo is now a winter wonderland.

Me heading out the door to check out Rome under a blanket of snow.

Another shot.

Italians trying to drive in this...yikes!

Snow angel...

St. Pete's covered in snow.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dominican Sisters on Oprah

This can only be good.

The sisters have the preview on their website and I assume you can find the whole thing on youtube. American Papist also has a few different links.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Guidelines for Thinking with the Church Today

I just completed my last 2 finals yesterday so I will be getting back to posting something very soon, today in fact. :)

I got the following from one of our formators here at the NAC. I think they are important and obviously helpful for not getting too big for our own shoes. But they are also helpful for continuing discernment purposes.

Guidelines for Thinking with the Church Today

1. Have a great devotion to the Eucharist; daily celebration of the Mass; daily reception of the Eucharist, and regular adoration of the Eucharist.

2. Have a deep love for the Person of Christ whether it be Christ in his passion, Christ in glory, or Christ in his sacramental mysteries.

3. Devote a significant time in the day to reading Sacred Scripture. Allow the word of God to form your spirituality and devotion. Christianity is not a 'religion of the book', but of the Living Word of God.

4. Have a profound devotion to Mary the Mother of God, the one who was always attentive to the will of the Father. Go also to meet Christ's friends, the other saints as well.

5. Have a great love and respect for the Pope and bishops and adhere to the teachings of the magisterium of the Church. Pray for the pope and bishops.

6. Repent again and again - exercise the virtue of compunction. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently.

7. Have a great love for the cross. It prepares us for an eternal weight of glory.

8. Engage in some freely chosen self-denial.

9. Give yourself to community life with all the joys and sacrifices that it implies.

10. Have a serious commitment to praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

11. Do some concrete work with and for the physically and materially poor.

12. Get involved in some type of Pro-Life activity.

These would be easier if I only had to do one each day. :)


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Missionaries of Charity, Madrid, Post 1

I am sorry to start these so late. Things have been piling up. We start finals this week so I have been trying to prepare. This Italian Class is killing me. :)

The Missionaries of Charity run an AIDS hospice as well as a soup kitchen and a shelter for men and women on the west side of Madrid. The AIDS hospice usually has about 13 residents who are at different stages of dying. But thanks to medical advances, these guys live a lot longer. Supposedly, 10 years ago, there were guys dying every month. When I was there, these guys were in alright shape. Many of them had been there for years. I think half of them were in wheelchairs and those are the ones we really needed to help.

Those first few days in Madrid were tough. I started asking myself, why did I come here? Why, in fact, do I always try to find places to serve like with AIDS patients? Who gave me this stupid idea? I think that was the beginning of my prayer for the first few days.

I always dream up how things are going to be before I arrive somewhere. And somehow when I got to Madrid they did not quite add up. For one, I got there late because of my flight so I arrived when the sisters were doing their holy hour and the only guy there sent me away. So I came back an hour later and found that the sister in charge of the house where I would be was off at the hospital. So another sister just sent me up to the AIDS house to hang out. What a rough start. So there I am, sitting in a dining hall/living room, breathing in the fumes of five different types of cigarettes trying to make small talk, in my Spanglish-Italian. Tough. The sister in charge would finally wander in towards the end of the day, meeting people on the way, solving problems, and telling me over her shoulder as she showed me my room and hurried out the door that I would pick stuff up on the way.

Day 2. I don't think I wanted to get up that morning. And I definitely did not want my holy hour or Mass to end.

But things got better, quickly. I met the hoards of volunteers that come through this place and quickly became part of the family. A number of seminarians would come through and thankfully, we'd have English in common. There were some aspirant sisters and a girl visiting the order to talk to as well. The Missionaries of Charity inspire a lot of people to help. In fact, at this house, the volunteers really ran the house from the cooking and cleaning to the washing and feeding. They also financially supported the place. As a result, the sisters were around but not much. And I was not quite ready for that. When I was in Milan the sisters were around all the time and I learned a lot from them. We would do a holy hour together. It was great. Here, not so much.

The way the schedule was set up was actually real nice, especially when on Christmas vacation.

Mass at 8am
Get the boys up at 830am
Breakfast for the boys and Cleanup 900am to 11am
Downtime or Laundrytime or my breakfast 11am-1pm
Lunch for the boys 1pm-130pm
Put them down for naps 130pm
Lunch and Break 200pm-400pm
Get'em back up for Marinda or what we might call, snacking 400pm-415pm
Downtime 415pm-5pm
Rosary 5pm
Downtime 530pm-700pm
Dinner 700pm to 715pm
Take them to bed 715pm to 8pm
Freedom 8pm and on

So I started learning, albeit slowly, how to get the guys up and put them to bed, either changing everything from the pinochet (its a piece of rubber that wraps around the guy's penis to take care of the urine) and the diaper to just changing clothing and sending them off to the dining hall. I realized it was all a trust thing. Guys would not want you helping them at the beginning until they really learned to trust you. Then even if they did not like you, like one certain fellow, they would still ask for your help over anyone else.

I would also help serve the food, cutting up the meat for some or in the case of another, feeding him one spoonful at a time. We would make the beds, mop the floors, clean the toilets, empty the urine bags, hang up the laundry, and many more glorious things. At times, these things made me wonder why so many people would show up here to help, even young people.

The downtime in the morning and afternoon was usually occupied with small talk, lounging around on the couches in silence, or loss after loss at the game of dominos to the professional ringer of the house.

Occasionally there would be a play down the hill that all the men would go down for or a movie shown on Sundays. For the big celebrations we would all go down the hill for the big party.

That was life, for a couple weeks anyways. Day in and day out was much the same. But as I fell into the routine, the montony, I had the experience of really living with them. I stayed in a room in the back. I could hear them if they cried out at night. I sat in the same smokey dining hall, waiting out the minutes of each day.

There were times of joy and laughter but also the blunt reality of the situation, people slowly wasting away. I even had the experience of feeling simply horrible when I caught a 24 virus from one of the guys and spent the next day puking my guts out. I look back on it with great fondness. :) I think there is really something said for entering into the lives of others. By doing so, I was able to be with them and love them. Much of what I think inspires the volunteers, young and old, the sisters, the seminarians, even the priests who would come through, is that what they are doing here is love. At this place, love becomes incarnate. There is this mutual giving between the volunteers and these men. No, the men do not give anything material, but they give what little they have, their smiles, their tears, their lives.

Though this west side of Madrid might normally be on the "outskirts" of society in some sense, it has become ground zero for so much love and ultimately for so much change. People come here to love and they leave changed, ready to share love with so many who have yet to discover it.

I thank God for having the chance to share in this.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Tonight Sacramento's own Jose Jesus "Chuy" Beltran and Carlo Perez were admitted to candidacy for Holy Orders along with the other men in Third Theology at St. Patrick's! Please keep them in your prayers. They have this semester, and then one more year to go.