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.


Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto

This past weekend was the annual discernment retreat for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, hosted by St. Patrick's Seminary. Young men from all over the country - some current seminarians, some currently on active duty - stayed with us from last Thursday afternoon through yesterday morning. I was in charge of the liturgy for these men which meant finding volunteers to preside at Morning and Evening Prayer, and lectors, acolytes, and sacristans for Mass. A special thanks to Mr. Richard Kidd, our music chairman; Jason Simas, the logistics chairman; Leonard Marrujo, the social activities chairman; Deacon Matt Oakland, the seminarian liason with the military chaplains; and all of the seminarians who volunteered their time to talk with these young men and make them feel welcome!

I was also on the seminarian panel where three other men and I told our vocation stories and answered questions about seminary life. Afterward, one man came up to me and said, "Your vocation story really hit home with me because right now I'm in the same boat you were in." What he meant by that was he is currently in a relationship with a girl and isn't sure where God is calling him. It is tough to be in that position, but if anyone is really serious about discerning God's call, then ultimately you do have to make that decision to break up. I know firsthand how hard it is. But I'm happy where I am now and my last girlfriend is currently engaged.

One of my classmates, who is studying for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said that when he was talking to his vocations director way back when he said, "Well Father, I was thinking I should go back to school first, get my teaching degree, and maybe take some other classes..." The way he described the VD's response was, "Why are you being a chump? Why wait? Answer God's call right now." I'm fairly certain those were not Fr. Daly's exact words, but however he put it, it's a good point. Back when I was visiting different religious orders in my own vocational discernment, one vocation director warned me against becoming a "serial discerner." To be sure it takes time to figure out what God wants of us. But there comes a point where you need to ask yourself is you're really discerning or only stalling. If the priesthood has ever crossed your mind and it just won't go away, why wait? Fr. Chuck would be happy to speak with you :)

Speaking of Fr. Chuck, he's here at St. Patrick's today since the faculty will be talking about us. Keep us in your prayer! The last time he was here, I mentioned in passing that we would have to go out for tacos some time. So guess where we're going for dinner tonight? If anyone reading this blog should make it to St. Patrick's within the next five years, you must develop a taste for tacos. Trust me.

From Father Z comes this lovely video. Let us pray for our Holy Father Benedict XVI.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I've been preparing for the Consecration to Mary which I'll talk about on another post. But one of the major points of emphasis is her humility. She is always in the background in the Gospel stories. She keeps a low profile. She is truly a humble handmaiden of the Lord. She shows that it is by humility that we truly conquer.

Our rector recently mentioned a study that will be coming out soon that supposedly found that seminarians have a 17% higher ratio of narcissism than the regular population. And it is not too hard to see why. We are loved by our parishes. Catholics treat us with so much praise and respect. It's hard not to let it all get to you, to be built up with self-love and with pride. Yet it reminded me of the challenge, really the battle, to be humble.

My spiritual director often gives me the following Litany of Humility for a penance. Humility is truly a battleground for me and I can only assume it is a battle for many of us. Consider adding it to your spiritual battlegear.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…


Incoming Seminarians

Just got word that we have 5 men who are in the process of applying to the diocese of Sacramento as prospective seminarians. Please offer a prayer for these 5 guys.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

WYD Cross

The World Youth Day Cross happened to arrive at the Angelicum the other day. We sang some songs and prayed some prayers. And then we took this picture. You can see the diversity a bit. The student population comes from 90+ countries.

Just another day at the Ang.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why not priest?

Thanks to Alex Quiros of the Diocese of Oakland for the website. Did you know that one of Sacramento's own, Carlo Perez, published a book with Alex called Prayer in the Bible? It's a published collection of their reflections on passages from Scripture. Check thou it out!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Station Church: San Marco

Today we followed the normal route to the Angelicum stopping next to Piazza Venezia to celebrate Mass at the church of San Marco. It stands in the shadows of what we call the wedding cake, the typewriter, or what more reverent people call the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument.

There are many layers of ruins underneath the current church, including signs that it may have been a site of Christian worship before Pope St. Mark established the church of St. Mark on this spot in the mid 330s. There would be a new basilica built on this spot in the 6th century. But the church we see today is in fact one that was built in the 9th century. They were all built with the same dimensions though each was built at a higher level.

photo by gaspa

The crypt below houses the relics of Saints Abdon and Sennen, two Persians who are traditionally believed to have been martyred during the Decian persecution, perhaps nearby at the Coliseum. Here also rests the relics of Saints Restitus and Companions. Under the main altar are the relics of Pope St. Mark.

photo by gaspa

The mosaic in the upper apse is one from the early medieval period. Though a bit rough around the edges, it is actually one of my favorites because if you notice on the left side, far left, you have a figure with a blue square halo rather than the typical circular one around his head. This is Pope Gregory IV, who was still alive at the time of the construction of the mosaic. That's the reason for the odd looking halo. Presumptuous perhaps. Beside him are St. Felicissimus and Mark the Evangelist. On the right are Pope St. Mark, Agapitus, and Ages. Christ of course stands in the middle with twelve lambs coming towards him from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Notice though the arm of St. Mark the Evangelist resting on the shoulder of Pope Gregory IV, a great reminder of how close the Pope was to the first disciples. So also are we so close to these first Christians who gave their lives for the faith, for our faith, and now rest here for our inspiration.

photo by jimforest

Today's readings challenge us to trust the Lord. Just as the many saints who now rest in the church of St. Mark offered their lives for the Gospel trusting that God was always with them, so let us also trust in God's love and His mercy so that we too can stand before the world and profess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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

For more info on the Station Church series click here.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Judgment day

"[O]ur posterity will tend more and more to a single division into two parts – some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Church of Rome." - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835), Bk I, ch. VI.

"Rome and the atheists have gained ... These two shall fight it out -- these two; Protestantism being retained for the base of operations sly by Atheism." - Herman Melville, The Piazza Tales (1876), p. 406.

"I came to the conclusion that there was no medium, in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below, must embrace either the one or the other." - The Venerable Cardinal Newman, Apologia, (1883), p. 198.

It's getting close to annual evaluation time for the Sacramento men at St. Patrick's. Writing my self-evaluation is one of the toughest things I've had to do since entering the seminary. What I always feel like writing is, "I am the greatest of sinners and in no way worthy of the sublimity and beauty of the priesthood." To be sure, no man is worthy of the priesthood on his own merit; it is wholly an undeserved gift from God. I know that on an intellectual level. In my heart, I simultaneously swell with love for Jesus Christ the Eternal Priest when I think that He may be calling someone so unworthy as I am, and shrink from the awesome responsibility and call to serve that the priesthood entails. I don't think many priests realize how much the people notice everything they say and do. I've met lay people who still remember kind words or cold rebuffs from priests from thirty, forty, or fifty years ago. I know laity who would literally give their lives for their beloved pastor, and some who left the Church over something Father did or failed to do.

One thing my academic adviser - a convert himself - has always driven home to us during rector's conferences is that men who become priests today are entering into uncharted waters. For the first time in human history, secularism and atheism are rapidly become the norm for society. Not just the priest, but all Catholics, have to understand the kind of world we live in to better spread the Gospel. We have to strike a careful balance however. Understanding the world does not mean capitulation to the world. Nor should we indulge in an unthinking wholesale rejection of modernity. To test modern thought and distinguish that which is good from that which is evil takes a lot of work, and a good understanding of our own Faith. An excellent discussion about the kind of world we live in today can be found in Charles Taylor's A Secular Age.

But our study of philosophy in the Pre-Theology program is not meant to turn us into academic philosophers identical to those turned out by secular universities. Philosophy in the seminary is aimed at training us to more fully understand the theological truths of our Faith. It is meant to prepare us to become stewards of the Word of God and the sacred mysteries in which the priest participates as an alter Christus.

This is a big evaluation for me. The faculty is deciding on whether to let my class move on to seminary proper. First Theology! I find it hard to believe it's almost time. I still feel like I just got to St. Patrick's. So keep me and the pre-theology II guys in your prayers. March 22 is judgment day for the Sacramento guys.


Well acolyte installation is upon us here at the NAC. Actually it has already passed us by. Here are some good shots from the Mass and ritual.

All the priests and future acolytes fill half the chapel

Presentation of the candidates for acolyte

Archbishop Rodi of Mobile handing me the paten

A view from above

A long line of white...

All of us together with Bishop Rodi

Fr. Avram came over from the Casa to join us for the Mass. Aaron was here so it was a gathering of just three Sacramento men. But we also had Laura, a friend of Fr. Avram, join us for the Mass and brunch. That's all of us above.

Here are a couple thoughts on the whole thing.

In reflecting on this moment in my priestly formation, first I must say, I am glad I am finally here! I have been watching acolytes for years. Heck, this is the fourth time I have seen the institution of acolytes! So I am glad it was finally my turn. :)

But I think what struck me most, in all seriousness, was the reality that I am being in a certain sense woven into a fabric that is much greater than myself. I am moving closer to being made a priest of Jesus Christ, to becoming something that I cannot do by myself and something which I will never exercise by myself but always with Christ and for the Church. And what I will share in is the same mystery of so many apostles and saints, the gift of holy orders. There is just something so amazingly powerful and mystical about being made a priest. We will no longer act or think simply for ourselves but always with the Church and for God's glory. It is within the awe that I realize there is nothing else that I want for my life than to be a priest for others. And my great joy is that it is something I have not grasped for but that God has given to me.

It is also worth a moment to speak about what it is an acolyte does within this whole scheme of liturgy. The acolyte is part of the procession, holds the sacramentary for prayers, serves at the altar, at times will distribute holy communion, and can purify the sacred vessels. His essential part to play in the liturgy is serving at the altar, doing his best to allow the priest to pray.

I also like the fact that as an acolyte you finally get your own inaudible prayer, that is, when purifying the vessels like the paten and chalice. Here is the prayer:

Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and forever.

Finally, I liked what our liturgy director here at the college said. "When you are a lector, you are paying attention to the acolytes. As an acolyte, you are paying attention to the deacon." There is a direction to these institutions to lector and acolyte. They move us, point us, toward holy orders, to being made deacon, and ultimately priest.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vocation Video

This is a priest vocation video from last year. It's so good. Archbishop Timothy Dolan knows how to preach it up and inspire.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"O Sacred Head, Surrounded..."

It's midterms week here at St. Patrick's, and I'm off to class in a few minutes. Earlier this morning I was in charge of music for our class chapel Mass. I selected this for our communion hymn:

Afterward a lot of guys thanked me. One of them said, "You always select songs that are unfamiliar, so it takes us a while to get going." When I'm in charge of music, I often end up doing solos :p But it's a shame that such beautiful music is unfamiliar to so many of our Catholic youth, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good Advice for an Old Timer

This is from Fr. Ronald Rolheiser.

While talking to an older priest, he asked him, "Father, if you had your life as a priest to live over again, would you do anything different?" Here's the answer he gave.

"If I had my priesthood to live over again I would be a gentler with people the next time. I would console more and challenge more carefully. I was one of those people who was taught and who deeply believed that only the full truth can set us free, that we owe it to people to challenge them with the truth, in season and out. I believed that and did it for most of the years of my ministry. And I was a good priest, I lived for others and never once betrayed in any real way my vows and my commitment. But now that I am older, I regret some of what I did. I regret that sometimes I was too hard on people! I meant it well, I was sincere, but I think that sometimes I ended up laying added burdens on people when they were already carrying enough pain. If I were just beginning as a priest, I would be gentler, I would spend my energies more trying to lift pain from people. People are in a lot of pain. They need us, first of all, to help them with that!”"

I think the words are insightful. It's a challenge to courageously uphold the truth but in a way that is truly pastoral, meeting people where they are and raising them up through God's grace to where He wants them to be, ultimately in His arms.

It reminds of what Fr. Paul Murray said in my Spiritual Theology class last semester. Jesus did not start his ministry by giving lectures. They needed something else. He started with love and mercy. Obviously he challenged them to recognize their sins but he did it through his love. It's the same way with men and women grieving over past abortion. You need to be sensitive to their hurt and help them to realize God can and does forgive them. But it does not help them to mitigate the truth and say it was not a sin. They need the truth but through a ministry of love.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Acolyte Institution

This Sunday, March 7th, myself and the class of 2012 will be instituted as acolytes. This is another step closer to holy orders. With the institution to acolyte, we officially serve at the altar.

Please say a prayer for me and all my classmates.

Photos forthcoming...


Station Church: San Clemente

This first Monday of March we headed down the hill and across to the other side of town to the Basilica of San Clemente (St. Clement) which is located near the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

photo by Michael Tinkler

This location has been a site of worship for the Church in Rome for a long time, going back to the 1st century. It is named after St. Clement who is believed to be the fourth Pope. He was either a freed slave or the son of a free slave who had been a member of the Imperial household. Tradition holds that he was banished to Crimea by Emperor Trajan where he continued to preach the Gospel. Therefore he was sentenced to death by being tied to an anchor and thrown in the sea.

This was one of the original house churches in Rome where Christians gathered before the legalization of Christianity. Eventually it would be replaced by a larger basilica around 390. In 867, St. Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles to the Slavs, brought St. Clement's relics back to Rome and Pope Adrian II placed them here. When two years later St. Cyril died in Rome, he would likewise by buried here. Relics of St. Ignatius of Antioch also rest here under the altar.

photo by tanguera75

The Norman attack in 1084 reduced the church to ruins and when rebuilding finally took place, the rubble was spread out and the level of the ground was raised several feet. It was only in 1857 that the remains of the older basilica and even older remains from the classical period were found.

One of the best pieces of art in San Clemente is the mosaic in the apse. In the center is a crucifixion scene with the cross of Christ represented as a tree that branches out in all directions. There are twelve doves on the tree representing the 12 apostles. In each curl of the branches are different scenes and figures. Below this there is a line of 12 lambs that are coming out of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, representing the Jews and the Gentiles. On the arch there are two major prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah, reading their prophecies concerning the Messiah. I actually had my liturgy exam based off this mosaic. That's how much theology is tied into this mosaic.

photo by paullew

Today's readings call to mind God's mercy that has bestowed on us despite our sinful ways. As we look upon this mosaic, where Christ's cross shows forth God's never-ending love and mercy, may we be reminded that God reaches out to us no matter how far away we have run and calls us today, as he does everyday, to return to him with our whole hearts.

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

For more info on the Station Church series click here.