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. :)