Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
This just happens to be a very common symptom in the seminary. We get everything we could possibly need, food, housing, entertainment, prayer, brotherhood, financial support, and we somehow still find the time to complain. I am probably the number one offender here. :)
But it is a bad sign for our humility and a challenge for us to move beyond ourselves. As my spiritual director always says, we have to stop feeding that ego of ours that wants what we want it, when we want it, how we want it, and on and on. If you want to grow in your discernment, try putting the kabosh on your complaining. It sure is not the easiest for me.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
"There are those who think that in today’s culture what we need is a sort of efficient ‘Catholic Church in Ireland Incorporated’, with its own CEO and with management structures administered efficiently from the top right down to the lowest level. The Church can benefit from appropriate management structures, but renewal will always be the work of prophets rather than management consultants. The message of Jesus Christ is lived in localized faith communities not in national bureaucracies...
...The Catholic Church in Ireland, as I said, will have to find its place in a very different, much more secularized culture, at times even in a hostile culture. It will have to find that place by being authentic and faithful to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. The agenda for change in the Church must be one that comes from its message and not from pressure from outside and from people who do not have the true good of the Church at heart. We all have reasons to be discouraged and to be angry. There is a sense, however, in which true reform of the Church will spring only from those who love the Church, with a love like that of Jesus which is prepared also to suffer for the Church and to give oneself for the Church."
I have started to get a sense of the disillusion myself with my hospital visits. People are confused, weary, no longer interested. What is needed, deep down, are saints. Holy priests, holy sisters, holy lay faithful, holy everyone. Perhaps it is most challenging to be a priest right now because of the scandal and the many struggles we continue to face. But as I told a couple ladies from the south, that is stateside, it is also an amazingly exciting time to be a priest. There is much to be done and much grace there to do it with.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Scripture tells us the hairs on our heads are all numbered, and not a single sparrow falls from the sky without God knowing of it. For that reason, I don't believe there's really such a thing as a coincidence in our Blessed Lord's divine providence. Looking back on my own life, it's still amazing to me that I, someone who wasn't even born a Catholic, am now studying to be a priest. At the same time though I have to believe that if it is indeed God's will that I be a priest, He would have known that from all eternity before I was even conceived. God arranged things to happen in my life to 1) bring me into His Church and admit me to His sacraments, and 2) inspire me to apply to our diocese and the seminary.
Our Holy Father is currently engaged in a pilgrimage to Fatima for the anniversary of Our Lady's appearances to the children there ninety-three years ago. He just delivered an awesome sermon which touches on Our Lady's message of prayer, repentance, and conversion. Pray the Rosary for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and for peace in the world.
Monday, May 10, 2010
This is another seminarian symptom I think. We want to be already there, ordained priests, but we are not even close. What I have come to realize recently is that seminary is not something to be endured. I know I should already know that. But it has finally become something interior to me, that it is good to be here, and this time in itself is blessed
Pope Benedict reflecting on life in the seminary said "The seminary is not so much a place but a significant time in the life of the follower of Jesus (Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005)." That is how we too need to see it.
And Mother Adela, superior of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary said "The seminary is a time of formation, of communion, of intimate dialogue with Christ, of preparation for the mission. It seems to me that we could call the seminary the time of Nazareth."
The challenge is to love where we are. The challenge I think is to abandon ourselves to Divine Providence and rejoice in whatever the Lord has for us and asks of us each day. Jesus did that despite perhaps an eagerness to start his own saving mission for all humanity. He waited until the time was right. We've got to put in our time too.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
In light of the recent explosive news of sexual abuse by priests in Europe, many in the media are wondering again if celibacy leads to abuse. Can you be healthy and celibate?
The irony is that some of history’s most loving and generous persons — those that even nonbelievers admire — were chaste. Think of St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. Would anyone say that they were not loving? Or somehow sick?
Better yet, think of Jesus of Nazareth who, most serious Scripture scholars agree, never married. Does anyone doubt that Jesus was not a loving person? Was he sick?Click here for more.
Friday, May 7, 2010
photo by julie70
A good seminarian brother of mine has been in the hospital for the past few weeks with some health issues. What started as an overnight stay turned into day after day of questions and few answers. Hopefully he is getting better, especially after surgery a few days ago, but please keep him in your prayers.
photo by rene_ehrhardt
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
This semester I took a course on the philosophy of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. In one of his sermons, he said that worldliness means accepting the values of the world which tell us that this life is the only one there is. I wonder how many of us Catholics are worldly without even knowing it? We worry endlessly about which school we'll go to, what career we want, finding a spouse, etc. If we don't listen to the right music, or watch the right movies, or have a house of our own by a certain age, then we think of ourselves as misfits or failures. But where does God enter into our thinking? Should we not always be trying to please Him more than the world?
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking about seminary as just another secular university. We study hard and get good grades so the bishop will send us to Rome after we're ordained, so we can become canon lawyers, so we can eventually become bishops ourselves some day. That is NOT how one should approach the seminary. We study hard in order to understand what the Church teaches. We want to understand what the Church teaches because some day, God willing, we will be teaching God's people what the Church teaches (and nothing but.) We teach them what the Church teaches all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
If you're discerning whether God calls you to the priesthood, that is what you should always have as your primary motivation: the love of God and neighbor, and a great zeal for souls. Being the fallen creatures that we are, we all come to the seminary with other motivations thrown into the mix, but always ask God to grant you greater love of Him and His commandments. Study hard, do well on your tests and your papers, but never forget why you're doing so.
Among the questions the author Katie King proposes are the challenges of celibacy, the permanency of priesthood, and the low income.
I have talked quite a few times about celibacy myself on this blog so I will put it aside for now. The permanency of priesthood is an interesting question. I have come upon the idea of a temporary priesthood both in articles online and with people in the hospital here in Italy. It makes sense if the priesthood is what many characterize it as, another career. Except for the fact that it is not a career choice. It is a life choice.
I wonder whether if people took the promises of baptism seriously, they would not see the lifelong priesthood as something so far outside their desires or capabilities. Ultimately when we are baptized, we take on the promise to live forever in relationship with God and in service of His people. It's permanent, just like the priesthood. I think what we really have a problem with today is the ability to make a commitment, to sign a contract with permanent ink. We prefer the pencil. But the Christian life, as the call to priesthood, religious life, or marriage, require and demand life long commitment.
Perhaps the only way out of this sense of temporary priesthood is a deep formation in the Christian faith, an understanding that we are called to live our lives completely for Christ. The priesthood is one unique way to live out that calling. Should it be temporary? No, because like any vocation, it requires its permanency to allow for a complete gift of self. Would you tell a spouse before a marriage, "Well, this does not need to last forever right?" You destroy the very reason for marriage. Love, that is absolute, uncompromising, till death do us part love, and the priesthood, flows from this same idea. We marry our spouse as well, the Church, and we do it in a complete and absolute sort of way. Temporary priesthood takes that all away.
This other idea of income is, well, kind of funny. It is funny, in part, because I have never met a priest who was lacking, at least stateside. The Church and most especially the faithful take great care of their priests and even their seminarians. And two, because history, man's search for happiness, has proven that material goods never satisfy the deepest yearnings of man for fulfillment, authenticity, purpose, and ultimately, the one thing goods can never do, love! There are few greater ways to encounter and give love than the calling to priesthood, religious life, or marriage in a quite permanent way. With permanence, love comes to full fruition. You can trust the other because you know they are in all the way just like you are. There is no escape route. You enter in for the long term, all the speed bumps included. You can offer everything and know that it will be completely returned in love. Who needs money? :)
King finally concludes:
"Pourquoi Pas Moi?" or "Why Not Me?" is the slogan for the recruitment campaign — which today may prove a tough question for the Church to answer.
I could not agree more. That is, it is a difficult question. But it is not for the Church to answer. She presents the challenge to the young men of this generation and it is up to them to answer that call. It is up to them to ask, "Why Not Me?" God needs good and holy men to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel. The words of Jesus, "Come, follow me" never grow old but in each age beckon forth another generation of priests ready to offer everything to bring one more soul to God.
Monday, May 3, 2010
"I would therefore like to explain to you, dear Confreres, on this Holy Thursday, the essence of the priestly ministry, interpreting the liturgical vestments themselves, which are precisely intended to illustrate what "putting on Christ", what speaking and acting in persona Christi, mean. Putting on priestly vestments was once accompanied by prayers that helped us understand better each single element of the priestly ministry.
Let us start with the amice. In the past - and in monastic orders still today - it was first placed on the head as a sort of hood, thus becoming a symbol of the discipline of the senses and of thought necessary for a proper celebration of Holy Mass. My thoughts must not wander here and there due to the anxieties and expectations of my daily life; my senses must not be attracted by what there, inside the church, might accidentally captivate the eyes and ears. My heart must open itself docilely to the Word of God and be recollected in the prayer of the Church, so that my thoughts may receive their orientation from the words of the proclamation and of prayer. And the gaze of my heart must be turned toward the Lord who is in our midst: this is what the ars celebrandi means: the proper way of celebrating. If I am with the Lord, then, with my listening, speaking and acting, I will also draw people into communion with him.
The texts of the prayer expressed by the alb and the stole both move in the same direction. They call to mind the festive robes which the father gave to the prodigal son who had come home dirty, in rags. When we approach the liturgy to act in the person of Christ, we all realize how distant we are from him; how much dirt there is in our lives. He alone can give us festive robes, can make us worthy to preside at his table, to be at his service. Thus, the prayers also recall the words of Revelation, which say that it was not due to their own merit that the robes of the 144,000 elect were worthy of God. The Book of Revelation says that they had washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb and thus made them white and shining like light (cf. Rv 7: 14). When I was little, I used to ask myself about this: when one washes something in blood, it certainly does not become white! The answer is: the "Blood of the Lamb" is the love of the Crucified Christ.
It is this love that makes our dirty clothes white, that makes our clouded spirit true and bright; that transforms us, despite all our shadows, into "light in the Lord". By putting on the alb we must remind ourselves: he suffered for me, too. And it is only because his love is greater than all my sins that I can represent him and witness to his light. But with the garment of light which the Lord gave us in Baptism and in a new way in priestly Ordination, we can also think of the wedding apparel which he tells us about in the parable of God's banquet.
In the homilies of Gregory the Great, I found in this regard a noteworthy reflection. Gregory distinguishes between Luke's version of the parable and Matthew's. He is convinced that the Lucan parable speaks of the eschatological marriage feast, whereas - in his opinion - the version handed down by Matthew anticipates this nuptial banquet in the liturgy and life of the Church. In Matthew, in fact, and only in Matthew, the king comes into the crowded room to see his guests. And here in this multitude he also finds a guest who was not wearing wedding clothes, who is then thrown outside into the darkness.
Then Gregory asks himself: "But what kind of clothes ought he to have been wearing? All those who are gathered in the Church have received the new garment of baptism and the faith; otherwise, they would not be in the Church. So what was it that was still lacking? What wedding clothes must there be in addition?" The Pope responds: "the clothes of love".
And unfortunately, among his guests to whom he had given new clothes, the white clothes of rebirth, the king found some who were not wearing the purple clothes of twofold love, for God and for neighbor. "In what condition do we want to come to the feast in Heaven, if we are not wearing wedding clothes - that is, love, which alone can make us beautiful?", the Pope asks. A person without love is dark within.
External shadows, of which the Gospel speaks, are only the reflection of the internal blindness of the heart (cf. Hom. 38, 8-13). Now that we are preparing for the celebration of Holy Mass, we must ask ourselves whether we are wearing these clothes of love. Let us ask the Lord to keep all hostility away from our hearts, to remove from us every feeling of self-sufficiency and truly to clothe ourselves with the vestment of love, so that we may be luminous persons and not belong to darkness."