Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Golden" Brotherhood

When the fall semester was coming to a close, I thought to myself, "What am I going to do over Christmas break?" Many of us were asking this question and asking it of others. As it would turn out, 3 brothers from the seminary would join the two southern California transplants in the Golden State for a few days of sightseeing, warm weather, and brotherhood.

Our first highlight was attending mass at the newly built Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral of Los Angeles. Much discussion is had by many people regarding the choice of architectural style. The general consensus of the group was that the cathedral has truly beautiful elements to it. As with most things in life, there are elements which caught our attention, and other which caught our attention for a different reason. After mass, there was an opportunity to meet Cardinal Mahony, who is coming to our archdiocese in January for conference on immigration.

How could we not pay a visit to Dodger Stadium on a beautiful and warm morning? There wasn't a game that day, but from there, one can have a good look at the city around it. Frank was busy pointing out to us which scene in which famous movie was filmed here and there throughout Los Angeles. For this, Frank got the new nickname "Frankie-pedia," (a word play on the Wikipedia website).

Of all the things that Minnesotans have, but which is not quite like the real deal, is a beach. Sure there are only 10,000 lakes in the state, whereas California has only 1 ocean.
Sure, there are beaches in MN, but none of the beaches are like they are in California! We rolled up our jeans and stood in the Pacific Ocean, watching a truly golden sunset. We even prayed Evening Prayer on the shore to wrap up the day.

Lest the brothers think that California has completely lost its Catholic heritage which is so much a part of its history, we had the chance to visit Mission San Gabriel, one of the 21 Spanish missions established all along the coast of California by Blessed Junipero Serra, most of which are still operational today. Father Junípero Serra was considered by his contemporaries to be an exceptionally devout missionary with great courage, remarkable intelligence and persistence. On the birthday of Mary, September 8, 1771, under Fr. Serra's direction, Fathers Pedro Cambón and Joseph de la Somera founded the San Gabriel Mission.

There was also the opportunity for them to meet the some of the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, whose sisters, as an Apostolic Religious Institute, areprimarily involved with teaching the truths of our faith and in making the Father and His love known. Their "Joyful Apostolate" flows from their daily and personal union with Christ.

All along the way, there was good food, good laughter, a few episodes of a favorite TV-medical drama House, good prayer time (much needed after the long semester). Isn't this what brotherhood is all about?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Punk Rock Band

Perhaps it is that I have spent too much time trying to teach teenagers recently, but I have experienced an unprecedented desire to form a punk rock band that I would call "Righteous Indignation." We would spend most of our time with our arms crossed over our chests staring broodingly at people trying to talk to us. When we weren't doing that, we would probably be making snotty comments about the person talking to us or panicking in our minds over some relatively inconsequential piece of teen angst. My punk rock band probably won't really do much music. We'll just mostly sit around and be surly.

At least that's the impression of what teens do. On two separate occasions and with two separate groups of teens I tried to teach about the incarnation, the real meaning of Christmas, and its connection to the Resurrection. I may as well have been beating my head against a brick wall. Not a smile, not a response, not any indication that they had learned anything or had even heard a word of what I had just said.

I'm all for intergenerational catechesis and the like, but God help me, there are days when I would like to say, "I will be lecturing for ninety minutes, after which you will take a fifty question exam. You must answer 95% of the questions correctly or you will not be confirmed. Let's begin."

Between teen angst, the God of the Public School, and the rites for worshipping that God (otherwise known as varsity sports), I am sometimes convinced that its all hopeless. How am I supposed to compete with coaches and Pastor Feelgood up the street who can teach kids their faith (Are you saved? Do you want to be? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Good! Now, let's sing a song.) in about four minutes?

But then again, it is the Christmas season, and I suppose that like most people, they were probably somewhat preoccupied. So, I'll try again next month. And so it goes . . .

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Anyone for a little chocolate?

I was given this recently from someone who pulled it from a parish bulletin.

If anyone has seen it before or knows where it came from, do let us know.

Your Age by Chocolate Math:

(Don't cheat by scrolling down first!)

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (more than once, but less than 10).

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold).

3. Add 5.

4. Multiply it by 50--I'll wait while you get the calculator.

5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1756; if you havn't add 1755.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

Finish: You should have a three digit number. The first digit of this was your original number (i.e. how many times you want to have chocolate each week). The next two numbers are: your age!! (Oh yes, it is!!)

This is the only year (2006) that it will ever work, so tell your friends!

bty, it worked for me!

Don't you just love bulletin humor?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What priests do in their spare time . . .

I am often asked, "What do priests do in their spare time?" My typical response to this is, "What spare time?" It is true that priests are busy people. Father and I, for instance, go to the office around 10:00 AM. We usually return to the rectory for the evening at 10:00 PM. There are short breaks in the day, and it is not the exhausting kind of redundant work that would drive some people to burnout, so it is pleasant work. Nevertheless, one does go to bed knowing that they have done a decent day's work. There are other days that are emotionally exhausting. People worry about asking to see the priest because he might be too busy. In fact, priests are around in order to be bothered by other people's problems. However, some days there are a lot of problems.

But, all of that having been said, there are still down times every so often, and these do get filled in recreational ways. I, for one, need a little time to unwind before going to bed at night. So, Father and I typically drink a cup of tea and watch Law and Order. However, it seems that we have now seen every episode and as a result, have had to find new outlets. So, a couple of nights ago, Father purchased our newest diversion - a Play Station II. With three games and neither of us being particularly adept at these sorts of activities, it should keep us occupied for a while. Fancy that - priests play video games.

We don't spend all of our time in front of the TV. I blog quite a bit, and father like to restore religious art. I also read a lot (usually right before bed). Sometimes we take a stroll around town to see what is happening, and we frequently just sit and tell stories (as Father is especially good a storytelling).

All in all, priests spend their free time the same way that everybody does. They are really not as mysterious as Hollywood might lead us to believe.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dedication of the Churches of Sts. Peter and Paul

One great thing about "Ordinary Time" on the liturgical calandar is that it is anything but "ordinary" as we might think of "things ordinary". Yes, it is ordinary in the sense that during its days the life of the Church is not focused on any particular aspect of the mysteries of salvation (such as the resurrection during the Easter Season, or the Incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ during the Octave of Christmas), but rather we are focusing any number of other wonderful parts of Catholic faith and life.

Today is one of those days. It is the Memorial of the Dedication of the Churches of Peter and Paul. In Rome (or its vicinities) there are these two churches, or basilicas, which are dedicated to the princes of the Apostles. St. Peter's is at the Vatican. St. Paul's, referred to as "St. Paul's Outside the Walls" (that is, outside of the old city walls of Rome) is a short distance from the ancient city. These are two of the four "Patriarchal or Major Basilicas of Rome" (St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran are the others).

Of course we are recalling the Apostles themselves, but since there are these two magnificent churches built under their patronage and given their right and dignified place among the Apostles, it seems intuitive for such a celebration to be concieved in the Catholic imagination. After all, their mortal remains are reposed in their resepective basilica and countless pilgrims come to them annually for just that reason. These basilicas make the pilgrimages possible, or at least alot easier, so why not recall something unique about them while honoring the apostles?

Here's today's entry in the Liturgy of the Hours:

Anniversaries of dedication were celebrated in the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter and in the Basilica of Saint Paul on the Ostian Way as early as the twelfth century. The two basilicas had been completed under Pope Sylvester and Siricius in the fourth century. More recently this commemoration was extended to the entire Latin Rite. Just as the Maternity of the Virgin Mother of God is celebrated on the anniversary of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (August 5), so on this day we honor the two princes of Christ's apostles.

June 29 is the day when the whole Church celebrates the "Solemnity" of these two princes of the Church. So much for "ordinariness" in Ordinary Time!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reflections on Abortion

South Dakota’s effort to ban abortions failed on Election Day, but the effort to stop this plague moves forward. Last weekend, I became all the more convinced of the damage that abortion does when I participated in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat (RVR). Four women attended. One had waited eighteen years to tell about her abortion, another had waited only four months. They had little in common except for a deep shame, a self-loathing, and a desire to be healed. The retreat helped them to begin that process. In a few short hours, they were able to admit what they had done and to begin mourning their lost child. God was truly present for these women.

Many have argued that it is sexist to claim that a woman is incapable of making a mature decision about abortion. Only a misogynist would suggest that a woman who chooses abortion is ignorant of the hardships it could cause her. To these people I respond, “Get a clue.” I have never met people who hurt so badly as the women at this retreat. I didn’t know the human soul could bear such pain. Abortion crippled these women, and the ways that they allowed themselves to be punished and used would curl your toenails.

The weekend was excruciating, but fruitful. By the end, I couldn’t take anymore tears, anymore hugs, anymore scented candles, fresh cut flowers, aroma therapy, or talking about my feelings. But, I did see Christ at work in a very real way. I hope that I can minister to post abortive women one day. I want to stand in the place of Christ for them. I want to stand up with them in place of the men in their lives who had failed them. I want to help them become whole.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

St. Charles Borromeo comes to St. Paul (part 1)

You might be asking yourself, "How did St. Charles Borromeo come to the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity" such that the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and the Saint John Vianney Seminary would embark on a weekend dedicated to his patronage?

Under the inspiration of our rector, Msgr. Callaghan, and with the cooperation of Fr. Bill Baer, rector of SJV, the Borromeo Weekend was developed as a way to foster greater fraternity between the major seminary and the minor seminary though fellowship and various forms of prayer throughout the weekend. But how does St. Charles get involved?

Perhaps a look into the life of St. Charles is in order before we see how St. Charles came to the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

St. Charle
s Borromeo -- Archbishop of Milan and Cardinal-priest of the Title of St. Prassede, Papal Secretary of State under Pius IV, and one of the chief factors in the Catholic Counter-Reformation -- was born in the Castle of Arona, a town on the southern shore of the Lago Maggiore in Italy on 2 October, 1538; he died in Milan 3 November, 1584. His rise to the cardinalate was swift. The father of Charles, Count Gilberto Borromeo, married Margherita de Medici about 1530. Charles uncle, Margherita's younger brother named Giovanni Angelo, Cardial of Medici, was elected pope in 1559 and took the name Pius IV. Upon receiving the news of his uncle's election, Charles (who at this time was not more than 20 years old) hastened to Rome, whereupon he received the news that his uncle-pope had given him the charge of the adminstration of the Papal States. Along with this responsibility came Charles' elevation as a cardinal-deacon on January 31, 1560. In his role at the Secretary of State, Charles was influential in reconvening the Council of Trent, which had been suspended since 1552.

Charles worked dillegently throughout the remaining sessions of the Council. It was the death of his brother, Federigo, in 1562 that moved him towards greater spiritual discipline and towards priestly ordination, which was held in secret,
by the hands of Cardinal Federigo Cesa, in Santa Maria Maggiore, on the 4th of September, 1563. He writes that he celebrated his first Mass on the Assumption, in St. Peter's, at the altar of the Confession. He said his second Mass at his house, attached to the Gesu, in an oratory where St. Ignatius had been accustomed to celebrate. Charles at this time had as his confessor Father Giovanni Battista Ribera, S.J. On the 7th of December, 1563, the feast of St. Ambrose, he was consecrated bishop in the Sistine Chapel; on the 23rd of March, 1564, he received the pallium, and was preconized on the 12th of May.

After the Council, Charles continued his diligent work, focusing his energy on clergy reform and formation of future clergy. As a well-seasoned bishop in Europe, his travels took him on a pastoral visit to a town in the Valtelline valley in the Grisons. Charles was met by the Marquis Gonzaga, whose twelve year old son, Aloysius (or Luigi), had reached great sanctity. This soon-to-be saint would receive his First Holy Communion by this other soon-to-be saint.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Borromeo Weekend

This year's Borromeo Weekend was incredible! The weekend is structured as a traditional 40 hours of devotion in honor of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of seminarians. The purpose of the weekend is, first of all, to give praise to God through a whole weekend of perpetual adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and also to foster unity between our seminary and the college seminary, St. John Vianney Seminary. The weekend also provides us with an opportunity to open the doors of our seminary to and pray with our brothers and sisters of the greater university community and even some beyond this community.

The weekend was powerful. It kicked off with Mass at 7:30pm in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas of the University of St. Thomas Friday evening. At the end of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and placed in the monstrance, and then a Eucharistic procession commenced from this chapel, across the St. Thomas campus, with a crossing at the busy intersection of Cretin and Summit Aves., to the St. Mary's Chapel of the St. Paul Seminary. After the Blessed Sacrament had been placed on the altar in our chapel and all of the processors were settled, we prayed Compline (Night Prayer) together and had a fabulous reception, with terrific hors d'oeuvres prepared by one of the SJV seminarians (who apparently spent some time studying culinary arts before entering seminary).

Adoration continued perpetually from Friday evening with various devotions and recitation of the various Hours of the Liturgy of the Hours interspersed throughout the weekend. It was such a moving experience for me to go into the chapel and find not only brother seminarians from both seminaries spending time before the Lord, but also undergraduate students, seminary faculty and staff, priests from some of the local parishes, and many other faithful from around the area. One friend of mine from the college was nearly in tears when I thanked him for coming. He was so grateful for the opportunity.

My personal favorite reaction to the weekend was during the procession across the campus. I was running ahead of the procession to make sure we had a clear path and to get a good view of the whole thing, when suddenly an undergrad student came up a staircase, noticed the procession, and exclaimed, "Whoa!" Whoa, indeed! 300 people following the Blessed Sacrament across campus is quite a sight! It is beautiful to behold! (To view a slide show of Friday evening's Mass and procession, click here, or if that doesn't work, try here.)

Saturday evening was a beautiful marathon of prayer. The evening began with Vespers (Evening Prayer) at 5:00. Then at 7:00 began the Sacred Music Hour, followed by the "Festival of Praise" at 8:30, which provided a powerful opportunity to praise the Lord in song along with the priests and seminarians of the seminary who are members of the Companions of Christ, as well as with those involved in the evangelization organization, St. Paul's Outreach. Then at 10:00 was the Vigil for the Office of Readings (of the Liturgy of the Hours), followed by Compline at 11:00. It seems like a lot, but as a participant in each of these times of prayer, it is amazing how quickly the hours passed by!

Sunday morning began with Lauds (Morning Prayer) at 9:15 and then before Mass began at 10:00, we had Benediction. With the end of Mass came the end of our 40-hour celebration! Until next year...

Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Altar Servers

One of my responsibilities on pastoral year is training new servers and monitoring the servers we already have. I recently sent a postcard to my current servers, thanking them for their ministry, reminding them that they were responsible for finding their won substitutes, and listing the dates that they had been absent. I spent a good deal of time on the wording of that postcard; I wanted to be sure no one would be offended. I sent the postcards away in the mail, and was certain that the servers would read the postcard and say, “Oh, I’ll have to be better about that.” In my mind, I saw them all going to check the ministry schedule and then throwing the postcard in the garbage. No such luck.

Within a couple of days, I had several angry parents calling to tell me that I had “made them feel like irresponsible parents.” From the tenor of the conversations, I get the impression that it is somehow my fault that the servers don’t show up when they are scheduled, and that it is OK to miss your own day if you were called upon to substitute for someone else who failed to find their own replacement. So, a few of my servers have simply asked to be removed from the pool. So be it. Others have mentioned that they are just “too old” to be servers anymore. I respond, “I don’t agree, but if you insist . . .”

These conversations were the impetus for me to invite children in younger grades. They want to serve, they are willing to learn how to do it well, and they do not suffer from the all too common adolescent time poverty of many of my other servers.

Ask and you shall receive. I put out my invitation and I now have twenty-three boys and girls in grades three and up who want to be servers. Some are very small, and it will look funny to have me process in with them and direct them around the sanctuary, but I am looking forward to the challenge of becoming a model, teacher and shepherd for my new little flock.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

St. Luke, Evangelist

For this Feast of the Evangelist St. Luke we were privileged to have at the seminary Mass Bishop Richard E. Pates as celebrant and homilist. I think that the presence of a successor of the apostles at one of our liturgies is a very special way to celebrate such a feast. In his homily today, the bishop emphasized the personal and compassionate characteristics of Luke that were crucial for the success of his ministry. St. Luke was "present, open and in touch with human nature" Bishop Pates said. These traits enabled Luke to reach many people in a profound yet caring way. St. Luke was a wonderful example of someone who "preached the truth in love."

Today's entry in the Liturgy of the Hours gives us these words about the Evangelist: "Saint Luke was born of a pagan family. Converted to the faith, he became a fellow-worker of the apostle Paul. From Saint Paul's preaching he compiled one of the gospels. He handed down an account of the beginnings of the Church in another work, the Acts of the Apostles, which tells of events up to the time of Saint Paul's first sojourn in Rome."

St. Jerome has similar remarks: "Luke, a physician of Antioch as his writings indicate, was not unskilled in the Greek language. An adherent of the apostle Paul, and companion of all his journeying, he wrote a Gospel" (On Illustrious Men, Ch. 7, Taken from newadvent.org: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2708.htm). Being born a pagan, he was at home in the Greek culture, which no doubt made him a valuabe asset as a companion of St. Paul, the "Apostle to the Gentiles." Being a physician one would seem assured that he had an extensive education. If so, Luke would also be an early example of a person who took advanced scientific knowledge and wedded it to the truths of the Gospel in an harmonious way. Granted his science would not be advanced at all given our standards today, but perhaps they were in the first century. With the significant advances in science we have today we can see questions arising in this area. Nonetheless, surely his knowledge as a physician was very helpful on the missionary path.

As St. Paul, St. Luke was not an eyewitness of our Lord during his earthly ministry. But he sought out those who were eyewitnesses, i.e. the Apostles. A couple of his emphases in the gospel are the universality of salvation brought by Jesus Christ and the need to live an authentically Christian life. Luke's gospel also contains the Canticle (Benedictus) of Zechariah (1:68-79), the Magnificat of Mary (1:46-55) and the Prophecy of Simeon (2:29-32)--each of which make up a part of Morning (Benedictus), Evening (Magnificat)and Night (Prophecy of Simeon) Prayers in the daily Liturgy of the Hours. He is depicted as a calf or ox in images and, although we don't know for sure, he is traditionally thought to be a martyr.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Rectors' Bowl

In response to a comment left by cathy_of_alex to my post dated 9/28/06, yes the Rectors' Bowl, the football game between our own St. Paul Seminary Sons of Thunder and the St. John Vianney Seminary Men of the Church, is open to the public. As a matter of fact, we would love to have some public there to watch! Here is the relevant information...

7th Annual Rectors’ Bowl—St. Paul Seminary Sons of Thunder vs. St. John Vianney Men of the Church

When: 7pm Saturday, October 21

Where: O’Shaughnessy Stadium at the University of St. Thomas (located on the corner of Cretin and Summit Aves. in St. Paul)

Not even the Tommie/Johnnie game compares to this! Come and see some great football action as the undefeated St. Paul Seminary Sons of Thunder take on the St. John Vianney Men of the Church. Head Coach Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan has every confidence that the Sons will hold onto the trophy and the well-deserved title of prevailing football champions. Coach Father William Baer and the youthful Men anticipate plenty of exciting action as they expect to upset this long-standing tradition and bring the trophy home! There will event be concessions and a pep band!

Sorry for the late response, cathy! God bless you!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Theology in Practice

My entire presbyterate recently gathered for an annual convocation. The Topic this year: Restoring the Order of the Sacraments of Initiation. It was amazing to watch these pastors suddenly also become theologians. So often it seems that in pastoral work the connection to theology is not obvious. However, these priests, when given the opportunity, were happy to dust off their theological vocabulary and resume the debates in which they had engaged as seminarians. Unlike seminarians, though, they approached the debate with the added wealth of experiential knowledge that gave weight to their opinions. It was a glorious dispute; words and phrases like mystagogia, source and summit, spiritual maturity, and praxis were flying all over the place. The priests quoted Law, Tradition, Scripture, and Documents. It was amazing. Theology, it would seem, is highly practical, but I suspect that many of us often fail to see the theological skeleton when it is enfleshed in pastoral practice.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vocation and Family

In late August, the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Rapid City asked me to compose a brief article about my family and my vocation. This article was later published in the September 2006 issue of our diocesan newspaper, The West River Catholic. I am republishing that same article here.

As a young child, I remember my father telling people that of his three sons, he wanted a doctor, a lawyer, and a priest. With such assets, he believed, he would be assured a happy and comfortable retirement. I’m not sure exactly why, but it was generally assumed that of the three of us, I would be the priest. Dad didn’t get the doctor and the lawyer, though he did manage to inherit a couple of daughters-in-law. And, it seems entirely likely that he will get the priest, as I am now only three years away from ordination, and am looking forward to the day when I can serve the people of the Diocese of Rapid City as a priest.

People always chuckle when I tell that story about my father, but the truth is that I have been blessed to be raised by parents who have encouraged me to pursue my vocation. I knew from early in my childhood that I would be supported in whatever life decision I made. My parents want me to be happy, and they know that in the priesthood I will find that happiness. They don’t always understand what I am doing, or why I am doing it, but they never stand in the way, and in moments of discouragement, they offer me support. I remember a time when things at the seminary were exceedingly difficult for me. I was relating these troubles to my mother, and commented, “Maybe I should just quit.” She responded, “You’ll have to be the one to make that decision, I guess, but remember, you have never wanted to be anything else.” And I haven’t. A parent doesn’t really need to know all of the particulars of a child’s situation to know the right thing to say.

I must also say that my brothers, and now my sisters-in-law are also of tremendous support in discerning my vocation. I know there have been times when it was difficult for them to try to explain to an incredulous listener what, precisely, I was doing with my life. They are often the ones who force me to articulate my experience of seminary, so that they can understand it better. And when I do try to explain myself so that they can understand my experience, I come to understand better what I am called to do and to be.

A vocation is never one’s own possession, but rather a gift given from God for the good of others. My parents, my brothers, and my sisters-in-law have helped to nourish that gift in me. I pray that I will be a worthy steward of it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Blog away from home

Greetings to all from sunny Rome!

It seems that I am still a part of the SPS blog despite my alumni status, so I thought I would spice things up with an update from my new residence in the eternal city. Here at the Pontifical North American College life is rather chaotic, as the house is preparing to welcome the families of the 27 American and Australian seminarians to be ordained deacons on Thursday. Classes begin for us next monday, so in the meantime I will be continuing my study of the italian language and getting out to see a bit more of the city.

I miss you all dearly. I hear good things are happening at SPS, and I wish I could be there to share them with you all. Keep the faith, and continue striving to inspire others as we have been inspired.

Peace in Christ,

Matt Kuhn

Friday, September 29, 2006

Holy Women

Some of you may recall the Friday Gospel reading from a couple of weeks ago wherein the "Holy Women" who followed Jesus and cared for his material needs were described. I happened to be serving Mass that day with a teenaged girl from a large family, and joked, “Perhaps, if you don’t become a religious sister, you can be a holy woman and care for priests.”

While it may be easy to skip over this short passage from the Gospels, or to make jokes about it, the truth of the matter is that much of the work of the Church is accomplished by the various “holy women” of every generation. Time and again, I am struck when I realize that the success of my endeavors comes not from my own effort, but as a result of the prayers of the women who make daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament, or who offer their daily Rosaries for me. My Director of Vocations often comments that when we (priests and seminarians) arrive in heaven, we will be shocked to learn how little we prayed when compared to the prayers offered on our behalf. I am forced to concur.

However, the work of the “holy women” is not limited to prayer. Everywhere I look in the parish, women are doing the work of the Church. The lectors of my parish are predominantly women, and a large number of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are also women. Many of the altar servers are girls, and it is largely women who clean and decorate the Church, who manage the various office positions, and who coordinate parish programs like religious education and RCIA. Most do this, not for recognition or for a paycheck, but out of a deep love for Christ and his Church. And, they do this while still managing to care for their families, and working in their secular jobs. Simply put, priests depend upon the work of the “holy women.” They are necessary for the advancement of the mission of the Church.

So, here’s to all of you who are among the Holy Women of your parish. Thank you for all that you do for priests, for seminarians, and for the Church. Thank you for saying “yes” when Father asks, “Would you be willing to . . .” We appreciate the work that you do.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A typical day at SPS

(Ordination class of May 2006)

According to the description of this blog, through our entries we seminarians are supposed to provide you with "A little insight into the life of twelve seminarians preparing for ministry as Catholic priests, including daily activities..." Let me give you a sort of general overview of our life here. The following is a description of our daily activities here at the St. Paul Seminary.

The day begins early at SPS. Our first activity of the day is an optional hour of Eucharistic Adoration from 6-7am. A number of our men use this time of quiet as their longest period of personal prayer time throughout the day. This is their "holy hour" of the day. It provides us with an opportunity to begin each day in prayer and adoration before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Men use this time to pray the Office of Readings (or Vigils) from the Liturgy of the Hours, to do other spiritual reading, to pray the rosary and other devotions, or simply to sit quietly in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. This time of prayer is optional because the morning is not the ideal time for everyone to pray. Making a visit to our Blessed Sacrament chapel one will find seminarians making their holy hours or shorter times of prayer throughout the day.

The first required event of the day is 7am when the community comes together in the St. Mary's Chapel to pray Morning Prayer (or Lauds, another prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours). After morning prayer most of us will head over to the Binz Refectory for some breakfast and coffee before the first classes begin at 8am.

At midday the community gathers for Mass. This begins at 11:35am. After Mass we head back to the Binz for lunch, with afternoon classes commencing between 1:00 and 1:30pm. After classes end in the afternoon, we all gather again at 5pm for Evening Prayer (or Vespers). And then it is off to the Binz one last time for dinner.

We are not all in class all day from 8am until 5pm. Our schedules vary. The times that we are not in class during the day we spend studying, exercising, playing sports, visiting, relaxing, typing blog entries, etc. All of these activities are going on in the seminary throughout the day.

At 9:15pm many will gather to pray the rosary in the chapel and then at 9:45pm we gather in the lounges on our floors for the final hour of the Liturgy of the Hours, Night Prayer (or Compline). At 10pm we begin quiet hours. This does not mean that we are not allowed to visit anymore after this time, it simply means that this should be done in appropriate places, such as the floor lounges, so that those who wish to can study, pray, or go to bed early in order to be well-rested for the next day's activities.

While this is the basic structure of our days here at St. Paul Seminary, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of what goes on here. We have many events that provide welcome variations to our schedule. In the fall we have the annual Rectors' Bowl football game between the seminarians of St. Paul Seminary and the seminarians of St. John Vianney Seminary (the college seminary on the other side of campus). We also have 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration to celebrate the feastday of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of seminarians. There is also Acolyte Installation, Declaration of Candidacy for the men planning on being ordained as deacons in May, floor parties, and other seminary and Archdiocesan events to keep life interesting and fun at the seminary!

I would like to close this blog with a reflection from the rector of St. Paul Seminary, Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan. I will share this wonderful and profound insight which he shares with us seminarians on a regular basis. The insight is this: "The best of all, come from St. Paul!" Please ponder this message in your hearts.

May God bless you!

A Cardinal's Blog

You may or may not have discovered that His Eminence, Sean Cardinal O'Malley, OFM Cap., Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Boston now has his own blog.

Currently, he is doing a series of posts that is following his visits and happenings while he is in Rome. There are some great pics and some awe-inspiring reflections from the Cardinal.

Many of us here at the seminary were able to meet him this past year, as well as hear a few of his moving homilies, while he stayed at the seminary during the Apostolic Visitation. It was actually during that short stay with us that the news came from the Holy Father about his elevation to the College of Cardinals.

It is unclear whether he plans to continue the blog indefinitely, but judging from the overwhelming positive response he is recieving in comments perhaps he will, if his busy schedule allows it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. It is a truely beautiful and human element in the life of the Church that we often enjoy celebrating Memorials, Feasts and Solemnities. We need to be constantly reminded of those persons who lived before us who also walked in the path of Christ. Undoubtedly, some are more significant figures than others, such as St. Matthew, whose Gospel is traditionally the first you will see when you page through the New Testament.
However, it is also the human element of rejoicing and celebrating as a community along with the heavenly communion of saints. Celebration is indeed something that our Jewish ancestors in faith have always done and still do. There are also those other times when a more somber tone is desired so that we can reflect on our own state in the eyes of God. With that being said, I think one ought to always keep in mind that there is a time for all things (within reason of course), and today we rejoice with the Church in the blessed memory of St. Matthew.

But who was he? As I said, a Gospel in the New Testament bears his name and he was also an Apostle of our Lord. The Daily Roman Missal has this to say:

"Son of Alphaeus, Matthew, also called Levi, was a publican, that is, a tax collector for the Romans. His profession was despised by the Jews. Nevertheless, our Lord called him. Matthew's vocation reminds us that sactity is not reserved for privileged persons. All states in life, all professions, all noble tasks should be sanctified, as the Church teaches. Matthew is one of the Twelve Apostles. We do not know details of his evangelization or of his martyrdom which perhaps took place in Persia. Tradition unanimously acknowledges him as the author of the first Gospel, written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord himself spoke, and translated into Greek afterwards. St. Matthew's name appears among the apostles in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I)" (Daily Roman Missal, 4th Ed., Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1998. P. 1675).

Another interesting thing about St. Matthew is that his common artisitc image is the angelic creature with a human face. (Recall that the four Evangelists are depicted as a human or angelic creature (Matthew), a lion (Mark), a calf (Luke), and an eagle
(John).) St. Irenaus says that St. Matthew had "a human face-an obvious description of his (Jesus') advent as a human being" (Adv. Haer. III, 11, 8), although St. Augustine interchanges St. Matthew's and St. Mark's images(De consensu evangelistarum 1.6.9). However, the consensus after Irenaus goes with his attribution.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The First Week from a Different Perspective

So, everyone has gone back to school except for me. I have been assigned to a pastoral year by my Bishop, and so as my classmates and fellow seminarians are hitting the books, I am getting geared up for a busy year in the parish. In the last week, my parish has begun two new programs (Generations of Faith and Renew) as well as beginning RCIA classes, confirmation classes, and kicking off the new year for our Newman Center. Suffice it to say that I was glad when my day off rolled around.

I had expected the first week of classes at SPSSOD to be hard for me, with all of my brothers at school, and me in the parish. I was pleasantly surprised to experience, however, that a busy week spent in service of the People of God was a soothing balm. And so, while they are all reading and writing and theologizing, and I am getting the practical experience of parish life that will prove invaluable when I am ordained. Its a little hard for me to be so far away from seminary life, but that life doesn't hold a candle to working with the people.

Good luck brothers. Study well. The Church needs you.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We're Back!

Today is our first day back at the seminary for the school year. Everyone has now returned from a variety of summer assignments. Those who were ordained deacons in May and are entering their fourth and final year of seminary have returned from parish assignments in their respective dioceses. Others have returned from serving as chaplains in various healthcare centers around the state and nation, and some have returned from spending the summer in various language immersion programs (primarily Spanish). I, a humble pre-theologian, at the behest of my bishop spent a wonderful summer in two parishes of my home diocese of New Ulm, MN (see earlier entry entitled, "Parish Life").

Summer was a joy. My time in the parishes was a wonderful experience and I also enjoyed the down time I had between the end of my parish assignment and the beginning of the semester. I spent a portion of that time with my family and five days with the Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey on a silent retreat. It probably sounds like a long time, and indeed I thought it would be, but it is amazing how quickly it went by. It's amazing how after spending a few days in silence one can so easily enter into prayer. Sitting in the chapel, reading a spiritual work in my room, or on a walk in the country--any of these became an opportunity for prayer. Normally I need the time I have to do these things simply to clear my mind and calm down, and by the time I have done that, it is time to get back to studies or run to class or eat or to attend to some other activity. However, one's mind is clear of all these distractions when there is nothing to do but read, sleep, eat, and pray. I loved it!

But, alas, I must return to my normal tasks. Oh well. It's time, and I'm ready. I should have a good line-up of courses this semester. Two of these are in philosophy, Metaphysics and Modern Philosophy. I am also registered for "Introduction to Church Documents," "Parish Ministry," and "Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin." I think it should be fun!

Tonight we have Mass with Archbishop Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and then the semester is officially kicked off and going! Now that we're back, why don't you stop in for a visit! We'd love to have you!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


In South Dakota, it is often said, “If you don’t like our weather wait a few minutes. It will change.” While this may be true most of the time, the weather this summer has been consistent. It has been HOT. I’m talking over 100 degrees. For weeks at a time. Coupled with the heat is a severe drought. Ranchers come one step closer to desperation with each cloudless day. Now, we are a hardy bunch, by and large, and we learn to live with the weather (like we could do anything else) but this year has been disastrous in terms of fires. Thousands of acres of land have been lost, both in the Black Hills and on the prairies. Homes have been taken by fires and all of the state’s resources have been directed toward controlling them. This is one of those situations where pastors are devastated because there is so little that they can do to help and it seems that it is only a matter of time until the next fire starts.

My family has been lucky so far. Earlier in the week a fire burnt almost to our property line as the local men did all they could to stop it. That fire burnt a swath about a quarter of a mile wide for several miles. It was a small fire. Another not far from our home claimed about 30,000 acres of pasture land. Crews of local men with shovels and buckets and gas-powered sprayers managed to subdue it after about four days of fighting.

There are warning signs all over the roads about throwing cigarettes from car windows, and every night, you can see ranchers sitting out on the tops of tall hills watching the horizon for signs of new fires. Few people in the ranch country are getting much sleep these days.

The only thing that is going to bring relief is several inches of rain. Unfortunately, rain in August is almost always accompanied by lightening. So, we just keep praying, and putting out the fires. And we wait until fall when it will get cooler, a few gentle rains will finally come, and folks can sleep at night without dreaming about fire.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Parish Life

I am fortunate enough to be able to spend my summer in a parish in my home diocese, the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota's most rural diocese. I am living with the pastor in the rectory of the Church of Our Lady in Manannah, Minnesota. Now, I grew up on a farm north of a very small town called Seaforth. This is a town of fewer than eighty residents. Imagine my surprise when I drove into Manannah for the first time and found that this town is actually smaller than Seaforth! It's population is below forty! In fact, it is not even an incorporated city. Manannah has no mayor or other city governing body. Rather, it is a small collection of residences, a church, and a tavern called the Hilltop that is located in Manannah township. The parish itself is quite large for being located in such a small town with about 600 members.

So far in Manannah I have taken communion to parishioners in nursing homes in the area, helped build a parish float for the Manannah Daze parade, ridden on the parish float for the Manannah Daze parade, helped dig a hole in the cemetery (not for a grave, but for the concrete base of a new altar being constructed), watched trees be taken down and a large whole be dug for the gathering space now under construction, among other things. Now I am preparing to spend five days in the Boundary Waters with eight parishioners in less than two weeks.

Busy as Manannah is (you would actually be amazed at how busy things can be around the parish), I am also helping out in the neighboring parish of St. Philip's located just over ten miles away in Litchfield, MN. St. Philip's is a parish of around 1,700 members located in a town of about 6,500 people. I typically go to Litchfield on Thursdays for the Masses at the two nursing homes in town, Bethany and Emmanuel. I also drive into Litchfield either for their Saturday evening Mass or for their two Sunday morning Masses. I am also trying to get to Spanish Mass that takes place every Sunday as well.

Parish life is very interesting and can be a lot of fun. Now halfway through my time working with these two parishes, I feel that this has already been an excellent experience for me, especially sine I am so near the beginning of his seminary years (I have one year completed with five years of school and one year in a parish yet remaining). This experience has helped me to confirm my confidence in my vocation to the priesthood and hopefully will serve as a reminder for me of that towards which I am working throughout the school year as well. God bless you all!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Religious Women

These last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to experience the ministry of religious siters in a new way. It happened quite accidentally. I was asked to visit a nearby parish (pictured below) to help the pastor pack and move. He has lived in the parish for twenty-five years, and he has a lot of possessions that have accumulated over that period. He also has two elderly Benedictine nuns who have lived in the parish and helped in its daily operation, as well as caring for Father who suffers from a neurological disorder that prevents him from moving about easily. These sisters have also been in the parish for decades.
It was so amazing to see them, in their habits, scurrying around the parish, “convincing” people to volunteer for various activities, and taking care of Father. They love the work they are doing, and though they are nearly bend double with old age, they don’t seem to recognize that they should be resting, enjoying their golden years. As I walked out of the rectory, I encountered one of them carrying a ladder. She, at almost ninety years old, was going to climb to the top of it to clean a closet. They will be moving back to their motherhouse soon, and an era will have ended. For more than a century, religious women have lived in that parish doing the same work that these sisters have continued in the more recent years. As I watched them going about their business, I couldn’t help but think, “This must have been what a parish was like in 1950 when there were more sisters to help carry out the work of the Church.”

A couple of days later, I had the opportunity to serve as sacristan for our annual vocation camp for girls. Dominicans staffed the camp this year. There were three characteristics about them that immediately struck me: 1) They were young. 2) They were happy. 3) They wore their habits. This was striking inasmuch as one seldom encounters a young sister in the Diocese of Rapid City these days. Indeed, these sisters had come from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The more profound realization that occurred as I listened to the sisters speak, however, was their dedication to the Church, their love for the people of God, their deep devotion to the charism of their order, and their abiding relationship with Christ. This is not to say that other religious women do not exhibit these same qualities. Rather, because sisters are mostly absent from the daily life of the parishes and schools in this diocese, I seldom have reason to be involved with them. To have the opportunity, therefore, to spend a week in their presence was a profound reminder of the role of religious women in the life of the Church, and of the essential role they play in supporting the ministry of priests. Never have I heard a more moving testimony of the absolute necessity of praying for one’s pastor, nor have I ever seen a priest reach a young female audience so effectively as the sisters did in their own testimonies. Seldom has a priest inspired me toward holiness quite so deeply as did these small women in white habits and black veils. I’ve heard it said that the diocesan vocation crisis will find at least partial resolution when women religious have remedied their own vocation crises and are more visible in the life of the Church. After all, how many sisters, through their work in parishes and schools, inspired young men to pursue the priesthood? I believe that this sentiment must be true. Resulting from the testimony of these women’s lives and actions, I find myself freshly invigorated to pursue my own vocation with renewed enthusiasm and sincerity.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Parish Life

God Bless Mike (below). This is one of the hardest summer assignments he will have as a seminarian. I, having completed CPE last sumer, am living happily in a parish of my own diocese. I arrived a week ago, and life has been busy. There have been some wonderfully challenging moments already, though the most interesting of which was being called upon to translate the rite of baptism into Spanish as the baptism was occurring because the sponsors spoke no English. It was not as smooth as I would have liked, but I was understood, and there are now two more Catholics in this world. I am just taking a few minutes today to catch up on some communications before setting out to take Holy Communion to the homebound. Apparently Father has decided to put his sole installed Acolyte to good use.

I am rapidly discovering how quickly one begins to fall in love with God's people. I have met some marvelous people already, and there are still more to meet. Parish life is great.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Finals are over. Thanks be to God. The papers are all written and graded, the final grades are recorded, and summer is here. There is tremendous relief in knowing that the year is over. As Pilate said, "What I have written, I have written." And now, I have a few more days of summer bliss before the work of a summer assignment sets in. I have managed to have a marvelous time doing a lot of nothing. (Be assured, not all seminarians are lazy. I assume my peers have been much busier than I have.) Below you will find some photos of how I have managed to waste a few days so far.

1) I went fishing with my dad and brother in the lovely Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I caught a small one and turned it loose. Dad and my brother caught none.

2) I have been watching a lot of jack rabbits and antelope. There are a lot of them around this year.

3) My family and I went to the Casey Tibbs Matched Bronc Ride (basically a Rodeo) in Ft. Pierre, SD. It is a rodeo dedicated to the memory of the famous South Dakota rodeo cowboy, Casey Tibbs.

4) I attended a rally in Support of HB1215, a law which eliminates abortion in South Dakota.

5) At the end of the week, I will join the diocese in celebrating the ordination of Jim Hoerter to the priesthood. it will be a wonderful celebration for us.

So, that's been the last two weeks or so in a nut shell. There will be more once my summer assignment officially begins.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Pascal Mystery...and Weather

Have you ever wondered what people mean when they say that we all must live the Paschal Mystery and that we cannot have Easter without Good Friday? This is certainly something I've struggled to understand for quite some time. How can it be that we come to the greatest joy through suffering? It certainly does not make sense in our current cultural context in which suffering is something to be avoided at all costs because clearly no good can come from it. Well, perhaps this is not so clear as our society would have us believe. Let me give you an example. I'll use an analogy that is very appropriate for Minnesota...a weather analogy.

I always pity those who live in climates that are beautiful and sunny almost year round. This may sound a bit odd, but I think I would get sick of having one sunny and gorgeous day after another. For one thing, how do people in those climates make small talk? In Minnesota we have just been blessed with several rainy, cloudy, dreary days. Yes, I said blessed. No, not because I am morbid and particularly enjoy the darkness (although it can be refreshing from time to time). I consider these days a blessing because, while they were beginning to weigh on me and make me a bit frustrated, when the sun finally did break through yesterday and again today, my heart sang!

There is nothing like a beautiful sunny day after a stretch of more depressing weather. There is nothing like the spiritual growth that comes from a period of dryness, temptation, trial by fire. There is nothing like celebrating and living the joy of Easter and Christ's Resurrection after suffering with him in his Passion and Death. How can we know how wonderful and joyous are the highs unless we have experienced and gained an appreciation of how dreadful and sorrowful are the lows. Living the Pascal Mystery may not always be present, but bring it on! For in the end we know that light, joy, and life triumph!!

Don't forget, we are still celebrating Easter!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

In the realm of athletics, some members of both St. Paul Seminary and SJV have been able to play basketball together (usually Fridays). This has been an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the guys at the other seminary, while competing and getting some exercise. The more the two seminaries located at UST unite through formal and informal activities, the better. Together, and only by the grace of God, we can transform this campus.
Thanks for joining us this semester SJV!

Monday, May 08, 2006


I grew up in the ranch country of western South Dakota, near the center of Meade County (the fourth largest county in the nation, mind you). My nearest neighbors lived about a mile away. The nearest grocery store was sixty miles away in the little town of Sturgis (yes, the Sturgis of motorcycle fame). We had no movie theaters, no swimming pools (other than a stock dam, which was usually filled with stinky black mud and leaches) and basically none of the other amenities to which “town kids” were accustomed ( I have always resented the fact that we didn't have an ice cream man, with a funny little truck and a happy little song). Rather, to entertain ourselves, especially in the summer, groups of people would get together, roast a pig in the ground, and play guitars and sing. This would go for hours until the kids had all fallen asleep and the adults' fingers were too sore to play any longer. It was a ritual of community living for the ranch folks. It was a time to hear the latest gossip, to remember the old stories, and mostly, to have a good time. I miss those days.

I had an experience not entirely unlike those pig roasts of my youth on Friday night. One of the newly ordained deacons is originally from Vietnam. He had invited a huge crowd of guests for his ordination. They all came, and when I walked through the party, they had already been eating for an hour or so. I was invited to join them, and gladly accepted the offer. After eating my fill of shrimp, crab, and Vietnamese noodles, I was getting ready to leave. About that time, the rest of the group was just getting ready to start the singing. It was karaoke – not exactly the old sad country western guitar classics of my youth -- but it was real people singing the songs they knew and loved. It was an awful lot like home (except that they all spoke Vietnamese, so I couldn’t follow the conversation most of the time.)

Eating with the Vietnamese on Friday night helped to remind me why I am here. I remain in the seminary so that I can ultimately go back to the people who raised me. In the ranch country, children are community property. People look out for one another. I was, and to some extent, I remain, what the neighbors out home refer to as “one of our kids.” It was they who raised me in such a way that I was able to answer the call to enter the seminary. It is they who encourage me to stay the course when I go home. I am tremendously grateful to them for that. I am indeed one of their kids; I long for the day when they can be my people.

Back in Black

Due to a recent ordination, nearly half the men of our house are now wearing clerical dress. This is truly awesome. They say that the clothes make the man, and in this case, there is some truth. Like the uniform of a soldier or a police officer, the recognizable garb of the priest comes with some expectations about the behavior of the wearer. I cannot see this as a bad thing in our contemporary society. Perhaps we should all be held to higher behavioral standards...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Turn the other cheek...

Speaking of chess, I learned Jesus' lesson to "turn the other cheek" rather than demand "an eye for an eye" the hard way. "How could this possibly relate to chess?" you might ask. Let me tell you.

If you've read the previous blog, you've heard of the infamous Rev. Mr. (soon to be Rev.) John Paul. And you know that the final game in the SPS chess tournament is between him and our very own Mike. To get to this point, the good Rev. Mr. had achieve victory in several games. Three of these were played against pre-theologians of the first floor. You could say that he "rocked first floor like a hurricane," leaving nothing but total destruction and mayhem in his path. I was the first of his first-floor victims.

This is a story of strong winds and heavy rain; it is a story of the pursuit of revenge and of utter defeat. This is my story.

On a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon the Rev. Mr. and I decided to play our chess game on a picnic table in the garden outside of the chapel. It was a very cordial game and the two of us, for the first 30 minutes or so, seemed pretty much tied. But Hurricane John Paul was gaining strength and becoming more menacing with every move. I was getting a bit concerned. I was also sick and tired of being on the defensive. So I thought to myself, "Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. He put me on the defensive, now I am going to shock him by putting him on the defensive by using my queen to put him in check. I bet he's not expecting that!" Indeed, I'm sure he wasn't, probably because he recognized that this would be a very foolish move and clearly I would be too wise to make such a move. Well, he was wrong. I placed my queen. He looked a bit shocked. However, not for the reason I suspected. It was not a shock or horror, but rather a shock of "how could he possibly make it so easy for me to take his queen?!" Yes. My desire for revenge turned out to be my Achilles Heel. For without a moment's hesitation, he picked up his knight and trampled my queen beneath his hooves. I was speechless (those who know me will probably tell you that this is quite rare). I had failed to protect my floormates from this most ferocious storm.

Moral: "Eye for an eye" in chess hurts us all.
Moral 2: Mike must put an end to the Rev. Mr.'s destructive pattern without acquiring it himself. Is he up to the challenge? We can only wait and see...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Turn me over; I'm done on this side!"

This is a well-known saying about the final words of St. Lawrence. The famed-story goes like this: Upon being sentenced to death for his faith by being literally roasted at the stake, Lawrence, a Roman deacon of the third century, "was stripped and bound upon this iron bed over the slow fire, wich roasted his flesh little by little. Having suffered a long time, he turned to the judge and said with a cheerful smile: "Let my body be turned; one side is broiled enough." After having been turned over a while, he turned to the executioner and said, "It is cooked enough; you may eat."

What are all these musings about being "roasted on an open fire" ... on the day when the Church commemorates the feast of Sts. Philip and James.

At this time of the academic year, seminarians are accustomed to a formal evaluation process, in which seminary faculty members assist the student on their way towards priestly ministry. In a sense, it can feel like being "roasted on an open fire." For no one finds it comfortable to be in a discussion about one's strengths, much less one's weaknesses. No one likes to be probed as to the reasons for why we act in certains ways in certain situations. Why does the seminary have this process?

I think that the reason it is in place is because it is one of those ways in which, as an institution, the seminary recognizes that her students are all diamonds in the rough. The formal evaluation process, while being one of those directives from the "powers that be", is just one of the ways that each man's rough edges can begin to be smoothed away over time. In so doing, more of the diamond can be experienced by people, rather than the rough edges. It is a chance for others to help one to recognize those areas of growth which can hamper priestly ministry. It is another one of those opportunities wherein the Lord would give us a healthy serving of "humble pie." It is a chance to be shown that we are not as perfect as I think I am.

It is a lifelong process; no one masters it on this side of the grave. Deitrich von Hildebrand has written a beautiful book entitled Transformation in Christ in which he describes the necessity of this process for anyone who is serious about their Christian discipleship. It is a beautiful, yet painfully slow, transformation. But there's something about it which helps me to understand the words we so often hear in the letters of St. Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2: 19-20)

Maybe this St. Lawrence guy knew something that I'm still getting a grasp of. I'm sure that he didn't have Christmas thoughts of chestnuts in his head as he was being roasted. Maybe it was more of a committment to the message of the Gospel for which he laid down his life. Maybe we could ask this saint to help us make his words our own: "Turn me over", Lord from whatever patterns, attitudes and behaviors in my life do not reflect you nor your love. "I am done" with trying to do things my way. Let your will be done in my life.

St. Lawrence, ora pro nobis.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Anti-Catholic Sentiment

My American Church History class has prompted me to think about a number of issues. One such topic has unfolded as follows:

I have heard it said that the only prejudice that the American culture remains willing to tolerate is the not so subtle anti-Catholic mentality that seems to permeate much of American civil life. Most of us have heard of the fears from the 60’s that John F. Kennedy would become a puppet president whose administration would only be a front for the workings of the Pope in America. I suspect an equal number of us have seen the proliferate anti-Catholic propaganda that is passed out among certain Christian sects. Others of us have experienced the Ash Wednesday stare - that look you get when you go out in public after you receive your ashes. Many of us have been labeled as misogynistic, intolerant, old fashioned, or just plain ignorant because of our faith in the teachings of an “archaic” Church.

I’m not sure that all of these things add up to bigotry or prejudice, but I do think they bespeak a certain ignorance. It cannot be ignored, however, that unambiguous prejudice against Catholics has been a part of American history. From the unwillingness of colonial governments to permit Catholics to hold public office, to the hesitation on the part of President Grant to allow Catholic missionaries on the Indian Reservations, to the worries about President Kennedy in the 60’s, Catholics in America have, at best, been tolerated. At worst, they have suffered outright persecution.

Intolerance of Catholics takes on a more personal meaning for me when I consider, for instance, the stories that my grandfather told of the Ku Klux Klan and a churchyard cross burning that occurred at his parish during his childhood. The Klan was active in trying to scare Catholics out of Western South Dakota. Besides some of their typical scare tactics, it is claimed, though it remains unproven, that they were also responsible for the murder of a priest in the Diocese of Rapid City.

The question that arises out of all of this is, “Why the Catholics?” What have Catholics done to provoke such ire? Why are we so frightening to people? Though history offers some insights, it can provide no satisfactory resolution to this question. I’m certainly no martyr, but I can’t help but consider the words of the Beatitudes. Blessed are they who are hated and persecuted for my sake . . .

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Are Explicit Images Legitimate?

One of the best known photographs of all times is the June 1963 picture of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who lit himself on fire in protest of his government. The photo is graphic, yet it serves to illustrate a point that mere words would never have communicated. It was widely circulated in protest of America’s involvement in Vietnam. Similarly graphic photos have been used to protest wars, animal slaughter practices, nuclear testing, and a wide variety of other controversial topics. Men and women with religious inclinations have not been immune to this practice.

I am a South Dakota citizen preparing to serve the people of the Diocese of Rapid City. In January, I rejoiced that our state legislature passed House Bill 1215, and that shortly thereafter, Mike Rounds, the Governor of the state, signed the bill into law. This legislation makes it a crime to perform an abortion in the State of South Dakota, and doctors convicted of the crime can face a five year prison sentence. This bill, as might be expected, has provoked quite a fire storm among South Dakota voters who, it seems, will likely be asked to vote on whether or not the bill should be allowed to become law in the fall elections.

Debate has been particularly fierce on blogs and other internet forums. On one South Dakota blog, a writer recently submitted links to explicit photos of the remains of those children who have died as a result of abortion. There was a strong visceral reaction to this posting, and many people called for the moderators of the blog to remove the post and/or links, calling them indecent. I will spare you the details of the pictures, but suffice it to say, my stomach churned when I saw them. I think that the entire episode poses an interesting question, however. Can we legitimately use graphic photos, such as those that show the truth of the results of abortion, as a means to convince people of the evil of the practice? In some ways, it seems that we should; abortion is barbaric and pro-abortion people should know what they are supporting. On the other hand, what about the dignity of those whose pictures we are using to achieve our ends? Are we abusing their dignity? What of the innocent children who will also see the photos when we display them? Should they be subjected to such imagery? I’m not sure where I come down on this issue, but it has certainly given me reason to take pause and consider it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It is time for a short rant from your friendly neighborhood pre-theologian.

I am currently working on a presentation on the principles of Catholic art. The big problem I am having is coming up with a definition of art better than "Whatever I point to and say 'That is art.'" Has art become so badly relativized that it cannot even be defined any more? Who could possibly qualify as a competent judge of contemporary art? Roger Ebert? Paris Hilton?

It seems to me that prior to the twentieth century art had defining characteristics. I can look at a painting and say "that is an example of cubist portraiture," but I can not do the same with the infamous urinal pictured in a previous edition of this blog. Are there no longer any standards by which to judge art?

Will the real twenty-first century art critic please stand up?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Confirmation, a Tongue of Fire and a Furnace

This past weekend was rewarding. The 10th graders from my Teaching Parish whom I have been teaching and preparing this past school year were confirmed at the Cathedral. Bishop Richard Pates was the celebrant and there were many confirmands from various parishes present. I had the privilege of serving the Saturday morning Mass.

The next day at their home parish there was a special Welcoming Mass for them and a reception in the fellowship hall afterwards. I was also there for that.

It is a great thing to see young people recieving this final sacrament of initiation and begin living their adult lives of faith. It is also humbling to know that they (as we all do) need prayer and support so that the gifts of Holy Spirit will be ever fruitful throughout their lives.

I remember when I was confirmed a the age of 16 I chose the name "Daniel." It is a noble name that means "God is my judge." I always liked the wise and faithful Daniel that survived King Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. I hope that my students' (and my own:) faith will remain as steadfast as his in tribulations.

For reflection...

In lieu of a longer blog post, I thought I would offer this short prayer for your reflection. I came across it as I was flipping through the pages of my Manual of Prayers book from the North American College in Rome. I was having one of those "I'm not in the best of moods" days and this prayer cheered me up. Something about the rhythm calmed me. Perhaps it will be helpful for you as well. The prayer is simply entitled, "Christ."

Be within me, every part--In my mind, my voice, my heart--In my mouth, on my lips, even in my fingertips. Christ be in my eyes, and ears--to bless my joys, to calm my fears. Be with me through this busy day in all I think, and do, and say. It matters not by day or night, if you are with me, I'll do all right. And the world will be a better place if you are shining through my face.

Amen. God bless you during this Easter Season!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fly Fishing and the Serra Club

Yesterday, I was somehow able to find the time to go fly fishing for a whole day. The weather was perfect. We set out immediately after Mass in the morning and after a few stops to buy some equipment, we were out on the river around 11:30. This was my first time trying to fly fish - and I didn't do so bad. I managed to find the public access point and get suited up. From there, things got a little shaky. First, as I stepped into the water for the first time in the muddiest part of the river with my padded wader boots, I thought I would soon be swallowed up into a pool of mud; unable to move, I would sink like the wicked witch of the West until the trout would be able to get the last laugh as they unknowingly swam over their make-shift muddy tombstone of the idiot fisherman and ate their next meal of a real fly landing on the water above them. Actually, I was in two feet of water and I was just having problems moving in the mud without falling - and I nearly did fall twice. That would have been unfortunate. After finally making it into the river, I quickly decided to cast...or decided to cast quickly. In short time, there were two hooks attached to fly patterns in the trees lining the shoreline, and I was out two bucks. Hopefully, nobody decides to build a tree fort there. Not to be deterred, I tried a more open area where I couldn't possibly snag my hook on the brush nearby. The tree that I then hooked my line on put up quite a fight and kept my fly. I saw a trout rise then. There's probably a great lesson there somewhere. Finally, I got my cast fine-tuned and had a relatively un-eventful next five hours until going home, having caught no trout. So much for beginner's luck. (Actually, I had a lot of fun and it was a great way to relax after a busy week in the seminary, but it's more fun to make life melodramatic).

On a different note, I was able to go to the 10th anniversary celebration of the Wright County Serra Club on Thursday with Msgr. Callaghan and a fellow seminarian. It was wonderful, as always, to see the Serrans who do such wonderful things for us seminarians (and priests, religious, etc.). Not only do the Serrans pray for us and support us in so many ways, but at various times throughout the year, they will leave us cookies and various baked goods. You can't beat that. The program for the 10th anniversary was great; Msgr. Callaghan was the keynote speaker.

Off to start another week of seminary. Only one class tomorrow because the other was cancelled.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

He is risen, Hallelujah!

What a wild ride these last few days have been! The celebration of the Holy Triduum, the most holy days of the Church's year, at the Cathedral and at the parish was an occasion to pray these mysteries in a way that showed to me the importance of faith in peoples' lives. The richness of each of these liturgical celebrations is almost overwhelming ... I was quite tired on Easter Sunday when I was finally done with my liturgical assignments.

Nevertheless, the time of Lent is past; the time for celebration is here. Ya know, at first glance, there's not much difference between the words "fast" and "feast" -- common words used during these seasons. As Catholics, we love to feast. Who doesn't? But when it comes to fasting, we struggle with it. Again, who doesn't? There is something in the Catholic psyche that knows the necessity of both ... in moderation, of course. The past 40 days of Lent, we fasted -- or at least tried our very best. In the season of Easter, there are 50 days to celebrate! Now that's what I'm talkin' about! 50 days to celebrate the abundace of the Lord's blessings.

The difference that might be most immediate to most people is one tiny letter: E. Could it be that that E stands for Easter?!?!?!?!?! If we had fasted to the best of our abilities, the feasting should be done with as much gusto as our fasting ... maybe even more so! There's a reason that there are 50 days until Pentecost, and I plan to celebrate and jubilate to the full!

Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Into the Triduum

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. These "high holy days" make up what Catholics have traditionally called the "Holy Triduum." What would seem as a few days to slow one's pace of life in order to enter into the deepest mysteries of our faith, the life of the seminarian (as well as priests) does quite the opposite -- it only gets busier for us in these upcoming days. The seminarians have a unique opportunity to participate in these liturgies by serving as acolytes or for the 4th year men, as deacons in the liturgy. These liturgies are ritually "thicker" than the Sunday mass, so this means that we will have had to attend a liturgy rehearsal in order to coordinate all the actions that take place. For those of us who will attend some or all of the Triduum liturgies at the cathedral, it will be a great blessing to gather along with our local shepherd, Archbishop Harry Flynn.

In these upcoming days, some of the most significant aspects of Catholicism are established: the institution of the Eucharist, the establishment of the ministerial priesthood, the Passion and Death of Jesus, and his Resurrection. "For this," Jesus says, "I came into the world" (cf Jn 18: 37).

As the liturgies commemorate for us God's loving plan of redemption, let us make the words of the Psalmist our own: "Open to me the gates of holiness, I will enter and give thanks!"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Planes, trains, and automobiles continued

Penance...that's a good way to look at a broken down car (see post below). Last week my car broke down as well. I was on my way home from teaching CCD and my car stalled on the interstate. Luckily, I have easy access to roadside assistance with my cell phone. They contacted a tow truck right away, but I still had to wait on the side of the freeway for 40 minutes. Fortunately the time was broken up a bit when a man pulled over ahead of me and walked from his car to mine carrying a Bible. I guess this was his way of telling me he came in peace. The first thing he said to me was "God bless you," and then he told me that he had actually noticed me from the other side of the freeway and turned around just to help me. My own good Samaritan. Alas, the tow truck was already on its way so we exchanged a few more "God bless yous" and he was on his way, driving off into the glow from the street lights. Nothing like a little quality time with I-94!

(Note: Seminarians' cars do not break down all the time. It is simply an interesting coincidence that both Mike and I had car issues in the past week.)

Monday, April 10, 2006


Are you familiar with the name Lolek? It was a nickname of John Paul II's given to him during his younger years. It is also the name of a one-man performance that covers the early life of our late, beloved pontiff up to his ordination to the priesthood. This performance, along with a short period of Eucharistic adoration was hosted by the St. Paul Seminary this past weekend.

The performance was put on by Jeremy Stanbary, founder of Epiphany Studios, a non-profit Catholic-Christian based Theater Production Company and Art Studio that is equipped to take its performances to churches, schools, etc. It was held in the Baumgaertner Auditorium (named for a previous rector of the seminary) and played to a full house! It was exciting for me to see so many people from Christian organizations across the University of St. Thomas campus and beyond to commemorate the life of John Paul II one year after his death. St. John Vianney Seminary, Campus Ministry, Catholic Studies and St. Paul's Outreach were all represented, as well as others from the university and those with no St. Thomas affiliation. Jeremy's performance was excellent!

Following Lolek, the majority of those who had been at the performance joined us in the St. Mary's Chapel of the seminary for a short period of Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, complete with beautiful, powerful and prayerful music organized by a small group of seminarians from both seminaries and a short reflection on Pope John Paul II given by our very own rector, Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan. It was truly inspiring to see so many people of varying ages on their knees before the Blessed Sacrament, deeply drawn into the music and singing their hearts out. This was especially the case for the last song of this period of adoration, "Lady of Knock," which is one of our rector's favorites. During this song, the chapel was filled with the voices of those gathered. As one of our seminarians noted, whether you are Irish or not, everyone is Irish when they hear that song!

I think I'm still recovering a bit from that evening, but what a powerful one it was. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. John Paul II, we love you! Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!