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!

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!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Priesthood in 19th Century America

For a book report in my American Church History class I chose to read and report on the new book called Parish Priest by Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). It gives a biographical account of the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Fr. Michael McGivney, along with a good survey of 19th century American Church history. I thought a bit of information from the book would make a good post.

Two intriguing aspects of Fr. McGivney's life is that he was gifted from youth with exceptional intellectual abilities and he wanted to be a priest since his early teenage years. He wasn't interested in fame and glory or any worldly ambition, but rather to stand in persona Christi at the altari Dei, which he considered to be the most exalted thing a man could do. The faith, love, intelligence, sacrifice and courage of his childhood pastor left deep marks on the young McGivney that he carried with him his whole life (chapters two and three pp. 13-37).

This was the character of the priesthood in the 19th century, "The many high powered men who were drawn to the priesthood believed with a kind of determination in the ideal, protecting it with their deeds, not just words" (p. 33). Fr. McGivney himself was arguably a personification of this priestly character. The authors supply this short Native American story from the late 19th century told by the Montana Cheyenne Chief Old Wolf on the moral influence of a priest:

"In the land of the Cheyennes, there is a mountain higher than all the mountains around him. All the Cheyennes know that mountain; even our forefathers knew him. When children, we ran around wheresoever we wanted. We were never afraid to lose our way so long as we could see that mountatin, which would show us home again. When grown up, we followed the buffalo and the elk; we cared not where we pursued the running deer, so long as the mountain was in sight; for we knew he was ever a safe guide, and never failed in his duty. When men, we fought the Sioux, the Crows, the white men. We went after the enemy, though the way ran high up, and low down. Our hearts trembled not on account of the road; for as long as we could see the mountain, we felt sure of finding our home again. When far away, our hearts leaped for joy on seeing him, becasue he told us that our home came nearer.

During the winter, the snow covered all the earth with a mantle of white; we could no longer distinguish him from other mountains except by his height, which told us that he was the mountain. Sometimes dark clouds gathered above. They hid his head from our view, and out of them flew fiery darts, boring holes in his sides. The thunder shook him from head to foot; but the storm passed away and the mountain stood forever.
This mountain is the Black-robe (A Native American expression for a Roman Catholic Priest). His heart is firm as a rock. He changes not. He speaks to us the words of truth. We are always sure of our path, when we look to him for guidance. He is the mountain that leads us up to God" (pp. 31-32).

First time blog entry

Okay, we're told that we should add photos to this blog, but what about redirecting folks to my 2006 photo site. Photos from chapel cleaning and the 3rd floor party can be seen by clicking here.

- Deacon Paul Treacy

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In Memoriam - John Paul II

This past weekend we recalled the memory of the beloved Pope John Paul II. At 1:37 pm last Sunday April 2 the bell tolled here at the seminary recalling the very minute (9:37 pm Rome time) that he went on to his reward. Also, there was a portrait of the deacesed pontiff displayed in St. Mary's Chapel for Mass.

Memories of the interregnum, conclave and election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI were on everyone's minds and hearts. It was a monumental time not only in the history of the Church, but in the hearts and souls of millions. John Paul II touched (and continues to touch) the hearts of so many with his total gift of self that he lived on a day to day basis. He wasn't just a model for Christian holiness through suffering for the souls in his flock, but for everyone in the world. Why else was his the largest funeral in recorded history? Why else does his tomb witness droves of pilgrims each day?

I think this is a good time to read a good book by the late pontiff or about his life. Perhaps watching the video of his funeral Mass would be nice way of remembering him, or maybe do both! Not that the story ends with that, watch the whole process with the conclave and election (check your nearby religious goods store or go online to find videos). There is a good online memorial of JPII set up by EWTN that you may want to check out. Don't forget to say a prayer for his intercession as well!

Monday, April 03, 2006

What about the Rector?

Hey man, was not our illustrioius rector Monsignor Callaghan present at this shindig as well? We can not overlook the ever-present one. How many seminaries can boast of a rector that will drop in at a crazy ad hoc party? How many rectors are willing to sit down and have a chat with students every day? How many rectors does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? These questions only serve to shed light on the awesomeness that is SPS.

Support your local rector, y'all.