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!



Monday, December 31, 2007

Baptism


On Saturday evening I had the privilege of becoming the Godfather of another of my nephews. This is not the first time. It likely won't be the last. Nevertheless, the sense of joy that accompanied the celebration of the sacrament was the same last night as it was when I first began to understand the sacrament.


Augustin (Gus) became a member of the Church last night. He was cleansed of his original sin. He was given the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. He was made an adopted son of God and a sibling of Jesus himself. He was made a new creation. He has died with Christ and been born to new life in him. He has "put on Christ." We know these things, and we believe these things about baptism. And yet, it seems so odd to look at the child after the water has been poured on his head and realize that he is now different, changed, recreated.


This is the nature of the sacraments. Simple, ordinary, unassuming elements from our ordinary lives are used by God to effect real change in our lives. We don't see the change, but we believe that it has occurred.


So, Gus is now a changed person. He, as a result of his baptism, is now more closely related to me than he was the day he was born. His biological family rejoices in this moment in his life. His other family, the Church, rejoices at the birth of a new member.



Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hello from Rome, Blog Readers!

In case you haven't heard, the Theology IV class will spend the January Term in the Eternal City. Some of us have arrived and have been spending time taking in some of the surroundings.

Of course, our first destination was to the Piazza of St. Peter's Basilica. We were unable to enter the Basilica without waiting out a very long line. We decided to return the next day and we were able to attend Mass, spend time in prayer and absorb the beauty.

Here are a few photos:



The Nativity Scene inside St. Peter's Basilica:



Main Altar, Baldacchino and Holy Spirit window:



Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Splinter Catholic Church Launched"

So I was checking out the news yesterday and found an article with the title that I gave this post. It was about a priest in Africa who associated himself with an excommunicated bishop and, voilá!, created a new “Catholic Church.” I actually wasted my time and read the article. Nevertheless, what struck me in the article was this line:


Archbishop [sic] Mbewe who is also the apostolic administrator of the new church said over the years most priests had laboured quietly and prudently to advocate for the restoration of married priests in the Roman Catholic Church.


They labored to change the Church from the inside. But, of course, they no longer could stand the fact that progress wasn't being made. They couldn't change the Church, wouldn't change themselves, and so finally,


"We feel duty bound now to found our own Catholic church, an independent Catholic church where we can truly enjoy the freedom enjoyed by children of God. It should surprise no one to hear of yet another Catholic church," [the newly ordained bishop] said.


First, yes, that is quite sad: hearing of yet another group of people trying to refound Jesus' Church on their own initiative doesn't have the shock-value that it should. Second, ignoring the fact that the new bishop—if actually validly ordained by the excommunicated bishop—would have excommunicated himself by attempting ordination without the pope's permission, these statements remind me of story about Napoleon (it is mentioned in this article). Supposedly, as Napoleon was going about his attempted conquest of Europe, etc..., he told some Catholic prelates, “I will destroy your church!” The response to him was pretty much, “Please! In 1800 years we haven't been able to destroy it ourselves! I doubt you can.” How true. Despite all the sinfulness of the members of the Church and all the attacks against it, the Church perdures—God has bound Himself inalienably and inextricably to the Catholic Church, guided and shepherded by the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him, and thanks be to God for that.



As an aside, being a Theology III man, ordination to diaconate and the promise of celibacy loom in the shadows of the end of this academic year. When I think about the fact that I will God-willing be ordained, that same sentiment about the permanency of the Church is quite reassuring and comforting. No matter how unworthy and incapable I am, somehow, God will not let His Church be destroyed by my feeble attempts, and likely, my mistakes. Deo gratias.



Friday, December 28, 2007

Reminiscences of Christmas past

This morning, I was browsing around the web, a little bored quite honestly. I looked up some of my favorite bookmarks to check up on some sites. I clicked the link to the Among the many places we visited was the newly refounded Benedictine monastery. Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy. I was immediately reminded of my trip to Italy in December 2005. What a blessing indeed to share briefly in the rich monastic lifestyle for a few days ... the silence during common meals, the recitation of the Office in chanted Latin (I must confess, I was a little lost trying to navigate through their breviary), the sung Latin parts of the mass celebrated in Italian. The above picture is the main sanctuary of the monastery, while this lower picture is their crypt chapel in their residence.


I remember being drawn to their simple way of life ... the routine of prayer, the sharing in fellowship, their pursuit of Truth. Their lifestyle is a total contradiction to the materialistic society in which I live. Being in Southern California during the break has made me more aware of this. Many news reports before and after Christmas highlighted shoppers' pursuit to find the right gift for their loved one. Business projections were leery about the revenue that was expected to come in. Certain major retail stores extended their shopping hours to catch those last-minute shoppers still scavenging to find last-minute sales. I have wondered in these days what makes Christmas a peculiar commercial season? Sure, it's an excuse to buy gifts for friends and family ... oftentimes exceeding their financial capabilities to get the "perfect gift." Have we forgotten the Christian roots of the season by wishing others "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings"?


For me, my Advent meditations centered around the Blessed Mother. We seminarians were given a Christmas gift from Archbishop Nienstedt, Behold Your Mother: Priests speak about Mary by Msgr. Stephen Rosetti. This book is a collection of heartfelt reflections from various priests; they speak of their relationship with Mary as being an integral relationship in their priesthood. Personal stories explain how this relationship with Mary is not a theoretical relationship with an idea or dogmatic entity but a real relationship with a person. A biblical reflection speaks of how discipleship precedes apostleship. And on and on the book goes...


These reflections for me were powerful in the face of the consumerist rush surrounding Christmas day. What did she know that we do not?


Pope Benedict XVI summed it up best in a recent audience: "What sense does it make to celebrate Christmas if we don't acknowledge that God has become man."



Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Blessing of the Liturgical Year

Photo courtesy Reuters and news.yahoo.com

Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and even the Fourth of July have the potential to evoke great emotion from me. I think many people experience this - even the commercials on TV try to play on this fact. Come Christmas and Easter, I always find myself yearning for the experience that I had in my childhood around these celebrations: the long time of preparation and expectation which finally gives way to the big celebration! Midnight Mass for Christmas and the candle-light Vigil for Easter! It all was so perfect, simple and happy.

I have heard it said, however, that that's all just sentimentalism and people just need to grow up and accept the fact that things change. Take the practice of Midnight Mass, for example: "It's not reasonable to ask people to stay up late, put up with whiny kids and throw off their whole schedule just for Mass late at night. God couldn't care less when you worship Him." So I've heard it said. The only problem, however, is that if we are constantly changing the smaller aspects of how we do something, we lose sight not only of the specialty of the thing, but we no longer understand the thing itself, we no longer value it and we give up what we ought to hold dear.

This over-intellectualization of the faith disregards a full consideration of our human nature. We aren't just brains on a stick - we are creatures of habit who are drawn to goodness. Maintaining traditions and emotional attachment to them is good! Throughout much of the year, we do things so much the same. Because of this, we begin to look very closely at everything we do, what we believe. And this is good. We risk, however, becoming too adult in our worldview, too detached from and forgetful of the faith, too compartmentalized and fragmented in our daily lives.

These events, however, remind us of a more elementary experience of God. We are called back to the simplicity of God's love as shown us (ideally and hopefully) through our families in our childhood and in the great celebrations surrounding the mysteries of God's love for the world. We regain insight into the profundity of the life we are living. We ought not become so fragmented, so adult and so sophisticated that we lose sight of the whole. We need the sentiment which accompanies our memories so that we can recall the truth about life, about God. Practices which have childhood memories and sentiments attached to them help us remember what it was like as a child and strive for that same simplicity today. They allow us to see the world as children which, after all, is the only way that we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Silence is Golden

You might recall that when I was home for Thanksgiving break, I commented about my nephews and joyful noises. I still hold to the assertions that I made in that post. Nevertheless, silence is also good. On Christmas day, there were six children ages three and under in the house, and there were 12 adults to help maintain order. Ours is a two bedroom one bathroom house. The temperature outside was around 30 degrees. Suffice it to say that as joyful noises go, I had my share of them yesterday.

Today only Dad and I are in the house, and even he has been outdoors for quite a bit of the day. Part of the family has made the ninety mile trek to Rapid City to check out the post-Christmas sales. Most have returned to work. I am left alone in the quiet. I find this silence to be rather joyful too. The words of that classic Christmas Hymn by Joseph Mohr come to mind:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon virgin mother and child
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from Heaven afar.
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia,
Christ the savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, Love's pure light,
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas



Allow me to say on behalf of all of my Seminarian brothers, Merry Christmas.


I saw the beginning of the Midnight Mass from the National Shrine last evening. As always, I was struck by the announcement of the birth of Christ at the beginning of the Mass. How beautiful that we who have been keeping our slow and deliberate Advent journey are now rewarded with the birth of the Messiah. Let us celebrate and rejoice. But let us not forget that he is born into the shadow of the cross. By his birth he begins our salvation. By his death is it accomplished. How great a savior we have been given.



Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hospitality


Trust me, I also find this image to be a little lacking, but I couldn't find a better one.


So the last three days were spent with my fellow seminarians from the Diocese of Winona at our wonderful seminary - IHM. Being blessed as we are, our bishop and vocation director have realized that if good and fruitful fraternity among priests is going to exist, it must first take root while in the seminary. It only becomes more difficult to have it or build it once ordained - particularly in a rural diocese like my own. Hence, about two years ago, the vocation director instituted semi-annual gatherings in the City of Winona, the Diocesan See.


We ended our Christmas gathering yesterday and, unfortunately, there was a snow storm plaguing this fair state. So, though everyone left, we each had longer travels due to the weather. Let me tell you, it was not pretty when I finally headed out. There were moments, actually, when it was pure white-out and I could not see any further than the end of the hood on my car. However, this was only for the first +/- 35 miles of the trip. Afterwards, it was far better. Anyhow, so as I was on my way, I thought, "I haven't stopped and seen Father Tim for some time. I wonder if he's still in town or if he headed out for the night to his folks'." Sure enough, I called and he was in town. So, being only 45 minutes from his place, I asked if his guest room was clean and if he wouldn't mind an overnight visit. "Of course!"


The only reason I mention this is that this is exactly part of good priestly fraternity (good Christian hospitality as well). I relish in the fact that I can call up a priest-friend in the diocese and just stop in on a whim like that. It assuredly inconveniences him a bit, but that doesn't matter. More important is the maintenance of the bonds of friendship and fraternity (not to mention it also shows me the virtue I ought to possess in the future!). We catch up on what's new, reminisce on the old, and pray together for the Church and the diocese. It seems so simple and so little in one way, but in the end, it actually means so much.



Living Vicariously

I have been home for two days now and am glad to have this time to spend with my family, but in a particular way, with my nephews. One is an infant and I get a kick out of being able to hold him and feed him, and give him back to his mother when he needs a new diaper. His older brother, however, is a different story. He will be three in February and he is constantly on the move. Yesterday, as I dozed in the armchair while the cat slept on my lap, I was roused by Gabe as he leaped from the couch to my chair in order to catch the cat (the cat has learned very quickly how to stay out of the kid's reach). Last evening, my family attended mass at our local parish. My nephew, even before we had finished the opening song, had escaped under the pew and kneeler and was running around in the back. He screamed when I caught him. He screamed again when I handed him over to his mother. He screamed several more times before Grandpa finally took him outside.

It is good to be uncle and not dad for these two little ones. I can spoil them as I wish. And, I live out my biological fatherhood vicariously through my brothers.



Friday, December 21, 2007

Apologies... and Time

Sorry for the hiatus on the posting, here. Finals week has been a little bit hectic--as it always is for college students. A number of the men have departed after their last final and have returned home. There are some who have left and will not return to the seminary (for any extended period of time) until February! This is because the fourth year deacons will be spending their J-term (January-term) in Rome, studying missiology with one of our professors. The second year pre-theologians in the house will also be gone; they each receive parish placements and spend a month in the parish. So, though our numbers will be a bit smaller when we return in just 12 short days (yes, that's right, St. Thomas starts up classes again on the 2nd of January), we will still be right back here, knocking at heaven's door, asking for the grace to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ, Priest of the eternal covenant.



On another note, I am a great procrastinator. Being from a smaller diocese, I have the grace to have lengthy conversations with my bishop, to get to know him more personally, and to hear his mind in regards to my formation. My bishop has repeatedly told me to rid myself of the habit of procrastinating. Now is the time to do it, he repeats, for if you don't work at getting better at managing your time, it will stay with you--even till you're 75!


Why do I mention this? Well, even though I have some papers to finish, I took the time yesterday to finish a book I was reading (just some 30 pages) and it was excellent: G. K. Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross. I will post sometime soon on a reflection I have had which was spurred by the book. Until then, however, I must return to the papers.


I hope your Advent preparations are yet continuing well in these last days before Christmas.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prioritizing during Finals Week

The seminary is great!


I finished my undergrad degree in 2006, took one year off from university (though I worked for one during that time), and now I'm back in school. The academics are exceedingly challenging . . . even for the fellas in pre-theology. It is amazing how difficult (yet oddly fun) it is to go through finals.


Now midway through our finals week, I have to write on how cool the seminary envrionment is - especially made so by the gentlemen here in the Saint Paul Seminary. I remember that when I was an undergrad student, no one had time to do anything during finals week: papers, exams, test-prep, study, study, study! We learn to do without watching the football game and decide that we'll have to hang-out some other week. As I mentioned above, the seminary also, and to a greater degree, has very challenging academics.


Prayer is not something that is passed over, during even our busiest times. Our prayers have not been cancelled; we did not decide to only continue our prayers if we have time. I am here with over sixty others who (despite schedules much busier than mine) still give for Morning Prayer, Mass, and Evening Prayer all the same.



As finals are only half complete, I must be back to my studies (. . . and prayers).


Continuing the Advent anticipation: Come, Lord Jesus.




Oral Finals

In my four years as an undergrad I never had an oral final until this past summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, NE. It was not very difficult nor intimidating because I had a religious sister from the Intercessors of the Lamb giving my test. I did the usual studying and got through it. Yesterday, I had my first 'big' oral final, for Church history. It went well. In about an hour I've got my second oral final for my Intro to Sacraments and Worship class. My final for Church history was difficult in the sense that we did not have any test questions to prepare for; rather we had a list of terms, events, and people to study. One can anticipate some questions and then there are the ones that make you think back to the first few weeks of class in September. The best thing about oral finals is that they are over in about half an hour and you don't have to write anything. I do have one written final tomorrow, though, which may prove to be difficult, but I can live with that.



A Correction, and a Word on Discipline

Michael, unfortunately, did not publish the 200th post. He would have, except that I deleted a post that was still in its drafting stage, thus giving myself the privilege of publishing the 200th post. So, here it is.

_______________________________________________________

We are taught that as a result of original sin, man suffers a darkened intellect, a weakened will, and disordered passions. Finals week serves as a dandy time for man's fallen nature to expose itself. For instance, why do I need to study for my exams? Why don't the truths of the faith make immediate sense? The answer: I have a darkened intellect. Perhaps more to the point, though, why am I writing this post right now as opposed to preparing for my exam on the Gospel of John that will occur a mere two and one-half hours from now? The answer: I have a weak will. I don't want to study anymore, and my intellect is having a hard time convincing my will that I should do so. What's more, my will, even after having been instructed to study by my intellect, is having a hard time reigning in my passions. The passions are all over the place today, talking to friends, eating Christmas cookies, and leading me to do just about anything but study for tests or finalize papers.

So, it is a matter of disciplining my intellect, my will, and my passions. I will attend Mass shortly in an effort to do just that. Likewise, I will ask for God's assistance through my own private prayer and the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. And, I will do some sort of mortification, trying to tame my wild passions and order them towards what is objectively good.

But mostly, I will cram twenty minutes before the exam begins.



Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent Morning of Reflection

Father Christopher Beaudet,
Instructor of Canon Law at the Saint Paul Seminary,
is the guest author of this blog post.

______________________________________________________


Last Saturday morning, the SPS Women's Auxiliary sponsored an Advent Morning of Reflection in our Saint Mary’s Chapel. The first of these began last year when Vice-Rector Father Peter Laird led the morning reflections; around 50 women attended. It was very successful and word spread quickly, causing the numbers to increase dramatically this year to over 130. I provided this year’s reflections on the theme “The Domestic Seminary”: Preparing Our Families To Encounter Christ.


The morning began with Mass at 8:00am with hospitality following in the commons. The first conference, “Do I Hope To Encounter Christ?”, was followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. While the Eucharist was exposed, several priests were on hand to hear confessions. The second conference, “Preparing Others To Encounter Christ”, concluded with Benediction.


The Advent Morning of Reflection is meant to invite women to our home to provide them a moment of pause and prayer in anticipation of the great feast of Christmas. The peaceful and anticipatory attitude of Advent is often sacrificed in the hectic pace typical of the weeks before Christmas. For the women who come to the seminary for this event, it is an opportunity to refocus and be more fixed on the coming of the Lord. That not only makes their Advent more holy, more properly religious, it does the same for their Christmas.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eating Vietnamese



It has been said that the American craving for Asian food developed in full force after American GI's began returning from the Pacific Theater following World War II. Other sources seem to indicate that the American palate acquired a taste for such flavors during the days of the California Gold Rush and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad where huge numbers of Chinese workers were employed. In either case, I have fallen victim to an almost addictive attachment the cuisine of Vietnam.

It all began innocently enough. One of my friends and classmates, an immigrant from Vietnam, asked me to accompany him to a little restaurant called, conveniently enough, the Saigon. They serve, as their specialty, sandwiches (a delicacy brought to them first from France during the colonial days) and enormous bowls of soup featuring rice or egg noodles, and a wonderful variety of meat. From the time of my first visit until now, I would say that on average, six out of ten meals that I eat away from the seminary are eaten at that little restaurant. Business is typically booming, and while it is not unusual for me to be the only person of European descent among the clientele, I know that they receive a good deal of business from other seminarians. I am never long in waiting for a table.

Recently, one of the waiters remarked that he remembered that I had ordered the same meal as the last time I was there. I expect that it will only be a matter of time until I am on a first name basis with the entire staff.

I comment on all of this simply because I ate there again today (this time with my friend who first introduced me to the place as well as two other seminarians), and I am continually impressed with the experience. As I take a break from paper-writing this evening, I am forced to take pause and wonder: What am I going to do when I return home? I can't think of a single place that serves Vietnamese soup and sandwiches in Western South Dakota.



Saturday, December 15, 2007

Changes


In college seminary, come about the beginning of November, all the seminarians start to become a little weary. I remember us slowly making our way through Evening Prayer until we arrived at that point when the Rector would stand up and announce, "Gentlemen, after much prayer and discernment..." Those words, to a certain extent, are dreaded.

Those words were the customary beginning of the rector's announcement that a seminarian was leaving formation for diocesan priesthood. Why November? Because when in doubt of God's will, the best thing is to stick with one's current plan. Many men, particularly in college seminary, come to the end of a school year and consider leaving the seminary (oftentimes, as a result of the stress of Final Exams, finding a summer placement/job, etc...). Because his thinking might not be clear, he usually decides to persevere, come back the next year, and see what God tells him then. After returning, he waits a couple months and if reassured that he ought to leave, he finally makes the leap of faith (since we never can be perfectly sure) in pursuance of God's will.

A dual response is evoked in the brother seminarians when told of a man's decision to discontinue formation. We seminarians have formed a brotherhood and friendship; we've even probably thought about the possibility of being a priest with that man who is now deciding that he will not be a priest; it's only natural to feel a little disappoinment. On another level, though, given that the decision was made with much prayer and reflection, we have every reason to believe that this is the right thing for him in God's plan, and so we ought to encourage the departing brother.

In the last month and a half, I have had two brother seminarians e-mail from the college seminary in Winona saying that they have discerned that they are not called to the diocesan priesthood. Though this saddens me somewhat, I am happy for them, pray for them still and wish them well. Brothers, Godspeed.



Friday, December 14, 2007

Anatomy



My favorite course in High School was Physiology. I acquired a great deal of knowledge about the human body and its functioning as a result of the expertise of my instructor. His influence has left me with a residual interest in human biology and things medical. Thus, it was a great boon for me to befriend a nurse and her family last year while on assignment in my own diocese. It seemed that whenever I visited the home there was a book of anatomy, a model of the human arm, a replica of the human skull, a new thermometer, an improved blood pressure cuff, or literature that had made its way home from the clinic. I was fascinated by it all, and this nurse found great pleasure in describing to me various conditions and maladies of the human body that she had encountered in her nursing experience.

One day, while visiting a local bookstore, I came upon a giant book of human anatomy, and I nearly purchased it before good sense set in, and I replaced in on the rack from which I had taken it. I commented to the nurse that I had seen this book, and she immediately made plans to purchase one for her children (she homeschools them).

Today, I went to check my mail and discovered that I had received a giant package. Enclosed was my very own copy of the giant anatomy book - a Christmas gift. Inside are detailed pictures of the interior of the human body with great descriptions of what all the parts do. I am fascinated with it.

This might seem an odd preoccupation for one in the seminary, but for me, the functioning of the human body is just one more way that I see God present and at work in the world. How carefully it was designed! How amazing that it works! How beautiful to have a body through which we can offer worship to the one who created it! What an appropriate gift to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation.



Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Evening with the Jesuits

I suspect that it is a little known fact that there is a Jesuit Novitiate right here in St. Paul. This is the place where young men preparing to enter the Society of Jesus begin their preparations. I suspect that it is also little known that these Jesuit novices occasionally borrow teaching faculty from St. Paul Seminary.

They live just a few blocks up Summit Avenue from us, but unfortunately, in the past, there has been little contact between the Jesuit novices and the diocesan seminarians here at SPS. However, in the last year or so, much has been done to begin to develop a friendly relationship between our two houses of formation. Occasionally, they even audit classes with the seminarians here. They come to some of our social events (this year they were present for Rectors' Bowl, the Borromeo Weekend Forty Hours Devotion, our Halloween Party and they often attend Cor Jesu). In return they invite us to attend some of their events. Seminarians from SPS attended their All Saints Day prayer vigil. Tonight, a number of us joined them for their Christmas Social.

In a way, this contact between their men and ours represents something much larger than ourselves. Even the Church has had her experiences of partisanship. The Jesuits have done their thing, the Dominicans theirs, and diocesan priests still another, as though we were all ministers of separate churches. Tonight, however, one of the novices said a beautiful thing. "It is good that you are here. We are all preparing to minister in the same Church."

It was, indeed, good to be there.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pictures of Saturday's ordination

For those interested, click here to view the Catholic Spirit's photos of Father Steven Hoffman's ordination.



Picture of the Week



This was taken last night at our "ugly sweater" Buon Natale party. These were the distinguished sweater-wearers.



Monday, December 10, 2007

The Gospel, disguised as it may be.

Growing up in the age I did, I've seen my share of movies. Growing up, I was quite the Star Trek fanatic. And, as a seminarian once pointed out to me, they're no longer called trekkies but trekkers. My older brothers were quite fond of Star Wars and I initially could not quite get into them--they were just too long. However, as I aged (my brothers are 10 and 4.5 years my senior) I finally was able to appreciate the films a bit more.


Having been hooked on the films, I was more than pleased when the newer ones came out. However, the last one, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, bears quite the message. I went to view the film with my brother Eric who is 10 years older than I and I was laughing throughout the film because it so perfectly captures formation of conscience, the working of the Father of Lies through human instruments and ultimately, to necessity of obedience to legitimate superiors. This is particularly captured in the scene where Chancellor Palpatine reveals himself as the Dark Sith Lord. All right, enough geekiness, or so my brothers are telling me who are listening to me narrate this post as I type.


One last film that I would mention is Finding Neverland. Though some of the situations and choices in the film are not morally acceptable as Catholics (disregard for one's marriage, for one), it bears a truth which we Christians ought to keep in mind. The main character continually returns to his imagined worldview in which everything takes on grandiose import. For example, when he enters his bedroom, he not only goes into a room all his own, but he enters a sanctuary, full of light, life and activity. We too, as Christians, do not always see the realities which underlie the choices and the activities in which we engage. It depends upon us to accept God's grace and realize that everything we do can be as important as the salvation of the whole world! Something as simple as the Sign of the Cross is no small thing: demons tremble at the sight of the Cross and the invocation of the Blessed Trinity! Quite significant in this regard, also, is paragraph 1085 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now, if I could always realize the full significance of all moments throughout life. Lord, grant attentiveness.



Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cult of the Saints

After looking into the tradition of burying St. Joseph when trying to sell property, I was reminded of some of the traditions surrounding the veneration of saints that I discovered in Mexico and in conversation with older priests of my diocese.

I am reminded, for instance, of the Mexican tradition of purchasing statuettes of St. Anthony of Padua in which the Child Jesus in his arms can be removed. The reason for this? In Mexico, at least in the area where I was staying, it is common practice to pray through the intercession of St. Anthony that a young woman will find a husband. Churches are replete with mothers begging Anthony for a son-in-law, and many homes also have these images of him. If, however, Anthony does not respond in short order, the mother is likely to remove the child Jesus from Anthony's arms and refuse to give him back until the daughter has been wed. One young (unmarried I might add) woman told me that her mother had gone so far as to put her image of St. Anthony in the freezer and refuse to remove him until a suitable husband had been found for her daughter.

I am also reminded of the story of the Superior of an order of sisters in Ireland who practiced a great devotion to St. Joseph. Whenever the community needed some special favor, they would intercede through Joseph. However, there were times when Joseph apparently failed to respond with due speed and deference to the community's wishes. As a result, the sisters would form a solemn procession and carry Joseph to the boiler room where he remained until the prayers of the community were answered. When the superior of the community died, there were tears and a great deal of praying. However, there was uproarious laughter when one of the sisters looked at the clock and commented, "Mother Superior has been in heaven for an hour. I expect that by now St. Joseph regrets all the things he didn't give us."



He's gone--part 3 of the series

I'm still mourning the loss of Thomas. Of course, he's not completely gone; they've just moved him from the seminarian wing over to the administration wing. I figure that's only appropriate. All of us need our models and examples, and who better than St. Thomas Aquinas as the model par excellence for Theology faculty? I don't know that we can say there's ever been a better theologian! (I say this knowing full well that this is a minority view. St. Augustine is another usual candidate. I don't know of anyone else, except of course Jesus, but that's just not fair; he doesn't count.)


In Thomas' stead, however, we do finally have replacement for one of the few beautiful pieces of art that we seminarians had on our side of the building. They have given us a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits)--another theologian of the Church. Some generous graduates of the University of St. Thomas' Catholic Studies department (see the link in our links section) donated the statue to the seminary. God bless them.


Interestingly, though, a number of the seminarians have noticed how much one of our Theology IV deacons looks like the statue! He happily complied with my request for a photo. I'll let you be the judge. (The statue is the one on the left!)






Friday, December 07, 2007

More on Burying Joseph


In my last post concerning the burial of St. Joseph, I received a question about the origin of this practice. Snopes.com, the urban legend website, offers a secular description of the practice. The information below provides a similar, but more thoroughly Catholic, explanation.


http://www.snopes.com/luck/stjoseph.asp


The information below comes from http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/stj01002.htm


Finally, for your edification, I have included a photo of our new image of St. Joseph.


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The most frequently emailed question I get is about a saint that you bury in order to quickly sell your house. The saint they are asking about is my patron, Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus.


The tradition has been traced to Saint Teresa of Avila who prayed that Saint Joseph would intercede to obtain land for Christian converts, and encourged her Discalced Carmelite nuns to bury Saint Joseph medals as a symbol of devotion, consecrating the ground in Joseph's name. Remember, also, that Joseph was a man who knew about moving on a moment's notice (e.g., the flight to Egypt), and providing for a home for his family. He also knows what it's like to have housing trouble (remember the manger? and being turned away from the inns?), and so is likely to be sympathetic to people with trouble getting or leaving a home.


I've seen several descriptions of the method, and even over-priced "kits" that show you how to do it. Each has a slightly different recipe. The following is a distillation of the descriptions, emphasizing the common factors.



  • People today bury statues, usually small, inexpensive ones, instead of medals. The size or cost of the statue doesn't matter, and has no relation to the size or cost of the property for sale.


  • Bury the statue upside down in the yard of the property you are trying to sell. I've seen a couple of versions with it upright, but upside down is by far the most common.


  • The location for the burial varies, but the most common is in the front of the property, facing the house. Some favour a particular corner, and many recommend putting it next to the "For Sale" sign.


  • This is the most important part: pray. Pray for Saint Joe to intervene for you. You can find some written prayers for this part (some of which seem to threaten Joseph if he doesn't get to work!), but prayer from the heart, prayer that discusses your personal situation, is much, much better.


  • Have faith.


  • While some traditions say you should leave the statue in the ground after the sale, others say that once the house is sold, you dig up the statue and take it with you to the new home. That seems a much better idea to me. Seems friendlier, more honourable, and is a great reminder to yourself (and the people you will unquestionably show it to) of the power of your prayer, and the closeness of our friends in heaven.


Does this work? I have received follow-up email from people who tried it - and it worked! It has a great tradition, one that would not have continued if it didn't work. And it's really just a function of prayer - and that always works.



Thursday, December 06, 2007

Restored to Health

Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. - Ps. 51:10

As of last week, my last lingering physical reminder of SPS's glorious victory in the 2007 Rector's Bowl is gone. Towards the end of the first half of the game, I seriously injured my left knee and spent the next few weeks hobbling around on crutches. I sustained a strained ligament and a cracked bone, but surgery was not necessary, thank God. Now I am completely healed and looking forward to future athletic endeavors.

In other news, I have recently had the joy of reading the great Evelyn Waugh's biography of St. Edmund Campion. I was struck by the following passage describing Campion's joy during his seminary formation before his heroic return to Elizabethan England as a priest, and therefore eventually a martyr. It describes well what I would hope all of us seminarians experience here at SPS:

"...for the first time in his adult life, he found himself living in a completely Catholic community, and, perhaps, for the first time, began to have some sense of the size and power of the world he had entered, of the distance and glory of the aim he had set himself. The faith of the people among whom he was now placed was no fad or sentiment to be wistfully disclosed over the wine at high table, no dry, logical necessity to be expounded in the schools; it was what gave them daily life, their entire love and hope, for which they had abandoned all smaller loyalties and affections; all that most men found desirable, home, possessions, good fame, increase, security in the world, children to keep fresh their memory after they were dead."

Put that way, what a blessing to be here! Please pray for us.



Wednesday, December 05, 2007

He's Not Coming Back

This is the second post in a series.
The preceding post was posted about two months ago.
Since the story is unfolding, there will be more to come.


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It is a sad, sad day in my life. Pull out the black vestments, a novena of Masses for the departed, sound the dirge. I refuse to be consoled for my friend, my mentor, a father-figure is no more (cf. Jeremiah 31:15). I want to react; I am so filled with anger, with disappointment, with hurt, with feelings of vengeance, with sadness.


I saw him leave, and I feared it would be the last time. Somehow, I knew he would be gone forever, never to return. They told me he would be back, but I always remained skeptical. Now, my worst fears have been realized. He's gone. He's just simply gone. They took him from me. They tell me he's in a better place now, but I just can't believe it. He's gone. No longer can I visit him whenever I wish. No longer can I go and be in his presence at any time I wish. He can no longer console with with his words and his simple, loving, indifferent gaze. It's as though he's locked up, locked away, behind the doors. He is simply gone.


They tell me that he's in a better place now. They tell me he can do more good for the Church where he is now than before. I just can't believe it. I refuse. He was my friend. He still is, of course. They tell me to talk to him, pay visits to his resting place, and though this is possible, it's just no good. I quite simply have lost a mentor, forever, and it hurts.



Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seminarian Humor

Seminarians have an odd sense of humor. Try on the following for size:

Anthony, in the previous post, commented that the seminary would be receiving a new (huge, I might add) statue of St. Joseph. As you may know, one of the odd traditions of Catholics is to bury a statue of St. Joseph in the ground if you wish to sell a piece of property.

We were commenting on the new statue before class began this morning when one of my peers queried, "How long do you think it would take to sell the seminary if we buried the new statue of St. Joesph in the lawn. Do you suppose that we would be able to skip finals?"

Suffice it to say, I've hired a backhoe.



Upcoming Ordination

I went to my first ordination back home about 6 or 7 years ago and this was before I was thinking about going into the seminary. Since then, I have been to several ordinations to the diaconate, priesthood, and even a couple to the episcopate. These are always exciting times in the life of the Church. This coming Saturday Deacon Steve Hoffman will be ordained as a priest of Jesus Christ. This will be the first ordination to take place at St. Mary's Chapel in 27 years. There will be pictures posted after Saturday.

On another note, a large statue of St. Joseph will be arriving in our chapel in the coming days. The word is that St. Joseph has been spending some time going through customs at the St. Paul Airport. Last year, a statue of Our Lady of Confidence was placed in the chapel and now Mary will no longer be alone.



Monday, December 03, 2007

The Shelter

It is the tradition of the seminary to make a monthly trip to one of the local homeless shelters to prepare a meal for the men (it happens to be a shelter for men) and serve it to them. We always cook spaghetti and take a mixed salad. Vanilla ice cream is served for dessert. The men are always deeply grateful, but it is sometimes painful to see the shame in their eyes as they come through the serving line.

I went to the shelter to serve the food last evening. When I am there, I am always reminded that the homeless are not who we assume them to be. They are clean, they are sober, they are of every race, they are decent, and many, perhaps most, of them have jobs. They just can't seem to get on their feet. Poverty, it would seem, is not necessarily self-inflicted.

As always, an evening at the shelter has led me to some reflection. I was struck by a quote from the Office of Reading this morning. Writing to St. Ignatius of Loyola about the poor he had been evangelizing in the Far East, St. Francis Xavier says, "The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these."



Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy New Year


The Catholic World begins a new year tonight. Vespers, or as it is more commonly known, Evening Prayer, marks the beginning of the season of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. Mass for this weekend features a reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Throughout this next year, it will be his account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we hear proclaimed on most Sundays.

Advent is a new beginning. The word "advent" is derived from the Latin word venire, "to come." In the context of this season, it refers to the coming of Christ in a threefold way: at Christmas, at the end of time, and daily into our own hearts. The major theme of Advent is preparation. Get ready! Jesus is coming. However, this preparation is not the frenzied sort of preparation familiar to Americans as they do their pre-Christmas shopping. Instead, there is a steadiness, a certain deliberateness, about Advent preparing. It is the sort of preparing that suggests that we have been getting ready for a long time. Advent preparation, indeed the entire repetitious rhythm of the Catholic liturgical year, reminds us that we have been living in anticipation of Christ's return for two millennia. In Advent, we are asked to take four weeks to slow down and re-evaluate the quality of our waiting. We have a part to play in God's great plan. Are we playing it? God desires our union with him. Are we cooperating? Jesus is coming. Are we ready?

I think that the image of a pregnant woman is an apt analogy for the Christian experience of Advent. Suddenly the pregnant woman's maternal instinct is stirred within her; she contemplates all the many things which her role of mother will require (and in the present requires of her!), yet she must wait, patiently, for the coming of her child. There is little she can do to quicken that coming. Nevertheless, she remains constantly aware that the moment is fast approaching, even as she goes about her daily affairs. It is a joyful, inescapable reality. In eager patience, she readies herself for that moment.

And in patience, we prepare to welcome our Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus!



Friday, November 30, 2007

New Encyclical!


God bless the Church and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. Today at noon in Rome and at about 5:00 AM our time, he released and published a new encyclical. Its title is Spe Salvi, i.e., "Saved in Hope" (coming from Romans 8:24)


It is published online on the Vatican's website.



Multifaceted Formation

It is very interesting to field questions from family members, friends, parishioners, and other acquaintances in regard to priestly formation. At the end of this summer, I stopped by to see my grandparents before returning to school and my 93 year-old grandpa asked me, "So what do you guys do up there, at the cemetery [sic]? Take classes in the bible all day?" Oh, grandpa, if only it were really that simple.


Of course, as can be gleaned from even a quick glance at the foundational document on priestly formation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, there are four main pillars of formation: Human, Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral. I'm not exactly sure under which pillar it falls, but there are a number of events which come up throughout the year (and will continue to come up throughout the priesthood) which are apparently non-essential and superfluous, but in all actuality really quite essential and fundamental.


One such event is the episcopal ordination of Father Michael Hoeppner as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, MN. Bishop-elect Hoeppner, until his appointment by the Holy Father, was the Vicar General of the Diocese of Winona, MN--my diocese. It is fairly commonplace for seminarians and priests of the bishop-elect's previous/home diocese to attend the ordination of the bishop-elect. In a very real way, attending such an event shows our continued support for not only the bishop being ordained, but also the diocese to which he's been appointed.


Even more importantly (and this is how events such as these are specifically formative for the life of the priest, under the spiritual and pastoral pillars), this is a way of evidencing, showing and living the universality of the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we have all are a part of, foster and serve the faith not only in our local parishes and local dioceses, but also the wellbeing of the faith all throughout the Church. We do not become possessive of priests, programs, practices, beliefs, in our own locality but rather always direct our efforts and resources to the good of this local community inasmuch as it benefits Church universal.


For this reason, I am more than happy to lose some time for doing my homework or sleep because of travel and catch-up on homework.


For those of you who might have an interest (and the time!), the Diocese of Crookston will be broadcasting the ordination over the internet (high-speed connection required). It can be watched at 1:00 pm CST at www.NewBishop.com. Also interesting, another Catholic Blog has picked up on this story and posted an interesting commentary.



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Antisemitism


The content of the following discussion begs some very serious and sometimes difficult questions. While I cannot presume to answer the questions in a thorough sort of way, I present the following to offer some insight into some of the topics that my classmates and I are encountering in the classroom. Because of the vast implications of this topic, it is likely that this post will be the first of a series that will try to present the questions as we have examined them in the classroom. I hope that my brothers and classmates will assist me in demonstrating the many facets of this question. This first post may seem obvious, but one must start somewhere. The (well-grounded) assumption from which I begin is the principle that hatred of particular races, classes, or groupings of people is not acceptable.

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I expect that almost anyone can recall the profound controversy that surrounded the production and release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The film's detractors accused Gibson, for the most part, of promoting an anti-Jewish agenda inasmuch as the film assigned culpability for Jesus' death to "the Jews."

It is not my aim to suggest that Gibson was or was not guilty of the accusations leveled against him and his film. In fact, I was little interested in the buzz associated with the film. I was some surprised to realize, however, that these accusations are not new nor are they unique to Gibson's Passion. In fact, since the Second Vatican Council, and in a particular way, since the pontificate of our Pope John Paul II of happy memory, there has been a great deal of ink spilled concerning how Christians are to understand themselves in relationship to Judaism. This should come as no shock. The world still struggles in trying to appropriate the atrocities committed against the Jews in the Shoah. Documents on the topic of Christianity and antisemitism abound. The following are only a few of the documents which refer specifically to Jews:

1) Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions

2) Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion

3) We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah

4) God's Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching

Each of these documents presents some very clear principles, at the heart of which are what one might assume are obvious assumptions of Catholicism. First, Jews, indeed all people, are entitled to be treated according to their fundamental human dignity. To treat them otherwise is a sin. Second, Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew. Thus, because Christianity is rooted in Christ, it is also necessarily tied to Judaism. Third, the Jews, as an ethnic group, are not responsible for the death of Christ. We may say that some Jews, long ago, pressed Pilate to have Jesus crucified. However, that they approached Pilate and that Roman soldiers actually carried out the crucifixion necessitates that some Romans were also complicit in the death of Jesus. It is more accurate to understand that it was human sinfulness that sent Jesus to the Cross. We are all responsible in that respect. Finally, Judaism may not simply be dismissed as irrelevant in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like us, the Jews are still bound by the covenant God made with his people as recorded in the Old Testament, and while we believe that Jesus Christ fulfills that same Covenant, he does not annul it.

With these principles in mind, we may then make the following conclusions. Antisemitism is unacceptable in any manifestation. It is a grave sin both personally and socially. Every effort must be made to eradicate it from our society and from our own hearts. This is no easy task when one considers the long history of antisemitism in Western culture. The delicacy of that topic, however, demands its own post.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Following Mike's Footsteps...

So I was back home this weekend. Coming from a rather small town (2200 people), it so happens that my mother is on (what they simply call) "the Music Committee"--she helps select the music to be sung at Mass. Though this doesn't necessitate that she have a key to the church, it bears the privilege of having a key to the church. So, I often take advantage of this and use her key to pay visits to our Lord in the Eucharist while home on breaks.


When I was home this last time, I noticed the beauty of the stained-glass windows with which I grew up, though they never particularly stuck out to me before. I wanted to photograph them, so I grabbed my parents' digital camera as I headed up to church one afternoon. While photographing, I also decided I would photograph the statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the same parish. This piece of art I did notice whilst growing up. I don't remember having any reflection too profound on the image in my childhood years, but I recall believing that he was a powerful creature, slaying that nasty serpent who is always trying to wreck havoc. I also remember thinking that if I could have designed him, I wouldn't have made his upperbody so cocked to the side, but rather, more straightforward (go figure--a critique of art from one who was later to become a seminarian!).


I post the pictures for your own enjoyment and devotion.


To understand the title of this blog post, click here























Monday, November 26, 2007

There and back again

This past week I was able to be at home with my family. I enjoyed the time with them and the absence of classes during the time off, but on the return trip, as I got closer to St. Paul a certain amount of excitement came. I was excited because I knew that I would be hearing about what the other seminarians did over the weekend. I was also looking forward to having a chapel in the building where I live. It's nice to be able to go there whenever I want to be with our Lord.

Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of excitement when I come home too. I know that there is time for rest and relaxation. I spend most of the time around home is at my parish, reading books (that I will not be evaluated on), and spending time with my family and friends. This time at home is what gives me the energy to get through the next three weeks of classes and then finals week. I have got some big inspirations to work my tail off this week so that the weekend is not spent stressing. There will be plenty to create stress. The next few weeks are filled with a teaching parish weekend and the ordination of one of the Archdiocesan seminarians to the priesthood.



Sunday, November 25, 2007

No Night Prayer


It is a tradition at the Saint Paul Seminary that on Sunday evenings the house spends an hour in adoration of the blessed sacrament (with a liturgy of either the Hours or the Word, with a homily at either) followed by a short social in our lobby area, concluded by Night Pryaer (the last of the Liturgy of the Hours for the day).

I have always enjoyed these celebrations for they give us a chance to catch up with the guys and meet some new students from on campus who come to pray with us. Usually, we will have a number of undergrad students come from campus to join us for Night Prayer.

I particularly enjoy Night Prayer because it is a great way to end the day. We examine our consciences and confess our sinfulness, sing a hymn, pray a psalm (or two), and hear a reading. Each day the hymn, psalm and reading differ. After these, however, the prayer becomes much more repetitive. Every night of the week we use the same Responsory and Gospel Canticle. The last thing the Church provides for our meditation, however, is a Marian hymn, which traditionally changes with the liturgical season. It makes me think of many fond memories of hearing a short bedtime story, kissing my mother goodnight or having her lull me with her beautiful voice as I was growing up. The Marian hymn is the Church's own way of having us bid goodnight to our Mother--and allowing her to lull us into the darkness of the night.

Tonight, however, we will not be having our Holy Hour, social or Night Prayer. Many men will still be on the road, returning from their distant homes and so it seems fitting that we wait until Morning Prayer tomorrow--allowing everyone sufficient time for travel--until we have our first liturgy as a house. So for tonight, I will suffice myself with my solo voice, singing that beautiful hymn, "Salve Regina..." "Hail, Holy Queen."



Friday, November 23, 2007

Joyful Noise


I doubt that I am alone is believing that the vocabulary of the King James translation of the Scriptures has a way of capturing truth more accurately than do the perhaps more literal but less emotive translations that are more familiar to us Catholics. I am thinking, in a particular way, of Psalm 81 and its exhortaion to "make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob." Our more sanitary New American Bible translation tells us to "shout in triumph," and the New Revised Standard Version, "shout for joy." Make a joyful noise. It need not be words. It need not make sense. It need only be joyful. Laugh! Ululate! Yodel!

Make a joyful noise! This exhortation has come to my mind more than once as I have been home with my family for the last few days. My two siblings with their children (each under the age of three) have increased the volume of the household a good deal. Life here at home is louder than it is at the seminary. The men play guitars and sing. The kids play or demand to hear stories. The moms are cooking. I sit here, typing in the midst of this din, and I smile. The noise is joyful.



Heart of Gratitude



The turkey's gone. The dishes are clean and put away. The friends/relatives have gone back to their homes. Christmas sales and decorations have appeared. Turkeys and cornucopias give way to reindeer and snowmen. But has our Day of Thanksgiving gone too?

Not for this seminarian.

Indeed what a blessing to spend time with friends/family ... especially when the seminary schedule makes this difficult to come by. Indeed, what a blessing to have "recreation" -- to be 're-created' in order to face but once again all that awaits me back at the seminary. It almost seems providential that there is an element of seminary life that feels as though we are in a 'pressure cooker' because it makes me appreciate even more so those times when the pressure of life is temporarily suspended. It makes watching a late-night movie, a pool game with the siblings, listening to music while writing a blog entry or doing yard work with the rest of the family much more precious.

Moments like these teach this slow learner what it means to enter more deeply into (or to abide in) God's rest. Herein lies the secret to the Sabbath day of rest. Built into our weekly schedule is a day to do just this. God seems to give us a small glimpse into the eternal rest that awaits us as we persevere here on earth to reach our eternal home. Yet oftentimes we don't know what to do with this gift of rest. We busy ourselves with activities that give us pleasure, but don't necessarily recreate our weary souls and bodies. We find ourselves more and more tired as the break gives way to the demands of life.

So this Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself repeating the mantra, "Thank you," hoping that these words penetrate more and more deeply into my heart. I figure that so many people can complain better than I can ... so I won't bother. I can try and be as grateful as I can for everything that Providence will see fit for me. This heart of gratitude becomes my daily prayer such that the truth of Neh 8:10 becomes a foundational truth in my life: "Do not grieve this day, but let the joy of the Lord be your strength."



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Monday evening, the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity celebrated Thanksgiving as a community. Seminarians, lay-students, faculty, staff and family members of these gathered in Saint Mary's Chapel for Evening Prayer. This was followed by dinner at the Binz Refectory, a meal of cranberry relish, fresh fruit, asparagus spears, alla caprese tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing and, of course, turkey--all alongside camaraderie and conversation at the tables with friends and new acquaintances.

One of the priests on faculty presided over Vespers and gave a rousing homily on the Eucharistic theology of Saint Paul (from Colossians 3:12-17; the Greek "eucharistein" meaning "to give thanks") and then encouraged us to expand one aspect of what we do in the Eucharist (give thanks to God) to the rest of our lives. Along these lines, he mentioned the third section of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity), the section entitled "The Eucharist: A Mystery to be Lived."

That was Monday, and now it is Wednesday. The house is nearly vacant, the Binz is no longer serving food, liturgies as a community have ceased, the doors are locked and we are all dispersed back to our dioceses, back to our homes (for those of us able to get home) to celebrate this national holiday, giving it its fuller meaning that we as Catholics can bestow it.

In this spirit, I give thanks to God for all the many blessings he has bestowed upon me, my loved ones, and the Church. I give thanks to you, our readers, for any and all support you give to us seminarians and to the Saint Paul Seminary--your prayers are always very much needed. May your Thanksgiving be one filled with God's graces.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)



Monday, November 19, 2007

The Promised Land

Thanks be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for Teaching Parish Weekends. For some of us from dioceses nearby, we travel out to the Teaching Parish not weekly for an afternoon or evening but rather monthly for a weekend. This I did this last weekend. No offense to those of you from the cities or other urban areas, but allow me to explain part of my love for the Teaching Parish weekends.

Unbeknownst to me, not having lived in the cities for some time (my last time living in the cities was my freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota, six years ago--my goodnesss, it's been six years!) I had forgotten what the steel, concrete and, ultimately, the whole urban experience does to me. As I drove south to my teaching parish in Rochester, MN, for the first time in Theology I after the first couple months of seminary, I finally reached the edge of the cities such that there was no industrial building in sight. Rather, what broke through was the horizon--the reality in which my vision and perception couldn't perceive anything farther. The limitation was finally not something obstructing my view but rather that my power of seeing is limited. And suddenly the majesty of God's creation began to melt my heart, tears rolled down my face and I prayed, "Oh, thank you, Lord."

I know. It is only the horizon. It is only the countryside. Yet, as I travel out to the parish month after month and leave the city behind, I cannot cease to appreciate--at least for a moment--the fact that I am returning to the land which is far less cluttered with man's doing but rather flourishing in the simplicity of God's natural order. Each time I return home to my diocese it truly is for me, a return to the promised land.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Teaching Parish Committee

At St. Paul Seminary, the pillar around which the Pastoral Formation is structured is the Teaching Parish. John Paul alluded to this fact in a previous post. Among other things, seminarians are asked to develop a teaching parish committee of five to twelve members with the help of their pastor. These groups are composed of a people from within the parish, and ideally, represent a cross-section of the of the parish population. For instance, my committee is composed of a retired woman, several parents (men and women) and a young man who is a senior in high school. This committee meets on a monthly basis with their seminarian. They discuss any variety of topics. With my committee, I have discussed issues of Ecclesiology, liturgy, methods of prayer, models for youth ministry and religious education, the historical developments of the Sacraments of Initiation, and a variety of other topics. The committee is useful to the seminarian for a variety of reasons. First, they bring a certain element of reality to the mostly theoretical discussions of the classroom. They provide a context in which the teachings of the Church can become embodied in the lives of real people. It gives the seminarian a chance to try to teach groups of people with wide varieties of experience and expertise. The teaching parish committee is also provides a place where the seminarian can practice preaching to real people as opposed to seminarians. For me, this committee has been one of the most fruitful parts of my pastoral formation experience. They provide a keen insight that supplements into my classroom based knowledge. They tell me when I am reacting foolishly to a given situation, and they affirm what I often am able only to presume about married and family life. I am deeply grateful for the men and women on my committee. So, thank you to all of you who participate in the teaching parish committees around this archdiocese.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bingo


A venerable Catholic Tradition, the men living on the third floor of the seminary dorm hosted a party for the community on Friday evening that included a meal with Bingo afterwards. Prizes included tickets to a Gopher football game, parking in the priests' garage stalls, books by C.S. Lewis and Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and various gift certificates from businesses around the community, as well as a variety of other gifts donated by the seminarians themselves. I think that every player won a prize of some sort or another, and everyone had fun. Who would have thought that Bingo would be so attractive to people? This led me to do a little research (and by "little" I mean about 70 seconds on Google) and I discovered the following about bingo from about.com.

(Bellis, Mary. The History of Bingo. <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbingo.htm>. Accessed 17 November 2007.)

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In the U.S., bingo was originally called "beano". It was a country fair game where a dealer would select numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans. They yelled "beano" if they won.

The game's history can be traced back to 1530, to an Italian lottery called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia," which is still played every Saturday in Italy. From Italy the game was introduced to France in the late 1770s, where it was called "Le Lotto", a game played among wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game in the 1800s, but they used it as a child's game to help students learn math, spelling and history.

When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as "beano". It was first played at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe renamed it "bingo" after he overheard someone accidentally yell "bingo" instead of "beano". He hired a Columbia University math professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards. [It is said that Leffler then went insane.]

A Catholic priest from Pennsylvania approached Lowe about using bingo as a means of raising church funds. When bingo started being played in churches it became increasingly popular. By 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo games were played weekly, and today more than $90 million dollars are spent on bingo each week in North America alone.



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saintly Knowledge

One of my favorite stories as regards the lives of the saints comes from the patron saint of parish priests, Saint John Vianney. He was stationed in the very small village of Ars, France, and was a keen confessor--many came from miles and thousands of miles just to have him hear their confession! He often had the grace of reading men's souls, so as to provide for their consolation and conversion. Here's one such motivating story about the holy "curé" [priest] (from The Curé d'Ars: St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney by Abbé Francis Trochu. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers. 1977.):


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One day the Abbé Guillaumet, for many years Superior of the Immaculate Conception at Saint-Dizier (Haute-Marne [in France]), was on his way to Ars. It was in 1855 or 1856. The only subject of conversation in the compartment was the marvels that were taking place in the blessed village; M[onsignor]. Vianney's name was on the lips of all. Seated beside the priest was a lady in deep mourning, who was listening with rapt attention. On reaching the station of Villefrance, M. Guillaumet was about to alight when his neighbour opened her lips to ask: "Monsieur l'Abbé, will you allow me to accompany you to Ars? I may as well go there, as elsewhere. . . . I am travelling to distract my thoughts."


The priest consented to act as guide to the stranger when once they had reached the village. The carriage which they took at Villefranche set them down right in front of the church. The eleven o'clock catechism was drawing to a close, so M. Guillaumet led the lady to a place between the church and the presbytery [rectory]. They had not long to wait. Suddenly the Curé d'Ars appeared, still wearing his surplice. He stopped in front of the lady in black, who, following the example of the crowd, had gone down on her knees. He bent over her and whispered into her ear: "He is saved!" The woman started. M. Vianney repeated: "He is saved!" A gesture of incredulity was the only reply of the stranger. Whereupon the saint, stressing each word, repeated: "I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition. Our Blessed Lady obtained that grace for him. Remember the shrine that you put up in your room during the month of May. Though your husband professed to have no religion, he sometimes joined in your prayers; this merited for him the grace of repentance and pardon at the last moment."



Elijah

With great joy, I learned this morning that I am an uncle anew. My next younger brother and his wife are the proud parents of a second son, whom they have named Elijah. He was nearly eight pounds and twenty inches long. I am thrilled. My brother and sister-in-law are as well. What a great sign, as the natural world around us enters the long death of winter, that this tiny person's life is still at its beginning.

Here is a link to one more photo from the hospital.

http://www.rcrh.org/Baby/BabyView_app.asp?BabyID=9829



Monday, November 12, 2007

Fraternity

Before I entered college seminary about four years ago one of the things that I was looking forward to was the fraternity that I was going to encounter. This fact is true now as I have begun my time at the St. Paul Seminary. Yesterday after Mass the third floor south wing were able to go to brunch at a local restaurant. It was a great time to spend with the brothers and joke around and take a break. We as a group are thankful to the benefactors of the seminary for giving us an opportunity to have times like these. I am so thankful to the men I have encountered in my time at seminary especially the first few months at a new place. I am no longer a college freshman and I have been around the seminary system long enough to know that each of us needs support from one another. I think all seminarians can attest to the importance of a support system and how vital it will be when we enter into our ordained ministry in our respective dioceses.



Saturday, November 10, 2007

Father or brother?

Seminary is an interesting time for the Catholic man pursuing the Lord's will in his life. I myself entered seminary only after two years at state universities--the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Minnesota State University, Mankato (studying Physics at both). Then, I entered seminary formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (which is associated with Saint Mary's University, Winona). I squeezed a Philosophy Major into two years at the college seminary (IHM) and then continued on in Theology School at the Saint Paul Seminary.

College seminary is more focused on acquiring the necessary human maturity (emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual). It attempts to make the seminarian a good Christian, a man who is responsible, faithful, discerning, courteous and chivalrous. Theology school, on the other hand, is focused not simply on the foundational elements of living a life of Christian manhood but furthers this formation by helping him to appropriate Christ's own life of priestly service as his own. Theology school attempts to form the good Christian man into one who is present, advises, directs, administers, presides, forgives, sacrifices, prays in the name and person of Christ.

Anyhow, why am I writing all of this? Well, it hearkens to a previous blog post which touches on the difference in age and level of formation in priestly formation. I've been thinking recently about our own interaction with the priests here at the seminary. Recently, many of my classmates went out to dinner with one of the priests on faculty and had a good time, trying new beers, ordering some very interesting yet tasty foods (check out the menu at The Happy Gnome) and chatting about whatever came to our minds. While in college seminary, at the more fundamental levels of priestly formation, the appropriate and ordinary interaction with priests is more formal in tone. However in theology school, the interactions progressively become less formal and more fraternal; appropriately so! After all, if we are to be trained to live the life of the priest, our interactions with those who will sooner and sooner be our brothers in the presbyterate ought to take on a more and more brotherly character.

Obviously, these priests at the seminary are still my formators. Some of them still have me in class. They still have to make a rather disinterested judgement regarding my suitability for priestly ministry and ordination. Having too close of a friendship with one or several of the formators would detract from and harm the formation which ought to take place for myself and the other men around me. Yet, as I continue on the path to ordination, there are little bits and pieces of the life I will live after ordination (like the recent dinner) which I experience now and only serve as catalysts, impelling me to more fervently complete my training and accomplish the will of God in my life.



Friday, November 09, 2007

Snow


I will never understand the Minnesotan fascination with snow. It is just white frozen water. Its beautiful, they tell me. I am not convinced. All it takes is one person to walk across it, and the pristine purity of the dreadful stuff gives way to the much more practical realization that it is cold, wet, and has a tendency to stick to your shoes when entering a building, thus creating slip hazards and the potential for wet feet when not wearing shoes.

For some, I am told, snow has a nostalgic value. They are put in mind of childhood sledding days, hot chocolate, and novels read in front of the fire. This is not my experience. I am reminded, rather, of hurried efforts to bring cattle to more protected pastures, calves freezing on the ground, and one too many trips made between town and home on slippery roads whose icy reflections seemed to mirror the anxiety ridden silence inside the vehicle.

"Snow represents peacefulness and purity," they say. Nonsense. Snow means backbreaking work. "It is pretty," they say. "Until they plow it," I respond.

"You're in the wrong state," they tell me. "I don't intend to stay," I return.

In case you missed it, I don't like snow. Nevertheless, as I sat in class this morning and a few large white flakes began to drift down, I couldn't help but become mesmerized by them. It was brief, perhaps ten minutes, and then they were gone. But they were beautiful.