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!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Acolyte Installation

Tonight, Bishop Carlson of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, instituted fifteen new acolytes at the Saint Paul Seminary. Bishop Carlson is originally from this Archdiocese, so it was a homecoming of sorts for him. After giving a powerful homily, he instituted three of his own seminarians during the ceremony with the other twelve seminarians. It was great to see all of these men take one step closer to the priesthood and be formally instituted to serve at the altar. If nothing else, the class above them will appreciate the relief from their serving duties.

I am sure someone will be posting pictures soon.


Congratulations to Gregory who posted this blog's 150th post (The Church and the Environment). Here's to 150 more.

The Church and the Environment?

Man is not an animal reacting simply to a set of circumstances but rather the pinnacle of visible creation, endowed with reason and will so as to judge his place in the universe and choose accordingly.

This was one key point in our semi-annual Ireland Library Lecture (though he said it much more simply, clearly and eloquently). The speaker was our very own Academic Dean, Dr. Christopher Thompson. He spoke—despite a cold—to those who attended his lecture on Preliminary Reflections on the Church and the Environment.

In one of his most poignant moments, Dr. Thompson points out that the reason the Church should not be indifferent to the stewardship of creation and, more specifically, setting aside “wilderness preserves” is that it gives us an ability to be reared in the school of faith, if only in an elementary way. Often, especially when we are growing up, some of our most profound experiences are the encounters in nature when we stop and have a privileged insight into our relationship with God and creation. Along the lines of what Servant of God Pope John Paul II suggested in his Theology of the Body, akin to the glimpse that married couples experience in their chaste marital love, in the moment of beholding the beauty of wilderness, we experience an awe, a sort of ecstasis which bespeaks the right ordering of the universe in accord with Divine Providence and hearkens back, before the Fall, to the right relationship which once existed between man, God and creation, and yet ought to exist again.

Though it is just over an hour long, it has a number of very intriguing insights for nearly anyone concerned about the environment, the future, or the church. One can listen to it here.

Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement V

The Catholic Worker Movement shared with the Apostolic Church the principle of pacifism. History suggests that early Christians often faced persecution precisely because they were unwilling to subject themselves to the hawkish whims of the state by participating in Roman wars. Christians, it would seem, were convinced that to serve the state as an armed soldier would be to somehow reject the Gospel value of love for one's neighbor that was a necessary element of the Christian life. While this particular sentiment seems to have changed relatively early in the Christian tradition, it appears to me that one should not glibly overlook the Catholic Worker Movement's own dedication to pacifism. It is that in Loaves and Fishes, Day comments about her pacifism, “I realized that one should not tell another what to do in such circumstances. We all had to follow our consciences” (Loaves and Fishes, 63). Apparently she, like the early Church, realized that war might be justifiable in certain circumstances. What she seems to have protested however, was the indignity that soldiers were forced to face -- the cruel and arbitrary draft process and the unquestioning loyalty demanded of the nation's citizenry. That war, it seems, stripped people of their dignity – an unconscionable act in the mind of a Catholic Worker. These seem to be her point in describing the “The War Years”in the chapter bearing the same title.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Deacon

On Saturday, October 27, the Archdiocese of Dubuque celebrated the Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate for Rod Allers, a student of this institution. It was a beautiful Mass with Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB. A number of the men from SPS made the trip to Dyersville to take part in the celebration. I was among them. We arrived Friday evening (it was midterm break, so I missed no classes) after a lovely drive down the Mississippi River Valley.
Two of the men with whom I traveled stayed in the Basilica Rectory while the others in our party stayed in the home of a parishioner. All in all, it was a magnificent celebration, and it was a great inspiration to see Rod's ordination. He has worked hard and has grown tremendously since I first met him in our first days here four years ago. The Church rejoices to have another transitional deacon. Congratulations Rod.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Midterm Break

The tests are taken. Midterm is here. Break began an hour ago. We'll talk to you on Monday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Peggy & Ella

Please meet Margaret Mary Lannan & Ella Catherine Lannan. They are my nieces. I love them more than anything in life. They are the love of Christ to me in my life.
Margaret Mary, or Peggy, was born 4-3-2006 in Washington, D.C. Her parents are my oldest brother Bob and my sister-in-law Maura. Interestingly, she was also baptized that day. You see Peggy's birth was very complicated. When she was finally born, her lungs were filled and had been without oxygen for a long time. My older brother Bob could see the urgency and concern in the actions and words of the doctors and nurses. He also saw Peggy's physical condition. He explains that in a moment of grace and clarity, he took the cup of water next to him and baptized Peggy "In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." She was then rushed off to the N.I.C.U. and stayed there for approximately a week. I love Peggy very much!
We like to call her the Peggermeister, Peggers, Pegg-dawgy-dawg, and The Peggernator. She likes to walk, modestly run, crawl up stairs, and crawl down stairs backwards. She can say the words Duck, Dog, Elmo, Baby, Dada, and lots of jibberish.
Ella was born 8-8-2006 in Chicago, IL. Her parents are my older brother Sean and my sister-in-law Leslie. She was baptized in October 2006 at St. Clement's Catholic Church in Chicago. Ella loves going to see the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. She can sit in the sun and smile. There are lots of new people to wave hello to and meet. I love Ella very much!

We like to call her "E" Ella-Booster, The Booster, Booster Brown, and Ella Bella Roo. She likes to chew on things, walk around, play with her toys, and she loves to meet dogs on her walks with Mom. She can say the words Da-da, Dog, Wow, Hey, as well as lots of jibberish.

My "Teaching" Parishes

One of the privileges of being a seminarian is the opportunity to work among and for the People of God. At the Saint Paul Seminary, that means being assigned to a Teaching Parish under the supervision of the parish pastor. My teaching parishes include St. Anthony of Padua and St. Hedwig parishes, as well as the John Paul II Catholic School, all of which are in Northeast Minneapolis (a map of these is here (letters A, B, D)).

As a second-year theologian, the emphasis of the program is preparing for future ministry as a teacher, catechist and preacher. So, this month, I've been spending time with their faith-formation program, which is a consolidation of several parishes in Northeast Minneapolis, and housed at St. Boniface. Each class (roughly divided into grades 1-8) has a patron saint and asks for his or her assistance and guidance.

Last week, I was working with 6th graders (Patroness: St. Teresa of Avila) on the Catholic understanding of Revelation. We talked about God revealing His will for us and the manner in which this comes to perfection in the person and example of Jesus (Dei verbum, 3-4). We also spoke about how this revelation is passed down to us in two forms: Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The last time I discussed this topic was on the Final Exam for Foundational Theology with Fr. Jerome Dittberner. Both last semester and last week I found the audiences challenging, but this time in a very different and exciting way!

This week it's the 4th graders. May their patroness, St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Future Priests... UPGRADED

As you may have noticed, the blog has been getting a bit of a face-lift in the past couple of weeks. A number of features have been added:

  • The layout of the blog has been changed.
  • There is now the SPSSOD banner at the top of the page.
  • There is a picture of the seminary chapel, Saint Mary's Chapel, in the left column.
  • You might notice the plethora of names on the Contributors list. With the new year comes a new gaggle of bloggers.
  • There has been added a list of the Sponsoring Dioceses, that is, Dioceses which send seminarians to the Saint Paul Seminary.
  • We have added a couple new links to the Links section.
  • Last but not least, we have a new address: http://spsseminarians.blogspot.com/

There may yet be a couple changes to come. But, just wanted to point out some of the changes. That last one, though, is quite important. Please, post some comments and let us know what you think of the changes!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Letters from home

Every once in a while a seminarian is bound to get letters from credit card companies, bills that he doesn't want to deal with, but then a large manilla envelope with a school or church's return address arrives in his mailbox. Within that large envelope are notes from parishioners, the pastor, and children. The letters from children bring a smile to my face, because they are so fun to read. Some will talk about sports, some will write about their family and include a stick-figure drawing of everyone, and others will ask a lot of questions. These letters are always a reminder of the fact that I am being supported in prayer by a large number of people. I am thankful to God for the people of South Dakota and for their continued support. I know my brothers can attest to how much they appreciate simple notes from people in their respective dioceses.


My parents made the long trek to St. Paul last Thursday in order to visit me. For them, it was an adventure. Several lanes of speeding traffic can be a bit unnerving if one is used to driving on narrow gravel roads. (Incidentally, city people are nervous about and as bad at driving on country roads as are country people with city highways.) We had a great time together, visiting the Cathedral, the Minnesota Zoo, and the Hard Rock Café. I was glad to have them here, and share a few moments of the more hidden seminary life that I live - the life with which they are mostly unfamiliar.

One of the striking things about my parents, though, and my father in particular, is that there is no mistaking their profession. My father is a rancher, and it is obvious. He is proud of who he is and what he does. As a result, regardless of place or circumstance, you will find him wearing the uniform of a cowboy. He is seldom without a hat, tall topped boots with the pant legs tucked inside, and a brightly colored silk scarf. Now, it seems to me that when "emo" is the fashion of the day, there are very few people in a position to be startled at the dress of another, but startled, people were. I suppose that it is unusual to see a cowboy wandering around downtown Minneapolis.

My father was a bit concerned that his dress was embarrassing me. It was not. It is who he is. It is who I am.

Before returning to school, on a retreat with other seminarians from my diocese, the retreat director spoke to us of finding our identity primarily rooted in the the fact that through baptism, we are made sons and daughters of God. As I spent time praying with this notion, it occurred to me that a great deal of information can be ascertained about me when one knows who my father is. This is especially apparent to me when I attend a community event in my childhood community. I have been away long enough now to not be recognized by some people. When asked who I am, rather than telling them my own name, I respond, "I am Robert's son." With that information, people know where I was raised and how I was raised. They have some sense of my political views. They know my religion. They know most of the things, at least the outwardly discernible things, that distinguish me from everybody else. I am Robert's son.

More profoundly, though, I am God's son. He adopted me, through Jesus Christ, in my baptism. As a result, people who encounter me should immediately know a few things. First, I am loved profoundly, and my life is designed to allow me to draw closer to that love each day. I am not of this world. I am a pilgrim making my way home. I am a reflection of God. I am a witness. I am a member of a community that extends across national and cultural barriers. I am called to change the world. I have recourse to a power that is not of myself. I am these things, precisely because I am a son of God.

I love my parents. I was happy to have them for a short weekend. And I'm glad to be reminded that while I will always be Robert's son, I am, in the deepest sense of the word, a son of God.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Phone calls with a first-year seminarian

I caught up on the phone with a few friends this weekend. This is always a treat. Amid the conversations came the questions that are becoming standard to most of my phone calls with friends. I’ll address them here.

How are the other seminarians?
Let’s be honest straightaway. This is not a question regarding the well-being of my classmates—of their moods or of their health. At best, it is a question that aims to find out what kind of people decide to join the seminary. At worst, it’s a euphemism for, “Are the other seminarians normal?” Sadly, this is a common question.

Sadder still, perhaps, is the fact that I was apprehensive about the seminary because I had similar questions. Will the people be too busy being holy to have fun? Will every conversation focus on the Church. Will I feel out of place because of the movies, music, books, and people I enjoy?

My answer—the other seminarians are great. Normal. Like me. Different than me. Yes, we work at holiness. Yes, we talk about the Church. However, we do other things—watch sports, go to concerts, play football, pull pranks in the dorm, go out for drinks, watch ridiculous videos on YouTube. And yes, I sometimes feel out of place because of the movies, music, books, and people I enjoy. But this is no different than any other situation I’ve encountered. Not everyone enjoys The Royal Tenenbaums (USCCB rating: A-III) the way I do. Not everyone digs Explosions in the Sky. Not everyone can get behind a Hemingway. That’s as true in the working world as it is in the seminary. The people here are interesting, entertaining, and supportive.

Are there good-looking women on campus?
Of course there are good-looking women. There will always be good-looking women. God bless good-looking women. I, however, am not here for the good-looking women. I am here to discern a call that exists in this world but is beyond this world—a call I must hear through all distractions, whether they be appealing careers, forms of entertainment, or people.

I won’t say that I never consider the sacrifice that the celibate life will bring. I also won’t only call it a sacrifice—priests talk about celibacy as a life-giving joy. My time in the seminary will help me learn more about the celibate life and how to live it joyfully.

What do you do?
The days here are structured, and they are mostly spent on study and prayer. Each weekday begins with a holy hour at 6 a.m., which is followed by morning prayer. A quick round of morning classes brings me to midday Mass, which centers each day on the Eucharist. Mass is followed by lunch, which is followed by more classes. Evenings bring more prayer and studying, most of which happens at a local coffee house. Additionally, we engage in many formational activities, meeting with academic, pastoral, and spiritual directors.

I do make time to enjoy the company of my classmates and to exercise (lately that’s been swimming, which I’m finding more difficult than ancient philosophy). I’ve also been blessed with a couple of opportunities to design print materials, which I find relaxing and fulfilling.

I am grateful for my introduction to, and participation in, the Liturgy of the Hours. Our morning, evening, and night prayers serve as solid reminders of why I am here and where I am going.

Are you going to be a priest?
Time will tell. Or, better, God will tell me in time. I’m in year one of what could be a six-year process. I wouldn’t be here, though, if I weren’t completely open to the possibility. I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t see myself living the vocation. Ask me again some other time.

Musical Musings

During my four years of college at the University of Dallas, I developed a liking for country music. Specifically, I began to enjoy a brand of country music loosely dubbed "Texas Country" after having been introduced to it by several of my roommates. I had already been a fan of such legendary artists as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, et. al. What I like about these types of music (apart, of course, from the great "twangy" sound) is that they so often grapple with the eternal difficulties and pitfalls of the human condition with a refreshing poetic flair. This feature of the music is often heard in various ballads which tell the stories of outlaws. All right, you say. Where am I going with all of this? Very well -- all the poignant descriptions of sin, misery, mercy, and sometimes even redemption in this particular genre of music lead me inevitably to meditate on the Sacrament of Penance! And in a larger sense, these enjoyable musical forays which consider the nature of the human condition make me think of the Church, who we may rightly say is the foremost expert on Man.

For instance, take a few lines of gem of a tune by Texas artist Cory Morrow, which prompted me to write this entry:

The Man that I've Been
Cory Morrow

As the years go by and by, upon a shadowed ground I walk
The people and the places of my past have now been lost
The man that I've been is not the man I'd hoped to be
Now it's too late to find the good in me


Don't you feel any sorrow for the man that I've been
'Cause in the waking of tomorrow
They will find me full of sin
I got news for you, I ain't as bad as they say
I got news for you, it looks like,
That just don't matter today

Now, what an splendid dramatic portrayal of a guilty soul, one obviously in need of what only the Church can give at the hands of her priests - absolution! The outlaw in the song is practically crying out for it. I admit it's a bit of a stretch to find reminders of the powers of the Sacraments in the words of country musicians, but at the same time I can't help but notice the real poetic merit of some of their work.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that this music I enjoy approaches the greatness of any of the Church's more beautiful art, musical or otherwise; I am only suggesting that one might be presented with a great occasion for meditation on serious matters when they least expect it.

Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement IV

The Catholic Worker Movement seems to have imitated the Apostolic Church well in its desire to “share all things in common” (Acts 2:44). While it is not altogether apparent that those who lived within the Houses of Hospitality nor the Communitarian Farms shared every possession in common, it does appear that there was a sense of willingness to share what they did possess, and it is even more explicit that they expected such behavior of those people who were able to give from their abundance. Thus, for instance, the Houses of Hospitality were able to procure and distribute clothing for the needy; those who had outgrown or had grown tired of their clothes passed them on to the more needy through the able hands of the Catholic Workers. Likewise, the produce raised by the Communitarian Farms was used for the sake of distributing among not only the farm workers themselves, but the needy within the cities. Further, the fact that the Catholic Workers provided bread for the hungry during the long cold years of the Great Depression goes far to suggest their desire to share, in a communal sort of way, the food and other daily necessities with which God blessed them. While these characteristics do not strictly adhere to the model presented Luke's Apostolic Church, they do seem to reflect a certain sense of communal living that was part and parcel of the Catholic Worker Movement's daily life.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A common critique of priests when ministering to married couples is that they have no personal experience being married. The conclusion is that they, therefore, know nothing about marriage and how to work through its many issues.

Though there is a truth here--that priests may be ignorant to a certain extent of the angst and the experience of struggling personally through the issues of marriage (note that even I am using vague language to speak about marriage's "issues")--this does not mean that priests are wholly ignorant of the difficulties associated with the married state, nor of possible ways to resolve them. Even further from the truth, so it would seem, is that priests don't know what it means to love another human person.

Knowledge can be gained by way of many means; and knowledge of the universal principles often can shed light on particular situations which one has not personally experienced, because one has experienced similar situations.

An easier way of gaining understanding in areas where personal experience is lacking is through conversation with others, drawing upon the personal insight of others. Pope John Paul II wrote a foundational text on love, marriage and the conjugal act. How did he come to understand some of the issues so well? He says in his introduction to Love and Responsibility that he had counseled many couples through their difficult times, but also that he had had many frank and open conversations with friends of his who were married couples. He then points out that being able to sort-of "survey" the many relationships made him (an unmarried, celibate man) that much more able to counsel those who were married. Assuredly, it is from these conversations and his own personal experiences with impurity and chastity that he was able to develop such a "theological ticking time bomb" as his Theology of the Body.

Just recently, a friend of mine got married. He was a seminarian for three years, two of which he and I spent as seminarians together at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, MN. First, it was something to see him get married. He was a pretty good seminarian and continues to be a faithful, striving Catholic. His (now) wife graduated from St. Thomas with a degree in Catholic Studies and also is a faithful Catholic. To see a couple such as this enter into the sacrament of matrimony gives me, a fellow Christian praying for the good of the Church, much hope. Second, it provides a great opportunity for him and I to discuss the married life, as Servant of God John Paul II did! It doesn't hurt that this particular friend also knows the value of philosophy and, particularly, theology--he truly is one who seeks understanding as a faithful Christian.

I have heard priests talk about such friendships, where they learn more about topics (particularly marriage) which broadens their understanding and helps them in their pastoral ministry. I am simply appreciative of having such a resource now, and hope and pray that it will be fruitful for me and, ultimately, for the whole People of God.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Learning how to preach

In the recent weeks, I've felt like what St. Jerome looks like in the picture. Granted, he's pouring over the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Bible as he is working on translating it into Latin. Me? I'm not translating Scripture into any other language, but here at the seminary, we have to learn how to prepare homilies. What does the text say? And how does a preacher learn to communicate that message of Scripture in a way that builds up the Kingdom of God. Last week, I had to give a homily in our preaching lab class to a few of my classmates. The text I prepared was Amos 8: 4-6, 9-12. Not an easy task! Then on top of that, we had to preach without notes as an experiment with a different homiletic style.

After a seemingly providential dinner conversation with one of the brothers, I found another avenue by which I could package the homily in a way that would work. The previous attempts seemed artificial to me and my personality. This conversation helped me to realize that what I really wanted to do in a 5 minute homily was to focus on that latter part of the text: the famine of hearing the Word of God. This famine is a result of sin-over-time of these businessmen. They were so consumed with their scheming that their worship of God on the Sabbath was distracted, at best, and not able to fulfill one of the foundational laws of Judaism: you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, all your soul, and all your strength (cf. Dt 4: 6). Though here in the seminary, we are not businessmen, we too can be prone to being so busy that our worship of God is distracted as well. Over the course of time, our fate could be the same as that of the Israelite businessmen: a famine for hearing the Word of God. This is not the sort of relationship that God intends for us with His Word.

My life will soon be charged with the task of "preaching the Gospel." I'm realizing how daunting a task that can be. But I'm also realizing that this will be one of my primary services to the People of God in the parish. It is for the upbuilding of the Kingdom that I am asked to learn how to use the biblical sciences in such a way that, when combined with spiritual insight gained through prayer and reflection, the sheer power of the Word of God is retained in all its splendor so that it can move hearts toward deeper union with the Lord Jesus.

It seems to me as though the famine for hearing the Word of God exists in our day as well, though in different expressions than in Amos' day. Various factors have contributed to a watered-down understanding of the power of Sacred Scripture. Generally speaking, we've lost a sense of the divine quality of the sacra pagina. As a result, we've lost an understanding of how Scripture can be a powerful influence in our daily lives.

I've recently read the Lineamenta for the upcoming Synod of Bishops, the XII Ordinary General Assembly which will focus on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. Perhaps, this is a providential move on the part of Pope Benedict XVI, seeing that that last Synod focused on the Eucharist, which culminated in a beautiful post-synodal exhortation penned by the pope entitled Sacramentum Caritatis. I think that he's trying to make the connection on the relationship between the Eucharist (as the source and summit of the Christian faith) and the Word of God, "for everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom 15:4).

And as one preparing to exercise the ministry of the word by way of preaching, this message of hope in today's world is one that is very much needed. What shall be the source of our hope? How shall we Christians be "like shining stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation" (cf. Phil 2: 15)? Perhaps the lesser known prophet Micah gives us a hint: Live righteously. Love tenderly. Walk with God (cf. Mi 6:8). Live righteously, when all sorts of peer demands are pressuring you to ‘experiment’ with them. Live righteously, when the tides of politics are at odds with your Catholic faith. Love tenderly, when all around you people lust after self-interest. Walk with God, when everyone else seems to have abandoned you. Walk with God, on the only road that will lead you to your true home.

A well-crafted homily, given from the heart of the preacher having encountered the living person of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, can be "the voice of God" speaking to His people, urging, encouraging and maybe even challenging us to continue the pursuit of our upward call (cf. Phil 3:14)!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bishop/Martyr and Evangelist

Today is the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr, which means that tomorrow is the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Faithful readers of this blog might remember this.

Speaking of the color red

This morning the announcement of 23 new cardinals was made. Two Americans will be given the red biretta by Pope Benedict XVI on November 24. Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Houston-Galveston and Archbishop John Foley were the two Americans. Archbishop DiNardo was previously the bishop of Sioux City, IA, which is not too far from my home in Sioux Falls, SD. This is the first time in my short life that there has been a cardinal in the southern part of the United States. One of the Italians that have been elevated to cardinal is Archbishop Giovanni Lajola. Three years ago he was the principal consecrator of Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, who is a priest of the diocese of Sioux Falls and is now the Apostolic Nuncio to the Caribbean.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October and the "Red Mass"

Though October is usually thought of as a month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, for me, as a lawyer turned seminarian, October also signifies the beginning of the new term for the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that it is also time for the annual "Red Mass." For the liturgical hounds out there, the liturgical color is red because it is a Mass of the Holy Spirit offered for the individual judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals. At this Mass, prayers are made asking God for spiritual guidance so as to allow these same legal professionals to make correct and moral decisions during the upcoming term of the Court.

While other Red Masses are held locally in state capitals, the most significant Red Mass in the United States is held in Washington, DC. This year Archbishiop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, WI, was the homilist. What most caught my eye was the power of the story he told about a young woman at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I'll quote the Zenit article:

Archbishop Dolan of Milwaukee began his homily telling the story of a woman who said her life was saved by the experience of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. The 24-year-old woman worked as a prostitute to support her alcohol and heroin addictions. But youth from a church invited her to World Youth Day where she "met an old man who has changed my life. This old man told me he loved me. Oh, a lot of old men tell me they love me, for 15 minutes. This old man meant it. He told me God loved me, and that I'm actually God's work of art. He told me that the God who made all the stars actually knows my name. […] This old man makes sense. This old man got through to me. I now want to live." She was referring to Pope John Paul II ... {Internal paragraphing omitted}

The full text of the homily can be found here (pdf format).

I too had the privilege to be at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, and I too credit my experiences there for giving me the grace and the authentic freedom to recognize and respond to my vocation.

As much as World Youth Day has been an opportunity for grace to change lives, the goal of the Red Mass is to open doors to grace for those lawyers and legal professionals who are willing to respond to it. While some might be critical (a good rebuttal can be found here), implying that it shows a bias against the "so-called" separation of Church and State, to have judges attend Mass, Catholics cannot be faulted for wanting to celebrate the Eucharist. How could one fault them? The Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life; should the Eucharist not inform and nourish those who will make decisions affecting all our lives?!

May our Lady of the Rosary guide and protect our courts during the upcoming year. St. Thomas Moore, patron of civil judges, pray for us and our judges. Grant us a legal system in this nation that defends the poor, powerless, and defenseless, at all stages of life, from conception to natural death!

Favorite Papal Names

Have you ever wondered what you would choose as a name for the next Pope? Not that you wish you were the person elected to be the head of the Church, but that you wish you could choose his name. Right now, the following are my favorite names of past Popes. (I chose them based solely on their name and not their papacy!) I also include possible future names. See if you can see which ones are actually from the past.

1. Anastasius -
(Very Italian. Not to be confused with anti-pasta, which is also very Italian.)

2. Felix IV -
(But only the IVth. If it were any other Felix, then no.)

3. Marcellus -
(that is a serious name. I mean you hear that name and it means biz-ness.)

4. Innocent XIII -
("Hey, hey, I didn't do it! 13 times I have had to tell you I didn't do it!)

5. Stephen -
(Solely so the pope could shout out to the crowd "Steeeeeee-vvv-eeeeennnn is my name!")

6. James -
(Hey, it's about time we had a James in that chair.)

7. Anton -
(In high school, my locker was next to a guy named Anton. He got a 1600 on the SAT and a 36 on the ACT. He is pretty smart. Right now he works for NASA and develops new technology for rocket fuel propulsion in outer space. His title on his business card literally reads "Rocket Scientist." He is also very Catholic. He would be a good Pope.)

8. Sean -
(Sean is Gaelic for John. It is about time we had an Irish Pope. Of course he would play Our Lady of Knock after Mass at St. Peter's--that is such a good song!)

Mystery of the Catholic Faith in Liturgy

God is the Creator of the universe, source of all moral authority, and shepherd of human fortunes with a saving plan for all His creation. As a systematic religion, Christianity is unique among all the religions of the world. The reason for this is that the Christian Faith believes there is a real interaction with the divine—we are seeking to know and love God in a real and tangible way. We are also seeking to understand God’s intention for the cosmos, the Church, and the individual. Part of the theological task of the Christian faith is to seek to understand something that is ineffable. The Christian Faith is, in a word, a “mystery.” A mystery, by definition, is something that is difficult to understand or explain. That’s a unique quality of Christian Faith and Liturgy. Inasmuch as Christian Liturgy is mankind’s expression of faith in and prayer to its Creator, Liturgy is a celebration of that Faith and of God’s plan of Salvation, and that Salvation is enacted in that celebration. Mankind fell from the relationship with God that He originally intended for it. After the Fall, the mystery of Salvation began. That mystery would later be appropriated to the Cross and find fulfillment in Christ’s victory over death. In light of this, the gap between Liturgical Celebration and ordinary life is merged.

Jean Corbon’s The Wellspring of Worship (San Francisco: Ignatian Press, 2005) explains the nature and meaning of Christian Liturgy in terms of our participation in God’s Trinitarian life. In his book, Corbon defines the Liturgy as a profession of faith and participation in the mystery of the Trinity. As the source and summit of Salvation History, Christ’s saving work is made present to all of history down through the ages in the Liturgy. Using a stream of life-giving water, Corbon explains how God’s kenosis is His self-giving love in Creation—the fulfillment of which is the Divine Word’s humbling Incarnation, life, Death, and Resurrection. The finality of God’s plan is realized in the Pentecost-outpouring of the Holy Spirit to His Church. The life-flowing water is the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Liturgy is the enactment of mankind’s union with God and eventual return to the Father.

In focusing on Sacramental Economy, Corbon then explains how “the Blessed Trinity pours out its divinizing energies and is glorified” (161). This is bestowed to the Church and to each individual as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Each Sacrament is distinguished by a particular epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) that “corresponds in a vital way to the three moments in the growth of the body of Christ” (162). These have direct correlations to the Trinitarian nature of God and His plan for Salvation.

Corbon synthesizes his vision by explaining how appropriation of the Christian faith and our sacramental celebrations complete the economy of Salvation. This appropriation occurs in the individual and the ecclesial community. Corbon states,

The eternal liturgy in which the economy of salvation reaches completion 'is accomplished' by us in our sacramental celebrations in order that it may in turn be accomplished in us, in the least fibers of our being and of our human community. (199)
He further states that as we believe this to be true, we must be cognizant of our Christian lives. The liturgy can continue far beyond the sacred realm of the sanctuary and walls of the church, but there is a gap in the lives of Christians between the liturgical celebration and daily Christian life. This gap can be created by sin and ingratitude, but it can be merged by worshiping adoration of God (cf. 201). Here the Old Testament notions of faith are fulfilled by the outpouring love of Christ, which is the love of the Father.

In light of this, Corbon moves to notions of how the Church can be missionary. He states that the “Christ whom we celebrate is the identical Christ by whom we live; his mystery permeates both celebration and life” (204). The Holy Spirit kinetically energizes us in the "sacramental epiclesis," but sin grounds that energy in individualism (236). Christ’s energized ecclesial body is made up of individuals and communities. Corbon asks,
When communities living by the divine communion desire to extend this communion to the environments in which they live, what other first step can they take except to present the human groups in which they live for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? It is then that the kingom comes through the Church. The epiclesis of the lived liturgy extends the Eucharistic epiclesis to our societies. (237)

The Kingdom of God was Christ’s proclamation in life. He proclaimed it to God the Father’s people all the way to His death on the Cross. In this, the Father is incorporated into the flesh of His Son out of loving desire (237). In response, the Church offers “to the Father the social body to which it belongs according to the flesh” (237). So when the Holy Spirit descends at the Church's epiclesis, it transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Corbon calls this the “epicletic life of the Church” (238). This is how the Church “lives out its saving priesthood through all its members” (238). The Trinitarian God accomplishes what He intended to do. That accomplishment occurs in the Lamb's last breath on the Cross and in His Resurrection. The evangelist explains this to us in writing Christ’s final words on the Cross—"It is accomplished" (John 19:30).

Catholic and Orthodox relations

On Sunday night, we have our regularly scheduled Holy Hour. When I walked into the chapel, I noticed some people who are not normally present for the Community Holy Hour. These two men are guests of the seminary community: one is in higher education as a student, the other is a visiting priest from a neighboring diocese. Actually, they are Armenian Orthodox clergy. Putting the schism aside momentarily, I have enjoyed the company of these men as I see them in the hallways. Both of them are very familiar with my hometown in California because it is a community to which many Armenians immigrate.

During our Holy Hour, we pray Sunday Evening Prayer II in common. I noticed that they don't have breviaries (the books from which we pray the liturgy of the hours) to use. So I sat next to one of them to share my breviary ... and then I was flooded with many questions. Questions like what is their Eucharistic theology and how does it differ from Roman Eucharistic theology? How does their Eucharistic theology find ritual expression in liturgy? What is their experience of Eucharistic adoration with us at the seminary? (I did notice that one of them was eagerly watching the ritual movement for Exposition and Benediction.) What are the central themes that keep the Orthodox Church separate from the Roman Church? I know that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI eagerly hope for a reunification of the Eastern and Western Church, but to date, I don't know enough about the situation to understand how extremely difficult it is for the Popes' desires to be brought to fulfillment. "Ut Unum Sint" ... how can centuries of schism be reconciled?

As I walked out from the chapel that night, I meant to engage these men in dialogue about some of my questions. Unfortunately, during the socialization that happens in the lobby area outside the chapel, I was not able to connect with them. However, it is something that is on my radar screen to do before too long. I found myself praying in front of the Eucharistic Lord with men whose system of beliefs keeps us separated from one another (on an ecclesial level). I am eager to see how things will develop in the future. I have seen lots of friendly gestures made along these lines in recent years. I know that the dialogue continues. What a momentous occasion it would be for the Church to be able to breathe unimpeded with both its lungs as Christianity continues to battle against present modern-day situations!!! I pray that I might be able to see that day during my lifetime!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement III

There was an obvious and intentional effort on the part of the Catholic Worker Movement to reflect the Apostolic sense of “breaking the bread.” While it is true that this statement does refer to some degree to the early Christians' celebration of the Lord's Supper, it should not be be denied that this breaking of bread implied more than the sharing of a meal or the simple remembering of Jesus' last earthly meal. Rather, to dedicate oneself to the breaking of the bread also meant to make a radical and volitional effort to love one's brother or sister without counting the cost. This seems to have been part of St. Paul's concern when he wrote to the Corinthians, chastising them for their partial exclusion of certain classes of people (particularly poor and slave class persons) from the Eucharistic assembly (Cf. 1 Cor. 11). Likewise, those who were to be a part of the Catholic Worker Movement were not free to exclude anyone. Rather, they were convinced that true conversion could only come about by means of a powerful Christian love. Thus Day is able to comment,

We could not put people out on the street . . . because they acted irrationally and hatefully. We were trying to overcome hatred with love, to understand the forces that made men what they are, to learn something of their backgrounds, their educations, to change them, if possible, from lions into lambs (Loaves and Fishes, 50).
Any Christian who claims to be wholly devoted to the Apostolic sense of breaking the bread recognizes that this breaking of bread will demand, for the sake of unity, a willingness to tolerate those who are objectively wrong, or with whom we subjectively disagree. We may try to bring them to a place of conversion, but the movement toward that place must be inspired by true Christian charity. Day recognized this well and, as a result, was able to tolerate those like the racist Mr. Breen, the curmudgeonly Mr. O'Connell, and the drunken Mr. Shaughnessy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Annual Rector's Bowl

Another friendly battle between St. John Vianney Seminary and the Saint Paul Seminary ended in a victory for St. Paul Seminary. St. John Vianney came out firing with a couple of quick touchdowns. As the game progressed the tides began to turn and the St. Paul Seminary came out on top. It was fun to prepare for the game and play against some tough opponents. The final score was St. Paul Seminary 39-St. John Vianney 25. Archbishop John Nienstedt was present and gave the final prayer and blessing. I look forward to next year's Rector's Bowl and hopefully another victory.

Preliminary Reflections of a New Man

As a new man here at the Saint Paul Seminary, I must say one of the best parts of this new life has been, inter alia, the new ease with which I can make a daily Holy Hour. During my process of discernment last year, I read a great deal about the importance of spending time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. And for a few years now I have been making every attempt to include that practice in my spiritual life, but never did I succeed in making it a regularly scheduled daily event. Until now, that is. Most mornings, I can wake up early, get dressed, gulp down a quick cup of strong black coffee, and head into St. Mary’s Chapel (mere steps from my room) where Our Eucharistic Lord waits for me beginning at six o’clock. How comforting, edifying, humbling, to begin the day this way. These days I am finding it especially necessary to spend that hour with the Lord due to the many new responsibilities with which I’ve been entrusted in the last six weeks: academic studies, commitments to works of mercy, Spanish language tutoring, football practices, etc. Those who advise the practice of Adoration are quite right – one really does draw strength from the encounter. Now if only I can remember these sentiments when the alarm clock goes off at 5:15, and it’s getting toward the end of the week, and that extra hour of sleep seems so much more valuable!

Interestingly, my short walk to the chapel takes me right past the aforementioned portrait of the Angelic Doctor. When I remember to glance at him, St. Thomas silently reminds me of what I am about to do. In the painting, he holds open a book displaying verses of two of his famous Eucharistic hymns. Reading the words “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum…” and “Adoro te devote, latens Deitas…” one cannot help but be struck by the miracle he is about to experience – the Real Presence. Even if the caffeine hasn’t yet taken its full effect, and the eyes have to strain a bit to read them – those words mean a lot. I too look forward to the return of the portrait to its normal place.

Things that make you go "Hmm..."

So there I was, walking peacefully along the sidewalk chatting with a brother seminarian when we come across two other of our brother seminarians walking on the beautiful (but getting cold) campus of the University of St. Thomas. No sooner do we notice them than one of them begins throwing crab apples in our direction--but not nearly hard enough to hit us. We, however, stopped because we wanted to talk to them. At this point, the attacker ceased and desisted from his battle charge.

We speak briefly and then begin walking with them. I am not paying attention to the crab-apple-thrower anymore and don't realize that he is now throwing the crab apples in the air. I am suddenly jolted back to reality when the guy I'm walking with asks quite confoundedly, "Are you trying trying to catch those in your mouth?" To which he is answered, "Don't be ridiculous! I'm just hitting them off my forehead."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Missing Thomas

From the time I first studied medieval philosophy as an undergraduate student in the minor seminary, I have had a special devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas. He makes a lot of sense, and one finds oneself, after reading him, wondering, "Can it all be so easy?" Most of the time it can.

When I moved into the St. Paul Seminary, I was thrilled to discover a fantastic portrait of the Angelic Doctor (pictured left) hanging in the hallway on the first floor of the dormitory wing of the seminary. That picture hanging there has always been something of an inspiration to me, reminding me of the value and necessity of study. For whatever reason, I always associated a sense of hopefulness with that portrait.

A couple of weeks ago, Thomas went on sabbatical. Apparently there is an art exhibit going on in one of the local churches. The seminary owns a couple of pieces by the featured artist. These pieces were borrowed for the exhibit, leaving some bare walls in the administrative wing of the building. As a result, Thomas was kidnapped from his usual home and taken and hung on a wall in the office area. I am assured that he will come home when the borrowed pieces of art are returned. Until then, though, I am missing Thomas.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement II

Perhaps most striking about the Catholic Worker Movement is the communal nature of the lifestyle shared by those who lived within the confines of one of the many Houses of Hospitality. While I am not aware of any common “rule of life” for those who placed themselves at the mercy of these houses, the lifestyle that emerged within the houses was uncannily similar to the lifestyle of the Apostles themselves. As Luke writes, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” In Loaves and Fishes, Dorothy Day speaks at length about the devotion of the members of the movement to the teachings. While they are not necessarily always the explicit teachings of the Apostles, they do seem to reflect a certain deference to the content of Revelation. Indeed, as Day describes Peter Maurin, one cannot help but be moved by a rather obvious piety and devotion. It seems impossible to read Maurin's “A Case for Utopia” without at least a fleeting recollection of the Beatitudes and Jesus' declaration that the poor in spirit would come to possess the Kingdom of Heaven, or that the merciful would be shown mercy, or that the clean of heart would see God (Cf. Mt. 5:5-12). In short, while the teachings promoted by the Catholic Worker Movement in general and by Maurin in particular were not always explicitly the words and teachings of the Apostles, they were very much in keeping with the wider implications of those teachings.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement

As an experiment, for the next several weeks, I will be posting excerpts of an essay I recently wrote comparing the Catholic Worker Movement and the Apostolic Church as described in Acts of the Apostles. We'll see how it goes.


In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke describes the early Christian community in the following manner:

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

Without knowing its source, the characterization provided in the lines above might have been made about Dorothy Day and the members/leaders of the Catholic Worker Movement. Indeed, throughout her book, Loaves and Fishes (Maryknoll: Orbis Books. 1997) , she consistently describes a mode of life that seems altogether consistent with the lifestyles of the earliest Christians. The following "Reflections on the Catholic Worker Movement" Series will examine some of these similarities.