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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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!