Future Priests of the Third Millennium

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year of Our Lord

On our liturgical calendar, the year ends with the celebration of CHRIST THE KING; one week later we begin the liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent.

The calendar year, of course, begins with the first of January - the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Thus, just as Saint Mary's total acceptance of the will of God inaugurates the beginning of the liturgical year with Advent and Christmas, so also does Saint Mary inaugurate each new calendar year on the first of January as the Church celebrates Mary's role as the Mother of God.

It's actually a really cool thing: she who formed the savior in her womb also forms the new year, every year, in the name of her Son. May we all, as did Saint Mary, always respond to God's call: "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word."

Ave Maria! Ja vous salue, Marie! Hail Mary!
Saint Mary, pray for us.

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Angels, Recieve His Soul

Brother Dietrich Reinhart, OSB entered eternal life. A benedictine monk, Brother Dietrich was the president of Saint John's University (Collegeville, MN) since 1992 - he was half-way through his third six-year term as president of the university.

Saint John's University currently has three alumni studying at the Saint Paul Seminary in formation for the priesthood.

This author was privileged to have known Brother Dietrich during my years at Saint John's (Fall 2002 through Spring 2006). He was a very caring man, supportive of the students, and called all to prayer and increased faith.

I will miss Brother Dietrich dearly; he strongly encouraged me during my undergraduate years to follow God's call.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

Saints of God, come to his aid. Come to meet him, angels of the Lord. Recieve his soul and present him to God; present this soul to God, the Most High.

The brothers of Saint John's Abbey will receive the body at 7 pm on 05 January with solemn Evening Prayer; the Mass of Christian Burial will be on 06 January at 3 pm in the Saint John's Abbey Church.

Monday, December 29, 2008

World Youth Day Revisited

I never really did get around to writing much about World Youth Day after returning in July.  Allow me to say this much, though:  This was the best WYD I have ever experienced.  The Aussies planned it well, our home stays were exceptional, and this was the best group of young people with whom I have traveled for any reason.  It was a fantastic experience.  For many of the pilgrims from my group, it was life changing.

Last evening, most of the people who made the pilgrimage reunited to relive some of the experience, to pray, to share a meal, and to begin talking about the next pilgrimage to Spain.  It was great to see this group again.  I am constantly awed by their faith and their zeal.  They are really trying to live their faith, to find their way, and to become holy.  They inspire me.  They call me higher.  They make me look forward to the next pilgrimage, and to our next reunion.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hastle of the Church's Life

So, as occasion has it, a solemnity happens to fall on a Friday. What's the big deal, right? Well, as the Church's practice has long been and continues to be, we Catholics do penance on Fridays, except when a solemnity falls on a Friday. Enter the confusion of Christmas.

Liturgically (therefore, ecclesially), we celebrate the very feast of Christmas for an octave - eight days. So from December 25 to January 1, it is Christmas every day. Of course, the liturgical season of Christmas lasts longer than just the octave of Christmas.

Yet, for centuries the Church has celebrated other feasts over-on-top of the Christmas Octave: today is St. Stephen, the first martyr; tomorrow is St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist; the day after that is the Holy Innocents, those boys two years old and younger who were murdered in the area of Bethlehem by Herod who was trying to kill Jesus; the Sunday within the Octave is Holy Family; the last day of the Octave is January 1 - the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

So then the question becomes, "What is today? Is it only a feast (St. Stephen)? Or is it also the Octave of Christmas, and therefore a solemnity?" The difference isn't to be overlooked, especially for those who desire to live deeply the life of the Church. It seems wrong to do penance within the Octave of Christmas, but liturgically, it's the feast of St. Stephen and Friday. I don't have an answer to this conundrum.

Either way, I hope your Christmases were joy-filled and truly blessed. Keep living it up, for the Christmas season (not to mention the octave) is just getting started!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Too Busy Schedules

The approach to Christmas and the Christmas season is busy for all of us - we all find ourselves with many December and early-January tasks.

It was just yesterday that Deacon Tyler reminded us of all the weight of being a "student" in seminary, but being a seminarian is much more than classroom responsibilities and papers. We do, of course, have responsibiilities with parishes, families, friends, and our home-diocese.

Here's a taste: after finals were done, I stayed at the seminary until Saturday of last week - spending some relaxing, fun time with several other seminarians who have become the greatest of friends. We enjoyed some much-needed "hang out" time.

Over the weekend and the past two days, I have been running to keep up with family obligations, gatherings, tasks, and catch-up conversations. I have not yet seen Grandma, but that will change on 25 December.

Wednesday, 24 December: I need to be at my teaching parish (and early). The day will be filled with various tasks with volunteers, working with members of the parish, and helping out in any way that I can. There will be two Masses - spaced just far enough apart for Father, the Deacon, and I to greet the congregation after the first Mass, eat a quick dinner, and then run back out of the rectory into the Church to greet the incoming congregation for the "late-night" Mass, as Father calls it.

The night will end with a much more relaxed Father sleepily saying his Compline prayers with me, the exhausted seminarian. Happily, I will be staying in the spare room in the rectory for the evening so I don't have far to go for the 8am Christmas-morning Mass.

The sleep between 24 and 25 December will be short. After the "late-night" Mass, I need to get as much sleep as posible because I need to make a Holy Hour and all the morning prayers at 6am - if I am to have any hope of getting these done. Then, we have the two Christmas morning Masses. After that, I'll be with Father for a short while and then it's off to see Grandma and the extended family for the afternoon.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL: a good friend of mine from college is getting married on 27 December. As a seminarian, I was asked to be an acolyte for the wedding. This means I need to get up early in the morning on 26 December, make an eight-hour car ride to make it to the rehearsal on time and the wedding is the following day. I'll be heading back to the seminary on Sunday, 28 December for some much needed rest.

THEN, my diocese has inserted four (that's right, FOUR) events for their seminarians during the remaining days of the Christmas break.

I'll keep everyone up-to-date as these adventures roll out over the next weeks. I hope that this break does not work out to be more tiring than the semester. I must say, though, it is a busy schedule but it is a good-busy. Being involved with all of these Church-activities is exciting; it's something that I've always wanted to do.

'Tis good, Lord, to be here.

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things One Shouldn't Do While on Break

I have a new item for the list of things one should avoid doing while on Break: Trinity Research Papers.

I had never intended to write my research paper while on break.  I had intended to write it before leaving for home.  Unfortunately, Old Man Winter (whom I positively despise) had other plans.  I was forced to choose between leaving early and finishing my work at home or finishing my work and getting caught in the storm that threatened to cover Southern Minnesota with snow on Saturday and Sunday.  So, today, during the rare moments when someone convinced my nephews to try to sleep, I managed to get a few more pages done.  It isn't beautiful.  It is far from perfect.  It has a pretty sparse bibliography.  But, except for the composition of the bibliography, it is complete.  I will send it off to the professor sometime tomorrow.

One should not bring work on vacation, or the break becomes a little of neither.  Not really break, and not really work.  I don't recommend it.  This is the last time I will do it. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Very Enjoyable Sunday

I've been home in Sioux Falls for a few days now and I think I've been able to unpack and get organized. Yesterday was a nice day, besides the frigid wind that was creating all sorts of havoc. I was able to go to the St. Joseph Cathedral to serve for my bishop. I was also able to see what had been done for the restoration process and it looks amazing. I was able to see a few people after mass and catch up, which was nice. In the afternoon my family went to see a concert done by the South Dakota Acoustic Christmas group. We had gone together a few years ago and this year was their last performance. They played traditional and non-traditional Christmas music. One of the reasons that we started going as a family was because of the fact that a few of their concerts each year were fundraisers for Dakotabilities. Dakotabilities helps people with varying ranges of physical and mental handicaps, and my sister has been a client there for many years. My sister likes listening to music and she especially likes Christmas music. Overall, not a bad Sunday.

Car Troubles . . . Kind Assistance

Last Spring, my car began to have troubles. At first, it was just a fan belt that made extra noise. Then it was a loud, constant noise from an unknown source under the hood. Later this Summer the car began to idle at a very high-level RPM.

Well, today I am finally able to get the car checked by a mechanic. Why just now, you ask? Catholic seminarians are not allowed to have a job and thus the very few dollars in my bank account need to be spared unless an expense is unavoidable.

Thanks to a very kind Christmas present from a family that heard of my troubles, I am now able to take the car to a mechanic and have said-mechanic fix the troubles that my car has been experiencing for the past nine months.

This gives me the chance to say to all of you who have supported us at the Saint Paul Seminary, thank you most kindly. We're working very hard that we can one day (God-willing) serve you for the rest of our lives. On that journey, even seminarians need a little help.

Take care, -Jeremy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You're Invited!

Lessons and Carols
for the
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Sunday, January 11, 2009, 4:00 p.m.
St. Mary's Chapel
2260 Summit Avenue


The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity Chorale
David Jenkins, director; Michelle Plombon, organist;
Chris Kachian, guitar; Wendy Barton Silhavy, flute

Carols and Hymns for the season
and music of Bach, De Victoria and Rutter

Free and Open to the Public
Reception Following

Twice a year the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity hosts a musical performance by its own Chorale. The Chorale has a history here at SPSSOD of having seminarians and lay students rehearse once a week, putting on their two performances around the liturgical feasts of Epiphany and Easter. The Chorale also often sings for Diaconate Ordination for this Archdiocese.

Come Sunday, January 11, the SPSSOD Chorale will host its annual Lessons and Carols. This is a traditional event which celebrates the birth of Christ by recalling the events of salvation history. It is a mix of readings from the Scriptures ("Lessons") and songs which melodically tell of the same mysteries ("Carols"). It always promises to be a prayerful and joyous event. Reception and camaraderie follows the service.

So mark it in your calendar. Sunday, January 11th, at 4:00 p.m. in the Saint Paul Seminary Chapel.


As Mr. Brit Lit (as I occasionally call blogger Matthew, see the previous post) has intimated, the seminary has settled down, and most men are already away from the house on break. The rest of us will be leaving soon, while a couple (particularly the "late-vocation men," i.e., the old guys) have no other home than here and live out of this place, even on break. Of course, the vast majority of the priest-faculty live here as well.

Probably much to those same faculty's delight, the house is quite settled and quiet. We have left this place, this building of study, this building of prayer, and have ventured out into the world. We have, in a very peculiar way, a small taste of what it one day may be in the future, for even though we're not yet priests, we are yet recognized as somehow representing the Church. We've already gone through a significant amount of formation and so we all recognize that regardless of what another might think of us or how much we might like to have some time completely "off," there is no "off" anymore.

This is a usual homily or conference or piece of advice that we receive just before these extended breaks. "Yes, men, you are on break from class, from the prayer-life of the seminary, etc... but you're not on break from God. You still have to be good. You still have to pray - daily." At this point in our formation, we wouldn't have it any other way. We have come to recognize that our whole life - were we in the seminary or not, were it our future "job" or not - must revolve around God. And so we continue what we've already been doing here: preparing the way for the Lord.

Of course, finishing a stressful semester, a grueling Finals Week, and getting away from the seminary on break creates quite a bit of added excitement. This excitement does risk spoiling our Advent preparations; we do risk a premature celebratory joy which detracts from the joy which ought come with Christmas. But, I don't think this is the case. Rather, we go forth from this place converting our excitement - by way of prayer - into even greater anticipation of the revelation of our God, our Emmanuel. Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

Friday, December 19, 2008

So We'll Live, and Pray, and Sing, and Tell Old Tales

At the close of a semester, I always become somewhat nostalgic. After the crush of exams and papers, I realize that a particular era of life has closed, never to be opened again. For some, I suppose, that's a consolation rather than a joy. Still . . .

Gerard Manely Hopkins, unlike many of his romantic contemporaries, gets a lot of respect not only for what he might have done but also for what he did. Hopkins died young, a Jesuit serving in Ireland. He had converted to Catholicism following Cardinal Newman's tulmultuous conversion, and, upon entering religious life, he had made a significant effort to destroy all of his poetry. Thankfully, some of it survived due to the work of a friend and fellow poet, Robert Bridges. Thus, we still have his work today.

At the same time, one wonders what Hopkins might have produced had God not called him home. He too, it seems, realized the finality of events in the light of ever-driving time. I first heard this poem at the end of a Catholic Literature course I took my sophomore year of college seminary.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Deputy Droopy

You never know what you'll find around you. We've discovered our own Deputy Droopy (blogger Don):

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I don't think it's any personal thing, but a significant number of men have noticed that I've not been around as much recently as I usually am. This, it seems to me, says nothing about my "popularity" but something about the community of this seminary.

I remember at my undergraduate seminary, anytime we left the house overnight or for a couple of days, we put a sign on the bulletin board informing the other men of the house that we'd be gone and why - death in the family, family gathering, wedding of a friend, etc... Though we don't have this custom at SPS, we do nonetheless have strong enough community life that we notice when members are gone.

This isn't anything to freak a man out - it's just the nature of good community. Everyone is valued, everyone has a role to play in the "body", and it is just not quite right when some one is gone.

And for, perhaps, the interesting part: so why was I gone? Well, for a number of reasons.

First, I've got this bad habit of falling asleep... everywhere - Mass, class, reading, driving... I know. I know. It really is horrible, and disrespectful, and dangerous, and it cheats the Church of what is owed her by her (future) ministers, etc... Well, to remedy it, the Seminary and the Diocese had me go have a sleep study done so as to determine if there is something medical involved - something more than just bad habits. (Of course, I would hope that this is the case because then it appears that I'm just another fallen human being with another weakness, rather than some lazy, irresponsible oaf.)

Second, I've previously written about the Diocese of Winona being given a Coadiutor Bishop, John M. Quinn. Well, this past Thursday was his Mass of Welcome. It was quite the event. There was Evening Prayer and reception the evening before (as is customary with Ordinations, Installations, etc...) the big day. Then that day was quite the event: I had lunch with the Winona seminarians, then there was Mass at 2:00 (the Entrance Procession of 6 seminarian-servers, 12+ deacons, 150+ priests, 20+ bishops, and 2 cardinals began at 1:40), dinner afterward with Bishop Quinn's family, friends, Diocesan priests, curia, staff, IHM seminarians... It was a full day, which concluded with my driving back to SPS in the evening. I guess the Mass was recorded and can be viewed online. If I haven't said it already, it was a great day.

Third, last and most boring of the reasons, "the crud" is going around. As one of my teaching parish parishioners said, "The upper-respiratory system infections are going around." I've had a cold for some time now and have been getting extra sleep and keeping myself to my room, so as to get over it as quickly as possible and to keep from spreading it to others. I don't know how much difference this really makes, though. From the sounds of sneezes and coughs and sniffles in the chapel, quite a few men have colds and other "upper-respiratory infections."

In this last regard, it is Finals Week. We men are finishing up papers, doing last-minute cramming, taking exams, and packing up for the Christmas getaway (thanks be to God!). If you would, say a prayer for all of us (and all students) that we might finish the semester well; and add an extra thought for those who are doing so despite a cough.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hylomorphism is Not a Dirty Word II

The following is the second part in a series of posts about the principles of matter and form that we have been learning in our Philosophical Anthropology Class. My paper is entitled: Hylomorphism as outlined by Thomas Aquinas in Part One of the Summa Theologiæ, Questions 75-76.


Man stands in the middle of the meeting point between living things and the things of heaven.

The soul is immaterial, but is acting with the body to complete the full function of that particular animal. Aquinas proves the soul exists but is not the body. The Soul is the first principle of life and Aquinas proves nothing corporeal can be a first principle of life so the soul, "is not a body, but the act of a body".[2] This life principle is important to understand and may be easy to understand as from a physical point of view. That which is moved has to be moved by a force, but where does this first force come from? "As everything which is in motion must be moved by something else, a process which cannot be prolonged indefinitely, we must allow that not every mover is moved."[3] The Body does not consist of matter alone. Matter cannot be the first principle or life source because, “since, if that were the case, every body would be a living thing, or a principle of life.”[4] We see that this is absurd and no rock or thing is living. Those bodies which are living, owes this life to some principle which is called its act.” [5]

The next task for Aquinas is to prove that the soul is subsistent. This has to do with whether the soul dies with the body or lives on after death. Aquinas says that the soul with its intellectual powers does not need the body for certain operations such as the ability to understand concepts or phantasms and therefore subsist after the death of the body. This is opposed to what is stated in article 4 where the souls of animals and plants do not subsist without the body because there souls are not rational. Aquinas then goes on to ask whether the soul is a man, or is a man composed of soul and body? This has to do with defining the soul more and more towards individual men. Do all men have souls or do we share a single soul? Aquinas says that each man has a soul and it corresponds to the individual flesh of this man. He concludes, “This soul is the man.”[6]

The soul is composed of matter and form, as a whole compound. We are a sympositum, which illustrates how essentially united the body is to the soul. The soul is the form of the whole body and gives it all of its function and powers. The soul as the form of man becomes the act of his body. The soul is not the potential or part of the act of the soul. Matter is the principle by which forms are made individuals so we can say this soul and this body. Form is related more to how a body moves and is the mover of the body. We see this composition of matter and form serving to describe the soul as it pertains to eternal life or damnation.

[2] 62

[3] 62

[4] 62

[5] 62

[6] 67

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ella meets her baby sister Maddie for the first time

This is a picture of my nieces Ella & Maddie. Ella is meeting her newborn infant sister Maddie for the first time.

She decided to give her a kiss!

Being an Uncle is the greatest. I love them so much!

MADELEINE MAUREEN LANNAN ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Please join me in giving thanks and praise to God for the birth of my niece Madeleine Maureen Lannan. Maddie was born Friday morning, weighing 6 lbs + 3 oz. She and her mother Leslie Lannan are resting comfortably at the hospital.

Maddie will soon become a new member of the Church and a disciple of Jesus Christ when she is baptized at her home parish, Saint Clement Catholic Church - Chicago, Illinois.

Uncle Jim is very proud of his new niece and loves her so very, very much!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

High Five

My vocation director was up recently. He arrived later on in the evening because he was hearing confessions. He was hearing the first confessions of the second graders. While he was praying the prayer of absolution over one of the boys, he had his closed and one of his hands extended. During the prayer of absolution, the little guy extended his hand to high-five my vocation director. My vocation director did not know what to do at that point, but the penitent figured out that a high-five might not have been the best thing to do, funny and cute nonetheless.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Requiescat in Pace

One of the great American theologians is dead today at 90. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., passed away early this morning after struggling for several months with Post-Polio Syndrome, a disease which he had contracted while serving in the Unites States Navy during the Second World War. In recent months, the disease confined him to a wheelchair and rendered him mute.

Dulles was created a cardinal by the late Pope John Paul II, and was among the few men to receive this honor without having also been ordained a bishop. Cardinal Dulles served as a teacher at a variety of American universities, and in his lifetime, authored many books and nearly 1000 articles on a variety of theological topics. He is perhaps most famous for his book Models of the Church which has become a standard text for students hoping to understand Catholic Ecclesiology. The Cardinal was able to continue teaching until April of this year when complications from his disease forced him to resign from his teaching position.

Upon stepping down as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in April, he wrote:

Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'

May His Eminence rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Been there, Done that

The seminary can become a distinctly unpleasant place this time of year. People are under a tremendous amount of stress to complete projects, write papers, prepare for exams, and submit paperwork at the eleventh hour. As a result, we become just a bit high strung, and by extension, quick to snap. We end up remarking about some small annoying behavior that two weeks ago we would have ignored. Community life becomes unattractive; we prefer to disappear to our rooms and make public appearances only when necessary.

I don't suppose that this is unusual in any way. I suspect it happens in homes and offices during stressful times, and I know that the same phenomenon can take place in the parish during the most tense days of the year. Why, then, am I almost relishing these days, this year?

While I am also under the gun, quickly vexed, and equally unenthused about community life, I have eight years worth of seminary experience now, and with age comes wisdom, or at least that is what I am told. Thus, even though I am going through the same old experiences, fighting the same old desires to scream, and biting my toungue just a moment too late, I also acknowledge a certain freedom in realizing that this too shall pass. Somehow it always does. The papers get written, the projects completed, and everything seems to work out. As steady as a clock, these things mark the passing of the days. One need just have a little patience. It seems very appropriate that these days fall during the season of Advent.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hylomorphism is not a Dirty Word

The following is the first in a series of posts in which I hope to outline some of the principles about matter and form that we have been learning in our Philosophical Anthropology Class.


Hylomorphism as outlined by Thomas Aquinas in Part One of the Summa Theologiae, Questions 75-76.

When one attempts to describe a human being how does one go about this great task? This is the account of Hylomorphism a teaching that has been developed in ancient and medieval thought that really is essential to modern Catholic thought. To begin with we must understand where Aquinas is coming from and describe his use of Aristotle and to understand the essence of the soul within that scheme. What is the soul what is its job and what is it composed of, along with how it exists and for how long (does it dissolve or die after the body is no more). The next thing we look to understand hylomorphism in St. Thomas’s view is what is meant by the union of body and soul and even if such relationship exists between the two. Finally we will discuss how it matters in the contemporary period and find how really relevant it is to our modern problem Hylomorphism has its roots in Aristotle, but is really developed by Aquinas in his questions, “75 The Essence of the Soul” and “76 The Union of Body and Soul” from the Summa Theologiae.

The soul is the essence or the 'actuality' of any living objects. We can then say that it is the act of the animal which makes it the particular animal. [1] Taken from Aristotle, every living thing has a soul, while non-living things do not and all things are made up of matter and form. The soul is simply the form of living things. Matter and form are distinct in that matter is the material from which a thing is made and form is the shape. Form is what makes particular matter or a particular thing that which it is. Aristotle’s example is that the soul is like sight. The soul’s essence as analogous to the eye would be sight. If the eye did not have sight it would not be an eye at all. Thus sight is what makes the eye what it is and gives it its form and essence. The form of living thing is the soul and we see that this living soul things certain powers. Plants have vegetative or nutritive powers, which nurture the plant body itself as itself preserving itself. The same would be said of sensitive animals, which have souls described by their ability to sense and differentiate simple things. Animals he declares have vegetative powers along with sensitive powers; and these are separated by those with and without locomotion. Lastly is Man, which is seen as having all these powers yet, possessing one more power which is the rational power. Man at the heart of creation and gives him the abilities or powers of plants animals with additional abilities due to his rational nature. This rational nature is the intellectual soul, which is able to transcend (go beyond itself) to relate intelligently with God and the natural world. The natural world is thereby in dominion of Man and serves the purposes of Man. From this we come to see how much St. Thomas uses Aristotle for his proofs on the soul and the important distinctions that are made in his questions on the understanding of the soul and then its relationship to the body. This is a natural and philosophical analysis of the universe as the nature of man is understood in the world relating to the heavens.


[1] 26-27

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Cupola

Today I found a video from a reporter who is a correspondent for Fox News. About three years ago, I visited Rome for a couple of weeks and since the deacons from the seminary will be going to Rome in a little less than a month, I decided to share some pictures from the cupola (dome) of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

This picture is of the Sistine Chapel. On the outside of the dome there are metal pieces to hold luminaries which were used during papal elections and other major celebrations.

The last picture looks out onto the piazza and Via della Conciliazione (the road that leads up to the Vatican)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Voice Cries Out: Prepare a Highway for God!

This week Deacon Jonathan Sorensen has authored the reflection on the Sunday Scriptures for The Catholic Spirit. His reflection follows.


A voice cries out: Prepare a highway for God!

The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, wrote the first part of this book, but today’s reading (chapter 40) begins what scholars call Second Isaiah, an anonymous prophet who wrote after the time of the Babylonian exile.

First Isaiah’s pro­phecies are menacing, calling the people to task. At the time, the rich were growing richer, partly because of their op­pression of the poor and weak. Isaiah challenged them, but they did not listen.

Due to their injustice and to the other sins documented by the prophets, God allowed Israel to be punished through the hands of a foreign power. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and the people were carried across the Arabian Desert to Babylon.

Second Isaiah follows God’s command to “comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1) and announces that his people have paid for their sins. In turn, a nameless voice cries out to prepare the way for the Lord through the wilderness.

This is not a road for God alone, but it is for God to lead his people back to Jerusalem. It is to be a smooth road, with every valley (rut) filled in and every mountain (bump) leveled.

Mark’s Gospel attributes the nameless voice to John the Baptist. John paves the way for the coming (the advent) of the Christ. He makes a smooth road by first having the people acknowledge their sins: “They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins” (Mark 1:5).

Second, he turned their minds to the coming of the Christ: “One mightier than I is coming after me” (Mark 1:7). John prepared the road because God was about to lead his people out of the exile of sin back to their heavenly homeland, through the advent of Jesus Christ.

But "advent" refers not only to the first coming of Jesus, but also to his second coming, when he will judge his people’s righteousness and separate the sheep from the goats.

What will be the qualification to join Christ in his kingdom? “Whatever you did for the poor, you did for me; what­ever you did not do for the poor, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:40, 45).

If we, as Minnesotans, are spending tens of millions of dollars over several years to build a smooth highway for commuters on the 35W/Crosstown interchange, then can we also make enormous investments of time and resources into shelters and food banks or into public transit for those who cannot afford cars and gasoline?

A highway of justice for the poor and vulnerable must be built, and along that road we will find our salvation!

Let us begin by confessing our sins. Then we can work with eager hands and hearts on the highway of God’s justice, looking for the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cor Jesu

Cor Jesu — an evening of Eucharistic adoration, confessions and worship — begins at 8 p.m. tonight in St. Mary's Chapel at The Saint Paul Seminary.

The public is invited to this prayerful event. Cor Jesu Holy Hours are held the first Friday of each month. The Saint Paul Seminary is located at 2260 Summit Avenue.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Crunch Time

So here's where we're at: we have six more days of classes followed by finals week. It may surprise you to know that many of us are not (yet) worried about our final exams. Why? Because there are those end-of-the-term projects, presentations, and papers that are all coming due as well.

This is especially challenging because, as major seminarians, we are taking "grad school" courses but also have other responsibilities: teaching parish, prayers, work around the seminary.

Many of us are looking at the next three weeks and seeing almost no free time. Yet this can be a very good thing. In an indirect way, this is an important piece of our formation that we may better serve Christ, the Church, and you - the People of God. As potential future pastors, we will often be extremely busy yet need to strike a balance in all of our duties, and that includes prayer. The "crunch time" of finishing papers and preparing for final exams is an opportunity to learn (and re-learn) how to accomplish all the tasks required of us and yet still be of Christian cheer and hold a strong prayer life.

Take care, -Jeremy

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Something Interesting

An interesting snippet from Proposition 9 from the Synod on the Word of God which concluded a couple of weeks ago in Rome:

[I]t is hoped -- in so far as possible -- that each of the faithful will personally possess the Bible (cf. Deuteronomy 17:18-20) . . .

Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

14 "When you have come into the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, and have occupied it and settled in it, should you then decide to have a king over you like all the surrounding nations, 15 you shall set that man over you as your king whom the LORD, your God, chooses. He whom you set over you as king must be your kinsman; a foreigner, who is no kin of yours, you may not set over you. 16 But he shall not have a great number of horses; nor shall he make his people go back again to Egypt to acquire them, against the LORD'S warning that you must never go back that way again. 17 Neither shall he have a great number of wives, lest his heart be estranged, nor shall he accumulate a vast amount of silver and gold. 18 When he is enthroned in his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law made from the scroll that is in the custody of the levitical priests. 19 He shall keep it with him and read it all the days of his life that he may learn to fear the LORD, his God, and to heed and fulfill all the words of this law and these statutes. 20 Let him not become estranged from his countrymen through pride, nor turn aside to the right or to the left from these commandments. Then he and his descendants will enjoy a long reign in Israel."

Saint Francis Xavier

Today is a very special day for me and for many people with whom I work. Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier. My teaching parish is named after him - thus the folks there celebrate today the patron of their parish.

Saint Xavier is a remarkable character in that his faith and love for Christ so moved him that he devoted his life to converting many who had never heard of Christ.

Even more so, he encountered many who had previously been converted to Christianity but had no one to say Mass for them nor had they anyone to instruct them on how to live as Christians.

In a letter he wrote to Saint Ignatius, Saint Xavier explained, "The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Commandments of God's law."

He also teaches us, as seminarians learning how to be good priests, that we must give to the people and not count the cost. "I have not stopped since the day I arrived . . . The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another . . . I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself."

I hope that all of us can unite with the people of the parish of Saint Francis Xavier in Sartell in our prayer of thanksgiving for the work, life, and example of this novel missionary and saint.

Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us.

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Speaking of Translation

Today is another wonderful example of translation issues. All right, perhaps "wonderful" is a bit pejorative. Nonetheless, here we go:

Latin Original:
Propitiare, Domine Deus, supplicationibus nostris, et tribulantibus, quæsumus, tuæ concede pietatis auxilium, ut, de Filii tui venientis præsentia consolati, nullis iam polluamur contagiis vetustatis. Per Dominum.

ICEL 1970:My (limping) Translation:
God of mercy and consolation, help us in our weakness and free us from sin. Hear our prayers that we may rejoice at the coming of your Son, who lives and reigns...Treat favorably our supplications, Lord God, we beseech you; grant your tender aid to our tribulations that, consoled by the present coming of your Son, we may now not be infected by the presence of this long age.

A far more explanatory post on this translation issue can be found at another Catholic blog.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tidbit of News

It has largely gone unnoticed, but the USCCB is moving forward with getting a new translation of the Mass approved and in place. At their November meeting, the bishops approved the next part of the Mass which they had not approved just five months ago in June. Who knew what five months would do.

Well, sure, there were some minor changes, and the politics issues were probably more on the forefront of their mind, and perhaps they were encouraged with the Vatican supplying the recognitio of the first part which they had approved some time ago.

Alas, sooner or later, we will have a new translation for our most prized possession.

P.S. You might also notice (from the link above to the USCCB website) that they approved a new translation of the Psalms. This is interesting, for three reasons. First, the translation is quite a bit better (more literal) than the current NAB version that we're using in the Mass. Second, it is quite a bit better (more singable) than the current NAB version we're using. Third, this version of the Grail is altogether new. It's neither the 1963 nor the 1993 version. How different will it be from the 1963 version that is used in the breviary (the Liturgy of the Hours) that priests and religious in the U.S. use? Will it be "gender-inclusivized" like the 1993 version, or not?

In this last regard, a 2001 document from the Vatican entitled Liturgiam Authenticam ("Authentic Liturgy") requires the following for the proper implementation of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium:

29. It is the task of the homily and of catechesis to set forth the meaning of the liturgical texts,[29] illuminating with precision the Church’s understanding regarding the members of particular Churches or ecclesial communities separated from full communion with the Catholic Church and those of Jewish communities, as well as adherents of other religions – and likewise, her understanding of the dignity and equality of all men.[30] Similarly, it is the task of catechists or of the homilist to transmit that right interpretation of the texts that excludes any prejudice or unjust discrimination on the basis of persons, gender, social condition, race or other criteria, which has no foundation at all in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy. Although considerations such as these may sometimes help one in choosing among various translations of a certain expression, they are not to be considered reasons for altering either a biblical text or a liturgical text that has been duly promulgated.

30. In many languages there exist nouns and pronouns denoting both genders, masculine and feminine, together in a single term. The insistence that such a usage should be changed is not necessarily to be regarded as the effect or the manifestation of an authentic development of the language as such. Even if it may be necessary by means of catechesis to ensure that such words continue to be understood in the “inclusive” sense just described, it may not be possible to employ different words in the translations themselves without detriment to the precise intended meaning of the text, the correlation of its various words or expressions, or its aesthetic qualities. When the original text, for example, employs a single term in expressing the interplay between the individual and the universality and unity of the human family or community (such as the Hebrew word ’adam, the Greek anthropos, or the Latin homo), this property of the language of the original text should be maintained in the translation. Just as has occurred at other times in history, the Church herself must freely decide upon the system of language that will serve her doctrinal mission most effectively, and should not be subject to externally imposed linguistic norms that are detrimental to that mission.

31. In particular: to be avoided is the systematic resort to imprudent solutions such as a mechanical substitution of words, the transition from the singular to the plural, the splitting of a unitary collective term into masculine and feminine parts, or the introduction of impersonal or abstract words, all of which may impede the communication of the true and integral sense of a word or an expression in the original text. Such measures introduce theological and anthropological problems into the translation. Some particular norms are the following:

a) In referring to almighty God or the individual persons of the Most Holy Trinity, the truth of tradition as well as the established gender usage of each respective language are to be maintained.

b) Particular care is to be taken to ensure that the fixed expression “Son of Man” be rendered faithfully and exactly. The great Christological and typological significance of this expression requires that there should also be employed throughout the translation a rule of language that will ensure that the fixed expression remain comprehensible in the context of the whole translation.

c) The term “fathers”, found in many biblical passages and liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition, is to be rendered by the corresponding masculine word into vernacular languages insofar as it may be seen to refer to the Patriarchs or the kings of the chosen people in the Old Testament, or to the Fathers of the Church.

d) Insofar as possible in a given vernacular language, the use of the feminine pronoun, rather than the neuter, is to be maintained in referring to the Church.

e) Words which express consanguinity or other important types of relationship, such as “brother”, “sister”, etc., which are clearly masculine or feminine by virtue of the context, are to be maintained as such in the translation.

f) The grammatical gender of angels, demons, and pagan gods or goddesses, according to the original texts, is to be maintained in the vernacular language insofar as possible.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's a new day and a new year! Today, the Church begins a new year.

We just ended "Year A, Cycle Two" and we now begin "Year B, Cycle One." The readings for Sunday Mass have a three-year cycle: A, B, and C; the readings for daily Mass have a two-year cycle: One and Two. This does not affect the "Year of Saint Paul." This celebration will continue.

As Catholics, we start things off with a bang; at the beginning of our new year: Advent and Christmas!

Let's get this party started: see you at Mass today - the First Sunday of Advent.

Take care, -Jeremy

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On that day

I was inspired by FP3M commenter J. Thorp's post, "Contentment." Therein, he describes the tension between satisfaction with what he has and the capacity that the desire for more has to drive him forward. This dichotomy, it seems to me, is an inherent element of the Christian life. We are a people with an eye always toward the something more.

On Wednesday, in the readings for Mass, Isaiah will describe a time when suffering, fear, hunger, and distress will be no more. On that day we will rejoice in the God who saves us. On that day . . . We are always waiting for that day.

For some, I suppose, there is a sense of disappointment that accompanies their waiting for "that day." Paul seems to have alluded to this when writing to some of the Early Christian Churches who could not comprehend why that day had not yet arrived. They asked themselves if their hope was in vain. At times, waiting for that day is coupled with impatience. "I will not wait for that day," we say. "I will bring it about myself by voting for the right person, boycotting the right companies, and resisting certain political and social structures." For others, there is a sense of despair. "That day is a myth. This day is all there is, and we do not deserve nor can we hope for something more." For the remainder of us, that day is something for which we have little description to offer. "That day is the time when finally I will have overcome my habitual sin. That day is the day when my questions will have answers. That day is the day when everything that seems to be pulling me in opposite directions within myself suddenly and obviously becomes that which has been drawing me deeper into Christ. That day - the culmination of all that I have longed for, all that is good, all that is true. That day . . . "

That day seems to serve a dual purpose. It impels us to move forward, to become better, to live our lives as a means of preparation for that day. Similarly, that day gives us hope for this day. This day makes sense only because it anticipates the day still to come. How sad it would be if what we have today is all that we can hope for. How beautiful that what we do know today makes sense in light of that day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks To and With Our Patroness

Yesterday, of course was Thanksgiving. Not a holy day but certainly one that the Church in the United States recognizes as important.

We, being a seminary in the Midwest, especially recognize the importance of Thanksgiving as a day to thank God for our great harvest of crops from the earth.

As part of our gratitude, I would like to suggest that we remember in prayer the Immaculate Conception (of Mary). She is the patroness of the United States and her memorial is just around the corner (08 December).

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Recently, one of our priest-professors told us that his father likes to call him "Father." "Dad, you don't have to call me 'Father.'" "Whatever you say, Father."

Well, my grandfather has been looking forward to my ordination for some time now, though he never really speaks about it explicitly. I don't know how much he is looking forward to having one of his heirs being a priest, but I from the sense I get, he's overjoyed.

Today, as we 50+ family members were all gathered "to say grace," he - the patriarch and head of this whole group - simply says, "All right, Gregory." Indeed, as head of the family, he appointed me the minister of the Church to give the blessing, but I was taken aback by it a little bit, especially since I'm one of the younger of the bunch.

As well, at least twice between yesterday and today, he asked me, "Can I call you 'Father' yet?" Or, "When will I be able to call you 'Father?'" I was slow to give a response because I hestitate to tell my 82 year old grandfather to call me "Father." Nonetheless, I told him, "Just wait six more months. You've got to hold out till May."

I don't really think it has all that much to do with me personally; he's probably grateful simply to have a priest/religious within the family (I'll be the first). Among the many things which he gave thanks for today, I'd bet my vocation is one of them. And for his being able to do that, I myself give thanks.

Hope your Thanksgiving was splendid and graceful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quote of the Day - Two of Them

We're almost to the end of the (liturgical) year. Our readings for Mass last Sunday - the Solemnity of Christ the King - forcused on both Christ shepharding us and we thus being called to help other in His name. The daily Mass readings for been very apocalyptic.

In just a few days we begin Advent - four weeks in anticipation of the date on-which we remember and celerate the Birth of the Savior.

With that in mind, I would like to offer these quotes from the Gospel that celebrate the birth of Christ. It is with great and eager anticipation that we look forward to celebrating Christmas.

Perhaps we could all consider praying using these texts where the Gospel authors try to communicate the great joy, the incredible awe at the birth of Jesus.

"In the tender compassion of Our God, the DAWN FROM ON HIGH shall break upon us" (Saint Luke 1:78)


"And the WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Saint John 1:14)

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Last Day of Classes

At the end of classes today, many seminarians have now left for a much needed break.

It's a bit lonely here tonight, but we'll have some fun before we part ways for five days.

Take care, -Jeremy

It's that time of the year, again.

I always face a constant danger: time. By this I don't mean that it's eating away at me. Nor am I thinking of some craziness wherein I am catastrophically expecting the end of the world. I mean it in the sense that I've got too much of it.

This always happens come break. (Yes, our Thanksgiving break has begun for almost all of the men of the house. Sadly, a very few still have class tonight or the pre-theologians have some tomorrow.) I end up having so much time on my hands that I feel lost and don't know what to do.

After coming back from dinner tonight, I was talking with another guy in the house and he said he experienced the same. He sauntered aimlessly about his room, until finally he just sat down at his computer and began to waste his time away.

Sure, I have enough homework to do. I've got old papers to make sure I accomplish, I've got papers which aren't due for a month which I could begin. But it's all so distant to me now. All that stands before me is the vast immensity of having time on my hands.

So, I sit here and write. And I think come 7:00 I may watch a bit of the news and social commentary. Then I'll try sit down and do some real homework. Afterall, I do need to accomplish some work during the course of this break and plenty of time will be spent not doing homework but hanging out with my family. But I always run the risk of not actually sitting down and doing it because, "Hey! I've got all the time in the world!"

For now, however, I just sort of float about, in the vast sea of free-time, and marvel, "Ain't it grand?"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of Christ the King and this day always reminds me of a deceased priest of the diocese of Sioux Falls. His name was Fr. Todd Reitmeyer, he was ordained in the spring of 2003 and I met him a few years later as a traveling catechist during the summers. In my time spent with Fr. Todd, I learned many things but the most important thing that I remember is a prayer he taught to the children. "Lord Jesus Christ, come into my heart, and be my king." This prayer has played a great part in my life because it reminds me that I am always in need of Jesus' presence in my life. With advent coming in less than a week, we prepare for our king to come and enter our heart.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dreaded Songs

We remember how you loved us, to your death,
and still we celebrate for you are with us here;
and we believe that we will see you, when you come,
in your glory, Lord.
We remember, we celebrate, we believe.

Some songs are really quite difficult to pray with, especially when they're not played well - too slowly, too quickly, too playfully, to dirgishly, too fancifully, etc... One such song (at least for me) is the song above, written by Marty Haugen.

Sure, I grew up with the song and remembered it fondly throughout most of my childhood, early and even late teenage years. But that was all B.S. days (Before Seminary days). Now having learned more what the nature of the Mass is and what purpose liturgical music serves at the Sacred Liturgy, I can't stand the song, or those of its ilk.

Well, that was until recently. For some reason, God gave me the grace of an insight. I was first picking apart the song in the usual fashion: "It's using 'remembrance' in the wrong sense - it's far too weak. Christ is really present here." And on and on I would go. Well, I began down this critique this week when we heard the song again, but then moved on to critique the other movements contained in the refrain: 'we celebrate.' "Well, that's too superficial. What does he even mean by 'celebrate.'"

It was at this moment when I had my realization and I asked, "Wait a minute. Is Haugen a closet Catholic??" You see, it is a very traditional teaching to look to the three-fold significance in the Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas explains this quite clearly in his Summa Theologiæ. In the whole sacrament of the Eucharist, three realities are signified: 1) Christ's true death on the Cross, 2) the unity of the Church, particularly in Holy Communion, and 3) the pledge of future glory.

As "we remember," we call to mind the death of Christ. As "we celebrate," we manifest our unity in the Body of Christ by Communion. As "we believe," we await his future coming in glory when we hope to share his heavenly glory. This song, viewed from this perspective, is really very beautiful.

I think this will be one of my great tasks in the future. There are many things which exhibit truth, goodness and beauty, though in a more or less distorted manner. Sometimes, we cannot simply throw out these imperfect "tools" and replace them with other, better instruments. Hence, if we must, the key is to find the pearl contained within and help it to find its brilliance, and help others to see it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Most Recent Party: Hillbilly Heaven

Our most recent house party here at the seminary again had a fun theme: Hillbilly Heaven. I would like to share some of the highlights from the evening. This was a great party with far too many highlights to show . . . these should be read as some of the moments I found either the most interesting or the most hillarious.

The pre-theology floor hosted this party and encouraged everyone in the seminary to come to the event in costume; as it turns out, many people here at the Saint Paul Seminary had the attire that matched the occasion. Here are a few of the one's that seemed to "hit-the-mark" in this way.

We had a "car race" inside the seminary. This is something very similar to an event we did last year at a house party - we wrote about it here: House Party. There are four "cars in the race (hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds). We flip the deck and whichever car makes it to the finish line first wins as do all the seminarians who bet on that car.

To say the least, it was a much bigger thrill that one can imagine from any of the photographic evidence.

A new event for me was this one: frozen t-shirt. Here's the plan: take new t-shirts, soak them in water, fold them, and freeze them. Next, get five seminarians: the first one to unfold their t-shirt and put it on wins - as do all of the seminarians who bet on the winning seminarian. Trust me, this was an event worth seeing live - the videos don't quite capture the excitment and thrill - but here they are anyway: all of the guys were given thirty seconds to go anywhere in the seminary to try to thaw their t-shirt.

. . . . . . .

One more highlight that I would like to add is the "pie-eating" contest. Now, in fairness no one volunteered for this event. One seminarian started eating the pie filling just because he was hungry. Eventually, after this first seminarians had already eaten two bowls, a second seminarian challenged him. Unfortunatly, the video I took of this event in not usable - lack of proper technology I guess - however, you can use your imagination from these two pictures. Luke (on the right) won but as I wrote, James had already eaten two bowls.

Perhaps you're thinking: shouldn't our future priests be doing homework or reading theology or something? Yes, and we do for countless hours every week. Every once in a while, though, we relax, unwind, and have a silly party.

Take care, -Jeremy