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!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

News from Norseland

The day after my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I received my first birthday present from my parents in the mail. They told me to expect my gift in the mail, but didn't say anything more. I was a bit surprised when I saw our hometown paper there and thought for a moment, "What in the world?" They, however, reminded me that apparently I had told them I would appreciate being able to keep up with what's going on locally.

Little did I realize how I would appreciate even the most uninteresting stories. Well, okay, not quite. But, it is nice to know that the library in town has opened its door in its new building and that there's plenty of room for expansion. As well, it's nice to have the opportunity to catch a photo of one of my nephews or nieces in the paper, should they ever make it in. When I'm removed from God's country - my hometown - small consolations like reading the paper are a blessing.

However, I do have to admit, the part I'm looking forward to the most is the News from Norseland section. I haven't seen it, yet, but I've only received three and it's one of those sections that has so little news it might only be included monthly. Really, I can't wait to read that Maggie V. went to the old Maguire farmplace to visit Gillian B., who was so gracious to share her tea and crumpets!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Epidemic revisited

Well, I thought that I might have avoided the epidemic that Tyler wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I finally succumbed to it and it was not fun. Although I am not over it yet, I feel pretty good but I'm not going to get too happy yet. 12 hours of sleep helped as well as some orange juice. I hope I get over this illness before the weekend so that I can get some homework done and some other obligations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Besides being the title of a popular hippie musical, hair seems to bear a lot of significance in a variety of settings. While in Mexico, I visited a group home for children. Because of the importance of having luxurious hair in that setting, the naughtiest children were punished with a shaved head. Similarly, as I understand it, military recruits are required to shave their heads when entering basic training. As a sign of humility, seminarians, until the reforms of Vatican II, would have endured tonsure, the removal of a small patch of hair from the back of the head. Samson of Old Testament fame lost his power when his hair was cut. Rapunzel found true love by virtue of the tinsel strength of her hair. So, what is the deal with hair?

I have had my run-ins with it. I cursed hair in my youth because it was constantly in the way, falling into my eyes in the long weeks between visits to the barber. I curse it now because it falls out. I am occasionally cursed at for my failure to cut it with due regularity, and in a moment of profound imprudence, I once joined four other men in inspiring our minor seminary to insert a clause into the seminary handbook forbidding the shaving of one's head for Lent.

Perhaps hair's significance arises from the fact that it is so conspicuous. The impetus for this post was the recent haircut of one of the deacons. Perhaps it is a certain dread of hair; a single follicle can make us gag. Perhaps it is a hearkening to a more animalistic instinct (animals with the best plumage make the best mates). Perhaps it is a profound, unconscious sense that both too much and too little hair are certain proofs of man's fall (as was suggested in my moral theology class).

Whatever the reason, hair is a big deal. And it is getting to be about time to have mine cut again.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Changes, of a liturgical type

At the beginning of the last academic year (so in September of 2006), one of the first events of the year was the reception and installation of a reliquary with a hair of Mother Teresa's. About a year ago this time, we received a new statue in our chapel - that of Our Lady of Confidence. About two and a half months ago this time, we received another statue in our chapel - that of St. Joseph. Why do I mention all of this?

Only to point to the fact that there is a continued process of updating and beautifying the chapel, as has been the long history of the Saint Paul Seminary. Between 15 and 20 years ago, there was a major renovation done to the chapel. Today, there continues to be minor renovations. The most recent was moving the tabernacle out of the small adoration chapel that it had remained in since the previous major renovation. I've included some of the pictures to show the process involved with the move.

We seminarians had heard quite some time ago that the tabernacle would be moved, but it was finally two weeks ago this Wednesday that the faculty made public the decision and explained it. The decision to explain it was much appreciated by all in the house. They explained how the Church's priests must have a devotion to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - as is evidenced in several of the church's documents (here's a handout given to us summarizing only some of these). One of the priests mentioned that according to Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (n. 69) and other Church documents, the most preferred location is not in the sanctuary but in a chapel for reservation and adoration.

So, the question then became, why are we moving the tabernacle? There is much misunderstanding and frustration in the Church today concerning this issue. Here at the seminary, there were a number of issues to be considered. However, one of the primary reasons for the move was simply that the chapel in which the tabernacle resided was not large enough to hold the not infrequent number of adorers at once. Hence, moving the tabernacle into the larger body of the chapel (and to a place of prominence therein, as outlined by the Pope in his document linked above) was the most reasonable decision. Rightly, the faculty discouraged us from thinking poorly of those who made the move in the first place - they were doing as the Church had desired of them by moving the tabernacle to a separate reservation/adoration chapel. Simply practically speaking, the change makes the liturgy and the movements therein far simpler and efficient.

So, take a gander. There she lay. Perhaps more appropriately, there He lay (though not sicut in loco, "as in a place," as our sacraments/liturgy professor would quickly point out).

One more thing. Sometimes, doing what is necessary for liturgy can be awkward. Here at SPS, to begin our Masses, the organist has had to peer to the back of the chapel and wait for an MC to wave his hand in the air. At non-Eucharistic liturgies, it was up to a few anxious seminarians to watch for the moment that the procession began and then lead the community in standing for the procession. Well, all of that is now gone because of this nice little bell pictured on the right. A simple ring of the bell informs everyone, all at once, that the liturgy is about to begin. Stand, be attentive! Strike up the instruments! Prepare yourselves to meet the Lord!

In Lent, what a beautiful message for us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Madison Seven: Hockey with a Successor to the Apostles

The final event of Saturday, 16 February for the Madison Seven was moving from dinner with Bishop Morlino to a University of Wisconsin - Madison hockey game; they were playing Minnesota State - Mankato. As noted in the previous Madison Seven post, we knew this was on the schedule and that the tickets were donated by a good and generous Catholic family of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.

Upon arriving at the Hockey game, I was both shocked and thrilled to learn that it was not simply that we had tickets to see a hockey game, but rather that our tickets were to a private box! Further, we were to be joined by two very wonderful Catholic families from the Diocese as well.

Bishop Morlino, in his great generosity, made sure that there were snacks and soda available for us during the game. But here was the real treat: we, the seven seminarians, were able to spend a couple of hours in a relaxed mode with His Excellency the Bishop and Successor of the Apostles. Learning from his experiences and his wisdom was a powerful and wonderful experience.

During the game the UW - Madison mascot - Bucky the Badger - was moving through the stands. Now, the two Catholic families that joined us in this private box had children and knew it would be a real treat for them to be able to get up close with the Bucky the Badger. We got his attention and he motioned that he would come over to our box. Not only was he fun with the kids, but Bishop Morlino also agreed to have his picture taken with the mascot.

Again, the treat for us as seminarians was to have this amazing several hours relaxing with Bishop Morlino, a wonderful Catholic man in his own right but further as Successor of the Apostles. Bishop Morlino still had one more surprise on the way. To commemorate the evening and our time together, he made sure each of us received a UW t-shirt as a memento of our time together.

Sadly, our time with Bishop Morlino had to end. We escorted him back to his residence before heading back to our temporary home at the Diocese of Madison pastoral center. Though our intent was to leave early the next morning, the weather was already moving to prevent that from occurring . . .

Take care, -Jeremy

"Into Your Hands Lord, I Commend My Spirit."

Every time Night Prayer is prayed we recite the Gospel Canticle Luke 2:29-32. It is always preceded with and followed by the antiphon:

“Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace.”

Just prior to that I pray in Glory to the Trinity, “Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit.” These were some of the final words of Christ as he died on the Cross. They come from Psalm 31. Christ prayed the Psalms even to the final moments of His death.

One of the greatest works of sacred art is Michelangelo’s Pieta. The well-known statue placed just to the right of the entrance of Saint Peter’s Basilica is absolutely amazing. It captures the sorrow and magnitude of Mary, the Mother of God, holding her broken and lifeless Son in her arms. When you look at it from afar you see the general shape of both figures. However, one thing perhaps most people do not see is a “view from above.” Thankfully, photography allows us to see that.

If you look at the photo of Christ’s face, you do not see an expression of agony or pain. He certainly endured the greatest experience of suffering ever known. Yet, Michelangelo sculpted an expression that is perfectly defined in one word—peaceful.

The final words of Christ before his last breathe include, “It is finished” or “It is accomplished.” I have seen translations for both. Frankly, I do not know which is accurate. Nevertheless, either serves my point. Perhaps Michelangelo wished to capture the meaning behind those final words dying on the Cross. Christ’s perfect act of love and friendship was necessary to reconcile God’s Creation to Himself. This is the most beautiful thing to be at peace about that there is. What makes his love for us so amazing is the physical, emotional, and psychological suffering he endured for that to be “finished or accomplished.” He was totally obedient to the Father, carrying out the plan the Father had for Him and for us.

So while Lent is a time of penance and prayerful preparation for the Passion, Death and Resurrection, try to focus on the image of the Pieta. In particular, recall God’s mercy and love for us in the peaceful expression of Christ’s lifeless body. His final words bring him to peace as He knows that His Father's watch and protection over everything is unshakable.

Sometimes I wake in the night turning over in my bed. I never imagined this would happen in seminary, but I find myself praying those words as I drift back to sleep. “Into your hands Lord, I commend my spirit.” “Protect us Lord as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.”

Prayer can even happen while we sleep.

Thanks for listening.

Jim Lannan

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Madison Seven: Dinner with Bishop Morlino

After having brunch with Monsignor Holmes and a short tour of beautiful State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, we were off to dinner with Bishop Morlino, sovereign of the Diocese of Madison.

We met arrived at his residence with two choice bottles of wine - a gift from our rector (Monsignor Callaghan) to Bishop Morlino. His Excellency greeted us with such enthusiasm that I nearly thought that I was the most important person in the room - that is to say that he was welcoming to such a degree that it appears that he was honored to have us seminarians at his residence.

In addition to meeting Bishop Morlino, that Madison Seven was able to meet three others waiting for us: Joe (a new seminarian for the Diocese of Madison, just assigned in January to a college seminary), Chad (director of development and advancement for the Diocese of Madison and MC for the Bishop), and Linda (senior accountant for the Diocese of Madison and chef to His Excellency - for special occations).

Bishop Morlino and the Madison Seven conversed in the sitting room together before having dinner with the bishop and the three mentioned above. The kindness and wisdom of Bishop Morlino flowed through the entire evening. He communicated the tasks that lay ahead for the Church in the mid-West as well as both across the United States and around the globe.

Though we wanted private dinner to last hours, we had only a short time to ourselves with Bishop Morlino because we needed to go to our next schedules event: a hockey game. Our tickets were donated by generous Catholic family of the Diocese of Madison.

What about the hockey game and the trip home? Stay tuned for the final installments of the Madison Seven weekend.

Take care, -Jeremy

The Rites

Second semester brings with it a new realization of the immanence of ordination for the Theology III men. This is true not only because our annual evaluations happen so early in the semester, but also because we are currently involved in our first Liturgical Presidency practicum courses. These are the classes that we have all been waiting for since the beginning of our careers as seminarians; they are the classes where we finally get to learn how to perform the rites of the Church.

The class this semester will require us to learn many of the Rites for Christian Initiation as well as funerals, weddings, baptisms of infants, and the deacon parts for the Mass. We are to simulate the rite as though it is the real thing - the person in the role of presider wears the priest's vestments. The deacon role requires the deacon's vestments. We are encouraged to use men from other classes in the rite so that it becomes a bit more unpredictable, more like the real event in a parish.

Our first assignment was due on Friday morning. I was only the moderator of the project this time, which means that I keep notes and organized the affair. We were doing the Rite of Welcoming. You might recall this rite from a Sunday Mass in the fall. It is the one where those to enter the Church at Easter are recognized as catechumens; all of their sense are marked with the cross, and they receive a Bible.

The rite seemed to go well. We had rehearsed it thoroughly and while there were a few foibles here and there (I forgot to light the candles), we didn't miss anything major. I now get a week off while other men demonstrate the Third Scrutiny and Rite of Sending. In two week's time, I will being playing the part of the deacon as we learn the Easter Vigil.

One might assume that these things are easily learned - that we should just be able to read the book and then do it. I assure you, it feels rather awkward to stand in front of a bunch of people with your hands in the air, and getting used to the extra layers of clothing takes some time. But, like I said, we have been looking forward to these classes for years now. We are having a lot of fun with them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Madison Seven: Brunch with Monsignor Holmes

After arriving in Madison, Wisconsin, late on Friday evening (15 February) our first order of business was brunch with Monsignor Holmes, rector of the Cathedral of the Diocese. Scott - the only one of the thirty-some seminarians of Madison assigned to the Saint Paul Seminary - actually had the privilage of working with Monsignor Holmes in the Summer of 2007. Monsignor Holmes is a great man who clearly loves the Church and all of the people of God.

Not all that long ago, their Cathedral was destoryed by a fire caused by an arsonist. Monsignor Holmes has his hands more than full working through the processes of planning and building the structure that will become the new cathedral of the diocese.

After brunch, Scott treated us to a tour of beautiful State Street in downtown Madison and a brief tour of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Then, it was off to dinner with His Excellency Robert C. Morlino, bishop of the Diocese.

How was our dinner with His Excellency? More posts on the Madison Seven are yet to come.

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I myself am a bit of a musical guy, so it is not infrequent that a song will get stuck in my head, rummage around in there all day, and at various points in the day I will find myself singing it aloud without really realizing it. This happened the other day, and as I began to sing aloud, there it was. That forbidden A-word. I quickly stopped myself and gasped, "Uh! Nope!" Sure enough, my neighbor next-door began laughing and a guy three doors down yelled at me, "Sinner!"

Last night, I found myself writing and reviewing my homily for Special Occasions Preaching class. For the current assignment, we pick one of the rites from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and preach on the occasion. I have opted to preach on the Easter Vigil. As part of this, I am currently planning on utilizing the Exsultet, the wonderful proclamation of Christ's Resurrection from the dead near the beginning of the Easter Vigil. As I was considering it tonight, I once again found myself moved to singing aloud. It dawned on me that I probably ought not get too carried away with the song - I ought to let the season of Lent provide the overriding movements and dispositions for my soul.

I wonder how many priests and parish liturgists find themselves in this predicament. I have heard that some priests work for weeks, if not months, on their Christmas and Easter homilies. Parish liturgists and musicians have to begin planning and preparing for Easter just as Lent is beginning! It makes me think of the sometimes too cliché, "already but not yet." How true. But, I suppose I had better get used to it. It is another opportunity for me to find integration in all the various details of this vocation that I am accepting. How am I to maintain the spirit of Lent when I must repeatedly be about the details of Easter?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


That is an attempt at getting a photo of the full lunar eclipse which happened tonight. I hope some of you had the opportunity to step outside into the frigid weather and view the spectacle. Here at the seminary, our in-house birdwatcher took his telescope out and centered it on the moon. He also centered it for a moment on Saturn, which was yet pretty small in the scope. You could still see, though, the rings and their general orientation around the planet. Hopefully, our resident photographer Michael will have some better pics for us tomorrow!

You heavens, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.
--Daniel 3:59, 62

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Christian Lens

I have the pleasure this semester of taking as an elective a course titled Literature from the Christian Perspective. In it, we’re examining poems, novels, and short stories through a Christian lens—that is, applying the Christian perspective to what we read. We recently finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a fantastic novel that borrows its title from the Book of Ecclesiastes and poignantly captures the hopelessness and emptiness of vanity — of living life without acknowledging the Lord as source and summit.

I read this novel about five years ago while traveling on an airplane to Madrid. On that trip, I read mostly for the European cultural aspect, hoping to get some idea of how to really “do” Spain. In doing so, I certainly enjoyed the novel, but I did not get out of it what I did when reading from the Christian perspective. I read past the lives of despair sloppily patched with socializing, drinking, and licentiousness. I missed the commentary about life lived without a higher purpose. I did not see my friends in those pages, nor did I see a way to help them.

My change in intention made all the difference. And it is a change in the way of reading that I intend to employ for all future reading, especially novels. T.S. Eliot wrote: “But I incline to come to the alarming conclusion that it is just the literature that we read for ‘amusement,’ or ‘purely for pleasure’ that may have the greatest and least suspected influence upon us. It is the literature which we read with the least effort that can have the easiest and most insidious influence upon us.”

When we read a book that is aimed at spiritual growth, financial management, breaking our vices, or other similar themes, it seems that we read with intention, planning to make some change we want to make because of what we read. Similarly, if we embark on reading something that we know opposes what we believe, such as a religiously- or politically-charged commentary, we will do so with our defenses up. However, when we read for entertainment, and I believe this is Eliot’s point, we read differently. In reading for entertainment, we do not look for intentional steps to change and we do not put up our guard. We read simply to enjoy, perhaps even thinking that the fictional world is so different from our own that what happens in it does not really pertain to our own lives. In these situations, if we are open to whatever happens in the chapters, the influence is made. We come to condone, accept, or even look forward to the fictional thoughts and behaviors. Holden Caulfield’s flippancy becomes appealing. Ignatius J. Reilly’s lack of social tact becomes charming. A fiesta with Jake Barnes and company seems incredibly fun. Eliot contends that such things have an insidious influence upon us.

What to do? Stop reading for entertainment? Only read Christian novels? Put our Christianity on hold for the sake of entertainment? These are not good options. My vote is to approach literature (and music and movies and art and…) the same way we do life—with intention and on guard, confident and grounded in faith.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Madison Seven

Scott of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin (photo on left) is one of this year's new seminarians here at the Saint Paul Seminary. Though his diocese has more than thirty seminarians, currently Scott is the only one from Madison assigned to SPS.

As the seminary is reasonably close to Madison, the Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, invited his new seminarian to come home for the weekend and bring six of his new friends and brother-seminarians for dinner and a college hockey game.

Several posts on this weekend are on their way, but as a bit of a preview our schedule included: a drive to Madison, Wisconsin, late Friday afternoon, arriving at the Bishop O'Connor Pastoral Center in Madison, brunch with Monsignor Holmes, dinner with Bishop Morlino, a University of Wisconsin - Madison hockey game, and very inclement weather.

The Madison Seven, as we found ourselves, arrived back at the Saint Paul Seminary nearly one day after our scheduled return. We returned safe, tired, but yet also refreshed.

Stories from the trip are on their way - including a very photogenic Bishop.

Take care, -Jeremy

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I think that seminaries should offer a Typhoid Mary award every year. It would go to the person who brought the most insidious disease into the community each year. I am not sure who is at fault this year, but being sick is all the rage these days.

On Wednesday morning, the Rector advised those who were feeling under the weather to remain in their rooms and recover. He encouraged them to visit the doctor as well. There must have been some element of prophecy in his words, because Influenza A (diagnosed in a few of the men) has struck the house. So far, first and fourth theology have been hit the hardest, but I suspect that we are only seeing the beginning. Living conditions such as those present in a seminary lend themselves to the spread of disease. This is especially true when some of the men, after sleeping for a day or so, get bored with their room and insist on wandering about the house touching things. One of the infirm was recently warming soup in the microwave of our communal lounge. In the most pastoral way possible, I insisted that he Clorox everything he had touched before leaving the room.

Thanks be to God it has been a little warmer today and yesterday. This has provided us the chance to open the windows and circulate some fresh air. With any luck, the disease is mostly contained and we will have only a few more victims.

While the flu is not likely a mortal illness for any of the men in the seminary, to catch it still implies certain serious repercussions. There is a quiet panic among some of the men. They cannot afford to be sick. To miss a week's worth of class would be academic suicide. In other instances, to carry the flu virus would prevent them from visiting the nursing homes and home bound in their teaching parishes, thus preventing them from acquiring their monthly quota of hours spent with the people.

On the up side, some of the deacons have had the opportunity to practice their traditional ministry of taking communion to the sick. And, it has managed to keep some of the more, shall we say, "outspoken" members of the community in their rooms. That can't be all bad.

The picture above is a photo of the flu virus. Cute, huh?

Saturday, February 16, 2008


My father sent homegrown South Dakota beef back to school with me (cut and frozen, not on the hoof) when I returned from Thanksgiving. Since then I have been slowly whittling away at my meager store.

It is pleasant to have meat available. It makes cooking less expensive, and with some ground beef in the mix, I can make most anything. And frankly, I am a snob. Though our cooks really try, and we do get "steaks" every couple of weeks, I find them to be more akin to shoe leather in comparison to beef from home. I prefer my own hamburger to their steaks. That is the unhappy reality of living in a grain and dairy state.

So, now as I am drawing nearer and nearer the last of my beef, I think to myself, "Hmmmm . . . Just one more reason to look forward to Easter."

The picture above is unprocessed steak grazing on my Family's ranch.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I hope that I am not alone in saying that I get a good chuckle when someone falls down. The fall is, after all, a staple of slapstick comedy. Who hasn't laughed at Elmer Fudd running through a hollow log only to find himself suddenly hovering in the air hundreds of feet above the ground. I still laugh every time. Likewise, I still laugh every time my father tells the story of how his own father kept falling every time the hay wagon moved. I can also recall with a certain amount of amusement the evening when my mother and I were driving home from town together. We stopped at the gas station to fill up. Mom was still talking to me as she turned off the vehicle, opened her door, stepped out, and disappeared.

I can also recall those times when in high school, I would race with friends to determine who got to ride "shotgun" in the vehicle in which we would "cruise" after classes ended for the day. I made quite a spectacle of myself more than once. My arms would windmill, my feet would leave the ground, I would suddenly find myself looking skyward, and I would land on the ground with a mighty crash, causing me to lose my chance for the front seat of the car and a little of my pride. Nevertheless, it was still a good, clean, funny fall.

Recently, however, falling has become less humorous to me. With the snowing, the daytime melting, and the frigid nighttime temperatures, St. Paul is treacherous for the pedestrian. And I happen to be one of those pedestrians. I walk most evenings, and feel like a milk cow on roller skates. While in the past, I was never really conscious of whether or not I carried a cellular phone while walking, I now make the very deliberate decision to carry one with me. I am not interested in descending into hypothermia should I fall and not be able to get back up. What is more, I am coming to realize that falling hurts. I am not old by any means, but I am reaching an age where I am beginning to realize that there are things for which the human body is and is not made. Swan dives in the parking lot (regardless of how funny they may seem) are among the things for which I am not made.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there are still a good many falls to accomplish before winter is over. I have averaged about one every month since there has been something to slip on. It looks to be a long time before the slip hazards melt. Until then, happy landing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reflections on Dante's Divine Comedy

It has been a while since I last posted but nothing has really sparked me until today. Last year I was able to take a class on Dante's Divine Comedy. The text is divided into three equal parts: Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (heaven). As we read and followed Dante's journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven, I noticed very vivid imagery, which is quite thought-provoking. Dante's image of hell is much different than most people's because it is a place of extreme cold. There are nine circles of hell in which different punishments are imposed on historical figures prior to Dante and even some of Dante's contemporaries.

The last circle is where the devil is and he is stuck in a frozen lake. The devil is pictured as a rather ugly winged creature who is perpetually flapping his wings causing his own trap. This circle of hell is where those who commit the sin of betrayal are found. There are three men who are found within this circle along with the devil and they are a mix of religious and political figures. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, is found in the devil's mouth, as well as Brutus and Cassius, the men who betrayed Caesar. The lack of movement in hell is very much opposed to the rapid movement that is later written about in heaven.

In the office of readings the past few days we have been reading from the book of Exodus, more specifically the story of the ten plagues. The obstinance that Pharaoh shows is very similar to that of the people that are found in Dante's vision of hell. Many of the shades (Dante's word for those in hell) gloat in their actions, whereas those in purgatory are continually asking for prayers. There are times when our obstinacy towards God can have the same effect and we cannot grow closer to Him.

Dante's vision of heaven is one that is in constant motion. He uses the analogy of the solar system to show how the closer we are to God, the faster we move because we have less obstacles to traverse in order to get to Him. This has given me some time to think about how sometimes I get caught up in following that which does not fulfill me and leads me closer to a frozen lake. The entire text of the Inferno awakened me to the reality of eternal physical and spiritual torment and I am thankful for having taken the chance to read the Divine Comedy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses - Christian Spirituality

In our Foundations of Spirituality course we are studying Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Capadocian Father and spiritual mystic. His work, The Life of Moses, among many other things, defines his qualitative views of Christian spirituality. The figure of Moses has a premier place in the Hebrew and Christian faith. St. Gregory outlines his spirituality by using Moses, a prefigurement of Christ, as a model.

He identifies choices in Moses’ life when he took himself away from the “affairs of men.” Where might this place be that mankind’s affairs occur? Ancient Greeks might imagine this place as the agora, the place of commerce or assembly. Today we could think of it as the shopping center. Gregory points out that Moses went up the mountain to pray and encourages a solitary life for the Christian. This life, however, should be accompanied by a life of returning service to God. Moses gained much from his time alone in prayer and discernment, only to return to the people and preach on what he had uncovered and seen. In this we can see that Gregory provides a healthy complementarity of a contemplative life and practical living—all based on the Moses’ life.

Gregory of Nyssa also focused on asceticism. Asceticism limits the satisfaction of physical desires so as to bring about religious and spiritual growth. This practice is connected to virtue in that it helps the person distinguish between the appetites of the body and of the mind. Gregory believed that a life of virtue demands “austerity and intensity.”

He also wrote on controlling the passions—connected to asceticism. He refers to Old Testament examples of “washing the garments” and keeping the animals away from the mountain in preparation for the “Sinai theophany.” This is an allegorical means of interpretating the Scriptures for moral principles. Spiritually, we can interpret this to mean that keeping the body and soul clean and controlling the sensory aspects of life is healthy.

Gregory’s main concern is with the moral virtues and the traits of the soul that bring us closer to God. In Book II, n. 318 of The Life of Moses he writes:

“For he who has truly come to be in the image of God and who has in no way turned aside from the divine character bears in himself its distinguishing marks and shows in all things his conformity to the archetype; he beautifies his own soul with what is incorruptible, unchangeable, and shares in no evil at all.”

Gregory’s spirituality is aimed at following God. This has profound meaning for me right now. I identify areas in my Christian life that need further improvement. Progress is being made, yet further development and improvement is needed. This will be the case for my entire life. As I pray about choosing to do what God asks of me, I do not always see the path ahead of me. I take great comfort in praying that I trust God always; progress is an ongoing development. I seek to choose the good relative to the greatest good—God!

This is not easy and I often stumble. Gregory’s general theology is directly related to his spirituality. First, man was made in the image of God. Second, by man’s fall into sin, this image lost its perfection, which is based on God's perfection. Third, Christ came to restore us to our original state with God. So, conversion repairs man’s ability to live a life in accord with that previous state. This is an ongoing process that can last for infinity—eternal progress. Gregory’s message is that eternal life can begin here and now and progress itself is seeking perfection. He connects this to virtue. We seek to be in union with God, who is infinite. So there is no stopping point in life. Therefore, a virtue-driven life, which orients our will towards that infinite journey, has no stopping point.

I keep praying.

Thanks for listening.

Anyone a detective?

Here at the seminary we have our own mailroom. It is not, by any means, a very functional mailroom. We sort, we forward, we return to sender; that's it. We do not sell postage or packaging, we cannot even help you calculate fees for special mailings--not from the mailroom, at least. And, if you have a package (much to the chagrin of the seminarians, though they would never say it) you're lucky to find a mailroom worker there right when you would like to pick up your package. It then becomes a real effort to try and retrieve one's package.

There are two mailroom workers appointed, of which I am currently one. The oddest thing happened to me today. As I was sorting the mail, someone dropped an envelope into the in-house box. I did not bother to look at it nor see who dropped it for I was busy sorting - I would get to it in a couple minutes. When I got to it just a couple minutes later, much to my surprise it was addressed to me. I couldn't recognize the handwriting and so I eagerly opened it to discover what was inside. All it had in it was a 20 dollar bill. Now, this is quite odd. I cannot for the life of me remember having loaned anyone money. Nor can I remember doing anything that would merit my receiving $20. There was no note. No explanation. Just twenty dollars with my name on the envelope.

Now, I'm not superstitious. Most likely, someone dropped it in there and is wanting to remain anonymous, for some reason. Or, they just haven't found me yet to say, "Did you get the 20 bucks? If you remember, you loaned me..." But I also doubt for some reason that that will be the case. So what am I to make of this? I'm completely at a loss. Truly, it is a mystery to me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holiness in Pairs

Had today not been Sunday, the Church would have celebrated the memorial of St. Scholastica. She was the biological sister of St. Benedict, and following the example of her brother, founded a community of monastic women. The two had a close relationship and spurred one another to holiness.

As I think of Scholastica today, I am struck by the fact that the Church has so many examples of holy pairs: Peter and Paul, Cyril and Methodius, Augustine and Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, Francis and Claire of Assisi, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, John Paul II and Mother Theresa. The list goes on and on. It should not, however, surprise us to see so many pairings of saints. The path to holiness is narrow, we are told, and it is so very easy to to walk the wide road. We need others to inspire us, to push us forward when our will to love God becomes weak. I expect that this is part of the rationale for forming priests in community. In minor seminary, my rector would often remark that "formation happens in community." I think he was right. As often as not, the progress I made was due to the promptings of my brothers who had the integrity to push me forward when the saw the need.

Of course, the other side of the coin is the need that each of us has for humility. It takes a great deal of courage and humility to admit that one needs the help of others, and to accept help from others when it is offered. This is the witness of the saints.

St. Scholastica and St. Benedict, pray for us.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Snow, again.

Today we received a bit of snow here in the cities. Elsewhere in the state, they received harsher and greater amounts. Though God's good creation - snow, that is - has been lamented on these pages previously, there is an ambivalence which I feel towards it. As it came down today, it signaled some danger, particularly with travel (some men were traveling to their Teaching Parishes). Also, however, it reminded me of fond memories from last year when we received a large quantity of snow one weekend in January. I share with you now the webpage that I constructed for my family last year. It evidences the ingenuity for which snow can function as the catalyst. (I must note, here, that I was having one of my brother seminarians preview this and he said it was too verbose (his verbage) and said I should simply say, "This shows what you can do with snow!"). Needless to say, there is not yet enough snow to make a snow fort. As it stands right now, I am uncertain whether I would prefer more snow, the same or less. Thankfully, I don't have to make that decision!

Enjoy: Snow Webpage.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Another Glorious Installation

Tonight we had the honor of having His Excellency Co-adjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrate Mass. It was a truly Lenten Mass - purple vestments, minimal incense, less organ, readings of the day for the Friday after Ash Wednesday; indeed, His Excellency gave a shorter than usual homily for such an event, but it was yet meaningful and packed. It was directed to the eleven men who were being officially and liturgically installed as Readers or Lectors.

For the most part, these first year men (and one second year man who was a seminarian elsewhere before coming to SPS) began their formation to priesthood years ago, but it is not until tonight that they finally receive their first recognized function in the Church. This, actually, ends up being a minor point of contention for a number of men. Why? Well, in the fullest flourishing of the liturgical life of the Church, all who are to read at Mass would be officially installed (by the bishop) as Lectors, and all who are to serve at Mass would be officially installed (again, by the bishop) as Acolytes.

This appointment, however, is more than just for the liturgical function. It also appoints them - in this case Lectors - as ones who are commissioned by the Church to teach and spread the faith. Pope Paul VI's Ministeria Quædam even appoints them specifically to participate in instructions on the worthy reception of the sacraments. In regard to this particular function in the Church, seminary formation respects this ideal of the Church Universal. Unless a man be installed as Lector or Acolyte, he does not read or serve at Mass (at least here within the seminary walls). This is the point of contention, though. One of the pre-theology men said it best about a month ago: "I'm a 24 year-old man who comes to the seminary to be told that I can't serve at Mass, but I go home and my 12 year-old sister can serve at Mass!"

This is not a lamentable point, though. We seminarians are happy to submit ourselves to the mind of the Church and remain docile to formation. We see that even in these little ways, we are being conformed unto the image of Jesus Christ, shepherd of the Church; we are being made ministers not in our image but in that of the Church and Jesus Christ. So with this in mind:

Newly installed Lectors, congratulations. God bless you and your ministry within the Church.


P.S. This is quite the felicitous event for those of us who have already been exercising this ministry. Now with these new Lectors, they take over all of the duties of Reading at Mass so that they can gain experience, while the rest of us Theology II and III men now simply serve as Acolytes at Mass.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Well, I have been at it for three days now (the new semester that is), and I am beginning to get that old feeling again. It is a sort of knot in the pit of the stomach that asks, "How will I ever get it all done?" Papers, reading, papers, reading, Mass, penance, lunch, papers, reading, and so it goes. I have found that there are several approaches employed by the men at the beginning of the semester.

The first is the whiner. He complains (not altogether unlike the first paragraph of this post), drinks ten cups of coffee before his first class, walks with slouched shoulders and furrowed brow, and seems as though the weight of the world is resting upon him. He hopes that his demeanor will somehow communicate to the professors how put upon he is, and therefore inspire them to reduce their assignments. The best thing to say to this sort is, "Grow up you big baby." (This would be an appropriate time for you, dear reader, to say the same to me.)

The second sort is the Midwest Farmer sort. He walks quickly, eats quickly, speaks seldom, and prays hard. He is practical and blunt. His response to most things is, "That's the way things are." He laughs when necessary, but mostly, he does what he has to do, and he gets it done. Then he might drink a beer.

There is another sort harder to name, but I shall call them the heroic sort. Their approach to homework is "Bring it on!" You assign it, and I'll do it just to prove that I can. These sort have a certain jocularity about them; one might wonder if they get an adrenaline rush from completing an assignment. They seldom rest between assignments, and they have fantastic time management skills. Though all men have periods where they are able to behave this way, only a minority can sustain this approach for more than a few days.

The junkie is rather simple to describe. He somehow manages to play basketball, run, and work out for long periods each day. He will try to steer the conversation towards sporting events at meals. And, he still miraculously finishes his most essential work the moment before it is due. This same characteristic is demonstrated by the followers of the political scene and theological debaters.

Most men, however, tend to oscillate between these approaches. They whine, they get over it, and then they get it done. They (mostly) resist the urge to become cynical, and are a pleasure to be around. They smile, tell stories of their childhood and college days at meals, and are genuinely concerned for the welfare of the other men in the community. They work at balance: homework, prayer, exercise, community life, pastoral work. They have fun when they can and don't complain when they are called upon to work. They love Jesus, and hope that in the work they do (even when they feel inundated), they will be drawn closer and be conformed more to him.

Work and Pray, St. Benedict teaches us. Work and pray, brothers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More complaining on the cold... (i.e. Happy Tết!)

I think it's safe to say that Tyler, at least on this blog, is infamous for complaining about the cold. Well, add another. So I was sitting at the table in the lounge eating my bagel dinner and one of the guys begins complaining about how cold it is supposedly going to be in just a couple days - nine below zero as a low and seven above as a high?

Then I remembered that he had said it was the New Year for "his people," the Vietnamese. Yes, today is the Vietnamese New Year (actually, the new year for a number Asian countries which follow the Lunar Calendar). So, to all our Vietnamese, et. al., readership, Happy New Year, or as I'm learning, Happy Tết!

As he continued speaking about it, he eventually revealed that part of the significance of the New Year is that it signals the beginning of Spring (hence, the flower/tree associated with Tết). I guess if that's the case, his complaint is somewhat understandable.

I thank my Mother for my new-found interest in sacred art!

I would like to share a surprising personal development in my first year of seminary - I have a real interest in religious art and sculptures. It has been gradual over the past two and half years, beginning during my discernment period prior to seminary. I spent time looking at various paintings and sculptures of saints and apostles on the Internet. However, I cannot say it started only two years ago. I really get it from my mother. One of the greatest things about my Mom is her career as a Docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts here in Minneapolis, MN. Years ago, my mother went back to school studying art history. She began working as a docent; leading individual and group tours at the museum. She has loved her work for 25 years now. Mom teaches on artists, history, style, artistic methodology, and historical significance. When our family traveled she had passes to exciting exhibits at different museums around the United States and the world. This contribution of Mom's to the family dynamic is invaluable.

Now, I do not want to present the idea that I am an authority on art history in any way. The truth of the matter is that, as the youngest of the family, I was usually complaining about how museums were “boring” or “stupid.” I recall taking an interest in impressionists like Monet during my years in college. I am really excited about this newly developed interest in sacred art. My pilgrimage to Rome, Italy, in August 2007 solidified it. I simply had no idea how much beauty and grandeur has been created in the Catholic Tradition.

I want to share three paintings that recently caught my eye. The first painting is of the Apostle Paul. Second, is the evangelist Matthew. Finally, is the Madonna with Christ child.

They were painted by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), a Romantic Italian painter from the “Rococo” generation of artists. The Rococo movement was an 18th century style that initially came out of France and later moved to Italy. It primarily was a decorative style for designing homes, castles, and grand ballrooms. However, it largely influenced portrait paintings. Batoni’s most significant influnce is the Renaissance artist Raphael. Batoni's style reveals a taste for the dramatic and extravagant; at the same time his figures appear authentically human. He painted political, Catholic, and Biblical figures.

These particular paintings really catch my eye. I believe they are owned by the Basildon National Trust Gallery in London. They capture the mysteries behind these divinely inspired writers of the New Testament and the Madonna. Batoni lived during the interesting period of the Enlightenment. Perhaps he painted these Christian figures to further contribute to a culture immersed in reading philosophy, creating magnificent works of art, and pursuing the sciences. The images of the Apostles Paul and Matthew are vibrant and elaborate. The Madonna is very gentle and caring. I absolutely love them!

Thanks for listening.

Lent is not an Exercise in Holding Your Breath

Ash Wednesday and Lent now begin.

Last night, a number of the seminarians were able to attend a dinner hosted by Saint Paul Outreach (SPO) honoring Archbishop Flynn's leadership over the past decade. There many of us enjoyed a very fancy meal and rich dessert for - what should be - the last time for a long while.

More to the point, our daily Mass on Tuesday, 05 February, was celebrated by the rector of the Saint Paul Cathedral. In his homily, he noted our preparation for the season of Lent. He made a familiar point but in a way that was new to me. He said that "Lent is not an exercise in holding your breath." That is, one should not eat all the chocolate one can on the Tuesday before Lent and then overindulge again after the season is over.

Rather than holding one's breath, I must take less, give more, and do more for others.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Now, I realize it is not all that important, but as I sat in class tonight, I sat in anticipation of returning to the seminary. Now, indeed, the class in which I was sitting was not boring, even less was it not worthwhile. No, I would never say such a thing about Father Laird's class; in reality it was quite insightful.

However, I am an American. Too, I am a Minnesotan. Too, I am a political creature. Hence, as I sat in the last row of the classroom, hearing the good Father Vice-Rector describe the fact that even after baptism the effects of original sin remain in man and for this reason he is prone to sin, I sat in anticipation of returning to the basement level of the seminary residence to the newly acquired and installed large-screen TV with my brother seminarians watching the results of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

Yes, as envigorating as hearing about the pleasure of eating hot slices of Papa John's "the Works" pizza while drinking a glass of Brunello, more envigorating on this night did it seem to be back amongst my brother seminarians talk about how well Obama or Hillary was doing, or seeing in exactly what ways John McCain was slowly winning the Republican nomination (just as a note, I hereby endorse no candidate, but only mean to describe what seems likely and probable).

Of course, all of the results will not be in until tomorrow and therefore tonight's joy will yet be incomplete, but nonetheless, I must say goodbye so as to finally relish that of which I have been speaking!

Monday, February 04, 2008


The deacons have finally returned, the teaching faculty members are back from their various escapades, and second semester classes have officially resumed (for the theologians, pre-theology began last week). Thus, as one scans the chapel upon entering for prayer, one will notice a preference for black clothing. However, this phenomenon is not entirely the result of the arrival of clerics in the community.

For Theology III, with the prospect of ordination on the horizon, one can hardly ignore the fact that a change of wardrobe will be necessary. One does not adopt an entirely black wardrobe overnight. One must do these things in small steps. Thus, as I look around among my classmates, there is distinctly more black. Black pants are the rage these days. Likewise, there were a surprising number of new, long, black coats hanging in men's rooms after their return from Christmas. Unlike Christmases of former years, there are no new ties (I have one tie, and have refused to buy another for several years now in eager expectation of a collar), and no new button down white shirts. The transformation from the lay state to the clerical state, begun when we entered formation for the priesthood and hopefully discernible in those around us for the last few years, is now taking on much more visible manifestations.

Pray for us, lest the distractions on the outside detract from the work that remains to be done within.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

St. Blaise

Like many, I love the celebration of St. Blaise because of the special blessing of the throats that occurs on that day. Legend has it that St. Blaise saved someone who was choking on a fish bone, and for this reason the tradition has handed on a blessing of the throat. St. Blaise is also important to me, though, because he is the patron of my Bishop, Blase Cupich.

As my throat was blessed this morning, I was reminded of the Bishop's Coat of Arms. If one looks closely, one will notice that the chi-rho on the crest is composed of a crosier and two crossed candles, the symbols of a bishop and St. Blaise, respectively. The symbols on the left side of the Coat are those of the Diocese of Rapid City. The yellow field represents the gold of the Black Hills, and the Black Hills themselves are represented by the triangles pointed skyward. These are topped with clovers representing St. Patrick, the patron of our first cathedral. The white line in the bottom third represents the Missouri River which bisects the state of South Dakota and separates the Diocese of Rapid City from the Diocese of Sioux Falls. The circle beneath it represents the Lakota people, indigenous to our area. The green field upon which the circle lays represents the preeminence of agriculture in the diocese.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Welcome to the world Robert W. Lannan, IV !

Please say a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for the birth of my nephew Robert Woodrow Lannan, IV!

My sister-in-law Maura gave birth to Robert, or Bobby-4, on Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 8:04 a.m. He weighed 9 lbs, 9 oz. He is a big boy so we know he is a Lannan for sure. Robert's big sister Peggy, who is turning 2 years old in April, is very excited to have a baby brother. One of the interesting things to see is how an only child reacts to learning that there is another "baby" in the family. My brother Bob made the first brother-sister introduction by placing his newborn son on one leg and Peggy on the other leg. The "hallmark" moment was hilarious as Peggy tried to knock her newborn brother out of her Dad's hands--just too funny. When you think about it, that is one of the best examples of original sin. Peggy is no longer the focus of attention in the family. She quickly realized he is a special little gift and gave her baby brother a kiss hello. This kiss being evidence of the ability to express God's love, in its earliest state.

Bobby-quatro will be baptized right away, as soon as it can be scheduled with their local parish in Washington, D.C. I am very excited and happy for Bob, Maura, Peggy and Bobby-4. I had the chance to meet Robert two weeks ago during my visit to D.C. for the Pro-Life March for Life Rally. He is a special little friend of mine and I love him very much! Thanks be to God.

I can now say I have had the privilege of knowing 3/4 of the Robert W. Lannans. The first was my grandfather who died before I was born. My Dad and my oldest brother Bob are very proud to know that a particularly special name in our family will continue. Our family has known three Patrick Lannans, one Sean Lannan, and of course, one James Lannan.

Irish-Catholic names are the best names that parents can give their child!

B-B-4 is a "sleeping machine." He occasionally wakes to eat, toss out a few goo-goo-gaa-gaas, and then go right back to sleep. Maura is resting and doing terrific.

Movie review: JUNO

Not that I'm taking the place of Roger and Ebert, nor is this of expert film-critic quality. Rather, these are just a few thoughts about a movie that I saw the other night which was not only entertaining but edifying and insightful. I had heard good things about this movie from other friends of mine, so my curiosity just needed to be satiated with this one ... partly because it was a movie about teen pregnancy, but also because I heard that it was filled with hilarious one-liners. As a budding theologian, I could have viewed the movie with hawk-eyed moral lenses. It's obvious, as a Catholic, that the situation of teen pregnancy is not compatible with the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality. I could have watched this from a parent's point of view (as best as I can imagine it, being the celibate-seminarian that I am) and observing how the dynamic of this family's life is less than ideal and could have contributed to the wondering curiosities of a sixteen year old girl and her boyfriend. But let's face it, this is a real situation that faces many teens and parents that are in our parishes. Instead of watching the film with a moral theologian's lenses, I tried my best to watch this movie as a pastor, a future shepherd of souls. And I thought to myself, "What would my reaction be if this was a pastoral situation in which I was included? What would I say to the parents? To the young girl? To the girl's boyfriend?"

I walked out of the theater thinking to myself, "Love conquers a multitude of sins" (cf. 1 Pt 4:8). How can love -- in the fullest Christian sense of the word -- be the operative factor in this situation? How can the Church's moral teaching be proudly upheld while respecting the dilemma that faces the lives of these people? While I am still pondering what my response would be (I know that there are still a few classes to help me navigate through the complex issues surrounding this situation here in the seminary curriculum), my initial thought is this: I'd like to say that I want to be like the father of the prodigal son who joyously welcomes his son home. The father knows deeply how the son offended him by demanding his share of the inheritance. To pour salt in this wound, the younger son squanders the hard-earned inheritance that was a gift to him from his father. And yet, the father -- knowing all this -- eagerly awaited the return of the son. As Scripture tells us, the father, anticipating the son's return, runs out to meet the wayward son while he is still off in the distance. What joy must have filled the heart of the father: "My son has come home!" Perhaps a conversation would have ensued between the father and the younger son to reflect on the recent course of actions. It would be easier as a priest to berate people in situations like this which are filled with emotional complexities in addition to the moral complexity of the situation. But, from what I am learning from our Pastoral Theology courses like the one on Ministry to Families which Theology 3 took this past JTerm, it would be a lack of charity to condone their choice which put themselves in a situation like this in the first place. The peculiar pro-life plug in the movie is how Juno considers having an early term abortion to remedy the situation quickly. There was something about being at the clinic that spoke to her conscience that told her that there are better alternatives to the situation than the quick-fix of an abortion. I, as a future-priest, would applaud Juno for wrestling with such a tough situation and making a decision for life, and would be eager to support her in navigating through the murky waters of teen pregnancy.

One cannot help but enjoy Juno's quick-wit which makes the movie very light-hearted, even though it is dealing with a very delicate real-life situation. I had many laughs throughout the movie, but within the laughter, there is the voice of a wandering soul questioning it's identity: "Who am I?" "What -- or who -- am I created to be?" I think that this movie, while not giving concrete Christian answers to the questions, speaks deeply to the heart of a situation in which many people today find themselves. Today's young people, amdist the grown pains that accompany the adolescent years, are quite perceptive to the hope that life can offer because they have not yet been jaded by the pursuit of dreams that oftentimes can cloud the mind from purusing God's will in their life. Yet sometimes, these young people make imprudent decisions along the way toward happiness. Rather than a judge deciding their sentence, they need a Cyrenean in their lives who serves them, as a ladder to help them climb out of these situations. Today's young people are yearning for what it means to find lifelong happiness. And while I know that that pursuit of ultimate happiness is best undertaken with Christ as the center and pinnacle of such an endeavor, I know that this is not the starting point in the lives of many of today's young people. They can be so deaf to the voice of Jesus speaking in their lives because of the noise of our society. Hence it is the job of priests to have a knack for being able to speak a word of truth that gives clarity to the hearts and minds of people who find themselves in complicated situations like Juno's.

All these thoughts the day after our silent Canonical Retreat conclude.

Changes, 2nd ed.

I have already posted on this same topic, but this time it hits a closer to home, geographically at least. One of the men of our community discerned that he is not called to pursue formation for the priesthood at this time. Though the departure of a brother brings with it a bit of sadness, we continue to pray for him and support him as he discerns God's will for him.

However, we rejoice in the fact that two new men, a Pre-theologian and a man continuing in Theology I (he has transferred from a different seminary) have come to join us at SPS in our program of formation for priesthood.

At moments such as these, it is always good to thank the People of God for their prayers for us as we make these transitions and continue the work of doing God's will in our lives. More importantly, however, are your continued prayers that God will call more men to answer their vocation to the priesthood of Jesus Christ -- I say it this way because I believe God is already calling, the lack is in response. Because of your prayers, we are rewarded with these new additions to our community. Thank you and please continue fervent prayers on behalf of men in formation for priesthood.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A typical day at the seminary continued...

In my opinion, the lunch hour is one of the highlights of the day, and this is not because of the food. Rather, the reason that I find it so enjoyable is because of the great conversations that take place between brother seminarians and faculty. On any given day you might overhear conversations ranging from an attempt at an explanation of the Trinity to tips on how to prepare a homily to a story about what a seminarian did on the playground back in 5th grade before he realized that God was calling him to holiness (you can only imagine the stories!). It goes without saying that this time of friendship and conversation is a blessing.

After finishing lunch, the long haul of the afternoon (from 1:30 to 5:00 pm) begins. In reality the afternoon isn’t particularly long, and in fact, it is the same length for all people in all places of the world so I am told. Nevertheless, it certainly seems long on many days. This probably has something to do with the fact that philosophy classes and full stomachs combine to make groggy students. And yet with every challenge comes new lessons learned. In this particular case I have learned that good note-taking and interesting professors (my professor from last semester speaks seven different languages fluently!) help to counteract heavy eyelids. It also helps if you have an interest in philosophy.

Our afternoon classes typically end each day around 3:00 pm, at which time we have two hours of free time. Some guys use this period to do homework, while others spend it in prayer, and still others head to the gym to get some exercise. I often do a little of each, although not at the same time. At least once a week, however, this time is used to practice works of charity such as visiting cancer patients in the hospital or helping inner city children with their homework. Regardless of how we spend this time, we are expected to be back at the chapel by 5:00 pm with our vocal chords ready to go as evening prayer provides us with the opportunity to finely tune our choral skills.

After a beautiful time of song and prayer, all of our official obligations for the day are completed. On most nights a large group of seminarians will once again head to the refectory (which is the cafeteria in seminary lingo) for dinner. Occasionally, I will skip dinner to make a few phone calls or to begin catching up on homework. For the rest of the night I will either head to the gym to exercise with some of the other men if I have not had the chance to do so already, or else I will go to the library to study. Although we are not required to be back to the seminary until 11:00 pm, most of us return by 9:15 pm so that we can pray night prayer together and spend a little bit of time in fellowship with one another before starting the cycle all over again the next day.