Future Priests of the Third Millennium

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

Monday, March 31, 2008

This shouldn't be happening

It is nearly April and this is going on. This is at least the third time that the snow has come back to haunt us. We want it to be spring.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The business of spring

For most students the spring is the busiest time of year. It also seems that the weeks fly by very quickly after Easter. It also doesn't help that the weather is very conducive to being outside. In less than a month's time some of us seminarians will be going to New York to see the Holy Father; on April 26th the fourth-year theologians from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis will be ordained to the priesthood; on top of that, papers will be due, presentations need to be prepared, and the list goes on. As one approaches this very busy time in the year, we can get crunched for time and sleep and we can easily find refreshment in other things besides God. The remedy: good planning and remembering why and for what we are doing this. Another helpful thing is a book that I read a few years back by Brother Lawrence. The book is titled: "The Practice of the Presence of God." Brother Lawrence gives very helpful and practical tips on how to keep God in all parts of our daily life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to grow closer to God in the midst of their daily struggles.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I suppose it is a staple of life anytime a group of men is housed together. One should expect some degree of practical joking. In minor seminary, it was more common. Oreo cookies were occasionally doctored so that the original creme was replaced with tooth paste. Doors were removed from hinges, rooms were filled with balloons, humidifiers were left next to open windows, and stuffed pheasants roamed from one room to another.

Well, the joke was on me tonight. I was in the rec room enjoying a community party while some of my brothers were toting a statue around the seminary. It ended up in my bed wrapped in an afghan made by an acquaintance. It looked quite peaceful, and I hated to wake it up, but I wasn't about to sleep on the floor. So, the statue is currently standing in the middle of my room waiting until a truly clever idea occurs to me. Thus, the cycles continues.

PS. Bragging rights to the non-seminarian who can guess which statue was hiding in my bed.

Not Alone

One of the struggles that I have faced at the St. Paul Seminary is the sense of isolation that can easily develop if I am not careful to keep in contact with my own diocese. I am the only man from Rapid City right now, and so it is easy to get disconnected. Hope is in sight, however. Over the Easter Break, one of the younger men told me that he had begun filling out his application to join me here in the fall. What is more, a second man is currently visiting this seminary as he deliberates about where to go next year. It looks like I may not be alone for much longer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sticky Business (part II of A Rite of Spring)

Our first video-posts! With the temperatures warming a bit and fluctuating throughout the day below and above the freezing point, the sap is flowing like a river through these trees! The boiling has begun and the syrup is on its way. I'm not sure we have a title for it, yet. We'll have to invite the men to pick their favorite title. But, in the meantime, enjoy the following first videos on our blog!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Joy

Easter is yet filling most of us around the sem with a joyful attitude. We have begun "the grind" once again with classes and all, not to mention a 6:00 AM (optional) Holy Hour. Last night, we had our annual Easter Celebration. For many years now the seminary community has gathered for Evening Prayer and a meal to honor our Lord's triumph over sin and death. As is becoming custom (perhaps it was already, but I just don't remember it from my first year) the Rector had one of the seminarians give a toast: to the pope, the our bishops, to our faculty, staff, students, seminarians, for continued blessings upon the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. This, no doubt with the help of your prayers, the Lord has in store for us.

It being the Octave of Easter (celebrating the Solemnity of Easter for eight days straight), our house liturgies are ramped up all week long. Every day: Priest, deacon, acolyte, lector and cantor with Psalm Prayers, Incense and Alleluias strewn everywhere for our Morning and Evening Prayers. At Mass: four acolytes; grand procession in with cross, candles and incense; Sprinkling with Holy Water (in place of penitential rite); sung Gloria; Gospel Procession with incense and candles; sung petitions; incense at the Offertory/Presentation of Gifts; "Go in the Peace of Christ, Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks be to God, Alleluia! Alleluia!" at the end of Mass with cross and candles at the grand procession out. Sure, it may require a bit more serving in the liturgy, but it really is a joy to praise God in the fullness of His Church's worship.

The Easter Season makes itself felt throughout all the Liturgy, including the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH). Men new to seminary life and newly encountering more of the Church's prayer find times like Easter to be almost vexing. The breviary for the LOTH really requires a lot of flipping back and forth, using different texts for things that are quite routine throughout the rest of the year (particularly in Night Prayer). And with all of the updating here at the seminary, it has become my task for the week that I'm enjoying, but perhaps am being a bit too perfectionistic: reworking the format of our Sunday Night Prayer aids - we're simplifying it from a binder format with multiple pages and flipping, to a simpler one-sheet pamphlet which has the whole order of prayer, with all of the variations for Easter. Perhaps once I complete it, I will throw it up here on the blog.

I would be curious for any who are willing to respond: what have you been doing differently (in your parish, in your workplace, in your home, in your personal prayer, etc...) to commemorate Easter? The comment box is open!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Congratulations to Greg for publishing our 350th post.

World Youth Day

With the passing of Holy Week and Lent, the minds of seminarians are already beginning to turn toward summer and whatever adventure that might bring. For the seminarians of my diocese, July will bring a pilgrimage to Sydney, Australia, where we will join both the Holy Father and youth from around the world for prayer, catechesis, and Mass. The following is an excerpt from some of the promotional material I wrote as my diocese began recruiting pilgrims for the journey.


"World Youth Day is the Catholic Church's week of events for youth and with youth. It gathers thousands of young people from around the world to celebrate and learn about the Catholic faith and to build bridges of friendship and hope between continents, peoples and cultures. "

The above is the answer that the official WYD 08 website gives to the question, "What is World Youth Day?" However, in reality, it is something much more profound than three or four sentences can really capture. It is a recognition that God is indeed God of all the earth. One prays and realizes that one is praying to the same God as always, even thousands of miles away from normal life. World Youth Day is the recognition of the truly universal nature of our Church. We worship with Africans, Asians, Europeans, South Americans, as well as other North Americans. World Youth Day is fun - we travel with great priests and great people from our own diocese. We see the world. World Youth Day is intense. The Pope has high hopes for us, and he tells us so. There is no getting off easily with him. He expects us to accomplish great things with God. It's hard to explain what World Youth Day really is. I can talk and talk and tell stories and describe what we do each day, but it requires your participation if you really want to know what it is.


Gregory would chide me for that last sentence. He tells me that one needn't experience something in order to know it. He is right. Nevertheless, it is hard to try to describe World Youth Day. I found myself thinking about it for months after the fact, following the last two that I attended. It has a powerful effect on the participants and on the nations where it occurs. I am looking forward to being a part of this event once again.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Regina Cœli

A traditional devotion for Catholics has been the Angelus. It is a prayer focused on and reminding us of the Incarnation; it is traditionally prayed thrice daily, at 6:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Traditionally as well, with each church there is a bell tower, whose bells peel out the lines of the prayer: Ring, ring, ring (pause). Ring, ring, ring (pause). Ring, ring, ring (pause). And then all heaven breaks loose with the bells ringing as quickly and loudly as they can. Each ring signaled the beginning of the versicle, response and the Hail Mary. The below is the Angelus:

V.Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ,The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R.Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Ave Maria, gratia plena...Hail Mary, full of grace...
V.Ecce, ancilla Domini,Behold, the handmaid of the Lord,
R.Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.Let it be done to me according to your word.

Ave Maria, gratia plena...Hail Mary, full of grace...
V.Et Verbum caro factum est,And the Word was made flesh,
R.Et habitavit in nobis.And dwelt among us.

Ave Maria, gratia plena...Hail Mary, full of grace...
V.Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix,Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R.Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Oremus:Let us pray:

Gratiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that we to whom the incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.


However, during Easter and (insfoar as I know) only during Easter, the traditional prayer changes. It switches over to the Regina Cœli. This prayer focuses on our Lord's Resurrection. I think it is still signaled by the usual bells, but I'm not sure how the prayer lines up with the rings since there is no Hail Mary inserted. Here are the side by side Latin and English:

V.Regina Cœli, lætare, alleluia.Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R.Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.For the one whom you merited to bear, alleluia.
V.Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
R.Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.Pray to God for us, alleluia.
V.Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R.Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Oremus:Let us pray:

Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum lætificare dignatus es: præsta, quæsumus, ut, per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuæ capiamus gaudia vitæ. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.O God, who through the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, did vouchsafe to give joy to the world; grant, we beseech you, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


I guess when I look at the Regina Cœli and compare it to the Angelus, I foremost notice all of the alleluias. And you can see them all throughout the Church's liturgy. At the end of all our antiphons for the Liturgy of the Hours, in the Mass, and here in her devotional life. It's as though through the centuries Christians have found every last opportunity: "Oh, here's a tiny break: Throw in another 'Alleluia!'" I love it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Indeed He is Risen

It is awfully nice to hear the Alleluia again.

I had the privilege of returning to the parish where I spent my pastoral year to celebrate Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Mass this morning.  All three were beautiful liturgies, and the priest preached well.  He commented that when the disciples arrived at the empty tomb, they were dumbstruck.  What did it all mean?  It was the sort of shock that might cause one to fall down and just sit there wondering what had happened.  He then wondered how he might respond to encountering the mystery of the empty tomb as one of the disciples, and helped the assembly to realize that we experience the Resurrection every time we celebrate the Mass, every time that we witness a baptism, every time someone approaches the sacrament of reconciliation.

Last night the power of the Resurrection was manifested in a powerful way as seven people died with Christ in the waters of baptism and close to twenty more came into full communion with the Church.  This morning, a six-year-old was baptized after his father returned to the faith after a time away.  Three infants were baptized after Mass.  The Church was packed to overflowing.   Christ is risen indeed, and we share in the fruits.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Perhaps a little-known fact: ideally, we fast on Holy Saturday.

Now, obviously, the Church doesn't require it by making it universal law, like she does for Good Friday.

But, our laws and ideals are there to guide us into right living, into the spirit of the mysteries we celebrate.

In the flood of thoughts and feelings after the death of a loved one, perhaps "adrift" is a good description of one's state.

Lost. Confused. Not desiring to do much but understand what has happened.

So too for us.

While we are deprived of our Lord as he sleeps the sleep of death, we wait. We mourn. We fast.

Friday, March 21, 2008


It is the tradition of my bishop to gather all of his seminarians at the Cathedral to serve for the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.  It seems appropriate enough considering the fact that the mass commemorates the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist.  While I appreciate the opportunity to gather with my seminarian brothers and the Bishop, this year I was most deeply moved by the washing of the feet.  My bishop is a good man, and he has been good to me, even as I have tried his patience and generosity with my own foibles on occasion.  I suspect that I am not alone when I admit that I find him to be intimidating at times.  Such a reaction to him was placed in a different perspective, though, as I watched him wash the feet of his people.  He removed his chasuble (all priests do as far as I can ascertain).  Then, he removed his pectoral cross - a sign of his office as Bishop.  Finally, he removed his stole, a sign of his authority.  Then, on hands and knees, after the model of Christ, he washed and dried the feet of those brought forward for that purpose.  In that moment, it was more clear to me than ever the true nature of the episcopacy.

Oftentimes when we discuss authority, we approach it in terms of power.  The one with authority has power over me, we tend to assume.  This, however, is not a full picture of the authority envisioned by Jesus Christ.  As he shows us, authority is truly demonstrated by crawling about on one's knees, washing feet, and pouring out one's life for the sake of others and for the sake of the Kingdom.

The word humility implies lowliness.  Its etymology is a literal reference to the ground.  One seldom sees another closer to the ground than when that other has knelt to wash feet. Humility, foot-washing, is constitutive of authority.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Such were our Lord's words to Peter when, after going off to pray for but an hour in the midst of the night, he returned to find his vigilant disciples asleep (cf. Matthew 26:36-46). It seems such a simple request, but when dealing with fallen man, it perhaps can be some of the greatest suffering.

Perhaps I'm not referring strictly to keeping vigil with our Lord during the night. But, perhaps I am trying to get at a broader notion of keeping vigil with our Lord: being vigilant and watching for his word, listening attentively, ready to obey as soon as his command is made clear. Obedience, obedire, to "listen well" as we seminarians have been told.

Okay, fine. So perhaps we make our best attempts at "listening well," and, for the most part, we are obedient. But, what about when we must interact with others who - at least insofar as we can tell - at least aren't hearing (one would pray that they are not ignoring)? How then are we to be vigilant, when we are seemingly helpless to change them, yet we must suffer because of them?

In a way, that is ultimately what our beloved Peter was going through some 2000 years ago. Little did he understand our Lord's words; he was to be vigilant, to keep watch with our Lord, and humbly stay at Jesus' side while he was handed over, kissed by his betrayer, mocked by those who are supposed to guard him from defilement, put to death because of those who were his own family. Peter was invited to accompany our Lord and his few true followers while he was abused and betrayed, but Peter failed; he failed miserably. He denied, he ran, he abandoned our Lord and gave up his greatest opportunity. He would never have that back.

I suppose that is our Lord's offer to us. "Keep watch, be vigilant, stay with me." That is our call, our "vocation" if you will, at all times, especially those when we must accompany our Lord - be obedient - in the midst of those who spit in his face, knowingly or not. "Bearing patiently the wrongs of others" boils down to this. And for it, we are rewarded. It wins over our Lord's heart, his mercy, not only for us, but for those same ones who put him to death. We can pray with Jesus, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Yes, this is our call this holiest three days. This is our chance to do what Peter could only later regret.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Not us. Well, the results are in for the Catholic Blog Awards. Future Priests... did receive five votes: Thank you faithful readers. I put a link to the results here not so much that you can see our blog's ranking, but in case you might find some of the other blogs edifying.

Catholic Blog Awards, 2008 Results

Yet another view...

I went into the chapel last night when it was pitch black. I was about to turn on some lights when I noticed someone had been in the chapel praying; they had turned on just one light, and I knew immediately which it was. For those of you a bit more sentimentally inclined (apparently, like our brother last night), this perspective on our new Crucifix might appeal to you:

P.S. All three of the statues which have been added to the chapel in the last two years (this one, Our Lady of Confidence and St. Joseph) came from the same place. Hence, they're all somewhat of a similar style.

Family Tradition II

Well over a year ago, I offered some remarks about some of the traditions of the ranch folk with whom I grew to adulthood, and for whom I will give my life as a priest. More recently, I commented that my paternal grandparents had been involved in a dance band in their younger years.  My father is a performer when time allows, and it should also be noted that I have a penchant for obscure tunes. So, it would seem that for me, at least, music is something of a family tradition. Allow me to trace its roots . . .

In 1914 my grandparents were born about a week apart. Circa 1937 they were wed. My grandfather Roy was a drummer, his bride, Dorothy, a pianist, and his brother, Harry, played the sax. Almost immediately after their wedding, my grandparents and great-uncle began traveling the country playing for a nearly forgotten staple of country life - the country dance.

Though it has nearly disappeared now, the country dance was still a popular event even into my early teenage years.
In their heyday, such dances would occur nearly every weekend. They weren't the sort of event that included loud microphones, tuneless rhythmic beats, and flashing lights. Rather, a group of live performers would play good old-fashioned dance music. And people danced - waltzes, two steps, fox trots, and jitterbugs, not to mention some of the more complicated dances such as the seven-step and the flying dutchman. People would attend from miles away to court future spouses, to fight with rivals, to see the neighbors, and to escape what could be otherwise lonely existence on the plains of Western South Dakota. Everyone came to the dance.

In my grandparents' time, the music was instrumental. There were no vocalists. There were, however, enough musicians in the crowd to spot the performing musicians. Local men would drum for a while so that my grandfather could take a few trips around the dance-floor, and other women would do the same for my grandmother. The dances were scheduled to run from 9:00 PM until 1:00 AM. More often than not, as 1:00 AM approached, the dancers would pass a hat and the band would play another forty-five minute set. The hat would be passed again and again until finally the band would have to refuse to play if they wanted to go home.

The repertoire of my grandparents mostly included dance music from the 20's, 30's, and 40's. This collection remained more or less unaltered even until the 1970's when they finally stopped playing dances for good. Many of those same songs, however, made their way into my memory when my grandmother would still play them on her old upright piano at home. My favorite is Darktown Strutter's Ball.

As I noted, the tradition of the country dance has nearly died. A few of the most popular dances still remain (the Elm Springs Halloween Dance still survives), but as often as not, they are as much an excuse for excessive drinking as anything else. Nonetheless, they are a part of our culture and heritage out here. So many stories find their setting at the dance. So many of us can trace our family tree back to a moment where boy and girl first laid eyes on one another at the dance. Perhaps I am looking at all this through the rosy colored lenses of nostalgia. But for sure, country dances bespeak a simpler time.  I suspect that all of us have a longing for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Resting in the Lord, Part II

Oh my.

Some clever little "Mary" has found a real gem. She posted a comment to Tyler's post Resting in the Lord. Perhaps it's an old joke, but I (a Thomist) can't not make it a post on its own. Thomists out there, enjoy. I burst out laughing, myself.


Mary said...

A lost article from the Summa:

Whether naps are necessary for salvation?

Objection 1: It would seem that naps are not necessary for salvation.
Salvation consists in becoming like God. God is most actual. Hence, we must be actual. Now, naps are opposed to actuality and are hence opposed to salvation.

Objection 2: Besides, the Apostle says, “Be watchful and awake, for your salvation is near at hand.” Naps are opposed to being watchful. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.

Objection 3: Furthermore, Aristotle says that virtue consists in activity. Naps are not activity and are therefore not counted as virtuous. Hence, it follows that naps are opposed to salvation.

On the contrary, the Psalmist says, “He pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.” Now, salvation is a gift, and we must sleep to receive the gifts of God. Hence, naps are necessary for salvation.

I answer that, naps can be spoken of in two ways: naps in a relative sense (secundum quid) and naps simply speaking (simpliciter dicta). Relatively speaking, naps are neutral in that they can be used for a good or a bad purpose. Naps, simply speaking, are those naps which give us the rest that we might wake “refreshed and joyful” to praise God (as the Roman Breviary says). To this end, naps are necessary for salvation, since praising God is necessary for salvation. Furthermore, contemplation is said to be “rest in God.” Now, contemplation flows from charity, and charity is necessary for salvation; it follows that naps, which are also a kind of rest, are necessary for salvation. Likewise, contemplation is said to be a foretaste of heavenly beatitude. Naps are a foretaste of heavenly beatitude. Furthermore, Jesus slept in a boat. Hence, we are to sleep in the Church, for the boat is a type of the Church. Hence we are to sleep during Church, often during homilies. Consequently, it must be said that naps are necessary for salvation.

Reply to objection 1: One cannot mistake immobility for potency. For a man acts even in immobility; for instance, the liturgy compels us to times of silence. Sleep is perfect silence. God is all perfection. Hence, God is most actually napping.

Reply to objection 2: The Apostle spoke figuratively, not literally. For Saint Joseph was watchful in his sleep, that is why God spoke to him in a dream. So also God spoke to many Saints in dreams. Hence, we are to nap watchfully, that God might speak to us.

Reply to objection 3: Aristotle was a pagan and cannot be expected to have understood the deep mysteries of God’s napping. Had he known the revelation, he would have slept much more than he did.

From the Mouths of Children and Babes

While this title might seem more appropriate to Greg's post below, I think it is applicable here too,

Earlier today I was checking my voicemail messages. (Because I am now home in the hinterlands, I have to wait until going to town before I get decent cell phone reception. As a result, my messages have to wait several days at times before I receive them.) As I went through the usual assortment of messages from people telling me where to be and at what time, I was somewhat taken aback at a message from a friend from high school. She and I have been friends since that time, and we remain in close communication. The last few years have been hard for her as she has struggled through painful marriage difficulties, challenging career moves, and a variety of other things. While she is Christian (raised a Lutheran), I would not describe her as church-going. Nevertheless, as is the case with a great many people, she occasionally experiences a moment of clarity wherein she realizes an irresistible urge to go to Church. It does not strike me as odd that when she does experience this urge, she attends Catholic Mass. Such was the case this weekend.

After Mass, she called and left me a message, telling me that she had been profoundly moved by the reading of Matthew's account of the Passion. Over and over she repeated how overwhelmed she was at mankind's continual betrayal of Christ. That Christ died alone after suffering the humility of the scouring, that his countrymen had chosen a murderer instead of him, that his closest friends had abandoned him, that one had outrightly denied him struck a deep chord with her. Near the end of her message she commented, "No one should be allowed to attend Mass on Easter Sunday unless they have been to Mass on Palm Sunday first."

Such an opinion, of course, is the ideal that God has in mind. We attend Mass every Sunday, and so none of us, presumably, would have missed Palm Sunday. While it is true that Churches will be much more crowded in a week, we still do not escape the fact that the Resurrection follows the Crucifixion. It seems to me that, at some level anyway, this is what Holy Week is about. The intensity of Holy Week is unparalleled throughout the rest of the liturgical year. We gather first to commemorate the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood wherein Jesus speaks the words that he will fulfill less than one day later. We gather with him in the Garden, keeping vigil. We accompany him through his trial, and venerate the instrument of his torture as the tool of our salvation. Then we wait through the night for his resurrection and we ask those who seek it to share both his death and new life in the waters of baptism. This moment makes little sense without reference to the day preceding it.

Indeed, one should not attend Mass on Easter Sunday without first having experienced the Passion.

Monday, March 17, 2008

These shoes

As I noted in my last post, I'm new here, so please forgive me if I bore you by explaining that an element of our seminary life is the dress code. During weekdays, we are expected to sport clothing that fits the category of business casual: slacks, collared shirt, belt and dress shoes. If you've been at this seminary thing for as long as I have, you quickly discover that shoes which look nice tend to lack longevity. It's probably a niche market of sorts, but if anyone from the major shoe companies happens to read this blog, consider designing a pair that has a durable sole, comfortable fit, and good looks. Most of the campus which I am required to traverse as part of the daily grind consists of concrete, or, seasonally, concrete covered with a thin layer of dissolved and crushed sidewalk salt. Although convenient for pedestrian traffic, these diamond-hard, chemically-caustic surfaces have taken their toll on my footwear.

Observe. In the photo, I have pointed out with the red circle exactly where the wear has won out and completely passed through the rubber on the bottom of the shoe. Though the shoes are still comfortable to wear, they make me a tad self-conscious on account of the fact that the rubber has pulled away from the bottom of the sole. Hence, air enters through this hole and is trapped in the bottom of the right shoe. When this air is evacuated by the otherwise innocuous act of walking, complex physics which I never studied (I'm an English major) come together in such a way that certain audible frequencies are created. In short, my shoes squeak.

That's not such a big deal, but there are several points in the life of a seminarian where silence is paramount. For instance, when one enters the 6:00 AM Holy Hour, it is enough that one's footsteps echo around the worship space designed to amplify the glories of liturgical music. To add to the clop-clop a distinctive squeak . . .

As I see it, I have two options for a remedy. I could attempt the delicate art of being a cobbler (cobbling?) and attempt to attach another sole or cut away the loose part. Or, I could buy a new pair of shoes. For my birthday this past January, my brother gave me a Swiss Army Knife. Since seminary life consists of few if any occasions to engage in whittling, I've used it as a fancy letter opener while always hoping to employ it for higher purposes. Perhaps the day has arrived.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


As previously mentioned by Anthony, we seminarians often receive letters from young kids who want to show their support for us. We received a batch of them recently and Anthony is right: they really do bring a smile to your face! Here's two for your enjoyment.


I like how this little guy says, "When I was little..."

Yes, that would be really bad. The heart exclamation points are a nice touch.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thanks for visiting.

I don't think it's any secret that there are many marvels to the internet. As well, I don't think it's any secret that Google.com (our gracious hosts, here at Blogger.com) has done quite a bit to make many handy tools and web services available for free.

One such service that Google offers is the ability to track visits to a website; that is, we can track how many visits we receive to our blog, how each visit got here (directly, by a search engine [and by searching for what], from another website, etc...), etc... Well, so I was checking our results late tonight (it is break, so I don't feel too guilty about staying up late) and noticed that we had a spike recently.

After investingating, I noticed that this was due in large part to one of our faithful readers referencing SPS and what a great ("excellent") seminary it is, and providing a link to this blog so others could see for themselves. (To you who did this, thank you very much. We always appreciate a good reputation, as well as more readers!)

As I was looking at the statistics, however, I noticed that we had a number of visits to the blog from an online polling site. That poll is ultimately a contest among blog readers for the best blog, according to category. Apparently, last year, we received one vote for "Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian". As well, I discovered that our Future Priests of the Third Millennium blog has been nominated again this year under the same category. Thank you for your support and please pray for us!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Long-Awaited Snap.

So perhaps "snap" and "break" aren't close enough of synonyms that I should use "snap." Well, the fact remains that Spring Break has begun for the University of Saint Thomas, and therefore SPS. The majority of men have already all-too-happily absented themselves from the house. It has been a very fast half-semester, but in some way, that darned existential angst imposes itself and if a man were honest with you when you asked, he'd tell you he felt "stressed."

Thankfully, though, the break is upon us, the load is already lifted or lifting, and we are entering upon Holy Week and the greatest three days of the Church's year.

With the time for a breather, it is perhaps time to catch up and inform you, our readers, of one major happening at the seminary. About a month ago, now, we seminarians had to rearrange our schedule and attend Mass early in the morning at 7:00 AM, rather than our usual 11:35 AM slot (which, by the way, was liked by a number of us). This was to facilitate the interviews of four applicants for our Systematics Department. A while back, we had one facult member (who was a religious) be reassigned and his position had never been filled.

Much to our surprise, a week ago today an announcement was posted on our bulletin board announcing two new appointments to the SPSSOD faculty. I post that announcement for your enjoyment.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Testimony to Life

It is always a beautiful thing to read another testimony about the beauty and dignity of all human life. I found this recently while perusing another Catholic blog.

Miracle of RoseMary


I also wanted to note that there has been quite the blitz (at least on the internet) about the upcoming Papal Visit to the United States; our Bishops' Conference has named it Christ Our Hope. Our own seminary will be sending two seminarian representatives from each class, along with a priest representative, for a special gathering and conference with seminarians that the pope is going to have. There is a new blog that the USCCB has begun, which might be of interest to you.

USCCB's Papal Visit Blog

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ritual Texts and Art

I don't think it's unfair to say that there has been a bit of a dearth of religious art which appeals easily to the senses and, through them, to the intellect and will. Sure, "art," which gives us artifact, in the strictest sense is anything made or changed by man. Yet, when speaking specifically of aesthetics and beauty, "art" cannot merely mean anything made by man. Rather, it must portray truth and goodness, and the more simply it portrays it, the more beautiful - or so some (myself included) would argue. This simplicity, however, is not merely in the making of it but rather the simplicity of the mind to grasp what is being portrayed. Then, altogether, the purpose of art ought not to be simple entertainment, but (like all things) the raising of the mind to God and the perfection of man!

Liturgical books themselves, as well as Daily Missals, have had art such as the following in them:

This is from a Daily Roman Missal from yesteryear.

More recently, however, some of our English ritual texts utilize more abstract images. Here are some examples:

This is from the cover of a current RCIA Study Edition

This is from the cover of a book printed for use in the liturgical celebration of the rites of the RCIA

Some don't have any art other than an image on its cover, like this one
(the same is true of the previous image and its book)

The reason I bring all of this up is that I ran over to Ireland Library to pick up the Latin version of the RCIA so that I could check a couple of minute details. When I found it, I opened it and the first thing I noticed was the art - on a page all on its own - included right on the back side of the book's title:

It's as if they rightly understood that a picture really can speak a thousand words. I dread the cliché except that it is cliché only because so many know it to be true. Though I might argue it isn't the most beautiful art, it is not overly abstract, it portrays Christ himself, and it calls something specific fairly easily to mind.

There are signs of improvement. Take this one, for example:

Why is this important? Because man needs beauty; art aids us in recognizing the fuller character of something (perhaps the liturgy which we are celebrating) and helps us to enter into the mystery of whatever is portrayed. Yet, this does not fully explain it. I am too inadequate. Forgive me, but allow me a quotation from the Introduction to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

A third characteristic is the inclusion of some artistic images which mark the elaboration of the Compendium. These are drawn from the rich patrimony of Christian iconography. The centuries-old conciliar tradition teaches us that images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message. (n. 5)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Various Musings

I discovered today that I have cabin fever. Wikipedia (a trustworthy source to be sure) defines this condition as "a condition that produces restlessness and irritability caused from being in a confined space. The actual term is slang for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a party is isolated and/or shut in, alone or together, for an extended period." Today was the first "springlike" day of the season, and what with Spring Break fast approaching and assignments coming due, I had little time to enjoy it. I am looking forward to Friday when I will retreat to my own diocese where I will be class-free (which is not the same as having no class ;) to celebrate Holy Week.


I did manage to get outside for for my usual walk tonight. The sidewalks were wet during the day and enormous puddles have formed on the concrete. I now have wet feet. In some places, a thin sheet of ice covered the pavement. I refer you to my earlier post, "Falling."


I was working on a practice homily this evening and had hoped to draw an example from a song that was popular when I was younger. This led to a frolic down Memory Lane wherein I watched the music videos for a whole array of songs from my childhood. My parents had/have eclectic tastes. Dad grew up on a ranch and knew all the old country favorites; what is more, his parents had both been members of a dance band (about which I will post in the future). So, he also knew some of the classic songs from the 40s and 50s. My mother listened to all the popular music of the late 70s. So, as a child, I knew the lyrics to songs performed by everyone from Johnny Cash and Fats Domino to Bob Seager and Charlie Daniels. Tonight was spent with the country artist Dan Seals. It doesn't get any better than that.


I am currently enrolled in a class entitled Christianity Since the Enlightenment. I mentioned this course title to a peer recently and he asked, "Has there been any history since the Enlightenment?" Herein lies a problem. Catholic theology is replete with language and ideas aptly articulated in vocabulary and categories derived from the Scholastic period. Thus, seminarians spend a good deal of time in their philosophical studies simply re-learning that vocabulary and understanding the categories in which it operates. That task accomplished, we then have to try to figure out a way to re-articulate the same truths in post-enlightenment vocabulary and categories. It seems to me that the only good answer is that people must have a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ. He, unlike our language and ways of thinking, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Truth, after all, is a Person not a thing. When Pilate asked, "What is truth?" he didn't realize that Jesus had already answered that question. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This problem is of profound importance. Only the Truth will make us free.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Considering the comment received on the last post, I am motivated to give you a snippet of the Social Manual for Seminarians by Rev. Thomas Casey and Rev. Leo Gainor, O.P. It can be purchased, though I don't think it can be found easily, nor cheaply. I am borrowing one of my brothers' - I myself don't have one.

Now, we ought to contextualize this, a bit. It was written in the 1950s/60s, when our culture was much different in some significant ways (as will be evidenced by the snippet below). Nonetheless, there are some parts (some quite important parts) which are very valid yet today. For now, though, perhaps one on the funnier side of things.

Telephone Usage

The use of the telephone for incoming and outgoing messages is strictly limited in all seminaries, major and minor.

Each institution has its own rules to fit its particular circumstances, but generally, the seminarian can receive only emergency incoming calls. Outgoing messages are limited to certain times and usually from a pay station or booth telephone.

The proper procedure for you to follow is to respect the regulations of your particular seminary; to obtain the required permission' to limit your calls as to number, times, and duration.

This limited use of the telephone itself, however, should not affect your knowledge and practice of the accepted code of telephone behavior. Indeed the very fact that your actual usage of the telephone will be so limited during your seminary days becomes an important reason for you to learn and to put into practice the fundamental requirements of proper telephone etiquette. You may have many more opportunities to practice these conventions during your vacation periods, at home, at work, at recreation, than you have at the seminary.

In many seminaries the students act as switchboard operators for the telephone equipment. If you are one of these, the following comments are of vital importance to you in fulfilling your duties properly and courteously.

You, however, should familiarize yourself with the rules whether you are called on to operate a switchboard or not. The day will come all too soon when you will have to exercise these courtesies in a very definite manner in your priestly assignment.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Sundae for a Sunday

An after prayer snack for our eloquent lector. N.B., in conformity with
seminarian etiquette (according to the
Social Manual for Seminarians),
he did not roll up his cassock sleeves for this Lenten allowance.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


As I write, I am waiting for my clothes to dry.

One of the facets of human formation is simple human cleanliness. Perhaps it is shocking, but even after having graduated from high school, some men have not yet mastered the basic principles of hygiene. If you have ever walked through a college dormitory for boys, you know that I speak the truth. If you have mothered boys through their teenage years, I am probably telling you nothing new. Some guys fail to bathe regularly. Some don't launder their clothes. Many haven't mastered the art of hair-combing, and unless my observations are inaccurate, nearly all college boys reject shaving the very moment that they are able to grow something resembling a whisker.

I suspect that most of these young men have mothers who did everything in their power to teach their sons how to be presentable. But, college is a time of newfound freedom, and many young men feel compelled to determine for themselves the standards of acceptable hygiene. Seminarians are not exempt from this phenomenon.

I recall my days in the minor seminary when inevitably, the rector would have to "remind" the community to bathe each day, to brush our teeth, to comb our hair, and to shave. It was expected that each of these tasks would have been completed before arrival in the chapel for Mass at 6:45 AM. While some men mastered the art of accomplishing these tasks in their entirety in a period of about ten minutes, for the most part, compliance was hit or miss. Nevertheless, progress was made. By the time a man had finished his initial period of formation in the minor seminary, he was well formed in these practices.

Now that I am in the major seminary, I am happy to report that the men have already acquired these skills (except for the shaving bit - even now some feel compelled to execute experimental beard growth. Few attempts are successfully completed.).

So, as I wait for my clothes to dry this evening, I am grateful that most of the men are out and about. Tonight, I don't have to compete for time in the laundry room. And I won't have to do laundry again for another week.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Resting in the Lord

One of the pitfalls of making the daily Holy Hour early in the morning is that as a man settles himself and enters deeply into prayer, he also increases his chances of drifting into sleep. In and of itself, this isn't a huge problem. God understands that these things happen from time to time, and so long as we aren't going to prayer with the intention of falling asleep, it seems to me that the period of prayer is efficacious. Nevertheless, at least for me, slipping into sleep at prayer comes with certain side effects: I snore.

If I am praying alone, no one is the wiser. If, however, the chapel is half full, as it often is, snoring can be a bit of a problem. Likewise, talking while asleep can be a bit embarrassing if one does so in the midst of twenty of his peers - all of whom are discreetly trying to figure out who is making so much noise. There are, of course, ways to prevent the onset of sleep. This includes kneeling throughout the duration of prayer, or reading, or sometimes even standing. These are also accompanied by the risk (at least for me) of failing to accomplish any prayer or of falling asleep anyway and causing a scene when I drop my book or simply collapse.

Today I did not go to the early Holy Hour here at the seminary, but chose to use a little free time and pray at the Cathedral of St. Paul later in the afternoon. The church was warm, I was comfortable, and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I must have leaned forward and rested my head on my arm, because when I woke up several minutes later, I could feel a very clear impression of the button of my shirt in my forehead! At least I hadn't been drooling.

While my initial reaction is to be somewhat disappointed in myself when I fall asleep in prayer, I do take a certain solace in the words of one of my formators from minor seminary. He would tell us on occasion, "Jesus works on us while we sleep." I think he was right. It isn't perfect prayer, but it is something. I like to call it "resting in the Lord."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Flesh and Blood

While it is not my habit to add a second post in the course of a day, I was beginning to feel left out. It has been days since I last published something. So, I offer these reflections:

It is a rare occasion when I do not experience some song or another in my head. Often, my inside voice loses its battle with my outside voice, and I end up singing the song in the hallway, on the sidewalk, or at the table (even though I was taught better). Such was the setting for an interesting episode in my recent history.

Sitting at a restaurant with a classmate and a former seminarian a few nights ago, the conversation turned to some of the songs that the seminary community sings with some regularity. One of us recollected a little ditty that we used to often sing as a "communion hymn" at Spanish Mass. The Chorus reads, "Amen, el Cuerpo de Cristo. / Amen, la Sangre del Señor. / Eating his body; drinking his blood. / We become what we receive. Amen. Amen."

The body and blood of Christ - and here we were, sitting in a relatively crowded restaurant discussing the consumption of flesh and blood. It occurred to me that upon overhearing such a conversation, anyone except another Catholic would probably turn pale and wonder if they should call the police. What kind of people eat and drink flesh and blood? Crazy zombie movie people, that's who. And Catholics. Catholics eat flesh and drink blood, and it remains as bizarre to the non-Catholic ear to hear it now as it did when in the days of Roman persecution of the Church, rumors were spread that Christians sacrificed babies in order to eat their flesh and drink their blood. Catholics were accused of cannibalism, and while such a designation was untrue, they seem to have been less shy about this concern than they were about the idea that they simply consumed bread and wine. They knew that while what they were doing was not cannibalism, it was closer to that than it was to simple bread-eating.

Such accusation continues today. I was once told that Catholics abuse their children by teaching them the superstitious belief that bread and wine could become flesh and blood, or that it is somehow permissible to eat human flesh. We know this to be untrue. In teaching our children about the Eucharist, we teach them perhaps the most important thing we can teach them. Jesus Christ, in his great love, has provided us with a way to perpetuate his saving sacrifice throughout all of time, to unite ourselves with him, and to unite ourselves as a community of his disciples.

Amen. El Cuerpo de Cristo.

Wrong Season

Rorate cæli desuper!
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just one.
- Isaiah 45:8

I say the wrong season for two reasons. Though it is yet Winter, when I was returning from my holy hour this morning, it was both pleasing to see the beauty of the white stuff falling from the heavens once again (insofar as snow is simply beautiful and has a levity to its movement), and it was annoying to know that yet again the sidewalks, roads and lips of our brothers (cursing the snow) will be slick. It's also the wrong season liturgically - the text above is traditionally used in Advent.

Like I said, though, the snow is beautiful. Here's a simple picture of the front of our seminary building to evidence that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I'm new here. Well, at least I think I am. I may be the only author on this blog who has the unique experience of transferring from theologate to another theologate (fancy word for the graduate level of seminary study). I can't be sure of that, though, because I'm new here as of the beginning of the Spring 2008 Semester (i.e. the beginning of February). Thankfully, my fellow Theology I classmates have done an excellent job of keeping tabs on me. If the whole seminary is going to some required, all-seminarian gathering, like, for example, The Holy Mass, someone will inevitably swing past my room on the walk to the chapel. Thanks men. You've made this a lot easier than I thought it would be.

I'm coming to St. Paul Seminary from St. Meinrad Seminary, a beautiful benedictine institution in Central Southern Indiana. It is very close to Ferdinand, IN. It is also near Santa Claus, IN. Unless you have a particular bent towards geographic detail, those landmarks probably haven't helped. Hmmmm. Let's just say its on the same line of latitude as Louisville, Kentucky.

I'm studying for the Diocese of St. Cloud, MN, that Benedictogerman (Benedictine and German) flavored Church of Central Minnesota. St. Paul Seminary is a little closer to home, actually, very close to my home parish in Elk River, MN - a fact which makes me sort of an oddball compared to the rest of the St. Cloud Diocese which seems to be populated chiefly by sportsmen. It happens every year at Vocation Camp, a gathering arranged by our diocesan office of vocations for young men interested in the priesthood. The handful of seminarians who attend the camp as "chaperones" are gathered around with the twenty-or-so campers from 8th through 11th grade. Each seminarian in turn lists his hobbies, usually a litany of "Hunt, fish, camp. Hunt, fish, camp" until it comes to me, a child of the suburbs and growing urban sprawl from the Twin Cities: "Uhm. Well, I like to read and write short fiction and poetry. Actually, my undergraduate degree was in English with a creative writing emphasis." Eyes glaze. Then we continue down the line: "Hunt, fish, camp. Hunt, fish, camp."

Don't get me wrong, I'm no enemy of the outdoors. Let's just say my background has helped me cultivate an equal appreciation for city lights and Northern Lights. As a student of English Letters, I can say with some security that I am not alone, though I am rare. While Hopkins constantly worries about towns and industry eating up his kingfishers and dragonflies, there is at least one poet who could find some wonder for the city, G.K. Chesterton. Since there is little else in this entry to serve as meat for meditation, I give you his poem "The Lamp Post" as a parting thought:

Laugh your best, O blazoned forests,
Me ye shall not shift or shame
With your beauty: here among you
Man hath set his spear of flame.

Lamp to lamp we send the signal,
For our lord goes forth to war;
Since a voice, ere stars were builded,
Bade him colonise a star.

Laugh ye, cruel as the morning,
Deck your heads with fruit and flower,
Though our souls be sick with pity,
Yet our hands are hard with power.

We have read your evil stories,
We have heard the tiny yell
Through the voiceless conflagration
Of your green and shining hell.

And when men, with fires and shouting,
Break your old tyrannic pales;
And where ruled a single spider
Laugh and weep a million tales.

This shall be your best of boasting:
That some poet, poor of spine.
Full and sated with our wisdom,
Full and fiery with our wine,

Shall steal out and make a treaty
With the grasses and the showers,
Rail against the grey town-mother,
Fawn upon the scornful flowers;

Rest his head among the roses,
Where a quiet song-bird sounds,
And no sword made sharp for traitors,
Hack him into meat for hounds.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Visiting professor

It has been announced that Dr. Janet Smith will be a visiting professor during the Fall 2008 semester. Dr. Smith is currently the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She has given many presentations around the United States as well as writing many articles and a few books concerning life issues. Some of our readers might know her from her tape/CD: "Contraception, Why Not?" She will be able to add a great deal to the intellectual life of the St. Paul Seminary.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A winter sport continues on

Although there are many signs of spring starting to show up, one winter sport does not die out when all the snow has melted, unless you play this sport outside. That's right, I'm talking about ice hockey. Ever since my senior year of high school, I have been intrigued by this sport. Some of my wonderment came from trying to understand the rule and the other came from how fast-paced the sport is. It was during the playoffs for the NHL in 2003 that I got really hooked. The Minnesota Wild played two best of seven series to game seven and these series were not back and forth, the team came back from a 3 games to 0 deficit each time and won 4 straight hockey games. I was up into the early hours of the morning watching these games and it was a blast. Fast forward to last year, my senior year at the minor seminary. I had been living in the "state of hockey" for a few years and in between semesters one of the University of St. Thomas hockey players ended up joining the seminary and so a few of us went to the games to support our new brother. Soon the crowds of seminarians got bigger and the team won ten in a row. I have been very impressed watching different teams and seeing how much they give to the game, they are well-conditioned athletes and they work very hard to improve their skills. It can get very physical and some watch games to see if a fight will break out, but more and more I enjoy watching the game because of how well the players can pull off some amazing plays. Sometimes the professional athletes play year round and never get an off-season. The playoffs for the NHL can sometimes go into June and are called the second season because if a team goes all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, they may have played between 20-30 games. In a recent story I read, the fan-base for the NHL is growing and coming to new areas like Nashville and Phoenix. Hockey is a growing sport and I can only hope that it keeps getting positive attention in the years to come.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Rite of Spring

I was sitting minding my own business (not my usual modus operandi) at our usual Wednesday morning coffee and donuts after morning prayer when two of the brothers in the house approached me to ask about how hot electric woks actually get. The reason they were asking was to make plans for another season of tapping the sugar maples on the property of the seminary. People tell me this is like a rite of spring in this part of Minnesota.

I have to admit that the maple syrup produced last year was pretty good. I am not a fan of pancakes but with the homemade maple syrup, it made the pancakes quite enjoyable. Perhaps appreciation for the labor of the men involved made the syrup that much sweeter.

So as plans for another season of tapping are made, being the capitalist that I am, I thought maybe we should increase production this year and look at bottling and marketing the sweet results of our labor. Like any good product we need a catchy name. So readers, please submit your nominations for possible names for our spring time endeavor. Remember to keep it clean.