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!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Since Friday

Until recently, I would not have counted South Central Minnesota/North Central Iowa as a hotspot for cultural diversity.  Boy, was I wrong.

Driving from Deacon Greg's Ordination toward Fr. Rod's First Mass of Thanksgiving, I was somewhat startled to see a darkly clad man with a child at his side driving a horse-drawn cart down the side of the US Highway 52.  I have nothing against carts or cart horses - my family has owned a team of draft horses since my childhood.  We are not, however, in the habit of driving them around our country roads. Apparently the Amish are.

Shortly after passing the cart, I suggested to my driving companion that we could perhaps enjoy a piece of pie as we had plenty of time to spare.  Within minutes, we saw a sign directing us into a parking lot for a hole-in-the-wall with plentiful pie and ice cream.  The sign, as it turns out, lied.  The shop was closed.  What we did find, however, was a young Amish woman selling a wide array of jellies, preserves, candies, and pies from her own kitchen.  Offering a prayer of thanksgiving for providence, my companion purchased two preserves and a strawberry-rhubarb pie (they were single-serving pies) and I purchased a raspberry pie.  After this indulgence, we hurried on our way.

A few small towns later, we noticed another group of dark clad men walking down the street. Ahh, more Amish folk, we assumed.  We were wrong again.  The long curls, and the blue and white fringe escaping from beneath their shirts was more than enough to convince us that we had discovered a group of Hasidic Jews on a leisurely stroll as the end of Sabbath neared.

Mass in Dyersville was beautiful.  It was as though Fr. Rod had been saying Mass his whole life.  My driving companion and I hadn't the time to remain for a reception, though.  So, we headed out.  This time, as we passed through the town where we had seen the Jews, we paused to drive around and look for a Synagogue.  We failed to find it, but as the sun had set, the Sabbath was over, and we did see a number of small boys in yarmulkes playing in the streets.  Further along, we found a house with a huge menorah in the lawn.  We passed another horse-cart in the dark.

So, it would seem that Minnesota and Iowa still hold untold surprises for the wayfaring stranger.  It may seem a little coarse of me to take such interest in people.  I don't think it is, though.  My interest in them is not as objects, per se, but as people who have made the choice to live in a very counter-cultural manner.  As might be expected, there is something attractive about that for me.  It is a pity that I didn't have more time to stop and chat.  I would have liked to have known more about the way they choose to live.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Regensburg Address: Important for Catholic Education! (Part 3)

This is a three part series on Pope Benedict XVI and his Regensburg Address. Part 3 is here posted; Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.


Beginning of Benedict XVI’s lecture:

Does God exist? Yes, of course He does. How can we answer that though? How do we know? This should seem as a fairly amusing question because of its implied simplicity. We can know there is a God simply by using pure reason.

Yet in university circles all throughout the globe, this question bears little to no weight. In fact, in circles European and American academia, placing God in the context of discussions on topics such as, Creation, one might be committing career suicide; only to be ostracized by contemporary movements to move God entirely out of the arena of discussion.

Benedict XVI starts off his lecture remembering how when he taught as a professor in a University, there were two schools of theology—Catholic & Protestant. The implication in both of course places God as the focus of theological discourse. He goes on to assert that in the realm of reason, disbelief in God is not a valid or persuasive argument.

Continuing on from that starting point he shortly mentions the Islamic faith in contrast to Christianity’s view of God. As stated before, the pope makes a historical reference to a Byzantine Emperor Manuel II and a Persian thinker in order to highlight core differences between Christianity and Islam. Again, the aim was to signify the importance of the three-person-unity in the Godhead and the importance in the reasonableness of the Incarnation.

It seems that his aim is to provide a quick and sharp disagreement to the idea that God can contradict himself. This improper understanding of God seeks to authenticate immoral and contradictory actions of violence and opposition in the name of God.

This is really important. God cannot shift human reasoning, or we cannot claim to do that on behalf of God, in order to make what is evil into what is good. We live in a world where people act on an impulse of what is claimed to be God’s will, even if it goes against what God actually says.

The questions Benedict XVI is asking are this: Is God’s Word, the divine logos, a constant and universally fixed thing? Is truth, given to us as a gift from God, true always and everywhere; true for us in all times?

Violence in the name of God does not come from Christianity. God will never make actions of that violent sort, a pursuable good. They are inherently evil.

Note that the comment on Islam is only one short set of sentences. The Holy Father is pointing to something else, or someone else. He is pointing to education at the university level. He is pointing to popular culture in the global society today.

It is here where the Regensburg Address takes off and soars—the professor and priest made Bishop, made Cardinal, made Pastoral Shepherd & Pope, sounding off his lesson for the day!

Core message in the Regensburg Address: Important for Catholic Education today

Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary! It actually happened. God showed up to help save us from our sins because we could not do it ourselves. This is important.

What is also important is when and where Christ showed up! The Evangelists and the Patristic Fathers began the Catholic Church & Christian Faith. This is essentially important to the history of philosophy and theology and also to faith & reason.

The early Christians, the Evangelists, and the Patristic Fathers had to deal with the burden of articulating what they experienced in Christ’s ministry, passion & death, and resurrection. They went to Greek systems of reason to articulate those experiences and their importance.

Perhaps it is significant that John’s Gospel took the longest amount of time to form. Scriptural critical research tells us that John’s Gospel was written about 90-100 A.D. — at the end of the 1st century. The three Synoptic Gospels came before John's. Did John’s community and the Christian Faith need a germinating period to develop the great truth about who Christ is? What Benedict XVI is identifying as crucially important today, is remembering that the contents of the Christian faith are rooted in the Word of God—the Logos—made incarnate in Christ. If we abandon that truth, we abandon one of the most essential elements of the Christian Faith.

Was the critically purified Greek Heritage of the faith just a “happening” of coincidental circumstance or was it significant in God’s plan for salvation? What occurred was our ability to use systems of reason to make core distinctions about things, about what is real and what is not. This form of thinking is what all science and human discovery is founded on.

It cannot be an anonymous or chanced happening. God, the Father chose Abraham and the nation of Israel for a reason. Christ lived during a certain period of time and in a certain place that is significant to that reason. The philosophical and theological presuppositions used by the Evangelists in the Gospels make theological discourse and development possible throughout history. This is why keeping the roots of the Christian Faith well in-tact is so important.

History of philosophical systems of reason:

One of the great things about this address is that any philosophical anthropology professor could use it as a text to teach the course. The sections of such a course on modern European philosophy would use this lecture as a truly helpful tool.

The premise Benedict XVI is working from is common assessment of most university models of philosophy today—models based on an over-emphasized focus on relativism and skeptical rationalism.

We live in the “Third Stage of De-Hellenization” that began with Martin Luther and the Reformation. This third stage is significantly harsher than the other two, as the last 50 years have almost broken Christianity and Catholicism entirely with its heritage; almost broken with the very foundations where Revelation occurred. This is really serious. Its implications on how the world lives and operates are evident in so many of the global conditions we struggle to manage today.

Many in universities across the West doubts the efficaciousness of human reason, stating that there is no truth to what we can know and believe in life. Many believe faith is something that does not belong to anything near the realm of reason, nor does reason help articulate anything universally true as claimed by assertions of faith.

It is true that Pope Benedict XVI has his hands full with a European continent that is falling further into decline. What is important to note is that his message is important because it is in the very continent of Europe and its corridor into the Middle East where Revelation took place and the foundations of faith and reason as we know today were born.

Furthermore, when we look at the lack of even the simplest identification of "God" in our modern cultures we see where the "decline" originates. It begins by not even acknowledging God, His existence, and importance.

What makes Christianity so unique to other word religions is that God is not an ideology. Rather, God is a person. God is something that exists totally separate from ourselves. Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity and the person who actually is God. God revealed himself as a person in Christ.

So when our recognition of God through conclusions of a chain of systematic reasoning declines, combined with a denial of the possibility of truth existing in Sacred Scripture, we lose the most vital fact there is--God is in fact real, and he made himself known to us through Divine Revelation.

The results of denying God as even a legitimate basis of reasoning lends itself to reject truth in Scripture and, the consequences are catastrophic. Look out the window at the world today and see the massive volume of injustice and human suffering. All of it is at its core, the product of this "decline."

What we can do with these insights Benedict XVI gives us:

The University and our systems of education in the modern world started with the Catholic Church. Socio-political, economic, morality, and ethical issues that deal with the human condition, start in the systematic models of reasoning we use to operate within them. Pope Benedict XVI knows this so well and teaches it even better.

Beginning with the areas we can fix, Catholics need to apply these insights to its models of Catholic Education. Catholics need to apply these insights to the liturgical style and liturgical practices. Catholics need to do this now, immediately, with a sense of excitement, hope and encouragement. Proper Catholic Education and Worship will lend itself into life praxis and good decisions in life. It can change how the world works.


The Regensburg Address is perhaps one of the greatest addresses given by Pope Benedict XVI. It is like a beacon that sounds off to us, telling us where we came from, how we got here, and what we can do about it moving forward.

The main point is to know that there is a right and there is a wrong when teaching and thinking about who God is and his relation to humanity.

The Regensburg Address: Important for Catholic Education! (Part 2)

This is a three part series on Pope Benedict XVI and his Regensburg Address. Part 2 is here posted; Part 1 can be found here, while the last will soon follow.


Truth & Charity go together:

This is the thing will perhaps define his papacy—truth and charity go together. We live in a world and, there are some in the Church, that believe there is not anything we can fundamentally say about anything—that truth is relative and subjective impossibility; that we must be open to all and any ideas—leaving the door open so wide that anything or everything is “OK.”

Combine that with a dramatically declining view of morality and ethics and we see the situation Benedict XVI is addressing. It seems that the super-autonomous sense of freedom that dominates the individual psyche today has much to learn from our Holy Father.

In fact, not any system of reason is a good one. The twentieth century, as bloody and violent as it was, has taught us that. Furthermore, there are many Christian and non-Christian assertions that are incorrect. They are often predicated on poor reasoning and typically wind up forcing the Christian faith into saying something that is not true to the faith, not true to Christ in the Gospels, and not true to the critically purified Greek Heritage of reasoning that Christ teaches in Scripture. The most polemic mode of reasoning is based almost entirely on "personal experience." The result is collage of contradictory views and praxis of life that boasts of its relativistic foundations.

To add fuel to an already burning fire, many of the same praxis just mentioned anchor their lives on sensory stimulation and "what feels good." This results in statements such as: "as long as it does not hurt anyone else and, it makes you happy because it feels good, then anything is alright." This is a very common premise of reasoning that exists today. Where is God in a worldview such as this? How does God and truth even show up if this is how one thinks? Is truth possible, or is truth something even considered?

Benedict XVI is trying to state that truth is something that is universal, in as much as it is particular. It is not enough to just get one part correct in reasoning the content and form of the faith. This is a hard thing to do. Unfortunately, what we have seen in the last 50 years is an exponential jolt in this “Third Stage of De-Hellenization” Benedict XVI articulates to us in this Regensburg Address. Many take only certain parts of the faith they deem palatable to be formed into the socially ideological agenda of popular culture. The result is a divided body in the Church.

Truth is a relative and subjective impossibility? That is dead wrong! Truth does exist and it is a gift that we receive from Christ and in Christ! It has been passed down to us through the centuries by the Patristic Fathers of the Church and it is ours to do the same in forming our Catholic Education.

Benedict XVI's words seem to be pointing in the direction and, lend themselves to say that Thomism (St. Thomas Aquinas) is not only the best way to articulate Christianity, but the only legitimate way.

Yet, still there are many that rear at these assertions made in this blog, based on Benedict XVI’s addresses. The Gospels tell us that truth will not be immediately accepted. In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ tells us about the “Parable of the Sower,” followed by an insight into the relationship between faith & reason by answering to his disciples “Why He Teaches in Parables.” (Matt 13:10-17)

Christ’s message, mediated to us by Mathew’s Gospel in Scripture, is that there are those “outsiders” who do not see Christ as the key to unlocking the mysteries about the Kingdom of God. Just as a seed must fall to the ground and die, before it can yield a harvest, so will our work to spread the Gospels—which are truth—to any who will listen, be difficult.

This does not suggest that truth is something only to be given to the privileged and spiritually elite. Any sense of Gnostic elitism in the Christian faith and is wrong. Rather, truth is open and available to all people. It is a gift and it is received. So Benedict's message is given along those lines and in the spirit of truth and charity.

Benedict XVI not only reads like an academic lecture, but it reads like a well-charged homily for those who make the effort to listen and, for everyone else as well. We should be excited by his words—there will be a harvest, there will be fruit! (maybe saying it is a well-charged homily is a stretch, but hey this is an awesome lecture.)

Speaking Truth can have serious consequences:

As stated before, many rear against the words our Holy Father teaches us. He does not make them to instigate a fight. His will is oriented towards the good as it connects to the Greatest Good, our Lord. He gives them in love.

It is very hard to see the global response that still lurks over this address’ legacy. Many in the Islamic world saw this as a direct attack on their faith and responded with violence against Christians and Catholics around the world. The pop-culture mass media not only misguides people to what Benedict XVI said in the Regensburg Address, but they do not seem to be able to even understand its content.

The truth of the matter is that his historical reference to the Islamic faith was only a brief prelude to the lecture’s assertion that, as Catholics, we proclaim and teach the Trinity—God the Father, Christ the incarnate word, the logos, who is both truly human and divine, and the Holy Spirit which connects all of us together. The Trinity is the central theme of all Christianity.

What he was getting at is a subtle way to commenting on the difference between theological understanding and rational understanding of who God is and why we pursue truth.

His comment on Islam was only a short segway into making string historical claims about what reason is and how it relates to faith. We pray that future dialogue will not yield such violent and horrible responses.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Original "I think, therefore I am"

In today's Office of Readings, the second reading was an excerpt from Saint Augustine's "Confessions." It was a great one, primarily about enduring every burden with love and out of our complete reliance on God's great mercy.

This got me thinking about a not-so-well-known fact. There is a famous phrase in philosophy that even those who have never studied the subject are likely to know: "I think, therefore I am." This phrase is almost always attributed to René Descartes - a French philosopher who wrote at the beginning of the modern period. At its most basic level it is a claim in epistemology (the study of knowledge and knowing) that you can know you exist because you can recognize that you are thinking.

Clever though this argument may be, it is not original to Descartes. Hundreds of years before, this point was made by a famous philosopher and theologian. Who was it?

Saint Augustine!

One of Saint Augustine's many great accomplishments was his argument against the Skeptics. The Skeptics were a group who (during Saint Augustine's time) argued that nothing could be known. The point made by Descartes was first publicly used by Saint Augustine, specifically in Saint Augustine's argument against the "academicians" - a subgroup of the Skeptics whose primary point was that nothing could be known and that wise persons would give their assent to nothing.

The argument that is commonly attributed to Descartes was used by Saint Augustine to show the Skeptics that something could be known. Saint Augustine argued that 1) to doubt something, you must exist, 2) to be either correct or mistaken, you must exist. So, Skeptics, if you doubt you have knowledge, then you KNOW that you exist; if you are either correct or mistaken about what is wise, the you KNOW you exist. In any case 3) you know something - that you exist.

Saint Augustine offers seven arguments in total against the Skeptics, two of which argue the point that if one does not know if wisdom exists, how can one claim to be wise?

The main point of Saint Augustine on this topic is that happiness is the persuit of truth and we are able to discover and know truth. So, truthseekers, I hope to see you in the Saint Paul Seminary chapel soon pondering and pursuing truth.

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eating Etiquette, Part III

This is a continuation of a four part series from the same Social Manual for Seminarians by Rev. Thomas Case and Rev. Leo Gainor, O.P, that I have quoted from previously. The previous posts can be found here: Part I and Part II.


Table Manners

III. The Pig

He digs in the moment he is served. He knows he doesn't have to wait for the hostess, who will be served last, but he's apparently too hungry to remember that he should wait until two or three others at the table have also been served. (This practice applies when you are a guest at another's table. When you are in your own seminary you follow the custom of your house, as mentioned in the previous chapter.)

He uses a piece of bread, tightly gripped in his hand, to mop up every last drop of sauce, every last morsel of food. His plate then looks as if it had just come out of the dishwasher. If his favorite food is bread and gravy, he may break off a small piece of bread, drop it into the sauce, then eat the bread with his fork - but he shouldn't scrub or mop or use an unbroken slice of bread.

He spreads butter on his bread in midair and all at once, as if he intended to eat the whole piece in one bite. Except in the case of tiny, hot biscuits, bread should be broken and buttered only as needed - in quarters or bite sizes. it should be held against the rim of the butter plate during the spreading, and not waved all over the place or held chest high.

He cuts up his whole plateful of food at one time, as if he couldn't bear to stop eating once he had begun. Unless he is under ten years old (and we are not) he should cut his food only as he eats it.

He drinks his coffee and spoons his soup with a loud sucking noise. He tilts his soup bowl or plate toward him. Properly, he would tip it away from him, just as - properly - he would spoon the soup away from him. But this is not the shortest distance between two points, and the pig is blatantly starving.

He elbows his way through the meal. When he cuts, his spare arm serves as a prop, enabling him to eat much faster. Elbows on the table are "socially acceptable" when you are not eating, but the safest course is to keep your spare hand in your lap. While you're eating, your elbows should be as close to your body as in a good golf swing.

He gnaws on bones, as if he's afraid to miss the tiniest morsel of meat.

He sucks his fingers, on the same sort of comuplsion. If he is so messy as to get food on his fingers, he should use a finger bowl and/or the napkin, not his lips, to clean up.

He squeezes the last drop of juice from his half grapefruit. If you can't get it out with a spoon, it's out of bounds.

Finally, when he's finished he pushes his plate away from him as if to say, "Well, that was good, now what do we eat?" Instead, he should sit quietly without rearranging the table, without pushing or tilting his chair back, and without loosening his belt.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Regensburg Address: Important for Catholic Education! (Part 1)

This will be a three part series on Pope Benedict XVI and his Regensburg Address. Part 1 is here posted, the others will soon follow.



On September 12, 2006, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI delivered one of the most important messages of his entire papacy; perhaps of all papacies. While it was not a formal papal encyclical, it serves as a teaching tool for all of us when we examine Catholic Education. We can use this address, along with many of his other speeches, as a reference point in making decisions on teaching and practicing the Catholic Faith.

Now this blog is perhaps a little “late to the prom” on this subject; the address was given in 2006. Nonetheless, this is very important for Catholic Education. Even beyond Catholics, it is important for all educational institutions — in particular, high school and collegiate education in the United States and Europe.

The reason why this lecture’s messages are important is that they address the very root of all education, the liberal arts, sciences, and the system of reasoning by which we all make decisions every day. It speaks to the fundamental recognition of our Creator God's existence and his essential importance in our lives.

This bright, penetrating, stunning, and totally awesome academic lecture given at the University of Regensburg, is an example of why the Catholic Church is the premier leader, or shepherd, in the intellectual realm of dialogue on the relationship between faith and reason.

First and foremost, this lecture is mostly a commentary on reason. It tells us what reason is and how it has ebbed and flowed through the epochs of Christianity, and Eastern & Western history. In particular, it delves into the period of the Reformation, continuing to today’s post-modern era.

The scope and breadth of this lecture is efficiently sharp, while at the same time, extensively particular for a special university address. Yet, it is also approachable to the non-academic who is willing to make an effort to ask the right questions. The point is that Benedict XVI played the role of a university professor and an educating pastor all at once. This is just one of the ways that makes this address outstanding!

When you read this lecture you can tell that this is a monumental address for all of us to look at, read, read again, and then come back to it again and again. The Holy Father’s messages in this address are colossally important!

Benedict XVI has the appropriate answer for the modern man, the current problems in the ideologically divided Catholic Church, and the world at large which is filled with conflicted torment and massive human suffering. His answer is for us to look at the relationship between faith and reason and how it helps us understand God.

His answer lends itself directly to today’s fundamental and systematized structures of human reasoning, along with how the world looks, or does not look, at our Creator God who is present to us always. This message is certainly not new to us — Pope John Paul II laid down this very point all throughout his papacy.

Following John Paul II (The Great) perfectly, yet in his own way:

Benedict XVI often comments on how he is picking up right where John Paul II’s (The Great) papacy left off. We know that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger often met with John Paul II as the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, offering suggestions to many of John Paul II’s publications and messages. Both men are brilliant thinkers and witnesses to Christ. We are so blessed to have had, and currently have, both of them as our Pope.

Yet, Pope Benedict’s lecture reads fairly easily for those who don't regularly read philosophy and those not so familiar with the content of his lecture. This is why this lecture is approachable for those willing to make the effort to research answers to questions about its content. If John Paul II was at heart a true philosopher, Benedict XVI is the awesome theologian with the ability to articulate the scope of philosophical systems that explain theology for everyone.

In the Regensburg Address, Benedict XVI critically surveys the entire history of philosophy, systems of reason, their historical relevancy, and how it all references back to the Greek Heritage of the Catholic Faith best described by Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

This history laid out for us is how Benedict XVI follows John Paul II’s lead, but is distinct to Benedict's own take on faith and reason — what makes Catholicism, well...Catholic!

The premise behind this is that the Catholic Church and Catholicism are the custodian of truth.

Combine those efforts with the sense of a “new springtime of re-evangelization in the Church,” in the proper way — true to a continuous line of Scripture and Tradition - and we have a very good picture forming for the future.

This highlights the most distinguishing facet of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address. He specifically identifies how not all systems of reason that attempt to articulate and form the Catholic Faith are not adequate for the job. In fact, some systems have failed. Keeping in line with the Christmas Address he gave to the Roman Curia in December of 2005, Benedict XVI explains in the Regensburg Address how we are living in a “Third Age of De-Hellenization” which began with the Reformation.

His December 2005 discourse to the Roman Curia calls us to look at the Second Vatican Council with a “hermeneutic of continuity,” understanding it within the context of the entire scope of the Tradition of Christianity. This way we can keep the Christian faith healthily alive, now and for the future. We should not forget our roots and should be true to them at all times.

The premise behind this is that, unfortunately, some people during the last 50 years have produced an exponential jolt in this “Third Stage of De-Hellenization.” This is the core message that Benedict XVI articulates to us in this Regensburg Address.

Perhaps this is what makes some people call Pope Benedict XVI somewhat of a “lightning rod” in Catholic and Ecumenical circles. This comment is made "tongue-in-cheek;" the irony is that of course he is - he is the pope. Nevertheless, we know that there are Catholics who downright do not care for him. That is truly sad and unfortunate. However, he is our pope and we follow his direction. He points us in the proper direction in faith and love. He is our shepherd and he leads us in his pastoral vision for Christ’s Church. Being a leader is hard and requires making difficult decisions and, at times, saying difficult things.

To be continued...

Pastoral Letter: That Your Joy May Be Complete pt. 1

Recently my bishop issued a pastoral letter, which marks his 25th anniversary of being a Roman Catholic. He was raised as a Methodist and his conversion story is quite unique. To make a long story short, he went through law school, served in the Air Force during the Vietnam war, and later as an advisor to the governor of Wisconsin. When the governor decided not to seek re-election, he knew that he was out of a job and the first thing that came to him was the priesthood. This seemed odd to him, because he was not even Catholic by that time. He was eventually received into the Church and went to seminary and was ordained. He served for 19 years as a priest in the diocese of Madison, WI and in August of 2006 he was appointed to be the new bishop of the diocese of Sioux Falls, SD. He had never been to Sioux Falls until the press conference was held to make the announcement. Now that he has been my bishop for a little over 1 1/2 years, he feels very much at home in the diocese and his Pastoral Letter is a way of reaching out to all Catholics and especially to those who have left the Church.

In the letter he writes about seven sources of joy that both clergy and lay people can relate to. The first aspect of our faith that the writes about is the Eucharist. It is quite fitting that this letter was released before today, because we celebrate Corpus Christi. While still in Madison, WI, my bishop (then Monsignor Paul Swain) was the rector of St. Raphael's Cathedral in Madison and unfortunately it was set on fire and was burnt beyond the possibility of being repaired. The next morning, while the damage was being assessed, my bishop asked if he could go in and retrieve the Blessed Sacrament. The firefighter he asked told him that it was too dangerous to go in. Another firefighter who happened to be Catholic took my bishop in and the tabernacle had sustained some damage, but the ciborium that held the Eucharist was intact. He writes: "Earlier I had been tearing at the loss of the building. At that moment I wept at the presence of Our Lord. In the midst of smoke and ashes, loss and anxiety, He was with us. He is with us in the Blessed Sacrament. Joy comes in the Holy Eucharist."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Tip of the Hat

Well, this is my last night at SPS for the 07/08 academic year. This blog has grown a great deal this year. Might I also say it has improved a great deal? Through it, we have come to discover a number of quiet supporters out there in the blogosphere praying for us, encouraging us, and sending people here to read about us. So, tonight, I offer this tip of the hat to those of you who lend us your support by listing us in your blog rolls.

Quantatative Metathesis: Things Catholic Abound Here

Yield and Overcome: Musings on a variety of things, this blog will make you laugh, will make you think, and will certainly fill your craving for good reading.

A View From the Catholic Trenches: Thoughts on living a Catholic Life in the modern world. Support for the laity's work in evangelizing their homes, workplaces, and world.

Dennis Ranch: If you have been curious about Jinglebob, here he is in his glory. (You will see lots of pictures of my family's ranch.)

Adoro te Devote: More thoughts on living a Catholic life from the perspective of a young woman.

Laura the Crazy Mama: All about Catholic Motherhood

The Holy Cookie: More Catholic Stuff - Commentary on Catholic Current Events, books, etc . . .

Ut Unum Sint: Apologetics and Catholic News from Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

The Weight of Glory: Inspired by C.S. Lewis' essay of the same name, this blog is a place to discuss things from the following point-of-view: every human person has a vocation to life with God. Our every encounter has an eternal significance - leading someone toward beatitude or away from it.

Catholic Journey: News, Musings on Catholic Fatherhood, etc . . .

The Recovering Dissident Catholic: A Former CINO (Catholic In Name Only) gradually learns and accepts the whole Magisterium Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Hubba's House: A young man from Western South Dakota writes the local news, does a weekly podcast (always funny) and writes about a slice of Americana that few people have ever known.

So, there are a few of our supports. I'm sorry if I missed any of you. I collected these by going back in the archives only a couple of weeks. Stop by, leave a comment, and I will try to catch you the next time I do something like this. Otherwise, enjoy and find some support in some of these other people trying to live their faith.

Friday, May 23, 2008

St. Clement - Pope & Martyr / St. Clement Catholic Church Chicago, Illinois

I am spending this summer in Chicago, Illinois. I will be working in a hospital enrolled in a Clinical Pastoral Education program (CPE).

I am a guest of the priests of Saint Clement Catholic Church located in the city. This is a beautiful Church and a terrific parish. I am honored and blessed to stay here. Please enjoy reading a little bit of interesting tradition and history about one of our earliest popes and saints.

Below is a little history of this parish in Chicago, a short biography on Saint Clement and some photos of the Chicago Church.

History: Beginning of the parish
In early 1905, Adam Kasper and his German Catholic neighbors near Orchard Street and Deming Place wrote to Archbishop of Chicago James E. Quigley asking for a parish. Quigley, whose main concern was establishing new parishes in the growing archdiocese, assigned Father Francis A. Rempe, then age 31, to the project in Spring of 1905.

The original plan was for the parish to be German-speaking, but Rempe soon saw a demand for English as well. The parish began as bilingual.

Saint Clement
First, the painting you see is a work painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The oil on canvas painting is titled, “Pope Saint Clement Adoring the Trinity.” It was painted in 1737-38 and is located in
Munich, Germany.

There is not too much we know about Saint Clement. He was a follower and disciple of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Tradition and scriptural criticism holds the thought that the Clement whom St. Paul praises as a faithful fellow worker, whose name is written in the Book of Life [Philippians 4:3], was Clement, afterwards bishop of Rome. Yet, there is a lot of disagreement on this assertion.

His papal name is Clement I. Tertullian tells us that Saint Clement immediately followed the Apostle Peter as the head of the Church. However, Irenaeus and Eusebius tell us that he actually came third after Peter. Pope’s Linus and Anacletus (Cletus) came before him. (Anacletus).

History marks his most famous work in a letter he wrote to the Church in Corinth, where a Schism took place. He died a martyr around 100 A.D. His pontificate is generally placed between the years 88-100 A.D.

Clement was imprisoned along with a number of Christians by the prefect of the city of Rome. He was later ordered to work in the marble quarries along with his fellow inmates. While in captivity he comforted and encouraged the other Christian convicts. Tradition tells a story that the only drop of spring water for drinking was six miles away. This made it very hard on the Christian workers to have water on a regular schedule. One hot working day Saint Clement saw a stray lamb digging a spot on the ground with its feet. Clement saw this as a divine sign, gathered some men to dig in that very spot and, found a spring of fresh water below there.

Saint Clement was eventually ordered by the Roman prefect to be drowned in the sea. They tied an old anchor to his neck and he was cast overboard in the somewhat shallow water. His body was recovered and his relics later submitted to be preserved in Rome. They are still there in the Church of San Clemente. The common symbol associated with Saint Clement is a ship’s anchor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

9,000 days and still counting!

A few days ago, I celebrated a great anniversary of sorts.

One of the very special days of my calendar is 25 September - the day I was baptized. But wait, didn't I just write that I celebrated an event just a few days ago? September was several months ago and will not come again for another few months . . .

Last Friday, 16 May 2008, marked the 9,000th day since my baptism. I have been able to send a card to the priest who baptized me - still hard at work in the Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN. I thanked him again for administering this, my first sacrament, over 9,000 days ago.

The day-marker does not change anything; my baptism means the same thing today as it did 8,999 days ago. It is a sacramental seal that forever has changed my soul - and the souls of all the baptized - and marks my Christian faith and the forgiveness granted.

Claimed for Christ, on 25 September 1983 my parents and godparents promised to the Church - as witnessed by the gathered faithful - to raise me in the faith and educate me in the Christian way of life.

Do you know when you were baptized? Is it marked on your
calendar? Try looking it up and remembering it. For me, again, it is a very special day and I look forward to the next 9,000 days of life as a baptized Christian. In the more short term, I'll look forward to the 25th anniversary of my baptism this coming September.

I guess I will close this entry with a challenge to you: find out when you were baptized, mark it on your calendar, and don't forget to send a thank-you note to the one who baptized you (in the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT) sometime soon.

Take care, -Jeremy

Coffee and Prayer

It seems to me that seminarians live mostly on coffee. Those of us who rise early enough (thus eliminating me from this discussion) during the academic year have our first cup around 5:20 AM before making the morning holy hour. The rest of us have to wait until about 7:30 when we make our pilgrimage to the refectory for breakfast. Breakfast usually allows time for two cups of coffee. Then, as we leave, many of us take a third to enjoy in the first class of the day. For many, a fourth is acquired during the break between the first and second class periods. My coffee consumption is typically limited to the morning hours, though I am not above enjoying a cup after the evening meal. Some of my peers, however, continue to drink coffee throughout the afternoon. All this goes to demonstrate that coffee plays a large role in our daily lives. I am not sure that it has anything to do with caffeine. Mostly, it is just nice to have something warm to drink and a distraction in class. There is a soothing, placid quality to coffee drinking.

For me, the "coffee experience" reaches its zenith not during the mad rush of finals week, but in the quiet days thereafter. Our daily routine has mostly ground to a halt this week. With all but a tiny remnant gone to their respective homes for the summer, there is little call for a strict daily horarium. As a result, we pray the liturgy of the hours alone or in small groups. I love this time. In a particular way, I enjoy praying the morning hours of the office alone. There is nothing quite like offering the first moments of the day to our Lord while sitting in a comfortable chair, air still slightly chill with spring, feeling the warmth of the morning sun, and sipping freshly brewed coffee. There is a feel of freedom about it, and even though I am still making my way through the last of my papers, I relish in recognizing that summer has arrived.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

morchella esculenta

As my brothers have been noting over the past few days, the number of men in the house has been steadily decreasing. As summer guest master, I will be one of the few fortunate men to remain in residence at the Seminary throughout the summer. Certainly, it will be demanding work at times, but I think I will enjoy the peace and quiet of a little room in a great location (Summit Ave & Mississippi River Blvd). I intend, in addition to my duties, to accomplish some reading (more on that later) and maybe play a little golf here and there. And of course, there are numerous spiritual resources still available around here throughout the summer to keep me occupied in that department.

At any rate, much to our delight and surprise, another seminarian and I have discovered a bounty of morel mushrooms sprouting in the garden behind Saint Mary's Chapel. Of course, these elusive fungi are a highly sought-after culinary delicacy. And we have some growing right in our backyard! I have heard a good way to prepare them is to saute or deep-fry them. Any other suggestions in the comment box would be appreciated! Here are some pictures...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time spent with family

After I was done with my two oral finals, I packed up the bags and got back home for dinner on Monday. This past week has been spent getting back to normal sleep patterns and catching up with some friends. Even though I am home for a couple more weeks, it is great to spend time with family and to have everything done. There have been breaks where I go home and am not entirely rested when I get back to the seminary, but such is life, and this one is different. This weekend my brother, sister-in-law, and niece came to visit and although it was short, it was good to see them. Also, although my niece was a little sick throughout the whole weekend, we managed to have some fun playing pool and just being outside to enjoy the weather. I am glad not to have to drive four hours to go back to school, and I am even more glad to be able to get to some reading that I have not had the time or energy to get to. I also have to do some chores, but it'll keep me busy until I go away for my summer parish assignment.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Approved Substitution

Some of my brothers here at the seminary like to make fun of me for being as traditional as I am. For instance, I am an avid Thomist. I read St. Thomas Aquinas' theology as a pastime; I enjoy making distinctions between the various parts of virtues. Also, I'm a fan of Latin, hence, I ordinarily pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Liturgia Horarum) in the Latin language. Mind you, as more and more people are discovering, there is not an equation between "Latin" and "Tridentine/Extraordinary/Traditional Form." I do not pray the Roman Breviary; I pray the newest Liturgy of the Hours, in its normative language, Latin.

As a consequence of this, I notice many things about the Liturgy of the Hours that others don't, simply because I know what is in the normative edition. So why do I bring all of this up? Well, interestingly enough, there is only one place in the course of the Liturgical Year when the Holy See approved a different reading (during the Office of Readings) from the one found in the Latin. That would be today's. For those who may be interested, they're both on the subject of marriage.

Here is the the second reading in the English version, from the Second Vatican Council.

Here is a translation of the "other reading" (second reading) in the Latin version, from Pope Pius XII.

Friday, May 16, 2008


The seminary seems pretty empty tonight.

I will be the first to admit that when this time of year arrives, I am ready to get out of here. Nevertheless, as luck would have it, I am typically one of the last to leave. I am currently pursuing two degrees simultaneously. As a result, at the end of every semester, there are always final papers to be finished after the exams have been completed. This spring has maintained the pattern of springs passed. From my window, I see my brothers marching out to their cars with all of their worldly possessions in tow. I, meanwhile, thumb through my books wondering what the heck I am going to say for eleven more pages. Even with these papers, though, I still have a fair amount of free time. Thus, I am feeling a little melancholy this evening. I have time to spend with other guys now - no agendas and preoccupations. But, all of us are leaving. All the things we meant to do together this year will have to wait until next year now. There is a small temptation to want to stay here, but only if everyone else could stay too, and there was no work with which to contend. I think there is an important spiritual lesson in this experience. As good as this life may be, we are not meant to remain here forever.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eating Etiquette, Part II

This is a continuation of a four part series from the same Social Manual for Seminarians by Rev. Thomas Case and Rev. Leo Gainor, O.P, that I have quoted from previously. The previous post can be found here: Part I.


Table Manners

II. The Racket-eer

He chews with his mouth open, making no attempt to muffle the noise (or conceal the sight) of his cement-mixer mastication. He clanks silver on silver, or silver on plate.

He stirs his coffee fiendishly, like a witch standing over a boiling cauldron, and every revolution of the spoon sets up a racket. When he puts his knife and fork down, you wonder that the force does not smash the plate. He winds up by scraping his plate with his fork. And if he's the "helpful" as well as the noisy type, his final sin against the eardrums is to stack his dishes, crashingly.

He slurps his soup. Suction is superfluous - just put the side of the spoon in your mouth and sip quietly.

He drums on the table, or cracks his knuckles, or chews on the ice from his water glass, or otherwise sounds off between noisy bites.

He pushes away from the table and dinner's end, with both hands shoving against the table edge and the chair screeching across the floor. Instead you should reach down and lift the chair back as you rise slightly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Of Obedience

"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." John 21:18

These are among the final words that Jesus speaks to Peter in John's Gospel. The Evangelist then goes on to inform readers these words signify the death that Peter was to die. Tradition has it that in a final act of devotion to his Lord, Peter requested that he be crucified upside down, as he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. For me, though, these words have taken on a particular meaning.

On Friday, I received my call to orders. This means that the Bishop has acknowledged my desire to be ordained and has formally announced his intention to ordain me. While the announcement has prompted a sudden flurry of activity on my part as I make the final preparations for the event and hammer out all the details, it has also served as the impetus for deeper reflection on the passage quoted above. In less than a month, I will place my hands in the hands of my bishop, and I will promise to live the rest of my obedient to him and all who succeed him as Bishop of Rapid City.

It is a great temptation, for me anyway, to believe that in remaining uncommitted, unfettered as it were, I also remain freer. Right now, I have the liberty to pack my bags and to go wherever the road may lead me. After June 6, my will is no longer my own. I will be bound to my bishop. At times, he may lead me where I do not want to go, and I know that for myself, in committing myself to obedience, albeit freely, I will die a thousand deaths. My will is strong, I can be stubborn, prone to arrogance, and I know that there will be moments when obedience will be extremely difficult. So, why choose it?

In the end, I have come to realize that in obedience, I will find peace, happiness, and holiness. Part of the road to holiness, for the ordained and laity alike, is the process of conforming our wills to the will of Christ. For me, through obedience, Christ will tame my will. In doing so, he will form me ever more in his own image.

So, even though this impending moment in my life might seem a peculiar life choice to some, and even though it seems intimidating to me, I rejoice at think that in less than one month, when my Bishop asks me, "Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors," I will freely and joyfully answer "I do."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Finals Week

Come stressful times, seminarians do some strange things. To wit:

Again, since we have to use YouTube to show these videos,
we hope you enjoy the video we here posted, but not necessarily
any other video which may be linked after ours finishes playing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why Christ Speaks in Parables—Insight into Faith & Reason

In chapter 13, verses 10 – 17 of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ is asked by his disciples why he speaks to the people in parables. This passage states:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear, but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s hear has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Christ is letting his disciples know that he is not providing a simple allegorical comparison in his teachings. Rather, his parables are “enigmatic communications.” In one sense we can speak about the life of the “kingdom of God” in an open manner. Yet, it is not that simple. In his book Matthew: Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching, Douglas Hare explains why. He explains,

There is a mystery about the kingdom that requires greater reserve because of the very different response it demands. Divorce, love of enemies, and other matters concerning human relationships can be discussed rationally in relation to what the Scriptures reveal about God’s will, but the question of what God is doing in our midst is not of the same order. If someone shouts ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, the truth claim can be evaluated in due course — after the building has been evacuated! If Jesus declares that the presence of the Spirit of God in his exorcisms indicates that the last judgment is imminent, an immediate decision is called for as in a theater, but the truth claim cannot be assessed on the basis of empirical data.

Douglas Hare’s explanation is a great starting point to ask: why is truth, communicated to us in the Gospels, not always an empirically verifiable thing? Why can we not verify the assertions Christ is making in an evidence-based manner?

Hare goes on to answer that it is because “God does not make himself available for our inspection . . . ‘The secrets of the kingdom,’ accordingly are not taught, but revealed.” This insight speaks to the core meaning of this particular passage in the Gospels. What does it mean to know something; through rational processes, verified by scientific methods, and grounded as statistical data; versus knowing truth, that is communicable to us, but is beyond our abilities to comprehend using our own faculties?

This sense of knowing is perhaps what Christ means when he contrasts “being able to see, but not seeing; being able to hear, but not hearing, nor understanding.” Christ’s contrast lends itself to the relationship between knowing empirically and believing something that is revealed. What he is getting at is the relationship between faith and reason. At the same time, Christ is using the nature of parables in a manner that reflects the nature of the Gospels, as truth, articulated to us through Sacred Scripture.

Christ certainly was the Teacher. However, the manner in which he taught in parables speaks to us through Sacred Scripture as something revealed — it is Revelation! Its validity is grounded in that its contents about the “kingdom” came from above, in so far as God allows us to know it. This is how we believe the Gospels and the entire canon of Sacred Scripture to be truth.

Why Christ Speaks in Parables (Part 2)

A. Matt 13:10 In Frederick Dale Bruner’s Matthew: A Commentary, he titles all of chapter 13 in the Gospel of Matthew the “Sermon of Parables”; calling the pericope we examine in this essay, “The Great Aside: The Paragraph of Privilege” in the “Doctrine on the Kingdom of God.” In Matthew: A Commentary, he asserts that parables are “riddle-like sayings,” leaving much to be uncovered, in as much as they convey truth. Depending on how we look at it, they can stifle us in confusion or curiously ignite our minds to uncovering their hidden truth.

The disciples perhaps looked at the “Parable of the Sower” in the former way, stifled in confusion. “There is a tone of recrimination” in asking, “Why are you talking to them in parables [or riddles]?” Jesus’ response is as effective as can be when communicating a difficult message.

B. Matt 13:11 Rather than directly explaining to them what he means, Christ compliments and praises them. This approach perhaps not only helps communicate his message in a charismatic and efficacious manner, but also indicates the nature of the meaning in his answer. In doing this, Matthew contrasts the disciples with those who do not have faith in him, Christ.

Christ tells them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11). He is complimenting them and directly siphoning them off from the rest of the crowd.

What secrets do they have? As a disciple of Christ today, what secrets sit inside the text that can help clarify what Christ means? This is important to us today. Our faith in Christ is a gift. It is given to us through Sacred Scripture and, understood through the dichotomy of faith and reason, with the help of Holy Spirit. There is a call and response embedded in this relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Saint John Chrysostom lived in the later half of the 5th century. As a patristic father he wrote,

“They to whom [the revelation] is not given are the cause of their own miseries [as, he says, Jesus’ Explanation of the Parable of the Sower, in a moment will show], and yet [it is true] that knowledge of the Divine mysteries if a gift of God, and grace given from above.”

Chrysostom’s comments refer to the respect we must pay to God’s divine calls and our responsibility to respond. Jesus is commenting to his disciples who are beyond a sense of “initiation.” When Christ uses the words, “To you it has been given . . . but to them it has not been given,” he is speaking about the “determining grace of God.” God is the “acting subject” that is doing the giving, granting the disciples “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” This insight is what perhaps makes Matt 13:11 the central verse of this entire pericope. It also lends further support to the thesis of this essay on faith and reason.

This core verse speaks to the notion that the secrets to the kingdom of heaven are not a matter left alone to human intellect and natural insight. Rather, as we seek to set down the truth about corporeal life on Earth and eternal life in heaven, we use the “demonstration of power granted by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:4) found in Sacred Scripture. As we seek for that “truth” we are drawn up into the “Divine Light of Faith,” responding to God’s call of grace and, in doing this, we “reach a union superior to anything available to us by way of own abilities or activities in the realm of discourse or intellect.”

It is in this relationship of faith and reason that we properly respond to the calls and demands that God asks us. Furthermore, it is in this place of Divine Light, where we are enlightened to truth, that we understand that God is the cause of everything, that it [God] is origin, being, and life. These insights apply to what Christ is saying to the “insiders,” yet is available to everyone if they wish to respond. After all, this has been the message of the Father since his Covenant with Abraham. From the beginning of the Old Testament the notion of responding to the will of God has been the central theme.

C. Matt 13:12 Jesus himself must be obedient and willing to respond to the Father’s call. In making these statements, Christ is laying down the strong themes of justice and divine reckoning that exist in the Gospels and is accomplished through his paschal mission. This passage provides an eschatological dimension to this passage, the nature of parables as a means to communicate Christ’s message, and Christ’s mission as the Father sent him to accomplish.

Recall that Matthew’s Gospel was written to a Jewish community that was amidst the struggle of identifying Christ as the true Messiah. Yet, this verse also exists in Mark's and Luke’s account. Again, assuming Markan primacy in the order of compilation, perhaps we can safely assert this verse is universally core to Christ’s eschatological message.

On the surface, this perhaps could be seen as a “cynical or pessimistic bit of folk-wisdom.” The concept of those who are rich, seek their riches in life and, those who are poor, will be rewarded in heaven is all throughout the Gospels. Yet, in this context, Christ is not speaking about monetary or material possession, as he often times is not doing so in his messages. Rather, Matthew follows Mark almost exactly in this verse by showing Christ speaking in a “spiritualized” sense. The spiritual attainments made in life have a reward; they lead to further progress. Notice the words of “little” contrasted with “abundance” in this verse. Faith is a gift and it is a lot of work. One cannot make great advances in faith without the initial deposit and, “what little one has gained may be lost if it is not built upon.”

Also, there is a sense of privilege behind the words Christ uses. Now this does not suggest a Gnostic sense of faith, saying that only the spiritually elite will qualify at the eschatological reckoning when Christ returns in glory. Rather, it points to a proper sense of respect and fear of God; the type we see throughout the Gospels that healthily places Christ’s disciples in a state of wondrous awe.

Notice the use of the words “have” and “not” in this verse. To have Christ is to have everything we need, and having him is a “pledge of continual abundant future having; not to have Christ is, somehow, God’s righteous judgment, based fairly,” on the explanation Christ provides next in the “Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower.” The basis for Christ’s “righteous judgment” is the guilt associated with “preoccupied listening.” This verse nicely follows the last verse in its support to this essay’s thesis on faith and reason.

Rationalism has its place in the dynamic of human reason; its heightened developments in the Modern Era of Biblical criticism have developed the very historical critical methods used to compose this essay. However, its limits have been exceeded far beyond any boundary that a proper relationship between faith and reason establish. In what sense is an hyper-rationalized view of theology and God similar to “preoccupied listening” that Christ means in this passage? In as much as the Gospels are a mystery, so is this very passage we examine a mystery. In the world today, the notion that truth can exist has been replaced with the notion that there is nothing we can say about anything. Such an assertion is absolutely wrong.

Truth is a reality and it is a gift given to us and understood by faith in Christ as our savior. The Christian faith is a sacred privilege we hold as precious. The lesson in this verse is to listen for the voice of God, rather than to rationalize what faith is and, in doing so, deny truth.

D. Matt 13:13 Christ is direct now that he has explained himself. In this verse Christ is basically restating the question posed by his listeners and answering it on his own. He speaks to the people in parables because “in seeing, they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Whose question is he answering? It is Israel’s question. “Israel’s failure to see and to hear is for Matthew an established fact.”

Now Christ’s speaking in parables did not cause this confusion. Rather, his choice of parables is a response to this lack of understanding. This speaks to the nature of the reason why the incarnation had to occur: Christ had to complete his ministry, and Christ maintained his devotion and obedience to the Father in accomplishing his paschal mission. Christ had to come and save Israel, because Israel could not do it independently.

Matthew is explaining that the parables are penetrations to the hardened state of Israel, who are constantly unable to uphold their side of the Mosaic covenant with God. The next set of verses gives further clarification and support to this when Christ quotes from the prophet Isaiah.

E. Matt 13:14-15 This is where Matthew really drives Christ’s point home. First notice the word “fulfilled.” Prophets were understood to predict the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant. Certainly the word “fulfillment” is used throughout the Synoptic Gospels. It is important to note that of all those “fulfillment quotations,” Matthew is the only one to present them as the actual words spoken by Jesus, rather than a theological assertion of the evangelist.

Matthew uses the entire passage from Isaiah 6:9–10. As the synoptic Gospels were written in Greek, we see Matthew’s translated insertion of Isaiah that is different from the Hebrew text.

When Isaiah had his primary great vision in the temple, he went to the temple to preach to the people about the hardness of their hearts. The Hebrew is much harsher and stronger than what Matthew inserts. The Hebrew speaks of making the hearts of people grow fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see . . . ” The lesson in these verses is that Christ’s ministry is as much of a ministry of judgment as it is a ministry of grace. Matthew seems to stress things more along the lines of “moral guilt of the people of Israel.”

Notice the literary tool Matthew uses in making comparisons of “shall indeeds” to “but nevers” in these verses. Matthew is not concerned with the Israel of the 8th century that Isaiah preached to long before Christ. Rather, Matthew is looking at the Jewish-Christian community of his own time. “If the hearers of a former age turned deaf ears and blind eyes to the prophet Isaiah by reason of an unsettled willingness to repent, this is of interest to the evangelist chiefly because he sees in it the pattern of what happened in the ministry of Jesus, and is still going on in his own days.

F. Matthew 13:16–17 First, it is fair to assert that these particular passages cannot ever be verified as a verbatim of Christ’s words. The theme of what is being said seems to support the view that Matthew’s aim is to present Christ teaching a moral lesson to a community that fails to repent. Matthew uses this blessing of Christ as another opportunity for Christ to instill a sense of privilege. Look at the words “truly I tell you . . .” Christ’s words possess a sense of gravity to call attention of the disciples to the “incomparable privilege” to their discipleship. This sense of respect and reverence in these verses is the final point for support to this essay’s thesis on faith and reason.

In one of his great treatise titles in his Mystical Theology, Pseudo-Dionysius uses the word “theology” in a manner that speaks to the sense of privilege in Christ’s words, “truly I say to you . . . ” First, the word “mystical,” as a theology, is to refer to Dionysius’ explanation as a part of the whole of theology in general. However, at the time of Dionysius the whole science of theology did not exist, as we know it today. So it is better to examine in what sense the term “theology” has meaning in Dionysius’ lifetime. This will speak to what Christ means in this passage because the sense of “theology” that Matthew’s community held is much closer to that of Dionysius’. Furthermore, Matthew is an evangelist called up into that Divine Light of truth and articulated it for us in his Gospel.

The English translation of “theology” is from Greek word “θεολογία.” However, English meaning does not match the meaning of Dionysius. Dionysius is not referring to “θεολογία” as a scientific discipline in a university. He also does not mean the literal sense of studying the nature of God. What he means is “the Words of God.” This is the whole of canonized Sacred Scripture in the Jewish and Christian Tradition.

“Theology” or “θεολογία” is the words and work of God “only insofar as it repeats in a more accessible way the content of scriptures.” As we read in the scriptures about God’s plans for our salvation, we can therefore infer that theology is the articulation of God, allowed to be given to us by God. Matthew is strongly making this point by quoting Christ in this way. This is why it is important to view Sacred Scripture as the “living Word of God.” Matthew’s writing is, as we believe in faith, the Word of God.

When we embark on the study of this particular passage in Matthew and make an exegetical application we are articulating something far beyond the content of Matthew’s writings. We articulate the meaning of the Word of God, the words of Christ — mediated to us through Sacred Scripture; and this is true of all Sacred Scripture in the canon. This privilege requires a humble ear and a faithful demeanor. It demands respect and reverence. In order to do it properly there must be a deposit of faith.

It's hard to believe

Around this time last year I was getting ready to graduate and leave college seminary. I just stopped over at my old stomping grounds to pick something up to take back home with me and it felt like I had not left. The lobby looked the same and the same smell of incense after a Sunday liturgy was in the air. As I get closer to being done with another school year, I think back to the beginning and for me this was a unique year. The first thing that has been unique about this year is the fact that I am now in major seminary and studying theology. Another thing that makes this year unique is that I have a car now, which is a necessity to get to and from my teaching parish in Anoka, MN. Thirdly, I am living with 60 or so men compared to 150 men last year. Each semester has been a big learning experience and there is more to come. I am sure that in four years, I will look back and say how unique my first year at the St. Paul Seminary was.

Oh the Sorrows of Shepherds

The office of bishop, the rank of bishop, the order of Episcopus, is an immense duty. For St. Thomas Aquinas, it is the highest vocation (state of life) possible in this life. At the same time, however, Aquinas also says that it is always sinful to willfully desire to be a bishop. Along these lines, it is often said around seminaries and gatherings of priests that "whoever desires to be a bishop deserves it." How true.

What spurs these reflections? Sadly, when I traveled down to my Teaching Parish this weekend, I was dumbfounded when I saw in all of the Sunday bulletins an insert which begins, "On May 4, Mrs. Kathy Redig, a chaplain at Winona Health Hospital, attempted a priestly ordination ceremony at Winona State University." Looking a little further into the situation, I finally understood what has been on my Diocesan website's front page for the last couple of weeks: "Reception of the Sacraments. . ." It's all right there for anyone who desires to read more.

All in all, for my bishop (and for me), it is very saddening to read and learn about. The history of understanding and respecting the equal dignity of women in the world is long and dirty - and obviously it's nowhere near cleaned up. Nonetheless, I am heartened by my bishop's response. Even now, after a half an hour of becoming informed of the events in my diocese, I have a great feeling of pride. I am proud to be a seminarian for the people of Winona; I am proud to have Bishop Harrington shepherding the Diocese. I thank God for His providential care of His people through my bishop, through his fidelity, and with his heart, which I discover more and more to be conformed to that of the Good Shepherd.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Face Lift

You may remember that near the beginning of this Academic Year, the blog received a bit of a face lift, with new colors, new photos, more links, etc... I am ashamed to say that we've been meaning to add some background pictures for greater decoration, but have not gotten around to it. To a certain extent, we have decided to go with the minimum: don't make a header too fancy; don't worry about attempting to incorporate music, pictures, etc... In the end, it is all an attempt to answer the call of the Second Vatican Council and Holy Fathers for years who have called for the Christian Faithful to infuse the technological media with the Gospel. Thus far, our modus operandi, has been somewhat minimalistic both willingly and unwillingly (due to difference of opinion and priority/time constraints).

Not so at the Vatican! One of our own "holy Fathers," the newly ordained from the Theology IV class, has informed that the Vatican website received a face lift. The very first page where you select the language by which you want to enter the site has changed. Not only has it changed, they've added a new language portal: Latin! Therein one can find the Holy Bible in Latin, Catechism of the Catholic Church in Latin, the Code of Canon Law in Latin, the Documents of the Second Vatican Council in Latin, as well as many documents from recent Popes and the Roman Congregations in Latin.

For you Latinists out there, drool away. This does simplify the task of finding various resources and documents in Latin from their website. In its own right, making these resources accessible is a way of bringing the Gospel to the world through the media, but this new addition is more than just that. They have put in the effort to make it beautiful and, through that beauty which is a reflection of God, continued to permeate the media with the God's word.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Our Beloved Brothers

With it being the end of the year and all, it is not only time to get the heck out of here (either for the summer or for good!), it is also a time to say goodbyes and form even deeper bonds of brotherhood. Indeed, for those of us who will return the following year, it is a definite task to ensure that we keep in contact with one another over the summer. For, when we get out to a parish or other summer assignment, we find we enjoy being there so much that to a certain extent, we don't think about missing our brother seminarians. This, I think, is a good sign, especially for those of us who are from more rural dioceses and will see our brother priests less frequently.

Of course we still miss one another and think about one another. We do eventually find the time to call one another, or even make the time to get together with one another (which I hope to do at least once this summer; after all, a trip to the cities is easy enough and worth it). But like I said, all of this depends upon our having formed deep bonds of brotherhood, which are yet being deepened.

Along these lines, as I returned from shopping today (it is finally time for me to collect a clerical wardrobe - shirts, pants, collars, vest, suit and all) I found slid under my door a simple gift from our Fourth Year men. To us Third Theology men, being ordained deacons, we finally begin exercising ministry as clerics. Involved in this is the ability to regularly perform (outside of Mass) baptisms, funerals and weddings. For this reason, the ritual book for one of these has been the traditional gift. Indeed, the Fourth Year men upheld this practice, adding their own personal touch. To them I am very greatful, and am moved (partially because of the immensity of the life and task ahead) by their well-wishes.

Forgive the wrinkles, the shrink-wrap is still surrounding the gift.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Eating Etiquette, Part I

I hereby begin a four part series from the same Social Manual for Seminarians by Rev. Thomas Case and Rev. Leo Gainor, O.P, that I have quoted from previously. This time on eating. It's long, but definitely worth it.


Table Manners

When eating, the idea is to do it neatly, quietly, and all but incidentally. If anything bothers you about table manners, put the question to these three tests. If the technique (1) makes a mess, (2) makes a noise, (3) calls attention to the fact that you are determined to stuff yourself, it’s bad manners.

A fourth general "don't" assumes equal importance: don’t be prissy. Don’t cock your little finger or pat-pat your pursed mouth daintily with your napkin.

The way you eat is a matter of habit. If your unconscious eating habits are unattractive even your best friend (or closest classmate) won’t tell you.

But you can tell; watch yourself for these signs of the four scourges of the dining table. But also read carefully for the correct eating habits.

Here art the four scourges: (1) the Slob; (2) the Racketeer; (3) the Pig; (4) the Priss. Each will be described in detail.

Four Horrible Examples

I. The Slob

He ties his napkin around his neck or tucks it into his vest. The napkin belongs on your lap during a meal, as stated in the preceding chapter.

Do not permit overseas students or pretentious epicureans to impress you by citing how the napkin is used in London, Paris, and Rome. The simple and inflexible rule for you in the U. S. A. is the napkin on your lap!

He leaves a sample of every course on the rim of his drinking glass. He sins on two counts; he drinks when his mouth is not empty, and he neglects to use his napkin before using the glass.

He makes every mouthful a full course meal in miniature (and not so miniature at that). In stead, of course, he should take small bites, chewing and swallowing each bite before he takes the next.

He should keep separate foods separate on his plate, if that’s the way they were intended. Sauces and gravies may be poured directly onto the food for which they were intended, but jellies, condiments, and all other accessories should be put on the plate in virgin state, only then to be spread on the bread or forked onto meat in bite-sized portions.

He forms a bridge from table to plate with his knife and fork when they are not in use — with handles on cloth, working ends propped on plate. Beware of this fault! As stated before (in the preceding chapter) nothing will betray your lack of social grace so quickly as this faux pas. Place your knife and fork flat on the plate when they are not on active duty.

He spits out anything he doesn't like. (You don't have to eat the inedible, of course, and if you must remove something from your mouth, first be sure that it bears no resemblance to regurgitated food, then grasp and remove it with your fingers — that's the quickest way. Correctly you could take it out with the same spoon or fork it went in on, but this maneuver is too acrobatic for grace in most instances, and it runs dangerously close to spitting. Actually you can cut it out bones and stones before they get into your mouth. And you can manfully swallow something that offends your palate.)

He breaks saltines into his soup! As a rule if a cracker is meant to go into the soup, it is meant to go in whole. But put oyster crackers first on your butter plate or on the cloth, then drop them into your soup, whole, a few at a time. Croutons are spooned directly into the soup. Saltines are place on your butter plate and are munched between spoonfuls of soup.

Remember, never break saltines into the soup. No other table fault will catalogue your cultural status quicker than this one breach of convention. If you have already acquired this gauche trait "break it" at once before it "turn state evidence" on you!

He eats messy things with his fingers. The best way to decide when to pick food up with your fingers is to decide in advance whether you can do it neatly. Picnics are something else again, of course, and some foods like lobsters are messy whatever your modus operandi, but with neatness as your guide you can't go far wrong. This neatness guide works both ways: it's neater to pick up an ear of corn than to watch it skitter across the plate as you try to cut it; it is neater to leave the hard stalk of asparagus if you can't cut it with a fork as you did the tips. And if an approach by hand seems indicated, as with a sandwich or a piece of fresh fruit, it is neater to cut it into manageable sections before you pick it up.

He puts soiled silver on the table. He spoons coffee from cup into mouth, or leaves the spoon in the cup. He does the dishwashing or silver plishing at the table. If the implement is really not clean, ignore it as you would a hair in your soup. (In a restaurant, of course, you may ask for another fork or send the soup back.)

He puts his mouth into the food instead of the food into his mouth. You hsouldn't meet your food even halfway. You bring it up to your erect head' you don't duck down to meet it coming up. He shoves spaghetti into his mouth with loose ends dangling instead of rolling it on his fork.

He talks with his mouth full; gesticulates and point with his eating tools; blows on his food, instead of waiting quitely for it to cool enough to eat; he dunks his toast or rolls into his coffee.

He cleans his teeth at table — with toothipick or fingernail; by sucking at them or by running his tongue around his teeth, with grimaces.