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, June 30, 2008


The associate pastor with whom I work often comments about some of the villages where we minister, "The more I love the people, the more I hate the village."  Louie's story is characteristic of the situation. 

I met Louie on Sunday.  He is a native boy, and exhibits a typical Lakota trait of appearing to be some indeterminate age between thirteen and twenty-five.  He didn't come to Mass, but he did come to enjoy the free meal afterwards.  I sat with Louie and his younger brother while we ate.

From all appearances, Louie is a decent kid.  He is very polite and soft-spoken.  I had to strain to hear him.  He told me that he is seventeen, but that he would turn eighteen in a few months.  I asked him about school, and he revealed that he is supposed to be a junior, but that he was required to repeat a year at some point in his past.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Louie will finish high school.  He was recently expelled for fighting.  A peer had tried to "jack his necklace," and Louie had responded in kind.  Besides being expelled, he was charged with simple assault and several other things.  The courts have yet to decide what to do with him.

Louie wants to go to Job Corps.  This organization will help him finish his GED, and will also teach him some sort of job skill.  In Job Corps, he could learn carpentry, painting, heavy equipment operation, or any number of things.  Perhaps the courts will permit him to do this.  God willing, he will learn a skill, get off the Rez, and live a decent life.  Unfortunately, Louie fears that he will be sent to "placement," or as we more commonly know it, treatment or rehab.

As I mentioned Louie is only seventeen.  Even at this age, though, he has already spent more than five years in treatment.  He didn't tell me the addiction(s) with which he struggles, but if I were a betting man, I would guess that he had already faced criminal charges for alcohol, marijuana, and meth.  All of them are readily available on the Rez.

Louie is one of hundreds of kids just like him.  When you live and grow up on the Rez, you begin to believe that this is all that life has in store for you.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sts. Peter and Paul

This weekend has been filled with many celebrations. For one, the priest that I am living with came back from retreat. It is good to have him back and in charge. The second celebration occurred yesterday in Winona, MN where four men were ordained to the priesthood. Two of them were at the St. Paul Seminary (more on this in a little bit). Thirdly, the beginning of the year of St. Paul began yesterday with Solemn Vespers and today in Rome the newly appointed archbishops were given their pallium. Archbishop John Nienstedt (the new archbishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis) was among the many who received the pallium.
Also present were Fr. Scott Carl (he has been in Rome for the past few years studying Sacred Scripture and will be teaching in the fall, he is on the far right) and Fr. Peter Laird (vice-rector and moral theologian, standing next to Fr. Carl)

Today I was able to drive down to Pipestone, MN so that I could attend Fr. Jeffrey Dobbs' (scroll down to page 11 for a brief biography) first mass. Since I did not know how long it would take, I left at around seven thirty this morning and got there at about 9:30. I had some time to spend before mass started at 10:30, so I prayed the rosary while some pictures were being taken. I noticed an older priest walking around and then some pictures were taken while the older priest was blessing Fr. Dobbs' chasuble and stole. Then some more pictures were going to be taken of Fr. Dobbs being vested. All of the sudden I heard a loud thud. Unfortunately it was the older priest that I had seen earlier walking around. He had fainted and had fallen to the ground. I immediately heard someone say "Dial 911." I also heard people praying the Hail Mary and the pastor of the parish got the oil of the sick out and Fr. Dobbs did his first anointing. I later found out during Fr. Dobbs' homily that the older priest was the one who baptized him. Now 26 years later the infant that was baptized was anointing the man who brought him into the Church. The priest was taken away in an ambulance to the local hospital and I did not hear how he was doing. I was glad to have witnessed both the anointing as well as Fr. Dobbs' first mass.

The final celebration of this weekend is that of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. This celebration brings back memories of my trip to Rome a couple of years ago and I will share a few pictures with you. The first is the outside of the Mamertinum. The Mamertinum is one of the prisons in which St. Peter was held. The second is a picture of the interior of the Mamertinum.

The third picture is from St. Peter's Square. The small square outlined in white is where St. Peter was crucified upside down.

These two places hold a deep place in my heart because they show the great love that St. Peter had for our Lord and secondly because they were two of my favorite places during my visit to Rome.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) (Part 4) What makes Catholic Spirituality, well, Catholic!

This is a Part 4 of a multi-part series on Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) and his book Introduction to Spirituality. Part 5 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


Picking up from where we signed off in the last blog of this series, we will wrap-up Father Bouyer's distinction of what a generally authentic sense of Christianity is. In doing this, Father Bouyer uses this distinction for a place to begin a comparison of Protestant vs. Catholic Spirituality. We can begin to define what makes Catholic Spirituality, well, Catholic.

Fundamental Christian Spirituality (continued):

Father Bouyer teaches that the personal relationship established with God (inter-personal) is core to the Christian Spiritual life. This comes from revelation, which as stated many times before, is the Divine Word. These two pillars are essential. We have the personal connection or relationship with God, known in a person; we also have the divine Word, the logos, made incarnate in that person of God, Christ.

The result is for us to know that God truly exists and has intimately spoken to us. He has given us the logos...the divine Word...the Christ, in that He gives Himself to us in His Word. This is what Christians believe and this belief is necessary for a spirituality to be authentically Christian. This belief is what Father Bouyer says, "not only dominates our Christian spiritual life, but is its very source, its unique source."

Father Bouyer explains to us that, in any authentic Christian Spirituality, God is not only the subject of the conversation, but also the object of the conversation. This is because it was God, Himself, Who started the conversation in the first place. He states,

"We must emphasize...that according to this view it is not enough to say that God, the God Who speaks, is the object of the Christian faith. We must go still further and say that this faith recognizes Him from the first, in the relationship, in the dialogue between man and God (or, much better, between Him and man), as the subject."

We as human beings suffer. We know pain, anxiety, hardship, and toil. Yet, we also celebrate. We know joy, hope, and happiness. It is important to remember that in the midst of all this, God is there right with us. But it is not our experience that brought God to us, as we cried to him whether in pain or joy. Rather, Father Bouyer teaches, God has given himself to us "graciously, freely, and with a sovereign initiative." God seeks man who has not sought Him, "the man who has not concerned himself with God at all."

Father Bouyer reminds us: 1.) It is not us who loved Christ first, but Christ Who loved us. 2.) God came to Abraham and the people of Israel and not the opposite. 3.) We are created by God in his image and likeness. This painting by 17th century French artist Laurent de La Hire is titled "Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac" c.1650. This scene in Genesis 22:1-12 is where Abraham, acting in faith and obedience to God, begins the relationship of faith, hope, and love that has continued for thousands of years to today.

In all this, God is the primary person taking place in the dialogue...God, the one Who comes to us, Who created us and, Who continues to re-create us by calling us back into divine unity with Him. For the Word not only saves, but also creates by its own power and will.

Fundamental Catholic Spirituality:

So far, this review of Father Bouyer's book Introduction to Spirituality has examined simply Christian spirituality. This is applicable for Catholics and Protestants alike. Also, these things can be said of Jewish spirituality. After all Judaism is focused on the God Who speaks and a faith centered on the coming Messiah.

Yet what makes Catholic spirituality, well, Catholic? Father Bouyer answers saying,

"...the basic characteristic of the Catholic spiritual life is the additional and basic distinction that God not only actually does speak to us (as the Jews have believed since the Old Covenant), that He not only has spoken to us in a definitive way in His Christ (as Protestants believe with us), but also that He continues to speak to us, and to speak to us in His Christ, by and in the Church."

It is true that Catholic spirituality is the only type of Christianity that continues the line that began in Judaism. In Catholicism, the divine Word continues, it is still living, always here with us, spoken forward throughout the epochs of history.

Catholic vs. Protestant Spirituality:

Father Bouyer identifies the best Protestant spirituality as affirming that the divine Word, given to us by Christ in Scripture, is able to remain present and in place for us. However, these same Protestant beliefs, divergent from Catholic belief, would continue saying that the divine Word is present only in the interior and individual sense. Father Bouyer says, "the Protestant who reads the divine Word once inspired by the Holy Spirit can find it illuminated for him here and now by what he calls the “interior witness” of the same Spirit." We can conclude, therefore, that Protestantism yields a view of Christ and the person only in the individual person as they subjectively discern that relationships meaning.

It is here where Father Bouyer outlines another distinct facet of Catholicism. In the Catholic view, Spirituality is not authentic without the reality of the community of faithful and the community of saints. These brothers and sisters in Christ are an emphasis that cannot be made enough when defining Catholic spirituality. Remember that a lot happens after Christ ascended into heaven. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the communion of faithful is what ties us all together in the rest of the Holy Trinity.

To be continued...

Friday, June 27, 2008


In 1990, about fifty miles from my current assignment, work crews found Sue's remains. By the time she was discovered, only a skeleton was left. Most of her body was covered with earth and debris, so recovery of the body was painstakingly slow. Ultimately, only about 90% of the body was recovered. A foot, an arm, and a few ribs and vertebrae were still missing. Nevertheless, there was ample evidence to identify the body. After a long custody dispute, the body was eventually sent to Chicago, where it remains today. Nevertheless, casts of the remains were returned to South Dakota, and they are currently on display with the remains of others who have been found in the area. I went to explore this exhibit and took some photos. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

WYD Event at SPS!

With the 2008 World Youth Day fast approaching, the Saint Paul Seminary hosted an evening for all people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis that were going to Australia for the big event.

With Ben and myself being the only seminarians here for the summer, we were informed that the event was coming up. It sounded like the event would more than fill Saint Mary's Chapel here at the Saint Paul Seminary; Ben added all the folding chairs we could muster into the chapel and I straightened out the pews and performed the sacristy duties - setting up for Mass.

The event sounded very simple: open with Mass with Archbishop Nienstedt, have the guests remain in the chapel for a presentation preparing them for what they would encounter in Australia, and close with a catered supper in the seminary courtyard and lobby.

Ben would be out at a wedding for the evening; my task was very simple: setup for Mass and then stay at the front desk to field questions from the guests. This was great - our guests told us that they were coordinating the presentation, food, and all details other than the setup for Mass.

Before most of the guests arrived, I was informed of several "emergencies." Keep in mind, my task for the evening was to greet our guests and field the standard basic questions: Is it Ok that I parked over there? Where is the restroom? Where are the priests vesting? It was a bit challenging to respond to these situations: missing electrical equipment, lacking staging equipment, an MIA-catering service, and spilled lettuce - sadly, there is no time to write about these "emergencies;" not to worry though, they were addressed.

Archbishop Nienstedt began his homily by singing part of the new World Youth Day theme song: Recieve the Power. Following Mass, the Archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Families sponsored a lecture and presentation on that which they would encounter in Australia as well as updates on the schedule, important notes, and so forth.

After the presentation, the seminary hosted a catered supper for all the members of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis that were going to World Youth Day. The seminary's lobby and courtyard were filled with very excited and wonderful people. I enjoyed talking with many of them and learning why they decided to attend the WYD event. Their answers varied, of course, but certainly the most popular answer was "to see the pope."

Perhaps the most unique answer was from a gentleman in his late-teens who told me: "My parents travel to conferences for their jobs all the time; this is like Catholics going to a job conference - it'll be awesome!" Well spoken, young sir.

The Saint Paul Seminary will have at least one of our seminarians attending WYD: Scott from the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Father Beaudet - our professor of Canon Law - will be leading one of the delegations from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to Australia.

We send our best wishes as well as prayers for a safe journey to all WYD travelers.

Take care, -Jeremy

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quo Vadis?

Quo Vadis?

These were the words of St. Peter to our Lord, as tradition has it, as bumbling St. Peter was running away from Rome in Anno Domini (A.D. - the year of our Lord) 64. Well, perhaps he didn't speak to him in Latin, but perhaps he did. He was running, afterall, from Rome, where he had preached, perhaps even in Latin. So it is plausible that St. Peter spoke to our Lord these very words: "Quo Vadis?" "Where are you going?" When Jesus responded, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." St. Peter questioned, "You will to be crucified again?" Jesus: "Yes, I shall again be crucified." St. Peter, ashamedly: "Lord, I will return and follow you." At that Jesus ascended into heaven and St. Peter was crucified, upside down since he deemed himself unworthy of being crucified as was our Lord.

St. Peter was running: running from that to which God had called him, running from the Cross. Each of us has those moments in our lives when we hear the voice of the Lord gently or boisterously asking, "Where are you going?" One of the most important ways in which our Lord asks us this is in regard to our vocation. Where are you going? What are you doing? Do you hear my voice calling you? Perhaps we even hear him asking, "Why are you running? Do you not know that all is well for you in my providence?"

This week is the Diocese of Winona's Quo Vadis Days when all of the seminarians and many of the younger priests of the Diocese, with one of the senior priests, gather to speak to middle-school and high-school boys about vocations. Prayer, meals, conferences, Mass, sports, snacks, bonfires, Night Prayer - all of these are activities of these days. The focus of these days: discerning God's will. The center of these days: our Eucharistic Lord.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Times They Are A'Changin'

I went home to visit my family on Sunday. My youngest brother and his wife were still there when I arrived (They come home nearly every weekend, but often leave to go back to their own home before I arrive.). When I walked through the door, they were engrossed in a large green book that has occupied a place on our bookshelf for as long as I can remember. Within it is contained a history of Meade County, in which my small ranch community is situated. I had forgotten that I would be home in time to attend a planning meeting. Red Owl, my hometown*, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and there will be a celebration.

After a nostalgic and informative romp through the green book, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I all headed for the Red Owl Hall.

The Hall, through most of my childhood, was the place where everything happened. Dances, basketball games, fund-raisers, funeral receptions, wedding receptions and potlucks galore found a gathering space in the Red Owl Hall. To me, it maintains a certain sentimental charm even though it is now mostly a place where bats reside. It has a hydrant much like those found in ranch corrals that provides cold water for the place. Otherwise, there are no modern amenities. There are no toilets, but there are outhouses to be found not far from the main building.

Upon our arrival, we discovered a number of other citizens already assembled. The meeting began soon after, and was an exercise in confusion. This was the first meeting, and no one knew quite where to begin. A date was tentatively set, though, and some initial plans for a parade were established. My Dad volunteered to create and MC a panel discussion detailing some of the history of the area. A woman just a few years older than I volunteered to create a slide show to play in a loop throughout the day. Another woman volunteered to create a Red Owl Calendar with photos of al the local families adorning it. The younger folks (my brother and his peers), much to the chagrin of the local teetotaler, offered to organize a dance. My mother and sister-in-law volunteered to provide decorations and to try to find sponsors for the event. Committees were established, a second meeting date set, and everyone got ready to leave. As we were departing the same woman who had volunteered to do the calendar suggested tee-shirts. I agreed and suggested that they be modeled after our old, now defunct, middle school basketball team. She thought that might be a good idea, but in retrospect, I wonder if I would be able to wear such a tee-shirt. Our mascot, of course, was an owl.

Would it be prudent, I wonder, to appear in a red shirt with white letters boldly announcing, "I was a Red Owl Hooter!"

Oh, the times they are a'changin'.

*Only in the broadest of senses can Red Owl be described as a town. Were it to have city limit signs, they would be back to back.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Different Kind of Weary

Perhaps to Dcn. Mike's surprise, not all is fun and games here on the Rez. I do not get the chance to fly an airplane every day, but I must say, I am not likely to pass up the opportunity when it comes my way.

I am not busy here as I am used to being busy. Daily Mass is at 8:30 AM, which is mid-morning by most parochial standards. There are not a lot of appointments during the day. There are not a lot of meetings, especially over the summer. I have only three people on my homebound list (though there are many more who could use a visit, but have never called to tell us so). There is no nursing home in this little village. So, how do I while away the hours?

Well, first of all, I have the leisure to spend a good deal of time preparing my homilies. As I preach every weekend, I appreciate this liberty. Secondly, the sisters are always going somewhere to do something. For instance, last week I went to the village of Cherry Creek to attend a seminar taught by a Catholic Social Services Counselor dealing with the topic of co-dependency. After the seminar, we did some home visits together. One evening I attended an Altar Society meeting in a small town called Dupree (they bribed me with rhubarb cake). I have also been out to the village of Red Scaffold to help one of the sisters with her summer catechism classes for the children.

So, I spend a good deal of time out and about, and to be out and about in this assignment means to be on the road. Our nearest mission parish is about seventeen miles away. The furthest is eighty-three miles from here. All in all, we minister to the people of nine different parishes. Thus, to see our people - to try to be with them - requires a tremendous number of hours on the road.

I spend some of my time just trying to be visible. I walk to the post office some mornings just for the exercise, because that is where people hang out in the morning. I walk up and down main street at nightfall because that is when a different group of people comes out. The Lakota are not quick to trust, and they are not going to trust me until they get used to seeing me around.

Even with these things, though, I tend to have quite a lot of free time. Nevertheless, I find that I experience a certain sort of weariness that is altogether unlike the weariness that is derived from a day like those described by Dcn. Michael or a week like Dcn. Greg.  Mine, I think, is a weariness akin to that of the parent of a wayward child. The parent loves and loves, but there seems to be no response on the part of the child. The child probably means no harm, but at the same time, they offer no consolation by way of demonstrating that the love has any effect in their lives.

"In what way is this like my own ministry?" you might query. Well, on Saturday I preached a homily for two people. They sat in the back row. As I was preaching, I could see out the windows of the Church where there were Catholics sitting outside their house down the street, eating their meal and enjoying the evening sun. Earlier in the week, only one woman attended the co-dependency workshop. She came only because we drove the ten extra miles to bring her. On Sunday, in Red Scaffold, I preached to a mostly empty church again. I am giving. Are they receiving?

The point of this is not to create a pity-party. It is quite the opposite, actually. The experience is not one of desolation. Rather, there is a deeper sense of consolation hidden in these experiences. I think that a great temptation for members of the "helping professions" is to do for others because of the way they respond in return. We are immediately rewarded for our efforts. These last couple of weeks, though, have had none of that. The reward, paradoxically, is the absence of a reward. It feels true, genuine, holy. It is the realization that this is not my work, and it is not by my strength that it is being accomplished. It is not about me.

St. Paul writes, "But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you." (Philippians 2:17). I expect that he was weary too. How generously God has treated me to have called me to this vocation!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A good time was had by all

This past weekend was spent on the road going to a wedding in Spirit Lake (aka Okoboji), IA. I drove down to Sioux Falls in the morning and drove with another seminarian to Spirit Lake. The groom was in the seminary with us for a few years and ended up discerning that priesthood was not in God's will for his life. He and his wife will be living in Minneapolis, he's still in law school and she will be working as a hotel manager in Minneapolis. It was great to be able to see them get married and it was also great to see some friends that I had not seen for a while. One of the most remarkable things about this wedding was that during the rehearsal, the groom mentioned that preparing for marriage has been an experience of dying to himself. Before the wedding he was telling me how nervous he was and he recognized that if he was not nervous, then there was something not right. He told us that when we are about ready to be ordained we will have the same emotions going through us. Ad multos annos John and Elizabeth Sandy!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ad novissimum. (a soap box of mine)

Most people who have read St. Thomas' Summa Theologiæ and utilized the original Latin version would recognize from my title that I'm responding to something. "Novissimum" means last, newest, most recent. The title could read: "Response to the last one." So, with all due respect, here goes.

This past week, I made a trip up to the cities on my "day off," if you want to call it that. Some priests prefer to call it their "day away." Whatever.

I made the trip for a number of reasons:

  1. I had a book to return to the Ireland Library.
  2. I wanted to pick up a number of books on how to serve in the Roman Rite (the form prior to 1970... which it sounds like the Pope might start calling the "Gregorian Rite", helping people to understand that this form was largely set ever since the 6th century) (oh, and this is another post which has been mulling around in my head for some time and will make it to these pages someday this summer. Probably after Sunday, July 6, when I plan on serving as deacon in a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form).
  3. I had a late paper to turn in! (Ugh! I know, I'm a horrible example. I'm a terrible seminarian and quite a weak man. And yes, the book I returned to Ireland was a primary reference in this paper.)
  4. I wanted to have lunch with my classmates and see how their placements are going.
  5. I wanted to check my mail at the seminary. I am supposed to have received a faculties sheet from my Vicar General, but I am as of yet unable to locate it. Along with this would be a form which I bring to a court house so as to get the State's approbation to witness marriages. Only minimally important!

I had a very interesting reflection, however, while at the seminary. I was sitting, waiting to speak to one of the office ladies to ask her to open the mail room so I could receive my mail; she was on the phone. One of the priests on staff came out of a meeting room after meeting with someone, walked by me to his office, and then sped off to do something else. The same was true of a number of people running about the office: they all looked hurried. Without judging them, yet putting it politely but frankly, some of them looked stressed. It reminded me of the stress that has so often been referenced in the past on this blog which almost every seminarian experienced this yaer.

This stress comes, in part I am certain, from this modus vivendi (mode to be lived) which has one constantly preoccupied and "busy." In talking with one of the other men at SPS before the end of the year, he was reflecting upon his own experience in seminary and grappling with that feeling of needing to be busy and simply being busy.

So what was my reflection while at the seminary this week? For some reason, city-folk seem more likely to find satisfaction and (perhaps sadly) valuation in having many activities and things to run off to and have to do. Perhaps that's the necessary evil of living in a more populated locale. Rural life just isn't the same (though the same is creeping very definitely into rural life). Objectively speaking, ministry isn't based upon how many people you saw, how many Masses you said, how many infants you baptized, how many people you buried, how many converts you won over. Priests all too easily fall into this trap! And we as seminarians have received formation sessions which deal with this very topic.

I don't mean to imply that all priests/parishes measure their "ministerial effectiveness" by how busy they are. Nor do I mean to imply that urban/suburban priests/parishes at large do such. Yet, by and large, I have seen a marked difference between those in cities who feel cramped and feel the need to cramp their schedules and those in more rural areas whose schedules and lives are much more free.

Is this to be accredited to laziness? I don't think so. Perhaps it's just that life, ministry and evangelization happens differently in rural communities. Perhaps it's that, in our day, even many Catholics (dare I say, priests?) have fallen prey to the myth of fragmentation and materialism, which requires physical productivity and immediately tangible results. Perhaps, as I mentioned before, it is the necessary evil of living in a more populated region. Perhaps it is that rural people are too lazy. But then, in a similar way, are we to say that Carthusian, Benedictine, Trappist, Carmelite (the list goes on) monks and nuns are lazy?

I guess the point is that receiving the opportunity to go on a flight and then actually fly a plane (or in my case most recently, to go strolling through a country park) might contribute to the perfection of man, which contributes to the sanctification of God's holy people, the building up of the Body of Christ and, thereby, the glorification of God (the true measure of ministry).

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Second Week

The second week is drawing to a close and has been a good week. We had our third funeral since I’ve been here. The priests and staff jokingly tell me that I will be the best trained transitional deacon in funerals in the whole world. Perhaps, but I doubt it. It has been a blessing, though, to jump into this parish’s life and be welcomed straight into the midst of people’s intimate and delicate sufferings.

Though some of what is happening here may not be as exciting as other parishes, nonetheless, I have gotten to share some experiences which will be very helpful to me in the future. The parish is going about eliminating one of the Sunday Masses and changing the times. They’re going from four Masses on Sunday (not counting the Mass of Anticipation on Saturday evening), down to three on Sunday mornings. Apparently, while they were asking for the input of parishioners two months ago when they began thinking about it, there wasn’t much said, but now that the decision has been made and the change is actually going to happen, oh brother, watch out!

The parish is also losing its very, very capable office manager. She keeps the pastor’s schedule, does the weekly bulletin, greets people at the office door, answers the phones, maintains the website, keeps sacramental records, handles mass intention offerings, and a plethora of other small tasks—including making the daily batch of coffee for the office, something much appreciated by this addict. So, the parish was going about hiring a new office manager and I had the privilege of sitting in on all of the interviews. They even asked for my input—oh my! I felt so special… Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Lastly, I sat in on last night’s special meeting for the Finance/Pastoral Councils. They weren’t happy with the budget. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the parish is struggling to make ends meet. Perhaps it should, though. They lamented the fact that this same issue comes up year after year: Catholics (or at least the Catholics at this parish) don’t do well with contributing their treasure—though some are very good at contributing their time and talent.

So, week two down (for the most part). I’ve just got to put shape to my homily for this weekend. Who is the one who can destroy both body and soul into Gehenna?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


On Wednesday, I flew an airplane.

Not just in one, but actually held the controls, steered the craft, and directed it up and down.

A priest from the diocese was visiting to work on a project with the pastor here. One of this visiting priest's hobbies is flying. He has had a license for a few years now, and he tries to get up in the air as often as he can. I had never flown with him before, but had been waiting for the opportunity. It arrived today when he decided to fly to Eagle Butte.

After they had finished working on their project, the housekeeper, the finance officer and I all went to the local airport (Eagle Butte has an Airport. It has one runway and a small hangar. It is used for small planes like crop dusters and the like.), where we took turns circling the town in the plane. I had no intention of touching the controls when we lifted off the ground, but once we had gained altitude, the priest instructed me to take hold of the controls on my side and to try to keep the plane level. He assured me that the plane was a teaching plane (like a drivers' ed car with breaks on both sides) and that one would have to try to crash it in order to do so.

It was an odd feeling. The nose of the plane always seemed to be moving upward, and it was difficult to keep it level. I didn't like the idea of banking to the left, with my body leaning against the rather fragile looking doors. We circled around the city, and climbed high enough to see the Missouri River from the air, then we circled back toward the runway and Father took the controls again.

Flying in a small plane is much different than a passenger jet. Less speed is needed to create lift. The transition between land and air is more subtle - it hadn't the same terrifying effect that jets can have. Once airborne, one flies lower to the ground (around 1,000 feet), adding better definition to the things seen from the air. One can see easily from both sides of the plane as well as out of the front. The cows look like cows, just small and far away. The land is a green patchwork - beautiful. Landmarks are still identifiable, but only intellectually. They don't have the same value they had on land - their meaning is changed from the air. What good is it to know that the stock dam is a quarter mile from the house when one can see for hundreds of miles in any direction? Shapeless fields and bodies of water now have shapes. One does the reverse of what one does when laying on one's back looking at clouds. With a little imagination, the grasslands can become anything.

Beyond the anxiety of it, there is a certain freedom in the air. Out here, we are not watched over by radar and air traffic controllers. One just goes up and flies basically wherever one will. This kind of freedom draws all sorts of people to Western South Dakota I suppose. Pilots to the infinite uncontrolled sky, motorcyclists to the straight and endless highways, and horsemen to the grass and hills stretching from horizon to horizon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Give-Away

Rez funerals are not like the funerals most of us know. They are longer and involve a whole series of rituals unfamiliar to us. Though most funerals do not include every element described below, almost all include some of them.

The funeral begins with the wake which may last two full days. As often as not, this occurs in a local community hall. They usually begin at 7:00 PM. At this time, the priest or deacon will lead a typical Catholic Vigil for the Deceased. After he has finished his part, any variety of things might happen. Native drum groups might sing honoring songs. Religious leaders of other denominations (typically the pastors of non-Catholic family members) might lead vigils of their own. Around 9:00 PM, a meal is served. The vigil then continues. The funeral itself is pretty typical until the end, when the casket is rolled to one side of the room and opened and a procession begins wherein every person present at the funeral passes the casket for the "second viewing." This is where the wailing begins. The family of the deceased waits in a receiving line to greet those present for the funeral.

After the viewing, the people will process to the cemetery where the committal is to occur. Most often the grave is dug by hand, and after the prayers have been finished, it is filled by hand. Following this, another meal occurs. Tripe soup is frequently on the menu. After the meal has been served, the give-away begins.

The give-away is exactly what it sounds like. The family of the deceased gives gifts to honored guests at the funeral. The most honored will typically receive a star-quilt. Others will receive any variety of things - dish towels, laundry baskets, food, etc . . . I'm not sure how they determine who will receive something or what they will receive. Clergy usually receive something, though.

One year after a death, a memorial service is held. This includes prayers of remembrance, speakers who honor the deceased, more drumming and native dancing, and sometimes a ritual known as "the wiping of the tears" which is a way of welcoming the family back into the community after their period of mourning. These are followed with another meal (and more tripe) and then a second give-away.

I attended my first memorial and give-away over the weekend. There was a large crowd, and a party sort of atmosphere. The native drumming and singing began early. The rhythm of the drum and the wailing sound of the singing gave me shivers. At one point, the family of the deceased did a circle dance. The meal was served buffet style for those with sufficient stamina to stand in line. The grandchildren of the deceased brought food to the elderly people present for the event. I left before the give-away proper, as it was getting to be time to prepare for Mass. I had been there for three hours already, and the give-away proper was yet to begin.

I am not sure what all of this means, or why it is all done, or really anything at all, but I did have a few observations:

1) As I have found with cultures, all people were saintly during their lives after they are dead.

2) Prairie people like the opportunity to get together. Even for death, there is pleasure to be found in gathering the community.

3)I am going to have to force myself to eat tripe before the summer is over. I had thought I could handle it before I saw the soup - now I am not so sure.

4) As similar as Eagle Butte can be to my own ranch culture background, I have a steep learning curve to manage this summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

South of the Border

Two weeks ago, the Saint Paul Seminary class of 2010 left for a two-week adventure in Venezuela!

Before beginning their first semester as "Theology Three" students this coming autumn, the class of 2010 will be both learning about Hispanic culture and experiencing an immersion into the Spanish language.

With a departure date 04 June, the seminary was (briefly) hopping with excitment. There are very few of us that are here during the summer and we were very excited to have a larger number of seminarians together in the house again.

Of course, not everyone was as excited as I that afternoon. Travel, of course, brings its own "baggage;" in the crunch-time of having a departure time set, one must double-check that everything is properly packed and that nothing is forgotten: "Did I pack enough shirts?" "Can I bring this on the plane?" "Where is my passport?"

On a related note, before getting into the cars to head over to the airport, one member of the Saint Paul Seminary class of 2010 asked, "Okay, what did I forget that everyone else has?" Another member of the class of 2010 jokingly replied: "Our dignity!" He was kidding, of course; I included this snippet as an example of the good friendships (though sarcastic at times) that exist within the class of 2010.

The good news is all of the class of 2010 returned home safely on Saturday evening! You may be thinking, "Well, that's great - but why are we not seeng many, many posts on their experiences?"

The answer is that most of them were only here for about thirty-six hours; many of them already flew to Mexico for a second part of this immersion experience. We all are looking forward to hearing their stories.

All the best to the SPS class of 2010 in their summer assingments!

Take care, -Jeremy

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gotta love the old ladies.

Wasn't it Bill Cosby who had that show, "Kids say the darndest things?" Well, I wanna start an "Old ladies say the darndest things" show. Well, maybe just an ongoing blog series.

1. You know, seeing you up there helping Father at the altar, I couldn't help thinking about how much you remind me of Justin Timberlake.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

That Your Joy May Be Complete pt. 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post featuring my bishop’s pastoral letter entitled “That Your Joy May Be Complete.” My bishop wrote this letter to mark the 25th anniversary of his conversion to Catholicism. He writes about seven things in the Church that he takes joy in as a bishop and they are things that each Catholic has access to as well. In my previous post I offered a summary of the first thing within the Church that my bishop finds joy in: The Holy Eucharist.

The second aspect that my bishop has experienced joy in is prayer. He describes the different types of prayer that he finds solace and consolation in. He gives the analogy of daily prayer as the light for our day. Without light we can do very little and the same goes for the spiritual life. If we do not foster our own personal prayer life, it becomes difficult to carry on a healthy relationship with God. If there is one thing that I have noticed about my bishop is that he is a man of deep prayer. This came most recently at our ordination liturgies and although I was serving the mass, it was very easy to pray because of his ability to preside and allow the different aspects of the liturgy to sink in.

The third aspect of our faith that my bishop reflects on is the joy found in the liturgy of the Church. While still “investigating” the Catholic Church he would sit in Mass and “the presence of God engulfed me.” One of the first things that we do when we enter into the Mass is ask God for his loving mercy and forgiveness. Bishop Swain emphasizes God’s mercy because, although he is a successor of the apostles, he is still a man in need of God’s forgiveness. After the first ordination liturgy he presided over, he was made aware of the responsibility that had been placed on his shoulders.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Is is a fact of life in small-town South Dakota that the majority of residents in a particular area are related to one another by blood and various degrees of marriage. On the reservation, this fact is further complicated by the fact that among the native women, a single mother frequently has numerous fathers of her children. Family trees are hard to draw here - they end up looking more like brambles.

Mert is our bookkeeper. She is a white woman in her fifties or perhaps early sixties. She has lived in Eagle Butte most of her life. She knows everyone in the area unless they have moved here very recently. She is a cousin to the parish receptionist. The parish receptionist has also lived here forever. They both have large families, and as a result, have a lot of relatives. In most ways, this fact is a blessing.

A couple of weeks ago, however, the pastor received the results of an audit performed by the diocesan finance office. While everything was in order, the finance office did have some recommendations regarding some of our practices here. Among them was a recommendation to find someone besides Mert to count the weekend collections. They suggested that there actually be two counters. This idea makes great sense, as it protects both Mert and the counters from accusations of misconduct. There is a problem, though: The counters must be unrelated to Mert and unrelated to one another. That won't be easy to find here on the Rez.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ordination pics

My classmates and I received this a couple of days ago from the Theo II men who are down in Venezuela (the whole class traveled down there for an immersion, and about half of them will travel to Guadalajara, Mexico, for an extended immersion with classes to learn Spanish). In our diverse class, we have a man who is studying for the Diocese of Saint Cloud who is originally from Venezuela. He came to the US a number of years ago to study Psychology, etc..., but eventually discerned a call to priesthood. He was ordained Saturday, 8 June - just one day after Deacon Tyler. Keep watching this post because I'm inviting Deacon Tyler to add a picture or two from his ordination, once he has them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reflections on Ordination

First, a big old "Mea Culpa." It has been perhaps too long since I've put any serious effort into the blog. But, that's because (for the most part) I've been on the road to other men's ordinations.

Well, Dcn. Mike, now-happily-Deacon Tyler, and Anthony aren't the only ones out in parishes. And eve that is an interesting point. I first wrote, "out in the parish," but decided to change it. First, we're obviously not all at the same parish. Second, in due deference to our professors: no two parishes are the same. Three, there is a way of speaking of "the parish" which so idealizes it and removes it from "the seminary" that it can, in thought perhaps, become quite removed from what experience in parishes is actually like. I find, also, that that sort of speak usually arises when we want to promote this idea that seminary isn't real life, parish-life is real life, and the time in the seminary is either: 1) the greatest possible life and so one ought to desire to one day be assigned back to the parish or 2) seminary is the worst possible life and it is to be suffered through until, finally, "they" have stopped hindering "you" and you can finally get on with what God really wants you to be doing.

From my ordination: lying prostrate during the Litany of the Saints
Looking back to my ordination, as well as assisting at my classmates' ordinations, my first thought is that it really wasn't very existentially special. Surprise, surprise. I know. My classmates would make some comment about how my Medieval outlook on life doesn't allow me to appreciate life, or something. Yes, intellectually, I know that Ordination is a great grace, and I am most thankful to Omnipotent God for it. Yet, I didn't get choked up, I wasn't nervous beforehand, I haven't experienced any great temptation telling me I shouldn't have been ordained, I haven't had any major struggle with fulfilling the roles I am called to fulfill. It just is; and it just fits.

Last week, I spent the week out in the southwestern part of Minnesota at a small cluster of parishes; well, after having spoken with Tyler's brothers and sisters-in-law I can't quite call them "small" since the Diocese of Rapid City has some quite a bit smaller, but the populations of those towns were approximately 2,050, 320 and 170. As I was out there, the pastor asked me, "So what's it like to be a deacon?" I didn't have much of a response. I pretty much just shrugged my shoulders and said, "It is what it is." To which he responded, "Now, see! That's what it's supposed to be. It feels natural to be a deacon, doesn't it?" I responded, "Yeah, pretty much." He continued, "See. Now that's a sure sign that you're called to be a priest." I don't know that I would quite so strongly agree and hold the same position, but it is nonetheless reassuring.

And that is what it has been like for these last two weeks and four days. Sometimes there is a bit more poignant reminder that I am a deacon, for example last night. Having just arrived at my summer assignment, we left to go to the funeral home for a wake service. As we arrived, the pastor had to go do something and so I was left on my own. I happened to meet one of the oldest daughters of the elderly mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who had passed away. After speaking with her, I started walking through the crowd of people there making my way to the back of the room towards the poster-boards with pictures and suddenly noticed that more than the usual number of people were looking at me and following me with their eyes. Suddenly I remembered, "You're in clerics!" The same happened today as we were one worship-aid short in the sacristy and I went out to simply grab another from the ushers. Quite a few people were watching me as I walked around, and then I realized, "Ah! I'm in clerics."

This spurred the realization: Gone are the days of just walking through the church to grab that one thing I forgot. There is no simply slipping by the outer wall of the church to do x, y or z. No, people look to you. They want to greet you and be greeted by you. Silly me. I just want to go grab one more worship-aid so we have enough before we start Mass!

I could here continue my reflection and repeat a bit of what I said in this post, but ultimately, what I said about the others is the same and is true for me personally: Suddenly, I am to stand at the side of the priest at the altar. Suddenly, I am to take up the cup of salvation and raise it in and for adoration (Gasp! What? Adoration is a liturgical act? That's unheard of!). Yes, just as little as I sense any change in my brothers who have been ordained priests, so too I lack any significant sense of change within me. It's what I've been preparing for; it's what I am now doing. It's just the next step in life, the next step in carrying out God's will.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) (Part 3) What makes fundamental Christian Spirituality, Christian

This is a Part 3 of a multi-part series on Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) and his book Introduction to Spirituality. Part 4 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


As stated in the last blog, Father Bouyer strongly asserts that the Christian spiritual life is not one dependent on just the indisputable idea that God is personal. Rather, life flows from the fact that God has revealed Himself to us as a person.

Father Bouyer states,

No Christian spirituality worthy of the name can exist where the conviction has been weakened that God, in Christ, has made Himself known to us by His own words, His own acts, as Some One.

This is so core to Christianity that it cannot be asserted enough. The Incarnation is paramount to everything. God speaks to us, mediated by Sacred Scripture, as his living Word, which was made flesh and dwelt among us. Again, it is not merely an idea or a concept. It begins with the deposit of faith! It is real!

A declaration of faith, which Father Bouyer says is "proper to Christianity," is a gift given to us in Christ.

Recall the story of Robinson Crusoe in the last blog. What makes Judaism and Christianity, emerging from Judaism, distinct from any other religion in the world is this dynamic of faith as a verifying dynamic. (Catholicism would further argue Faith & Reason working together.) This does not mean that other world religions are not worthy of Christian concern.

On the contrary, Father Bouyer, as a contributor to the Second Vatican Council, rightly points out that mankind, without the help of Judeo-Christian revelation, has been able to arrive at some certain truths related to Christian truth. Father Bouyer would say it is better to say that these world religions are confirmed and transfigured in Christianity. Yet, only as they are in reference to Christianity, meaning that only part of their beliefs can be confirmed as true.

No matter what, it must be said that Christianity, and Judaism before it, operate on a totally different level than any other world religion. Father Bouyer is very direct about this in his book.

God's revelation in the Old Testament is something completely different with Christ fulfilling the Mosaic Covenant. Father Bouyer points out how Scripture takes on a living dynamic - it is a fact, "no longer an idea — however immense may be the effects that a mere idea can have on the life of man."

As stated before in these blogs, Christ showed up! God showed up! What Father Bouyer is getting at again is that God is a living person in Christ. Without the Incarnation, there is no Christianity.

Father Bouyer relies on the wisdom of a Jewish philosopher named Martin Buber to articulate this point. Jewish theologian and philosopher Martin Buber teaches,

"No one really becomes a person to us except in speaking, in dialogue. Someone to whom you have never spoken and, above all, someone who has never spoken to you, is not a person to you in full reality. A “he” whom you speak about but who does not speak to you or you to him, is not actually someone to you, but only something — even though you force yourself to think otherwise, even though you know, abstractly, that “he” exists, personally, as you do. It is only the “you” to whom I speak who is someone to me, and, shall we say, it is above all the “you” who has spoken to me who becomes someone to me effectively."

The God of Israel, in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, is the one true God. He is the only God who can become to us not only a “He remaining essentially personal, but also a 'you' in full reality." Bouyer captures Buber's reasoning perfectly.

Bouyer goes on to state, "And He is this 'You' above all because he has manifested Himself to us as supremely the “I,” the One Who has not waited to meet us until we should take the first step, but Who has Himself taken the initiative in dialogue between Him and ourselves."

To be continued...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The first week

Like Michael and Tyler have written about their first week(s) in their respective parishes, I thought that I would do the same. I moved in last Saturday and was welcomed very warmly by the pastor's dog, Chloe. She is a black lab and is pretty calm to say the least. I have done a couple of communion calls and gone out visiting the sick. The past couple of days have been eventful. Last night (and today) I introduced myself at each of the masses and at the mission parish in Revillo, SD (about 15 miles southeast of Milbank, SD), a new statue and prayer garden were blessed, and whenever something like this happens in a small town, there is bound to be a potluck. I have experienced my fair share of potlucks when I traveled in the diocese on a Totus Tuus team for a couple of summers. I have gotten to know a couple of different families pretty well, and I am grateful for a wonderful parish and a good pastor to share this summer with. There is another fishing tournament coming up to benefit seminarian education, as well as a wedding of a guy I was in seminary with for three years. To top June off, I will be heading to Pipestone, MN, for a Mass of Thanksgiving of a soon to be ordained priest from the St. Paul Seminary.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) (Part 2)

This is a Part 2 of a multi-part series on Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) and his book Introduction to Spirituality. Part 3 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


One of the first areas in Father Bouyer's book we should look at is how he lays down the foundations of the "Spiritual Life" in Christianity. We live in an era that strongly divorces the correct notion of the meaning of interior life, spiritual life, religious life, and God. Often times the following comments are posited: "I am spiritual, but not religious;" "I do not adhere to any formal religion" or "you do not have to talk about God in order to be spiritual."

According to Father Bouyer, this current idea of the "Spiritual Life" is somehow very different from the course of the whole of human history. He goes on to explain that when we look at the psychology of the individual, a logical pattern develops from first looking inside oneself to a greater presence. The interior life lends itself to a sense of spirituality which, if developed or shepherded properly, shifts its overall orientation to some sort of acknowledgement that there is a greater power, God. This of course then develops into some sort of religious life.

For example, some of the greatest musicians from the last 50 years openly reject Christianity or any formalized religion. Instead, these great artists have their own quasi-spiritual-interior collage created in their life that is neither reasonable nor totally explainable. They have values, and these values reflect Christian values. Yet, they may rear against systematized and formal religion.

Other creative minds such as poets, writers and painters create beautiful and amazing artistic expressions. They have an "Interior Life" that leads them to go beyond their own boundaries in their creative endeavors. What they share in their career, for example as a musician, is beyond the mathematics and language of music theory behind their music. What they share is their longing to connect with a reality that is beyond all of us and exists separate from us. This truly is a longing for God, rather than an artistic expression benign of any salvific meaning.

When a human being is at his best is when he identifies and seeks to know the sacred mysteries of God. Artistic expression founded in the Good is what inspires us most.

And that is the thing about Christianity and its Spirituality; Bouyer explains that our most intimate and interior longings are truly a relationship with God "in His transcendent reality which is fully recognized and formally cultivated."

This can tell us one reason why God's special Covenant with Israel is so essential. Christianity, emerging from Judaism, is a faith that is focused on, as Bouyer says, "the full development of a life which is wholly human and at the same time wholly personal, in the dicovery of a God Who is not only Himself a person, but the personal being par excellence."

God is personally known in Christ! He reveals Himself to us this way. God makes Himself known, in Christ, by His living Word. Father Bouyer is very specific on this fact. Furthermore, His living Word became flesh and lived among us (Phil 2:6-11). Christianity is not a God-concept. Rather, as Bouyer teaches us, it begins from faith in that Jesus is both human and divine; a person, a gift given to us in Christ.

Father Bouyer uses the great story by author Daniel Defoe, "Robinson Crusoe," as a comparison in supporting his lesson:

Robinson Crusoe is shipwrecked, stranded alone on an empty island. Right from the start he felt isolated and alone. However, he began to notice evidence of another - another someone - suggesting he may not be alone.

He found the remnants of a fire he did not make and footprints in the sand where he did not walk. It is here where Father Bouyer explains that Crusoe is the image of a man who is reflecting on the world he lives in and, discovers that some one, some person, like himself also exists. In life that some one is God! God exists and he is not some thing. Rather, He is some one.

Crusoe is walking right towards the best and truest point to which religion can lead him. Now in the story it is Friday who Crusoe eventually sees on the beach. Now Crusoe's instincts and reasoning have been supported by fact.

Well the same is true of Christianity, Father Bouyer says. God is "supremely personal, the inter-personal, fact of His revelation. He is known, more precisely, in the personal relationship which His own initiative in coming to meet us, and this alone, is the process of establishing… [a Covenant with Israel]."

The Fighting Irish

This is not a post about football.

My summer assignment is in a parish with religious sisters. Three work full time for the reservation parishes and several others operate in other apostolates around the area. Of the three who work in the parish, two are from Ireland. They have been in the States for a long time now, but this fact has done little to diminish their lilting brogue and their curious manner of saying things. Tuesday afforded me the opportunity to spend the day with one of them. I silently laughed at her all day long. The following episode is but a single vignette among a whole day's worth of chuckles.

Permit me a moment to provide background:

South Dakota has been suffering a drought for the last seven years or so. The people had begun to lose hope that it would ever rain again. The grass had died, the stock dams had dried up, and crops had failed. On the already less than hopeful reservation, desperation was just around the corner. Then, in April, the moisture started coming. Two good snow livened people's spirits. The melt came and went, and May rains broke records over a century old. South Dakota is now green and lush, and what is more, the rains keep coming. Out here, we never complain about the rain.

Tuesday, sister and I traveled to Cherry Creek. Cherry Creek is about 40 miles from Eagle Butte. Luckily, the road is paved. We set out for our destination knowing that it had stormed the night before. Some neighboring towns had lost power due to the high winds. As a result, we expected to see some damage from the storm. We did not expect to learn that four power lines have been blown down. Thus, when we arrived in Chery Creek to lead a grief support group, we did not expect to find the lights out throughout the village, and were dumbstruck to hear that the area had received five inches of rain the night before. We scurried around finding candles to light the meeting hall.

By and by, the members of the group began arriving (an hour late - I will write about reservation time at a later date). Once they had assembled, sister led the group in prayer. It went something like this:

Lard (that's how she pronounces it),
We are gathered here today in your holy name,
and we thank you for the gift of rain you have given us.
We won't complain about the rain, Lard,
but we could do without the problems that it has caused.
It would be a lot more convenient to have this meeting with the lights on,
and it would be some easier to drive without all the mud.
But anyway, that's not the reason we're here.
Bless this group and our conversation,
and bless these women mourning their loved ones.
We ask this in your name.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Eating Etiquette, Part IV

This is the final installment 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, Part II and Part III.


Table Manners

IV. The Priss

He purses his lips when he eats - in exaggerated "refinement." He couldn't look less pleased if he were eating cyanice or castor oil.

He leaves a little of everything on his plate, in terror of appearing greedy. What a waste! If he doesn't intend to eat it, he shouldn't take it.

He daintily curves his little finger when using his cup - an affected gesture of "grace." His stagecraft is a "dead giveaway" of his interior motivation.

He is always saying that he doesn't like or "can't eat" certain foods. If he is not blessed with a catholic taste, or a genuine enjoyment of all foods strange and familiar, he should pretend that he is. The very least he can do is keep quiet about his allergies and his prejudices.

He is a hesitant, obvious copycat, making everybody else as nervous as he over which fork to use. It is not that important! If you can do it unobtrusively, it is all very well to watch your hostess or more knowledgeable guests to see how they handle certain unfamiliar dishes. But if your concentration on the fine points of etiquette is going to make you an inattentive conversationalist, shrug off your worries. It might help you to know that silver is placed on the table in the order of its use, the fork farthest from your plate, on the outside, being meant for the first fork food, the one on the inside for the last. If you are served both fork and spoon for dessert you may use both (spoon for the ice cream, say, and fork for the meringue), or you may use the fork to hold the dessert steady while you cut and eat it with the spoon, or you may simply use whichever seems more appropriate. The butter plate and glasses on your right are for you; your salad, unless served as a separate course, is on your left. But no one worth knowing will care if you use a fork when a spoon was intended, and if you don't get flustered and apologetic, no one will even notice.

He is afraied to use a knife on his salad because he's heard it's not proper. If there is a salad knife at his place, he can be sure that it is not only proper but expected. And if he can't manage the salad neatly with his fork alone, it's better to use his dinner knife than to emulate a rabbit, with lettuce hanging out of his mouth.

He transfers his fork from left hand to right after he has cut his meat, even though it is more natural for him to eat with tines-down fork in his left hand. Either way of eating is "correct." So whether you learned to eat by the Continental or the crisscross method there's no point in changing your style to fit whatever the current fashion happens to be.

In Retrospect

The comments and regulations in this and the preceding chapter on table manners cover the normal situations that may arise in the seminary refectory. You will not remember all of them by one reading any better than you will master the rubrics for the subdeacon in one session. [sic. But, coming from one who has spent time learning the subdeacon's role: oh how true.]

If you are convinced of the importance of good table manners you will do the same thing as you do with your sacristy rituals - you will read this guidebook over and over; you will consult it when in doubt; you will be so familiar with its contents that good table manners become second nature, force of habit, to you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Rez*- Day 1

My summer assignment has taken me to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in West Central South Dakota. I arrived on June 1 just in time to receive a quick tour of the rectory/offices, to receive my key to the front door, and to learn that beggars could receive a peanut butter sandwich, but were not allowed into the rectory. The pastor then left for a week of retreat, and I was left, ostensibly, to fend for myself. I began the tedious task of unpacking (only slightly less irksome than packing) and was about half finished when two of the sisters ministering here called and invited me to join them for dinner at the local Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen is ubiquitous. It is found in nearly every small town in Midwestern America. Eagle Butte, the village in which I am living for the summer, maintains this pattern. With a population of just a few hundred people, Dairy Queen still manages to stay in business. After our chicken strips and fries, the sisters showed me around town. Eagle Butte is a nice looking town in many ways. With recent rains, the area is green and the lilacs are in bloom. Perhaps it is just the hope inherent to spring, but this reservation does not seem to possess the same sense of desperation that I have noticed on other reservations.

As we drove, the sisters pointed out the thirty homes built by Jimmy Carter, et al., some years ago. They showed me where the tribe has begun a new housing project. They showed me the local satellite college with a nursing program and an early childhood education program. They showed me the new nursing home (still under construction) and they dropped me off at the rectory to muse over my own observations:

  1. Eagle Butte, like other reservation towns I have visited, is full of dogs. They are friendly and safe, but have no apparent owner. They just roam the reservation eating what they can, when they can.
  2. There are children everywhere. They appear to be well-fed. I wonder what their home life is like.
  3. The town is filled with trailer homes. I have nothing against trailer homes, but I wonder why there are so many.
  4. Alcoholism is a big problem here. The sisters told me not to answer the door late at night, as it is always an intoxicated person who may or may not be safe.
  5. Security is a problem. The rectory was burglarized three times by the same person in its recent past. The sisters and the priest were emphatic. LOCK EVERYTHING!
  6. On the reservation, tragedy is omnipresent. Two toddlers were recently killed in a house fire. Their older brother (in his teens) had intentionally started the fire.

I am not sure what this summer has in store for me, but I am certain of this - mine will be no ordinary summer placement.

* Rez is a local term used by Indian and Caucasian alike to refer to any of the Reservations in the area.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fishing Tournament

Yesterday, there was a fishing tournament held at Big Stone Lake which is located in Big Stone City, SD. Big Stone City is right on the borders of Minnesota and South Dakota in the northeast corner of the state. The tournament was started by our previous bishop, Bishop Robert Carlson, and this was the 12th tournament held to support seminarian education. Most of the seminarians were placed on teams so that we could get to know them and to have a good time as well. It had been about ten years since I was out fishing and we had a great time. I went with a father of four who had his two littlest boys with him and his niece. We were out for about six hours and caught about ten fish. One of the little ones caught a three and a half pound walleye, which got him the prize for having the largest walleye caught by a youth. It was a great time and there is another tournament coming up in about two weeks.

Monday, June 02, 2008


I arrived home on a Sunday evening. The following day (Memorial Day) was branding day at the Dennis Ranch. Both of my brothers with their wives and children were home, and a neighbor and his wife came over to assist. We had only about sixty head to brand, so it took the six of us most of the morning to vaccinate the cows and brand the calves.

For the uninitiated, branding is the process whereby a cattle owner places the mark of his ownership on a calf. This mark is called brand, and it is accomplished by applying a heated iron to the calf's skin. This will leave a scar, permanently marking the animal, thus providing indisputable proof of ownership.

During the branding, calves are held either by two people whose job it is to "wrestle" the calf and hold it during the branding, or, as we did for ours, two ropers mounted on horses will hold the calf by means of ropes attached to the front and rear legs. The calves are captured by means of these same ropers who catch the calf around the head or around the hind feet.

While the calf is held by the wrestlers, the brand is applied, necessary vaccinations are given, castration of the males occurs, and horns are sometimes removed. The entire process happens very quickly. Less than ten minutes elapses from the time the calf is caught until the time the calf is released.

I suppose, to some, the idea of branding seems cruel. To some, it may seem inhumane. To some, it may seem unnecessary. I suspect these same people believe that steaks magically appear at the supermarket wrapped in sanitary cellophane packaging and lamb chops come from trees. While there is a great deal more I would like to say to such people, I will refrain for now. It should be noted, however, that branding is an integral component of the rural culture from which I originate. Eliminate branding, and you will have destroyed the culture.

Cathedral of Saint Paul Milestone!

"On this rock I shall build my Church" (Matthew 16:18). Today is a great day of celebration for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis and the entire metropolitan district.

It was 02 June 1907 - one hundred one years ago today - when the cornerstone for the Cathedral of Saint Paul was laid during a ceremony conducted by Archbishop John Ireland. By most accounts, over sixty thousand people gathered for the ceremony that began the building of what is often now called the "great temple on the prairie."

Today the architecture is famous for its detail, magnificence, and splendor. The Cathedral of Saint Paul is seated on the highest point in downtown Saint Paul - thus dominating the skyline and cityscape. In 1974 the Cathedral of Saint Paul was listed on the United States' National Registry of Historical Buildings.

Perhaps most impressively, it is the largest dome in Minnesota. At a height of over three hundred feet, it is even larger than the the dome of the state capitol building - no doubt, a capital achievement.

Every diocese has a cathedral which is both the spiritual home of the diocese as well as the building that houses the cathedra (chair or throne) of the local bishop. The cathedral of an archdiocese has a special significance in that it is also the spiritual headquarters for not only the people of the archdiocese but also the metropolitan region; in the case of the Cathedral of Saint Paul, this includes all people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Today is a great day for Archbishop Nienstedt, the people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis, the people of the Metropolitan district headed by Archbishop Nienstedt, and all who helped create, build, maintain, and worship in the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

If you're in the Saint Paul area, a stop at the Cathedral of Saint Paul is a must!

Take care, -Jeremy

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004)

This is a multi-part series on Father Louis Jean Bouyer (1913 - 2004) and his book Introduction to Spirituality. Part 2 will post soon.


Theologian: Father Louis Bouyer wrote on a variety of theological subjects. He is distinguished in the fields of Sacred Scripture, Christian & Catholic Spirituality, Mariology, Liturgy, Ecumenism, Systematics, and Monastic Spirituality.

Conversion: Raised Protestant and was a member of various Lutheran-Protestant congregations. He was first made a Lutheran pastor, until his later conversion. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1946 and became a member of the French oratory.

Education & Career: He studied at Strasbourg University 1932-1936 for his undergraduate degree. He received his doctorate in theology from the University of Paris 1940-1942. He later went on to teach at the Institut Catholique upon his conversion in 1946. He was a member of the theological faculty at the University of Notre Dame in the 1950s.

Importance: A significant European theologian that distinguished himself in the areas of spirituality and liturgical renewal at Vatican II.

Theological Perspective: His Protestant background put Sacred Scripture at the forefront of his outlook. The Bible was an essential component to be proclaimed in all Liturgies. He believed in a “returning to the sources” and the well-known French principle called, “ressourcement.”

In addition to his focus on Liturgy, Bouyer placed a great deal of emphasis on Ecclesiology and the unified Body of Christ in his writings.

Like many of the Vatican II Council Fathers, he was very supportive of the ideals of Vatican II. However, he later became less happy with the results implemented after the Council completed. According to research, Farther Bouyer cared more for cautious and pastorally wise changes in the liturgy — rooted in a grassroots sense of revision.

So much of his work in spirituality and liturgy is seen in Vatican II. Some believe he is best known for his works in Christian Spirituality.

His Companions in Christ: In his life, he was personal friends with then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and other great minds of that era.