Future Priests of the Third Millennium

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Common Table

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.
Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell as one.
- Psalm 133

Fraternity among priests is essential for the well-being of the Church. Indeed, a priest is never a stand-alone. I remember being told in college seminary in Winona that "no priest is a Lone Ranger." As well, though I've never verified this myself, I have been told that only rarely does the Second Vatican Council's document on the priestly (presbyteral) order refer to a priest in the singular. A priest is always ordained into an Order or Society of priests or into a particular (i.e., Diocesan) presbyterate. At an ordination, though only the bishop's laying on of hands is required for validity, all the priests present lay on their hands as well, partially signifying the fact that he is being ordained into a community and not merely as an individual.

In some areas, various fraternities are formed to help priests be priests. In other areas (like the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis) there is an association of priests which is formed and they even live a common life - SPM's being the Companions of Christ. The Church even recognizes the importance of fraternity among priests. The Code of Canon Law states,

Can. 533 §1. A pastor is obliged to reside in a rectory near the church. Nevertheless, in particular cases and if there is a just cause, the local ordinary can permit him to reside elsewhere, especially in a house shared by several presbyters, provided that the performance of parochial functions is properly and suitably provided for.

Notice that word: especially.

Well, though they don't live in one location here in Rochester, nonetheless the pastors have the habit of coming together weekly for an evening of fraternity. This time, "Common Table," begins with socialization for about half an hour, then the Church's Evening Prayer is prayed, sooner or later after that (usually depending upon whether one of the priests has an evening appointment to get to) dinner is served. Sometimes the conversation focuses on completely mundane topics. Sometimes it involves the informing of brother priests of an ill brother priest or ill family member. Sometimes pastors will share wisdom or briefly float an idea by the rest. There's no solid and specific rules to constrict the evening.

Each parish in town takes its turn. If one is to be absent, he simply e-mails the host-priest/parish and lets his regrets be known. The priests gladly welcomed me each week, even calling me when my pastor was gone to make sure I knew I was yet welcome. As I begin to wrap up the summer (I have but a week and a half left), I find that this gathering of the priests was one of the events that I most looked forward to each week. As one not yet finished with seminary and not yet living the priestly life, it is satisfying and reassuring to know of the fraternity and charity shared among priests. In any other setting, you would never find this particular group of men gathering. Their interests are so diverse and their personalities so very different. Yet, there is something that brings them together, something that is greater than each of them individually, and all of them combined. It is the very charity of our Lord and the gift of the priesthood.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Martha, Martha, Martha!

Yesterday we celebrated the memorial of St. Martha, sister to Mary and Lazarus, and worker bee extraordinaire. Throughout the day, I followed two lines of reflection.

Firstly, Martha, as compared to her sister, was the doer. She was busily keeping house while her sister chitchatted with Our Lord. It was only after a gentle rebuke from Jesus that she realized that what she really needed to do was sit down and be attentive to the one who had come to spend time with her. I find that I am often like Martha, and though I have gotten better at it, my prayer used to be very much like Martha's behavior. I would go to pray, to be with the Lord, and I find that I wanted to do something. Prayer, I was convinced, was a very active sort of affair, and I struggled tremendously trying to do all the right things, read the right books, recite the correct prayers, and do, do, do. The Lord, on the other hand, was inviting me to sit and relax in his presence. He didn't want me to do so much as he wanted me be with him. I didn't need to say anything. I didn't need to be anything. I just needed to sit there and bask in his presence. Now, I still struggle with this at times, but I have gotten better, and I find that Mary did choose the better part.

A second line of reflection took me in this direction:

Martha, I learned some years ago, is the patroness of single women. I had never really thought about that fact much until today as I was reflecting on her busy-ness. As I did so, I recalled a section from Fr. Benedict Groeschel's book, The Courage to be Chaste, in which he describes the role that a single person can play in his or her family. In many ways, the single person in an extended family becomes the doer. He/she has more time, more freedom, often more financial resources. Thus, the single person lives a life of generosity by giving more of their time than could be expected from a mother and father. Imagine a family dinner that includes all the aunts and uncles and children. It lasts well into the evening. When it ends, who is better able to stay and help clean up? Mom and Dad whose kids are sleepy and cranky, or the unmarried sister? Likewise, who has the car that can most easily fit a helium tank for the birthday party, the SUV with three carseats in it, or the unmarried sibling with the economical Honda Civic? In a way, the single person plays the role of "doer" for his/her family. In this sense, Martha's doing was positive. Even so, the two need to find a balance. The doing and the being need to find a correspondence between one another to strengthen the single person in his/her giving and doing lest he/she begin to feel put-upon and abused.

So, take heart all you Marthas. We appreciate your doing. Don't forget to spend some time at the Lord's feet, though.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In which I Rant about Vocations and End on a Positive Note

I have long held that the Church does not face a "vocations crisis." It is true that there are fewer priests now than there were fifty years ago. There are fewer sisters as well. What is not so clear to me, though, is that fewer men are being called. I think that a whole multitude of men are called to the priesthood, but they are not hearing that call, some by design and others by accident of their environment. I have talked to young men who KNOW that they are being called to the seminary, but who refuse to go. They have all sorts of creative excuses. Here is a sampling:

1) Well, I might have a vocation, but I am still discerning whether or not to go to the seminary, so I will just go to college for a few years until I figure it out.

To which I respond (inaudibly, of course), "Good luck. That gnawing pain in your stomach every time you think about priesthood isn't going to go away until you go to the seminary. Enjoy your ulcer."

2) I'm called to the married life.

Really? To whom do you intend to be wed? A call to marriage is a call to lifelong union with a specific other. Who is that lucky lady? At best he can say, "I am not called to the priesthood," but to know that requires that one actually first consider that one is called to the priesthood.

3) I am not worthy to be a priest.

Neither am I. And I never will be. I don't know why God calls who he calls. "It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you." (John 15:16)

4) I think it would get too redundant for me.

Redundant like going home to the same wife in the same house with the same kids and the same ugly couch every day for sixty years? Or redundant like working at a job you don't especially enjoy because the benefits are good, the job is secure, and you will be able to put your kids through college? At the very least, the priest changes assignments every six years or so. And there is nothing redundant about the adventure to which Jesus invites us when he invites us to draw close to himself.

Other young men give me much more compelling answers.

1) I'm afraid. I don't think I can do it.

Well, alone you can't do it. But, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:3). Do you really suppose he would call you to this and leave you ill equipped to do the job he sets before you? "Cast out into the deep" (Luke 5:4).

2) I want to be a father.

Good! So do I. So should all men. We are all called to fatherhood. It is a question of how we are called to fulfill this vocation to be caretakers, spiritual leaders, and heads of a family. Priesthood is not exclusive of fatherhood. It is fatherhood lived differently.

Indeed, there are a whole variety of excuses, and after you have talked to a certain number of young men, they can begin to get discouraging. So, it is always a great relief when some asks something like, "Hey, Deacon Tyler, were you serious when you told me that you thought I should think about the seminary?" You're darned tootin' I was. When I get a response like that, it typically indicates that this fellow has already been mulling the idea over in his own mind, and is a bit taken aback to hear someone else verbalize his own thoughts to him. In this case, I am always quick to assure him that no one is asking for a lifetime commitment immediately. Just talking out loud about the idea will not prompt the Bishop to lay hands on him the following day. He need not panic. There is lots of time to figure out if the call is authentic. Feel free to call me or ask me about anything. Here is the phone number for the director of vocations.

World Youth Day allowed me to have experiences of both sorts, the encouraging and the discouraging. I suspect that at least one of these young men will be off to the seminary in the fall of 2009. Another may stop going to Church altogether because he is so afraid of the prospect. Nevertheless, to have talked to them was worthwhile. As I mentiond, many young men are trying hard not to hear the call. If someone speaks to them, it is hard to ignore it. Likewise, other young men may not know how to hear the call, and will not until someone speaks to them and suggests that they consider priesthood. So, here are my suggestions for ways that you can help them hear, dear readers.

1) Pray for vocations every day.

2) Look around your parish (the boy servers are a good place to start). If you sense that a particular young man (of any age) might make a good priest, tell him so.

3) Let your sons know that you are open to the idea of them pursuing a vocation to the priesthood. This is especially important for fathers. Your son is unlikely to consider priesthood unless he knows that his dad is going to support the idea.

4) Talk positively about vocations to the priesthood and your own priest(s).

5) Don't be afraid to ask young men if they have thought about entering the priesthood. If you notice something special about them, chances are, they are hearing it too and are doing their best to ignore it. Help them hear. Be persistent, but don't nag. Statistics suggest that a young man needs to be asked at least six times before he will even consider going to visit the seminary. Don't be afraid to say something more than once even though he tries to rebuff you at first.

There is no vocations crisis. There are lots of vocations around. We all have a role to play in helping men realize it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blessed Because of the Pure of Heart

"Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8).

The other weekend I was able to spend most of the day with three of my brother seminarians from the Diocese of Saint Cloud. Let me note right away that I won't be giving their names - most of this entry will be about them and I do not want to embarrass them.

During these weeks in the summer, many small towns as well as parishes of Minnesota hold their summer festivals - this is more especially the case in the Diocese of Saint Cloud. At these various small-town summer festivals, the vocation director for the Diocese of Saint Cloud likes to have seminarians attend these events to encourage others to consider serving the Church through their vocational call - an advertisement, really.

The highlights from this particular day included a volleyball tournament (the seminarians had our own team AND our own uniforms - try to beat that), an outdoor Mass (my first "polka Mass"), and interaction with the crowds at the downtown party and main festival. I could tell many great stories about the day's events, such as: the young men we met who could be great priests, the little girls who thought it would be cool to be nuns, and the very kind folks who were so happy to see that the Diocese had an increasing number of seminarians.

However, I would like to write to you regarding my brother seminarians. As I wrote above, one of the main events of the day was a volleyball tournament; we spent most of our time here because of the sheer number of people moving through the area.

On occasion, we (the seminarians present) would have a break from playing volleyball and chatting with the crowds around us and were able to just hang out with one another. It is here that I gained a full understanding of how fully Christian and pure of heart are these men with whom I am privileged to work. Their lives are centered around Christ and His call, they treat all whom they meet with great compassion, and (clearly) have pure hearts.

I have always known this - even from the moment I met them - but it is only now that I fully appreciate how fortunate I am to be "on the same team" as these great men. Should these seminarians of which I write be chosen for ordination, blessed indeed will be the Diocese of Saint Cloud and the whole Church.

We are able to learn from the example of Christ as well as the saints. As we follow their example, we can also see those who now walk among us are examples of how to live, work, act, and be fully a Christian. I will always continue to learn such virtues.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew within me a steadfast spirit" (Psalm 51:10).

Take care, -Jeremy

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One more week

This coming Friday will be my last day in the parish. It seems like it was just yesterday that I had moved in. Over the past two months I have spent time at the local hospital and nursing homes, read a few books (in the middle of a couple right now), helped run a summer youth program called 'Totus Tuus', met several great families, painted lines for the parking lot, and the list goes on. One of the most important things that I have learned this summer is to be ready for what may come during the day. For me to be ready, I ought to be praying with a pastor's heart. I have also learned to be present to those who are in most need and to reflect the love of God to them. The priest that I have been living with has been a good model for me and has become a good friend. As my time in Milbank draws to a close I look forward to my next parish assignment and also to a new academic year. There are more things to learn as the years go by, but this has been a good start to a life-long learning process.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

That was fun; let's not do it again.

The day began, as is my rule, the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Since I wasn't participating in the daily mass at the parish, here, I didn't go over there to do my holy hour in the morning. So, then I had some breakfast and did some reading. Then, it was off to the nursing home for 10:00 AM mass. Mass was great. The elderly were lovely; they always are. And this Mass is awesome: so many parishioners show up to help with the mass and visit with the people there that it is truly inspiring. There are probably 9 parishioners who show up, four of them being from one family (a mom [dad was gone this week on a business trip] and kids in grades 9, 7 and 5, or so). I gave the homily, speaking about the humility of Solomon and the joy of the one who works to obtain the treasure (we have the habit of using the Sunday readings on Saturday morning at the nursing homes).

Then midday was fairly uneventful. I did some reading, ate lunch, finished my homily preparation, until 3:07 when I received a call in my room from the sacristy. "There's a baptism during the 4:00 mass and Father wants you to know, in case you want to make your homily shorter since there's a baptism." Great! Knowing the parish, knowing the pastor and being a deacon, I knew this meant I didn't have enough time to prepare and something was going to get short-changed.

Why wouldn't there be enough time? All I had to do was adapt my homily a little, right? Well, not quite. You see, being a deacon, I get to function very much as the MC at my parish. As well, the pastor likes to do things correctly, as they are in the text, and this parish rarely does baptisms during Mass. I myself haven't practiced or assisted at a baptism during Mass, except at the Easter Vigil, but that's different. So, I had to first learn how to do the baptism during mass, then modify the general intercessions from the weekend for use at baptism, make sure the family knew to be ready at the beginning, middle and end of mass, make sure blessed water was out and ready along with everything else, remind Father of how this all went, remind the lector that I would carry in the Book of the Gospels, tell her to come up right after the homily for the General Intercessions (we're letting the lector do that here rather than [perhaps more appropriately] the deacon), tell the choir director that the Gloria comes right after the initial questioning of parents and godparents, find out that the choir would be doing an acclamation after the baptism, vest and prepare myself for the celebration of Holy Mass. Oh, and don't forget that I yet had to adapt my homily.

Like I said, something had to get short-changed. Well, about four things did: the intercessions, the instruction of the lector, the homily, and my preparation for Mass. Sadly, I have the suspicion that this might be a fairly common occurence in parishes, especially hispanic parishes with someone asking for a presentación of their toddler just before mass or whatever have you. Perhaps I'm wrong about the situation of parishes, and I hope I am! Yet, I don't get too discouraged or disappointed with myself in this situation. Such were the circumstances. We make the best of the situation, confess our negligence, and trust God with the rest! In the end, the Baptism and Mass went well: the little girl was made a daughter of God and welcomed into the family of the Church, and the sacrifice was re-presented unto the Most High. Deo gratias!

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Constructive Summer - Parking Ramp

The second installment chronicling our seminary construction projects this summer: the Parking Ramp for the University of Saint Thomas.

The University of Saint Thomas is constructing a parking ramp at the corner of Cretin and Grand Avenues. Why do we care, you ask? What does some additional parking for UST have to do with the Saint Paul Seminary? Here's the reason: the construction forces half of the summer traffic at UST to drive straight through the seminary's main parking lot.

BACKGROUND: The University of Saint Thomas has planned an expansion to their main athletic complex, which is on the North campus. Nearly all of the arenas in the complex and field house will be expanded, including a new swim-facility. UST is currently attempting to complete a five hundred million dollar campaign to attempt to pay for this and other projects.

The problem: This expansion will eleminate most of the main parking lot on the North campus.

UST's solution: Build a parking ramp on the South campus to cover the lost parking spaces.

THE SITUATION: The construction of the parking ramp requires reconstruction of the entrance from UST's South campus to the intersection of Cretin and Grand Avenues. UST still needs access to many buildings on the South campus, including the following: the Frey Science and Engineering Building, McCarthy Athletic Building, Binz Refectory, Loras Administrative Building, the Brady Education Center, and the dormatories of Cretin and Grace.

How does one get access with the Cretin/Grand entrace closed? The only other way in: through the Saint Paul Seminary parking lot.

The increased traffic flow does give the seminary some exposure; one passing motorist indicated that she did not even realize there was a seminary here. However, for the most part, the situation has meant a large number of drivers speeding (seriously) through our narrow parking lot. The UST Physical Plant has placed small speed bumps in our lot in an attempt to slow the increased traffic - a gesture for which we are grateful.

If you're planning to visit the Saint Paul Seminary in the next thirty days, we are more than happy to have you and offer this one, small request: please drive slowly and defensively in our parking lot.

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Extraodrinary Form of Mass

About three weeks ago I had the privilege of serving as deacon at mass. Now, this is nothing out of the ordinary, except that (and forget my horrible pun) it was Extraordinary — Form, that is. I have heard from many that they have no clue what this whole thing is about, but that they would like to understand. Part of the reason for wanting to understand is that they know the Pope is behind some of this, but don't understand how, or what this means for the Church today, or for the future of the Church. I thought I would take this opportunity to do a couple of posts on the older way of Mass being celebrated.

Admittedly, it can be somewhat confusing to talk about this subject. This particular way of Mass being celebrated has many names - some better, some worse. For this first post, let us just address the various titles by which this way of celebrating Mass is known.

  • Extraordinary Form - This is the name given it by Pope Benedict XVI in the official document of July 7, 2007, Summorum Pontificum, which allowed a greater usage of this way of Mass being celebrated. The benefit of this name is that it highlights that it is a legitimate way of celebrating Mass, though in some way "extraordinary," but that it's not some completely separate Rite of the Church (like Ukranian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Chaldean Catholic). A Rite, in this sense, is a group of Catholic Christians who have a particular liturgical, theological, spiritual, cultural and disciplinary patrimony. The Latin Rite is the largest of these, and most Catholics are Latin Rite Catholics. The pope, saying "Extraordinary Form" emphasizes that this form is not (at least right now) to be segregated off to a group of the faithful alone who only use this form apart from all of the existing Rites of the Church. No, this way of saying Mass is a legitimate form for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

  • Usus Antiquior - Literally, "the more ancient use," harkens to the fact that this way of Mass being celebrated has a longer history than the form which was put out by Pope Paul VI around 1970. Pope Benedict also used this terminology in Summorum Pontificum.

  • Missal of Blessed John XXIII - This term is used because a "missal" is the name for the book which contains all the prayers of the Mass. We in the U.S. often call the "missal" the "sacramentary." If there are changes officially made to the text of the Mass (which means changes to the missal), the missal is republished and the pope who made those changes has his name attached to the missal. John XXIII made some changes to the texts of the Mass, published a new missal, and so his name is attached to the most recent version of the missal which came before the "Novus Ordo Missal," the Missal of Pope Paul VI.

  • Tridentine Mass - This title was the popular title used up until Summorum Pontificum, though it is still used today. This title (I think, though I may be mistaken) largely had its genesis after 1970, in order to refer to "the old way Mass was said."
    "Tridentine" comes from the fact that in the 1500s there was much division and dissipation within the Church. The Council of Trent had already begun a number of reforms within the life of the Church which aimed at a greater unity in the practice of the faith. Pope Saint Pius V, carrying out Trent's desires, published a missal which was to be a standardized missal, providing for greater unity among the faithful. To aid in this, he suppressed all missals which were not older than 200 years.
    A downfall of this title is that it gives the impression that this form of the mass originated with the Council of Trent, when in fact much of this missal comes from ancient sources and had been in continuous use by much of the Church. Those who argue, in one way or another, that this way of celebrating mass originated with the Council of Trent are flatly wrong. Hence, the next title.

  • Gregorian Rite - "Wait a minute, didn't we just say this form isn't its own Rite?" Hence some of the difficulty with terminology. We spoke of the term "Rite" as it applies to various groups of Catholics - the Latin Rite being one of them. This latter usage of "rite" refers to the actual things to be said and done, the ritual, the "rite." The Pope clarified that the Extraordinary Form will not have its own "Rite," its own exclusive group of Catholics who use it exclusively. However, it is still a "rite" of the Church in that it is a text, a form, a 'composition of things to be done' which is used in celebrating the Church's liturgy.
    Why "Gregorian?" Pope Saint Gregory the Great (who was pope from 590-604) was another pope who made some modifications to the various ways Mass was being said in the 6th/7th centuries. Since his time, there have been changes to the Mass, but there has been a current of continuity which maintained it as significantly unchanged. So much so is this the case that the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia states, "We may say safely that a modern Latin Catholic who could be carried back to Rome in the early seventh century would - while missing some features to which he is accustomed - find himself on the whole quite at home with the service he saw there." Also, referring to what we now call the "Extraordinary Form," Pope Paul VI stated, "In large part these prayer texts owed their arrangement to Saint Gregory the Great" (in his promulgation of the Missal/Sacramentary in 1969).
    The advantage of this term is that it hearkens even more than the others to the antiquity of this form of the Mass - 1300 years or more.

  • Latin Mass - A great pet peeve of those who are knowledgeable liturgically is to call the Extraordinary Form "the Latin Mass." This is primarily for one reason: the form of Mass in the Latin Rite of the Church (hence, the Mass for the great majority of Catholics) is "the Latin Mass." In the mind of the Church, the standard language for the Mass is Latin. Mass, both in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form, can be said in Latin, and ought to be (see n. 36.1). Of course for the Extraordinary Form, the Mass must be said in Latin. But to refer to the Extraordinary Form as "the Latin Mass" as though the Ordinary Form isn't also the Latin Mass is to misunderstand the practice and mind of the Church; it's to misunderstand who we as Latin Rite Catholics are.

  • Traditional Latin Mass, Traditional Mass - This title rightly points to the fact that the Extraordinary Form is always in Latin, and that it is the more ancient use (it is older, it is more traditional, it has a greater history). The disadvantage of this title is that we as Catholics are Traditional by nature. At the heart of our Tradition (our handing on from generation to generation) is the sacrifice contained within the Mass which is its most important element and its very essence. This is present in every Mass and every form of it, hence, both "Latin Masses" (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Latin Rite) are Traditional in the most important way. Put another way, since we Catholics are by nature Traditional, to imply that any Mass, whatever form, isn't Traditional is a great offense to the dignity of the Sacrament.

  • Mass of the Ages, Mass of All Time, Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven - These titles are devotionally (lovingly) used by those who have a preference for the Extraordinary Form. However, what was said regarding the last title is true here as well. The primary grace, the essence of the Mass, and the heart of the Church and of the world is the sacrifice contained within the Mass. This sacrifice is present within all true and valid celebrations of the Mass, whatever form. We will address the issue of whether one form can be better than another later.

I don't know that I covered every title or every possible title for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I also doubt that I was as clear as I could have been. Nonetheless, I hope this helps in beginning to address the subject. In the next post, we shall briefly discuss the history of the form of Mass in the Latin Rite, its development, and its reform.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Constructive Summer - Chapel Exterior

The first installment chronicling our seminary construction projects this summer: The Exterior of Saint Mary's Chapel.

Saint Mary's Chapel at the Saint Paul Seminary is much older than our administration bulding and residence. With that in mind, the administration decided it was high-time to fix-up the exterior of the chapel.

This was the first project to begin this summer. It is still on-going due to the complex nature of the project. The crews are both cleaning the exterior walls of the chapel as well as making repairs all the way around the structure.

"So," one might ask, "how hard is it, really, to clean a wall? I do that at home with a standard pressure-washer." There is actually a three-fold complexity to the project: 1) the building is becoming old and care must be taken not to damage the stone, 2) the architecture of the chapel is more complex than a standard home - it has various overhangings, pillars, and so forth that make the repairs complicated to complete, and 3) the gound around the chapel is complicated to navigate with large machinery: bordering the chapel to the East is the North end of the administration building, and the seminary gardens border the West side of the chapel - in addition to trees, boulders and the like. I hope these pictures are able to communicate the complexity of the project.

As you can see, the machinery used by these crews is both large and complex. Now imagine that you're inside the beautiful, contemplative Saint Mary's Chapel at the Saint Paul Seminary. Imagine you've just done your daily Holy Hour, the Office of Readings, and are slowly finishing Morning Prayer. You're calm, deep in prayer, relishing the joy that comes with the Liturgy of the Hours AND THEN, without warning, two of these machines start up, and pressured water hoses begin to spray the chapel walls.

It's more than a bit of a shock and, suffice it to say, it takes some effort to re-focus on prayer.

The chapel's exterior walls will be just like new in less than a month. As always, I (and all of seminarians) hope that you will stop by to see the chapel and join us for prayers or Mass - our regular schedule begins again in just over a month.

Come back to the blog soon for more on our Constructive Summer.

Take care, -Jeremy

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


For me, Monday began two days ago with Mass at St. Ann's Church in Strathfield (a Sydney Suburb) where the pastor, Fr. Ray sent the pilgrims from Rapid City back to their homes remarking that there is something sacred about home. Home means family. Home means love. Home means rest. Home, ultimately, is the goal of pilgrimage.

All of us are pilgrims, making our way through this life on our journey to our heavenly home. Pilgrimage itself helps us recognize this fact. The sacrifices, the suffering, the pain along the way make home that much sweeter when we arrive. On pilgrimage, one discovers that one needs the help of others. One needs to be told which train to take. One needs another to help provide for food, for water, bathrooms. One needs another to show the way. On pilgrimage, one learns the value of generosity and hospitality. One learns that love and patience are verbs while the group of Italians in front of you stomps on your feet and screams and smells for a full fifty minutes. Pilgrimage helps one to find great joy in very small things (like a place to sit on the train). In a huge way, though, the value of pilgrimage is discovered in arriving at home.

Travel well, fellow pilgrims.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Constructive Summer

The seminary has been bursting with action this summer and we are now thrilled to tell you about all of the construction projects going on about the seminary! Just when you thought the Saint Paul Seminary's blog had reached a peak of fever-pitch excitment, here comes a new blog series: A CONSTRUCTIVE SUMMER - Building Projects at the Saint Paul Seminary!

You can look forward to reading about 1) the cleaning of the exterior of Saint Mary's Chapel, 2) the parking ramp construction that causes half of the University of Saint Thomas traffic to flow straight through the seminary's parking lot, 3) the repaving of the seminary's back parking lot that we share with the Archbishop Byrne Residence, and - most excitingly - 4) the preparation and installation of the new statue of Saint Paul to be placed in our courtyard!

Can you feel the excitment! I can hardly wait! I'm already on the edge of my seat! So stay tunned, seminary supporters! We're about to show you some busted concrete, huge holes dug through concrete, heights of chapel stone, and rough roads in our own backyard.

Take care, -Jeremy

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Vespers

Sunday Vespers is a more traditional occurrence and it is marked by the recitation of Evening Prayer. This evening I went to the local nursing homes to lead this. I read the readings for the day, offered a brief reflection and intercessions and a few hymns. It was an afternoon well spent and I could tell that each of the residents were very thankful for what I was able to offer. It is sometimes difficult to get to visit each of the Catholic residents because of visitors or other events going on at each of the facilities. It is a beautiful chance to see the commitment to their faith in Jesus Christ and it is very encouraging to see someone breaking through their infirmity to show their love for the Lord.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Sorry about not having a post for yesterday. We try to have at least one post per day, but as you can see, sometimes that doesn't work. Deacon Tyler is off gallavanting down under. And, well, it's the summer.

What's my excuse? I don't really have one. But, I can tell you that Rochester is this weekend hosting its second annual Steubenville North conference. It's a youth rally, of sorts. Last year there were some 300-400 youth gathered here. This year it's doubled: there's over 700 kids who have gathered from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Illinois, Nebraska and other locations to praise God and grow in Christian holiness. The weekend has a number of activities: praise and worship, Mass, meals, discernment/evangelization/witness workshops, adoration, confession, men's/women's conferences, as well as plenty of filler time with someone giving jokes, leading some "reminiscing" of old 70s/80s/90s popular music favorites. These kids know some of the oldies far better than I!

Rochester's location is actually the second Steubenville North location. The first was in the cities, but they have grown to capacity and had to start another one nearby. I wouldn't be surprised if they soon filled this one and hard to start another. These Steubenville conferences are growing. You can learn more about the S. North ones on the website: www.partnershipforyouth.org. From there you can get linked up with Steubenville's general Conference website, as well as Franciscan University of Steubenville's website.

I would ask a favor of you, at this point: pray for these youth, as well as those on World Youth Day. Even if you read this after the conference is completed: pray for the ones who attended this conference, that our Lord may open their hearts to his Gospel, to his truth, and that what they experience here will be a catalyst to always more profound participation in their regular parish life as Christians.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is This Art? New Outdoor Sculptures at UST

This past semester, the now Deacon Michael Johnson created his series on artwork both at the University of Saint Thomas and at the Saint Paul Seminary.

We now have a late-entry into the UST art series. Just today, these new works of art came to various areas on campus.

It could be a bold new statement by a post-modern artist.

Could it be a new genre of artistic expression altogether? Is it possible that this is a bold new front which, years down the road, we will be able to tell the generations that follow us that "We were there at the dawn of this bold new art form!"?

Or, perhaps UST is simply waiting for the local Pepsi Distributer to pick up these the old vending machines and drop off new ones.

Take care, -Jeremy

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chalices, not calluses

In various times and in various ways there have been abuses, wrongs and misunderstandings in the Church. One such misunderstanding could be that priests are so sacred, and their hands having been anointed so absolutely sacred, that they ought to do no profane thing. Now, I think this is an extreme position that hardly anyone holds, but there are some that might come close to it. There is a saying out there among some that priests' hands are for "chalices, not calluses."

I think this misunderstanding can arise only in a very particular place and time. First, they have to be very ignorant of the monastic life lived even today by Benedictines, Carmelites, Carthusians and the several other communities of religious (though, I do acknowledge that the more laborious jobs are usually left to the lay members and the priests often devote themselves more to prayer and study). Second, I doubt that for much of the Church's history, it was even possible for priests to get by without doing physical labor - around the rectory, travelling from here to there (perhaps even on horseback), fixing the Church, etc... Third, I also doubt that many priests in rural areas find themselves in a situation where they need not do any serious or physical labor simply because it's far more economical for them to fix problems themselves. But, maybe I'm wrong.

If I wanted to, I think I could build up a theological argument based upon the three munera of the priesthood of Christ and show how such understandings are wrong, but no, my purpose is far more simple. No, I mean only to tell you that I had to clean up a spill last week.

Here at St. Pius X in Rochester, our washing machine for laundry drains into a big tub-sink in the basement. They built it this way because there was only one drain and it was far cheaper to have the washer drain into the tub than to fix another drain or arrange for both washer and sink to empty in the same drain. Well, as occasion would have it, I didn't notice that there was a rag left in the sink and so when the washing machine dumped several gallons of water in to the tub-sink, the rag lifted up off the bottom and then was sucked into the drain and plugged it. So, "my tub overflowethed."

I attempted not to curse my own thoughtlessness (I had seen the rag there, but thought nothing of it); I also tried not to curse the rag. But, when I had finished soaking up all the water off the cement floor, I was displeased to walk out of the room and see that the water had made it to the carpet in the next room over. Nevertheless, I reluctantly thanked God and went and grabbed the towel to continue soaking up the mess. All-in-all, the job was done within an hour. Thankfully, no blisters resulted. Frankly, I couldn't care less if I end up with callused hands, but a little mopping up of water isn't going to give me calluses anytime soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bishop-elect John M. LeVoir

It was announced this morning that Fr. John LeVoir, priest of the archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis will become the next bishop of the diocese of New Ulm. The diocese of New Ulm had been vacant since the appointment of now Archbishop Nienstedt as co-adjutor of the archdiocese. I have had the privilege of hearing Fr. LeVoir preach several times and I can say that he will make a good bishop. Another thing to note is that this is the second priest from the archdiocese to be named a bishop. Last summer then Fr. Peter Christensen was named to be the next bishop of the Superior, Wisconsin diocese. Another item that is worth noting is that Bishop-elect LeVoir and Bishop Peter Christensen are both graduates of the St. Paul Seminary. Maybe there is something in the water...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Australian Hospitality

I am down under, as they say, in a little town near Melbourne called Doveton where our group of thirty-eight is being hosted by the generous people of Holy Family Parish. It has been a busy week (how has a week passed so quickly?), and tomorrow morning, we bid farewell to these kind people to continue our journey to meet the Holy Father in Sydney.

Australia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I must admit that I had never harbored any desire to see this continent, but I am overwhelmed at what we have seen. Our first night here, our host family took us to see kangaroos. Yesterday, on a ferry across the local harbor, we saw dolphins. Eucalyptus trees abound, but so far, have contained no koalas. We have heard, but not seen the kookaburra (who does in fact live in the 'ol gum tree eating all the gumdrops
etc . . .)

Friday took us to the city to celebrate a mass of commissioning with thousands of other people from around the world (among whom was occasional blog contributor Scott). Saturday was a drive along the Great Ocean (pronounced 'gradation' in Australian) Road through mountain, forest, and plain to see the "Twelve Apostles." Throughout there have been times of prayer and adoration, Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and those things typical to youth bus trips. After Mass today, we joined the parish for a meal (we have stopped eating since our arrival), where we all sampled a bit of fried kangaroo.

What has moved me most, however, has been the generosity and hospitality of our hosts. This is my third World Youth Day. Only here in Australia, though, have the people been so happy to see us, so quick to welcome us. Our host parish is not wealthy, but they have sacrificed deeply to prepare for and host us during our stay with them. They have driven us, fed us, washed our clothes, roused us at ridiculously early hours, and done everything we could imagine to make us comfortable. I don't know that I have experienced such hospitality before.

I have long held that World Youth Day is held in those nations who need a revitalization of the Church. I think that is true here in Australia, but I think that the Americans here will go home with having learned a good lesson about hospitality and generosity, and the part they play in the pursuit of holiness.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lost in Translation

Now, I don't mean to be just another whiner and one who jumps on the bandwagon and complains about our current translation of the Mass, but I'm going to anyhow, to a certain extent. I noticed it not because I wanted to "test" ICEL's translation and see how bad a job they did, but as I prepare my homily, I often check the various prayers of the Sunday for tidbits that I could use in the homily.

As I prayed Evening Prayer (Ad Vesperas; I pray the original Latin version) tonight, I realized that the prayer in Latin had a lot more than the prayer I had become familiar with through my homily preparation. So, I did my own poor, poor translation of the prayer. I share the results with you all. Enjoy.

Original Latin Prayer:

Deus, qui errantibus, ut in viam possint redire, veritatis tuæ lumen ostendis, da cunctis qui christiana professione censentur, et illa respuere, quæ huic inimica sunt nomini, et ea quæ sunt apta sectari. Per Dominum.

ICEL English Prayer:

God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him reject what is contrary to the gospel.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ...

ICEL Alternate Prayer:

let the light of your truth
guide us to your knigdom
through a world filled with lights contrary to your own.
Christian is the name and the gospel we glory in.
May your love make us what you have called us to be.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

My own translation:

God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go wrong
so that they might return to the way,
grant that all who are considered to be professed Christians
reject all that is opposed to the name
and pursue all that is proper to it.
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Being a Public Person

On Thursday evening I went out with some parishioners. After mass one morning they had invited me to dine with them and then accompany them to the theatre for a live production of some Neil Simon play. It's all quite foreign to me, but they seem trustworthy enough and so I trusted their choice.

Actually, it's for a good cause in the end. It's a small-town theatre which often has to bring in people (actors, directors, etc...) from the cities and so it promotes the arts and thereby human excellence. Great. And the show, overall, was all right, though the storyline was a bit difficult to follow: "The Doctor is In." There didn't really seem to be any plot at all, actually, and it only highlighted some of the social awkwardness and character malformity which exists in much of our culture today.

At one point, however, there was a scene which played with the idea of a self-proclaimed "liberal father" visiting an unseemly part of the city and paying for his son to "become a man" on the occasion of his 19th birthday. Well, to say the least, the whole scene while enjoyable in the horrible humor which arises from human sinfulness and the difficulties inherent in bad choices (and suffering the consequences of those choices), was not edifying.

At this point, it is important to note that I was wearing my clerics. At one point the writer had made a joke which played upon sinfulness and awkwardness all around. The joke itself I found disturbing, yet the fact that the author was scheming and brash enough to throw that twist into the play made me laugh. As soon as I laughed, sure enough, a woman from the row in front of me turned and glanced at me and then redirected her attention to the play.

Now, I was in the last row of people. There were others who were laughing, but she did not look at them; nor was there another time throughout the whole play that this woman turned around. Nevertheless, the calculation of my mind to pick up on the author's intent, my laughing, this woman's turning and glancing only took but half a second, yet it leaves me with impressions which are lasting. This was not mere coincidence. This woman was turning to me because I represent more than just myself. Clerics are visible symbols of the Church. Clerics, especially when wearing clerics, are remind us of God, and all the truth, goodness and moral uprightness which goes along with being a friend of God.

As is true with all people, but in a heightened way, ordained ministers of the Church must avoid not only sin but also giving scandal even when no sin is involved. Sure, this could lead to scruples and there needs to be a reasonability to it. Yet, it does raise my awareness and sensitivity to what I've already known. The simple fact is that whether I like it or not people look to me as a model of moral uprightness. People (Catholic and non) expect clerics to be exemplars of holiness.

This incident provides a beautiful reminder. I am aware of my own personal sinfulness and shortcomings. I could simply stop wearing the clerics. I could simply stop going out to these events. I could simply ignore other people's "excessive sensitivity." Yet all of these would be ways in which I choose to opt out of the more difficult way, the more perfect way, and begin down that path of hardening my heart. Rather, aware of all my sinfulness, I must continue to allow myself to be in the public realm, visible to others and - not because of my own personality but because of the grace of God received through the sacrament of Holy Orders - remain a symbol of God's love and concern for the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Love, Think, Speak.

For the past week or so, I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I have wanted to read this set of books by C.S. Lewis for quite some time now and since I am not in school right now, I have time to read them. I also wanted to read the books before I watched any of the movies (new and old ones alike). The three words love, think, and speak appeared at the end of the chapter entitled: 'The founding of Narnia'. These three words shed light on what goes on in a pastoral visit to the sick or to a family's home. As men preparing to be priests we ought to first strive to love those who we are visiting. Secondly, we must think and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, we might speak. The quotation from St. Francis of Assissi always rings true though: "Preach the gospel, use words if necessary".

Also for the past few weeks, I have been reading Jesus of Nazareth. Currently I am reading the section written on the Lord's Prayer and it has been a time for myself to do what Pope Benedict sought to do and that is: to seek the face of Christ in the gospels.

Both books have provided delightful moments and challenges in my ongoing pastoral and spiritual formation.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vacation, final installment.

Back to the fishing. I ended up catching a 25", 5 lb walleye on, oh..., Wednesday? My dad, however, caught a 28.75", ~8 lb walleye. It wasn't caught at this location, though he has caught a 9 lb walleye at what people have come to call "Doug's Island," pictured here behind my folks:

My sister-in-law, however, came away with the prize of two walleye, almost back-to-back, being 28" long and 29" long (apparently, in some fishing groups, weight doesn't matter as much as length; so, my brother didn't weigh them, only measured).

The northern pike weren't biting nearly as much this year. But, the walleye fishing was a little off as well. We didn't always find them in the usual spots or by way of the usual fishing patterns. We are thinking this is probably because of the water level being up, the fish are adapting and are not following their usual patterns. Yet, my brother had one other thought concerning the northern: they're fished out. This seems a bit improbable, but it is possible. With the slot limits on Rainy, it's supposed to help the fish increase in population and not become fished-out. But, the northern limits are fairly liberal, and the walleye limits are rather conservative. Fisherman may be opting more for northern pike than walleye since it's easier. In the end, we don't know. Time may tell.

On the last day, as is becoming customary more recently, the family went out for a long boat-ride. Here are the kids, enjoying the ride. My niece's pig-tails went a bit wild in the wind!
My nephew didn't really want to let grandma take a picture of him, but with time she eventually got him to give in.

All in all, vacation was great joy. It was good to get out fishing once again. I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but it had been four years since I was able to join my family in Canada for the vacation. The fishing was good, the food was good, the family was good, and God is good.

P.S. This last mention makes me think of two things: 1) I was faithful to my promise which I had made only five weeks earlier: I did not miss a single hour of the Liturgy of the Hours; 2) vacation reminded me how much I look forward to priestly ordination. The primary benefit of being a priest while on vacation: I can say Mass for myself and not be deprived of it for six days as I was this year since the closest daily mass was at least 35 miles away.


My brother just sent me this picture of my larger walleye:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Vacation, cont'd

Of course, the best part of my family's vacation isn't the location, per se. Rather, it is the fishing that the location offers. My family preceded me by two days. I, as a good cleric, assisted with Diocesan functions before leaving for vacation: Quo Vadis Days, priestly ordinations and Fr. Jeff Dobbs' First Mass of Thanksgiving. So, while my family left on Friday and arrived on Saturday, I left on Sunday (after the Mass of Thanksgiving) and arrived on Monday.

My planning for the trip wasn't the greatest. I ended up leaving later that I would have liked, as well. I didn't finally get off on the road until about 5:30 pm. I was about to pass through Brainerd and figured I would find a motel to pull into there around 10:40 at night, but ended up taking the highway bypass around Brainerd which didn't have any hotels on it. So I countinued on. That, however, only offered small towns without motels, or without open motels. So, I ended up sleeping in the car from 11:30 pm until 4:30 am in a Catholic Church parking lot!

Saturday was rain in Canada, so my family didn't go fishing at all. That's when they found this marvel:

as you can see, they're wearing their rain jackets.

They caught a couple fish on Sunday, but not too much of great mention. However, in great swarms and numbers, the Mayflies were out:

Thing with Mayflies is that they don't do much, that we could tell. They are simply present - everywhere. They're better than mosquitos or biting-flies/horseflies, though, which were scarcely present.

Having woken up so early in the morning (because of the cold), I arrived in Canada very early, as compared to what I told them to plan. So, they had had a big breakfast that day and were about to head out in the boats. I barely caught them (by about five minutes), and so I quickly ran and bought a fishing liscense, changed out of my clerics and went out fishing. That produced three of these (though only two were within the Rainy Lake slot-limit, this one included):

Now, there are a couple of things to note with this picture. Remember, I said I slept in my car, arrived, and headed almost immediately out to go fishing. Hence, the unshowered look, as well as the unshaven face. Of particular note, as well, is the fact that I'm not wearing clerics. This is only of note largely because of our brother Deacon Michael, or blogger "Mike." He repeatedly scoffs at the fact that since ordination, I have worn my clerics except for sleeping, physical recreation, showering, and a one-time stint of 1.5 hours while doing laundry. Yes, Deacon Mike, I wore "civies" continuously throughout the week, until the day we departed when I changed back into my clerics for the drive home.

All of the time at the resort was not spent fishing, of course. We did take the evenings to enjoy ourselves in other ways. I should clarify who "we" are: my dad, mom, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, niece and myself. A picture of all of us (except my mom who's taking the picture).

You can also see some of the activities that we did. My nephew and niece really enjoyed having me around. I enjoyed being around them, though they did tire me out a bit.

My nephew is the older of the two. They were both born in August, though he will turn five this August while she will turn three. Isn't she cute?Well, don't let appearances fool you; she can have quite the attitude at times!

Monday, July 07, 2008


Vacations are a blessed time to escape for relaxation, spiritual communion, and refreshment. It is also an opportunity to continue to develop one's personality and humanity by traveling to places unseen, doing things not yet experienced, attempting things as of yet unattempted. The Church's Law wisely grants pastors up to one month of continuous or interrupted vacation throughout the year (if for more than one week, he must inform the Bishop or the Vicar General; Canon 533.2).

Well, I returned on Saturday from just under a week's vacation with my family. Since 1976, except for a few rare exceptions, my family (usually extended family on my mom's side included) has returned to the same resort in Canada for a yearly week-long fishing trip. Here are some of the pictures of the location itself. As you can see, it is beautiful.

Two of the cabins, the docks, the dike,
and the high water levels almost covering the dike!

The other perspective, showing you the very large bay at which we stay,
which is only a small part of Rainy Lake.
The shoreline usually goes down to the reeds.

There's always new discoveries in Canada.
A mini-waterfall we've never noticed before on the shore
near a productive fishing spot.

Just one instance of the wildlife which abounds.

One of three islands in a string at another popular fishing location.
In the reeds on the right, just at the water level of this island, you would find:

This loon sitting on her nest of eggs.

A little but beautiful bay which goes back quite a ways.
Just outside it (where the picture is being taken from) is usually
a very productive northern-pike fishing spot, but not this year.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The corn is knee high

Since I am what most people call a "city boy" I have been trying to pick up some lingo that farmers use to describe crop growth and how the cows are doing. I probably should have asked Deacon Tyler to help me out with this, but I decided to learn the hard way. I know that anything over 85 degree is corn growing weather. By the title of this post, I know that the corn is supposed to be knee high by the time the 4th of July hits. Some places around the northeast corner of the state got rained on pretty hard in early June and many farmers got their crops in later than usual because of too much moisture. Many people that I have met this summer either grew up on the farm or still farm. This summer has provided me a great oppurtunity to learn some lingo, but most of all to learn how to be with those who farm and sometimes have very difficult summers. St. Isidore, pray for us.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Winona Ordains Four!

For the first time in 32 years the Diocese of Winona has ordained in one ordination four men to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. It was quite the moving ceremony. Two of the men ordained attended the Saint Paul Seminary, while one attended (and will attend for at least one more year) the Pontifical North American College in Rome, while the last attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Mexico City, Mexico. Fr. William Thompson, one of the two who attended SPS, was the first man to be ordained who had attended Quo Vadis Days in high-school. Fr. Jeffrey Dobbs, also an SPS-alum, wanted to enter straight out of high school, but his mother wouldn't let him until after at least one year of college. Fr. Thomas Niehaus entered after a stint of schooling in Mankato and involvement with the Newman Center there. Fr. Ubaldo Roque Huerta had long been desiring to serve God and his Church as a priest, but had a number of delays, including the delay involved in transferring to the Diocese of Winona after Bishop Harrington travelled to Mexico and convinced him he should become a priest for the Diocese of Winona to minister largely to the Hispanic population, but of course always to the whole of the faithful of the Diocese.

It was a great day, this past Saturday. The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was packed: people filled all the extra seats which were set up in the gathering space, and still overflowed so they had them stand along the walls of the nave (the main body of the church). There were 90 concelebrating priests who laid on hands and gave the sign of peace to the four ordinandi/ordinati. Bishop Harrington was so moved that he was in tears repeatedly throughout the ordination. I had the honor of serving as deacon at the Mass. Afterwards, I was speaking with one of the bishop's chancery officers and was told that Bishop Harrington has often said that if there were to be any legacy of him, he wants it to be that he worked to increase the number of priests in the Diocese. Indeed, as a seminarian for the Diocese, I can attest that he has put much effort into that very thing and his efforts are bearing fruit.

It was a special day for all of us in the Diocese of Winona for another reason. Speaking on behalf of the newly ordained, Fr. Will Thompson ended his remarks with a thank you to the bishop who turns 75 in September and, as many are expecting, will likely retire from the position as the Shepherd of the Diocese within the next year, making this his last priestly ordination as Bishop of Winona.

For those of you who know Frs. Jeff and Will, the bishop had made public their assignments the evening before the ordination. Fr. Will Thompson has been assigned as parochial vicar at St. Francis Parish in Rochester, as well as chaplain and teacher at Lourdes High School in Rochester; Fr. Will will have four sections (I think) of catechism classes on his hands. Fr. Jeff Dobbs has been assigned as parochial vicar in Worthington, as well as the clustered parishes of Fulda, Currie and Westbrook; the previous pastor of the three-parish cluster is being assigned elsewhere, and these three parishes are being clustered (temporarily) with Worthington.

The Alliance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series on the Alliance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a Spiritual Devotion. Part 3 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


What is the spiritual Alliance about?

Let's begin by looking at a passage from the Gospel of John:

Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness -- his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth -- that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of him shall be broken." And again another scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced." (John 19:31-37)

Try to imagine yourself standing at the scene of Christ’s crucifixion, perhaps as one of the members of the crowd looking on as each event unfolded. This particular passage refers to the events after Christ took his last breath and spoke, “It is finished [accomplished]” (John 19:30).

One of the soldiers took a spear and lunged it into Christ’s side, we imagine near where his heart was located. Water and blood poured out of the wound. There are several meanings that theologians take from this passage. The blood and water is often used as a symbol for the origination of Christ’s Church. In particular, many find significance in the water -- life-flowing water -- that points to a theological importance for the Sacraments. Yet, important for this spiritual devotion, Catholic theologians teach that this was the moment when Christ’s and Mary’s hearts became most fully aligned with each other. As Christ’s heart was physically pierced, Mary’s heart was harmoniously pierced in spirit. Only two dolors of Mary’s heart remain in taking her Son down from the cross and burying him in the tomb.

The piercing of their hearts fulfills the Prophecy of Simeon in Luke, stating,

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-25)

Christ’s paschal mystery certainly did accomplish His fall and certainly did raise Israel. Furthermore, the significance of their hearts' piercing is most certainly so that our hearts may know the Truth of revelation. This was part of the Father’s plan from the beginning -- an ineffably beautiful mystical union of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

God’s plan for this spiritual alignment was made perfect when both their hearts were wounded for the salvation of the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, their conjoined hearts continue to pour out unconditional love, flaming with passion, and beaming the Divine Light of Truth for us to follow.

Yet, how did their hearts' mystical union get to this point, with Christ on the cross? While the sacred mysteries of their interior spiritual lives are, in a word, ineffable; the Word of God gives us a Scripturally-based crescendo to this moment of perfection. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, followed by Simeon’s Propehecy is just one of several passages that found this spiritual devotion.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Quo Vadis (II)

For our diocesan Quo Vadis Days, we have two sessions: one with those going into grades 6-8 from Monday afternoon to Wednesday noon, and one with those going into grades 9-12 from Thursday afternoon until Saturday noon. At the first session, we have some more physical activities, since the younger guys are not as able to channel their energy and restrain themselves. We have some of the team members give their vocation stories. We have Evening Prayer, Night Prayer (with Grand Silence thereafter), Mass (with the Bishop one of the days). We have various talks on vocation, prayer, etc… We watch the Fishers of Men DVD put out by the USCCB and then discuss it.

There's also a slot for a movie, usually Spiderman. We watch Spiderman because one of the priests is a huge fan of the comic book series. He has all of the books from the comic series (I think), a Spiderman watch and more. He has also plumbed the depths of the movie for all of the insights contained therein about vocation. You'd be surprised with all of the parallels; you'd be even more surprised with what 6-8th graders can pull out of it! Of course, one important line from the movie: "With great power comes great responsibility." One of the nights we have a bonfire and usually (though we never got to it this year) there's a series of Catholic trivia, naming the Gifts of the Spirit, Fruits of the Spirit, obscure saints from history, odd facts about feast days, whose incorrupt body was transferred where on what day, why and by whom. After the bonfire, we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the sacrament of confession.

The high school session is similar. There's Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, Mass, vocation stories, physical activities, but since the guys are older, we challenge them a bit more. The talks are more focused on the priestly vocation and prayer. Three or four times we have a conference followed by half an hour of silent or directed meditation. I'm continually edified by how well these young guys can spend a half an hour in silent prayer in the chapel, while sitting three feet from four other guys. There is again the Fishers of Men video, though Spiderman is left out. Again the bonfire, with trivia, followed by adoration and confession. The day always ends with Night Prayer and Grand Silence.

For the high-school session, however, the last event is Mass with the Bishop, namely, the Winona priestly ordinations. It's a beautiful thing: we get these guys thinking about a vocation to priesthood, we even walk them through the ordination rite. Usually, they get to hear the vocation story of one of the men to be ordained and then finally the last event of Quo Vadis Days is to see that same guy made a priest! The guys always look forward to the ordination with the bishop. It helps that the bishop always takes time to make mention of the Quo Vadis boys at the ordination. It's pretty easy for the congregation to see them since they're all wearing their new Quo Vadis Days T-shirt which we give them to wear home. After this last ordination, though, I saw so many of the guys (especially the more unruly of them) just stare with awe at both the bishop and the newly ordained priests as they processed out. It is quite the experience for those young men and we can only pray that it bears fruit.