Future Priests of the Third Millennium

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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn Vistas

Minneapolis Skyline - 24 October 2008 - Sunset

40 Hours of Adoration - Starts Today

The Saint Paul Seminary, in coordination with Saint John Vianney minor seminary, are sponsoring 40 hours of adoration beginning tonight.

Please stop by anytime from 8:30pm tonight to 9am Sunday for some time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, October 30, 2008


As I noted last evening, we celebrated the Installation of New Acolytes on Tuesday evening. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Paul Swain of the Diocese of Sioux Falls. I had the honor of serving at his side as Deacon of the Altar. This particular celebration was especially beautiful for me, though the experience is hard to articulate.

About twenty priests concelebrated the Mass, and crowded into sanctuary for the Eucharistic Prayer. As is typical, I knelt during the consecration, but my spine tingled as I heard each of the priests praying with the bishop those same words spoken by Jesus at the last supper. "This is my body." "This is my blood."

I was surrounded by the priests, and these words seemed to thunder as they were spoken. It was as though I was hearing every priest from every age, from the Apostles until now, praying the words in concert with the bishop. I was overwhelmed by enormity of it. From the beginning until now, priests, standing in the person of Christ, have spoken those words, re-presenting the sacrifice of Calvary, perpetuating throughout time that saving event, and drawing the faithful of every age into true communion with Christ. At the same time came a call. "Join your voice with theirs." It was a moment of profound longing. "Lord," I prayed, "Though I am not worthy, add my voice to those of these men, and those who have gone before me. Permit that I should be allowed to celebrate these same mysteries at your altar."

The experience was encouraging and simultaneously terrifying. How is it that a duty so sacred will be entrusted to me, God willing, in less than eight months?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Acolytes

In a recent post, Deacon Gregory described the ministry of acolyte and its importance as one progresses toward Holy Orders. With that in mind, FP3M would like to congratulate the the ten men who were installed as Acolytes on Tuesday evening. Among them were blog authors James, Matthew, and Anthony. Congratulations, men! I look forward to serving God's people with you.

Borromeo Weekend 2008

This weekend, The Saint Paul Seminary and Saint John Vianney College Seminary will host and celebrate the fourth-annual Borromeo Weekend. The celebration centers on a 40-hours devotion of the Blessed Sacrament. Various prayer and praise activities are scheduled throughout the 40 hours. All events are open to the public.

Borromeo Weekend begins this Friday with a 7 p.m. Mass at the Chapel of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Mass is followed by a Eucharistic procession through campus to The Saint Paul Seminary, where the rest of the activities take place. A full schedule follows.

7 pm >> Mass at St. Thomas Chapel
8 pm >> Procession to Saint Paul Seminary, Start of 40 Hours Devotion, Compline

12 am >> Way of the Cross
2 am >> Meditation (Sorrows of Mary)
4 am >> Meditation (Last Words of Christ)
5 am >> Invitatory Psalm > Office of Readings
7:30 >> am Lauds
8 am >> Mass
10 am >> Rosary: Joyful Mysteries
12 pm >> Midday Prayer
1 pm >> Rosary: Sorrowful Mysteries
3 pm >> Divine Mercy Chaplet
5 pm >> Vespers
8:30 pm >> Festival of Praise
10 pm >> Compline

12 am >> Rosary: Luminous Mysteries
5 am >> Rosary: Glorious Mysteries
7 am >> Vigil for the Office of Readings
9:30 am >> Solemn Lauds > Benediction
10 am >> Mass

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update on Calling All Scholars

Just to let you know, apparently this whole issue of the extra verses in Esther is still quite mysterious. Some guys are now questioning where in the world these verses came from - even our scholars here at SPS haven't provided an adequate answer yet. There have arisen questions about the canon of Scripture, its definitiveness and the content of the definition of the canon at Trent.

Not that there is really any reason to be all that concerned, but this is what seminarians sometimes get caught up on. They tend, as well, to over-dramatize such issues. Just another day in the life of the seminary.

"Camping" in Duluth

Late last week, I wrote to let you know that several of us from the Saint Paul Seminary were going to go camping in Duluth Diocese over this past weekend - our only free weekend of the mointh. If you live in Minnesota, you'll know that both Friday and Sunday held plenty of rain - but Saturday was nice, though chilly.

The six of us still did go to Duluth for the trip, however, due to the large predicted rain and chilly nights, we slept in a hotel in the city rather than a tent on the North Shore.

On Friday morning we left Saint Paul for Duluth - one of the six of us, Don, is from the Diocese of Duluth. As such, Don led our walk-tour of the City of Duluth on Friday - Albert (one of our seminarians from Ghana) was so impressed with the unique character of Duluty (the hills, the lift bridge, and more) that he kept saying "how beautiful, how beautiful!"

Most interestingly, we participated in the 40-Days for Life event in Duluth; this event is 24/7 prayer outside of an abortion-support-building for forty days. Don knows the coordinators and helped us get on the schedule for two hours Friday night.

Saturday was my favorite of the days: we went hiking in the North Shore area. We saw many of the various falls, went on the tourist-trails, and the more skilled (read: real) hiking trails as well. At night, we watched an older (read: 1990s) movie that was about never giving up hope - we "flexed our theologial muscles" by reading Trinitarian and other Christian symbolism into the plot of the movie

Finally, on Sunday we attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Duluth. It's a great place and full of great Christians. We were honored to be there and sad to have to leave.

Praised be Jesus Christ, our journey back to Saint Paul was completed safely and without trouble. It's good to be back but I do miss the great times we had the whole weekend.

Take care, -Jeremy

Monday, October 27, 2008

God Calls Everyone to Live and Love Like Saints

This week Deacon Michael Johnson has authored the reflection on the Sunday Scriptures for The Catholic Spirit. His reflection follows.


What is your purpose in life? What are your aspirations? What do you hope to accomplish?

As a young man of our culture, not too distantly removed from high school and only a couple of years out of college, those questions have been asked of me many times. These, however, are rhetorical questions; there really is only one answer. Whether we are male or female, Cath­o­lic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or even atheist, there is still only one answer. Our purpose, our hopes, our aspirations, our existence is summed up in this one, simple statement in the Cate­chism of the Catholic Church: “The life of man — to know and love God.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, a scholar of the law asks Jesus: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responds: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment; a commandment that Jesus places upon us with no conditions. Yet, only the saints and cloistered monks can do this, right?

In my own life, I can see that I can hardly rise to the lofty expectation Jesus places upon all of us. Unlike Jesus, I often want to add conditions to loving God with all my heart, soul and mind. I want to dodge the issue by adding, “After I finish this paper,” “If you answer this prayer” or “When I have the time.”

Jesus affords us no such reprieves from this commandment; Jesus wants each and every person to be as devoted to God as the saints are. We are called to be saints. To see the totality of this commitment, we turn to Deuteronomy 6:5, which Jesus quoted to answer the question posed to him. Not only are we to love God with our whole heart, soul and strength, we are to bind this commandment on our arms and preach it ceaselessly to our children. We are to speak of our love for God while we are busy or at rest; at home or abroad. We are to write it on our doorposts. For every one bumper sticker we see proclaiming our loyalty to a presidential or senatorial candidate, we should see 100 proclaiming our fidelity and love of God.

Though it is the first and greatest commandment that we are striving to follow, it is not an easy one to keep. Yet nonetheless, we are called to strive toward reaching it daily. Mercifully, we are not alone in this endeavor; God for his part calls us ceaselessly, seeking us. As our creator, he wants us to share in his blessed life; he wants us to be saints. He went so far as to send his only son, Jesus Christ, to be our savior and make us his adopted sons and daughters.

Let us, therefore, seek to live the great calling that we have received upon our creation each and every day, so that we may know and love God for all eternity as his saints in heaven.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Peace and Quiet

As Deacon Tyler mentioned in the previous post, our midterm break has come and is almost gone. Most of the men went away somewhere: either home or someone else's home. A dozen or so of us stayed here for various reasons. I decided to stay here because I wanted to get some work done and to get caught up on some rest. During this weekend I found something different than other weekends. I noticed that I could spend most of my time in silence and not feel like I had missed out on anything. I do look forward to hearing about what the guys did for their weekend or where they went, but I am glad to have been able to spend some time in peace and quiet.

Midterm is more than just a break

It almost feels like home in Minnesota today. With the wind blowing like mad, whistling past the windows to my room and the pine trees outside bowing at its command, I could easily have mistaken today for a typical day on the windblown prairie.

Today brought the season's first flakes of snow. They were more wet than white, drenching the unraked leaves on the grass and the unprepared wayfarers wandering the sidewalks. It is a good day to be inside, to be warm, to be writing. Yesterday's envy for those out vacationing is now replaced with the smug satisfaction of one who does not have to drive back into the city on wet roads. There is a certain feeling in the air today - anticipation I think. Midterm has passed. Christmas approaches. Deadlines now rear their ugly heads. Today is a benchmark. Until now, the semester has been relatively easy. Starting tomorrow, the real work begins. Papers once consigned to the uncertain future are now weighty facts of the ominous present. It is time to set our hands to the plow. Today is the day when we all begin to position ourselves on the start line. Tomorrow the race begins in full.

On your mark. Get set . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wherein I whine briefly and then provide an update regarding my thesis

Seminaries are not what one might consider loud to begin with, but SPS has been especially silent today. The majority of the men are out and about, enjoying time away, leaving those of us who remain with an uncommon silence in the halls. This is, theoretically, a positive thing for me, as I am, theoretically, writing my thesis. I find, however, that I am as equally distracted by the silence (and the fact that my peers are all out living it up) as I am by their noise when they are here.

As I noted, I am theoretically working on my Thesis this weekend. I have submitted some major portions at this point, and am working on adding a couple of shorter, though equally important portions by the end of tomorrow. To date, I have hypothesized the following:

1) Catholicism in Spain during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella was characterized by a crusing zeal that drove them first to expel the Muslims and then the Jews from their country. While it must be admitted that there was a certain political motivation to their actions, they were also staunchly Catholic and had great concern for the salvation of souls and the preservation of orthodoxy.

2) Europe, and in a particular way, Spain, was infected with a sort of Apocalypticism by which they came to believe that they had an immense role to play in bringing about the end of time. This was bound up, in part, in the capture of Jerusalem and in part, in the conversion of the whole world to Catholicism. The expulsion of Islam from Spain convinced many that the Catholic Monarchs were the special tools by which these would both occur.

3) Columbus, infected with this same apocalypticism, saw himself as an essential actor in bringing about the consummation of time. He had intended, at first, to provide a way not only to the Orient, but a backdoor attack against the Moslems in the Holy land. His own self importance was reaffirmed in his mind when he discovered a land of unconverted people. He came to see himself as truly worthy of his own name which literally means "Christ-Bearer."

4) The arrival of the Mendicants in the New World was significant in that while they were largely good and kind men, they would not permit any vestige of native religion to exist among the people over whom they were placed. Their own apocalyptic understanding and their Spanish concern for orthodoxy drove them to bring the native people of Mexico not only to Christianity, but also Spanish Catholicism. This methodology was significantly different than that of the Jesuits who would inherit North America and parts of Mexico and South America later in colonial history.

I have also written about Our Lady of Guadalupe at length. What remains there is to identify the manner by which the mestizo would eventually identify themselves with her and as a result, the Church.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Camping: Cancelled

All of the seminarians have been looking forward to a well-deserved and much-needed break. Today begins our "long" (read: three-day) weekend.

About four weeks ago, perhaps ten of us planned on using this weekend to go camping iu the Duluth Diocese. We planned this fully expecting that the weather could be cloudy and that the nights would be colder.

Even on Wednesday we had the "green light" to go but a check of the weather on Thursday brought out plans to a halt. In addition to significant rain on both Friday and Saturday, the nights could be as cold at twenty degrees Fahrenheit - which - in addition to the rain and possible snow - for some was not all-together unacceptable but to others (especially considering at least one of our brothers from Ghana would be joining us) it was just too much.

Still, a few of us are willing to make a go of it - though not camping. A few of us will be heading out together to have some adventures . . . even if that adventure mainly consists of traveling to some city we know not-well, and doing homework between touring that city.

Will we still have a weekend adventure: yes. Will it be exciting: possibly. Will we have a good time: here's hoping. Will we have stories to tell: no doubt. Stay tuned for the recount of the weekend's events or non-events (read: adventures of doing homework in a coffee shop).

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How could we not be brothers?

The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, addressing the Syond last week:

It is well known that the Orthodox Church attaches to the Synodical system fundamental ecclesiogical importance... Therefore, in having today the privilege to address Your Synod our hopes are raised that the day will come when our two Churches will fully converge on the role of primacy and synodality in the Church’s life, to which our common Theological Commission is devoting its study at the present time.

The meat of the address summarized:

In so doing, we seek to draw on a rich Patristic tradition, dating to the early third century and expounding a doctrine of five spiritual senses. For listening to God’s Word, beholding God’s Word, and touching God’s Word are all spiritual ways of perceiving the unique divine mystery. For listening to God’s Word, beholding God’s Word, and touching God’s Word are all spiritual ways of perceiving the unique divine mystery. Based on Proverbs 2.5 about “the divine faculty of perception (√°isthesis),” Origen of Alexandria claims: "This sense unfolds as sight for contemplation of immaterial forms, hearing for discernment of voices, taste for savoring the living bread, smell for sweet spiritual fragrance, and touch for handling the Word of God, which is grasped by every faculty of the soul."

BXVI after the address

And this was also a joyous event – an experience of unity, perhaps not a perfect one, but a true and deep one. I thought: your Fathers, that you have quoted so many times, are also our Fathers, and ours are also yours: if we have common Fathers, how could we not be brothers? Thank you Your Holiness. Your words will follow us in our work next week – and beyond – on a common path with you. Thank you, Your Holiness.

Calling all scholars

So an interesting thing happened yesterday. As I've mentioned before, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin. Well, occasionally, there are times when the English breviary does not conform to the Latin. I've already written on one of these times on this blog. Well, I've found another.

But this one is more interesting. As I was re-reading the Office of Readings, I found the reading wasn't the same. Even after looking at several tranlsations of the Bible (the Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, the Revised Standard Version, a Spanish translation, the American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the Douay Rheims), the problem still exists. What's the problem?

There's a whole section which is in the Nova Vulgata that is probably from some manuscript or version of the Book of Esther which is left out of many other translations of Esther. The verses in the Nova are 4:17a - 4:17kk. It's a beautiful hymn, lament and plea for the LORD's intervention on behalf of His people.

I've already had a number of the guys in the house here looking at it with me, and we're still left befuddled. If you can figure it out, or know the answer, please fill us in. We'd be delighted to know what's going on!

Oh, and by the way, it's a bit tricky. Sometimes, a Bible translation will use the same verse numbering, but the actual text isn't the same. So, here's a rough translation of the section that is missing from the other translations, which is what we're trying to find but can't:

I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you spared Noah in the waters of the flood.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you delivered to Abraham in his 310 years nine kings by eight men.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you freed Jonah from the belly of the whale.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you freed Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael from the furnace fire.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you plucked Daniel out from the pit of the lion.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you were merciful to Hezekiah, the king of the Jews, who was damned to death and prayed for his life, and gave him 15 more years of life.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you gave a generation of sons to Hannah, who was pleading with the desire of her soul.
I have heard from the greater of my books, O LORD, that you free all who please you, O LORD, until the end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In which I startle wildlife of the ring-tailed variety

As I have commented often before, it is my habit to take an evening constitutional. Of late, Deacon Gregory has made it his habit to join me. A week or so ago, the two of us were in the final stretch this walk when Dcn. Gregory pointed wildly and exclaimed, "Look! A Raccoon!" Indeed, there he was galumphing across the street toward the storm drain. He took quick cover therein, and watched us watching him. We stood a moment, hoping that he might venture out (secretly, I hoped that he would come out and bite Dcn. Greg), but he was perfectly content to remain where he was. After a bit, we moved on, and then stopped again downwind, hoping that he might be tricked into believing that we had departed permanently. No such luck. We scooted a bit closer hoping to catch a final glimpse. He had stuck his head out and was looking around (hoping to catch a final glimpse of us?). We then parted ways.

Having grown up on a ranch, raccoons are not a new phenomenon to me, nor is it unusual for me to see a wide variety of animals on a regular basis. Nevertheless, stuck here in the city, it was a small taste of home to see the little ring-tailed critter.

Apostles Creed in The Lord of the Rings (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series summarizing Dr. Peter Kreeft, PhD.'s work on Christianity in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Part 3 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


Who is Dr. Peter Kreeft, PhD ?

Peter Kreeft is a highly respected Catholic Apologist and professor of theology & philosophy at Boston College. He is lauded as one of the best Catholic philosophers working in the United States. He is a solid Thomist that draws very much from the Christian religious and philosophical Tradition. Some consider Kreeft to be the world's leading literary authority on C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. He is also a respected commentator on G.K. Chesterton.

As one of the Catholic Church's leading Apologists, he has been teaching for 42 year and has written close to fifty books. His most famous are "Unaborted Socrates," "History of Moral Relativism," "Between Heaven & Hell," "Socrates Meets Jesus," "On Apologetics," and "The Summa of the Summa," "C.S. Lewis in Christian Perspective," "C.S. Lewis in the 3rd Millennium," "Shadowlands of C.S. Lewis," "Heaven & the Hearts Desire: Longing for God," and "The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind Lord of the Rings."

Kreeft holds The Lord of the Rings as perhaps one the greatest literary pieces ever written. He holds it on the level of The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aenid, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost.


Why was the Lord of the Rings judged to be a good book by humanity, wherever humanity was asked?

Dr. Kreeft begins by stating that in order to understand why The Lord of the Rings is a great book, we have to look at what makes any book great. Every story has five main dimensions: the plot, the characters, the setting, the style and the theme.

What makes The Lord of the Rings so special is that all five categories are impeccably crafted by Tolkien. Dr. Kreeft finds that the theme - the world and life view - the wisdom is the most important in the Lord of the Rings. In his presentations on this book Kreeft focuses on the theme the most.

Dr. Kreeft states that the "easiest and cheapest" ways to fill a story with wisdom is to use allegory and moralism. Note, this is not meaning morality. Rather, it is moralism, a direct and explicit preaching of right vs. wrong. Dr. Kreeft points out that while there is nothing wrong with either of them, the concern with these styles of writing is that they can ruin "the story-ness of the story."

For anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings, they know that Tolkien's love was the story. Apparently, Tolkien disliked allegory and moralism. While Tolkien's writing does have religion, morality, and philosophy present, "they are all there for the story, as dimensions of the story," says Dr. Kreeft.

Where are these dimensions in The Lord of the Rings?

They are everywhere! Dr. Kreeft teaches how any story can be religious in four ways, corresponding to Aristotle’s Four Causes:

  • 1. in the story’s material cause: its subject matter or raw material

  • 2. in the story’s final cause: its purpose or end

  • 3. in the story’s formal cause: its form or structure

  • 4. in the story’s efficient cause: its origin

Material Cause: Subject Matter in the Lord of the Ring

Dr. Kreeft states what is clear to anyone who has read the series. The Lord of the Rings is not religious in the book's subject matter. Why is this the case?

The reason for this, according to Tolkien himself, is precisely to make the story altogether more religious. Tolkien wrote,

"I have cut out practically all references to anything like religion—to cults or practices in my imaginary world—in order for the religious element to be observed, more readily, into the story and the symbolism.”

Final Cause: Purpose or End in The Lord of the Rings:

Also, The Lord of the Rings "is not religious in its conscious originating motive or purpose; its final cause," says Dr. Kreeft. Tolkien did not write his opus because he wanted to be an Apologist or Evangelizer. Yet, the story is still relevant to Apologetics in its theme, end, and origin. Kreeft likes to point out that Tolkien did not start out thinking, “how can I convert or sanctify my readers and then invent this story as a means to that end?”

Formal Cause: Form or Structure in The Lord of the Rings

According to Kreeft, If The Lord of the Rings is religious, it is in its form and structure. We see this in the structure of the plot and the characters. Kreeft specifically identifies how "both--plot and characters--manifest themes" such as:

  • Grace
  • Divine Providence
  • Resurrection
  • Humanism
  • Duty
  • Obedience
  • Authority
  • Heroism
  • Hierarchy
  • Glory
  • Piety
  • Tradition
  • Humility

Efficient Cause: Origin & Inspiration in The Lord of the Rings

Kreeft says that it is "somewhat" religious in its Efficient Cause; "that is a kind of natural or generic divine inspiration." Kreeft suggests that while there are many "instrumental or proximate causes" of any great book found in an author's personality and culture of origin, The Lord of the Rings' Ultimate Efficient Cause is that "in all of its graces is Christ, the incarnate logos, the mind of God, the designer of all finite forms — from apes to archangels."

Kreeft says,

“From Him (Christ) all the Hebrew Prophets derive all their moral greatness, the greatness of goodness. From Him derive all the Greek Philosophers derive all their intellectual, greatness, the greatness of truth. Also, from Him all the myth-makers, artists, poets, and story tellers derive their aesthetic and imaginative greatness, the greatness of beauty.”

This photo is an image from both the book and the movie, The Fellowship of the Rings when eight members of the original Fellowship, missing Gandalf, are canoeing down the Anduin, the "Great River."

We have curiosity and wonder about ancient civilizations and our interest in learning about the Near Ancient East and the history of the people of Israel is driven by our faith. We see an ancient civilization such as this in Middle Earth. We have awe and wonder about a great and civilized cultures in the peak of their existence.

J.R.R. Tolkien, the man:

Kreeft smiles to tell his students that Tolkien was not a saint. Kreeft suggests that Tolkien was "wise, good, and loveable." Yet, Kreeft also describes Tolkien as "endlessly niggling, procrastinating, cantankerous, grouchy, dysfunctional, despairing, obstinate, and depressive." Kreeft's love of Tolkien is evident because he really has done his work in researching this great author. He laughs saying that list is not "such a bad batch of vices." Every man has his vices. However, in saying all this, Kreeft believes Tolkien was a very pious man. In fact, he describes him a "deeply pious."

J.R.R. Tolkien on allegory and how allegory it is NOT in The Lord of the Rings:

Many people who criticize Christian love for The Lord of the Rings often stumble in their reasoning in two ways. First, some will say that it is not allegory; assuming that all Christians ever like to read is surface level or cheap allegory. Yet amazingly, the other way they stumble is that they cannot recognize where Christianity is present in the book because it is not explicit "moralism"; what they would describe as finger pointing, saying this is right and that is wrong. So in these assumptions they are not wrong in that Tolkien did not use allegory or moralism, says Kreeft. Where they are wrong is when they cannot see that The Lord of the Rings is, in fact, terrific Christian literature. It would have to be bad literature in order for them to spot it. Kreeft says, because they do not know what good books are, they do not know what the Lord of the Rings is about the Glory of Christ!

Kreeft refers to Tolkien from the author's personal correspondence:

"I have deliberately written a tale that is built out of religious ideas, but it is not an allegory of them.”

Why did Tolkien reject allegory?

Because Tolkien went made the story, Middle Earth, the characters, and the reason for their existence the means to express his love for Christ. He describes Tolkien’s piety as "deeper." Kreeft explains, "as Elijah found God in the “still-small-voice,” rather than in the earthquake, storm or fine, we still find Tolkien’s piety deeply imbedded in his unconscious; imbedded in his mind not merely as an object of thought, but as the very forms of thought; not only looked at, but looked with the shape of his mind and heart."

Living Word of God:

What forms are they? Here Kreeft identifies where Catholic Apologetics are most relevant. He says, "they are the forms of God, the words of God, the ideas of God, the truths of God." Christ was Tolkien's inspiration and the fire of His love lived inside him. Kreeft explains that those who do not see religion, God, Christ, Christianity, & Catholicism in Tolkien's Middle Earth fail to do so for one reason--it is not on the surface, not literal.

Apostles Creed in The Lord of the Rings

Christianity is first defined in the Apostles Creed. Kreeft teaches that we can find something of the substance and truth of each of the 12 Articles of the Apostles Creed in The Lord of the Rings. Kreeft explains, The Creed is divided into twelve Articles, but Kreeft condenses them into nine, by condensing the four Christological Articles into one.

Tolkien is writing about a time before Christ, so you could hardly expect the details of the Gospel to be in his book. But we do have the following:

  • 1. God, the Father Almighty,
  • 2. the Creation of Heaven & Earth.
  • 3. We have Christ in many forms.
  • 4. There is the Holy Spirit,
  • 5. The Holy Catholic Church,
  • 6. The Communion of Saints,
  • 7. The Forgiveness of Sins,
  • 8. The Resurrection of the Body,
  • 9. and the Life Everlasting."

To be continued...

{Next: God the Father Almighty}

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Option for Women in Unplanned Pregnancies

I was alerted by my mother this morning about a story that was published in the Sioux Falls newspaper today. The story is on someone I got to know this past summer during my parish internship in Milbank, SD. The story is about Dennis and Heidi Justison who live in Ortonville, MN but attend the parish that I lived at. Dennis is the director of religious education for the parish and Heidi is currently a stay at home mom. They decided to open their home to women who have found themselves in unplanned pregnancies and do not have the means or experience required to support a child on their own.

This comes at an interesting time because the residents of South Dakota will be voting on Initiated Measure 11. If passed this measure would put a ban on abortions except in the case of sexual assault. The exception of women who are victims of sexual assault was made because of the failed measure from a couple of years ago.

This is a very encouraging thing to see because they are doing this without the support of government funding and the article mentioned that anyone who comes to them is not going to be judged negatively for the choices that they have made in the past. If there is one thing that I can say about Heidi and Dennis is that they are very committed people and it shows so well through their dedication to their infant son and ten year old who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments. From the times I have gotten to visit with Heidi and Dennis, I can say that they are very genuine people and their desire to help those in need is not a surprise. Please pray for the success of their mission and when I hear how things are going I will be glad to give an update.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apostles Creed in The Lord of the Rings

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series summarizing Dr. Peter Kreeft, PhD.'s work on Christianity in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Part 2 will post soon.

by James Lannan, Theology II - Saint Paul Seminary


Who is Dr. Peter Kreeft, PhD ?

Peter Kreeft is a highly respected Catholic Apologist and professor of theology & philosophy at Boston College. He is lauded as one of the best Catholic philosophers working in the United States. He is a solid Thomist that draws very much from the Christian religious and philosophical Tradition. Some consider Kreeft to be the world's leading literary authority on C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. He is also an respected commentator on G.K. Chesterton.

As one of the Catholic Church's leading Apologists, he has been teaching for 42 year and has written close to fifty books. His most famous are "Unaborted Socrates," "History of Moral Relativism," "Between Heaven & Hell," "Socrates Meets Jesus," "On Apologetics," and "The Summa of the Summa," "C.S. Lewis in Christian Perspective," "C.S. Lewis in the 3rd Millennium," "Shadowlands of C.S. Lewis," "Heaven & the Hearts Desire: Longing for God," and "The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind Lord of the Rings."

Kreeft holds The Lord of the Rings as perhaps one the greatest literary pieces ever written. He holds it on the level of The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aenid, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien on what the Lord of the Rings is all about:

“In the Lord of the Rings, the conflict is not basically about power or freedom, though that is naturally involved. It is about God and his sole right to divine honor.”

J.R.R. Tolkien photo:

Lord of the Rings place in history tells us something very important:

Dr. Kreeft likes to point out an interesting and profoundly significant set of statistics as a result of polling on popular culture and literary works. In the year 2000, a major bookseller conglomerate from Europe "Waterstone Books" polled its base of consumers, asking what they thought were the Top 10 Books of the 20th Century. Lord of the Rings was #1 by miles.

Pop-media literary critics mocked these results claiming that something must be wrong with the polling sample, Dr. Kreeft likes to point out. A follow-up series of polling was completed, this time expanding the base to a worldwide search. The results were exactly the same. Lord of the Rings was officially a classic and what Dr. Kreeft says is "the [book] most loved and admired by humanity."

Dr. Kreeft says,

"The critics were scandalized. I think a similar scandal to the critics would surface from popular polls in any of the arts: music, painting, drama, poetry, architecture, and certainly liturgy. The critics are clueless. Humanities experts are out of touch with humanity. This is true in philosophical ethics, why should it not be true in aesthetics."

Dr. Kreeft likes to point out that three main things are revealed from all this:

  1. "The Lord of the Rings is a true classic"

  2. Pop-culture Literary critics are “an arrogant oligarchy of utterly out of touch elitist aliens.” [It is very funny when you hear him say things like this in a lecture]

  3. "Modern Western culture is not egalitarian" as it boasts that it is

Dr. Kreeft teaches a course at Boston College on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. As an Apologist at heart, he rears against the broken foundations of philosophical and religious ethics Modern Culture proposes through its mainstream media. He points out how much the "teachers of our culture differ radically from the students." Teachers are are no longer priests and philosophers. Rather, "they are TV & Movie Producers, journalists, university professors, pop-psychologists, and so-called educational experts," he explains.

To be continued....

{Why the Lord of the Rings is judged a classic by humanity and what this has to do with Christian Apologetics}

All Right. Now I'm just annoyed.

You can look all you want on the television and around the internet for commentary on this political season. You can read all the commentary on our beloved bishops' document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship that you want. Yet, what you're not likely to find is commentary on one small, simple sentence:

When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.

Two questions which this statement brings to the forefront is: "What about when only one candidate doesn't hold a position in favor of an instrinsic evil?" and "What about when only one holds such a position?" I've yet to read any commentary on that possibility.

The comment box is open! Perhaps you care to chime in.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


We just passed 600 posts! Congratulations and many thanks to Matthew for helping us accomplish this feat.

So we'll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales . . .

Some suggest that this poem was written as some sort of allegory for the anglican appropriation of Catholic Church property. When I first read it, I thought that Hillaire Belloc just didn’t like children.

The reality is, Mr. Belloc writes like a machine gun. He was a contemporary of Chesterton, and a good friend to him. The two would assist each other in their efforts. George Bernard Shaw would refer to this indefatigable duo as the “Chesterbelloc”. They wrote extensively on economic theory, basing their ideas on the concept of subsidiarity starting to be enshrined Pope Leo’s great social encyclical.

While Chesterton was content to use newspaper columns, Belloc decided to delve as far as possible into politics. He ran for the parliamentary seat open in his district and immediately faced criticism from his opponent because he was a Catholic. As the story goes, Belloc responded by scheduling his first campaign speech at a Catholic School. There, to open his speech, he held up his rosary. “This is a rosary!” he declared to the crowd. “Near as I can, I tell these beads every day.” He continued, “I am a Catholic. If you refuse to elect me because I am a Catholic, I shall thank you for not making me the representative of such a bigoted people.”

He won by a landslide.

Belloc’s rather moralistic, singsongy poetry, though the product of this . . . uhmmm . . . shall we say “unflinching” personality? . . . is still considered, in my humble opinion, a part of the Catholic Literary Revival of the 19th and 20th centuries. I don’t think he had a dislike for children at all. However, I think he had a strong opposition to any man who, in certain ways, remained childish.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Ministers

In the last few decades there has been much discussion and discernment in the Church, especially regarding the liturgy. Indeed, many things have changed. Because of these changes, there has arisen the necessity of clarifying terms to ensure that what didn't change (namely, our doctrine) is preserved.

One such search for adequate and proper terminology was in the case of those who distribute during the Communion Rite who are not priests or deacons - what are these people to be called? Initially, some documents called them "Special Ministers." They were also more specified by "Special Ministers of Communion" or "Special Ministers of the Eucharist." Perhaps they were simply called "Ministers of the Eucharist."

Usually, though, these terms were simply being used, or their use was primarily in regard to simply the action they were performing. In this sense, they were "ministering the Eucharist" in that they were distributing our Lord's body and blood in the Eucharist during the Communion Rite. But, they didn't hold this position by way of their state in life. That, of course, belonged to priests and deacons. So, the Church then began to add the term "extraordinary." So some then started to call them "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist." Yet, upon even further reflection, this term was discovered to be inadequate.

Why? Well, what is the Eucharist? Indeed, if we want to talk about the thing that we can literally distribute and hand out to people, we can talk about that as being the Eucharist. But, if we want to talk about the action of the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the whole liturgical action of the offering, this too is the Eucharist. (St. Thomas Aquinas would distinguish these between the res et sacramentum (the thing and symbol) and the sacramentum tantum (symbol only), respectively.)

Eventually, the Magisterium finally came to a conclusion on what we should call these people, based upon who they are and what it is they are doing. "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" is the term to be preferred; all the rest are inaccurate. They are, in the end, not ordained for that function; rather, they only fill it because of the need for helpers. As well, they are not really ministering the Eucharist (only priests do that), as much as they are ministering Holy Communion - we call it, after all, the Communion Rite.

So why this long spiel? This morning, Archbishop Nienstedt was here again. He installed six men (who are preparing to be permanent deacons in this Archdiocese) as Acolytes, that is, servers at the altar, and permanent Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. It was a pleasure to have him here; and it was a joy to see our brothers who are aspiring to Orders come one step closer to Ordination.

Congratulations, men. Our prayers are with you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Duluth to Cincinnati

My Bishop is an Archbishop.

Admission to Candidacy

On Tuesday, most of the members of the Saint Paul Seminary class of 2010 were admitted as candidates for ordination - an important step on the track to ordination.

Now, you might be thinking: "Oh no, why only 'most' of the class?" Well, in an interesting way, there is no specific time that the Rite of Admission to Candidacy needs to be done. As such, three members of the Class of 2010 were previously admitted as candidates: Juan (Diocese of Rockford), Joseph (Diocese of Saginaw), and Michael (Diocese of Saint Cloud).

The brother-seminarians rejoice with those Admitted as Candidates:

From the Diocese of Grand Island

From the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis








- - - - - - -
Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Truly Beautiful

I found this from the Winona Daily News:

During a celebration for his 93rd birthday, retired Bishop Loras Watters (seated), received a special visit at Callista Court from newly appointed Bishop John Quinn (left) and Bishop Bernard Harrington (right). (Photo courtesy of Sue Wilber, Saint Anne of Winona)

Winona's New Bishop

Yesterday morning's Vatican Information Services had this announcement in its "Other Pontifical Acts" section:

Appointed Bishop John M. Quinn, auxiliary of Detroit, U.S.A., as coadjutor of Winona (area 31,798, population 570,488, Catholics 131,280, priests 107, permanent deacons 20, religious 414), U.S.A.

Yes, Bishop John Michael Quinn of Detroit will become Winona's 8th diocesan bishop. This appointment is a bit odd, however. Bishop Harrington (our current bishop) turned 75 years old only 40 days ago. Of course, as is required by Canon Law, he submitted his letter of resignation, but as is customary, it was not accepted. Usually, bishops will stay on for some time after they turn 75. Which raises the question, "Why, then, did Bishop Harrington get a replacement so soon?" The short answer is because he had asked properly. Well, it's because Bishop Harrington had the foresight over a year ago to put in a request for a coadiutor bishop--someone who would be assigned while he's still bishop and then automatically take over whenever he retired.

Bishop Quinn was the answer. He has been a bishop for about five years, now. He has served as an advisor for the national council of the Saint Vincent de Paul society. He has a doctorate in Systematic Theology from the Catholic University of America and has been teaching at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit (one of my diocesan brothers has him in class right now, which makes it very interesting for him--he has his own bishop as his professor!). Bishop Quinn has celebrated the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This past May, he also celebrated a Funeral Mass for 25 children whose aborted bodies were found in a dumpster behind an abortion clinic. He has served in the Archdiocese of Detroit's offices for Religious Education and for Justice and Peace.

Bishop Quinn is an Irishman through and through, with the white hair to prove it. He and Bishop Harrington have known one another for some time and speak very well of each other. Last night, the clergy and parish directors of the diocese gathered with both bishops for Evening Prayer and dinner. I had the opportunity to be present. It was a great evening. The new bishop has a good sense of humor, as well as humility. He asked that we help him get to know us and the diocese when he finally moves in on December 11. He wants to be able to travel the diocese to get to know us well. His only hope is that he can fill the shoes of his great predecessor, whom he is reluctant to follow for fear he will not "measure up."

From the look of it, he has nothing to worry about. He need only remain faithful, as Bishop Harrington has, and to love his people. Last night made clear that that is what he'll do. Thanks be to God for sending a good man, a good priest, a good shepherd to the Dicoese of Winona.

For more information, see the Diocese of Winona's webpage.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Today's lost sheep.

Today I decided to start the Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila during holy hour. This may have something to do with her feast coming up on Wednesday as well as my own personal devotion to her. This book, by one of our great Doctors of the Church, is a classic source of spiritual insight, and I have been wanting to dive into it for some time. I guess what struck me was how awesome and beautiful the soul should be - how incomprehensible the soul really is compared to modern thought. Teresa really impressed upon me, that because we bear God's image, our soul is spectacular and more than we usually consider. How romantic she thought of herself within that context.

I was considering later this afternoon on the way to lunch this "innate beauty", which made me think of a conversation I had overheard in a school lunch line a few days ago. This conversation between two students at St. Thomas, consisted of parties and bars involving large amounts of binge drinking. This girl retold her story of the night before, giving "body shots" (Lord knows?) to more than one guy whilst her envious "boyfriend" was there watching. This conversation was quite disturbing, and I was beside myself trying to decide whether or not to say anything, or even what I would say as I was waiting for my sandwich. Certainly I look back, and what I wish I had said was something very different than the silence I maintained. Doesn't this girl realize that she has a beautiful soul. Is she not worth much, much, more than that? The answer to that question is obvious, but it's harder to consider the consequences of this and how widespread this lack of understanding.

Teresa talks about self knowledge that we need find and its only through our Lord that we can truly know ourselves. How can this girl know who she is and how beautiful she is without knowing God or somebody telling her her own divine worth. I think part of knowing God is knowing one's beauty in one's own soul. Who's to teach that? The uniqueness, and the delightful beauty, which images our creator? Many people if not most, it seems, do not reach this level of inward reflection and soul seeking. They never consider the type of life they ought to live. These are the lost sheep or the sleeping virgins who did not fill their lamps while waiting for the bridegroom. I wonder how much is really their own fault (and God only knows how to judge such persons). Maybe it's up to us; people are oftentimes asleep needing shepherds to awaken them, I suppose.

Until next time,


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rector's Bowl 2008

I'd like to say that we fought the good fight, but lo and behold our younger brothers triumphed last night. At halftime we led 7-6. During the second half the St. John Vianney Jaxx scored two unanswered touchdowns and took the game. It was a well-played game and we had a lot of fun getting ready for the game for the past month. Archbishop Nienstedt was on hand as well as many families from the area and friends of both seminaries. Many thanks go out to the referees, those who worked the concessions stand, and to those who provided food for the reception afterwards. We hope to be able to post pictures soon.

On the Year of Saint Paul

At today's Mass in the seminary, Monsignor Callaghan spoke of the Year of Saint Paul. He dove into the way Saint Paul shaped Christianity in brining countless gentiles to the Faith.

I could not help but think of the homily that Pope Benedict XVI gave on the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29) earlier this year. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

“Lastly, this brings me back once again to Saint Paul and his mission. He expressed the essential aspects of his mission as well as the deepest reason for his desire to go to Rome in chapter fifteen of the Letter to the Romans in an extraordinarily beautiful sentence.

“He knows he is called ‘to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit’ (15: 16). In this verse alone does Paul use the word "hierourgein" - to administer as a priest - together with "leitourgos" - liturgy: he speaks of the cosmic liturgy in which the human world itself must become a worshiping of God, an oblation in the Holy Spirit. When the world in all its parts has become a liturgy of God, when, in its reality, it has become adoration, then it will have reached its goal and will be safe and sound.

“This is the ultimate goal of Saint Paul's apostolic mission as well as of our own mission. The Lord calls us to this ministry. Let us pray at this time that he may help us to carry it out properly, to become true liturgists of Jesus Christ.”

Take care, -Jeremy

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Football: Rectors' Bowl Tonight

Don't forget:


at the University of Saint Thomas football stadium at 7pm

The Saint Paul Seminary
Sons of Thunder


Saint John Vianney Seminary
Men of the Church

Last year was an intense game, but the Saint Paul Seminary won out despite being down early in the first quarter. The Saint John Vianney undergraduate seminary has only won once (2006) in our eight years of this competition. Join us for the fun; we look forward to seeing you there!

We have a pep band, food and refreshments, and all the seminarians you would want to meet.

Take care, -Jeremy

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Beautiful Morning on Mississippi River Blvd

Here are some pictures from the seminary this morning.

Clinical Pastoral Requirement

The first-year theologians at the Saint Paul Seminary are required to work in a hospital setting in the summer following their first year of theology. This is called CPE: Clinical Pastoral Education. Most people would call it a hospital chaplaincy internship.

It makes many of us here very nervous. It is not that we would not want to visit the sick (that is very important to us) but it is a very competitive process to get a summer internship at a hospital. The application-interview process takes a large amount of time in our already packed schedule.

I am happy to write that just the other day, I received a phone call from a site that offered me a position for the summer! What's more, it was my first choice! I was thrilled; I still am thrilled! On Wednesday, I was starting to get very nervous about sending more applications and trying to find time to do interviews but - thanks be to God - I have a position!

I am sure that the summer will be a challenge, but a good experience as well. At least for the next seven months I can take comfort in the knowledge that I have a position.

Saint John of God (patron of the sick), pray for us.

Take care, -Jeremy

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You're Invited Still!

You and your family are invited to the 9th annual
Rector's Bowl

The Saint Paul Seminary
Sons of Thunder


Saint John Vianney College Seminary
Men of the Church

Saturday, October 11, 2008
7:00 p.m.
O'Shaughnessy Stadium
University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul Campus

Coming to America

Perhaps you've seen the Eddie Murphy movie. Well, not that it's anything nearly identical to the situation in that movie, but we do have four Ghanans in the house this year (their diocese is named in our Sponsoring Dioceses list - Navrongo-Bolgatanga). We seminarians have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that these men experience the American culture as fully as possible, within good moral limits, of course.

Well, the most recent episode of Americana was taking two of them out to Buffalo Wild Wings in the Har-Mar Mall. It was two of the pre-theologians who really spearheaded it, but last minute they spotted me walking past and invited me along with them. So, the five of us went.

After we arrived, however, (blogger) Scott told of the hot-wing challenge. After learning the details from the waitress, one of the Ghanans decided he was up for the challenge - the rest of us were too fearful of heart attack! This involved, however, two novelties for the Ghanan: 1) ridiculous and wasteful challenges (particularly with food) which are for the most part pointless and meaningless, but because we can, we do them; and 2) signing a release form which ensured that Buffalo Wild Wings was not to be held responsible for any adverse effects.

After explaining what the waiver was, the Ghanan quickly signed his life away and attempted the challenge: eating 12 of BWW's hottest and spiciest wings in 6 minutes. If accomplished, one won a T-Shirt which bore the name of the spicy sauce which enveloped the buffalo wings.

Now let me attest for you, the wings are spicy. I myself had two of them from the dinner order we had placed. Any part of the body that the sauce touched began to burn and tingle - my lips felt as though they had gone numb. This was some powerful stuff.

So, having the goal of 12 wings in 6 minutes, our Ghanan novice chomped away as the waitress eyed the timer. Oh, I forgot two extra rules: no napkin and no drink. Amidst laughter from the rest of us at the table, he accomplished the feat in a mere 2 minutes and 18 seconds! We did the math and that's exactly 11.5 seconds per wing. Now that's impressive.

I have only two lingering thoughts about the whole escapade: 1) I hope we don't corrupt the Ghanans too much during their 4-year stay; and 2) Come on! I think he could've done it in 8 seconds per wing, at least. We'll have to bring him back and not make him laugh next time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


As deacons, our classes adopt a decidedly practical flavor. As such, one of the classes in which we are currently enrolled is Pastoral Counseling. We were recently given the assignment to develop a list of professionals to whom we could refer people in the following situations:

1) A physician for someone new to the parish

2) An attorney to draw up a will and health care directive for an elderly parishioner

3) A psychologist/psychiatrist for a depressed parishioner

4) A marriage counselor for a parishioner I barely know.

It is necessary, of course, that whoever these referrals are, they would operate compatibly with the teachings of the Church. Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales . . .

Below you will find the first of what we hope will become a regular feature on this blog. Read the story and enjoy the audio clip.

The Administration

On October 7, 1571 (a Sunday), two massive naval fleets engaged in the Gulf of Lepanto, a body of water on the coast of Greece. The smaller of the two sailed under the command of Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V. The larger, commanded by Muezzinzade Ali Pasha served the government of the Ottoman Emperor Selim II. Don John’s fleet, dubbed The Holy League, was a rough assembly of warships reluctantly volunteered by the powers of Europe and reinforced by the remnants of the once prominent Military Order, the Knights of Malta. At 24, the Austrian had been handpicked by Pope St. Pius V to command this squabbling mix of men sent to oppose the sure assault of the Ottoman forces against Rome and, eventually, the whole of Christendom.

Besides being outnumbered by the Ottoman Fleet in both ships and men, the Christians started the day contending with a difficult headwind that forced them to row rather than sail their 208 ships into the gulf. Every man, whether at the oars or on deck, held in his hand a rosary which he prayed at the request of Pope Pius V. Indeed, the whole of Europe had been asked by the pope to tell their beads that Our Lady might provide a victory. And she did.

Just before the fleets engaged, the wind shifted to fill the Christians’ sails. The Christians, now able to enter the gulf at full speed, charged the Sultan’s ships. Despite the loss of his own flagship, Don John captured Ali Pasha’s, and sank or captured all but 13 of the Ottoman Ships. From those ships he captured, Don John liberated hundreds of Christian slaves chained to the benches belowdecks and forced to pull the oars of the Sultan’s galleys. The near total destruction of the massive fleet signaled the end of the Ottoman Empire’s long efforts to take Christendom.

For his part, the pope did not hesitate to attribute this impossible victory to God, through the powerful intercession of Our Lady. He established the feast on October 7 that would eventually come down to us as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

On October 7, 1911, G.K. Chesterton, with a mailman (clearly not a Sunday) standing over him somewhat impatiently, scribbled out the lines of a ballad recounting this Don John, Our Lady, and God’s victory. He made the deadline, and the poem appeared the next day in the pages of a paper called The Eye-Witness. Despite the rush, Chesterton manages to capture a clear ballad meter, a steady, militaristic march. Likewise, he includes the details of the strange setting of this amazing event. Just as Christendom finally halted the Ottoman advance, it was itself fracturing. The North pulled away in Protestantism. Spain, supposedly nine yards Catholic, was busy building a colonial empire and an armada. England was trying to avoid taking either side. The poem is worth reading, but, if you're too busy to look it up, I have read it for your edification . . . and my own personal enjoyment.

It gives me confidence. History has played itself out, so it is rather hard to see Europe as anything but a dominant geopolitical force. However, by rights, it ought to fail. Europe was a peninsula, a backwater, covered with disparate tribes, criss-crossed by roving imperial powers. It is a sort of Israel of the West. Fitting, then, that God should pick it to manifest his power. Likewise, my own heart seems more a bundle of competing interests than a well-forged unity – a little Israel here breaking apart into tribes, there being swallowed up by heathen interests and powers. After a few rosaries, it seems, even such unlikely things become His instruments.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Apostolic Synod

In Rome, bishops from the world over have gathered to participate in a Synod on the Word of God. It will be their work to take up topics in need of clarification and/or reiteration, discuss them, and provide a collection of data from which the Holy Father will then produce an Apostolic Exhortation in which he lays out a the conclusions of the Synod. This happens every few years, and the topics range from Liturgy, to Marriage and Family Life, to Formation for Priesthood and the Word of God.

While nothing especially novel has occurred among the bishops as yet, it is fascinating to note that in conjunction with the Synod, there will be people in Rome reading the complete canon of Scriptures from cover to cover. The Holy Father began yesterday, reading the first chapter of Genesis. The reading will proceed continuously until the last chapter of Revelation, interrupted only for musical interludes including Hebrew songs of praise, Latin Motets, and even some classic American Folk Hymns like "Amazing Grace" and spirituals like "Wade in the Water." I wonder if they are recording it . . .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What a coincidence

I recently visited the school at my teaching parish and during my visit with one of the classes, one of the students asked which high school I went to. I grew up in Sioux Falls, SD and there is only one Catholic high school in town and I told the students that the school is named after Bishop Thomas O'Gorman (a brief biography about him from www.catholic-hierarchy.org). As soon as I said the name 'O'Gorman' the students began to whisper and eventually the teacher told me that one of the girls in the class is a distant relative of Bishop O'Gorman. A few years ago, that student and her family were able to visit the high school named after their beloved relative at an event called the 'Dakota Bowl'. I should also mention that O'Gorman high school has produced many vocations in the past few years. Currently there are five alumni of O'Gorman high school discerning a vocation to the priesthood. In my books, that's not too bad.

Saint Paul Seminary Video

This weekend, a significant number of the parishes of this Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis are having seminarians speak to them about the seminary. The purpose is to increase awareness of the seminary amongst the lay faithful.

Secondarily and simultaneously, there is an Archdiocesan-wide collection being taken this weekend for the Saint Paul Seminary. This is all part of the I Will Give You Shepherds Capital Campaign which has been underway here at the seminary and is now going into its public phase. (More can be read about it from this PDF file and going to page 16. This is our Spring 2008 Oracle Newsletter.)

For those parishes that have the capability, the seminary sent out a five minute DVD with a video that shows a bit of the inner life of the seminary and the seminarians. If you haven't seen it, or if you have and just find it so enjoyable, it is posted here for your viewing.

Small disclaimer:
We have to use YouTube to show you this video.
Hence, anything beyond the video we provide here
(i.e., through further links which show up after the video is finished playing),
we do not necessarily endorse.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Reflection upon humanity.

"The United States was founded in 1776 on the principles of Life, liberty, and the reckless pursuit of happiness at any cost- even life and Liberty." The Onion.com

I ran across this statement on the Onion, and it struck me. I know it was meant to be satirical, but I could not help remark at the truth contained in this statement. Certainly I could remark how this relates directly to abortion in both senses, but that is not the point I want to make. It is the recklessness that I must insist upon as my own sensitivity here. Perhaps this should not be my first entry upon the seminary Blog, but the reflection is there and I desire to express it. Human nature is reckless; we don't often pause to consider consequences and deeper underlying causes to problems or the roots from which these reckless ideas come. Humanity is plagued with half truths or deceit that reigns in many lives.

I am not sure I understand things like people found crying over dead trees on Youtube, (it really is almost beyond words.) I think it speaks to how far people can be deceived in this life and how pervasive evil truly can become. Perhaps we don't see explicit evil in things like "mourning dead trees" - it is very slight and it has less to do with the action itself than it does with horrible philosophy or having no philosophical basis what so ever. I'm not even saying one needs traditional, formal philosophical training, but I can see that people are operate out of some system by which they assert that the world makes sense. Some follow whatever person, others do whatever their feelings dictate, and for some it all depends upon the day. This is the society we live in - trees can become our friends, if we just dream it up.

I am forced to wonder at how blessed I was not to be led astray amidst all the fray at a liberal Lutheran institution from which I come. Eventually I will write more on how I made it to the Seminary, but I will save that for a later post. For now, I am content to reflect upon the blessings of the Lord, and particularly, that in his providential care, He brought me here to continue to learn and develop my own love for His Church.

Ecce Quam Bonum

At 5:00 of most weekday evenings, a single note sounds from the magnificent organ within St. Mary's Chapel and the deacon presider intones the words, "God, come to my assistance," thus beginning our communal recitation of the Church's official Evening Prayer, or, as it is known in Church Lingo, Vespers. For the next twenty minutes or so, sixty odd men sit together chanting Psalms, canticles, and petitions.

I have participated in this prayer of the Church in various ways for a number of years now. Sometimes I am caught up with the words of the Psalms. At other times, I am entirely distracted, glancing here and there, and anxiously waiting for the thing to finish. At other times, though, I am struck with a moment of clarity in which I look around and suddenly realize how beautiful is the life I am living.

I had such a moment recently. The east side of the chapel, where I was sitting, has just sung one strophe of a Psalm. We paused, and I turned my head, straining to hear better the west side as they began to chant their response. As I did so, I took in, in a moment, the panorama of the windows, the organ, the music, the altar, and the men seated around me. I thought to myself, "How absurd. What on earth are all these men doing here, sitting in a grey, stone chapel, singing." In that moment, I was overwhelmed anew with the glorious realization that we are all in this together - lay men and deacons and priests, new students and returning students, old men and young men - all of us bound together in this place by this call. The Scriptures alone seem to capture the sentiment: "Behold how good it is where brothers dwell as one" (Psalm 133:1).

Friday, October 03, 2008

What's in a name?

Jeremy's recent post about the Archangels was the impetus for renewed reflection about a phenomenon described by one of our professors of Sacred Scriptures. He often commented as he taught my class on the Prophets that it helps to know the meaning of Hebrew names. The names of the prophets often give clues as to what the point of a given book or part of a book might be. For instance, in the book of Hosea (which means "Salvation"), we are told that Hosea has three children: Jezreel ("God Sows", a blessing to Hosea, and Hosea's own child), Lo-ruhamah ("Not Pitied", and not Hosea's biological child) and Lo-ammi ("Not My People", and clearly not Hosea's biological child). Knowing the meanings of these names helps us to understand the extent of the sin of Hosea's wife, Gomer (she was an adulteress). Similarly, we learn something about the Archangels when we know the meaning of their names. Michael means "Who is like God?" Raphael is "God's Remedy." Gabriel means "The Strength of God."

One way of learning the meaning of these names is to enroll in a lengthy study of the Hebrew language. If, like me, you are disinclined to do this, one can usually discover the meaning of Scriptural names by doing an internet search. Besides deepening our appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures, it might also serve as an advantage in a close game of Trivial Pursuit.