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, January 31, 2008

SPS Pre-Theologians at Saint John Vianney Seminary

One of the perks of what will be my only year in the Pre-Theology program is the opportunity to take the Catechetical Foundations course offered at Saint John Vianney College Seminary on the other side of campus. The course is taught by the esteemed Dr. John Boyle, professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas and by the rector of SJV, Fr. William Baer. After the first few classes this week, the sense is that this will be an exceedingly valuable and enjoyable course, even with its purportedly difficult daily quizzes. We seek to know our Faith more deeply and fully, and to eschew selectivity in our consultation of the Catechism. The five SPS men in the course are grateful to our host-brothers at SJV for their warm welcome and tweaking of their schedules to accomodate our need to get back to our place for 11:35 am Mass on class days. We are happy to be in the presence of these young men, football and basketball rivalries notwithstanding.

Of course, all good Catholics prize their copy of the Catechism, particularly if it is the preferred Second Edition (required for the course). But also required is the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, compiled and published by the good people at Ignatius Press. I had no qualms about throwing down the cash for that one. Fr. Baer advised us not to be bashful about lugging both of these large volumes to our Holy Hours and to make them a fixture in our prayer lives -- I believe I will take his advice!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A typical day at seminary

Over the course of the next few days I will be posting excerpts from a description I wrote for friends and family members about what a "typical" day at the seminary was like in my first semester.

Although I am not quite sure that there is such a thing as a typical day at the seminary, I will do my best to describe some of the more common daily happenings of seminary life as I have experienced them in my brief time in St. Paul. During the week, most of us wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning. I once heard a priest say that the first “cross” the Lord gives to us each day is the cross of getting out of bed; I can attest that this is certainly the case for me as I am still adjusting to life as a “morning person” after many years of being otherwise. Upon rising (and having a cup of coffee to help jumpstart my day), I get ready to face the world by showering, ironing my clothes, and grabbing my breviary after which I head to the chapel to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament until 7:00 am. Following benediction all of us are expected to be at Morning Prayer before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. Breakfast usually lasts about thirty minutes, which is just long enough for all of us seminarians to make it through the coffee line for our second cup of the morning.

It is at this point that things can get interesting. As we seminarians struggle to balance our to-go cups of caffeinated beverages, books, and the morning newspaper without dropping any, we walk to our next destination. You can usually tell what year a man is in at the seminary by how well he can pull off this balancing act. I for my part am still a novice as evidenced by the numerous coffee stains which adorn the sleeves of my shirts. Walking and carrying such a heavy load is a delicate art form and I am still learning! Thankfully my seminary evaluations do not depend on how well I do in this regard. What they do depend upon, however, is what takes place throughout the remainder of my morning. Each of our schedules vary depending on the day but typically the next few hours are occupied with some combination of classes, spiritual direction, spiritual formation talks, and homework time. Last semester I had classes which occupied my Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday timeslots, while Wednesdays were designated for formation conferences, and Fridays were set aside for spiritual direction, homework, and errands.

Throughout the week we celebrate the sacrifice of our Lord (and the close of the morning) with daily Mass at 11:35 am. Mass is at this time, right in the middle of our day, so as to remind us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our daily lives. I find that this is a good and necessary reminder, since after a busy morning I can tend to lose focus as to why I did all that I did. I guess this goes to show that the busyness of life, which makes it so difficult to continually remember the Lord, even affects us in the seminary from time to time. The length of these “daily reminders” is directly related to the length of the celebrating priest’s homily but usually we clear out of the chapel somewhere between 12:15 and 12:45 pm. At this point, as if all of us seminarians have taken a cue from the liturgical procession which we have just witnessed, we too process over to the cafeteria once more, this time for lunch.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(Almost) Empty House

The Pre-Theologians of the Saint Paul Seminary continue to hold down the fort while the rest of the house is away on retreat. Most of us started classes today, since we take some classes from the UST schedule. Interestingly, all liturgical and other duties around the Seminary have fallen to us for these few days. As I await the return of my elder and more eloquent brethren, here is another "theological reflection" from my Parish Placement experience:


This week I have been especially attuned to the demanding schedule of the priests. I have found myself tired by the end of the day, even after simply observing part of what the priests do and not myself actively ministering. In the last year or so I have read several books which accurately described this aspect of the priesthood, but only this week have I observed it prima facie. I saw the real breadth of “business” responsibility the priest has in a parish and at the same time the many personal encounters that only the priest can offer. It seems like a particularly busy week could really take its toll and leave little if any time for recuperation or rest. To exemplify what I am talking about here, I mention in particular two things: Father telling me about all of his phone calls and emails piling up – those people needing individual attention amidst all the other things: Masses, meetings, talks, visits, etc. Also, I happened to be around in the office to hear a phone call come in from a nearby parish seeking a priest to say an early weekday Mass. Father ended up agreeing to go, despite it being on his day off, because the parish was “desperate”.


Even as people have jokingly remarked to me that this is how I might get “scared off”, observing these events has given me pause. As much as anyone, I prefer comfort, stability, and predictability in my everyday life. I might even say I feel I have a “right” to these things. It is alarming to think that one day I might have to stretch myself incredibly thin because there is no one else who can do the things a priest does, even though there are many lay people who can help out a great deal (this I have also seen). I wonder if I will be able to remember, during the difficult times, that the priesthood is so important and that the grace that comes with it will keep me going. How is this grace actually known? Am I right in perceiving that there is that extra “something” that comes with the grace of ordination by which God can keep us going when we are overwhelmed? In other words, would that grace enable me or help me to respond to fifty emails and phone calls? Would it be enough to make me willing to sacrifice part of my day off to say Mass?


The first lesson that I have learned from these observations is that everything I have seen the priests do is important, but most important must be the uniquely “priestly” things: the sacraments, spiritual assistance, and being the leader at meetings. There is a definite character that the priest must maintain. It has been very affirming to see that the priests manage very well, even when it means sacrificing their own comforts or plans. It is good to see that they don’t get discouraged, whereas I would probably be complaining a lot if I were too suddenly thrown into that sort of responsibility. It cannot be coincidental that as I was observing these things this week, these words from Sirach appeared in the Office of Readings: “Stand by your covenant and attend to it, and grow old in your work. Do not wonder at the works of a sinner, but trust in the Lord and keep at your toil…” Not that the priesthood is all toil and drudgery, but some of it is and I have seen that. There is also joy and beauty, and I have seen more of that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pastoral Encounter & Theological Reflection

As previously mentioned in this space, the men of the Pre-Theology II class were assigned to various parishes for pastoral assignments during J-term. We lived with our respective pastors and observed a great deal of parish life. We were asked to complete three (3) “Theological Reflections” on pastoral encounters we experienced during our time in the parish. I offer one of mine below:


My arrival at the parish on the second of January was anything but calm and orderly. Due to car trouble on the way down, I was a little bit late to arrive, and when I did arrive I was quite anxious and not really focused on the task at hand (introducing myself and getting settled in). In haste, I transferred my luggage and other belongings into Father's truck, all the while silently lamenting my misfortune at now being without my car as I was about to begin my long-awaited Parish Placement. As it turned out, that afternoon Father had an appointment to administer the Sacrament of the Sick to a dying parishioner who lived quite close to the Rectory, and invited me to join him. I went along with him immediately after dropping off my car at the shop, and without having had a chance to pause after the chaos of the situation. As we entered the home of the parishioner a little while later, his wife greeted us. We explained that I was a seminarian and would be observing Father and the Deacon as they anointed her husband. She was very distraught as her husband was near death; indeed, he would die the following day. Yet she and the other family members present were very welcoming and happy that we were there, even though I was a total stranger and suddenly privy to a most intimate moment in their lives. I stood back and observed as Father, the Deacon, and the family gathered around the bed and the Rite was begun. To my surprise, Father asked me to read the Gospel passage from the Rite. I approached and took the Deacon’s little green book and read the selection from the Gospel of St. Matthew. I then stepped back again as the Deacon administered a very small fragment of the Host to the dying gentleman, and the rest to his wife standing at the bedside. Only with great difficulty and help from those around was he able to Communicate. With great effort, the family helped him take a sip of water to aid in the swallowing of the Host. Afterwards, as we were getting ready to leave, he perked up a bit and thanked us for coming (he had not been very coherent throughout most of the visit). We conversed with the family for a few minutes longer, and then left.


As I reflect on this first pastoral encounter, I am thankful that I was able to experience something so significant within an hour of my arrival at the Parish. This encounter plucked me out of my own preoccupations and worries and placed me very suddenly into a situation where they were of no importance. What was important was the comfort of that man and his family, to be provided by Christ through the ministers of His Church, and I was privileged to be a witness to that. I realized that it would be important to allow this to continue over the next few weeks; to set aside my own thoughts, inclinations, problems, etc, and simply let the Lord lead me to experience what ministry in the Church really consists of. Also, I could not help but reflect on my own “performance” at that encounter: was it fitting for me to read the Gospel? Did I do a good job of it? Did I not just witness a very powerful thing happen with the Holy Eucharist? Did I pay sufficient attention to the actions of Father and the Deacon as they performed their sacramental duties? My response has included asking myself these questions.


This encounter taught me something about the importance of knowing my role in ministry. When faced with situations where others are suffering, it is important to offer what I can in my unique role and let my other responsibilities take a back seat for a while. I suspect it may be difficult for a priest, so often busy with his own important responsibilities, to suddenly have to be present for people on difficult and unexpected occasions. I realize that I actually look forward to doing this sort of thing, and that gives me confidence that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing (pursuing this vocation). Through this encounter (quite simply) I also gained a greater appreciation for the Sacraments.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One last post...

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it, but the classes of Theology I-IV are all off on retreat this week. Yes, as part of the four pillar formation in seminary, a yearly retreat serves the spiritual formation, and the overall formation when all is considered, quite well. Actually, without it, there would be MUCH lacking.

So, here I sit quickly posting as I'm on my way down over to the retreat center. All of you faithful followers of the blog, as Deacon Kasel has already asked, please do pray for us! We need it!

Till next week, peace.

Pre-Theology Retreat

Heretofore unreported is the fact that the Pre-Theologians (I & II) of the Saint Paul Seminary were recently on retreat. Upon completion of our J-term (20 Jan), we reported to Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN, but not before gathering for a hearty supper at the home of the parents of one of the seminarians. Leading the retreat was the Most Reverend Peter F. Christensen, bishop of the Diocese of Superior, WI, and former priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis.

The retreat lasted from Sunday evening to Thursday afternoon the 24th, with morning and afternoon talks focused mainly on the Gospel of Luke. In particular, the bishop offered fruitful meditations on the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. The talks were tailored specifically to us as men uniquely called by Christ (out of the sycamore tree, as it were) to the seminary and ultimately to the priesthood.

The retreat also offered us an opportunity for some much-need relaxation and leisure after busy J-terms; (Pre-Theology I spent theirs in class, while the Pre-Theology II men spent theirs on pastoral placement in parishes). Evenings were spent playing cards, dominos, and Scrabble, all the while drinking lots of hot chocolate and building fraternity. Several of the men took advantage of the down time to do some extra spiritual reading. A few of us even made some excursions onto the two feet-plus thick ice of Buffalo Lake for some ice fishing; sadly, there was no catching.

Other highlights included daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours with the Bishop, a Eucharistic Holy Hour with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on the final evening, good food and fellowship, and the chance to explore all the nooks and crannies of the beautiful building we were in.

Thanks go to Bishop Christensen and our hosts at Christ the King, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Final wrap-up for the tournament

This post is mainly other people's pictures that were not included in previous posts.

Joseph Jiang passes it off in mid-air to Gregory Parrot

Luke Marquard at the line for two.

Coach, Gerard Christenson, rallying the troops to a win over Conception Seminary.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Game 3 of the Tournament

Our third game of the tournament came against St. John Vianney Seminary. We were up most of the game until one the SJV men hit a couple of three pointers to pull ahead. We had a slump in scoring and could not rally back. We are officially out of the tournament. All in all it was a good experience and hopefully next year we will have some the SJV men with us to help win the tournament next year.

Game 2 of the tournament

Since we lost the first game, we played Conception Seminary from Missouri. With the addition of another player (it's a long story) we won 42-19. Each of the men on the roster scored and we looked a lot better than last night.

We will be playing St. John Vianney at 4:00pm.

Game 1 of the tournament

We got to Mundelein at around 4:30 and had our first game at 7:00 pm. It was a good game, but we were not able to get the win in overtime. The first games are always tough. Final score Kenrick-Glennon: 34-St. Paul Seminary 31

Orvieto and Second Vespers for the Conversion of St. Paul

Yestersday, I had the pleasure of making a quick trip to Orvieto, which is just North of Rome. Of interest is the Duomo. It is a grand church of the Gothic style.

Inside the church is a Eucharistic miracle. In about 1264, a priest on his way to Rome celebrated Mass in a town near Orvieto and at the time of the consecration, the host began to drip blood onto the corporal. The account of the incident tells us that this priest was experiencing serious doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The corporal was immediately taken to the local bishop and then to Pope Urban IV. It was approved for veneration by the Pope and is considered an authentic miracle. Interestingly, in that same year, 1264, Pope Urban IV universalized the Feast of Corpus Christi and appointed St. Thomas Aquinas to compose appropriate prayers for the Office and Hymns. "Panis Angelicus" and the collect used at Benediction are among St. Thomas' writings for this Feast.

The facade of the Duomo:

A close-up on the top center:

Here is the blood-stained corporal:

We also had the opportunity to attend Second Vespers with Benedict XVI at St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

Here are a couple of photos for you:

Cardinal Kasper giving some opening remarks concernng the closing of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity:

The Papal Benediction:

I am short on time right now, or I would provide more details about yesterday's experiences.

This will be the final post from Rome until maybe next Friday, for we are going on retreat today until then. Pray for us!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Conversion of St. Paul

In honor of the Conversion of Saint Paul, I offer you this story that I heard in a homily in minor seminary:

Friends, popular art tells us that St. Paul was riding a horse, and he fell off when God spoke to him. I had a similar experience. One day I decided to try horseback riding, even though I had had no lessons or prior experience. I mounted the horse unassisted and the horse immediately sprang into motion. He galloped along at a steady and rhythmic pace, but then I began to slip from the saddle.

In terror, I grabbed for the horse's mane, but could not seem to get a firm grip. I tried to throw my arms around the horse's neck, but I slid down the side of the horse anyway. The horse galloped, and galloped, and galloped along, seemingly oblivious to me falling off. Finally, I gave up and tried to jump away from the horse and throw myself to safety.

Unfortunately, my foot had become entangled in the stirrup, and I was at the mercy of the horse's pounding hooves as my head struck against the ground over and over and over. I was mere moments away from unconsciousness when to my great fortune . . . the Supermarket manager saw me and shut the horse off.

Happy St. Paul Day!

Off to Mundelein

About 20 of us will be heading to Mundelein for the annual basketball tournament featuring about 10-12 different seminaries from the midwest. We will post to let you know how we do in our games. Our first game is against Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, which is in St. Louis.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pictures from Washington DC

For some reason I was not able to upload any pictures during our time in DC. We got back yesterday and I asked Gregory if he knew if there was something I was doing wrong. He stood there as I went through the normal routine of posting a picture and it worked. Good old technology. Hope you all enjoy the pictures.

Here is a picture from our flight to DC from Minneapolis.
Here's Jim on the metro.
Inside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Here is the group in front of the statue of Mary Queen of Ireland.
Seminarians are always amazed at beautiful churches.
Getting ready for Mass on the eve of the march.
On the way to the March.
Fr. Sirba and Doug at the March.
All in all there were about 100,000 people at the March.
Dinner at Sergio's. We met up with Fr. Beaudet for a meal at a restaurant that Msgr. Callaghan frequented during his time as vicar general for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Uncle Again

Allow me to introduce you to Samuel Earl Dennis, my newest nephew.

Born at about 7:30 am, he weighed 6lb 6oz, and was 20 inches long.

National Prayer Vigil for Life Solemn Eucharistic Celebration at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

I just returned from Washington D.C. I went there for the National Prayer Vigil for Life Solemn Eucharistic Celebration at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on January 21, 2008. The next day I joined my fellow Theology I classmates in the March for Life Pro-Life Rally. The march begins on “the Mall” with a series of speeches from social and political leaders in support of the “right for life cause” and an end to abortion everywhere. I want to share a reflection on the Mass at the Shrine.

The highlight of the trip was the Holy Mass at the National Shrine. I was overwhelmed by the attendance and energy in the Basilica. It was simply amazing! Our class was given the special privilege of processing into the Sanctuary before the clergy. We were joined with several hundred Catholic seminarians from around the United States. When we processed in I smiled in a state of total joy—I have never felt so supported and affirmed in my vocation to serve Christ in His priesthood. I kept thinking that I had no worthy reason to be walking in a procession with so many seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals. It was humbling. I saw the faces of so many people proud to be a Catholic and resoundingly in support of the dignity of God’s Creation. Again, it was totally awesome! The Mass was beautiful and Caridnal Rigali of Philadelphia delivered a well-written and excellent homily. He is a talented public speaker. His style is both calm and sharp at the same time.I loved it when the entire Basilica prayed “the Confiteor” and the “Our Father” together. I recommend this Mass for anyone. Oh yeah, the incensing of the Gospel was great too. As my seminarians brothers know—I love lots of incense. Well, this was the most incense I have ever seen pour out of a thurible. I think the class really enjoyed the Mass. The faith of the people of God is a powerful thing to participate in and to see.

St.Maria Goretti

Yesterday I had the privilege to go to Nettuno to the Shrine of St. Maria Goretti. There is a nice church there that was originally and remains dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. There is a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Grace which, according to the account I read at the shrine, was transported from England in the 16th century during persucutions. While on board a ship, it ended up at Nettuno (not far South of Rome). After a few attempts to take it to another destination and being blown back into port at Nettuno, it was thought to be a sign that the statue ought to remain there. After leaving the statue, the ship left port without event. It reamins there to this day in the sanctuatry of the main church.

Our Lady of Grace:

In the lower chapel of the church are the mortal remains of St. Maria Goretti. She was a young woman who, similar to St. Agnes, died at the hand of someone who wanted to take her purity.

Alessandro, her attacker, was forgiven by her before she died and he converted. In 1950 at the canonization ceremony for St. Maria Goretti, he was there at St. Peter's in Rome with the Saint's own mother.

Let us remember the purity and fortitude of faith of this very young girl (11 yrs) whenever there are temptations from within and without in our own lives.

How appropriate for this church dedicated to Our Lady to be also the shrine of St. Maria Goretti. I think that she would not care in the least, being the humble girl she was. In one account of her life I read that she died while looking at a picture of Our Lady.


O Saint Maria Goretti, who, strengthened by God's Grace, did not hesitate, even at the age of twelve, to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, deign to look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially modern youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee anything that could offend Jesus and defile our souls with sin. Obtain for us from God a great horror of sin so that keeping our souls undefiled we may live holy lives on earth and win eternal glory in heaven. Amen.

Her Tomb (St. Maria Goretti's body is incorrupt, but what is displayed here does not appear to be her actual body):

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day Two

Our day started with morning prayer and Mass. We then got on the metro, which was very full because of regular traffic and the large number of people who were participating in the March for Life. We got to the Mall and did some waiting. There were a few speakers from different faiths, some messages from politicians, and then the march began to the Supreme Court building. While we walked we prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

A lot of the speakers commented on how amazed they were at how many youth were at the march. I was very impressed as well. We ran into quite a few seminarians that we have met in the past few years of study. We marched right along with the men from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. In the evening we had dinner with a few priests who are studying in Washington. We went to a place called Sergio's. Msgr. Callaghan frequented this place and suggested that we go there.

Photo from Seattle Times and Getty Images

It was a great day. We are glad that we have been able to witness to the sanctity of human life and we know that we are not the only ones who value the undeniable truth that life is a gift from God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Foibles in translation

Now many of you might be wise enough to know that there are not a few difficulties in translating from one language to another. Indeed, apparently such is the case with the translation of the Mass into English, which is why there's been so much debate about proper translation and whether we even need a new translation.

Well, I heard a funny story tonight. There was once a seminarian who was asked by his bishop to translate the Latin phrase, Si Deus pro nobis, quis contra nos? While the accurate translation is, "If God is for us, who can be against us?," the seminarian hastily translated, "If God is for us, why is He against us?"

Day One

This post is in reference to the previous one titled: "We're in DC." This post will make a lot more sense after you read the one posted on Jan. 20th. We were able to have breakfast at the place we are staying before venturing out for the day. Most of us went to the National Museum of Art. A group of us ate lunch at a local place called Potbelly. It was a nice little sandwich place and it felt good to sit down for a little bit. Some of us then went to the Museum of Natural History. We saw a lot of fossils and the Hope Diamond was there too. In the evening we headed over to the Basilica for mass. Cardinal Rigali had the mass and his homily was focused on the new dome that the Knight's of Columbus worked for and installed recently. The opening procession was well over 30 minutes and afterwards we got some pizzas and had some good leisure time. For some odd reason I am not able to post pictures right now. When I get back to St. Paul, I can hopefully resolve the problem and post some of the pictures the guys have been taking.

Monday, January 21, 2008


For some time now, I have been involved in a debate with one of my peers centered on the theme of shame. He suggests that the feeling/emotion/experience of shame might have some role to play as one grows in the spiritual life. I completely disagree. I contend that there is no place for shame in the life of the Christian. Growth in holiness is conversely proportional to the the eradication of shame.

This topic arises in my mind today as a result of our current topic in our Ministry to Families course. We are discussing addiction. Recent field visits have included stops at an addiction rehabilitation facility. Our assigned reading comes from Vernon E. Johnson's classic treatment of the topic, I'll Quit Tomorrow: Revised Edition (New York: HarperCollins. 1980). In the book, as the author describes forgiveness, he offers an interesting take on the Prodigal Son, commenting about his return to the father:

Far from bringing him relief, his father's greeting is a most searingly painful experience. The overwhelming shame, the remorse of his soul-searching, and the torture of the self-judgment that followed, put together, could not touch the pain of the moment when his father's arms went around his neck. This reception, one sees, is as impossible to accept as it was to imagine or foresee. He had come home immersed in his feeling of degradation. His need to be punished is not being met; if his father would not do it for him, he would punish himself! [. . .]

If only his father had come out whip in hand! If only his father had beaten the living daylights out of him! At the very least, if only he had made him a hired servant - that at least would have been understandable. But more than that, and here is that basic problem, it would have allowed the son to evade what he unconsciously wants to evade: his final act of accepting himself as he is.

He is coming to his father specifically to disclaim what he is - a son. He is bent on being someone other than himself - a hired servant. Even if he were beaten, he could hang onto this aim. his false pride would be served if he could lift his head and claim that he had "taken his just deserts like a man" . . . He could evade what the arms around his neck demand of him: that he accept himself as himself. (117-18)

I believe there to be great truth in what Johnson describes. Shame desires at once to hide and to be known to all. Shame leads one to wear a mask, to pretend to be something one is not, while at the same time begging someone to know the truth and offer forgiveness. The shameful person is afraid that he cannot be forgiven, and pride tells him that his sins are greater than those of any other. As a result, the shameful person at once desires God and pushes Him away in fear. The shameful person leads two lives, pretending all is well on the outside, while writhing with fear on the inside. Oscar Wilde seems to summarize the experience well in his poem, Ballad of Reading Gaol. The following is a tiny excerpt:

And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Escape from Scepticism

Written by a Brit, the book after which this post is entitled is quite enlightening and bespeaks the transformation necessary in modernity - a topic taken up as well by our Holy Father in his recent encyclical Spe Salvi.  Though the book generically treats of education, Christopher Derrick, the author, has this to say about "Ceremony" (pp. 90-91):

We should never despise Ceremony: the poet Chapman was right when he made that word into the name of a goddess, and represented that goddess as mankind's great defender against barbarism and ruin. All high civilizations have recognized this principle, and have attached great importance to formal or ritual or ordered behaviour, to good manners, to Ceremony. Their reasons for doing so have not been merely aesthetic. Man's image of himself is one of the great determinants of history; and between this and his behaviour-patterns, there is a two-way relationship of cause and effect. It is the instinct of all men and all societies to externalize and enact whatever notion they have of their own nature and destiny: conversely, our outward behaviour will always tend to modify the image of self and of society that we entertain. If in the secular culture of today most people tend to favour behaviour-patterns of the relaxed, casual, 'authentic', spontaneous, and slovenly kind, they thereby express and reinforce the very low view of man and of human destiny which characterizes that culture. . . .

It is only in the old Western tradition, and above all in Catholic Christianity, that man becomes something great. He needs to be personally humble. But he also needs to remember, and to enact, the principle that he is an immortal being, made in the image and likeness of God and bought with the full price of God's blood, a citizen of no mean city, having a destiny of more than royal splendour. By giving a certain formal and courteous and ceremonial character to the routines of daily life, he both asserts this principle and strenghtens his own apprehension of it. . . .

In today's world, Ceremony seems to be in retreat everywhere. Even in the worship of God, even in some monasteries, her reign is under attack. But she still retains a good deal of influence there, and also in the law courts, and in armies, and in the public acts of government: there are still certain occasions upon which men desire to enact a lofty image of themselves.

I don't know where else I would go with this, but to say that it seems a keen observation, and perhaps timely. I wonder what this has to say about the ongoing reform of the Liturgy that is taking place in the Church.

We're in D.C.

The men of the Theology I class are in Washington D.C. We will be posting daily updates as we journey through our nation's capital. Fr. Bobby Pish, a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis is kind enough to host us at the Paulist Center, which is near the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. We are being accompanied by Fr. Paul Sirba, the director of spiritual formation for the seminary. We are so very thankful to those who have helped us get here. I have already run into a few men that I have met in the past. This should prove to be a pretty exciting event.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Apostolic Palace

I came across this and thought you might like to see a little more clearly where we were yesterday when we visited the Apostolic Palace. On the "Map of Vatican City," #7 marks the spot for the Secretariat of State. Look at this and then look at the pictures again. Oh, and the last post about the mysterious photo, its is likely that this map could be helpful in your investigation ;)


Can you tell us...

...what and where this is?

(I mean the part way at the top with the little peaked roof.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Apostolic Palace and Another Cardinal

You may have thought that what we did this morning was enough excitement for one day. I would agree. However, we were blessed with even more excitement this afternoon.

We met two priests (an Italian and an American) who are on staff at the Secretariat of State . We met them at the "Porta Santa Anna" and they guided us into the Apostolic Palace.

The Apostolic Palace is the residence for the Holy Father as well the building which houses some of the offices of the curia. (When you approach St. Peter's through the Square, the Palace is the tall set of buildings to your right just outside of the colonnade.) Some notable parts of the Palace are the Vatican Museum, Library, Archives and the Sistine Chapel.

Our priest guides showed us around on a high floor and into the office of the Secretariat of State (the Secretariat [Secretary] is H.E. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone). The priests also talked with us about the palace, some history and duties of the Secretariat of State.

Our own Coadjutor Archbishop John C. Nienstedt served in this office prior to becoming a bishop. Also, keep in mind that to visit the Apostolic Palace as we did is not something normally open to the public, so this was very special for all of us.

On the way out of Vatican City, we met Pio Cardinal Laghi, who is Prefect Emeritus for the Congregation for Catholic Education. During the 1980's Cardinal Laghi was Apostolic Delegate and then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the USA. His Eminence is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of St. Thomas. It was a brief and unplanned visit.

Here are a few photos:

Behind this door is the Holy Father's apartment (this is as close as we were able to get to Benedict XVI):

Where the Holy Father's car pulls up when he comes and goes:

Some views we had:

A sample of the world plat which is painted on the walls of the corridor leading up to the Secretariat of State:

Our group with the kind priests from the Secretariat of State (taken from the terrace):

At the far end of this building is the Holy Father's window from which he addresses the faithful in St. Peter's Square:

Remember this one I posted a while back from just ouside the Square? Same building, different vantage point:

Where're the bells?

Oh deacons, our deacons, where are you? Why do you deprive us of your presence?

Obviously, it is not that difficult to get by in the liturgy without the deacons, but it is just different and a change without them. It is as different for us as it would be if in the parish (a parish which has no deacon and sees one only once every five years, if even that much) suddenly a deacon were to show up for Mass. To do the liturgy properly, allowing each to fulfill his proper role, it is very different, even difficult.

Well, this has been our experience this January. It was heightened this last Sunday when we had our usual Sunday Evening Holy Hour. Ordinarily, one of the deacons will expose, preside over Evening Prayer, and give benediction at the end. Then, after a short social, we conclude with Night Prayer, which I have described on this blog previously.

This last Sunday, however, without a deacon or other priest around, we "merely baptized" had to go it alone. So, simple exposition, no incense, no presiding over Evening Prayer, no minister sitting in the sanctuary, no homily, no bells, no benediction, no divine praises. We did manage to do a small social with pop and popcorn. But then came Night Prayer. No procession, no ministers in the sanctuary, no homily, no processing to the statue of Mary. All of the extras which enhance the solemnity of our worship of God were absent.

Deacons, hurry it up and come back!

Two Cardinals and a Congregation

Today we had the privilage to meet two Cardinals!

The first was Angelo Cardinal Camastri, the Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica. His title means that he is the Cardinal who oversees the the Basilica. We met with him briefly and he gave us holy cards, rosaries and his blessing.

Next we went over to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. We did not meet the Prefect, Francis Cardinal Arinze, but we did get to hear from two priests about what the Congregation does, which is basically to ensure that the Church's liturgy is carried out according to the mind of the Church. The Church's deep concern for authentic and reverent expressions of Catholic worship was manifest during our visit. Among others, some of the topics touched upon both in the presentation and in questions from our group included translations of liturgical texts and liturgical abuses. There was some discussion about the Holy Father's recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum as well. These topics are important in the Church today both universally and locally, as we all know. Undoubtedly, this reality made our time there that much more valuable and informative. The Congregation priests were at the same time sensitive and objective. Perhaps the most important knowledge we took from our time at the Congregation is that the Church is aware and has loving concern for her flock on matters of liturgical worship and liturgical roles. In order to live out the Church's liturgical life with full fruitfulness, we must both know it and love it so that we can appreciate it as the gift to us that it is.

The Portal to Liturgical Excellence:

After that, we visited another Cardinal, John Patrick Cardinal Foley, an American from Philadelphia. His Eminence is the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a position he began in June of 2007. His previous position for the Holy See was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was recently elevated to the College of Cardinals at the last Consistory on November 24, 2007. During our visit he told us many interesting things about his experiences in both positions. The Cardinal has a wonderful sense of humor!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Story from Rome

Did you notice that in my last post I mentioned that the American Monsignor at the Roman Rota told us a story about Monsignor Callaghan? Being that it was new to us, you probably havn't heard it either. Perhaps you would like to know. OK, you talked me into it.

It so happens that Msgr C knows a fellow from somewhere who is a collector. This fellow is a collector of buttons. Not just any buttons, but buttons from military uniforms from around the world. Of course, Msgr C was in Rome for a lengthy time and knew his way around the Vatican, etc..., etc... This fellow sought the good Monsignor for his assistence in snatching a gem for his collection--a button from a Swiss Guard uniform.

Anyone who knows Msgr C knows that he would likely have more success at such a request than the Holy Father himself, but I digress. ;) One day, he saw a Swiss Guard, perhaps passing through an entry at the Vatican (I think this other Msgr was with him too)and he simply asked this guard if he would return the next day at a certain time with an extra button from his uniform.

You guessed correctly, the Guard came through and the other fellow's button collection was expanded. Well, this isn't the end of the story. Msgr C decided to offer a bit of gratitude to the Guard and offered to buy him a beer. When Msgr C bought him that beer he suggested to him that he ought to consider becoming a priest. Not long afterwards, the Guard returned home and entered the seminary.

Mater Mea, Fiducia Mea

Today was a great day.

We started off with Mass at the Roman Seminary located at the Lateran University. This is Monsignor Callaghan's Alma Mater. Located there in a small chapel called "Capella Fiducia" is an image of "Our Lady of Confidence" (Mater Mea, Fiducia Mea translates into "My Mother, My Confidence"). This is the image after which the lovely new statue of Our Lady in our seminary chapel was modeled (if you havn't seen it, you should stop by! We also have a brand new one of St. Joseph).

Next, we went to the Roman Rota, which is the "high court" or tribunal of the Universal Church. A very kind American Monsignor guided us and explained things. He knows Monsignor Callaghan (and shared a story!).

Later, we went down to Castel Gondolfo, which is where the Holy Father lives during the hot summer months of Rome. It is less than an hour south of Rome by train. There we saw a few sights and then met and visited with representatives of the Focolare Movement.

Here are a few photos:

Mater Mea, Fiducia Mea:

Fr. Hoffman and Deacon Campbell at the altar:

The altar with the image in top and center. It is a bit difficult to make out here, but you'll get an idea of the altar and image as a whole:

The Roman Rota:

Focolare reps and us: