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!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The contradiction

Gerard Manely Hopkins has a remarkably introspective poem which nevertheless stands apart from most of his other introspective poems. Usually, he writes as one gripped by an immanent depression, tensely gripping what consolation he has. In Heaven-Haven, however, which bears the subtitle "A nun takes the veil," Hopkins writes:

I have asked to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb
And out of the swing of the sea.

As the grip of my academics, seminary events, the ever-pressing SCHEDULE drives me down like it never has before, I recall these words for simple ability to soothe. Those closing anapests create a gentle settling calm.

However, the actual text of the poem reveals the contradiction. In this perfect calm, there is a desire for at least a little bit of activity. In the perfect, stormless fields a few lilies blow. As the moorlands roll along the horizon, they recall the jostle and thrust of a rising sea. And is that not where I would be, right now, if I didn't have anything to do? Longing for some high adventure even though, gripped as I am in this moment, this right now, I plead to be out of the swing of the sea?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Martyrdom

I highly recommend reading Cardinal Newman's Sermon entitled Ventures of Faith. It begins with the Gospel of Mark, at the passage in which James and John approach Jesus with the request to sit at His right and left when He comes into His glory. When asked if they are able to drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism they famously reply that they are. This firm, "We are able" becomes the basis for Newman's sermon. He inquires whether or not we Christians, claiming, as we do, a strong faith, have actually ventured anything upon it? How would our lives be one bit different if the Gospel were a great falsehood? Newman fears that, sadly, many of us would not be living much differently. At the close of his sermon, Newman returns to James and John an points out that both gave themselves entirely, indeed, ventured all upon their faith in Jesus Christ:

"Those blessed Apostles said, 'We are able;' and in truth they were enabled to do and suffer as they had said. St. James was given strength to be steadfast unto death, the death of martyrdom; being slain with the sword in Jerusalem. St. John, his brother, had still more to bear, dying last of the Apostles, as St. James first. He had to hear bereavement, first, of his brother, then of the other Apostles. He had to bear a length of years in loneliness, exile, and weakness. He had to experience the dreariness of being solitary, when those whom he loved had been summoned away. He had to live in his own thoughts, without familiar friend, with those only about him who belonged to a younger generation. Of him were demanded by his gracious Lord, as pledges of his faith, all his eye loved and his heart held converse with. He was as a man moving his goods into a far country, who at intervals and by portions sends them before him, till his present abode is well-nigh unfurnished. He sent forward his friends on their journey, while he stayed himself behind, that there might be those in heaven to have thoughts of him, to look out for him, and receive him when his Lord should call. He sent before him, also, other still more voluntary pledges and ventures of his faith,—a self-denying walk, a zealous maintenance of the truth, fasting and prayers, labours of love, a virgin life, buffetings from the heathen, persecution, and banishment. Well might so great a Saint say, at the end of his days "Come, Lord Jesus!" as those who are weary of the night, and wait for the morning. All his thoughts, all his contemplations, desires, and hopes, were stored in the invisible world; and death, when it came, brought back to him the sight of what he had worshipped, what he had loved, what he had held intercourse with, in years long past away. Then, when again brought into the presence of what he had lost, how would remembrance revive, and familiar thoughts long buried come to life! Who shall dare to describe the blessedness of those who find all their pledges safe returned to them, all their ventures abundantly and beyond measure satisfied?"

John, as the above passage makes clear, did not suffer a martyrdom like his brother, acute, quick, and early in the life of the Church. John, however, did not. That is one of the famous bits of Church trivia. All the apostles were martyrs, less one. St. John lived long and suffered long in the first days, the birth pangs of Christianity. And this was a real sacrifice, and it would not have been had John simply given over the Gospel. Who knows how often that might have been his temptation? One by one the Twelve were called to Heaven. In those final stages, standing in the room "unfurnished," lonely, watching a new generation of Christians, zealous but unwitting, inspiring but clearly not of the apostolic band, how often did John question to what exactly he had given everything? This is a real suffering, and it counts, too, as a sort of witness, though less flashy. St. John, pray for us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rev.do Mons. Paul D. Sirba

Il Santo Padre ha nominato Vescovo di Duluth (U.S.A.) il Rev.do Mons. Paul D. Sirba, del clero dell’arcidiocesi di Saint Paul and Minneapolis, finora Vicario Generale della medesima arcidiocesi.

Rev.do Mons. Paul D. Sirba

Il Rev.do Mons. Paul D. Sirba è nato nella città di Saint Paul (Minnesota) il 2 settembre 1960. Ha compiuto gli studi presso il Seminario arcidiocesano di Saint Paul and Minneapolis e presso il "Notre Dame Institute for Catechetics" ad Alexandria (Virginia).

È stato ordinato sacerdote il 31 maggio 1986 per l’arcidiocesi di Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Ha poi ricoperto i seguenti incarichi: Vicario parrocchiale della "Saint Olaf Parish" a Minneapolis (1986-1990) e della "Saint John the Baptist Parish" a Savage (1990-1991); Direttore Spirituale del Seminario "Saint John Vianney" (1991-2000); Amministratore Parrocchiale della "Maternity of Mary Parish" a Maplewood (2000-2001); Parroco della "Maternity of Mary Parish" a Maplewood (2001-2006); Direttore della Formazione Spirituale nel "Saint Paul Seminary" a Saint Paul (2006-2009); Vicario Generale della medesima arcidiocesi (dal giugno 2009).

* * *

From Vatican News

Lord, let your face shine on your servant;
teach me your decrees.

ReadingZechariah 8:1-17,20-23 ©
The word of the Lord of Hosts was addressed to me as follows:
‘The Lord of Hosts says this.
I am burning with jealousy for Zion,
with great anger for her sake.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this.
I am coming back to Zion
and shall dwell in the middle of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem will be called Faithful City
and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this.
Old men and old women will again sit down
in the squares of Jerusalem;
every one of them staff in hand
because of their great age.
And the squares of the city will be full
of boys and girls
playing in the squares.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this.
If this seems a miracle
to the remnant of this people (in those days),
will it seem one to me?
It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this.
Now I am going to save my people
from the countries of the East
and from the countries of the West.
I will bring them back
to live inside Jerusalem.
They shall be my people
and I will be their God
in faithfulness and integrity.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this. Let your hands be strong, you who here and now listen to these words from the mouths of the prophets who have been prophesying since the day when the Temple of the Lord of Hosts had its foundation laid for the rebuilding of the sanctuary. For before the present day men were not paid their wages and nothing was paid for the animals either; and because of the enemy there was no security for a man to go about his business; I had set every man against everyone else. But now, with the remnant of this people, I am not as I was in the past. It is the Lord of Hosts who speaks. For I mean to spread peace everywhere; the vine will give its fruit, the earth its increase, and heaven its dew. I am going to bestow all these blessings on the remnant of this people. Just as once you were a curse among the nations, you House of Judah (and House of Israel), so I mean to save you for you to become a blessing. Do not be afraid; let your hands be strong.
‘For the Lord of Hosts says this. Just as I once resolved to inflict evil on you when your ancestors provoked me – says the Lord of Hosts – and as I did not then relent, so now I have another purpose, and I intend in the present day to confer benefits on Jerusalem and on the House of Judah. Do not be afraid.
‘These are the things that you must do. Speak the truth to one another; let the judgements at your gates be such as conduce to peace; do not secretly plot evil against one another; do not love false oaths; since all this is what I hate. It is the Lord who speaks.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this. There will be other peoples yet, and citizens of great cities. And the inhabitants of one city will go to the next and say, “Come, let us go and entreat the favour of the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts; I am going myself.” And many peoples and great nations will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the Lord.
‘The Lord of Hosts says this. In those days, ten men of nations of every language will take a Jew by the sleeve and say, “We want to go with you, since we have learnt that God is with you.”’

ReadingSt Teresa of Avila
Let us always be mindful of Christ's love
If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend. And I clearly see that if we expect to please him and receive an abundance of his graces, God desires that these graces must come to us from the hands of Christ, through his most sacred humanity, in which God takes delight.
Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side? Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.
Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

Concluding Prayer
Lord, may your grace go always before us and behind us:
may it make us constantly eager to do good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Was Shakespeare Catholic?

Of all the things to be thinking about right now: Johannine Literature, Prophetic Literature, Moral Theology ... I suppose this is my escape. There's a lot of writing out there about this question. Fr. John Klockeman raised it at the lunch table today and I stated with all the authority granted by an English Major from the University of St. Thomas, "I think the book is pretty much closed on that. He was Catholic."

People with much more time for the scholarship have given lots of study to the question and tried to find clues in his works to decided the question. Others, more inclined to historical study, have gone through his biography to try and make a determination. Both techniques have to guess at the "lost years" of Shakespeare's life. Joseph Pearce does a rather unique study that tries to blend the approaches. In that work, he suggests a number of passages that, based on time of composition, could be understood as reflecting a sort of catharsis for Shakespeare's suffering in the midst of the religious upheavals. Whether or not one is convinced by the evidence, Shakespeare always makes good reading. Here's a passage from King Lear that might give evidence of how Shakespeare understood the plight of those Jesuits and other priests who were locked away in the tower simply for the crime of being priests:

LEAR: No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of Court news. And we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins, who's in, who's out,
And take upon's the mystery of things
As if we were God's spies. And we'll wear out,
In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
That ebb and flow by the moon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wandering around the Mall of America

Yesterday I went to the Mall of America to walk around and simply to think. Every once in a while I need to get off campus and wander around at a bookstore or go to a coffee shop to read a book that is not for class (usually a Michael Crichton novel or a biography). About once a semester I make the trek over to the Mall of America to walk the four levels of the place to look at things and get a nice walk in. I rarely buy anything because most of the shops there are specialty shops for shoes, clothes, etc. that I really have no desire for. Yesterday I got to thinking about things as I walked around. Nothing magnificent came from my time at the mall but it's just nice to get away.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Our Lady of the Rosary

I've blogged in the past about G.K. Chesterton's poem Lepanto. Today's feast commemorates the famous victory in that gulf off the coast of Greece when the fleet of Christendom defeated the Turks in a battle that decided the future of Europe. Originally, today's memorial was dedicated to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Victory. However, it was through the rosary, prayed by Catholics across Europe, that the victory was wrought.

Among the many devotional practices frequently recommended in the seminary is the daily rosary. And though there is certainly no requirement of the Church to take up the practice, I find that many of my brother seminarians have made it an integral part of their daily round of prayer. This string of beads has been called the "poor man's psalter" not in an effort to be insulting but merely in an effort to capture the true history of the thing. Between the 150 psalms and the 15 decades there is an intended correlation. Largely illiterate Early Christendom struggled to find a way to spread a devotional life. This was not an age when pamphlets would find much success. So, the devotion of the rosary with its simple repetition of prayers came as the solution. It was, more properly, the poor man's Liturgy of the Hours.

As seminarians, we pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, but, as I observed above, many seminarians pray the rosary as well. John Paul II, it is worth noting, held the rosary as his favorite prayer. The rosary has, in a sense, come into its own as a daily meditation on the gospel, and prayer of great efficacy. Certainly, it is simpler than the Liturgy of the Hours. And, unlike the Liturgy, the rosary is not required of clergy and seminarians. There is a certain favor God shows to the small, the poor, the weak. Whether it was the alien, orphan, and widow dwelling in the land of Israel or a poor girl of Nazareth, God tends to bring about the greatest by the workings of the least. In an image suggested by Marmion, the rosary can be likened to the 5 smooth stones pulled from the wadi by David when he slew Goliath of Gath. This simple string of Pater Noster and Ave Maria defeated the Turkish fleet. It seems to be in keeping with God's preferences that it should accomplish other great things in the history of Salvation, like bringing men through to ordination.