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, February 26, 2009

Quote of the day

I was reading Christ: The Ideal of the Priest by Blessed Columba Marmion this morning as I drank my coffee and came across this beautiful quotation: "The pursuit of sanctity is like an interior flame, a sacred fire which we bear within us. At times this fire seems to be only a spark, but, believe me, it can be revived and become bright again."

I’m outta here.

It's been rather difficult not to be, well… how shall I say this lightly… ecstatic about this being the last semester.

Coming back from Rome and entering upon what are the last days of my career here at SPS, there is a poignant and ever-present finish line that is before my eyes—in a way that it hasn't been before. Every time I hear something that is changing, some good bit of news about the future, some forecast of ill-fortune for the seminary, my thoughts quickly turn to: "the last semester." And rightfully so. As we've often been told, "No one has the vocation to be a seminarian."

There's also a different outlook upon the seminary world which has set in.

It's partially the glad recognition that the cogs of the seminary will keep turning, and that the reins must be handed over, and already are being handed over.

It's partially the grateful recognition that the Church is in good hands, that these are (for the most part…!) good men. Just the other night, I overheard an underclassman explaining to someone the Catholic Church's position on abortion and the dignity of life, as well as the principle of double effect.

It's partially the rightfully resigned recognition that (as my bishop says) "it's a big Church" and this is always going to be the case. Just the other day, I was talking to one underclassman about his Marriage and the Family course: his professor had just given a lengthy excursus on why John Paul II is extremely important (as important for the future as St. Augustine was from the 4th century to the 13th century and is yet today, and as important as St. Thomas Aquinas was from the 13th century to the 20th century and is yet today). The underclassman gleefully recounted the lecture they had just received until one of his fellow classmates walked by and lethargically expressed his boredom with the lecture. Both are respectable men; each has different interests.

It's partially the sad recognition that I will soon move away from this community, the men of this house. During our three-hour class Tuesday afternoon, the first-year theologians had a slightly longer break between classes. So as we sat in the classroom, just outside our window they spiritedly engaged in a snowball fight. Now, as my classmates and I are finishing up and moving on, they are just beginning—and they're off to a good start in building a strong community life which shores up fraternal support among future priests.

Our generation is passing away, while the next generation is just getting started.

Which brings me to the main purpose of this post: to say goodbye. In order to finish the race well, I must devote my time and energy elsewhere. It has been a pleasure to regularly author a post or two on this blog. I hope you have enjoyed it, but it is time to pass on the reins. There's a new supply of men to take over the task.

Such will be the continual course of events in the life of the priest: he enters into a community that has a long history, does his best to faithfully maintain it and build it up even more, but then must graciously hand it off to the next man who comes after him.

Thanks for listening to all of my rambling, as well as my ranting. Hopefully you were somehow edified, and perhaps even God was praised, but as for this stick in the mud, it's time to go.


Governor Tim Pawlenty likes Hockey

Saw the Governor at the Minnesota Wild Game on Tuesday. Nice guy. Loves Hockey. Very approachable. Easy to talk to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Human Experience

Some of you may be familiar with the film that was distributed by the US Bishops called "Fishers of Men." Well, the same people who made that film have made another. This film will be showing on the Campus of St. Thomas. To date, I have the following information. I would recommend that you take advantage of this great opportunity to support some exceptional Catholic filmmakers.


A free screening of the award-winning film, "The Human Experience," will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas. The event is open to everyone; registration is not required.

Produced by Grassroots Films of Brooklyn, New York, "The Human Experience" is about a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the questions: Who am I? Who is man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into the lives of the homeless on the streets of New York, orphans and disabled children of Peru, and abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana, Africa. What the young men discover changes them forever; they witness and experience suffering, joy, love ... and the fragility of humanity. Filmmakers Michael Campo and Jeffrey Azize will be present at the event for a post-screening discussion.

MUST SEE TRAILER..."The Human Experience" is being shown and winning awards at film festivals around the world.View TRAILER and learn more at: http://www.grassrootsfilms.com/thehumanexperience/

LOCATION:O'Shaughnessy Educational Center AuditoriumUniversity of St. Thomas (St. Paul campus)Thursday, March 12th @ 7:00pm

Directions to and Maps of Campus

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Archbishop in New York City

It has been announced that Archbishop Timothy Dolan (archbishop of Milwaukee, WI and former rector of the North American College in Rome) is the new Archbishop of New York City. This leaves Milwaukee, WI vacant along with St. Louis, MO. A few years ago Archbishop Dolan was the keynote speaker at a men's conference held at the University of St. Thomas. The outgoing archbishop, Cardinal Egan has been a priest for over 50 years. I was able to hear him speak at the event at St. Joseph's seminary when the Holy Father was in the United States last year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Holy Father's Lenten Message

Each year the Holy Father issues a Lenten Message as a source of encouragement and hope for the coming season. Each message has a particular quote from Sacred Scripture to accompany his message. This year the quotation comes from St. Matthew's gospel (Mt 4:1-2): "He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry."

The primary points of the message are related to the three disciplines that we should be practicing year round and with special dedication to prayer, fasting, and alms giving. The Holy Father has this to say about fasting: "The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. Such was the case with Ezra, who, in preparation for the journey from exile back to the Promised Land, calls upon the assembled people to fast so that “we might humble ourselves before our God” (8,21)."

The Holy Father seems to want to bring about a deeper spiritual understanding of fasting: "In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to “no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren“ (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40)."

The Holy Father concludes his Lenten message by saying: "Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 21). May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae, accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a “living tabernacle of God.” With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing."

Friday, February 20, 2009

John Paul II and Saint Thomas Aquinas

John Paul II was a man with a keen intellect, to be sure. This is evident in many of his writings as pope which I have often heard people call "dense." Not only that, his writings are usually quite long. I think of all of this because we are reading a text by John Paul II for our Liturgical Presidency II class - on Reconciliation and Penance.

I have often marveled at the thought of John Paul II. Many marvel at his integration of phenomenology and the existentiality of the person into Christian doctrine. I marvel at this, as well, but I am impressed more by his use of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Sometimes, it's a simple quotation on traditional matters and he cites Saint Thomas as an obvious source.

Other times, however, he seems to run into a wall in his thought and turns to Saint Thomas almost as a sure support - this was the case repeatedly in his pre-papacy work Love and Responsibility.

Yet other times, John Paul II uses the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas straight up, though giving it different terminology. (It is possible and/or likely that Saint Thomas was using the thought of others before him as well, but nonetheless.) He usually finds a way of accounting for most of what Saint Thomas teaches. The greatness, however, is that John Paul II finds a way to say things that are understandable to people today, though the understanding is centuries old.

Such is the case with Saint Thomas' notion of "synderesis." Let me quote both authors and exemplify my point.

Here is Saint Thomas Aquinas writing in his Summa Theologiæ (I, Q. 79, a. 12, "I answer that..." - don't spend too much time trying to figure it out; if you don't get it, just move on):

"Synderesis" is not a power but a habit; . . . man's act of reasoning . . . proceeds from the understanding of certain things--namely, those which are naturally known without any investigation on the part of reason, as from an immovable principle--and ends also at the understanding . . . Therefore we must have, bestowed on us by nature, not only speculative principles, but also practical principles. . . . Wherefore the first practical principles, bestowed on us by nature, do not belong to a special power, but to a special natural habit, which we call "synderesis". Whence "synderesis" is said to incite to good, and to murmur at evil, inasmuch as through first principles we proceed to discover, and judge of what we have discovered.

The key in Saint Thomas' words there is that "synderesis" is a habit: something we actively do and we do this "naturally," i.e., necessarily, continuously, unfailingly - so long as we have life.

Then we have our 1984 document (Reconciliation and Penance) from John Paul II which describes the same, but in more understandable language and without the specific word "synderesis" (paragraph 18):

This sense [of sin] is rooted in man's moral conscience and is as it were its thermometer. It is linked to the sense of God, since it derives from man's conscious relationship with God as his Creator, Lord and Father. Hence, just as it is impossible to eradicate completely the sense of God or to silence the conscience completely, so the sense of sin is never completely eliminated.

The point in both of these quotes is that man naturally and continually judges right from wrong in the basic choices of life: I ought to do good; I ought not lie; I ought not murder; I ought not steal; I ought not...

It is right to be thankful that men like John Paul II can re-explicate standard truths and solid theology. It makes it all the more evident that classical theology is yet valid today. It also makes it that much more important for those of us in the seminary and theology schools to study the classics because of their theological breadth, acumen and intricacy.

As John Paul II says later on in that same paragraph:

The restoration of a proper sense of sin is the first way of facing the grave spiritual crisis looming over man today. But the sense of sin can only be restored through a clear reminder of the unchangeable principles of reason and faith which the moral teaching of the church has always upheld.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quote of the day

From John Paul II's Reconciliation and Penance (n. 26):

He [man] seems to refuse instinctively and often irresistibly anything that is penance in the sense of a sacrifice accepted and carried out for the correction of sin. In this regard I would like to emphasize that the church's penitential discipline, even though it has been mitigated for some time, cannot be abandoned without grave harm both to the interior life of individual Christians and of the ecclesial community and also to their capacity for missionary influence.

Uh... Sir?

Just before leaving for Rome, I was running a number of errands in just a short while. Even yet, I cannot not notice others taking particular notice of me - because of the clerics, and maybe my age. I was surprised by the various reactions.

At a gas station, the worker stared at me as I went back to the refrigerated section to grab a bottle of water, then as I approached the counter and paid for the gas and my water.

Getting a haircut, the barber danced around the fact that she didn't know anything about Catholicism. This was especially evident when she asked if I had a wife.

Stopping by the drug store, one very gracious woman helped me at the counter and casually began speaking about SPS. She addressed me politely and appropriately, and eventually revealed, "I read the blog pretty regularly." I was a bit surprised, to be honest, but heartened. (A thank you is in order to our faithful readers, especially my assistant at the counter: J.)

Then, we traveled to Rome and there, everyone is so used to priests and clerics that everywhere I went, almost everyone would address me as "Padre," "Father." Sure, there were some over there who would stare a bit, but I think most of these were probably tourists. The Romans themselves seem to be very familiar with clerics and have no qualms interacting with them.

But, now I'm back to the States, back to awkward looks, blank stares, double- or triple-glances, sometimes the address of familiarity with priests. Whereas in Rome, they knew (at least generally) to address you as "Padre," now it's back to "Uh... Sir?"

It's good to be home. It's good to be constantly reminded that there's plenty of work to do.

In an act as simple as donning my clerics, the work is already begun.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Catena Aurea

The literal translation of the words "Catena Aurea" is the golden chain. This golden chain is not for a liturgical vestment rather it is the title of a book produced by St. Thomas Aquinas. It is a compilation of several Scripture commentaries from the Church Fathers. I had used it as a source for term paper for my class on the synoptic gospels. It proved to be very helpful for writing a paper about the Lord's Prayer and this past fall I was able to use it for a homily here or there. Unfortunately it is out of print, however the Baronius Press publishing company in the United Kingdom will begin publishing it soon. As I continue through my studies I continually find new resources for papers and homilies, I am thankful for the work of those who have gone before us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

20 New Lectors

Last evening, amidst great fanfare and in the presence of friends, family, and formators, the twenty men of the class of Theology I were admitted to the Ministry of Lector by the Most Reverend Thomas Doran, Bishop of Rockford.

The bishop reminded the men that though this event was, in fact, a step toward the priesthood, they should not consider it that alone. They have been entrusted with the Word of God, and have been called by the Universal Church to announce the Word in a world deeply in need of hearing it. I served as Deacon of the Altar, and had the privilege of hearing the Bishop tell them to grasp firmly the pages of the Bible as each of them individually approached him. He then instructed each of them, "Take this book of holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the word of God that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people." With great devotion, each responded, "Amen."

It was truly beautiful to see these men make this step toward ordination. May the good work God has begun in them be brought to completion.

I'll add a photo as soon as I find one.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Truth in "The Lord of the Rings"

So in my down time and for relaxation, I've taken to reading The Lord of the Rings. In January, in Rome, I read all of the first in the series: The Fellowship of the Ring, and have begun the second: The Two Towers. The books are thrilling.

Amidst all of the exciting yet treacherous adventure and the high speech harkening to the majesty of great times, Tolkien takes the opportunity to address various issues. In his first book, I noticed he very early on addressed the question of the death penalty and its use in societies which have rather good ways of removing criminals from society. Whether Tolkien is doing this purposefully and specifically intending to address these issues (or if his own authoring just brought him to the point of addressing the issue and--being a good Catholic--he decided to show how he thinks these great men he is intending to depict would address the issues thoughtfully and virtuously) I do not know.

Well, as I read, he just did it again, but this time more generically in regard to morality. In this passage it comes to the question of culture and relativism. I'll let Tolkien do the talking (pp. 427-428):

‘Then what do you think has become of them?’ [asked Éomer.]

‘I do not know.' [said Aragorn.] 'They may have been slain and burned among the Orcs; but that you will say cannot be, and I do not fear it. I can only think that they were carried off into the forest before the battle, even before you encircled your foes, maybe. Can you swear that none escaped your net in such a way?’

‘I would swear that no Orc escaped after we sighted them,’ said Éomer. ‘We reached the forest-eaves before them, and if after that any living thing broke through our ring, then it was no Orc and had some elvish power.’

‘Our friends were attired even as we are,’ said Aragorn; ‘and you passed us by under the full light of day.’

‘I had forgotten that,’ said Éomer. ‘It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he ever has judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.’

Tolkien then addresses the conflicts we all experience. We know of laws, rules and regulations, but occasionally (perhaps rarely!) we find ourselves in a situation in which two real, actual goods are in conflict. He continues by showing the need for sincere discernment and prudential judgment in regard to these less graves matters and laws when such conflicts arise between goods. Again, Tolkien:

‘True indeed,’ said Éomer. ‘But I do not doubt you, nor the deed which my heart would do. Yet I am not free to do all as I would. It is against our law to let strangers wander at will in our land, until the king himself shall give them leave, and more strict is the command in these days of peril. I have begged you to come back willingly with me, and you will not. Loth am I to begin a battle of one hundred against three.’

‘I do not think your law was made for such a chance,’ said Aragorn. ‘Nor indeed am I a stranger; for I have been in this land before, more than once, and ridden with the host of the Rohirrim, though under other name and in other guise. You I have not seen before, for you are young, but I have spoken with Éomund your father, and with Théoden son of Thengel. Never in former days would any high lord of this land have constrained a man to abandon such a quest as mine. My duty at least is clear, to go on. Come now, son of Éomund, the choice must be made at last. Aid us, or at the worst let us go free. Or seek to carry out your law. If you do so there will be fewer to return to your war or to your king.’

Éomer was silent for a moment, then he spoke. ‘We both have need of haste,’ he said. ‘My company chafes to be away, and every hour lessens your hope. This is my choice. You may go; and what is more, I will lend you horses. This only I ask: when your quest is achieved, or is proved vain, return with the horses over the Entwade to Meduseld, the high house in Edoras where Théoden now sits. Thus you shall prove to him that I have not misjudged. In this I place myself, and maybe my very life, in the keeping of your good faith. Do not fail.’

‘I will not,’ said Aragorn.

I must say, I am a personal fan of the movies which came out within the last decade. I thought and think they are excellent. Luckily, though, I had not read the books before watching them for the first half-dozen times or so. I still appreciate the movies since that is how I came into this whole endeavor. Nevertheless, books can do much more than movies can for plots and story development and so I have to say that the books have been far better.

If you have not taken the time to read these books, I really do commend them unto you. I have not been disappointed; I have been quite pleased; and I'm not even to the best part yet!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Those of us traveling the world for J-Term returned to discover two new men had entered our community. One comes to us from the Diocese of Des Moines and the other from the Diocese of Davenport. Both of these men are entering the Pre-theology program, but an abbreviated version, as both have already participated in alternative programs formation.


On Friday evening, the men of First Theology will be installed to the Ministry of Lector. The Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Doran of the Diocese of Rockford. This installation is the first formal step that the First Theologians will make toward ordination. Please pray for them as they do so.


Monday marked the first visit of the Archbishop for the new semester. He commented on the fact that when he studied, men were neither encouraged nor permitted to go gallivanting about the world as part of their formation. His remark prompted me to reflect on the fact that St. Paul Seminary has done a remarkable job in exposing men to the Universal Church. With trips to Venezuela, Mexico, the Holy Land, and Rome, we really do get a taste of the immensity of the Church, her members, and her mission. I am deeply grateful for having had that opportunity.


I recently received a letter from my diocese encouraging me to begin making the preliminary plans for my presbyteral ordination. In Rome, I began purchasing a few things that I will need as a priest (oil stocks, Mass kits, and the like). Priesthood is suddenly very near, and I am very excited for it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Some people, I am told, are naturally neat people. They keep immaculate desks, and rooms, and kitchens, and the like. They are psychologically wired for tidiness; perhaps they possess some golden "neat gene" permitting them to keep everything around them organized and in its proper place.

I, for one, am quite the opposite.

I find it burdensome to make my bed each day. I haven't a good sense of how space is best used. The cords for my phone, my computer and my lamps are a tangled mess promising to trip the unsuspecting visitor to my room, and they are kept at bay only by constantly kicking them out of the way. The most dominant feature of my organizational technique is, however, the pile or stack.

On the floor near the bed is the stack of books I read before sleeping. On my desk is a stack of things to which I will get around. This pile includes letter to which I should respond, surveys I have been asked to complete, other things that require no immediate action. A second pile includes those things that don't really belong anywhere else. These include articles that once looked interesting, notes from a guest lecturer, a list of dates that I need to remember for diocesan events, and perhaps a book that I have borrowed from a peer but have not yet returned. The most important pile is the pile than includes checks to deposit, letters requiring a quick response, class registration forms, and various other documents that are missing details that I cannot provide without consulting someone else. All of these stacks are decorated with coins collected during the day, pens and pencils, paperclips, clerical collars and little yellow sticky notes reminding me of various things to be moved from one pile to another.

Likewise, on the floor I tend to keep a pile of homework. This includes textbooks, binders with notes and syllabi, and and instructions for various essays. This pile is often accentuated by a single slipper whose mate was accidentally kicked under the bed while someone was contending with the cords. Near the homework pile, one will find the guest chair. This is the chair where I keep my coat. I have hooks on the back of my door where I sometimes hang the coats, but most often, they live on the chair until I have a visitor who needs a place to sit. Sometimes the coat is accompanied by a fleece jacket or a hooded sweatshirt.

I used to keep a secret pile under the bed. That was the pile of things that I intended to read after I was ordained. It started to get too big to move every spring and fall, though, so I just threw it all away. That is the nice thing about piles. At a certain point, everything in a pile except for two pieces of paper (there are always two pieces of paper that have to be saved as seed for the next pile) can just be thrown away.

I am told that I can learn organizational skills. Perhaps so. I am, after all, much neater now than I used to be. It has only taken ten years. Maybe before I die I will find a use for one of those marvelous little desk drawer organizers with a place for pens and pencils and sticky notes and paper clips. How nice it will be to open my drawer and in wonder and awe contemplate my participation in God's creative act by bringing order to chaos just by putting the stapler in its proper place. I might even have to take a picture of it, if I can find the pile where I left my camera.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ready, set, go!

Although some of the men (pre-theology 1&2) have been full time in the academics, the rest of us start up tomorrow. For the deacons it is their last semester and now I am able to say that I have five semesters left. Getting back into the swing of things is always good because I enjoy consistency and a rhythm to life. During J-term we were here, there, and everywhere and it is nice to settle into our rooms and begin another semester of prayerful discernment and study.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


It has happened again. Another month has come and gone, and with it, my final J-Term at St. Paul Seminary and my beautiful pilgrimage to Rome. While all of you are still sleeping in the States, my peers and I are scurrying around packing up our bags, trying to keep them under the fifty pound weight limit, and apparently, writing final European posts for the blog.

Rome has been wonderful, beautiful, spiritual, enlightening, and a whole lot more adjectives; I am so excited to get back to my own continent and country, but a part of me is a little sad to go. Who knows when I might return here.

So, thank you all for following our little adventure here. Thank you to the generous people who helped to make it possible. Our stay here is over, but I expect that there are still many, many Rome stories to be shared. Stay tuned . . .

Semester in light.

Here we are, on the verge of the new semester, the second half of my first year. I had two classes yesterday and I am very optimistic about what is about to unfold. Seminary is a life of learning and preparing for a life of service; My life dedicated to God first and his Church. After an outstanding J-term class, I cannot help but be amazed and in wonder at what God is doing in my life. Here's to a new semester and new life in Christ!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Full and Overflowing

One of the things that travelers to Rome often do is shop. There are many religious goods stores here - so many that it's almost scandalizing, seemingly verging on materialism or idol-worship. There are also many clerical shops with chalices, mass-kits, vestments, candlesticks, monstrances, statues. You name it, Rome's got it.

Well, last year one of the men bought some fabric so that he could have vestments made. He eventually decided, however, that he didn't want to do this anymore. He eventually talked me into buying it. I bought it only after checking with a friend of mine who makes vestments, seeing if he would be willing to make me a set. The fabric the guy bought was nice, and he bought for the four major liturgical colors: green, red, white and violet. He had also bought enough so that there could be made not only a chasuble and stole, but also a dalmatic and store for a deacon, maniples for both, a burse, and a chalice veil! That's virtually a complete set, all the major colors!

Well, it's been a year now and I've done hardly anything more with this fabric and the idea of vestments, until coming to Rome, that is. For nice vestments, you need a bit more than just the basic fabric: you need crosses for the stoles, maniples, burse, and chalice veil; you need fringe for your stoles and maniples; and you need banding (sometimes called "galloon") for the chasuble and dalmatic.

Well, for four chasubles and four dalmatics in the four colors, I had to buy a significant amount of banding - eight yards for each vestment. So, I ended up buying 17 meters of banding in each color, making sure I had some extra just in case. Doing the math, this comes out to 68 meters of banding! I also had to buy 6.5 meters of fringe.

Well, this has become the source of a few jokes from my classmates, as well as Fr. Laird and Msgr. Callaghan. All in good fun, to be sure. But, it is quite the site:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Arguing in the Court of Public Reason

I read a while back a story on CNS which dealt with the ACLU taking the US Dept. of Health and Human Services to court because the USCCB is receiving government funds to do work for trafficking victims. The USCCB, through its Migration and Refugee Services department, helps victims in many ways. The ACLU's problem? The USCCB won't give aid for "contraceptives or abortion or contraception referrals".

First, this is ridiculous. When will secularists stop trying to drive religion completely out of existence? If one wishes to drive it out of the public life of a society, it will be driven out of existence, for the existence of any body is necessarily public. Man is a social animal.

Now, I applaud all attempts at winning the case in favor of the USCCB. Nevertheless, if we are to defend ourselves, we need to come up with true and convincing arguments which will persuade even the most anti-religious of minds.

Obviously, if we were able to argue rationally, we would draw upon fundamental human dignity and the natural law. Abortion murders a child: it takes innocent life. Contraception is against the fundamental good of human dignity: the full expression of one's self-gift. Strength of will, abstinence and chastity are the way to go. Yet, these will not convince because they have become so "religiously" stigmatized. Some view them simply as being religious ideals and beliefs which ought not be imposed upon all people (even though they are simply by the fact of human nature).

So, what do we need to do in our argument? We need to convince people that one position is just as "religious" as another, given the opponent's definition of religion. Religion is often understood as belief in the Divine or superhuman beings. Wherefrom, if I don't have any such belief, my opinions are more simply "rational," not "religiously-inspired," and universal in application.

What needs to be shown is that dis-belief in a "superior power" is as much religion as belief in such. Religion, then, should be understood as any system of belief. Further, there is no "objective-standpoint" by which one can "refrain from judgement" in this regard for agnosticism, when used in argument, becomes atheism. There is no "veil of ignorance" by which we can reason from without absolutely objective truths or our personal beliefs.

If one were to be truly agnostic about such matters, the conclusion would not be (as the ACLU suggests) that since we don't know whether there is a God and whether abortion and contraception are acceptable, we ought to provide the service. No, the conclusion would be that since we don't know, there ought to be legitimate difference in the various organizations which receive public, governmental support - some groups can offer such services, and others can opt to not offer such services. This would be the truly agnostic position, which (unless the ACLU or the government wants to identify itself as an entity with a specific system of belief) the government ought to adopt. Mind you, this latter is not the Catholic position - natural law tells us that abortion and contraception are unacceptable.

If we want to argue civilly on this matter, however, this would be at least one way that we might convince "non-religious" entities, and the US Courts, that Catholic organizations ought to be granted government funds, while at the same time allowed to opt not to offer (in the Catholic mind) morally unacceptable services.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I wonder who is going to win?

We leave for retreat in a couple of hours and I wonder who is going to win the Superbowl. I'll be able to listen to it on the radio until we get to the retreat center. Personally I'm rooting for the Cardinals, because they seem to be the underdogs and a couple of years ago I would have never thought that they would make it to the championship. If we don't find out until Friday I can handle that, but I sure wish I could see some of the commercials.

Truly the Universal Tongue

Last week during our official "class days", we were free one day to attend Mass where ever we pleased, so it pleased me to attend the Extraodrinary Form Mass at Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini. Beforehand, there were confessions being offered. So I though, "What the heck, the priest might speak English. And if he doesn't, I could make out my sins in Latin and that would suffice."

So there I went. I knelt down, the priest began and it got to my part:

"Inglese, Padre?"

"No. I speak no English. French? German? uh..." He sounded a little anxious.

I proffered, "Latin?"

"Si! Si! Latin."

So I began. "Uh... septem dies de..."

That was enough; he responded in perfect conversational Latin, "Ah, it's been seven days since your last confession?" "Sic. Sic," I gladly responded. And we made our way, very muddledly so, through the sacrament.

After I had finished listing sins, he gave some advice. I caught most of it. Just before he was finished, however, he asked, "Intellegisne?" Basically, he could tell my Latin wasn't that good and so he asked, "Do you actually understand what I'm saying?"

"Sic. Sic." "Yes. Yes."

I was very appreciative of being able to do this. This ability to communicate with another person, with whom I share no common "cultural" tongue other than that which is specifically of the culture of the Church. We had a common meeting point, which in a way allowed both of us to "lose ourselves". I lost English as my first language, and he lost (probably) Italian as his first language. Latin is not in the society's cultural patrimony that is still handed on for either of us, but it is in the cultural patrimony of a society that transcends every national society.

Perhaps I'm going too far and over-exaggerating the beauty and benefits of this, but I'm not so sure. I fondly remember the summer before I began theology school at SPS. I was home just after having traveled to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, and just before going to school for the first time. I stopped up at church one day to say some prayers. As I was there, I decided to go look through the Sacramentary and become more familiar with it.

While I was there in the sacristy (no one else around in the Church in my small town) there was a letter just next to the Sacramentary from then Bishop Nienstedt who had written to all the priests and pastoral workers of the Diocese of New Ulm. He, too, had just come back from WYD and wrote about his experience. One day he was to offer Mass for the New Ulm group of pilgrims that he was with, but there were many more who joined the Mass from other parts of the world. Recognizing and responding to this, he said (paraphrasing), "Seeing the diversity of peoples and cultures there, I didn't see any other reasonable thing to do except offer Mass in Latin - the language which is proper to Catholics from any part of the world." My thoughts exactly.

I love being Catholic.