Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tu es Christus ...

One the most amazing things I've done in Rome so far was the Scavi tour. You can explore the Scavi online here. Back in the 1930's Jesuit archaeologists began excavating under St. Peter's to try to locate the bones of St. Peter. Tradition has always maintained that under the main altar is where St. Peter was buried. We do know that he was crucified upside down near the vatican hill. All the history is very fascinating, but for me what was the most impressive was the whole experience.

After descending and moving underneath St. Peter's for over an hour we came into a chamber. From this chamber we could see the bones of St. Peter. I knew that it would be impressive, but I didn't think it would be as powerful as it was. The seminarian tour guide read for us from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
It was so awesome to realize that the bones of the man in front of me two thousand years ago in the district of Caesarea Philippi said: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God". To think that Peter, who even denied Jesus during his passion, went on to preach the gospel all the way to Rome where he died for Christ.

Later that day, during expostion of the Blessed Sacrament, I was reflecting on my experience when I realized not only am I blessed to have seen the bones of the prince of the apostles, but how much more am I blessed that every day I get to receive the Lord of the of the prince of the apostles. The very man Peter knew as the Christ. Of course the physical relics of a saint are powerful reminders indeed, but the Eucharist we receive and adore in every Catholic church around the world is what the saints truly lived and died for.

Sancte Pietri et Pauli, orate pro nobis.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Do not be afraid..."

Every Sunday the Holy Father prays the Angelus with the pilgrims and people of Rome. During the summer months he leads the Angelus from his summer residence, Castel Gondolfo,which is in the mountains outside of Rome. On this occasion, the Holy Father took time after the Angelus to greet us, the New Men class at the North American College. First of all, it was so inspiring to be so close to the Holy Father. Most importantly it was breath-taking to know that the Pope actually knew we were there and that he had a few words for us.

The Holy Father had this to say to us: "Dear Seminarians, do not be afraid to take up the challenge in today's Gospel to give your lives completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us be generous in our commitment to him, carrying our cross with faith and courage."

Afterwards, we ate pranzo overlooking this giant lake in the crater of an ancient volcano.

We were also lucky enough to have Archbishop Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, give us a tour of the papal gardens at Castel Gondolfo. The location of the current summer residence of the Pope used to be the summer residence of the Roman Emperors beginning with Domitian. We could see some of the ruins. Some of the ruins were used by Pope Pius XII during WWII to shelter Jews.

Archbishop Harvey explained that both Bl. John Paul II and Pope Benedict during the summer prayed the rosary here everyday.

Matt and I at the Holy Father's Angelus address.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A mother's prayer...

Today is the feast of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine and the patroness of all mothers. St. Monica prayed unceasingly for her beloved son that he would convert from his pagan ways and become a Christian. Not only did St. Augustine convert but he became a priest, bishop and doctor of the Church. In St. Augustine basilica the bodily remains of St. Monica are under one of the side altars.

It has become a custom at the NAC for new men to spend a few moments in prayer before the tomb of St. Monica, asking her intercession not only for all mothers dear to them, but especially for all whose mothers watched them leave to go and study in Rome. St. Monica, who knew the loss of a sons, is an excellent intercessor and consoler.

A mother's prayers are powerful indeed.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Thursday was my first full day in Rome. I arrived on Wednesday from Madrid.

Hopefully I'll post some reflections later. The orientation schedule is full. We've already gone to see St. Peter's Basilica. It was only a 7 minute walk from the college. It is sort of surreal being in Rome. I have never been to Rome or even Europe before this trip. I've read about Rome. I've seen pictures of Rome. But I've never been to Rome until now and now I live here. Crazy...

After the tour I stayed behind to spend sometime praying at adoration chapel and at the tomb of Bl. John Paul II. I never saw JPII in real life, but now I have actually seen him.

Today, Friday, the rector celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter for us. It is impossible to describe how awesome it was to be at a Mass celebrated in the crypt of St. Peter's basilica so close to the bones of St. Peter and so many other Saints.

As for living in Rome, I've begun to settle into my room. It is terribly hot here. It is 100 degrees right now during the heat of the afternoon. Luckily the chapel and the library are air conditioned.

Until next time... God Bless

Toledo y Avila

On Monday and Tuesday, I had the chance to visit the ancient cities of Toledo and Avila. Again words can't describe the experience. We were so fortunate to be able to have Fr. James celebrate Mass for us at a side altar at the cathedral in Toledo. One of the most magnificent churches in the world.

On Tuesday, Fr. Don, Fr. James and I traveled to Avila. Avila is the birthplace of the reform of the Carmelite order. Our La.dy of Mt. Carmel is the patroness of the diocese of Gaylord. We joined the aux. bishop of Denver for Mass at the San Jose convent. It is convent started by St. Teresa to begin the reform of the order. The reform began with the invesiture and Mass on Aug 24th 449 years ago. We were there on Aug. 23rd. How awesome is that? It was so moving to be there at Mass where 449 years ago St. Teresa stood and renewed her vows as a consecrated carmelite. Fr. Don and I also got to pray in front of the baptismal font in the local parish where St. Teresa was baptized. We didn't realize it at first until I read the inscription.

I'm standing in the San Jose convent started by St. Teresa. She would have talked to people through this very turntable. I left a few prayer requests with the sisters.

This is the baptismal font where St. Teresa was baptized! Fr. Don and I touched it.

This is the chapel where St. Teresa on Aug. 24th started the San Jose convent. This is the altar where the aux. bishop of Denver, Fr. James and Fr. Don concelebrated Mass for us.

The day in Avila was my last day in Spain. I fly to Rome on Wednesday...

Vigil and Closing Mass

It is impossible to describe the experience of the pilgrimage walk, prayer vigil with the Holy Father and the closing Mass. So I will simply post some pictures. But, I can say that the most powerful and memorable moment for me was when the Holy Father led over a million youth in adoration. It is impossible for a crowd of a million and half to be silent, but I tell you I could have heard a pin drop. Everyone stopped walking and talking and looked up towards the altar and stood or kneeled as the Holy Father gave us benediction.

This is the main Altar for the vigil and Mass. This is after the terrible thunderstorm. There is nothing quite like being in a large open field during a lightening storm.

We tried to get some sleep. It didn't help that everything we had was wet. They had run out of food. We had some water. Luckily the near by Marquette group was able to spare some food. Sacrifices...

This photo at least gives a sense of how big the crowd was.

Seminarian Mass

On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI has had the tradition of celebrating Mass with the seminarians present at WYD. There was over 4,000 seminarians present from all around the world. In his homily, the Holy Father enhe courghed us to be saints! He asked us to find silent prayer time in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day. There, he said, we will encounter the person to whom we wish to pattern our lives after.

I met up with two of my friends from the Josephinum.

I took this picture of the Holy Father as he came into the cathedral. It was randomly chosen who would be given seat in the cathedral.

JMJ - Tuesday through Friday

World Youth Day in Madrid officially starts with the opening Mass with Cardinal Antonio Maria, Archbishop of Madrid. Our group was able to stay together and attend the Mass together. What really stuck me was how silent everyone around us was during the Eucharistic Prayer and communion.Here is a picture I took of the altar and sanctuary used for the Opening Mass on Tuesday, the welcoming ceremony of the Holy Father on Thursday, and the Stations of the Cross on Friday.

Another important component of WYD is catechesis. Bishops from around the world come to WYD in order to share preach, teach and celebrate Mass with groups of young people. Bishop Hebda joined us each morning. On Wednesday and Thursday our catechesis site was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dublin. The first day the archbishop of Edinburgh taught us. He talked about the importance of being firm in our faith. On Thursday the Archbishop of Dublin spoke to us. It was especially poignant because the Irish church is currently struggling with more bad news with the abuse scandals. I enjoyed being with the Irish church those few days.

This is a picture of our Irish catechesis site.

On Friday we switched sites. We went to the Placio de deportes which was the main American catechesis site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life. Archbishop Dolan (New York) was keynote speaker. He was so dynamic. He kept us all on the edge of our seats. There was over 12,000 people there. Dcn. Peter was lucky enought to serve as the deacon of the Mass. He even chanted the Gospel!

Another highlight of the week was on Thursday. I went to an event sponsored by the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati society. There we had adoration of the Bl. Sacrament, veneration of relics. I even got to meet the niece of Bl. Frassati. I also met up with a friend of mine from WYD in Australia. We met in Australia and have stayed in touch ever since.

It is amazing how you randomonly meet people during WYD. I saw so many of my friends from seminary. I even met a future classmate for the first time.

All the festivities of the week are only a preparation for the big vigil and Mass with the Holy Father. WYD is primarily a pilgrimage, a journey to encounter the living Christ.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hemos llegado a Madrid

MADRID!!! Finally we arrive back in Madrid for the beginning of JMJ (World Youth Day in Spanish)
Dcn. Peter and Fr. James lead the group through the busy streets of Madrid. Bishop Hebda is following behind.

Days in the Diocese

Spending five days in the small village of Yunquera in the Diocese of Siquenzia-Guadalajara was absolutely amazing. My host family invited me to come back someday. I really think I will. My favorite memory of DID is the people of Yunquera. They were so generous with everything. I've never ate so much food in my life! The Spainish culture is so rich. I was most especially impressed by their devotion to the Blessed Mother. On Saturday we had the privleage to go on a pilgrimage walk to their Marian chapel, Nuestra Senora de la Granja (Our Lady of the Farm). One of the greatest gifts of DID is the opportunity to share our common faith with people from another place in the world and to realize that it truly is one faith, one Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sisters of St. Jerome welcomed us to Yunquera. They also gave us hand-painted candles.
We even got a tour of the bells of San Pedro. This bell is only rung when the Bishop comes.

One of our projects was to paint WYD graffiti on a wall.

Here is a picture of the patroness of Yunquera, Nuestra Senora de la Granja.

On Sunday they asked us to participate in the running of the bulls. Lucky for us the bulls weren't real.

On Sunday, we left Yunquera in order to join the rest of the pilgrims in the entire diocese. We went to Guadalajara. Over 29 countries participated in Days in the Diocese in Guadalajara.

Here is Michael and I with some friends we met from Italy.

Finally at the end of the Days in the Diocese is was time for me to say good-bye to my host brother, Edu.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bienvenidos a Yunquera de Henares

Before the actual WYD begins some pilgrims elect to come to the host country early. There the pilgrims are hosted by a diocese in the host country. For WYD11, 14 pilgrims from the diocese of Gaylord were hosted by the Spanish diocese of Siguenzia-Guadalajara.

On Thursday we arrived in the small pueblo called Yunquera de Henares. It is a town of about 2,000 people. I was amazed when we arrived to find the whole town present to greet us. They even shot off fireworks when we arrived and the church bells were ringing.

They invited us into the church were a group from Venezuela was also waiting. The then introduced each of us to our host families. My host brother was there to pick us up and take us home. He took us to see a ranch where the bulls for bull fighting were kept. Sean really liked the bulls.

Afterwards, Edu (my host brother) took us back to meet his parents and to eat lunch. Edu spoke English very well. Though I really tried to speak to Edu and his family in Spanish only so as to practice my Spanish. Though sometimes we would forget that Sean was sitting there not understanding anything.

We also got to meet the local nuns, the sisters of St. Jerome. The sisters had been praying for us and our arrival for over a year. They were so happy to meet us. Afterwards we went a met the Mayor and other local officials in town's palace. The mayor gave each pilgrim a sombero, a t-shirt and a guide to the city.

Finally around 11pm we went home at ate a traditional Spanish dinner. I don't even remember what we ate but it was good. Off to bed...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hemos llegado

We've arrived in Spain for World Youth Day 2011

14 young adults and seminarians from the diocese left from Traverse City on August 9th for WYD. We arrived the 10th with no complications. Our international flight was half empty so we had plenty of room to spread out and sleep.

Today we meet up with the pilgrims from the diocese of Grand Rapids and travel to the diocese of Siguenzia-Guadalajara. Pray for us and be assured of our continued prayers for you. We've been blessed as a group to have Deacon Wigton with us to lead us in morning and evening prayer and to bless us.

With that here are some pictures of our pilgrimage so far...