Thursday, October 27, 2011

All You Holy Men and Women...

On Sunday, Oct. 23, the Holy Father canonized three new saints. If you look at the picture you can see their tapestries hanging from St. Peter's Basilica. I got to the square early in order to get a chance to visit with the pilgrims who had come to Rome for the canonization. I met five wonderful Italian ladies sitting behind me. They had come for St. Conforti. I enjoyed talking with them about the new saint since they came from the same part of Italy as St. Conforti. I think they enjoyed telling me all about life in Italy and of course, all about their children and grandchildren. Sitting in front of me were pilgrims from Salamanca, Spain. I had less luck conversing with them, since my Spanish is a bit rusty. The whole celebration reminded me or World Youth Day because of the excitement in the air. I was impressed by the number of young people in attendance.

Now a little about these new saints (paraphrased from the worship aid) who already having been in heaven can intercede for us.
  • St. Bonfiacia Rodriguez de Castro (1837-1905) was born in Salamanca, Spain. She founded a novel way of feminine religious life called the Congregation of the Servants of St. Joseph. Their charism is to recreate in their houses the "Shop of Nazareth" by offering work to poor unemployed women. The religious women lived in the world neither wearing habits or contributing a dowery, yet working side by side with lay women. Her spirituality can be summed up like this: "To harmonize prayer and work." Her work is not finished. She continues to look after the dignity of women workers today.

  • St. Luigi Guanella (1842-1915) was born in Fraciscio, Lombardy (northern Italy). As a young diocesan priest he was attracted to the work of St. Don Bosco, who worked with poor boys. After three years in that order, he came home to start a similar congregation of women whose charism it is to serve young girls. It is called the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. He gathered a group of priest around him called the "Servants of Charity" who also dedicated themselves to the service of young girls. He even came to the US for a small time just before the outbreak of WWI. His life was dedicated to the service of poor young girls. He once said "It is impossible to stop as long as there are poor people to be helped."

  • St. Guido Maria Conforti (1865-1931) was born in Parma, Italy. From a young age, he felt called to the missions, but because of poor health he could not go. So instead he founded the St. Francis Xavier Foreign Missions Society to be able to send priests to the missions. In 1902 Pope Leo XIII named him archbishop of Ravenna, but his health was too poor and he resigned. Later in 1907 his health improved enough to be asked by St. Pius X to govern the diocese of Parma. His particular focus as bishop of Parma was the Christian education of the children. He is loved around the world wherever the missionaries from his society have worked. In fact the miracles for his beatification and canonization were in Burundi and Brazil, respectively.
...Pray for us

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Memorial of Bl. John Paul II

Today is the first liturgical memorial of Bl. John Paul II. His memorial is celebrated in the diocese of Rome and Poland on Oct. 22nd, the anniversary of his inauguration as the 264th successor to St. Peter. I went to St. Peter's today to make a visit to his tomb. Of course there were scores of people.

Today is also a special day for me. I was baptized at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Tawas City 23 years ago.

Bl. John Paul II...Pray for us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Diocesan brothers...

Another thing about being away from home is being away from the other seminarians of the diocese. I was sort of thinking about that the other day, so I thought I'd ask you all to pray for all of us. In today's world it is not easy to discern any vocation. Our society is so afraid of permanence. So keep these men in your prayers.

In seminarian jargon a fellow seminarian is called a diocesan brother or DB for short. We truly are brothers even if we go to different seminaries. This year we've been blessed with three new seminarians for Gaylord. I couldn't actually find a picture of all of us, but I did find this recent picture of five DBs. These guys are all from the same parish, Holy Rosary Parish in Cedar.

Seminarians for the diocese of Gaylord:
  • Deacon Joe Ortega
  • Deacon Peter Wigton (Theology IV)
  • Bryan Medlin (Theology III)
  • Chet Collins (Theology III)
  • Matthew Cowan (Theology II)
  • Will MacMaster (Theology II)
  • Tyler Bischoff (Theology I)
  • Michael Wigton (College IV)
  • Chris Jarvis (Pre-Theology II)
  • Ben Rexroat (Pre-Theology II)
  • Nicolas Cooper (Pre-Theology I)
  • Bradely Nursey(Pre-Theology I)
  • Sean Farkas (College II)
  • Matthew Furgiuele (Pastoral Year)
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel...Pray for us
If you want you can read more about the seminarians on our diocesan website.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Go out into all the world...

At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." - Mt 22:21

Today, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in ordinary time, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at St. Peter's Basilica to inaugurate the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. You may not have ever heard of the New Evangelization, but it refers to the need to re-evangelize so many parts of the western world which have become very secular. Places that have been Christian for millennia now need to have their faith reinvigorated by the fire of the Holy Spirit. The question is how to make the faith something real for people in the western world which is weighed down by secularism and an economic crisis. Just yesterday violent riots broke out in Rome. Teenagers were burning cars and vandalizing buildings including a church to protest the government and the bad economy (which is pretty bad here in Italy). The materialistic, secularitic project is falling apart around them and so many young people are left with what they see is no future, no hope. And for them, Christ is not their hope, he isn't even real for them. Yet, that is what the whole New Evangelization is about, to proclaim the gospel anew to a whole generation of young people in western world who live as if there is no God.

A group of us seminarians were able to attend the Papal Mass today. Those of us in the back row in the left transept were at the last minute moved up to the front and center to fill in some empty spots (The first shall be last and the last shall be first). I ended up having a seat in the second row! This was my first Papal Mass at St. Peters. As you'd expect the Mass was absolutely beautiful. What struck me the most was how silent it was after the homily and after communion. It was an intense, prayerful experience. The Holy Father's homily (should be in English within a few days on the Vatican website) focused on the need for a new evangelization. He mentioned that at the heart of the new evangelization is the fact that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He quoted St. Augustine who pointed out that the order of Jesus' statement is necessary. We have to be on the way, that is asking questions, in order to know the truth and to live the life in Christ. Way, Truth, Life; these are not abstract ideas, but a person...Jesus Christ. The Holy Father also announced at the end of his homily that next year will the called the Year of Faith. It will begin on October 11, 2012 which is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It will end on November 24th, 2013 which is the Feast of Christ the King. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about this. I even predict that we might see an encyclical on faith. The Holy Father has already written on hope and love, it seems only logical to finish up the series.

NB. Be sure to read the homily once it is translated, I may be paraphrasing the Holy Father incorrectly.

UPDATE: Click here for the English translation of the homily

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach - Rite of Ordination to the Order of Deacon

Last week, on the feast of St. Bruno, 6 October 2011, thirty-five seminarians from the North American College were ordained deacons. If you've never been to an ordination before, you really should go to one. (For example, I know that Dcn. Ortega is scheduled to be ordained to the Priesthood on Dec. 17th. in Gaylord)

Even though as a new man I haven't had a chance to get to know these men, it was a really moving experience to see them lay down their lives for the service of the Lord. One of the most moving parts of an ordination for me is the Litany of Saints. The men to be ordained lay prostrate in front of the altar immediately proceeding the act of ordination, that is the laying on of hands by the bishop (in this case, Cardinal Lleveda). How beauitful and powerful it was to invoke the prayers of saints, whose remains are not only in the city but in the basilica. My heart was moved during the Litany when I heard the invocation of St. Peter chanted. I remembered that his earthly remains were directly below us. Just as so many men and women have laid out their lives as martrys (Greek for witnesses) before, these 35 men freely have laid out their lives as celibate deacons (and soon to be priests) in service of the Lord and his people.

Another aspect of this ordination that struck me was the image theHoly Spirit in the sculpture of the Chair of Peter. In every sacrament there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. During the rite of laying on of hands I found myself staring at the dove above the Chair of Peter. I thought of the passage of the Gospel of John where Jesus promises to send us the comforter, the Paraclete. Click on the picture below and look at the center of the golden circle and you should be able to see the dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. There really are not words to describe the beauty of ordinations. Pray for these men as they will soon enough be ordained Priests for service to the people of God in the United States and Australia.

May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment. - Rite of Ordination to the Order of Deacon

Open wide the doors and gates...

On October 14th, the college celebrated the 58th anniversary of the dedication of the Immaculate Conception chapel by Pope Pius XII in 1953.

You may know this but the anniversary of a dedication of a church or chapel is celebrated each year in that church as a solemnity, that is a Mass with its own special readings and the Gloria and Creed are said. Also you may have noticed that in many churches there are candles hanging on the walls that are rarely lit. These candles are the dedication candles which on the anniversary of the dedication are lit. The Church celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of churches so solemnly because it a reminder to us all that Christ is the cornerstone and we are the living stones which build up the Church, which is a great mystery to contemplate.

I found this video of Pope Pius XII. The video is silent, but in it you can see him as he arrives at the North American to bless and dedicate the Immaculate Conception chapel. Click Here to watch.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Off to Class

Today marked the beginning of the academic year for the Pontifical Universities in Rome. So this morning after 6:15 morning prayer, Mass and breakfast, I packed my backpack with paper and pens and made my way to the Angelicum. The weather this morning was brisk. (I can't tell you how happy I am that I needed a light jacket this morning. The heat may finally be done!) After a 35 minute walk I arrived at the Ange.

My first class was Introduction to Theology, followed by Pentateuch and the Historical books of the Old Testament, and then Early Church history. I'm so happy to finally be back in school. After FIVE months I can say I'm a student again.

Classes in Rome are different than back in the States. For example, almost all my classes the only examination will be a 10 minute oral exam at the end of the semester. Also the professors will not assign any readings or homework. Rather they give you a bibliography of suggested reading. You are on your own to find the right books to supplement your studies. Since it is a Dominican University, all the classes that I'll be taking are taught by Dominicans.

My mom always had the tradition of taking my picture on the first day of school every year. Since I've been in college I'll admit that I've not followed my mom's tradition. But today I was feeling a bit nostalgic so I had my picture taken outside the NAC just before walking to class. Hope you are happy mom...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Familiar Faces

Last night I was delighted to receive and email from the Macmasters. They are in Rome to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. John and Jacki are the parents of Will Macmaster, one of Gaylord's seminarians.

We ended up meeting after the Holy Father's general audience on Wednesday. After the audience I got a chance to give them a tour of the NAC. It was my first tour. Needless to say, it was really good to see some familiar faces.

Happy Anniverary and may God grant you many more years of married life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ordination week

On Thursday 35 men from the 4th year class will be ordained to the deaconate by His Eminence Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in St. Peter's Basilica.

Please keep them in your prayers as their ordination quickly approaches...

Grace-filled days...

Thank you all for your prayers last week while I was on retreat. It was a really grace-filled silent retreat.

I wish I would have remembered to bring my camera because the location was absolutely beautiful. The retreat was held at a Franciscan retreat house in Greccio. Greccio is on the side of a mountain about halfway between Rome and Assisi. About 100 meters down the road from the retreat center was a Francisican monastery. At that monastery, St. Francis built the first creche' (manger scene). It was a great place to pray. Just think, St. Francis would have made retreats in the same location that I was able to make a retreat. What a powerful intercessor! St. Francis loved nature. He also embraced the suffering and death of our Savior. For me, a powerful image throughout the week was the San Domiano crucifix hanging in my room. A reminder for me to pick up and carry my cross each day.

The retreat was my 4th experience of a silent retreat but for some of my brothers it was there first time. Everyone seemed to a have a prayerful experience. (How could you not?)

I also got a chance to run around during the retreat. I thought that running would be great, but in fact it was really hard. I had no choice but to either run up or down the side of a mountain. Needless to say I was really sore all week.

Now I'm physically, mentally and spiritually ready to begin theology classes next week.