Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let Those To Be Ordained Deacons . . .

On Saturday, April 28, 2012, Bishop Bernard A. Hebda will ordain seminarians Chet Collins and Bryan Medlin to the Transitional Diaconate for the Diocese of Gaylord. For more information...

I would like to ask you all to keep Chet and Bryan in your prayers this Saturday. If you're free on Saturday, you should consider going to the St. Mary's Cathedral for the ordination at 11:00 A.M. Every ordination is an act of renewal for the whole Church.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the homily for the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate which gives a beautiful illustration on the role of deacons:

My son, you are being raised to the order of deacons. The Lord has set an example for you to follow.
As a deacon you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others. Do the will of God generously. Serve God and mankind in love and joy. Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no man can serve two masters.
Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and mankind that you are above every suspicion of blame, a true minister of Christ and of God’s mysteries, a man firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God’s word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts. Finally, on the last day, when you go to meet the Lord, you will hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Homily for the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Grace of Ars

Basilica Church in Ars
Notice that the original church with its
bell tower in front of the  new addition.
"We should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives." -St. John Marie Vianney

What a wonderful Grace to have spent this past week in a tiny French village with St. John Marie Vianney. I went with 36 other seminarians on a retreat to Ars led by Fr. Vincke a spiritual director at the college and a priest of the Diocese of Lansing.

The incorrupt body of St. John Marie Vianney
I had read biographies of St. John Vianney's life. I had studied some of his writings. I had heard about his heroic priestly life sacrificing so much to spend up to 18 hours a day in the confessional. But nothing prepared me to actually go to Ars, to spend time there in his little country parish, to touch his confessionals, to participate in Holy Mass at the St. John Vianney Altar, to receive the precious Blood of our Lord from his chalice, to pray at his tomb.

This past week the Lord has really renewed me in so many ways. Retreats are a wonderful time to catch up on sleep and to physically recharge and repair and of course a retreat gives one time to spend plenty of time in prayer, meditation and reflection. Especially helpful for me was the beautiful countryside. It was such a blessing to be in a small town away from all the noises and the hustle-and-bustle of a big city. The Lord really helped me to find peace and solitude after months of transition and change.

The church where St. Margaret Mary lies at rest.
One of my favorite parts of my time in Ars was to simply pray for all the various pilgrims as they filed in and out of the basilica. I was especially touched when I saw young French fathers bringing their children to pray at the tomb for a few moments. The dad's would point up to the saint's body and help their littlest children make the Sign of the Cross. So beautiful...

The greatest grace was to spend some quality time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. St. John Vianney had a deep abiding love for Jesus in the Eucharist. In a time when frequent communion of the faithful was very rare he'd encourage his penitents to approach the Sacred Table often.

Le Formans - A small creek running through Ars
Another grace I was given was to spend some quality time with some brother seminarians. It was not a silent retreat so we had time for conversation and recreation together. But what was especially moving was the time spent in prayer together praying for each other. St. John Vianney spoke often of the importance of priestly fraternity, which is a source of strength and true friendship.

 We also took two day trips. One day we went to Nevers which is where St. Bernadette is buried who saw Our Lady at Lourdes. Another day we went to Paray LeMonial which is where St. Margaret Mary is buried. She had visions of Our Lord who asked her to spread the devotion to his Sacred Heart. It was a real blessing to visit this places and to simply drive through the French countryside which is so green this time of year.

The view from the seminary down to the village
I am very thankful for the chance to be in Ars...

I'll leave with you a short reflection on the priesthood by St. John Vianney:

“Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest – always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.” (St. Jean Marie Vianney, Cure d’Ars; Catechism on the Priesthood)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

With the Curé d'Ars

St. John Vianney
O my God, I love You and my sole  desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O infinitely lovable God, and I prefer to die loving You than live one instant without loving You. I love You, O my God, and I desire heaven only so as to have the joy of loving You perfectly. O my God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath. I love You, O my Divine Savior, because You were crucified for me, and You keep me here below crucified for You. My God, grant me the grace to die loving You and know that I love You. Amen
-St. John Vianney 

Pray for me this week as I travel to Ars for a retreat with some other seminarians. Ars is a small village in France where St. John Vianney in the 19th century worked as a humble parish priest. He is the patron saint of parish priests. Be assured of my prayers this week for you all. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Via Crucis

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world. 
The Crucifix on my desk.
I remember seven years ago watching on television the stations of cross in Rome. They showed Bl. Pope John Paul II praying along with the people gathered at the Colosseum from a chair in his room. He was very sick. Little did I know that seven years later I'd be standing in that crowd gathered to pray on the evening of Good Friday with the Holy Father.

It was a real blessing and a grace to walk down to the Colosseum on Friday night in order to join the thousands of pilgrims to meditate on the 'Way of the Cross'. These year's meditations were written by a family in the Focolare movement. The meditations were really powerful because they focused on the importance of the family in our society. It also brought to light some of the grave challenges families face today.

Afterwards the Holy Father delivered a few remarks and imparted upon us his apostolic blessing. On the way home, I was talking to a friend and we commented on just how tired the pope must be during these days. Especially considering he had just completed a grueling visit to Mexico and Cuba. So in these last hours of the Easter Triduum, remember to say a little pray for our Holy Father.

Stay with me one hour...

The Last Supper
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. - Jn 18,1

After the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening, one may have been surprised to see many of the seminarians from the NAC heading out into the city on foot. I was one of them. We joined in the traditional pilgrimage throughout the city. We visited church after church in order to pray for a few moments at that parish's Altar of Repose. As you can imagine, it was a really beautiful experience. I was especially impressed by the number of people out walking about to visit and pray at the various Roman churches. From the faithful old Italian ladies to the young mother's bringing along their children (and their husbands) to the rather large number of young women. The number of young women surprised me. Some of them I noticed were speaking Spanish so they had even traveled to Rome to celebrate Holy Week. Growing up, I always cherished  praying in the "Garden" Holy Thursday evening. So tonight was a time to look back, cherishing fond memories, and to live in the present moment forming memories that will stay with me forever.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Oil of Gladness

This morning, I went to the Diocese of Rome's Chrism Mass celebrated by the Holy Father and concelebrated by Cardinals, Bishops and thousands of priests. Even though I was in the most beautiful church in the world at a  beautiful Mass celebrated by the Holy Father himself, my thoughts and prayers turned to the humble cathedral of St. Mary's Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Gaylord, Michigan. It is a great privilege to be here in the Eternal City during the holiest time of the year, yet my heart is back home. I always loved going to the Chrism Mass in Gaylord. In high school, I'd even skip class to attend the Mass. I especially liked seeing all the priests who would gather from all parts of the diocese. I was (and still am) inspired by the intense brotherhood of priests of the Diocese of Gaylord.

May God grant you all a blessed and sacred celebration of the Triduum.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Olive Branches

"The children of the Hebrews welcomed Christ the King. They carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: 'Hosanna in the hightest.' " (Procession Antiphon Passion Sunday)

Today begins the holiest week of the year where we celebrate the Lord's passion death and resurrection.

This year we'll be celebrating Holy Week at the North American College as a seminary community. It rotates every two years. After Holy Week I'll still have another week off from classes in which I'll be free to travel.

The picture is of the crucifix in my room. Ever since I've been a child I've always put the palm branches behind the crucifix in my room. And if you're wondering the other two pictures are of Blessed John Paul II and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I was surprised to find olive branches set out rather than palm branches, but as you can see from the procession antiphon of today's Mass olive branches are mentioned. I was struck later in the day by the olive branch above my bed. I was reminded of the story of Noah and the ark. The dove that Noah sends out after the flood is carrying and olive branch, a beautiful image for us, one of peace and of the promise of salvation.

Know of my prayers for you all as we journey together, even though from different parts of the world, to Jerusalem to join our Lord in his passion, death and glorious resurrection.

WYD: Be Not Afraid!

World Youth Day, which you might know as the triennial (or biennial) international celebration with the Holy Father, is celebrated by local dioceses annually. The diocese of Rome has its World Youth Day on Palm Sunday each year. The theme chosen by the Holy Father for this year's celebration of World Youth day is "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4).

I joined the young people of Rome for a prayer vigil on Saturday night in the cathedral church of Rome, St. John Lateran. I've been to WYD twice and ever since I've been quite passionate about it. So I was pretty excited to join the young people. The vigil began with a catechesis delivered by Cardinal Vallini, who is the Pope's Vicar to the Diocese of Rome. Cardinal Vallini's remarks focused on the importance of authentic joy in our lives, joy that only comes from our encounter with the living risen Jesus Christ. After the talk, the Cardinal answered some questions put to him by the young faithful gathered at the Vigil. One of the questions struck me. A young man asked, "what can young people do who are too afraid to make a life-long commitment like to become a priest or to get married since it seems so permanent and a total loss of personal freedom?" A really beautiful question because so many young people today are afraid to make any decisions in life because it seems like any decision puts a limitation on freedom. The Cardinal answered him by saying that young people today should not be afraid of choosing a vocation as long as they place their faith in Jesus Christ at the center of their lives. Only by loosing ourselves do we gain real life, eternal life. True freedom isn't found in endless options which are always available, but only in choosing Jesus Christ are we set free from sin and death. I was reminded of Blessed Pope John Paul II's first words after his election to the See of St. Peter; "Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ..."

After the Q&A session there was time for adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament along with some Taize chant. For me it was a really powerful moment to pray for and with the young people of the Diocese of Rome. What a wonderful way to begin Holy Week...

After the vigil had ended, I introduced myself to the young man sitting next to me. I was struck by the intensity of his prayer. We chatted for awhile and he introduced me to his youth group and to his twin brother, who also happened to be the guy who had asked the question about vocations. Their priest, a young associate pastor, invited me to join his youth group for pizza and a movie back at their parish. It was a great time. The young people in the youth group really made me feel welcome. It was a lot of fun. The young priest drove me back to the college just before curfew. What a great experience. It was great to be in a parish setting even for a few hours. God has an awesome way of blessing us!