Friday, September 28, 2012

San Pio da Pietrelcina 2012

Made strong by the power of the Holy Spirit . . .
"It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" Gal 2:20)

On September 23, 1968 in the small and obscure village of S. Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy died a saint. He was known simply has Padre Pio. He lived his life as a humble servant and disciple of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis as a simple Capuchin priest and brother. Now 44 years later in that same town, in the piazza near the same church that he had ministered in for so many years, thousands of pilgrims gathered to pray for the intercession of this saint who now is in heaven interceding for his spiritual children. I had the great grace of being among the pilgrims gathered in prayerful vigil the night before the feast day. 

I had been in S.Giovanni Rotondo this summer living with a host family and working at one of the local parishes. I have to admit I was really looking forward to returning there for the weekend. I've grown close to my host family, and I missed the small town 'feel' so to speak. I brought along two of my classmates. The weekend was more than I had hoped. I enjoyed catching up with 'Mamma' and 'Babbo' and Maurilio, my host brother. It was a real treat to go back to the parish for Mass, Rosary, and evening prayer. Maurilio and I drove the two other seminarians around the area and showed them some of the more important sites including Monte San'Angelo, the site of an 5th century apparition of St. Michael the Archangel. 

The real highlight of the trip was the evening prayer vigil on Saturday night. People began arriving in the afternoon to save seats. The vigil began at 7pm with evening prayer, followed by Eucharistic Adoration for vocations, an international Rosary, conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, and at midnight the celebration of Holy Mass for the solemnity of San Pio da Pietrelcina. (Of course the rest of the world celebrated the 25th Sunday in Ordinary time) The Rosary was a prayer dear to the heart of Padre Pio. He always exhorted his spiritual children to pray the Rosary every day. That evening before the Rosary, I was behind the outdoor sanctuary trying to find out where we'd have to go later to vest to serve Mass, when quite randomly someone asked me if I spoke English. I replied in the affirmative. He took my arm and told me quickly (in Italian) that I'd be leading 10 Hail Mary's in English for the Rosary, which was beginning in two minutes. I don't normally get nervous for things such as this, but there was a large crowd, and I felt as though I couldn't remember the words. I was comforted by the fact that hardly anyone in the crowd would know if I made a mistake anyways. It was a really moving experience for me to pray with everyone there in a visible way. During the Rosary I thought of everyone back home, and I included you all in my prayer. The climax of the night was the midnight Mass celebrated by the superior general of the Capuchin order. His homily highlighted the beautiful mystery that Padre Pio, who though we call 'Padre' (Father) never was a pastor of a parish or a bishop, continues in a real way with his prayers from heaven to lead and guide his spiritual children towards Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. This highlighted the real humility of Padre Pio, who always submitted to obedience to Christ by obedience to the Church.

A special aspect of all this for me is that Padre Pio's feast day coincides with my birthday, 23rd of September. How cool is it to be able to participate in the Holy Mass at midnight on one's birthday? What a beautiful gift! The next morning, having arrived back home after 3am, we slept in just a bit. The older sister had all of us over at her and her husband's house for lunch. And in typical Italian style the food was incredible. She even made a cheesecake! The family even sang 'Tanti auguri a te' (Happy Birthday). I was able to connect by phone with my family later that day (once the sun rose in Michigan). 

All these events caused me to reflect a bit over these past few days on sanctity. Here this man, this priest, who lived, worked and died in a town not too much bigger than Gaylord is a saint. He is in heaven. We're all called to holiness of life. I've known that I guess from theology, but it was never more than an 'idea'. The great thing that the canonized saints teach us is that sanctity, real holiness of life and discipleship in our Lord Jesus is impossible. We don't earn holiness. We can't do it on our own. But with humility and the gifts of faith, hope and love, we make room and totally empty ourselves so that the Grace of the Cross of Jesus Christ can come into our lives to sanctify us and make us holy. So what is impossible for us is made possible by God.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Raining Sheep and Wolves O My!

You must Google "nature sounds" and click on "Free Nature Sounds Mixer"

I am loving this because I can listen to rain on the roof with grasshoppers, sheep and wolves in the background while I type my profound philosophy papers. And on top of that one could even listen to Darth Vader and cats purring in the background so it really fits any mood your in. I personally like the rain on the roof with the thunder turned all the way up.

Well have a good day and may the Holy Spirit be with you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Heralds of the Gospel

Jesus said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mk 16:15)

Second year of theology has begun, and we've hit the ground running. We began the year by setting a week aside for prayer and silent meditation. Then this week we've begun an in depth workshop on preaching.

I've known for awhile that this workshop was coming up, that in September we'd actually begin preparing and practicing homilies. But it didn't dawn on me until this week what exactly that meant. Preaching is something that I knew was important but that seemed far in the future. This week that future has become reality. Even though I won't actually be preaching in Mass for another two years, it is really awesome and a bit frightening to begin the preparation. The workshop's format has been really helpful. We meet for four hours in the morning to learn the practical mechanics of preaching, and then each afternoon we break into groups of four to practice with a priest moderator in the afternoons. For now we're practicing preparing and preaching homilies for daily Mass (2-4 minutes). I've been surprised by how much time it has been taking me to prepare something to say. Though it is comforting knowing that we'll all get better (and more efficient) through practice. 

Keep all of us second year men in your prayers as we spend the rest of this week (and a large chunk of the rest of this year) practicing preaching.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows holds a deep connection with me; it is the paternal feast day for my alma mater, Notre Dame. And, it was while I was studying there that I began pondering the idea of priesthood. Simeon said to Mary, "He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted . . . and your own heart will be pierced by the sword." She witnessed the greatest martyrdom, the crucifixion of her Divine Son and most of us can hardly fathom what that must have been like.
A mothers love is unlike any other love - and it can be difficult to explain - when she saw a spear pierce her sons lifeless side, how could her heart not be pierced too. The intensity of her love, like many mothers, is beyond measure.

Today, I think of my own grandmother, Jane, for today is her 87th birthday. My grandmother has lived, as she says, "a hard but rewarding life." Her motherhood is something that I cannot explain for she just is a loving example that even in our darkest hours, we all must turn to the Lord for his help and protection. About fifteen years ago her son, my uncle died of cancer.  The whole extended family watched as a woman saw her son die before her very eyes and there was nothing she could do to help him. I know she pardon with God asking to spare his and take hers, because what mother wants to watch her own child be buried before her-own. A few years later, again, the family mourned for the sudden loss of my cousin, and I remember my grandmother going up to the casket with tears streaming down her face, grabbing his lifeless hand and saying, "I will always love you." All of this is counter to what we expect in our own life, the parent is suppose to pass-away before the child. I asked my Grandmother one time, "what has gotten you through your struggles" and she recited the quote that we, as seminarians love reading, from the Gospel of John, "Woman, behold, your Son!" and to the disciple whom he loved, "Behold, your Mother!" And she reflected on what Mary went through at the foot of the cross and that her sorrow must be greater than her-own.

Many times, I feel as though I fail the Blessed Mother, each time I sin its as though I am taking that spear and twisting her heart and then I weep; for what son, what child wants to disappoint their mother. Above all she is our greatest advocate and our greatest intercessor in heaven, thus we should always flee to her aid and beg her to pray for all of her children here on earth. And How amazing that Gospel passage from John . . . at that very moment of the Blessed Mother's extreme sorrow, we have been given great joy by the gift from Christ, the gift of his own mother, who is our mother. As the antiphon for the canticle at evening prayer states, "Rejoice, O sorrowful Mother; after your great sufferings, you shine forth as Queen, enthroned beside your Son."
Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for us!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cincinnati retreat

Yesterday some of the seminarians had a retreat at Cincinnati's Seminary called "Conformity to Christ in Priestly Life." Archbishop Di Noia presented two amazing talks and it also gave us the opportunity to talk with other seminarians from other seminaries ( Josephinum is still the best ) and hear vocations stories and what sports are more popular at what seminary and bragging about our new bowling ally. Only the most important issues.

For people reading this who have not been on a retreat, I must explain that it is a great time to just hit the PAUSE button on the VCR of life. For me a retreat like this one is like a vacation and but I must admit the silent retreats take me a couple days to get in the zone. This retreat really helped remind all of the seminarians of what a Catholic priest is and what is expected of him at the parish, like being there to give the Sacraments 24/7 and to not be like an office worker that works from 9-5.

To conclude I strongly recommend going to a retreat because even though it is nice to soak up some rays on a beach in Florida, I personally would rather soak up some rays on a kneeler in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament but that's just me....... no pressure.        

Monday, September 10, 2012

Croquet Night!

Dcn. Bryan, George, the chef: Ben, Chris, Peter, Brad, and Sean Farkas.
Prayer; Dinner; Croquet; Brotherhood! What could get any better than this? The Answer: beating the majority of your brothers at croquet!  However, I lost . . . I lost to the holy deacon, Deacon Bryan. This year we, the brothers at the PCJ, decided that we were going to rotate who would plan a bi-weekly event and Ben stepped up to the wicket and nailed a complete breakaway!
Peter striking his first breakaway!

Sean trying to get the ball into the wicket.
Ben rolled out his famous grill, Brad and George ran to the refectory for some colas, Sean helped the good Deacon get the picnic table and we had a good ole fashioned picnic in the back 40 of the PCJ right near the Grotto of Our Lady!  On that roll-a-way grill, Ben cooked some fantastic brats: cheese filled, beef (it's what's for dinner), and one other kind that slips my mind. He also got some classic picnic fixins: potato salad, macaroni salad, potato chips and who can forget the cookies! I believe, Peter ate most of the cookies before the rest of us were even there! Dinner was a wonderful time to pray for our diocese and for the continuation of our brotherhood. It was nice to sit down and relax for a time period, to just let go of any anxieties of school work and just have some great discussion and of course, like brothers, classic teasing!

Sean and Dcn. Bryan
Watching the heated match from a near distance. 
After we feasted, it was time for some American Style Croquet.  Deacon Bryan and I started out with some awesome first hits, getting right through the first two wickets, and off to the third with totally awesome set ups for both of us. But the others, well they just had some horrible time getting through that first wicket. Sean even had some unique ideas on how to get the ball through the first wicket, which made it very, very entertaining for the rest of us! It ended up with Deacon Bryan hitting through the first three wickets very quickly and a few short hits by me that secured him the title of Diocesean Brotherhood Croquet Night Gold Medalist! What a night! Pray for us and our continued discernment; that we may fulfill the call of the Lord how ever He sees fit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Update from the new Man in Rome

These first few weeks in Rome have been wonderful.  Although the new seminarians here have been busy studying Italian we have had the opportunity to explore the city on many occasions.  As much as I would love to be in Detroit with Sean Farkas rooting on my favorite teams over Labor day weekend I cannot ignore the fact that I have had the blessing of experiencing special moments which have drawn me close to the heart of the Church through Her many saints who have walked these very streets and now rest in many nearby Church's.  Besides, we had a little taste of home when the new men here at the NAC beat the second year men in a Labor day softball game.  I had 2 RBI's Farkas.  It was also great to have burgers and brats on the grill.

These are flame bladed swords. Im not sure what the
practicality of that is but who cares, they are really cool.
Last week we had the opportunity to visit the barracks of the Swiss Guard.  This is a special opportunity the seminarians at the NAC are priviliged to have because the guards use the North American College's soccer field for training throughout the year because it is one of the larger open areas in Rome and very close to St. Peters.  These are a few pictures of the weapons room in the barracks. 
Some of these sets of body
armor are over 300 years old. 
The Swiss guards have served in many roles over hundreds of years but since 1506 they have been the personal guards of the Holy Father at the Vatican.  They were brought to this role because of their reputation for having a superb formation and being highly skilled mercenaries.  They were considered among the most powerful troops of the 15th century.  They have remained with the Holy Father since the request for there full time presence at the Vatican by Pope Julius II in 1506.  Today they are made up of a few hundred young men exclusively from Switzerland and exclusively Catholic.  The young man who gave us the tour said he had been there for two years and planned on returning home after 3 years of service to teach grade school.  But, for those who wish, they have the opportunity to continue by requesting extensions.  Some older high ranking guards have been there for 10 to 15 years and have their families living in the officers quarters with them.  The lower ranking men must remain single.  They have Mass in their personal chapel every day as well.  
They still go through intensive training and trust me, they are all in good shape; I would not mess with any of them.  You may recognize the halberds in the picture to the left.  These are the traditional weapon of the guards which they keep with them when they are on guard duty at St. Peters and I am told that they are not just for show.  Our guide explained that the head of the halberd is designed so that it can be swung like an axe at the enemy or thrust straight like a spear.  If the attempt missed then the guard can pull it back in one motion and as you can see it has some other sharp edges that might hurt.  
The day was not all weapons though.  It was also very cool to hear him speak about the Holy Father and the honor it is for him to have such a duty.  

As always, thank you for your prayers and support.  We could not persevere without them.  In our Lord and our Lady, Seminarian Christopher Jarvis

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

At the Josephinum all of the seminarians had 3 days off or on the third day had a retreat. For me, I started and ended my weekend making sure to do my required readings for the next week but for the middle I left that up to the Holy Spirit. After much prayer I decided to play some ice hockey 10min. away from the seminary for a few hours.(that was a good workout). Then I decided to visit a close friend of mine in the Detroit Diocese, Fr. David and then go see the Detroit Tigers crush the White Sox 5-1.
The next day I went to the Village Museum in Dearborn and the Ford Museum but I forgot my camera so no pictures. I could of spend the whole day their but they closed at 5:00. I really felt that the Holy Spirit was working through me this weekend as people all over from the Hockey game Friday night to the Baseball game Saturday and even at the Museum people kept asking me what my occupation was which lead to many great conversation about the Priesthood and the Catholic Church. It is truly amazing what one can do with God behind the wheel of a 1990 Saturn.