Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ad Limina

Keep Bishop Hebda and the rest of the bishop of Region VI (Michigan and Ohio) in your prayers as they travel to Rome for their Ad Limina visit. The Ad Limina visit is every five years (or so). It is an opportunity for each bishop to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and to give the successor of St. Peter, the Pope, a report on the state of the bishop's own diocese.

Bishop Hebda came into town last night. Matt and I had dinner with him after praying Evening prayer with the rest of the seminary community. It was great to catch up with him and ask him how things are going back home.

I'll keep you updated throughout the next week.

By the way, exams are going well. I've only have two more exams this week and then I'm finished.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Diocesan Brothers...

A few weeks ago, Bryan visited Rome along with the rest of the third year class from my Alma Mater, the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. It was great being able to see Bryan and the rest of his class. Even though I was still on my Christmas adventure when Bryan first arrived in Rome I was able to catch him for dinner for the last two nights that he was in Rome.

It was especially great to catch up with Brian since his ordination to the deaconate is fast approaching. By the time I come home next summer, Bryan will have been ordained a priest! Keep Bryan in your prayers has he prepares to be ordained a deacon for our diocese. (Sometime in April if I remember correctly)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pray, Sleep, Study

It's time for exams...

The 'time of reckoning' as my one professor called it has arrived. The fall semester ended on Friday and exams begin on Monday. Exams here are different than in the States. Rather than just one week of exams, the exam period here lasts for three weeks. In those three weeks, I'll meet with each of my professor for a 10-15 minute oral exam. I'm used to written exams as I'm sure most Americans are. So I just have to pray, sleep, and study and give each exam my best effort.

Study is one of the fundamental parts of seminary life. While preparing for my first exam, I asked myself, "Why study theology at all?" -- Reasons for doing Theology… Why are am I studying theology? Just to be ordained? Is theology dangerous to personal faith? Does it threaten faith? Theology doesn't have physical tools like the other sciences. Rather as theologians we are the tool. I can’t do theology without faith. Theology is different than religious studies which studies only the cultural phenomenon of religion without faith. Theology is a science but we can’t distance ourselves from our personal faith and the study of it. Piety as a praxis of faith is important but I still need to be able to use reasonable arguments to get to a better understanding of faith and humanity and myself. Theology is possible and necessary because we are human beings who can be defined as rational animals (Aristotle). Ultimately, study is a human action. Theology is using the gift of my mind in an act of intellectual worship. Theology is faith seeking reason as St. Anselm said.

On the feast of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr, Pope Benedict had an audience with the seminarians of the Diocese of Rome. He made some remarks on the importance of study in the life of seminarians. He said that the seminarian's path to holiness includes a life of study. The Holy Father sought to connect the spiritual life with the intellectual life.

"The path of holiness of the priest forms part also of his choice to develop, with the help of God, his intelligence and his own commitment, a real strong personal culture, fruit of passionate and constant study. Faith has its own intellectual and rational dimension that is essential. For a seminarian and a young priest still struggling with academic study, it means assimilating the synthesis between faith and reason that is peculiar to Christianity. The Word of God became flesh, and the priest, the true priest of the Incarnate Word, must become more transparent, luminous and profound, to the eternal Word which is given to us. He who is mature also in this, his global cultural training, can be a more effective educator and promoter of that worship "in spirit and truth" of which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:23)." (Pope Benedict)

Pope Benedict is asking seminarians (and in a general way everyone) to fall in love with faith and embrace the study of faith so that we can be effective ministers of the "Word made Flesh" both in our words and in our deeds, true promoters of evangelization.

My motto these next few weeks: Pray, Sleep and Study.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Word of the Lord...

On January 15, 2012 Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Military Services, installed sixty six men to the Ministry of Lector and I was one of them!

Lector is one of the two ministries that a seminarian is instituted into before ordination to the diaconate. The other ministry is called, Acolyte. Lector and Acolyte are ancient ministries that first appeared in the primitive church. The ancient role of reader and acolyte was much more than the functional aspect during the liturgy. The reader was called upon to share the Holy Scriptures with the whole community, who would have been partially made up of illiterate people. Nowadays, most people are literate, but there is still a real need for the proclamation of the Word of God today so that the Word, which is 'sharper that a two-edge sword' can piece our lives (Heb 4:12).

So what does it mean? Lots of people read at Mass... It isn't so much the functional aspect of the ministry that needs to be emphasized, though it is important, but rather the gift of the Word. The Church has not entrusted me to study the Word, to become imbued with the Word, and to share the Word for "man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4).

Pray for me and the rest of my classmates that we may "take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that is may grow strong in the hearts of his people. Amen" (Rite of Installation of Readers, Roman Pontifical).

...Thanks be to God.

(Photos courtesy of Christopher Brashears and Brian Buettner)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 60:1)
The Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord is celebrated on the twelfth day of Christmas. In this one feast three different 'epiphany' events in the life of Christ are focused on by the Church. First is the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi, the wise men from the East who have come bearing gifts in order to worship the messiah. Second is Jesus' first public miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. Third is the manifestation of the Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan river.

I made it back to Rome in time to attend the Papal Mass in St. Peter's basilica for the Epiphany. It was a special Mass for a few reasons. The Holy Father consecrated two new bishops during the Liturgy. Both priests were recently named as Apostolic Nuncios (ambassadors). Archbishop Marek Solczynski from Poland is the new nuncio to Georgia and Armenia. Archbishop Charles Brown from New York is the new nuncio to Ireland. Both assignments are particularly difficult. It was really beautiful to see how happy the two new archbishops were as they processed through the basilica blessing the congregation. Archbishop Brown's task in Ireland will be difficult, but the Holy Father sent a strong message by personally consecrating and sending Archbishop Brown to Ireland.

During the homily, the Holy Father made some really important points about today's feast. The entire homily can be found here. I want to leave with you two excerpts that really struck me, which I think are really important for people to hear.
Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. (Pope Benedict XVI)

There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. (Pope Benedict XVI)
What a beautiful image to think of Jesus's love for all of the world exploding into the world like a supernova, a supernova of light and love exploding into our world and changing our lives so that each one of us will never be the same.

There was one more Christmas surprise in store for us. After Mass the Holy Father went up to his room for the traditional noon Angelus and blessing. At the Angelus he announced that a consistory would be held on February 18th to create 22 new cardinals. Two of Americans were named: Archbishop Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Archbishop O'Brien, pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Both archbishops were rectors at the North American College. This is joyous news for the universal Church and for the Church in the United States and an awesome Epiphany day present to Archbishops Dolan and O'Brien.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oxfordian (part 3)

On New Year's Day, Austin and I made our way to London for the final leg of the trip. We stayed two nights in London and two nights in Oxford.

It of course rained the whole day in London. Though we did get to see some of the main sites while walking around. The underground system made it really easy to get around. I'm not as excited about exploring these big cities. I like the smaller town where I can get to know people. The second day we happened to bump into some other seminarians from the NAC at noon Mass at Westminister Cathedral. It was good to catch up with them over some traditional English pub food. That day we also explored the London Museum and the Art Gallery. Later that evening
we splurged a bit to see a show. Phantom of the Opera was sold out so we watch Wicked instead. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

On the 3rd we took a train from London to Oxford to meet up with a friend of mine.
Shaun and I met at World Youth Day in 2008 in Sydney. We also saw each other again at WYD in Madrid. Ever since then we've kept in touch by writing letters. Even though we had only met twice in person I was very much looking forward to spending a few days in Oxford with Shaun. Shaun proved to be a great tour guide for us. He is in his first year of studies at Blackfriars in Oxford for his masters degree in Theology . He also introduced Austin and I to the finer elements of British society such as an afternoon tea and correct use of the English language. The highlight of our time in Oxford was seeing the important places in the life of Bl. Newman. Bl.. Newman, who was recently beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, studied and taught at Oxford university prior to his conversion. Shaun took us to Littleton to see the house and chapel where Bl. Newman stayed while contemplating his conversion to Catholicism. I've been inspired to read more of Newman. I've known for a while that his writings are really important, but now I have more motivation to read them.

Our two days in Oxford were very restful and enjoyable. The students were still on holiday so there wasn't much activity. Thank you to Shaun for his hospitality. Best wishes on his continued studies and discernment.

On the 5th, Austin and I flew back to Rome ending 13 days of travel. I was rather tired, but so thankful for all the wonderful people I had met during the trip. I've only grown in my appreciation of just how kind and generous people truly are. Though tt is good to be back in Rome...

Hogmanay...Aye! (Part II)

The second part of my trip is in Scotland. On the 28th of Christmas I arrived in Edinburgh by plane. Austin (Toledo) was going to meet me in Edinburgh later that day. So I had some time to explore the city. I met up with Dominican priest I had met at WYD in Madrid. At that time he was a deacon. Fr. Lawrence and I got some coffee and talked about his apostolate as a chaplain and then later in the afternoon I attended his Mass. It was pretty nice being back in an English speaking country. Just being able to read all the signs with no struggle was enough to put a smile on my face. The weather was wet and windy, which I heard was typical for this time of year. Meeting up with Austin was a bit more difficult than I had hoped. The train I was expecting him on was canceled so it ended being two hours later before he arrived in Edinburgh.

The next day we took a bus tour of the highlands. It was one of the only 'touristy' things I did, but it was well worth it. The highlands are stunning! I saw all sorts of beautiful landscapes. And there was snow! The bus driver gave us lots of history. We even got to see Loch Ness. Though we didn't get a glimpse of the monster.

After the highland tour we took a bus to Glasgow to meet up with the chaplain of the university there. I had arranged with Fr. John a guest room at his
chaplaincy. Fr. John, what a great example of a good and holy priest. We were only with him one night but he took such good care of Austin and I. First of all, he didn't have any guest rooms, instead he gave us his own room (which was a model of simplicity) and he slept some where else. He also gave us a great tour of Glasgow and showed us the museum there. After serving Mass for him in the morning, a few of the seminarians from Scotland (who I know from classes at the Angelicum) met up with us for lunch. Lunch turned into dinner as we were having so much fun together. Fr. John had also studied in Rome so he was sharing with us his experiences at the Scottish College. He even had one of my favorite professors (Fr. Murphy SJ) from the Josephinum has his professor at the Greg. Thank you to Fr. John for his witness to a true priestly life. We wish we could return the favor...

We met up with Paul, a Scottish seminarian of the diocese of Paisley. He and I are classmates at the Angelicum. He took us to his hometown. His aunt was nice enough to give us use of her vacant flat for two nights. On New Year's Eve, Paul took us around his hometown. We of course had to start the day with a traditional Scottish big breakfast, which was the best breakfast I've had since I left the U.S. Another real treat was after the noon Mass at the Cathedral the pastor invited us in for some hospitality. Again and again I'm so amazed as I meet priests around the world. There are so many heroes, so many holy men who've dedicated their lives to the service of the Church. Perhaps that is one of the greatest graces from the whole trip was listening and learning from the priests we encountered.

One of the most moving parts of the trip for me was vigil Mass at Paul's parish for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. It struck me, I hadn't been in an English speaking parish since August. I thought of my family and of my own parish back in Tawas. I especially thought of my own mom. Through the whole Mass I held my rosary, as if by holding my rosary I could hold on to Mary's hand and by holding onto Mary's hand I could hold unto my mom's hand. For me, it was a really prayerful and powerful celebration of Holy Mass.

In Scotland, New Year's eve is called Hogmanay. No one seemed to know where the word comes from. Paul's parents were kind enough to ask us to spend Hogmanay with them at their house. Paul's mum made tons of food for all of us. The Scots have some interesting traditions for Hogmanay. At midnight which they call the bells everyone crosses arms, holds hands, and sings Auld Lang Syne. Then half the family goes outside to be welcomed into the house at the bells. The 'guests' come bearing gifts; tangerines, a few pence, and holy water. Then the father sprinkles the holy water throughout the house.

The next morning, Paul's dad drove Austin and I to the airport. We flew from Glasgow to London for the third part of my journey.

The Great Up North (Part I)

I'm back in Rome! After 13 days, 4 countries, and thousands of miles of travel I am quite happy to be back in my own room. During the Christmas holiday we're encouraged to travel around some. Basically I had two legs to my journey: Finland/Sweden and Scotland/England.

I left for Helsinki, Finland on the 23rd with Matt (Gaylord) and Justin (Charleston, WV). Matt organized the trip and asked me come along so that we could spend Christmas together in the Great Up North. We were a bit disappointed when we got out of the airport though.
There was no snow. One of the reasons that Matt and I really wanted to go up to Finland was to have a white Christmas. The locals told us that it was very unusual not to have snow for
Christmas. We were pretty far north, further north than Anchorage, Alaska. We took a train to Turku, Finland where we had made arrangements to spend Christmas at a retreat center run by Bridgetine sisters. The sisters were so hospitable. They realized that we were far away from home for Christmas so they did everything they could to make us feel at home. They even gave us a few little gifts and put little Christmas trees in our rooms. We were planning on cooking our own food, but mother wouldn't hear of it. She insisted that we eat all our meals with the sisters. Christmas eve dinner was fantastic. As you might guess, the typical food in Finland is fish. The sisters are from various countries, but their common language is Italian. So luckily we were able to use our Italian to get to know some of the sisters and share with them.

Attached to the convent is the parish for Turku. There are only 9,000 Catholic in Finland. So you can imagine just how large this parish is geographically. The pastor of the parish is a
Polish priest named Fr. Peter. He also took such good care of us. He shared his priestly wisdom with us. One of the lessons he taught us was the importance of being a priest for all his parishioners no matter what nationality they are. He warned us against dividing our parishes into language groups and said it is the Holy Mass that brings all people together. What an example to us! Midnight Mass in the parish was so beautiful. The church was absolutely packed. The music was stunning and even though I couldn't understand the Finnish homily I felt at peace, a home away from home. After Mass Father wished Merry Christmas to all of his parishioners in over 70 languages! Even though it was 1:30am everyone stayed after Mass for coffee and various sweets made by the different ethnic groups. I was impressed by a one of the parishioners stories. She was telling me how she and her family had escaped from Iran over 10 years ago so that they could practice their faith in freedom. What a reminder to me just how blessed we are to be able to practice and live our faith in freedom. How often do I take that for granted?

Fr. Peter's parish was really incredible.
We also met two young men in the parish who we noticed serving Mass daily. The one is a recent convert from athiesm who now is planning on entering the seminary. He is a native Finnish. There is only one other native Finnish priest in the world. It really is hard to put into words the experience. Just like that we had met so many incredible people who taught us so much about being Finnish, about being human, and about being Catholic. And just as fast as they had come into our life it was time for us to leave. Thank you to Fr. Peter, to the sisters and to all the other people we met while in Finland.

We left Finland by ferry on the 27th. The ferry took us from Turku, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden. The ferry ride was really spectacular. It followed a string of islands through the Baltic sea. It reminded me of the Great Lakes and the string of islands in the the eastern U.P. We arrived in Stockhom and I bid farewell to Matt and Justin. I took a train to a hostel for the night and Matt and Justin continued on to a Swedish seminary. On the 28th I flew out of Stockholm to Edinburgh, Scotland.