Sunday, March 24, 2013

The first days with our new Holy Father

We waited for the smoke... The picture on the right is the night I had my camera... The night of the white smoke I did not even bring a camera because I was sure there would not be an election so early.  I was wrong!!  Habemus Papam!  But who??  Many of us, when we heard the announcement, George..  Then we heard the chants.. "Francesco"... I thought, no way, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago..  But soon I realized, it was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.  I still thought out loud, "WHO??"   It was an amazing night in the square but I apologize, since I did not have my camera I have  no pictures to share.  I can only say, it was a feeling of anticipation I have never felt before and will never forget.
Here you can see the Holy Father praying the Angelus with us from the window of the Papal Apartments.  Well you can't really see him very well, but trust me, its him. 
This is a picture from the Inaguration Mass.  The seminarians from the North American College were able to assist by escorting the priest who were distributing Holy Communion to the people in St. Peter Square.  If you watched the Mass on television you would have seen us carrying the white and yellow umbrellas.

From left to right:  Sean Grismer (Diocese of Rockford), Cardinal Raymond
Leo Burke (Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura),
yours truly (Holy and Venerable Diocese of Gaylord),
and Adam Potter (Diocese of Pittsburgh)
 Here is a picture with Cardinal Burke before the procession in with the palm branches.  I was blessed to be able to be very close to the Cardinals and the Holy Father for this Mass as you will see in the pictures below.  This was my first time meeting Cardinal Burke and I was deeply touched by his kindness, patience and loving character.  He generously gave us 5 minutes of his time when we just walked up to him in the midst of all the Cardinals in the back of the procession line before Mass.

As you can see we had pretty darn good seats. After processing out to the middle of the square surrounding the obelisque, we continued with the palms to process up the middle of the square  to the alter in the front of St. Peters Basilica.  We had no idea we were going to be sitting so close.  Our seats were about 40 or 50 yards from the Holy Fathers chair and the altar.  After Mass we were able to walk up behind the altar, as you can see in the following pictures, thanks to the Blessed Mother who has helped me almost every time I have been to these type of events.  If you remember, it was her direct intercession that I was able to serve for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on New Years Eve at Vespers.  Ave Immaculata! 

Here the Papal MC, Guido Marini, kisses the Holy Father's ring after Mass when he escorts him into the open air Mercedes for his drive through the square.  

We were able to walk right out to the Altar while the Holy Father was driving through the square.  Here you can see the sisters and some other personnel already dismantling the altar. 

Here is a picture of me with our Lady undoer of Knots.  Pope Francis has a great devotion to our Lady under this title.  He brought this devotion and grew it amongst the people of Argentina.  Please click here to learn more.  


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Buona Notte

I will not forget the events of yesterday any time soon. It was simply remarkable...

Luckily, this semester I don't have class Wednesday mornings, so I figured I would go down to the square for the smoke at noon. I stayed in my room studying for the rest of the morning. I was pretty disappointed when I was on my way to the square at 11:45 to see people coming back to the college. The black smoke came about 20 minutes earlier then we were expecting. So I just turned around and went back to the college for lunch. After lunch I checked my email and was excited to find out that my professor had cancelled our class that evening. In hindsight that was a really great idea. Although I still had to go to the Angelicum in the afternoon in order to pray at our perpetual adoration chapel since I have the hour before class on every Wednesday. After some time of prayer at the university, I took the bus back to the square to see if there would be any mid-afternoon smoke. But sure enough, there wasn't. I was really shocked by how full the square was for so early in the evening when smoke would not be expected until later. 

Around 6 o'clock I walked back to the NAC to pray Vespers with the rest of the community. The rector had moved the time up for Evening Prayer so that we could get to the square each evening to watch for smoke. Remembering that in the morning the smoke was 20 minutes early, I left directly from the chapel to go to the square with a small umbrella and a jacket. The weather these last few days has been cold and rainy, not really ideal for standing outside. I weaved my way, along with a few other guys, through the maze of umbrellas until I thought I was sufficiently close enough. I really didn't have high expectations for white smoke. While we were waiting it began to rain again. As the time passed and it got closer and closer to 7 o'clock I began to wonder if maybe tonight would be the night. I joked with the seminarian next to me that I hoped there would be white smoke and then we wouldn't have to go to choir practice. . .

Sure enough we didn't have choir practice that night. Once the smoke started to come out the whole crowd took a collective gasp, waited and then I heard shouts: Bianca! E' Bianca! I closed my umbrella and ducked down and just dashed towards the front barrier. I knew that there would be a mad rush and that I had better get a head start. Sure enough the entire crowd took a collective step forward. The crowd went from being rather sparse to an intense density. I could barely breath and feared and umbrella was going to poke my eye out. But these concerns barely entered into my mind. All I thought was how I couldn't believe that it was white smoke and that I was really in St. Peter's square. The white smoke was confirmed when the bells started ringing. Even the biggest bell rang with its deep bass sound. There was so much excitement. No one seemed to notice that it was still raining and that without our umbrellas we were getting little wet. 

Then began what seemed to me to be the longest wait of my life. It was only about an hour, but after the crowd calmed down we were all just standing there waiting. The Swiss Guard came out in full uniform and also a marching band. They played some music to help welcome the new Pope and make the time pass quickly. The anticipation was so thick. So also was the the spirit of prayer. Several times the people around me began signing and praying for our new Holy Father. It was just hard to wrap my mind around what was happening. It all just seemed so surreal. 


Then the Cardinal Deacon came out and pronounced the name of the new Pope. It happened so quickly and everyone just sort of stood there and looked around. The Italian lady next to me just kept saying how she was too short to see and too old to hear well. She turned to me and asked, "Chi?" "Who?". I didn't hear the announcement well enough to know the name, but I did hear "Franciscum" The crowd just buzzed for a moment as the news set in and then there were shouts of "Viva il Papa" and "Francesco". We all just sort of stood there for what seemed like forever until the curtains parted and we saw the cross bearer coming forth. The crowd went crazy as we all leaned forward to catch a glimpse of our new Pope. Pope Francis came forth and sort of just stood there. The crowd sort of took another collective breath, and then he started to speak. You all saw it on TV I'm sure. But the impact of his words in person were powerful. He started out so meekly and humbly when he said "Buona Sera" (Good Evening). The lady next to me exclaimed, "Poverino" which in Italian is a very endearing word that basically means 'Poor little guy'. The whole address was absolutely stunning. I don't know if you noticed on TV, but when he asked us to pray for him in silence the entire square was completely silent. I had never heard a silence like that in my life. It was so moving. He came out and the first thing he did was teach us to pray. 

After the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing, Pope Francis said a few closing remarks which won the hearts of everyone there. He wished us a good night and a good rest in the most familial and fatherly way. It was the sort of language a grandfather would use with his grandchildren before going to bed. After the the Holy Father turned around and went back inside. I sort of just stood there for a minute trying to process the whole experience. There really aren't any words...

I made my way back to the college. As soon as I got back, I went to the chapel to help with the preparations. I changed the altar clothes from purple to gold and set out a few extra candles. A few minutes later, once the whole college had gathered we ran the bells and the rector led us in thanksgiving prayers in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The deacon read the passage from St. Matthew's gospel where Jesus says to Peter, "You are Peter...". We then joined in singing the Te Deum. It was such a great way to stop for a moment in do what Pope Francis so humbly asked us to do, to pray for him. 

We then all went to the lunch to celebrate. It was long though until we heard the american cardinals would be arriving back at the NAC. So we lined up and waited for them. As each cardinal arrived we cheered for him by chanting his name. It must have been a bit abrupt to go from the prayerful silence of the Sistine Chapel to a line of rowdy seminarians cheering. It was good to see them all back safe and sound in the college. I sat in on Cardinal Dolan's press conference. As always, he had some really good things to say. By that point I was tired. It was already past midnight. I knew that I couldn't go to bed without calling my mom. So I called her and filled her in on the whole experience.

Needless to say the whole experience yesterday has left a deep impression on me. I thought of you all yesterday as I was waiting in the square. I did my best to represent the Diocese of Gaylord in those historic moments. God bless and thanks for all the prayers. 

March 13th 2013, When Pope Francis arrived

5:30 am my alarm went off, it was Wednesday March 13th 2013 and the first thing I said was "why did I set my alarm for 5:30 am?" Then I remembered we might have a Pope at 6:00 am and before you knew it I was in the t.v room watching that little chimney in that little box in the left hand corner of the screen while EWTN had is regular broadcast, which was hilarious. Then right before Morning Prayer there was White Smoke! ....... then grey smoke?, now it's black smoke, no Pope. (I think Chris Jarvis misread black for white :-)

Then went to Morning Prayer and Mass and of course made it to my 4 classes and paid attention, which was hard because many seminarians had a live broadcast of EWTN on their computers.

Then at 12:15 I made myself a ham sandwich and made camp in the t.v room, watching EWTN and Fox News. And I thank God for sending us that bird on the chimney because just starring at a chimney can be a bit boring.

Then at 2:05......... black smoke started coming out.......then grey smoke?.......then 100% WHITE SMOKE!!!!!! We Have a Pope! Then I gave a high five to one seminarian and then who comes through the door but a Franciscan Brother asking what happened and then you could hear yelling in the seminary along with doors closing and then 80 some seminarians running down the stairs to the t.v room. Everyone was on cloud 9.

Then about an hour later they announce that the new Popes name is "Frances"? Did we hear that right? Nonetheless everyone cheered as if their team won the Super Bowl, especially our Franciscan brothers who were now on cloud 10.
Then when Pope Francis came out to greet his flock, everyone was perfectly silent and a great comfort came when our new Holy Father started speaking, like a father to his sons and daughters, very simple, humble and loving.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have enjoyed that moment in the Church and to think in 2005 I was watching Pope Benedict on t.v in a public High School and now I am in a Catholic Seminary, God is Good and may God bless our Pope Francis and his flock.        

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Conclave: Day 1

It has been an incredible day... but before going to bed I thought I share with you all a few photos and reflections on the first day of the conclave. 

The day pretty much started out like any other day. I got up early enough to get some time in the chapel to pray morning prayer before all the excitement began. There wasn't morning Mass as usual since we were encouraged to go to Mass later in the morning at St. Peter's. The first real conclave activity in the morning was the "send off" for the American cardinals staying at the NAC. They left from the Red Room which is so named because its purpose is to host the cardinals as they await news of conclaves and consistories. Each of the cardinals had a small bag with him as he prepares to spend at least one or two days at their temporary residence in the Vatican. 

After the "send off" of the cardinals I made my way to St. Peter's square for the Holy Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff. We got pretty lucky with our seats. A bunch of us sat just behind and to the left of the main altar. It was a great view. We were there early enough to see most of the cardinals come in to the basilica on their way to the sacristy to vest for the Mass. The atmosphere in St. Peter's was really prayerful and peaceful. As it is customary, we prayed the Rosary before the Mass began. I couldn't help but stare at the main altar and think that right below it are the bones of St. Peter himself, and that among the 115 cardinals in front of me is the new successor to St. Peter. Reading the words above the main altar: "Tu es Petrus" You are Peter had a whole new meaning today as we sat there in prayer waiting to meet the new Pope. 

The Mass itself was celebrated by Cardinal Sodano, the Cardinal Dean. There wasn't anything particularly different about the Mass. It just seemed sort of strange being there for a big Mass and not having the Pope celebrate. The vibrant red vestments of the the concelebrating cardinals stood out to me. I don't know why, but it was very striking to see them all in concelebrating Mass together. It is a very strong sign of unity. It shows that their focus in this election isn't personal or political, but grounded in Christ through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. It all reminded me of the importance of constant prayer and complete trust in God.

After the Mass the day pretty much went as usual. I tried to get some studying done in the afternoon after lunch. I ran a couple of miles in the ran. I'm running the Rome Marathon on Sunday. Even though that is now very far from my mind. Then later that afternoon as served as an acolyte at the daily Holy Hour and at Vespers. After Vespers we all made our way back to the square to wait and watch. I was pretty surprised by the number of people who came out in the square. It was pretty full. I took a mental note that for these next few days I better be ready to RUN to the square as soon as their is white smoke because it will sure fill up quickly. I'll have to keep my running shoes in my backpack when I leave for school in the morning.

But as you know the smoke was black and the first ballot, as expected, did not produce a result. There was little doubt that the smoke was black. It literally poured out of the stove pipe as you saw on TV. Seeing the black smoke, I realized just how exciting this whole thing is. To be here for all this is a huge blessing. I just want to once again assure you all back in the Diocese of Gaylord of my prayers for you all during these grace-filled days. 

Until tomorrow...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Now we wait . . . Now we pray next few days are going to be intense as we wait to see the white smoke. But in these last few hours before the Conclave begins I thought I'd share a short passage from St. Luke's Gospel that I think in this moment is really worth reading and praying with it. These next few days will be intense as we pray for the Cardinals and for our new Pope, the 266th successor to that fisherman who Jesus called from the shores of Lake Gennesaret to be the rock on which the Church would be built upon. 

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." Simon said in reply, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets." When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (NAB Luke 5: 1-11)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Midterm break

Thursday was Hockey Night and an hour long special on Shakespeare.


OLD SHAKESPEARE                                             NEW SHAKESPEARE 

Friday Night I entered Plato's Cave, their I watched Lord of the Rings

Saturday I walked out of Plato's Cave and went hiking for 10 miles, just 2 hours south east of the seminary.

Stopped by Zanesville, Ohio :-) This is the city where zoo animals were roaming free last year. 

Lastly on Sunday I rested and actualy went for another hike behind the seminary.
All in all it was a fun midterm break

Monday, March 4, 2013


Seminarian Tyler Bischoff was instituted Acolyte this past Sunday by Archbishop Joseph Augustine di Noia.  Check out the pictures here

Saturday, March 2, 2013


On Thursday the 28th of February seminarians gathered on the rooftop of the North American College along with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh to bid farewell to Benedict XVI.  A video from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette can be accessed by clicking here. It was a moment filled with many emotions, as the beloved Benedict flew from the Vatican over the College to Castel Gandolfo.  Let us pray for the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as well as offer up prayers and fasting for the Cardinals as they pick up the great duty of electing the next Successor of Peter.  May the Holy Spirit descend upon them and may they be covered in the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary as they prepare and enter into the Conclave.