Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer: New Places, Horse Races, and Awesome Experiences

This summer has been different than what I'm used to. For the past two summers, I've called Saint Meinrad in southern Indiana "home" as I lived and worked there as a college intern for a youth program that they have. I'm gonna be honest--I miss it. A lot. However, I know that I am where I need to be right now, and the lessons that I learned while on the Holy Hill continue to shape me and teach me in my life off the Hill.

This summer, I am living and learning at Holy Trinity Parish in Louisville.  It is a large, vibrant parish, and there's a lot going on. It has proven already to be a great place for me to learn as I continue to discern the priesthood. The pastor here (who is also a Bethlehem grad!) has had me start a mental "seminary file"--things I need to remember as I continue in formation and discernment, and practical things for priesthood. Oh, and fun fact: my room at the parish used to be Archbishop Kelly's. He moved here after his retirement, and stayed here until his death in 2011. Yeah, that's right. The Archbishop died--in my room. I know what you're thinking--creepy, right? Well, at first, I have to admit, I thought it was creepy too. But, now I love having the space that was once his. You can still feel his "spirit" or whatever you wanna call it. You can feel the rich spirit of prayer that existed within that humble Dominican friar. I am honored to call his space mine for the summer. 

While I've been here, I have been able to do all sorts of different stuff--from working on things in the parish office to helping out at youth group. Also, having never lived in Louisville before, I've had the opportunity to do a little exploring of the city. Part of that exploring has been getting to spend time with brother seminarians a little bit more. Since we go to seminary all over this side of the country (and even in Rome) any time to be together is good! This "bonding" with the other seminarians recently took shape in a trip that's dear to every Kentuckian's heart: the horse track! Some guys and I went to Churchill Downs to watch some races, and it was pretty fun! One of my horses even won! (I ended up only making forty cents...should I still give 10% to the Church?)

Basically, this summer has been great so far. I've had the opportunity to already learn so much about the life and ministry of the priest in the setting of the parish. And, I've gotten to explore, with my brother seminarians, the great city that is Louisville, Kentucky. However, over the past couple of days, I've had two interesting experiences that were pretty powerful, and impacted me in different ways. 

The first happened yesterday in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In the evening, I decided to walk over to the Church to pray Vespers and read a little bit. It's a beautiful little chapel, and in the evening it's quite peaceful. Anyhow, while I was in there, a woman walked in. I haven't seen her before and don't know if she is a parishioner or not. She looked a little distressed, but she came in and knelt down. She started praying--out loud. At first I was like "okay, really? I'm trying to read!" But, then I listened. She wasn't speaking English. She was speaking in her own language, and she was speaking with love, hope and compassion. After a few minutes, she left, and I could tell she was better than she was when she walked in. 

Then, I got to thinking. First, I thought of how blessed we are to have the gift of the Eucharist (this of course being the day after we celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi). She probably had some sort of burden that came upon her during the day. She probably knew that the only one she could give that to is Christ, who was waiting for her in the Blessed Sacrament to pour out His love. Then, I thought about the fact that she was praying in her own language. She was being herself with the Lord. It made me think of the beauty of the Church as universal--after all, it's what the word Catholic means.  All too often we, or at least I, get caught up in the Church here, and I don't often think of the true beauty that the Church is Catholic, that it is universal. Finally, the way she was speaking made me think of a beautiful quote from Saint Alphonsus Liguori, "Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with God. Speak with familiarity and confidence as to your dearest and most loving friend. Speak of your life, your plans, your troubles, your joys, your fears. In return, God will speak to you—not that you will hear audible words in your ears, but words that you will clearly understand in your heart." She really seemed like she was talking to God as if He were her friend, and is something that I definitely want to continue to work on. 

Last week, a lady that works in the parish office presented me with a unique-sounding opportunity. She had earlier in the week went to Catholic Charities to volunteer for a program, but couldn't make it this week, and asked me to take a group of high school students. I wasn't sure quite what I was going to be doing, but she said the experience was amazing and I should definitely go. So, I agreed to go. 

I woke up bright and early this morning to meet the three students at the Youth Center and we got in the car and headed over to Catholic Charities. The place where we were at is run out of the old Saint Anthony Church, which I believe was closed by the Archdiocese around 2011. Even though it is sad that the church closed, it is wonderful that it is able to be a useful space for Catholic Charities. I was delighted to walk past the Church and notice the writing above the door: "St. Antonius Kirche"--"St. Anthony Church"--it was a GERMAN parish, named after one of my patron Saints! As a German minor, the nerd inside of me turned on and I got excited and of course most likely judged by the high schoolers. 

After we finally found our way to the back of the old school building, we went inside, up some stairs and met with the lady in charge of volunteers. It turns out that we were going to be working with children--ages 5 all the way through high school, on their English.  Catholic Charities in Louisville sponsors an English as a Second Language program during the summer. I had a phone call to make so I stepped outside while the high schoolers I brought with me were divided up, and spent most of the time "floating" between their classrooms they were in, helping each group as I could. These children were all refugees--their families have fled their homeland, mostly because of political turmoil. The families are usually placed in a city by the government, and organizations like Catholic Charities step in to help however they can. There was one little girl (I think about five years old) who arrived in the United States on Saturday. There was a teenage guy who has been in the country for a week, but just got to Louisville and started his second day of studying English. 

The first thing I thought of was the bravery of the families.  They have to flee their homeland because they are in danger, and face coming to a country with different languages and customs that are completely foreign to them, with no clue what will happen or where they will be. The children's names were written on the board under what country there were from.  There were families from at least ten different countries there. I couldn't imagine being in their situation, and admire them for their courage. 

As the morning went on and now as I reflect on all that happened, I thought of how beautiful the situation really was. Yesterday, I was struck by the universality of the Church, and today I'm struck by the charity of the Church. I've heard it said before that the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, and after today, I can see why. This program was there to help all families--no matter who they were, or where they came from. It didn't even matter what religion they were. (I could tell by their dress that many of the students were Muslim).  It didn't so much matter if they were Catholic or not, but what mattered was that they are children of God, and that we, as followers of Christ, are compelled by love of Him to help all in need.  I thought of the beauty of the fact that these families know that when they are in need, the Church will be there to help them. 

This all really reminded me of a prayer from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (I like quotes if you can't tell already.) In the prayer, she says, "Shine through me, and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!" Today was really about showing others, no matter who they were, the presence and the love of Jesus Christ. I am really grateful that I accepted the invitation to go to Catholic Charities for the morning, and hope that I can do it again in the future. 

Like I said, this summer has been fantastic so far, and these two experiences have only made me appreciate being here, and my faith in general, even more. I look forward to the rest of this summer and what God has in store for me! 
In all things, may God be glorified. 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Gift of a Challenge

Words have, by their nature, the ability to describe things.  However, finding the right word to describe something can sometimes be a real challenge. 

The castle is nearly empty. The weather outside—absolutely freezing.  I keep getting emails about final grades being posted.  It can all only mean one thing—another semester has come and gone—seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Where did the time go? I swear, I just moved in yesterday, didn’t I? Since this semester has gone by so quickly, I thought it would be nice to think back to what has transpired over these past few weeks—to rediscover what I’ve learned—to tell the story of what’s happened.

But, I need words.  And, to be quite honest, finding even one word to describe this semester—well, that’s hard to do. I’m not sure if there even is one. So, why not give it a shot?

First of all, this semester has been one with a lot of “newness”.  I know, it sounds stupid—it’s a NEW semester, of course it will seem NEW—but hear me out. This semester, we started with 45 seminarians—the highest enrollment this house has seen—with 19 of those being new men.  We have two new facilities, one being a dormitory that can hold up to 20 seminarians and 2 priests, and the other being a dining/assembly hall.  We’re also still settling into our new chapel, as it fills up with seminarians. Sitting three to a pew this year has been an adjustment.  We also have a new Vice-Rector.  So, there have been a lot of “new” things to get used to. 

This semester has also been one with a lot of busyness.  This semester, I’ve carried eighteen credit hours, the maximum allowed by the university.  I also spent about five hours a week doing my supervised ministry assignment at a Catholic grade school about twenty minutes away.  On top of all that, I serve as the head sacristan at the seminary.  And, I still squeeze in formation meetings, spiritual direction, meetings with professors, prayer time, and time to relax—somewhere in all of that.  So, I’ve found myself really busy this semester, but I’ve also found myself learning how to find God in thebusyness

On top of all the regular stuff we have going on, there’s also been a few things thrown our way, possibly the largest being the National Catholic Youth Conference, which was held in Indy this year.  This event brought over 23,000 Catholic youth and their chaperones to our city to explore and celebrate their Catholic faith.  Words cannot describe how awesome this experience was, and I know that it is something that has had a huge positive influence on me, but, as I said, it was something else added into the busyness.

Going alongside with the busyness, this semester has also been one of balance.  This semester I’ve been stretched, and I’m thankful for it. I’ve learned, very concretely, how to strike a balance.  I’ve learned how to strike the balance between work and play, between school and having a social life.  I’ve learned that it is important to get things that need to get done completed, but it’s also important to be a human being, and do things that I enjoy, too.


I think I have one more adjective for this semester.




But, I just sit and pray and talk about Jesus all day, right?


Newsflash—I’m a seminarian—but I’m also a college student, and I have all the normal stress a college student has, along with the necessity to balance that with my seminary life. Now, I'm not trying to paint a bad picture. It doesn't suck—I feel like I’m right where God wants me to be. 

But that doesn't mean it’s always a walk in the park, either.

Seminary, believe it or not, is indeed challenging.  We don’t sit around and talk about how holy we are all day.  Rather, we’re working to balance our academic life while discerning a vocational calling.  Along with that, we’re working the best we can to become more and more the person God created us to be.  We know that our faith calls us outside of ourselves—that it calls us to be more than we are. We believe that “Christian” is more than just a title or religious affiliation, but rather it is who we are.  We do our best to strive for that—to become who God made us to be.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

There’s days when my alarm goes off, and I want to hit snooze and go straight back to sleep. (Okay, sometimes I hit snooze, but I always make it to Mass—you get the point).  There’s some days when I’d rather not sit through another philosophy lecture.  There’s some days when sitting in spiritual direction isn’t what I really want to be doing. There’s a lot of days when I don’t feel like driving a half-hour to teach sixth-grade theology.

But I do it all anyways.

Why? I mean, we live in a culture that tells us to do what you want, because in the end, THAT’S where authentic happiness comes from, right?
 (Hint: NO)

I do it all because I know that it is what is best for me.  I get up and go to Mass before most of my friends are even awake because I know that there is no better way to start my day than encountering the very person of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  I sit through my philosophy lectures, because I know that these will give me the tools I need later on when I study Theology. I go to all of my meetings at the seminary, because I know that through formation and spiritual direction, I can become closer to who God created me to be, which is the only way to achieve authentic happiness.  I go to teach those sixth-graders a Theology class because I know that God speaks to us through the young, I know the importance of a child-like faith, and I know that these kids need to see how amazing of a life they will have if they build a relationship with the one who loves them so much that He literally died so that they might have life. 

I don’t say any of this to boast, because as Saint Paul tells us, we should only boast in our weakness, because it is through our weakness that the grace of God makes us strong.  Rather, I say all of this to show that although sometimes life in general can be a challenge, we have to suck it up because amazing things can come out of the most challenging of times!

Tonight, I was going through some old notes from friends, and I found a scripture verse. It’s one of my favorites. I opened my Bible to the chapter it came from.  It’s not that long, so I thought I would post it here.  I love it so much because it tells us that in serving the Lord, we will encounter challenges, but these challenges are completely worth it. So, here it is, Sirach, Chapter 2:

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of adversity. Cling to him, do not leave him, that you may prosper in your last days. Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient. For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation. Trust in God, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. You that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, do not stray lest you fall. You that fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost. You that fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. Consider the generations long past and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? Has anyone called upon him and been ignored? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; forgives sins and saves in time of trouble. Woe to timid hearts and drooping hands, to the sinner who walks a double path! Woe to the faint of heart! For they do not trust, and therefore have no shelter! Woe to you that have lost hope! What will you do at the Lord’s visitation? Those who fear the Lord do not disobey his words; those who love him keep his ways. Those who fear the Lord seek to please him; those who love him are filled with his law. Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before him. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord and not into the hands of mortals, for equal to his majesty is his mercy; and equal to his name are his works.

This semester of seminary has been challenging.  It has been challenging because it has been so new—so different. It has been challenging because it has been busier than any other.  It has been challenging because I had to learn how to balance.  It has been challenging because it’s seminary—because I am being called outside of myself, to become more the person who God made me to be.  It has been challenging, because as it is said so beautifully in Sirach, “in fire gold is tested”.

It is hard to believe another semester has come and gone.  I’m so thankful to God for the gift of this semester—and for the gift of challenges.  I’m thankful also for the wisdom found in the scriptures, because I know, when faced with challenges, the best thing to do is to “fall into the hands of the Lord…for equal to his majesty is his mercy; and equal to his name are his works.”

Five down.
Eleven (God-willing) more to go.

In all things, may God be glorified.


Friday, November 15, 2013

The Exciting and the Ordinary

Fall is turning to winter little by little here at school.  The trees around the castle are slowly beginning to lose their beautiful multi-colored leaves. Oh, yeah, it's also been really COLD lately.  When I go home for Thanksgiving, I'll definitely have to be sure to pack my winter coat to bring back with me!

Lately things have been both exciting and ordinary. Naturally, we as human beings tend to focus more on the exciting.  Why do you think action flicks and horror films are so popular? We love anything and everything to stir up emotions, to kick us out of an ordinary state into something different, something exciting, even if only for a brief period of time.

The most recent exciting thing that's happened involves and election. My Archbishop, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, last week was elected as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  I think he will be a fantastic leader for the Bishop's conference--and I'm not just saying that because he's my archbishop. He's been wonderful for our Archdiocese, and even though now his responsibilities will greatly increase, I believe that this will lead to even more good things for the people of the Church in Louisville.  It's truly an exciting time to be a part of the Archdiocese!

Another exciting thing coming up is going on right here in Indianapolis. The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).  In just one week, between 23 and 25 thousand...yes, I said THOUSAND Catholic youth will gather in Indy to celebrate and learn about their faith. How awesome is that?! All of the seminarians will be helping out over the course of the conference, particularly with the different liturgies. Besides that, though, we will have the opportunity to just enjoy the conference, to walk around and talk with the youth. And, not too long ago, I got the word that one of my good friends from my summer internships is going to be volunteering as well! This event is awesome, in my opinion, for one reason. These youth get a small glimpse that the Church is bigger than themselves as individuals, and bigger than their home parish.  They get to see thousands upon thousands of individuals from every part of the country to come together and celebrate being part of a one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  By far the most amazing part of NCYC '11 was participating in the closing Mass--eight bishops, forty deacons, a couple hundred priests, a couple hundred seminarians, and twenty three thousand youth all gathered on what's normally a football field for a single purpose--to experience the miracle that is the Eucharist.  What could be better than that?

Besides these few exciting things, there's also the ordinary.

Papers that need to be written.
Books that need to be read.
Exams that need to be studied for.
Our schedule at the seminary, outside of finals week and NCYC remains the same.

Okay, I'm going to relate this to something I learned this summer--but it was a summer packed full of great stuff, so don't judge me.

In one of the talks Archabbot Justin gave, he told the other college students and I about the necessity to see beauty in the ordinary things.  At his monastery, every weekday, they have morning prayer at 5:30am.  The days pretty much go about in the same manner.  Every Tuesday is doughnut Tuesday.  It's all the same, and it's all pretty ordinary.  Even in our internship, among all of our busyness, we pretty much did the same thing every day.  Mass, meals, prayer, class, and sometimes a trip off of the Hill.  During conference, we knew what we were going to do next, and each conference pretty much ran the same way.

But, somehow it's still beautiful.  It took me a long time to figure out why, but I think I'm realizing more and more why the ordinary part of life right now, even among all the aforementioned excitement.

The ordinary is--stable.  I have my schedule down.  Weekday Mass is at 6:45am, I know when my classes are, I know that two days a week after class I go to ministry, and I know what I'm going to do there.  It's all pretty ordinary.  But in that, it's stable.  As a control freak, I love that, because I know what's coming next.  It allows me, and even more and more as I think about it, to be able to not worry about what's next, but to sit back and try to recognize God at work in my life.

So, overall right now, life is pretty exciting in some ways, and pretty ordinary in other ways.  But God is at work, and it's BEAUTIFUL.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Finding God in the Busyness

As usual, it's been quite a while since I've put any words on these pages.

Oh, well.

Anyhow, the school year has been in full swing for quite some time now, and we are only a matter of weeks away from the joys of Christmas break. The seminary community this year boasts 43 seminarians representing about ten different dioceses from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado.  The new buildings (a new dormitory wing, named after Saint Bonaventure, as well as a new dining/meeting facility, named in honor of our founder, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, OSB) have been completed, blessed, dedicated, and are now being used.  Our new Vice-Rector seems to have settled in and things have gotten to running as usual.

So far this year, I've found myself to be quite busy.  One of my friends said it comes with the status of being an upperclassman.  Man was she right!  This semester, I have a course load of eighteen hours, composed of two Philosophy classes, two German classes, a Theology class, and a Science class. At the seminary, I have the position of Head Sacristan, meaning that I'm in charge of taking care of the chapel, vessels for Mass, vestments, etc., as well as making sure that hosts, wine, candles, and all that are stocked up.  In addition to that, this year, I also have a ministry assignment at a Catholic grade school about twenty minutes away.

Can you see now why I feel busy?

Although it took a little bit of time, I feel like I've learned to strike the balance between all of my responsibilities, while remaining a human being.  For a while, I found myself pondering a question:

Where is God in all this?

I mean, I'm pretty much always doing something. Reading, writing, doing something in the sacristy, studying, or even making lesson plans for the kiddos at the school.  I still spend time in prayer, both with the seminary community, and on my own, but how else am I finding God in a world that seems so full of just about everything else?

The answer--well, at least my answer: I find God in the busyness itself.

For the past two summers, as evidenced by previous posts, specifically the last post on this blog, I've spent my time at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana, working as a college intern for their "One Bread, One Cup" program.  Myself, along with nineteen other college students, although somewhat of a separate community, lived, prayed, and worked among the monks.  So naturally, we picked up some of their ideals and way of life. We saw how busy they were, and how they saw God in it all.  The easiest way to sum it up is in three simple words:

Ora et Labora.

Don't adjust your screen, because yes, that isn't English--it's Latin.  Translated, it means "Prayer and Work".  This is what the other college students and I learned. Yes, believe it our not, we were able to learn something from Saint Benedict to carry into our own lives, without even having to be monks! Amazing how the Saints can teach us, isn't it?  Our prayer needed to be the most important thing.  You can't give what you don't have--and if we didn't have a relationship with God, how could we help these youth we were entrusted with build theirs? However, we couldn't just sit in the chapel all day praying.  We were called to something different--to take what we got from our prayer and ACT on it! The work that we did flowed out of our prayer--it was an extension of our prayer, and in a way, became prayer itself.  One thing the interns did quite a bit was looking at the document these monks on the other side of the Hill lived by, the Rule of Saint Benedict. In it, he says "Before you begin a good work, you must pray to Him (God) most earnestly to bring it to perfection".  So, prayer HAD to be a part of our work!

That's something I feel like really stuck with me from the internship. To put it simply: to make my work my prayer.  Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians "In everything you do, do it for the glory of God!" Although it's difficult to accomplish that in every single thing I do, I feel like I got somewhat of a start.

So, how does any of that apply to the busyness of this year so far?

Well, it applies because I know that I am called to recognize God in the everyday moments of my life. I need to recognize God in the busyness of life itself, because He has to be the focus of every aspect of my life. God isn't someone I have a relationship with just when I'm sitting in the stillness of the seminary chapel, but someone who is always with me, and someone I need to always acknowledge.

This quote from Mother Teresa really got me thinking:

"We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls".

I think it drew me in firstly because it made me recognize how much of my day is taken up by noise and restlessness.  But, it also helped me realize something else. It helped me to recognize that a lot of my day is actually spent in silence.  When I'm sitting in my room reading for a philosophy class, or on campus in the library doing research, or even in the sacristy ironing altar linens--those are all times of me being alone, of me being, in a sense, silent. What better time to spend with God than all of those moments? What better thing to do than to do the work you are doing for the glory of God, just as Saint Paul tells us to do so? How awesome it would be to be able to recognize Him, and to truly make our work our prayer.

Life is busy. There's no questioning it.  We always have a class or meeting to go to, homework to do, or something else constantly being added to the seemingly endless to-do list sitting on the desk.  Through it all, we may think: Where is God? Personally, I think He's right there with us in the busyness and even in the stress that comes with it.  But, it's up to US to recognize HIM.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Home Stretch

     At the beginning of the summer, I planned on posting often about what was going on at my summer job.

...Yeah, that didn't happen.

But, now I'm in the final leg of my journey here, and I figured it was worth it to take some time and reflect on everything that I have experienced.

     A little over six weeks ago, twenty college students from nine different states, representing thirteen different colleges and universities gathered on a hill in the middle of nowhere.  They had been chosen from among many to call--of all places--a monastery their summer home.  Although they were all different, and didn't really know that much about one another, they all had two things in common.  First and foremost, they shared a passion.  This passion was for many things--for Christ, for His Church, and in a very special way, for the worship of God through the liturgy.  The other thing they shared was a love.  This love was for a particualr group of people who are so often forgotten. The youth of the Church.  They all beleived that the youth weren't just the future of the Church, but the Church now--a key part of the Body of Christ.  They all had a burning desire to share the passion they all had with these young people, in hopes that they, too, may come to a deeper love of Christ and His Church.

     As far as the community bonding--well, that didn't take long.  They clicked.  They understood one another, and they understood what their mission was.  Then it came time for formation. When they weren't praying, playing outside, or making an occasional run to the Wal-Mart or the Dairy Barn, they were in the classroom, learning the skills they would need to share their passion for the Church with the youth that would climb this hill.  They learned Theolgoical Reflection, Liturgy, Pastoral Care, Boundaries, Benedictine Values, among other things.

     Then, the time finally came.  The youth arrived for the first conference, and the work began at full force.  They arrived the first day, and it was awkward.  They nailed singing for the first Mass, but they still weren't a community, that is until Steve Angrisano worked his magic. Over the course of five days, amazing things happened.  They learned how they encountered the Word of God in their lives.  They learned how an ancient form of Monastic prayer is still relevant to them today. They learned why the Church has sacraments--what they are, what they do, and why they're important.  They not only learned about, but expreienced the forgiveness of God in the Sacrament of Penacne.  They learned that the Church is not only about Word and Sacrament, but by virtue of our Baptism--by our identity as a follower of Christ, they share in the Mission of the Church. Then, day five came, and they learned that it's up to them to live the promise. Amongst all of that, they learned how to take active roles in the different liturgies of the Church. They were formed into Lectors, Servers, Preachers for the Liturgy of the Hours, Artists, Extraordinary Ministers, Instrumentalists, Cantors--the list goes on and on.  And finally, at the end of every day, they had the opportunity to form a smaller community, one in which they could reflect on where they saw God working in their lives, what they were learning, and how they can take what they've learned and put it into action.

Sounds beautiful, right? It really was. And the best part was this--we got to do it two more times!

     Over the course of these six weeks, we have formed a close-knit community of faith.  Thanks to that community, the almost three hundred people that climbed this hill this summer to take part in this program experienced something amazing.  When they left, they were different from when they came.  We don't know if the seeds we planted will bear fruit, but I personally beleive that they will, because I've both heard about it and have seen it myself.

     Now, however, the time has come for this community.  Six weeks have gone by quickly, and soon, we will leave this holy place that we've called home.  We will go our separate ways.  Yes, it is sad, but it needs to happen.  Someone pointed this out to me--in scripture, it says that unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains only a grain of wheat.  No fruit can come from it. If we stay on this hill in this community forever, we can't share the gifts that we've learned we have, and the talents that we've developed.  We, too, have learned so much about the Word and Sacrments of the Church, and we, too, have a Mission.  Our mission is to let the light we have received shine so brightly in our lives that all around us may see.  Our mission is to be Christ to everyone we meet, and seek out Christ in them, and our mission is to keep the passion we have alive and well, so that others may come to know Christ through us.

     Although soon we will go back to our nine different states and thirteen different colleges, we don't have to say goodbye.  We beleive that we will always be together.  We know that each and every time we gather around the table of the Lord--each and every time we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist--we are one body and one spirit in Him.  And the best part is that nothing--no state lines, no career paths--absolutley nothing can change that.  That's the beauty of our faith, and that's the beauty of this community.

     Living at Saint Meinrad and being an intern for the One Bread, One Cup program has truly been one of the highest honors of my life.  I feel blessed to have even been chosen for my first internship, and even more blessed to have been asked to come back.  I beleive that this program truly is a gift to not only the Church, but to the world--because it changes people.  It helps people realize that although it may be difficult, seeking God in a world full of so many distractions is in fact possible.  It teaches people that no matter what we've done, no matter how unforgiveable we think we are, God is always there, waiting to forgive, and waiting to love.  It teaches people that our worship of God in the context of the Liturgy isn't just some ancient practice, but it's something that's living, and it's something that we must do our best to be active in, and spread our love of it to others. And at least in my opinion, most especially, it teaches the youth that they matter. It teaches them that they are worth more than a dumbed-down version of their faith. It teaches them how important they are and what a difference they can make in their community, in the Church, and in the world--all flowing from their love of Christ.

     I really don't know what else to say.  I'm sad to leave, but I feel like I've made my mark, and it's time for someone else to come along and make theirs.  I am confident that the youth I have worked with are going to do remarkable things, but it's up to us to stop doubting them and let them do it.  It's up to us to let go of our own wants, our own desires, our own plans, and most especially our own opinions, and step back and let God do His work, that in all things, He may be glorified. Amen.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sweet Summertime


....well, actually, it's been summer for quite sometime already.

School ended at Marian officially on May 10th with the end of final exams, and graduation was held on May 11th. The seminary had four graduates this year, three of whom will continue on to major seminary. Even though I'm not too far into summer, a lot has been going on.

     Not too long after I got home, it was back to Indiana, but this time a different part. One of the guys invited me to his graduation party, right outside of Cincinnati. It was a really fun day, and the next day we explored the nearby cities of Cincinnati and Covington.

The day after that was very special, because it was my twentieth birthday! This year I decided not to plan anything, and just have a relaxing day. My parents and I went to town and had lunch, and then came back and did some gardening.  I also got a nice visit from one of my sisters, Penny! I'm usually the type to feel like I have to plan something for every big thing that's happening, but honestly, not making plans for this birthday was the right choice. It was a long day, but a really relaxing day. I hope this decade is even better than the past two have been!

     A few days later, it was a wonderful day for our Archdiocese--ordination day! Archbishop Kurtz ordained two new priests for the Archdiocese, one of which will become my associate pastor next month. (and he's a graduate of my seminary, too!) The day after ordinations, Archbishop Kurtz visited my parish for Confirmations, where over fifty young people were confirmed! It truly was a wonderful weekend!

Those were all the "big events" that were right at the beginning of the summer. The next thing coming up is the Presbyteral Assembly for the Archdiocese, which will be held at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana. Last year I was unable to attend, so I'm really looking forward to attending this year, spending additional time with my brother seminarians, and getting to know more priests of the Archdiocese. The main theme of the Assembly will be the New Evangelization. Since Archbishop Kurtz was a part of the Synod on this topic last October, I'm sure that all of the presentations by the various speakers will be very good.

     Conveniently, at the end of next week, my summer job, which is also at Saint Meinrad, begins, so I will be moving into my room on the Holy Hill on Monday. I work at Saint Meinrad as a college intern for their "One Bread, One Cup" program.  This is a programed aimed at helping youth become leaders in the Church, and learn about their faith, particularly in terms of the liturgy and the "Word, Sacrament, and Mission" of the Church. This program is not only fantastic, but serving as an intern has been both a great joy and a great blessing. To find out more about One Bread, One Cup, visit their website at: www.saintmeinrad.edu/youth

Well, that's what's been going on so far. I'm not sure how often I will get to post updates about how the summer is going, but I will try my best! I pray that this is a summer full of blessings for all!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Full of Blessings: A Year in Review

BHS Graduation Day
To be quite honest, I can't believe it.

     I'm finished with finals.  I am done with Sophomore I am halfway through college, and a quarter of the way through seminary.

Wasn't I in a cap and gown in Bardstown like yesterday?

     To say that these past two years have flown by is nothing short of an understatement. They have honestly been the best times of my life, and I thank God every day for bringing me to the seminary. However, although I've
had two great year's, I'll focus on the year that is about to come to a close.

Sophomore year began on August 16th, 2012, when we all moved in. I was nervous to say the least, because this community can change a lot semester-to-semester, let alone year-to-year. We had a whole crop of new seminarians that came in, an almost finished chapel that had been expanded over the summer, and hopes to add two additions to our castle, in order to fit the community's growing needs. However, after our first  community meal together, I knew it was going to be a great year. Our community is one that loves to laugh and have fun, while not being afraid to look for God amongst it all. That hadn't been lost with the passing of a few months, and I was really happy to see that.

    A few days later, classes began. My first class of Sophomore year was Humanities.  I'll let you ask other Marian students their opinions... Anyhow, the year started off strong academically. 

I'm not going to go through and describe every single thing we did this year, mainly because there's so much, I know you'd probably stop reading [if you haven't by now]. So, here's a quick list of all the big events of the year, both with the seminary and on my own:

  • Cookout at a Lake to begin the year
  • Visiting Ohio with a brother seminarian on the first open weekend.
  • Serving Mass for the Patriarch of Jerusalem
  • Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land dinner--I met Raymond Arroyo!
  • Traveling to Washington, D.C. to visit Theological College
  • Respect Life banquet
  • Indianapolis Catholic Men's Conference
  • Open weekend in St. Louis--visiting Dominicans, Old/New Cathedral Basilicas
  • Seminary Retreat at St. Meinrad Archabbey
  • March for Life in Washington, D.C.
  • Processing in with 600ish seminarians at Respect Life Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC
  • Day of Recollection in Cincinnati with Archbishop Augustine DiNoia,OP
  • Spring Break--EWTN, Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and going to Nashville, TN (where we went to Mass with the Bishop a couple of hours after Pope Francis was elected)
Keep in mind that the above list is not only incomplete, but also not chronological. It's basically a random stream of memories from what I've done over the past year.

Another big event that is effecting everyone is the departure of our beloved Vice-Rector, Fr. Pat Beidelman, who is taking on a higher position in the Archdiocesan Office of Worship. We weren't expecting the move, and are really sad to see him go.  However, Fr. Joe Moriarty, who serves as the Director of Spiritual Formation at Saint Meinrad, has been appointed as our new Vice-Rector, and we are very excited to have him starting next year!

However, the most important features of my year in seminary aren't on the above list at all. What was the most important was not an event, or a trip, or meeting someone cool. The most important work took place within the walls of this castle.  It's where I grew in my relationship with Christ, and learned more about His Church. It's where I was challenged to push myself to grow more into who God created me to be.  This year, I've been challenged a lot, and I think I've grown a lot. That's really what it's all about. But if I've grown so much, am I finished? Nowhere near it. I know I still have a lot of work to do, and am actually happy that I have six more years to work with.

For a year that's been pretty action-packed, this is a pretty short post. I really just wanted to take the time to reflect on what's happened this year. It really has been a good one. Like I said, I thank God every day that He led me to the seminary.

     The founder of our seminary, Archbishop-Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, OSB, often says that the most important thing for our seminary to be is a house of prayer, because a priest must be a man of prayer. Because of this, we consider our chapel the most important place in the building, and pray there several times a day, both in community and on our own. A few days ago, I had the privilege to lead the last community Night Prayer of the year, and since prayer is so important, I end this review of the year and leave you with this video of the prayer. One of my brother seminarians, Dominic Rankin from the Diocese of Springfield-in-Illinois, recorded this video, which has most of Night Prayer (his camera died toward the end). I was the prayer leader, Dominic was the cantor, and Zach Cecil from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio was the reader. Before the video, I give the words to the hymn, which is a little hard to hear, but has very beautiful words.

We praise you, Father, for your gifts
of dusk and nightfall over earth,
foreshadowing the mystery
of death that leads to endless day.
Within your hands we rest secure;
in quiet sleep our strength renew;
yet give your people hearts that wake
in love to you, unsleeping Lord.
Your glory may we ever seek
in rest, as in activity,
until its fullness is revealed,
o source of life, o Trinity.

About Me

My Photo
I am a College Seminarian studying for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are solely mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Archdiocese of Louisville or the Roman Catholic Church.