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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Dove won't leave after Pope's peace prayer - Dove won't leave after Pope's peace prayer

Apparently, Murphy's Law applies even to the pope. I guess I can't blame the dove. One of our friars just got back from Rome and he confirmed that it was extremely cold there. Besides, with all the troubles in the world, I think I would want to head back inside as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Saturday Musings

As I write this entry, the Washington weather is moving from sleet and freezing rain into snow. Ah, the joys of winter. Inside I am taking a break from working on my second and last integrating seminar paper on the Terri Schiavo case in which I have to come up with some pastoral advice for Terri's parents. The difficulty of this assignment is made somewhat easier by the Johnny Cash music flowing through my headphones. "It burns, burns, burns...the Ring of Fire". Hmm, a possible hymn selection for tomorrow morning.

I missed visiting the Eastern Liturgy last Sunday because of poor road conditions and am afraid that tomorrow the roads will be in pretty poor condition again. Did I say how much I dislike winter. You would think that after growing up in the Midwest, spending eight years in South Bend, another couple of years in middle Pennsylvania that I would be used to it by now. But, I must say that I prefer the heat over the cold. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why the name Seraphim "the burning ones" appealed to me. Unfortunately, I don't know what the equivalent term for "the freezing ones" would be.

The Priesthood of the Faithful

One thing I didn't make clear in my post yesterday was the great deal I owe to all my friends and family in helping me to live out my vocation. As I look back on my many years, I realize how much the wisdom of God has been made manifest in those whom I have encountered, especially in those with whom God has given me a special grace to come to know. Some have drifted out of my immediate circle, some remain and some are still to be encountered but each has ministered to me and helped to provide me with the tools to minister to others. So, in a sense, the priesthood that I will reflect is a reflection of the priesthood that has been offered to me.

One of the big dangers that is set forth before priesthood candidates is that of clericalism of falling into the illusion that I alone am minister and that I don't need to be ministered to. It seems to me that as long as I have real friendships and true love for family that I will be unable to error in terms of my true self-identity. My friends and family won't let me - for they will be my support in times of struggle and help to knock me down a peg if I forget my own foibles. These things are all necessary so that I might continually see myself as a weak human being who remains infinitely graced and loved by God.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Studying for the priesthood

As I approach the end of my seminary studies and the arrival of my ordination date, an issue of understandable importance is the reasons why I have chosen to follow this particular path. I can speak somewhat to the Franciscan charism and how I find it to be compatible with much of my own character - not that other religious communities might not also be compatable, but having not lived them I can't really speak of them. In any case, I find that my own desire to find joy in a life that often seems joyless, to see in God the perfection of goodness and mercy, to seek out a life balanced between action and contemplation all find similar expressions in the life of the Franciscan. I make no claim to be the perfect image of Saint Francis, in fact I am not a very good one at all. Yet, as many of the older Franciscans stress - there was only one Francis, my responsibility is to be fully myself or as Gandalf says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring - "All we have to do is decide what to do with the times that are given us." This may give some insight into why I have been attracted to Franciscanism, but it doesn't speak to my call to the priesthood.

I have no doubt that all vocational choices are filled with struggle and indecision. Is it better to keep as many doors open for as long as possible so as to avoid making the "wrong" choice or is it better to chose one door immediately and forsake the rest?

Marriage or celibacy? Both are good and certainly I continue to see the married life as attractive, if a bit more realistically than earlier in the lives of my married friends and relatives. Yet, I feel that the celibate life gives me an opportunity to form intimate [yet, celibate] relationships with many people that I could not [and should not] if I were married. Certainly I miss out on the intensity of the relationships between husband and wife and children but there are other relationships that are made possible.

I guess what I am thinking as I continue to mull the reasons for my decisions and seek answers to these mysteries, I see the priesthood as a means of sharing the relationship that I have and continue to form with God and to join with other men and women as we seek out the presence of the divine in our lives. Priesthood seems to require the ability to speak words of consolation and correction to oneself and others at the same time as it requires the ability to speak words of praise and prayer with the people of God. Perhaps, especially today, it seems to require the ability to join with a suffering people in asking God "Why" while grounding such questions in a hope that there is an answer - even if it can't be placed in words.

Why do I wish to be a priest? I guess I can't give any concrete response right now other than to say that it seems to be the right choice for me right now in my journey with God. I expect that after my ordination, I will be better able to speak to my priesthood as I can now better speak to my Franciscanism after having lived as a Franciscan for almost seven years. I also expect that the real answers will only come with prayer and in relationship with all the faithful who seek to be first and foremost good Christians.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Faith Sharing Wednesday

We have picked up our faith sharing groups again this semester. Again, they are designed to give us an opportunity to reflect on upcoming Sunday's gospel readings. This Sunday's Gospel is Jesus' Beatitudes as presented in the Gospel of Matthew.

I can remember one person asking why it was that some Christians were staunchly supporting the erection of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, but no one wanted to erect the Beatitudes. I think part of the reason may be because it seems easier to follow the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments such as "Thou shalt not kill" than the prescriptions of the Beatitudes such as "Blessed are the poor of heart". Moreover, many of the beatitudes seem to be directly opposite to an American culture that asks "Who wants to be a millionare?" or offers quick solutions to serious problems as do several other shows on TV. What is the American dream, but to be rich and famous? So, that even if we agree with the Beatitutudes, I don't know if we ever really try to put them into practice.

Moreover, some of the Beatitudes seem contrary to common sense - "Blessed are those who mourn", "Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you". This doesn't sound like something I want to associate myself with. Yet, I think these Beatitudes speak to the reality of human suffering - that in our lives there is and will be pain. We may not be able to explain it, but we can hope that the pain will not last forever - that there will be healing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Shopping Day

Brs. Matthew and I are the two shoppers for the house this year. We alternate weeks going to the local grocery store and occaisionally go to a Costco for the bulk supplies. Since we just finished having many guests, the cupboards were bare and it was time to get them refilled. We usually spend around $400 a week in groceries divided among the twelve of us who live in the house - so that averages out to about thirty three dollars per person per meal, not too bad. When I was in college I used to spend about forty dollars a week and that was over ten years ago. Plus, our large numbers means that buying in bulk is much less of a problem.

With so many different tastes, everyone has to accomodate themselves to basic staples that we get every week. We also pick up some general cereals like Cheerios and Miniwheats as well as lunch meats and cheeses. Moreover we will pick up whatever is needed for the dinner meals over the next week. Needless to say that it usually fills more than one cart which means that I have to fill one cart, pay for it, take it out to the car and unload it and then return to fill it up a second time.

Shopping takes about three hours overall, partly because I have determined that people shop like they drive. That is, drivers in DC seem to be unable to drive and unable to shop without blocking aisles whenever they get lost or just because it easier to talk to people with your cart in the middle of the aisle than to pull off to the side so that others can go by. As you can tell, I don't like shopping day.

Monday, January 24, 2005

2005 Right to Life March

Today was the big Right to Life march here in DC. There were lots of people from all over, despite the bitterly cold weather and the fears of frostbite in the toes - especially when the line wasn't moving for quite some time.

These marches are quite the experience as they serve as time for prayer, conversation, meeting new and old friends, and chanting phrases like "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe v Wade has got to go!" Sometimes there can be logistical problems such as when two groups praying the Rosary encounter each other and lose track of which group they are supposed to be praying with. Unfortunately, the march also tends to attract some more disturbing elements such as the people who like to display graphic photos or turn the march into a Catholic vs Protestant event. I am also uncomfortable with the tendency of many speakers to present George Bush as "the pro-life" president. While he may be supportive of the anti-abortion movement, he is also in support of the death penalty and his economic policies, I believe, contribute to the poverty that often pressures women to seek abortions.

I have posted some pictures and a brief movie taken at the march that are available here.

Today I also began some Russian refresher courses at the Russian Cultural Center here in DC. It has been about seven years since I last was able to do much in the language and the brothers I live with don't know much Russian beyond vodka and Gorbachev. Since the classes are an hour long and entirely in Russian, I think that I will find them very helpful.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Football Tensions

I am presently avoiding the downstairs tv room where some friars are watching the Steelers and Patriots. Since there are some die hard supporters of both teams, I have decided to avoid the field of battle - especially as my Chiefs have been out of the picture for awhile and baseball season is still a couple of months away. In a house of men, sports are very important. Generally, you can get by if you support Notre Dame which remains "the" Catholic team or Pittsburgh as many friars are from that area of the country, but after that it's each friar for himself. As a Cubs fan from Kansas City, I have pretty much had to keep quiet about sports for some time and expect the same in the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Seraphim happily shoveling away! Posted by Hello

Better late than never

Has it really been over ten days since I last posted anything? I really need to get better about this. Things have been really busy here at the Friary as I just finished the second week of classes. We got five inches of snow as you can see in the picture above. With the annual March for Life on Monday, the house is getting crowded with lots of guests staying over for all the activities.

Classes are going as well as can be expected. Two of them are going better than expected, two of them are going worse than expected. I guess that means that it is all balancing out. My room refuses to remain at a consistent temperature. The heater knows only very hot and off which means that the room gets cold, I turn on the heater, the room gets hot I turn the heater off again, repeat. This is especially a problem when I am trying to sleep as I only get about four hours before the room goes from too hot to too cold. Oh well, I guess this is the life of a friar.

I have attached a link to an odd site that offers to bless your computer files, projects, and other information called Digibless. Isn't it something when faith and science get together?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Starting the last semester

Tomorrow at 8:30 I start my last semester with presiding class. I'm hoping to be feeling a bit better. I missed morning prayer and mass this morning when I woke up hacking up a lung. The good news is I think my cold is about half way over. The bad news is that another half is still to go. I'm never sure what I'm supposed to do with suffering - offer it up or accept it for my good. I think that right now I would be glad to get rid of it. Oh well, in time it will pass.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The curious world of Google

I didn't know whether to put this post up on this blog or on Isidore's Corner. But I have discovered that Google now picks up Isidore's Corner but does not pick up Friary Notes or my own web site both of which are much bigger. Go figure.

The end of the Christmas season

I am always confused as to whether or not "ordinary time" begins officially today or yesterday. Yesterday was "the Baptism of the Lord" but next Sunday is the second Sunday in Ordinary time. I don't really know what happened to the first Sunday. We took down the Christmas tree this morning and the Nativity scene in the Chapel has been boxed away for another year.

It can be quite time consuming to get those figurines all wrapped up protectively so I would like to suggest that someone think about producing inflatable nativity scenes. They would be cheap and easily stored. I'm really surprised that no one has marketed them yet. Perhaps they seem too tacky but I don't know if they are any more tacky than some of the Christmas decorations I have seen. Better yet, inflatable nativity scenes would be much better than risking high priced and irreplacable Fontini figures especially in a home with small children or excitable pets.

On a more serious note, I was responsible for the homily this morning and thought I would share some of it as we enter into Ordinary Time.

The Christmas season is over and the Nativity scenes are all packed away. For the past few weeks we have celebrated Christ's coming with scripture readings that left no doubt that the Father had sent his Son - the angels sang praise, the shepherds announced Christ's coming, John the Baptist pointed him out, and the Father and Son made him known. Now we must decide how we will respond.

Indeed, here on the first day after the end of the Christmas season. Christ is already asking us to "Repent and believe inthe Gospel" and to "Come follow me". No more signs are needed for those who already believe and, truly, what miracle can be greater that God's gift of his very self? Our response to that gift will show more about our faith than the most beautiful nativity scene.

The command to "Repent and believe in the Gospel" seems to make us move immediately from Christmas into Lent. Yet, it seems to me that Ordinary Time is not that time in the Church year free of all associations with Christmas or Easter but, rather, that time of the year at which Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter are all equally present. Christ has come and therefore we respond with repentence. Christ will come again and so therefore we prepare ourselves with repentence. God has shown himself faithful to his promises in the Incarnation and the Resurrection, now he calls us to be faithful to him.

Truly every day the Father offers us the Son and every day Christ seeks from us a response. How will we respond today?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Catholic Quirks

This evening at dinner over a recipe called "Italian Stew" which I made, not quite following the directions, but don't tell anybody as the other brothers didn't seem to mind. My rule is if you've never had it before, you can't tell me I made it wrong.

Anyway, we were talking about Lenten traditions and I thought about how more people went to Ash Wednesday services, even though it wasn't a day of obligation than go to other days which are obligatory for Catholics. Our general theory is that at Ash Wednesday you get something for free. So, even if it is a forehead covered in soot, it's free so it's for me. It's also obviously pretty unique, perhaps the offering of the Body and Blood of Christ is seen as too ordinary. Still, ashes vs eternal life, it seems that the second should be much more desirable. I have another theory and it has to do with Catholic guilt. I think that the ashes serve as a public sign that you went to Mass on that day so that if you decide to skip out that day, everyone can tell who you are. This is why people go to great lengths to keep their ashes on for the entire day, even if they went to Mass at six in the morning.

So, I think I have an idea to help encourage more people to go to Mass, especially on those obligatory days that fall right in the middle of the week. Give everyone a sticker that says, "Be nice to me, I received the Eucharist today" like they do at blood drives. The priest/eucharistic minister could simply incorporate it into the normal Communion line - "Body of Christ, here's your sticker". Not only would it appeal to those seeking free gifts, but it would also motivate that Catholic guilt as no Catholic would want to be seen without their sticker.

What do you think? Should I tell Rome?

Friday, January 07, 2005

That sound you hear is the approach of another semester

Just finished up a week with all of the other friars in various stages of formation. On Tuesday Brs Nathan and I talked about the mysteries of the Trinity - God help me I may becoming a theologian. I must repeat to myself - I am a historian, I am a historian, I am a historian. We also discussed the importance of social work within our religious life.

Several of us have come down with colds, I blame the friars who came down from Loretto because they are no longer staying with us. On Monday the academic calendar for my last semester begins, I don't have a class until Wednesday but it's a big day. I will be taking classes on presiding, on the theology of the presbyterate, the second part of my integrating seminar and a night class focussing on sexual ethics. I don't think it will be as exciting as it sounds.

I have been spending some of my free time lately watching DVDs on my computer that I bought at least a year ago and am finally getting around to watching. I am also forcing myself to watch all of the "extras" so I can persuade myself that I got my monies worth. I have been watching the first two Harry Potter movies and soon will take a look at the third. I must say that I appreciate the way that the Lord of the Rings included the additional scenes within the overall movie rather than separately. I guess it just helps to see movie as a whole. Oh well, they didn't ask my opinion but let me say, Warner Brothers, if you are reading this blog how about taking it under advisement?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Mea Culpa or You like me! You really like me!

I was recently informed that while I had set the Blog up to publish comments apparently I had mistakenly set it up so that only I could comment. This, of course, really defeats the purpose of having comments unless I wanted to say something like, "Boy, this particular blog entry was really good. I think I did a great job." Certainly, the whole blog thing is enough of an exercise in self-appreciation. Now, those who feel like it should be able to add comments to the blog so that I will cease to be so much an exercise in self-appreciation and more of an opportunity for you to appreciate me!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year - No more vacation for you!

I am writing this on the last night of my vacation, the eve of Epiphany. I don't know if there is any sort of connection between those two events. In the Eastern Church, tomorrow is the celebration of the Feast of the Circumcision. I think its rather interesting that while there are churches dedicated to all sorts of Feast Days, none is dedicated to that particular feast. Perhaps it's best, I don't know how you would celebrate it.

Vacation has been somewhat productive, though it never is as much as you might like. Yet, all good things must come to an end and its approaching time for me to return to life in the Friary. I didn't make any New Years resolutions since I usually don't keep them very well. However, I would like for this time especially before my deaconate ordination to be a time of spiritual preparation. I can always improve my prayer life and work on becoming a better person, but along with that I would like to look at myself and others the way that God does.