Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday Part II

I neither confirm nor deny that at 12:00am Thursday morning, six seminarians were in my room waiting up to break the Ash Wednesday fast by devouring cookies from several amazing care packages that arrived. I assure you we were not all starving, staring at the clock for the exact moment it changed. Chanting "cookie time, cookie time, cookie time."

Ash Wednesday

Yesterday marked the official begining of Lent in the Church. As you might expect it was duly noted in the seminary. In keeping with the Church's tradition we observed Ash Wednesday as a day of fasting and abstinence from meat. Being someone who likes to eat a lot, I was rather hungry and cranky for the most of the day. In keeping with the spirit of Lent, we try to especially observe simplicity and to make sacrafices throughout the 40 days to follow. Practically speaking this transformation takes several forms. Of course on Fridays we don't eat meat, but we also begin our prayers each day with a simple hymn song without the usual musical accompanient. The chapel has been striped of all decorations, flowers, etc.... and is very bare. All of this is meant to remind us of the need to focus our lives on the Cross and to turn away from the many distractions of life. As part of my Lenten goals this year I will be avoiding sweets in the dining room, giving up television, as well as walking each day, spending extra time in the chapel and making more frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I will keep you all up to date on my progress.

One of the wonderful things we did on Wednesday afternoon was to pray the stations of the cross. Normally my mind tends to wander after a few minutes with such prayers, however this year I was able to really focus and correspondingly found great beauty in them. I am looking forward to reciting them each Wednesday afternoon for the next several weeks and hope that some of you all might do the same wherever you are.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to School/ Where did Ash Wednesday come from?

After a few days off it is back to the grind tomorrow as a jam packed week awaits. I have two major assignments due this week, both of which promise to confuse me. Also of note is this Wednesday is ASH WEDNESDAY. Each year I say I am going to make it spiritually meaningful and each year I fall short. This year I have decided to make a list and stick to it. Number one on my list will be to embrace lent as we are meant to. First and foremost I will seek to order my life through prayer and penance. I will try and visit the chapel each morning before breakfast and evening before bed, as well as make use of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. All and all I am confident it will be spiritually uplifting and a moment for me to recenter my prayer life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Family Dinner

The Seminary is a ghost town this week as we are officially enjoying our February vacation. The entire seminary is down to twelve seminarians who decided to spend the break in Baltimore. (as noted in my earlier blog, until the great eye adventure I was to be spending my time in NH :(

Since there were only a few guys left in the seminary I got together with a few friends and decided to plan a big family dinner. Each seminarian contributed in one way or another, and the Rector gave us $100 to cover the food. After a few days of planning and a lot of cooking the evening turned out brilliantly.

We had a gourmet soup as an appetizer, a Polish dish I can't pronounce as the main course, with mashed potatoes (made by yours truly), stir fry vegetables, corn muffins, apple pie, tiramisu, chocolate cake and french wine. We even setup a beautiful table setting in the Donnolly Lounge (the Seminary Pub in the basement), where we spent most of the night enjoying the evenings food and festivities.

All in all it was a great night and an enjoyable moment together. It was a little taste of home, in a place that can sometimes feel very far away from it.

On a side note, one of the other joys of being one of only a few on vacation in the Seminary, has been the incredible sense of quiet. It is wonderful not to worry about being too loud, being able to stay up late, sleep in and just relax. I also find that the quiet makes it easier to pray. When life is busy I tend to go, go, go and not stop, pray, and recenter my life. I could never be a Trappist Monk where you lived much of your life in silence. However, I do enjoy the break and the quiet from time to time. It is amazing how the average week itself can be much the same microcosm of life, and how Sunday Mass can guide us spiritually, emotionally and mentally in the same way.

The Great Eye Adventure

Friday morning marked my big appointment at the Krieger Eye Institute in Baltimore where I would receive the all important follow-up visit. After getting lost in the world's largest hospital basement for nearly twenty five minutes, I swallowed my pride and asked for directions. In perfect form I was led right back to where I started. My final destination was ten feet from where I started.

After checking into the Eye clinic I waited patiently in the sitting area. After reading several boring magazines my name was called, and off I went. After a brief initial exam the doctor came in and began working over my eyes. Many of the tests were the usual ones you expect at the eye doctor, including my least favorite where they test eye pressure (the one where they keep moving a cone closer and closer to your eye until you think it might poke it out). The doctor seemed quite pleased with my progress and said I was in great shape. Of course he also insisted in dilating my pupils. After putting some eye drops in he sent me out to the waiting room for ten minutes. Apparently if you are fair skinned and light eyed, eye drops work faster.

As my eyes began to dilate my close-up vision became horrible at best. I could no longer read my phone. As hard as I tried I could not read a magazine headline, one text message on my phone, or even keypad of my phone. After a quick look I was sent on my way and that is where the fun began. With my sunglasses on I made my way to the parking garage as I was too stupid to have someone pick me up. The garage was one of those where you insert you ticket into the vending machine and pay before you go back to the car. My first problem was that I could not read one thing on the machine. After ten minutes of staring at it and trying to figure out what to do I began to panic, wondering what I was going to do. I could not see. Nowhere in my mind did it occur to me that if I could not see the machine, perhaps I should reconsider driving.

Then as if sent from heaven a parking garage attendant came by. I stopped and said "excuse me miss, I cannot see anything and cannot even figure out where to put the ticket, how to pay or anything. I can't see any of the buttons. Can you help me?"
She kindly assisted me as I could not see anything within one arm's length.

I made my way back to the car, buckled up and began backing out. As I did someone rudely honked. There must have been many rude people that morning who were not watching where they were going because people kept honking at me. I of course waved and kept on going. As I made my way to leave I handed the parking attendant the ticket. It was the same girl who helped me with the machine. For some strange reason she asked me how I was feeling, if I felt okay to drive, how far I needed to go... It was very nice that the parking garage checks on all their customers well being.

After a few minutes I made my way back to the seminary, after stopping at the pharmacy and having the cashiers help me find what I was looking for. Maryland is a nice state and the cashiers were very kind to ask me if I needed to be directed to my ride. I said, no worries I am driving.

When I arrived back at the seminary I was just in time for Mass. Everyone was seated and ready to begin. I made my inconspicuous entrance down the main aisle. I did not think anything of it, but it did seem like everyone was looking at me. I sat down in my seat, adjusted my sunglasses and shut my eyes. Throughout most of the Mass I had my eyes closed which was fine. The only awkward part came when it was time to stand for the Gospel. The way the chapel is set up we all turn 90 degrees to the left when the priest prays over the deacon. The deacon then walks to the other side of the church, and we all turn 180 degrees in the other direction to the place where the deacon proclaims the Gospel. I stood and faced the celebrant when the alleluia was proclaimed. My eyes were still closed, despite my standing, when I heard the Deacon begin to read. It was precisely then, that to my horror, I realized I was facing one direction and the entire congregation was facing the other.

After a Mass and a few hours of rest my eyes began to slowly get better.

I was relieved to hear that in my absence my kind friends were getting a charge out of the possibility of my needing to where an eye patch. Earlier that morning I was scheduled to do a big reading of the bible for a public speaking class. I had promised them that if I got the patch I would read in "pirate." They apparently loved the idea and were cheering for an eye patch (without really wanting any harm, etc...) in hopes that I would have to begin my reading by saying "arghhhhhhhh reading from Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians..."

I neither confirm nor deny that I wore sunglasses to my last class of the day and shut my eyes underneath them and took a nap...

In the end I am most grateful for my sight, for the medical care I received and for a painful experience which could have been much worse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yet again I am compared to that little kid on the Christmas Story!

Begining a couple of days I go my left eye started hurting. Not wanting to go to the doctor and presuming it would get better I waited. Well, finally yesterday I decided to make my way to Patient First and get checked out. After a few minutes they determined I need to go to Sinai Hospital to get looked out by a specialist. I must admit I was a little nervous heading to the hospital and not knowing what was up. After a few hours in the emergency room and lots of waiting I was finally evaluated. After a few tests the Doctors determined I had a badly scratched cornea. The good news was, despite the pain, it is cureable and fairly common. They gave me medicine for my eye and vicodin and sent me on my way. A day later my eye feels much better but still is sore. Friday I am scheduled to go to the Krieger Eye Institue to be checked out for my progress. The good news is I think I should be all set.

The bad news is based on the appt. and the likely need for a follow up to the follow up I will be sticking down here for my vacation (which begins friday)! Say a few prayers they don't make me where an eye patch. If they do I will have to speak pirate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family, Fun and I Should Not Have Waited Until the Last Minute to Do My Work

This weekend was wonderful. The weather was warm, my family was in town and I did no work. After being installed as a lector on Thursday we had a fancy formal dinner in the Seminary refectory (dining room). After celebrating the night I hung out with my parents for a while and then went to the seminary lounge for more celebration. On Friday after classes we went out to lunch with about ten of the guys which was fun. After a weekend of touring Baltimore and enjoying a 60 degree day it is back to the grindstone.

I have an important paper due Tuesday which I have been "working on" for a week. The first paragraph is great. It is also all there is. Not sure if their are any procrasinators out there or not, but I put the Pro in procrastination! Tonight is the night I need to get it done.

After I complete that paper, I have my regular work this week, including a killer mid term. My goal is to get it all done between now and friday so that I can enjoy our February vacation next week.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Sunday nights are always rough when you scramble to do all you should of all weekend long. With a little luck I might even take a little walk before bed. It is 60, why not. Out with winter and in with spring.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Installation as Lector

Today I will be installed as a Lector at a special Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Camden. As I only have five minutes before I head to class I will keep this short.

Along the path to priesthood there are a series of steps one takes, the most famous of which is becoming a deacon. Today I will take the first step when I am installed as lector at 4:30pm. It should be a exciting and meaningful afternoon. My parents are coming down,as are many of my classmates parents. I suppose it gives them a good excuse to visit. None-the-less at the Mass each of the candidates for lector's name and diocese will be called. When mine is called I will have to stand, with hands folded, and say present. After that i will join a line of others doing the same. Then I will go and kneel before the Bishop, place my hand on the Bible as a prayer is recited. After that it is back into the line, back to my seat and on with the Mass.

It is kind of crazy that I will be taking the first step, be it a very small one. None-the-less it has given me much to pray about. It is crazy how when one has to think about it, it is powerful to be called to read the word of God, as a lector.

I will let you know how it goes and try to post some pictures, as I am sure my parents will embarass me while taking them.

Ahhhh three minutes until class....

Sunday, February 1, 2009


This weekend was busy as always. Saturday I went with the Rector and two other Seminarians to the Maronite Catholic Seminary in D.C. for a special Mass. For those that might not be familiar, Maronites are one of several "rites" within the Catholic Church. Most of us only think of the Roman Catholic Church, when we hear the word Catholic mentioned. However, what we often forget that within the Catholic Church there are many rites, one of which is the "Roman" church we are all familiar with. The best way I can explain it is that there are different branches in the Church, all of which are Catholic, the differences are not in the sacraments or dogmas, just in the way we celebrate parts of our faith,the traditions there in and the language of faith. For example the Maronite Church represents the early Catholic Church in Lebanon. All of the rites are united under the leadership of the Pope.

The Mass was very much the same but celebrated a little bit differently. There was a lot incense, the Mass was in English, Arabic and Syriac. We never knelt, responded differently at different points, etc... The Maronite Catholic Mass had a great beauty to it and was unlike anything I have ever attended before, yet similar as it was the same miracle of the Eucharist and the very same Catholic Church. As a Roman Catholic seminarian, I am studying to be a Catholic priest in the "Roman" rite of the Catholic church. This of course means that I will be learning the way the "Roman" church prays, celebrates, etc... The "Roman" rite of the Catholic Church makes up over 90% of the Catholic Church in the world. Hope this helps and does not confuse you. After the Mass we shared in a giant Lebanese feast. It was amazing food. Humus, lamb, etc...... I ate and ate and ate and then went home to sleep it off.

The Various Rites and Churches of the Catholic Church

Western Rites and Churches
Immediately subject to the Supreme Pontiff as Patriarch of the West

ROMAN (also called Latin)
The Church of Rome is the Primatial See of the world and the Patriarchal See of Western Christianity. Founded by St. Peter in 42 AD it was consecrated by the blood of Sts. Peter and Paul during the persecution of Nero (63-67 AD). It has maintained a continual existence since then and is the source of a family of Rites in the West.

• Ambrosian - The Rite of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy, thought to be of early origin and probably consolidated, but not originated, by St. Ambrose. Pope Paul VI was from this Roman Rite. It continues to be celebrated in Milan, though not by all parishes.
• Bragan - Rite of the Archdiocese of Braga, the Primatial See of Portugal, it derives from the 12th century or earlier. It continues to be of occasional use

Eastern Rites and Churches
They have their own hierarchy distinct from the Latin Rite, system of governance (synods) and general law, the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. The Supreme Pontiff exercises his authority over them through the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

The Church of Antioch in Syria (on the Mediterranean coast) is considered an apostolic see by virtue of having been founded by St. Peter. It was one of the ancient centers of the Church, as the New Testament attests, and is the source of a family of similar Rites using the ancient Syriac language (the Semitic dialect used in Jesus' time and better known as Aramaic). Its Liturgy is attributed to St. James and the Church of Jerusalem.

• Maronite - Never separated from Rome. Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. The liturgical language is Aramaic. The 3 million Maronites are found in Lebanon (origin), Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Australia.
• Syriac - Syrian Catholics who returned to Rome in 1781 from the monophysite heresy. Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. The 110,000 Syrian Catholics are found in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Canada and the US.
• Malankarese - Catholics from the South of India evangelized by St. Thomas, uses the West Syriac liturgy. Reunited with Rome in 1930. Liturgical languages today are West Syriac and Malayalam. The 350,000 Malankarese Catholics are found in India and North America.

• Chaldean - Babylonian Catholics returned to Rome in 1692 from the Nestorian heresy. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. Liturgical languages are Syriac and Arabic. The 310,000 Chaldean Catholics are found in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and the US).
• Syro-Malabarese - Catholics from Southern India using the East Syriac liturgy. Returned to Rome in the 16th century from the Nestorian heresy. Liturgical languages are Syriac and Malayalam. Over 3 million Syro-Malabarese Catholics can be found in the state of Kerela, in SW India.

The Church of Constantinople became the political and religious center of the eastern Roman Empire after the Emperor Constantine built a new capital there (324-330) on the site of the ancient town of Byzantium. Constantinople developed its own liturgical rite from the Liturgy of St. James, in one form as modified by St. Basil, and in a more commonly used form, as modified by St. John Chrysostom. After 1054, except for brief periods of reunion, most Byzantine Christians have not been in communion with Rome. They make up the Orthodox Churches of the East, whose titular head is the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Orthodox Churches are mostly auto-cephalous, meaning self-headed, united to each other by communion with Constantinople, which exercises no real authority over them. They are typically divided into Churches along nation lines. Those that have returned to communion with the Holy See are represented among the Eastern Churches and Rites of the Catholic Church.

Considered either its own Rite or an older version of the Byzantine. Its exact form is not used by any other Byzantine Rite. It is composed of Catholics from the first people to convert as a nation, the Armenians (N.E. of Turkey), and who returned to Rome at the time of the Crusades. Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. The liturgical language is classical Armenian. It's 350,000 Armenian Catholics are found in Armenia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Ukraine, France, Romania, United States and Argentina. Most Armenians are Orthodox, not in union with Rome.

• Albanian - Albanian Christians, numbering only 1400 today, who resumed communion with Rome in 1628. Liturgical language is Albanian. Most Albanian Christians are Albanian Orthodox.
• Belarussian/Byelorussian - Unknown number of Belarussians who returned to Rome in the 17th century. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The faithful can be found in Belarus, as well as Europe, the Americas and Australia.
• Bulgarian - Bulgarians who returned to Rome in 1861. Liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The 20,000 faithful can be found in Bulgaria. Most Bulgarian Christians are Bulgarian Orthodox.
• Czech - Czech Catholics of Byzantine Rite organized into a jurisdiction in 1996.
• Krizevci - Croatian Catholics of Byzantine Rite who resumed communion with Rome in 1611. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. The 50,000 faithful can be found in Croatia and the Americas. Most Croatians are Roman (Rite) Catholics.
• Greek - Greek Christians who returned to Rome in 1829. The liturgical language is Greek. Only 2500 faithful in Greece, Asia Minor (Turkey) and Europe. Greek Christians are almost all Orthodox. Their Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.
• Hungarian - Descendants of Ruthenians who returned to Rome in 1646. The liturgical languages are Greek, Hungarian and English. The 300,000 faithful are found in Hungary, Europe and the Americas.
• Italo-Albanian - Never separated from Rome, these 60,000 Byzantine Rite Catholics are found in Italy, Sicily and the Americas. The liturgical languages are Greek and Italo-Albanian.
• Melkite - Catholics from among those separated from Rome in Syria and Egypt who resumed Communion with Rome at the time of the Crusades. However, definitive union only came in the 18th century. Melkite Greek Patriarch of Damascus. Liturgical languages are Greek, Arabic, English, Portuguese and Spanish. The over 1 million Melkite Catholics can be found in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Australia.
• Romanian - Romanians who returned to Rome in 1697. The liturgical language is Romanian. There are over 1 million Romanian Catholics in Romania, Europe and the Americas. Most Romanian Christians are Romanian Orthodox.
• Russian - Russians who returned to communion with Rome in 1905. The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. An unknown number of the faithful in Russia, China, the Americas and Australia. Most Russian Christians are Russian Orthodox. Their Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow.
• Ruthenian - Catholics from among those separated from Rome in Russia, Hungary and Croatia who reunited with Rome in 1596 (Brest-Litovsk) and 1646 (Uzhorod).
• Slovak - Byzantine Rite Catholics of Slovakian origin numbering 225,000 and found in Slovakia and Canada.
• Ukrainian - Catholics from among those separated from Rome by the Greek Schism and reunited about 1595. Patriarch of Lvov. Liturgical languages are Old Slavonic and Ukrainian. The 5.5 million Ukrainian Catholics can be found in Ukraine, Poland, England, Germany, France, Canada, US, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. During the Soviet era Ukrainian Catholics were violently forced to join the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Their hierarchy, which continued to exist outside the homeland, has since be re-established in the Ukraine.

The Church of Alexandria in Egypt was one of the original centers of Christianity, since like Rome and Antioch it had a large Jewish population which was the initial object of apostolic evangelization. Its Liturgy is attributed to St. Mark the evangelist, and shows the later influence of the Byzantine Liturgy, in addition to its unique elements.

• Coptic - Egyptian Catholics who returned to communion with Rome in 1741. The Patriarch of Alexandria leads the 200,000 faithful of this ritual Church spread throughout Egypt and the near east. The liturgical languages are Coptic (Egyptian) and Arabic. Most Copts are not Catholics.

• Ethiopian/Abyssinian - Ethiopian Coptic Christians who returned to Rome in 1846. The liturgical language is Geez. The 200,000 faithful are found in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Jerusalem.

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Please note this blog will begin being regularly updated after August 21st (when I arrive in Baltimore).