Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holocaust Remembrance

Tonight at the seminary we had a Holocaust Remembrance Prayer Service. It began with a silent procession, followed by songs in Hebrew and from the Book of Psalms. Following the prayers an elderly priest rose to address the seminarians, his name was Father Joseph and he was Dutch. Quietly and humbly he told his story of being a child in the Netherlands during World War II. He spoke vividly about the first day the planes flew over his small town, and the subsequent fake battles he and his friends played later that day, the "Dutch vs. the Germans." The Dutch won brilliantly in his backyard but in reality the invasion had started and they were getting destroyed. He spoke of how the next day at school there were many empty desks from his classmates that had been killed. He was ten and did not fully understand. He then went on to tell the story of how a group of Dutch Catholics, including his parents, had helped to hide a neighborhood Jewish family during the War. With the help of his parish priest a small group of families united, at risk of immediate death if they were caught, to protect a family. Local farmers gave up their food ration cards so that the family could eat. The ration cards were collected at a local pub and hidden carefully. Father had elderly neighbors who hid the family in their house, as he had 13 siblings who would have certainly said something by mistake if the Jewish family was hiding in their home. His parents helped to organize and hide their Jewish friends for years. Father Joseph would drive for miles on his bike each week with food coupons hidden under his clothes so that the family could live. Had he been caught, even at ten, he would have been shot on the spot.

Toward the end of the prayer service Father Joseph shared with us a powerful story from "Night," a brilliant memoir on the holocaust. It tells the story of the Holocaust, in particular life in concentration camps. In particular it shares a haunting scene the day after several people had escaped from the concentration camp. The Germans guards, in order to make a point, randomly picked 12 people to execute as payback for the fact that some had escaped the camp. 11 men and one teenager were subsequently hung on the main yard, in front of everyone. The 11 men died quickly as they were older, weighed more and thus the hanging and strangulation went faster. The teenager did not die right away and struggled as he was too light for the strangulation caused by hanging to work quickly. As the people in the camp stood and watched in horror the young boy struggled to breath, but not dying. As time went on the suffering continued and the people stood in horror. Before their eyes were eleven dead men and one boy who would not die quickly. Then someone in the back of the crowd yelled, while referring to the boy's suffering, "where is God now?" Moments of silence ensued and another voice replied "He is there hanging on that rope."

Father Joseph, with a broken voice and tear filled eyes said "perhaps there is another answer, perhaps God was there in people like my parents."

and then the frail and elderly priest sat down.

Let us never forget the past and let us never be too afraid to fight injustice.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Waiting Game

Today marked the start of the final two weeks of classes before final exams. I am excited as it will be nice to be free of work for a while. Currently I am taking six classes. Two of them I am essientially done with, provide I keep doing the readings and little stuff. In two of them I have papers do this week, one of which I just finished tonight and the other one I hope to finish by Thursday. In the two remaining classes I am still have two major papers that have not been assigned. Currently I am in the middle of a giant waiting game, hoping the professor will have to give up on them and cancel them, calling it a year. My hope is real and every day gets me closer. As a precautionary measure most of the guys share an understanding that we will not ask, lest we remind him. As a further measure I have made sure any possible weak links who might be tempted to inquire about such outstanding work, know that it is not advisable. Here is to hoping my plan works.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Deacon Installation Photos

Sorry for the delay this week, it has been crazy!

Today was an exciting day in the seminary as we had three guys ordained deacons. The three guys were ordained at the seminary as it was the preferences of their respective Bishops. It was exciting to see guys you know well take the major step toward the priesthood. It was powerful because it was at this point that there lives were forever changing as the took a permant step forward.

The mass itself was beautiful and had 40 or so priests concelebrating as well as nearly three hundred guests. The most moving portion of the Mass was when the deacon candidates had to lay prostrate on the floor as a sign of humility. The laid face first on the hard chapel floor for a good five minutes as the Litany of Saints was sung. The litany is my favorite song and always makes me tear up. I am not sure what it is about the litany, but it makes me speechless. I think it might be because it conveys the stories and witnesses of so many amazing men and women in the Church. Every time I hear it I can't help but to think of the amazing people in my own life who have been witnesses to faith and the profound effect they have on me (this includes many of you who follow the blog).

After tearing up a bit it was back to the usual prayers, etc...

All in all it was an amazing day and a reminder of where I will be, in three years- God willing. (note: YOU BEST BE THERE!)

- I hope to post some pictures from today, tomorrow

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yesterday was a crazy and exciting day. His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze, once considered a leading contender to succeed John Paul II, was visiting the state (NH). Thanks to a good friend and fellow seminarian I was able to assist the Cardinal, and be the lector for noon day prayer at St. Aloysius Parish in Nashua. It was very exciting because he is such a famous, holy and powerful man. When he was first appointed a bishop in Nigeria he was 32 years old, making him the world's youngest bishop at the time. Being thirty now, I suppose I can hold out hope that the Pope will decide to promote me right out of seminary a few years early. Heck, forget being bishop, I would settle to being promoted to being a priest at thirty one instead of at 34. Actually, at this point I would settle for even my end of the year papers to be waived. But back to the story...

Before the Cardinal arrived my friend Charlie and I waited in the sacristy for his arrival. We had everything in place so that nothing would go wrong...

more to follow .... (I am just back from vacation and have a paper due tomorrow so this post will be continued later)....

p.s. You will note in the picture that my hands are not together. I assure that is not due to my incompentence but rather because of some ancient prayer/altar serving tradition I have to think up/make up.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

The night was cold, the stars shone brightly in the sky and one-by-one they made their way outside. Many were young, looking with wide eyes and hope to the future, others were not. Others feebly grasped the railings, painfully making their way down the stairs and toward the fire as they had for decades, but this time with a different understanding of the future and a different hope in the Resurrection. Saturday evening I joined the faithful of Saint Marie Parish for the celebration of the Easter Vigil Mass, but this year from a different perspective.
I pondered detailing the many facets of the night, the stresses for a seminarian altar server and the beauties witnessed as the evening unfolded. However, in the end I will share with you only one.
When it came time for the distribution of Holy Communion I was assigned to the back of the crowded church. As I quietly made my way back, the line formed and I began my duty, sharing the Body of Christ with the faithful. One-by-one people came forward, hands outstretched to receive God, and one-by-one they left. It was not until I was near the end of the line that I looked up and saw a young man, no more than five, with his mother. He tightly grasped her hand all the while reaching forward, head held high. As I looked out again I realized he was not holding his mother’s hand he was being led. The little boy was not looking up, he was turning his head from side to side so that he could experience the Mass in the only way he could, he was blind. As the young boy made his way forward I paused to make the sign of the cross on his forehead, but before I could, he uttered the words Alleluia, Alleluia. His words were not prompted, nor memorized, they are words spoken in a voice I will never forget. They are words that were spoken with true joy, words spoken from the heart, words that rejoiced truly in the resurrection of Christ which we celebrated that night.
There in the back of the Church, as I held the Body of Christ, a young boy who has never seen the light of day, recognized the light of Christ. In the midst of the Church’s great celebration, which symbolically begins in darkness and ends in light, within a five year old’s heart was a faith and understanding that one hundred years of theological study could never give me. His world, that knows no light, knew the Light. Before the Body of Christ he rejoiced for he knew that he was in the presence of the Lord, a presence that he understood in a much more profound way than I will ever. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Easter Triduum

The Easter Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, is one of my favorite times of the year. In the Church we take this special days to commemorate the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus and the faith we hold so dear. Until I was a student at Saint Anselm I never fully grasped the beauty of the Triduum, and Easter for that matter. Of course, on a deep and spiritual level I understood the great beauty and significance of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, however I failed to see the beauty in the Church's celebration of them. Being home this week I am excited to see old friends and family, and also to be participating in the life of the Church during this special time.

Tuesday evening (not part of the Triduum), I joined the nine other seminarians and served at the Cathedral's Chrism Mass. The Chrism Mass is the Mass in which the Bishop blesses all of the oils that will be used to welcome R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults)Candidates into the Church at the Easter Vigil. The Mass was beautiful and was attended by people from every Church in the state.

Holy Thursday night I helped at Saint Marie's at the Mass of the Lord's Supper and the Eucharistic Procession that followed. The procession was a powerful witness of faith, as over six hundred people processed almost a mile from Saint Marie's to Sacred Heart, by candlelight, at night. The priest carried the Eucharist, and the people all carried candles and sang hymns. It was beautiful to make the journey with the parish community, and to sing and witness as people peered out their windows as we went by.

Friday was a busy day for this seminarian, as we helped out with three services, as there are no masses celebrated on Good Friday. In the morning I went to the cemetery where the youth group presented the stations of the crosses to over 700 people, mostly young families. The did a great job and were reverent. Later in the afternoon I helped at the services at 3 and 7pm. The Good Friday service is very stark and devoid of music and the usual joy associated with celebration. The most powerful portion of the service is the veneration of the cross when people come forward and kiss the cross. I do not know exactly what it is, but I always find the veneration of the cross to be one of the most beautiful times in the Church.


It is currently 1:00am (for some reason the time stamp on the blog posting is off) and I am just back to my room after the Easter Vigil. I always love the Easter Vigil because it brings together all of Salvation History and many of the elements of our faith. As a seminarian the Easter Vigil is a little stressful as there is a lot going on, as there are baptisims, confirmations, first communions, lots of readings, lots of incense and bells as well as candle lighting. Thankfully at Saint Marie's there are tons of brilliant altar servers and volunteers who make everything run like clock work. It was truly amazing to see everyone in action.

#1. I always find the baptisms and confirmations at the Easter Vigil to be expecially moving. Seeing people come into the Church, and others returning to it, is always a moment of great joy. This year there were 19 people in the RCIA class, ranging from the very young to the elderly. It was nice to see them join the community of faith and to see them welcomed with such joy.

#2. Ouch! At the end of the Mass Father Marc invited the two of us who were seminarians connected to the parish to stand up and be recognized. As we came forward I slammed my head into the ornamentation above our seats. It hurt like the dickens, and yet I had to pretend it never happened. I am not sure if anyone noticed, but my head sure did.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home Soon

Since Saturday afternoon I have been on a retreat with my fellow seminarians at a Trinitarian Retreat House just outside of Baltimore. The grounds are beautiful and the food is great (made by Mexican nuns)! On a side note the Trinitarians are the same order that run Dematha High School outside Washington D.C. (where the Trinity Boys stay for the March for life).

Tomorrow I am excited to be heading home to NH! I will be serving at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Manchester. The Chrism Mass is the Mass where every parish in the state receives the Holy Oils that will be used at the Easter Vigil to welcome converts to Catholicism into the faith (when they are baptized and confirmed). This year in the diocese of Baltimore alone almost 1,000 people are being welcome into the faith. An exciting moment for so many and for the Church.

I also am excited to be at Sainte Marie's for Holy Week were I will be able to help at the parish. Perhaps, I will be able to see many of you there!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fishy Business

Where to begin? Back in February when we had a week's vacation I was planning on going away. So not wanting to starve my dearest bellringer (my fish), I arranged to have a Colombian seminarian who was staying at St. Mary's babysit him. The arrangement worked out brilliantly and he was happy to oblige. When I got back to the seminary the next week it was crazy busy and I did not retrieve my dearest fish. After I week went by I noticed the seminarian who was watching him, happily showing him off to his brother seminarians from Colombia. He was having them come in his room and look at him and was excited to see that bellringer was friendly. The brilliant fish would swim to the top of the tank whenever he walked by and seemed to get along well.

Now one needs to consider that when one is away from home, and home is in Colombia, there is not really an opportunity to have a lot of things to decorate your room with. So, hence I first came up against the bellringer moral dilemma. Do I retrieve my dear fish friend from someone whose room is sparesly decorated, and is far from home, and who finds great joy from my fish. My intial strategy was to just wait and figure eventually he would be returned.

Now I am in over my head and bellringer has been away for over a month. Earlier this week I went in to visit him at the same time my Colombian friend did. End the result bellringer had to choose which side of the tank to swim to, his or mine.

Bellringer did not swim to me... :(

So thus I am left with the great fish dilemma. Unsure of what to do and snubbed by my own fish.

suggestions, humorous commentary and ideas are welcome

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Fools Day

As many of you know I am about to finish the first of five years of studies for the priesthood. I must say I cannot believe it has almost been an entire year. It seems like just yesterday I was packing my car and making my way south for the start of this new journey. One year and countless papers later, I am still here!

Seminary Studies are divided into two parts Philosophy and Theology. In order to be a priest one must study two years of Philosophy (I lucked out only be required to study one) and then study four years of Theology. All the guys in the house that are studying Philosophy wear shirts and ties to class while Theology students where clerics (black shirt with the white priest collar). For April Fools Day this year all of the Philosophy Students wore Clerics and all the Theology Students wore shirts in ties. When the priests processed in for Mass it was hilarious as the entire seminary was essientially backwards and it was one of those scenes that did not look right. Well all got a charge out of it.

Next year I have two ideas for this important day.

#1. Raise and leave the NH flag on the flagpole

#2. Choir Madness

when we say our prayers each day we chant the liturgy of the hours/pslams. Our chapel is set up in such a way that the two sides directly face each other with an aisle in the middle. When we chant we go back in forth with each side doing for lines, followed by the other. On the left side of the chapel there are two seats reserved for the readers and the leader who say a few special prayers. Next year I would like to get everyone on the left side to sit on the right so that the entire seminary is on one side with only the reader and leader on the left. THis would force them to chant there half of prayer by themselves for the entire service. LOL

Not sure if it makes sense to you or not, but it would be funny to stick the two poor souls on there own.

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