Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day #2

Today, the first full day of silence, was filled with many ups and downs. After an initial period of adjustment I have found much peace in the silence of the day. It is amazing how much of a difference it makes when distractions are put aside. The halls are silent, the dining area is silent, everywhere is silent. In this silence I have begun to notice the birds outside, the little things of life and creation. It sounds corny, but the world looks a lot different when you are paying attention to it.

My four one hour periods of prayer have been mixed. To be honest I have spent much of the time struggling to remain focused. With the outside distractions eliminated as best as possible (my first hour of prayer was interrupted by loud construction workers!), the only distractions that remain are the inside ones. This is where the great challenge for me is, as my mind races in one hundred different directions all at once. Over the next few days I hope to receive the graces necessary to tune out where my mind wishes to wander and tune in what God wants.

In four hours of prayer today, I would have to say thirty minutes of it was very fruitful. The other three and half hours where part of the process of decluttering my mind.

One great tool I am using to guide some of my time is a book called "The Road of Life" by David Adam. It is a book on Celtic Spirituality that I randomly ordered from and it is fantastic. Below is a passage a read today that I thought was most appropriate.

"I weave a silence on to my lips
I weave a silence into my mind
I weave a silence within my heart
I close my ears to distractions
I close my eyes to attractions
I close my heart to temptations

Calm me, O Lord, as you calmed the storm
Still me, O Lord and keep me from harm
Let all the tumult within me cease
Enfold me Lord in your peace."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day #1

This evening at 6:45pm 175 of the seminarians and about 50 spiritual directors from around the country met to officially start the silent retreat. At the session several priests and sisters spoke about the beauty of making a silent retreat and of how God uses them to speak to our hearts. In silence, apart from the distractions of life, we are forced to come face to face with ourselves and with God. In the process we wrestle with the forces in our lives. One of things stressed at the start of the retreat is communicating through prayer to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well as Mary. Each day during the retreat we are left in silence and to our own time except for Mass, a spiritual direction meeting and a brief evening conference. Each day we are expected to make four one hour prayer sessions(no more, no less). Each session is paired with a passage of scripture and some direction.

I must say I initially was not excited about the retreat, but after being here for a week I am looking forward to it. I am not sure what will happen, but I have a growing sense that God is trying to reach out to me and speak to me in a real and present way. I am not sure what He will say, or what I am to come to understand. What I do know is that on this first night of the retreat I feel a stirring in my heart. It is a little scary, I won't lie. I am not sure what it is, but it is easy to talk about God and His power. However, when he starts to use it is unsettling because I come to realize who is really in charge.

(each day I will post my thoughts and where I am at, until tomorrow...)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to I.P.F.

For the next ten weeks I will be staying and studying at Creighton University where I will be taking part in a program called the Institute for Priestly Formation. I.P.F., as it is known is a summer program for seminarians from around the country. During ten weeks participants study spirituality, in particular the spirituality of diocesan priests. The program is meant to provide the structure and freedom for seminarians to develop a strong, vibrant and life long prayer life. By being away from everything and with limited classwork, the program aims to create the environment in which there is no reason a deep prayer experience cannot occur. Our schedule each day is as follows

Morning Prayer 7:40am
Class: 8:10-10:10am
Mass 10:30am
Lunch 11:30am
Dinner 5:30pm
Evening Prayer: 6:30pm

As you can tell there is a lot of free time which is nice! The time is meant to be spent reading, relaxing, exercising and in prayer.

My first impressions have been great. The University is beautiful and very hospitable. The other seminarians (175 of them) are very friendly and seem like a good group. I am having slight technical difficulties and have not been able to hook my computer up to the Internet. (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH) Hopefully they will fix this tomorrow.

Beginning Friday we will be on an 8 Day SILENT retreat. Everyone I know who has done one says it is great, but challenging. I am a little nervous as I cannot stay quiet for ten minutes let alone eight days. As this blog is meant to be an honest look at seminary life, spirituality and my personal journey, I will be sharing it with you each day. I will be posting journal style entries as I go through the retreat, although refraining from email, texts, etc... As I am a firm believer that we take the journey of faith together, please keep me in your prayers beginning Friday and journey with me online. The adventure ahead, awaits us all.

Day Three

Day # 3:

Day Three of my journey was spent in the beautiful city of Chicago with my good friend Shaunti. (Shout out to the Althoffs). Shaunti and I taught together in Mississippi and were often partners in crime at our former school.

Saturday we spent doing errands and site-seeing in Chicago. By site seeing I mean, I held onto the back of a scooter as she drove like a maniac through the busy streets at 40mph. Shaunti was a great driver, but she lacks the gene that regulates one's need for safety. It was my first time on a scooter and there is just something about holding on to two small handles on your side and knowing that if you let go you will be run over by the taxi behind you.

After our scooter adventure we met up with some of her friends for a sail on lake michigan. It was an amazing and relaxing day, despite almost ending it on the grill plate of a taxi.

Day # 4:

Sunday morning I went to Mass and then proceeded to drive for 7 1/2 hours until I reached Omaha. Below is a play by play account (begining one hour outside of Chicago)

More Fields
Snack & Stretch break at the Iowa division of the Althoff Family (thanks for the Watermelon)

Welcome to Omaha

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Water Falls, Butterflies and Gary Indiana

After two days in the car I have made it to Chicago (2/3 of the way their).

My Observations from My Drive:

Day #1:

Nice, but buys

NY State:
Beautiful (upstate)
Depressing- when the GPS says next turn 289 miles!

Featured Stop: Niagara Falls- huge, amazing, wicked cool (walked 3/4 of a mile to avoid $18 parking charges- grrrrrrrrr)

Toronto: Interesting but not exciting, in reality it was kind of boring

Day #2:

Ontario: flat for the most part, lots of farms, feels very foreign (no wonder)

Michigan: Boring but with trees, two thumbs up for 70MPH speed limit, too much construction, found beautiful butterfly in grill plate :(

Northern Indiana/Illinois(Chicago)- Gary, IN to Chicago is the ugliest drive I have ever been on- all gas tanks, power lines, smog, construction and crazy drivers

Chicago: Sweet as always/Catching up with friends from ND and Mississippi. Shout out to the Althoffs!

Day #3:

will let you know when it is done, going sailing at Three!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Twisters, Corn, Steak and Prayer

Tomorrow morning at 7:00am I will depart my restful Brookfield, NH family home for a 25 hour drive to Omaha, Nebraska. For ten weeks I will join about 150 seminarians from around the country for a summer long spirituality program called "the Institute for Priestly Formation." (nicknamed IPF, but since it is me we are talking about, please don't confuse it with the International Powerlifting Federation)

The ten week program is built of the spiritual excercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and includes an eight day silent retreat (ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) (ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)(ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) and three summer courses on priesthood, spirituality, etc... The program itself takes place at Creighton University which is in the heart of Omaha, Nebraska. If anyone knows anything exciting about Omaha, or will be in town, please let me know.

I am a firm believer in truth in advertising and the need to be real, open and honest- so here are my thoughts before I leave

Things I am Excited about:
- seeing neat things along the drive out
- lots of free time to relax
- meeting cool people while there
- Omaha steaks
- attending the College World Series (held in Omaha)
- Spending the Fourth of July in Yankton, South Dakota with friends
- Having some time to really pray, reflect and grow
- learning new things and being challenged to grow
- getting down time, lots of it, to read, pray and reflect

Things I am not Excited about:
- Nebraska (no offense)
- Summer in Nebraska
- My entire summer in Nebraska
- Heat
- 10 weeks! (6 weeks good, 10 weeks long)
- the possibility that my suite mate might be crazy
- not getting to see my friends this summer
- missing the Trinity High School Graduation
- corn

I will keep you updated on my progress westward!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hope/P.E.T.A. please don't protest my house it was an accident!

This evening had the wonderful opportunity to spend the evening over dinner with the Franciscan Mystery Players. They are a group of amazing young people from across Manchester who share an evening of prayer, reflection and acting each lent. During their 90 minute performance/prayer they act out the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary in silence, in a dark Church, with special lighting.

Over the past four years I have been privileged to come to know this amazing group of young people. They have served as real and authentic witnesses to Christ's presence in the Church and in the world. Quietly and humbly they have inspired me and been a real source of joy and hope. As I prepare to leave for Omaha, Nebraska for the summer (summer school... details to follow) I can think of no better way to spend my last day in Manchester than with these fine young men and women. In a day and age in which they future can seem so uncertain, and the challenges ahead for the Church so great, I can honestly rest easy as I know she will be in good hands. Mystery Players, thank you for being a guiding light on my life's journey.


On a side note: when driving home from aforementioned evening, be sure to avoid black & white creatures that smell, for if you run them over, they will seek their revenge, when they spray your car! When they are frolicking in a field with St. Francis, you will be smelling them for a week when you are trapped in your car driving 26 hours to Nebraska. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Notre Dame- a Letter and Response

Below is a response to an email I received recently from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. They were explaining that recent emails that many alumni had received were not in fact from them, but from someone who made it appear like the letter was from the University. I used the opportunity to share with them my thoughts and I have enclosed their "form letter" response to my email.

Dear Friends,

I very much appreciate your email and the work you do. However, I am most concerned with the situation which brought on the emails in question. I have always been a loyal Notre Dame alum, and get great joy out of recommending the college to high school students and donors alike. The decision to offer President Obama a Honorary Degree is most disturbing. I realize the University's desire to engage world leaders in dialogue regardless of their views, and also recognize the importance of doing so. However, the presentation of a honorary degree connotes honor, and I am left speechless as how one could honor a man who promotes the killing of children and intrinsic evil. I realize that there is much good that President Obama has done so far, but also wonder if the university would ever invite and honor a world leader from another nation who did many good things, but oversaw genocide? Would the university ever honor a speaker who was racist? sexist? I know the answer would be no, as it should be. I am left dumbfounded that the same high standard you have always held has been ignored for children. The University has always been a source of great pride for me, but I must be honest, this decision has caused me great pain. I will not be protesting, I will not publicly denounce the University, but I will be profoundly saddened of what has come about. I am currently a seminarian and cannot tell you strongly enough how much of a beating the University's name and reputation is taking out here in the trenches.

I still love Notre Dame and always will. I will remain always loyal. However, know that there are many more of us out here then you will ever know, who quietly and loyally mourn the direction the University has taken. Please encourage Father Jenkins and the administration to do something to respond to the pleas of Alum like myself. No doubt you have had to deal with many crazy people responding, and for this I am most sorry. But know the vast majority of us are quietly disappointed in the University. Mary Ann Glendon had it right when she responded with class and dignity, avoiding trashing the school in the process. My hope is that Father Jenkins and the University can equally find a way to respond with class and dignity which affirms the value of all human life, and says that as Catholics we do not bestow honors to those who openly and passionately advocate for the destruction of human life, and the allowance of intrinsic evil.

God Bless
Andrew Nelson, 02'

Their Response:

Dear Andrew:

Sorry for the delayed response.

Thank you for your message. I respect the strong convictions and beliefs you hold regarding this issue.

Please know that I both hear and understand your criticism to the invitation to President Obama and take it to heart. We will relay your concerns to Father Jenkins’ office.

I believe one of my main responsibilities is to keep the lines of communication open for all parties, and I hope you agree.

Again, thank you for your love and concern for Notre Dame.

For Notre Dame,
Chuck Lennon ’61, ’62 M.A.
Executive Director, Notre Dame Alumni Association

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is America More Pro Life?

I just read a fascinating report from the Gallup Polling company which found that a majority of Americans are now pro life! I would summerize it all here, but you really should see it yourself. Go to the link (you will have to cut and paste it since the blog hyperlink is not working)

and take a look. It breaks the poll down my certain demographics such as gender, religion, political orientation, etc... It is pretty interesting stuff. TAKE A LOOK!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

President Obama & Notre Dame

This week I am home enjoying a week's vacation before I head out west for the summer (details to follow). With no real adventures to post I thought I would turn my attention to President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame's commencement this weekend.

As many of you may have heard President Obama will receive a honorary degree this weekend at Notre Dame and serve as its commencement speaker. The choice of the President has provoked quite the firestorm because of his extreme position on abortion. Tonight I was watching the news and Elizabeth Hassalbeck, from what could be the worst television show of all time- "the View," was asked her thoughts on the matter. She said that if she had worked hard for four years at Notre Dame, she would be darned if the President was going to ruin her graduation. Adding that students should not skip their graduation, but instead find another way to protest. I could not agree with her more. I am saddened that Notre Dame has chosen to honor President Obama in such a manner. I am constantly getting emails from the Alumni office clarifying their position and stressing the importance of dialoguing with world leaders. On this point I think they are right, I just wish that they instead invited him to address their graduates without bestowing an honorary degree. I can't help but think that if we had a President who had extreme views on another issue such as immigration, or one who was racist, that they would never (rightfully so) give him the same honor.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the end. Anyway you look at it, I am incredibly saddened that Father Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, has chosen to bring such controversy to an otherwise joyous day, not to mention the division he has brought to the University's Alumni. In the end my own humble opinion is that we hear too much from the politicians anyway! Why not honor someone who has given themselves fully to the service of others? I can think of so many worthy people in the world. President or not, Republican or Democrat, I just wish colleges stopped choosing politicians, celebrities and big donors to address their graduates and instead picked every day people. How cool would it be to see a mom give a graduation address, a teacher, a social worker or someone from Doctors without Borders. I for one have had enough with celebrities and wish we would start to honor the everyday heroes in life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Protecting All of God's Creatures

This past week, I was privileged to have Father Richard Kelley from Nashua visiting the seminary. On Wednesday, I had the morning and afternoon off, and he had a train to catch to D.C. Instead of allowing him to take the train, I drove him into the city, and enjoyed the morning walking around the Basilica . After lunch with Father Kelley, I made my way north to Baltimore in time for evening prayer.

As I got half way between Baltimore and D.C. I realized I had a good two hours to kill. A few moments later I saw a sign for the National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center (or something like that). The sign intrigued me, after all I had time. I sat in my car flying down the road, pondering should I or shouldn't I? Then, looking at the clock, and realizing I did not want to get back too soon, lest I have to do school work, I took the exit. After exiting, I drove a good four miles following the signs for the refuge, feeling like I was heading to the end of the earth.

Finally I arrived at the entrance to the refuge. As I drove down the 1.5 mile driveway, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the wilderness. Birds were everywhere. The trees were in full bloom, flowers and beauty surrounded me. It was 80 degrees,my windows were down and I had my shades on. It was a perfect day. As I admired the sheer beauty of God's creation, I could not help but to become overwhelmed. It was just one of the moments in which all is right in the world and things come together. As I swung around the final turn, I saw the refuge visitors center in front of me, and the parking and grass areas on the sides.

In front of the center itself was a huge marsh/river area teeming with life. Slowing my car I thought to myself, how could anyone want to harm our environment. As I quickly turned the corner of the parking lot, I looked ahead and saw a family in enjoying a picnic. They looked like a happy bunch, enjoying a day off from school, although I think they might have been homeschoolers. The kids were laughing and playing, and it reminded me of many family trips as a child. Then suddenly my beautiful day (the birds chirping, the laughing children) was interrupted by children crying, and covering their eyes. Not sure what was going on, I stopped the car. I was a little nervous because they were all looking at me. Then the oldest child, a girl of no more than ten years old, looked in my direction and said something that sounded like "he filled the smirle." Her words were followed by tears, as all of the children looked horrified by what they had witnessed. Suddenly, a family of crying children were giving me the meanest and saddest looks I have ever seen, I began to feel unwelcome, in the suddenly small parking lot. My happy I love nature moment was gone. I was beginning to get a sick feeling in my stomach as I realized just how close "filled the smirle" sounds like "killed the squirrel."

I began to become worried that picnicking crowd was going to turn on me at any moment, yelling "Squirrel Killer" and "Murderer." So I pulled back out of the spot and left the Wild Life Refuge, which I am afraid is currently short one of God's creatures. I am not quite sure what I missed at the National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, but I don't think I will be going back anytime soon.

On a side note beware of happy picnicking families, one small accident and they can turn on you quicker than you can leave the parking lot.

Until next time...

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Am Done!

I just finished a week of exams and i have officially finished my Philosophy studies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you ever have had a Philosophy class you know just how exciting this is. Today also marks the end of my Pre-Theology year. Next year I will be a Theology student (for four years). As a Pre- Theology student I had to wear a tie every day. One minute ago I just ripped off my tie to call it a year. Next year i will wear clerics. Now I am running to my car for the long trip home for a wedding tomorrow and a week's vacation, can't wait. Possible Problem= I am due to hit Northern New Jersey, and New York (Tappen Zee Bridge) during rush hour. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

- Mr. Nelson

p.s. I still can't believe it has been a year and I have finished a year of seminary. Thanks for all your support.

p.p.s. Funny story coming tomorrow involving my trip to the National Wildlife Refuge Center

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two Funerals and a Guest

Today was a sad, moving and joyous day for the seminary.


Unfortuantely one of the deacon's mother passed away last week and was laid to rest in Massachesuetts this morning. Many of the guys went up with the rector to show their support. My heart breaks as the deacon's mom passed away a month before his ordination. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for him to have gotten so close to sharing this special day with his family and to have lost the closest person to him. Please keep the repose of the soul of Margaret Lanoe in your prayers.


Today was also an emotionally moving day in the seminary in a strange sort of way. Today's regularly scheduled 11:30am Mass was a funeral for a former employee of the seminary. Mary Moore had worked for the seminary for over thirty years adn had been retired for the past ten. She was never married, had no children and no family. For thirty years she gave her heart and soul to the seminary. She never had much money and lived a few blocks away in a small apartment. Today the seminary laid her to rest amidst the beautiful place she loved so much. She was alone in life and had little to call her own, yet she never lost her dignity and inner beauty. Knowing that she had noone to look after her in her old age, many of her former collegues and priests on staff adopted her in her final years. They spent time visiting her and even made sure to bring her back to visit regularly. I found the entire funeral incredibly moving on many levels. On the first level it was moving because she was an amazing woman who contributed so much to the seminary. Her example was as powerful as they come. On a secondary level I was moved to see that someone the world had forgotten, was not forgotten. She was alone and had no blood relatives present at her final hour and no one to tend to her final affairs. None-the-less her St. Mary's family was there and committed her to the hands of God with the utmost beauty, dignity and love. (It is not uncommon in many Catholic Churches for priests to celebrate funeral masses for those who have no family, no friends, no mourners. - Mary had them, but many don't. Never-the-less I find there is a great beauty and diginity given to the poor when the Church does this. Not only does it offer prayers for the deceased, it also gives them the dignity in death which they were denied in life).


Today also marked the arrival of Father Richard Kelley from St. Christopher's in Nashua. Father Kelley graciouslly decided to come down and visit all the New Hampshire seminarians at St. Mary's. It is great to have company and familar faces when studying far from home. Tomorrow I will take Father to the newly renevated Basilica and later in the evening we will all be going out for dinner. :) I promised him I would not put on the blog that I crushed him in a game of pool in our seminary lounge. Don't worry father I won't tell anyone.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It is Raining Out and I Slept In!

For the first time in a long time we have had a late start to the day. This morning Mass is at 11:30am, so I was able to enjoy one of my favorite things in the world, sleeping in. Last night after working over my papers and a take home exam I went to bed at 1am. This morning I had the great privilege of waking up when I wanted to. With the window open and the rain coming down hard, I woke up at 9:30am and laid in bed listening the birds, the rain and thinking until 10:45am. It was amazing and long over do. I am not sure what it is about sleeping in on a rainy morning but it is amazing.

On a side note I am counting the days until I finish my first year in the seminary, six days to be exact. This Friday after classes I will make the long journey home to NH for a wedding of some good friends. Following the wedding I have about a week off before I have to head to Nebraska for the summer (details to follow in another posting). In the meantime I will buckle down and try and get all my assignments in and all my things in order so that I can leave on time and with a smile. Off to Mass.

Important Blog News:

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