Sunday, January 31, 2010

POSTPONED!

Sorry ya'll. I've got a big exam in the morning and I am a bit behind the ball. Look for a fuller post tomorrow afternoon sometime.

In the meantime, the subject matter is Ecclesiology--study of the Church (in Greek--EKKLESIA). It is fascinating. The course largely seeks to unpack the Church's understanding of itself set forth at the Second Vatican Council in a document called Lumen Gentium...meaning "Light unto the Nations." It was THE principal document of the Council on "The Church." This is the culmination of 2000 yrs of growth in self-awareness and self-understanding...on the part of the corporate reality---"The Church." Still though, the Church remains a "People on the Way"...always growing...always striving towards Christ...praying....reflecting...serving...seeking clearer and more relevant understandings of God, His world, His people and His desire for all reality via his Church----that all be ONE with Him...bound in LOVE...forever.

I have quoted it before in one of my posts. I find it to be an extremely beautiful, compelling, and important document. Below is a link to the whole deal, and then a little caveat to wet your interest from Chapter V entitled "The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church."

Whole Document: LUMEN GENTIUM

Caveat: (Paragraph 41) I picked this since there is a little bit for everyone in it.

Furthermore, married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path (to holiness) by faithful love. They should sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should embue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues. In this manner, they offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love; in this way they build up the brotherhood of charity; in so doing, they stand as the witnesses and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church; by such lives, they are a sign and a participation in that very love, with which Christ loved His Bride and for which He delivered Himself up for her.(11*) A like example, but one given in a different way, is that offered by widows and single people, who are able to make great contributions toward holiness and apostolic endeavor in the Church. Finally, those who engage in labor-and frequently it is of a heavy nature- should better themselves by their human labors. They should be of aid to their fellow citizens. They should raise all of society, and even creation itself, to a better mode of existence. Indeed, they should imitate by their lively charity, in their joyous hope and by their voluntary sharing of each others' burdens, the very Christ who plied His hands with carpenter's tools and Who in union with His Father, is continually working for the salvation of all men. In this, then, their daily work they should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity.

May all those who are weighed down with poverty, infirmity and sickness, as well as those who must bear various hardships or who suffer persecution for justice sake-may they all know they are united with the suffering Christ in a special way for the salvation of the world. The Lord called them blessed in His Gospel and they are those whom "the God of all graces, who has called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself, after we have suffered a little while, perfect, strengthen and establish".(226) {1 Peter 5:10}

Finally all Christ's faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives-and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world.

Alright. My exam is at 3:10AM Central time. Say a prayer for me if you think of it. Thanks!

Talk again soon.

Parting thought......

video

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Suffering?

Hello World,

I have been sick with some kind of strange virus this past week (nothing too bad). In my small sufferings, I have been reflecting much on that age old question: "Why suffering?"

If God is good, why does he permit suffering? Why does he permit evil? others may ask.

Just earlier tonight I talked with my Spiritual director Fr. Lyons of St. Louis. He had just gotten an email back from the Nuncio (Pope' s official representative) in Haiti. Fr. Lyons had written him to assure him and Haiti of our prayers. He also inquired about the status of the 40 seminarians that were trapped in the collapsed seminary building. In his reply, the Nuncio told Father that 10 of the seminarians bodies had been found but 30 remained unaccounted for. Also, it was reported that the Rector (who had been outside of the seminary at the time of its collapse) could hear the screams of the seminaries as he stood helpless just outside the rubble.

Why? Why would God allow this? 40 future priests more than likely dead. A whole country devastated. Not once, but twice by natural forces...in only a week's time. Why?

Another priest in our community Msgr. Muggenborg, the Vice-Rector, led me deeper into this question at Mass on Tuesday. Just a few days before, Msgr. returned from the United States after saying the Funeral Mass for his father. His mother had passed away a number of years previous. On Tuesday, he celebrated a Mass of the Dead for (the intention of the repose of the soul) of his father. Manifesting great courage, he stood before our community and delivered a homily (sermon) reflecting on his father...his parents' death.

He remembered the great man of faith he father was. He acknowledged what deep sense of loss he felt...especially now that his brothers and sisters are left without parents now...left without what they had always called "Home." He prayed that it would be many years before we would have to go through such an experience.

But then is proclaimed his trust, that his father was in the Father's hands now. In the Father's hands, he then reflected on what his father (his dad) would be thinking now. Msgr. said that he was sure that he would be thinking about all those suffering in Haiti. He is sure that he is praying for them even now. He is sure that he would want us to direct our attention, our prayers to their plight...their suffering.

Msgr. then reflected that in his suffering, he was given but a glimpse of the suffering of those in Haiti. In his suffering, he stood in Solidarity with those in Haiti. In his suffering, he, in union with his father, united himself to the people of Haiti. And above all, in his suffering, he was united to all the suffering of the world... by the wood of the Cross...by the suffering of the God made Man for our sake. For it is in His suffering, that all mankind is united in their suffering. For this is the suffering that comes from True Love. And, Yes, this is the Suffering that bears the promise of the Resurrection!

Wow....other than moving me...leading me further into this mystery. It reminded me of something I once heard Benedict XVI say (and I paraphrase): It is ONLY in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can make sense of our sufferings. For only HE, in his death and resurrection, assures us that, in the end, Life DOES triumph over death. Good does triumph over evil. And Joy does triumph over sorrow.

Sounds great hunh? But what about our lives...today? What about the moment we are living right now?

What about the anxiety we might feel right now?
What about the argument we may be in the midst of with a good friend, spouse, or loved one?
What about the sickness, cancer, wounds we may be bearing?
What about our losses? Our recently lost loved ones?
What about the stresses of our jobs?
What about the false rumors being spread about me?
What about the injustices I feel I am suffering?
What about all those going hungry today?
What about all the ways in which I feel unsatisfied?
What about my disappointments?
What about my failures and my sadness over them?
What about the friends who have abandoned me?
What about my inner darkness, loneliness, feeling of being unloved?
What about my confusions?
What about never feeling like I really know myself? or Why I do the things I do?
What about the memories I have that haunt me?
What about all of the bad things I have done?
What about the guilt that I bear?
What about that Tsunami's devastation?
What about 9-11?
What about Hurricane Katrina?
What about AIDS?
......and you can fill in the blank.....

Well....

Questions like these, I believe, bring us to a crossroads of Faith. Either God, Jesus, Redemption is something Real....the Realest thing in Reality....and has Real effects on my life, now, this minute...this second...just as I am.......or it doesn't.

Questions like these, really make us ask ourselves, "Do I really believe...Do I live with a faith that corresponds to what Jesus promises?" For example, are words like the following Real to me in a practical...day-t0-day way?: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Could God REALLY be using the devastation of Haiti for "the good of those who love him?" Could it be that some of "those" are Haitians? Would that Still make sense?

At this point, I would like to turn again to Mother Theresa. Still her words are fresh on my mind. And they, more than anything this past week, have given me the deepest insight to this question: "Why Suffering?"

A priest once wrote a letter to Mother Theresa asking for counsel as he struggled to face the challenges of his ministry. Here is her response:

Dear Co-worker of Christ,


You had said “Yes” to Jesus—and he has taken you at your word.—The Word of God became Man—Poor.—Your word to God—became Jesus—poor and this terrible emptiness you experience. God cannot fill what is full.—He can fill only emptiness—deep poverty—and your “Yes” is the beginning of being or becoming empty. It is not how much we really “have” to give—but how empty we are—so that we can receive fully in our life and let Him live His life in us.

In you today—He wants to relive His complete submission to His Father—allow Him to do so. Does not matter what you feel—as long as He feels alright in you. Take away your eyes from yourself and rejoice that you have nothing—that you are nothing—that you can do nothing. Give Jesus a big smile—each time your nothingness frightens you.


This is the poverty of Jesus. You must let Him live in us & through us in the world.

Cling to Our Lady—for she too—before she could become full of grace—full of Jesus—had to go through that darkness “How could this be done?”—But the moment she said “Yes,” she had need to go in hast and give Jesus to John & his family.


Keep giving Jesus to your people not by words but by your example—by your being in love with Jesus—by radiating His holiness and spreading His fragrance of love everywhere you go.

Just keep the joy of Jesus as your strength.—Be happy and at peace.—Accept whatever He gives—and give whatever He takes with a big smile.—You belong to Him—tell Him I am Yours & if you cut me to pieces every single piece will be only all Yours.


Let Jesus be the victim & the priest in you.

I have started going round our houses in India—so I have beautiful time alone with Jesus in the train.

Pray for me as I do for you.

Yours in Jesus, M. Teresa, M.C.


Here is Mother's favorite definition of "suffering":


Sorrow, suffering, Eileen, is but a kiss of Jesus—a sign that you have come so close to Jesus that He can kiss you.—I think this is the most beautiful definition of suffering.—So let us be happy when Jesus stoops down to kiss us.—I hope we are close enough that He can do it.


Could "Suffering" and "Joy" possibly be related? Mother Theresa seems to think so:


The joy of loving Jesus comes from the joy of sharing in His sufferings. So do not allow yourself to be troubled or distressed, but believe in the joy of the Resurrection. In all of our lives, as in the life of Jesus, the Resurrection has to come, the joy of Easter has to dawn.


Here Mother reflects on the role of "Suffering" in one's Ministry:


My dear children—without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption.—Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us he has redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same: all the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it.


Here Mother reflects on the Mission of her Sisters--the Missionaries of Charity. And in doing so, touches on the Mission shared by all Christians...all peoples:


“I thirst,” Jesus said on the Cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst—not for water—but for love, for sacrifice. Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man.


And finally, Mother reflects on our "Nothingness"---in the sense that God made us out of nothing:


God has shown His greatness by using nothingness—so let us always remain in our nothingness—so as to give God [a] free had to use us without consulting us. Let [us] accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.


(Special thanks to a seminarian friend Jacob Strand of Milwaukee who also just finished reading Come by My Light about Mother Theresa. He took great notes throughout the book which helped me to compile these quotes for ya'll)


So, still we are left with MYSTERY. But I hope this has been somewhat helpful. The saints offer us insights that are so deep...and, at once, so seemingly apparent once they spell them out for us. Thank God for the saints. Thank God for our sufferings. Thank God for this mystery...and that we call life. Thank God for my life. Thank God for your life. May God give us the grace to Sacrifice our WHOLE lives for God's Glory & (in the same breath) the Good of our fellow man....our neighbor...our brother...our sister.


God give us the grace this week to bear all the sufferings You permit in our lives. May we offer them to You in thanksgiving and Joy....united to the sufferings of the Crucified one....for Love of You and the whole world. May we trust that you can and DO use our sufferings for our good. Especially hear our prayers....accept the sacrifice of our sufferings for the people in Haiti and everyone that go without food, shelter, clothing, warmth, and medicine. Bring them all that they need...but above all bring them the LOVE that Satisfies. Bring them the HOPE of the Resurrection. Bring them the FAITH of the One walking to Calvary...the Faith alone that can stare at the Wood of the Cross and see the Light of the Resurrection!


Amen.

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THIS WEEK'S LINKS:


Catholic Relief Services: There are on the front lines in Haiti right now. This site allows you to donate directly to that effort should you wish.


Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan: He used to be the Rector of my seminary--The North American College. Then became the bishop of Milwaukee. And just this past year became the Archbishop of New York. He was in Rome when the tragedy occurred in Haiti celebrating the 150 Anniversary of our College. I have heard that he has offered to house any seminarians that may survive at his Seminary in New York. Also, he will be going to Haiti to say the funeral Mass for the Bishop of Haiti who died during the earthquake.

Here is a video message he made in our Library reflecting on the event. And too encouraging support of Catholic Relief Services.


Here is a radio interview he had entitled: "Why God Allowed Haiti Disaster?"

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MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK:

(I know this is a repeat...but the quality is better...for optimal "Stache-Visualization" of Course)




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NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:


Luke 4:21-30


Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:

"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.

But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

---------------------------------


OK. Have a great week!


Peace.

Love.

Joy.

SMILE!


Let [us] accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.



Patrick Sprague--one of the least intelligent people I know. hahahahahahaha


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Hello Everyone!

Take a look at this Beautiful Babe--My MOM!

Seeing that there are technically 4 "Babes," 3 figurative and one literal, in the Photo, I will specify that my Mom is the one in the middle feeding the newly born babe Connor.

And today is her BIRTHDAY! Happy Birthday MOM!

I love you so much. I am happy you are alive. I thank God he thought you up. You are the best! Because of your "Yes" I am alive. Because of you, I am so happy, loved, and care for! You da' domb! You da' Mom! I'd take you to Prom! But not, cause your my Mom!

I LOVE YOU!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNA LEE INGALLS! My MOM!
Well, enough cannot be said about Anna Lee Ingalls. She is incredible. I hope all of you get to meet her one day. You will be better for it.
------------------------------
Moving on from one personal hero to another, here are the pictures of my greeting Pope Benedict XVI last Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010.





It was a real blessing for me and the whole College on that day. To shake hands with the Pope-- The leader of the whole Church. The successor of Peter. The Rock upon which Christ built his Church. Check out Matt 16:15-19:

15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Pretty unbelievable.

I was just taking to my Dad on Skype about the experience. And ge laughed about last week's post commenting,

"Yea. At the top you had Nick Saban hoisting the Championship Trophy surrounded in confetti, then Connor, then your trip to Spain, and then you were like 'Yea and by the way I shook the Pope's hand! Hahaha. I figured it must just be that you were going chronologically.'"

I had to laugh too, noticing the irony in the way I recounted it all! But my Dad's question did make me think a bit further. Sure, I hadn't posted for a couple weeks, was trying to catch up, and typing late at night. Sure the meeting with the Pope had happened less than 24 hrs before and perhaps hadn't quite sunk in. But still, even as I reflect on the experience now...it seems kind of like the falling action that comes after the climax of a great story.

And then it dawned on me, "O Yea. I served Mass for the same guy back in October at St. Peter's Basilica!" What is my life?!? My thoughts immediately went back to a reflection I share in my first post (Oct 25, 2009):

I took a couple of steps forward into the Pope’s chapel. I came within about five feet of the Holy Father and was met by two of the Master of Ceremonies who were helping to vest the 80 year old Bishop of Rome. Here is what I saw.


The entire time Pope Benedict XVI was facing an altar lit by two candles, with his gaze fixed on a crucifix hanging just above the altar. As the MCs helped him vest each garment, Benedict prayed the ancient “Vesting Prayers” in preparation to celebrate the Mass. There is a special prayer assigned to each garment a priest is to wear, which helps the Priest to meditate on the Mystery at hand and to begin offering his entire Self in union with Christ.


As I watched the Holy Father pray in this way, a part of me--namely my ego--really wanted him to turn, look at me, shake my hand, and say something inspirational. But not once did Benedict’s gaze betray the crucifix before him. I will never forget that image. It spoke volumes to me...about what really mattered...about what that day was all about--not me...not my ego....something else...something so much greater...something deserving of all our attention, all of our praise, all of our love. I found myself praying something like this, deep in my heart, “May the Cross of Christ never leave my gaze, so that I May never forget how greatly I am loved and by what measure the King of Kings gazes back upon me.”


Rereading back over those words put everything back into perspective. Yes it was a great grace to shake the Pope's hand, look into his eyes, tell him "Aguri!" ("Much Happiness!"), and kiss his ring. Yes it is something I will never forget. But, in the hierarchy of my life experiences involving Pope Benedict XVI, it will always be for me one ranking below the great example of Prayer and Devotion to our Lord that He gave me on Oct 11, 2009....without even looking at me.....shaking my hand....or smiling back at me. And I guess that is why Pope Benedict is such a compelling figure for me. Because whenever I have seen him, heard him, and now greeted him---he has always pointed me, not to himself, but to Christ.


I pray that I may follow in his footsteps as well. So that, God willing, I may truly say, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:19-20).

------------------------------------------------

One More Thought:

Friday, I spent a long time reading some Church documents related to a class I am taking.

One is called Lumen Gentium and was a very important document written by the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council (in the 60s)---this was the last official, universal gathering of the Church to discern God's will for the Church....the world...and to define anew how the Church is to understanding itself today...in the 21st century. In the the Church's history, there have been only 21 such "Ecumenical Councils," as counted by the Catholic Church--the first of which dating back to 325 AD in Nicea. So documents from these Councils are very important to Christians worldwide.

Lumen Gentium (Latin for: "Light unto the Nations/Peoples"---referring to the Church) was written specifically about how to understand "Church." It is an incredible document.

As I was reading through the document, I received an email from one of my best friends who is studying in Medical School--John. He wrote that he felt the Lord was calling him to be "Strong and courageous" (Joshua 1) even in the "monotony of work at the hospital." This really resonated with what I was reading.

I sent him a quote from Lumen Gentium which I thought I would share with all of you today. Whoever you are, this was written by the Church for YOU.

[NOTE: "laity" refers to all those who are not priest or religious sisters or brothers. I am assuming most of you fall into that category]:

--------------------------------

34. The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.

For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne-all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".(199) Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.

-------------------------

Think about that....every little thing you do....if done "in the Spirit" helps to CONSECRATE the world to Christ! Pretty awesome. May that give yall some perspective as yall hammer it out in the "real world" while I am off in "the lab" getting ready to come home and join ya'll.

Remember, Christ calls US to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light unto the world! So let your lights shine! And Shake your salt all over the place! The world is thirsting for true Love....and God desires that you be the one to quench its thirst by carrying them the Living Waters!

Mother Theresa once said, "There are no such things as extraordinary acts. Only ordinary acts done with extraoridinary love."




Speaking of Mother Theresa...I am reading a book right now about her. Earlier today, I read a letter she wrote to a group of her friends encouraging them in their daily lives. I thought I would share it with ya'll to Conclude this week's post:

The Loved Ones of Christ,

Eileen has asked me to write--that you have all voted to have a few words from me for your March meeting. There must have been something wrong with that voting.--All the same, it gives me pleasure to come again near you & I think I can see still that burning desire for holiness I saw on your faces when I was with you. God keep it burning. Daily we pray "let them look up and see only Jesus," but how often we look in and see only Jesus in us? Do we see Him in using our eyes, mind, & heart, as His own? Are we so given to Him--that we find His eyes looking through ours, his tongue speaking, His Hands working, His feet walking, His Heart Loving? Do we really see only Jesus in us?

You have to be in the world and yet not of the world [John 15:19]. The light you give must be so pure, the love you love with must be so burning--the faith you believe with must be so convincing--that in seeing you they really see only Jesus. Your apostolate is so beautiful to give Jesus. You can give Him--only if you have surrendered yourself totally to Him.--Often, very often, I pray for you--that you may be the fruit of Christ's love in the world--that you may grow in holiness--so that in you Christ's joy may be fulfilled. In our Society we often tell Our Lady she is the Cause of our Joy--because she gave us Jesus.--Would that we become the cause of her joy--because we give Jesus to others.

Keep close to Jesus with a smiling face.



May we pray for one another this week. That God may gave us the grace to surrender ourselves more Totally to his Son. So that the world may be set ABLAZE by the JOY Christ brought into the world (ref. Luke 12:49)!
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THIS WEEKS LINKS:

Jonathan is a fraternity brother of my from Conyers, GA. He is now in his Second Year studies at Duke Divinity in Durham, NC. He has some really beautiful photos on his page as photography is his hobby. Please pray for him as he continues his studies.


This is the "full text" for the Church document I quoted from earlier in the post.


This is the blog of the priest that hosted me in China. It is a great site. Thousands of people in China read it every day. Fr. Barrons posts just about every day. Puts me to shame :)
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NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:

Luke 1:1-4 & 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

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Alright! Again, Happy Birthday MOM!!!!!! I love you!

Love all of you as well. Pray for you daily. Please pray for me!

May Christ fill us more this week!

Amen.

Peace and JOY!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roll Tide, Connor Update, Christmas Recap, Kissing the Pope











Welcome Back Everyone!

It is incredible what all has transpired since my last correspondence. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! I pray 2010 is filled with many Blessings! May we all experience in newer and deeper ways the Peace and Joy that Jesus brought in fullness into this world so many years ago!

I will try to cut to the case and hit the topics as listed in heading of this post....

ROLL TIDE:

After a 18 year draught, what more can be said....

ROOOOOLLLLLLLLL TIDE ROLL!!!!! It feels good to be back on top! I know the Bear is proud! And the Crimson Tide Nation surely is happier than ever!



My little sister Charlotte (aka Chuck) was able to go to the game, which allowed my family to vicariously live through her in the whole experience. Sounded like the weather, atmosphere, and, of course, the OUTCOME was all perfect! I can't imagine a better Senior Year at University of Alabama than that......good job Chuck!

Although Alabama is back on top, the University has not let it go to its head. It still remains true to the culture that supports this great University and the people of its great state. I think this is best manifested in the following short I found on ESPN.com:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama is going to display its new national championship football trophy at a place where most anyone can see it: Walmart.

The school says the Coaches' Trophy will be on display at a Walmart Supercenter in Tuscaloosa on Saturday and another Walmart store in Gardendale on Sunday.

Fans will be able to get their picture taken with the actual Coaches' Trophy that was presented after the BCS win over Texas. The $30,000 trophy is topped with a football made of Waterford Crystal.

The school will permanently display the trophy on campus. The Walmart stops are part of a sponsorship deal.

Link to this story

I've never loved being from Alabama more in my life!!!!

In case you missed the game or just need to revel in it some more, here is a link to a recap of the game: RECAP

To close this section, I would just like to give a personal shout out to the biggest Alabama Fan I know--the one and only Robert Cole Davis! Congrats Rob!


Rob is the person not the squirrel. The squirrel is...well was named Winston (but perhaps our other one named Cords Ford) and was our pet for awhile in College.

CONNOR UPDATE:

I sincerely thank everyone for all of your thoughts and prayers for Connor, Courtney, Jeremy and our families. Connor and Courtney both are doing very well now! Connor was released from the hospital just a couple days before Christmas in time to go to his first Midnight Mass with Courtney, Jeremy, my Mom, and sister who went down to New Orleans for Christmas.

Connor supposedly slept through the whole thing, making only an occasional gurgle noise--every parent's dream come true. Here are two links to some pictures of Connor and Co. taken over Christmas and then around a week ago.



Connor has been a great blessing to all of us this Christmas. What a miracle every child is! It has been incredible for me to reflect this Christmas....with Connor coming onto the scene...upon the sheer reality of Christmas...the Incarnation....God becoming man. God came into the world...just as Connor did (well...probably not a Cesarian Section...but still) and every other person ever to live---as a new born child--naked, crying, helpless, relying on his parents for everything, eyes shut, a marvel to behold. What a mystery this is! What a mystery each child is! What a mystery this life we live!

Finally, as concerns Connor, you may have just seen Connor dressed in Regalia of the University of Florida in one of the albums. However, may I present Connor in his Champion's Clothing...revealing his true colors:


CHRISTMAS RECAP:

For the first 10 days of Christmas break, myself and 3 other Mobilians decided to fly to Madrid, rent a car, and drive around the Southern region of Spain called Andalucia.

Here are the guys I traveled with:

Steven Vrazel:


Travis Burnett:


Patrick Arensberg:



We met briefly before we left to discuss some places that we would like to visit. But on the whole, we decided to make the trip kind of like a pilgrimage--relying on the hospitality of others and God's Providence to flesh out the details of our trip.

Each juncture of our journey, my three companions would do some Google-researching to find the number of the Cathedral and/or nearby Catholic parish of the town we were heading and I would call and ask if there was a place for wandering seminarians to stay for a day or so.

The night before we left Rome, I called up the Cathedral in Segovia (just outside of Madrid). After being transferred two or three times, I finally ended up talking to a pleasant woman named Sagrario at the "Santos Frutos" ("Holy Fruits") Retreat Center who told us we had a place to stay!

I think Sagrario and the other two lovely ladies who ran the Retreat Center were curious to meet these strange, wandering, American seminarians. Perhaps just as curious as Pat, Travis, and Steven were to see if I had actually communicated in Spanish correctly enough to land a place to stay. Needless to say, we were both pleasantly surprised!

Sagrario and the ladies took great care of us, making sure we saw all that Segovia had to offered...well at least as much as we could in 2.5 days. Aside from being a incredibly beautiful and well-preserved Medieval town (boasting some of the best-preserved Roman Aqueducts in Europe),






Segovia's Cathedral

Segovia is also home to one of Spain's most famous saints--St. John of the Cross. We went to Mass one day at his tomb and spent some time visiting and praying on the grounds there. This experience was especially powerful for us because St. John of the Cross is one of the greatest Spiritual Masters in the Church's history. Most of my personal saintly heroes are spiritual disciples of his--St. Terez of Lisieux, Blessed Mother Theresa, and John Paul II all were heavily influenced by the spiritual insights of St. John of the Cross.


Famous Painting by Salvador Dali entitled St. John's Cross based on a preserved sketch done by St. John himself


San Juan de la Cruz

St. John's most famous works are his Spiritual Canticle and his Dark Night of the Soul. Here are a couple links for more info. on St. John if you are interested.

(this link has a list of his writings)


We left Segovia with great experiences and three new friends from the Retreat Center. Especially endeared to us was Segrario, who first welcomed us to Segovia and really made sure we made the most of our time in Segovia. We were tempted to stay in Segovia longer but felt the Lord still had more yet in store for us. But before saying "Goodbye," we exchanged cell numbers with our new friends who would call us throughout our trip to "check up on us."

We left Segovia for Granada, passing through Ronda on the way. Steven (Vraz as we more commonly call him) had seen a picture of a bridge in Ronda that had blown his mind at the beginning of the year. In fact, his desire to see this wonder was what sparked our whole trip to Spain. So here are a couple pictures of the breathtaking town of Ronda--built on either side of a vastly deep gorge!






We stayed in Granada for about two days, after finding a hotel at the last minute, right downtown, with a room for four people, for a price that could not be beat. We paid a visit to the famous Muslim fortress/mosque the "Alhambra," the city's beautiful cathedral, and the tomb of another great Spanish saint St. John of God. He is famous for having started Granada's hospital system and better care for prisoners.

St. John of God carrying a sick man and, I believe, leading a prisoner



Gardens of the Alhambra

A Courtyard in the Alhambra

As we left Granada, we headed straight for Tarifa--a small city right on the Southern tip of Spain. In fact, Tarifa boasts the southern most land of all of Europe. So far that you can look across the straight of water and see Africa!!! Also, it is only about a hour's drive from Gilbraltar and its famous rock. Tarifa, for all of you X-Games fans, is home to several world champion kite-surfers. It is an incredibly windy city which in recent years held the Wold Championships for Kite Surfing.


Can you feel the wind?


Padre told us that this is the oldest Tower (torre) in Europe. Right on Tarifa's coast.


In route, I called San Matteo's parish in Tarifa. It was the only parish in the area we could find on Google. We were not sure where we would be able to stay in Tarifa, if not with a priest...seeing that it was such a small town...one we knew little to nothing about. Furthermore, I was making this call on December 23...just a few days before Christmas--one of the busiest times of the year for any parish priest--and would be asking for a place to stay until the morning of the 26th! Pretty ridiculous hunh? Maybe even an impossible idea? Well....

After a couple "call-back-the-priest-is-outs" I finally connected with Padre Augustin and I began trying to explain our situation, "Hey Father. My name is Victor. I am a seminarian making a pilgrimage through Andalucia with three over seminarians. We have put our plans into the hands of God's Providence and are looking for a place to spend Christmas. We could help you serve Mass if you would like. Yeah. We are seminarians. Americans studying in Rome and living at the North American College. But we are studying at the Gregorian University..."

Padre Augustin: "O really, I studied at the Gregorian for 3 or 4 years!"

Me: "No kidding! That is great!"

A bit more conversation ensued, and after a brief pause he said, albeit in Spanish, "OK. You can all come. I have room. When do you think ya'll will be getting in?"

Me: "About 7 PM tonight."

And the rest is history. We stayed with Padre Augustin for about 3 full days. We served four Christmas Massed for him. Attended one Mass at the Old Folks Home. Ate dinner with the Old Folks and wished them all "Feliz Navidad!" Padre showed us around the town and made sure we got a taste of the local cuisine. Also, Padre's Brother and Nephew were in town....but all things considered...Padre made time for us...and welcomed us as if we were family.

Since Padre studied in Rome, he knew Italian and some English as well. So all four of us were able to communicate fairly well. A couple evenings I had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with Padre after we finished serving Mass for the evening. Some great insights were had.

First of all, remember the Mass I was able to serve for the Pope earlier this year (in case you missed that post, my first, I did on October 11, 2009 and it was incredible). Well turns out, Padre Augustin was at that Mass with a priest friend that works in the Vatican! Small world! Also, Padre had studied under another Spanish priest who taught us Fundamental Theology last spring!


Padre admiring some house-warming gifts we picked up for him in Ronda

Also, as you may be know...I was pretty baffled that Padre welcomed us into his rectory at all...much less treated us as family. Once getting to know him I asked, "Father, I've got to ask--What was going through your mind when I called you??? I am guessing you don't get those kind of calls every day."

Padre Augustin: "Well, first I was thinking, 'How did they get my number?!' Hahahaha. Yea but, I don't know. I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure ya'll may have turned out to be crazy. But I can deal with that. That kind of risk is just part of being a Christian---hospitality to strangers."

That is a lesson I will never forget. Another insight of Father's I would like to share.

Padre Augstin: "You know. This is a great example of the GREATNESS of our faith. Our faith is universal...it has literally stretched around the world. Although we just met the other day, our bonds run so deeply. It is in a moment like this, that you see how REAL....how OBJECTIVE faith is. It affects the way we live. It is something that we share. It forged a bond between us long before we ever met. How truly great is our faith?!"

I could go on and one about those 3 days, but I will conclude with something Padre told us just before leaving: "I truly do believe it was God's Providence that brought ya'll here for Christmas! It was such a great blessing for me and my parish! And made for a Christmas that I am sure we will never forget!"

We assured him how blessed we felt by the whole experience and that he had friends in Rome for as long as we were there and in Alabama forever. We said our Goodbyes and headed on.

As we were leaving Tarifa to head back to Madrid, we got a call from Sagrario who invited us to stop by her home town (as she was back home for a couple days for Christmas) to meet her family for dinner at her home before we left Spain. Just 10 days before, we knew no one in Spain! Now we were going to drop by a friend's house to meet her family on our way out of the country! What amazing things happen when we open ourselves to the Greatness of God's Providence and the goodness in other people!!! So, here are some pictures of our visit to Sagrario's hometown of Oropesa.


The famous Sagrario explaining something to me on the street

Us with Sagario's Mom, Dad, and two sisters in their living Room

Castle in Oropesa where visitors can rent a room and eat well!

Hopefully, in my sketchy retelling of our adventure ya'll are able to share in some of the many graces of our trip. I feel only more and more convinced of the call of every Christian to be espeically dedicated to Hospitality. It is such a basic human curteousy to extend. But one I have found goes so very far in communicating true love to others, to binding people closely together, to making Christ more present in this life. So Thank you to Sagrario, Padre Augustin, God's Providence, and other others involved, who taught us this and so many other lessons over Christmas!

KISSING THE POPE:

Long story short: I shook the Pope's hand and kissed the Pope's ring yesterday!!!

There is a big celebration underway at our college right now for the 150 year anniversary of the North American College in Rome. Our Rector had requested and was granted a private audience with Pope Benedict for all seminarians, faculty, alumni, friends, and family of the College. The Pope took the time to shake hands with virtually everyone in our 500 person crowd! It was a really special moment for us all!

I am hoping I can find a good picture of the moment and I will post it next week!


Pope greeting some of my fellow seminarians. My Rector (Jame Checcio of Camden, NJ is standing just behind his right shoulder)

Here is a link to the address the Holy Father gave to our College: ADDRESS

MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK:


This week's shot comes thanks a friend of mine Scott Greenwood, fellow KA and Rugger at Furman with me. He sent me the link to this picture, part of a larger site called "BEARDFOLIO." Check it out!

NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:

John 2:1-11
(Wedding Feast at Cana)

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

---------------------------------------

OK. Ya'll have a blessed week! And Let's Pray for one another!


May we be given the grace to be both more Open and Aware of God's Providence in our lives this week.

Amen.