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....


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

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.


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:


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 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 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 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!


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


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!


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.



  1. Just wanted to drop a note and let you know that I always enjoy your updates and am praying for you. I start my second semester at Duke Divinity School tomorrow - hopefully our paths will cross before too long.

  2. So glad to see you're able to communicate to everyone so frequently through this blog! I was just thinking about your father's comment about the order of your post discussing football, Connor, and the Pope. Sometimes, I think, when the Lord and the Holy Spirit are speaking through you, maybe He saves the best for last. Thinking of you on your walk often!