Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I drink the Kool-Aid???

I just finished reading a book by John Savage titled "Listening & Caring Skills". I know, I know -it sounds I drank the Kool-Aid, and I might have. But it did taste pretty good! Despite the book's eighties-riffic cover and laughable titled, the content was surprisingly good. As the title would indicate, it was very practical and the author did a really good job of adding in personal experiences and stories to illustrate his points. Toward the end he started to get into some of the deeper stuff that we don't always get around to looking at - our own history. He gets into how things that have happened to us or ideas that we have adopted in the past can come back to haunt us in very real ways down the road. It was interesting how he illustrated that even our theology is colored by our own life experiences. For example, those who suffer as a child might have a theology focused on suffering or victimhood, or one who has self-esteem issues as a child may find themselves questioning whether God really loves them like He claims to. Granted, some things just have to be taken with a grain of salt, but all in all, I would say that it was a pretty decent book. If you're looking for fun reading, this ain't the book. If you're looking to actually be a more attentive listener, and thus a better friend or pastor, this could be a help along the way.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Tension of Reality

I'm currently making my way through C. Bernard Ruffin's Padre Pio: The True Story and must say that I am really enjoying it. There are many highlighted areas that are excellent little quotes or thoughts to take to prayer and spend time with. One such area is the issue of being real. I've always appreciated hearing stories of saintly people showing their humanity. We've seen it with Father Groeschel and Mother Angelica, likely heard stories of Mother Theresa's and probably other stories of saints who just liked to tell it how it was. I came across one of these instances while reading through Ruffin's book in the section on Pio's stigmata when he writes: He frequently replied to those who asked him if the stigmata hurt, "Do you think the Good Lord gave them to me for decoration?" When I read that response of Padre Pio, I could do nothing but laugh because I saw the humanity in such a statement; it wasn't some fluffy pious answer but a genuine human response. For me it is easy to fall into seeing saints as these almost other-worldly beings that can at times seem to be divorced from my view of reality. I see the incredible prayer life, charitable works, pious exercises, and mystical experiences and yet sometimes forget that they were people who experience many of the same things as the rest of us. I must admit, though, that I sometimes wonder about the tension that lies there between being 'real' and falling into sin. There are certainly days where it is easy for me to be 'real' and yet at the same time to go into a place that is not saintly in the least bit. It's one thing to be blunt or honest but if it is there without charity, then is it really a good thing? I guess we just have to find that tension ourselves and perfect the balance of things along the way...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Epilogue to the Year of the Priest

A friend of my keyed me in on another very helpful and informative site on the Year of the Priest. Check it out. It would help to be part of Facebook

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Year of the Priest

The Year of the Priest is upon us. As a seminarian I am doubly excited about a year dedicated to what God is calling me and to what I truly desire. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI chose this as the theme of this year because it is the 150th Anniversary of the death of the Cure de Ars, St. John Marie Vianney. He was a humble parish priest who barely made it through seminary because of his difficulty with Latin. His trust in the Lord and his desire the the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ led to a resolve even his bishop could not deny. His ministry as a priest in the small French town of Ars was just what the town and the country of France needed. St. John Vianney grew up during the French Revolution and the tumultuous times following it. As a child he renegade priests who would move around the countryside celebrating baptisms and masses for the faithful while the utterly atheist government tried to stamp out Holy Mother Church. He knew the France and the small town Ars needed to be reintroduced to the healing and redemptive love of Jesus Christ.

He started his ministry as a humble priest doing his duty trying to bring his flock to Christ. He ended his ministry doing the same. In between he fought with demons and reintroduced countless souls to the grace pouring forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the sacrament of Reconciliation. It was said that in his last years he heard upwards of 16 hours of confessions a day.

Seeing such a great model for priesthood, both ministerial and universal, Pope Benedict XVI has welcomed us to this year of the priest.

The Vatican website has set up a sub-site just for the year of the priest. It has all of the addresses of Pope Benedict on the subject as well as documents from the Second Vatican Council, Servant of God John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, Blessed John XXIII, Pope Pius XII, Pope Pius XI, Saint Pius X, and Pope Leo XIII. This will be invaluable resources for anyone preparing something dealing with this wonderful year of the priest. Here a link to the site

St. John Marie Vianney

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Praise God!

I am currently taking my last two classes I need for my Masters degree. One of the books we are reading, "Encountering the Book of Psalms" had an idea in Chapter 6 under "The Anatomy of Priase" that I never really paid much attention to before, which I should have, and thus I want you to also :D

The book speaks about how the vocation of our existence as humans is to praise God: "A case can be made on the basis of the Psams that the purpose of human existence is to praise God." In St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 10:31, he tells us that we should give praise to God no matter what we are currently doing. The book for class continues, "Further, to disengage oneslef from the vocation of praise is to deny one's own human existence." In other words, by not giving God praise, we are denying our human existence!!! St. Catherine of Siena speaks about having a cell inside of the deepest part of the soul in which one is to remain for the cell, as that of a monk, should be a place of quiteness and where one can encounter God. By creating this cell, we can do as the book says, "it becomes necessary at times to summon our inner self to the tabernacle of praise." The last quote I want to give you from the book is this, "we could say that to praise God is to live, and to live is to praise God."

Thus, I must ask you this: are you alive? How often do we praise God in the midst of the distractions of this world? I know I have trouble for sure not falling into the complaining mode. However, If we strive to live, to praise God in all we do, then we can say like Job in Chapter 1:21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It Is You I Beckon

Greetings all! The time has come for me to open my mouth, or at least use my fingers, and talk a bit about one of the books that I have just recently finished. Though not terribly hard to find online, it is not a book that I have seen often (ever) in a book store.

As I noted in my profile, in my spare time I like to browse in our library at school and periodically find little gems that I treasure. One such book is Bishop Joseph Angrisani's book entitled "It Is You I Beckon: A Book of Spiritual Inspirations for Seminarians" Although totaling only 337 pages, it took me about 4 months to read it all. Bishop Angrisani models this book after Pope Pius XII's exhortation 'Menti Nostrae' and does an incredible job of making his points quickly and powerfully. It relies heavily on scripture and the lives of the saints, in addition to the exhortation. The book is split up into 100 chapters, each containing 3 smaller sections. These chapters range from a basic understanding of vocation to the call to Christian perfection with Christ as the model, it breaks down the the beatitudes and the older setup of the various major and minor orders in the Church.

I have often read books that make me stop and reflect on something for a bit before moving on in the reading, but never have I have not encountered one that forced me to do that nearly every time I picked it up (aside from scripture of course!). Each 2-3 page chapter was more than enough food for a day of spiritual reflection and has actually had a major impact upon me, and my relationships with family and friends. In fact, this book has proved to be an incredible blessing from God because it has helped me to deal with several things that I had been wrestling with for a while in my own spiritual life and clarified some questions with my discernment. I actually liked it so much that I went out and bought a copy for myself so I could read it again in the future or allow others to borrow it. So, instead of supplying a 100 reflective blogs on this incredible little book, I will simply note that it was well worth the 4 or so months that it took to make it through.

One might think that because of the title that only seminarians ought to read this book. While it is obviously aimed at this particular group of readers, there are many reflections that the regular lay person could benefit greatly from, in addition to the possibility of people coming to understand a bit more what it means to be a priest or seminarian in the world today. I did notice a few things in the book where the author reflects things that were of greater importance and emphasis in his day, and not as much in ours, but those points are typically noticeable to the discerning eye. In summary, I would very strongly suggest this book to all those seeking a source of spiritual nourishment - especially those discerning the priesthood, or those already in orders.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Hello! This is not really a book review as much as it is my general thoughts about perfection.

Fr. Grou in "The Spiritual Life" takes a thought from "Imitation of Christ" : "Wherever you find self, renounce self." This is a thought that I had been thinking of for quite some time now.

A very dear friend of mine has spoken to me throughout the past couple of years about being challenged to be perfect and holy. There are not many who will tell you to be perfect or to be holy in today's world. The more I thought of this, the more I wondered what it meant to be perfect and holy. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a retreat in which I was able to meditate upon this. I believe that to be perfect and holy is a very simple . It comes down to seeing every moment as a chance to glorify God. The challenge to be perfect and holy is a challenge that calls the person to glorify God in the present moment by giving everything they do to Him, no matter how great or small.

Above all, the call to perfection/holiness is a call to self-abandonment. As the Little Flower would put it, the path to perfection is in the little things, the little victories over one's own will and over one's pride.

Although this sounds simple, and in many ways is simple, we tend to complicate things. Thus a challenge arises in the quote I began with. I challenge everyone who reads this to find a way to triumph over your own will in at least one way during the day. This could be something as small as simple as taking time to see God's work in your life and giving Him thanksgiving for it. It could be as difficult as asking God to grant you a grace, such as asking for the desire to forgive someone you are having trouble forgiving. The more we are able to loose ourselves in Christ through little victories over our will, the more we are able to become who we were always called to be, a perfect and holy people.


Hello everyone!

I am currently reading, "The Spiritual Life" by Fr. Jean Nicolas Grou. I had picked up the book because I have been wanting to look at the basics of the spiritual life again, spending time to meditate on such basics and allowing God to really speak to me. Little did I know the density of the book, nor the beautiful revelations that would come from some of the quotes. In this post I will look at Chapter 1 particularly. This chapter challenges the reader to look at humility and understand what it is in order to grow in that path. Fr. Grou shows that humility is a balancing act between the knowledge of the souls worthiness and the souls unworthiness. He proposes also the idea that if, in true humility, we are called to holiness, to walk the path of Christ, then are we to say it is too much for our soul after what God has done to save our soul? The following are a few quotes from this short chapter.

"...religion humbles a man by teaching him that he comes from nothing...it raises him up and inspires him with great thoughts about himself, by teaching him what his nature is really capable of through the grace of God..."

"But that which puts the crown on the real greatness of man, and on the sad disorder of his abasement of himself, is the thought of what the salvation of his soul has cost God. The Word of God...united Himself to our human nature, took upon Himself our passible and mortal flesh, conversed with men, condescended to instruct them by His teaching and example, and finally, as a voluntary victim, sacrificed Himself for them to the Divine Justice...to reconcile them to God...That which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did and suffered for all me, He did and suffered for each one in particular; and He would not have thought it too much to do if it had been a question of saving only a single soul."

"It proves that the dignity of a soul is beyond understanding"

"And if, so that we may save ourselves, God required of us the same sacrifice to which Jesus Christ willingly submitted Himself, could we say that He required too much?"