If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Convert completes step toward priesthood'

From Savannah Morning News
By Dana Clark Felty

As a child, rural Missourian Scott Winchel saw himself becoming a mechanic or somehow working with numbers.

But on Friday, Winchel will come one step closer to something entirely different: the Catholic priesthood.

Winchel, a 40-year-old former aircraft mechanic and convert to Catholicism, will be ordained as a transitional deacon at a service at noon Friday at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Bishop J. Kevin Boland will officiate.

The transitional diaconate represents the final stage in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. Winchel expects to complete his sixth and final year of study this spring at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Afterward, he hopes to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Savannah in June 2009.

The event comes only 11 years after Winchel became a Catholic at the age of 29.

Raised a Southern Baptist in the small town of Peculiar, Missouri, Winchel grew up knowing little about Catholicism.

He began studying the faith after befriending some Catholics while serving as an aircraft mechanic in the Marines.

"In my late 20s, I began to rediscover my faith, and I began looking into scripture and reading," Winchel said during a phone interview last week while traveling home for a few days. "I came to the conclusion, 'I think I have to become a Catholic.' "

Just four years later, Winchel began to feel called to the priesthood. In Missouri, he met Catholic theologian Paul Thigpen, who later moved to Savannah. Thigpen introduced Winchel to diocesan leaders who encouraged the Missourian to pursue the priesthood.

"It seemed like there were a lot of little coincidences and people mentioning things, and I really began thinking God was calling me to give it a shot," Winchel said.

Since enrolling in seminary six years ago, Winchel has taken each day in stride, waiting for a sign that the priesthood isn't the path for him.

But that message hasn't come.

"My prayer has always been, 'You know, Lord, if you don't want me to do this, just let me know and I'll go my merry way,' " he said.

"But at each step, it has seemed, the Lord has continued to call me forward."

"Catholics to observe National Vocation Awareness Week"

Press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK TO BE CELEBRATED JANUARY 11-17

WASHINGTON--The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, January 11-17.

"This week is a chance for parishes across the country to highlight the gift of vocations in the church through prayer and education," said Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. "As a church, we recognize the need to safeguard and promote this gift."
Father James Steffes, executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, added, "The church needs to help young people hear the Lord in prayer, so they can recognize him in their lives.

"This week reminds us that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to invite young people to consider a call to ordained ministry and consecrated life."
The observance of National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) began in 1976 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year as the beginning of NVAW. In 1997, this celebration was moved to coincide with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on January 11 in 2009, marks Jesus' initiation into public ministry. At his baptism Jesus is named the beloved Son of God. With this celebration the faithful recommit themselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. They are also initiated through their own baptism to be the Beloved of God, commissioned to proclaim Good News with their lives.

"India, exporter of priests, may keep them home"

From The International Herald Tribune
By Laurie Goodstein

View VIDEO related to this story HERE - "Forming Simple Priests in Complex Times."

ALUVA, India: In the sticky night air, next to a grove of mahogany trees, nearly 50 young men in madras shirts saunter back and forth along a basketball court, reciting the rosary.

They are seminarians studying to become Roman Catholic priests. Together, they send a great murmuring into the hilly village, mingling with the Muslim call to prayer and the chanting of Vedas from a Hindu temple on a nearby ridge.

Young men willing to join the priesthood are plentiful in India, unlike in the United States and Europe. Within a few miles of this seminary, called Don Bosco College, are two much larger seminaries, each with more than 400 students.

As a result, bishops trek here from the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia looking for spare priests to fill their empty pulpits. Hundreds have been allowed to go, siphoning support from India's widespread network of Catholic churches, schools, orphanages, missionary projects and social service programs.

At least 800 Indian priests are working in the United States alone. India, Vietnam and the Philippines are among the leading exporters of priests, according to data compiled by researchers at Catholic University of America in Washington.

But these days the Indian prelates have reason to reconsider their generosity. With India modernizing at breakneck speed, more young men are choosing financial gain over spiritual sacrifice.

"There is a great danger just now because the spirit of materialism is on the increase," said Bishop Mar James Pazhayattil, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, as he sat barefoot at his desk, surrounded by mementos of a lifetime of church service. "Faith and the life of sacrifice are becoming less."

Some of the forces contributing to a lack of priests in Europe and the United States have begun to take shape here.

Parents are having fewer children, with even observant Catholics freely admitting they use birth control. The Indian economy, which has boomed for years, offers more career options.

Many priests once came from large agricultural families. But now land is scarce, the soil tapped out. Families are moving to cities, far from the tight-knit parishes that for generations kept Indian Catholics connected to their faith. And educated young Catholics are increasingly attracted to fields like engineering and technology.

In past generations, having a son become a priest increased the family's stature, said the Rev. Jose Kuriedath, a sociologist in Aluva who has written a book about vocations in India. Kuriedath recounted an adage in Malayalam, the local language: "It is equal in dignity to have either an elephant or a priest in the family."

But this is changing.

Answering a Call

At St. Paul's Minor Seminary in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda, sleepy teenage boys clamber from their dormitory every morning down to chapel, past a statue of Mary and portraits of Pope Benedict XVI and Gandhi.

Among them is Chacko Kuttuparambil, a stocky 17-year-old who wears high-top basketball shoes and slim, stylish glasses. His prosperous family was not particularly supportive of his joining the priesthood, he said.

His father, an apartment building manager, wanted him to be a computer engineer. His brother, a business executive, also tried to dissuade him. Chacko is the younger of two sons, and traditionally it is the responsibility of the youngest son to care for the parents in their old age.

But Chacko felt called to the priesthood because, he said, as a child he was miraculously cured of a viral infection that paralyzed the right side of his body for two years.

"He gave me life," Chacko said, "so I am to give my life to Him."

On a hot day before the rainy season arrived, Chacko and his fellow students boarded a bus for a field trip intended to expose them to ministry work. Along the way, the teenagers clapped and belted out Christian hymns and pop tunes. They craned to look out at billboards of motorcycles, mobile phones and models with bare midriffs advertising sari shops.

The students arrived at a home for mentally ill adults run by an order of nuns in pink saris. Some students initially recoiled at the patients' odd tics. But as they had been taught, they separated into small groups to talk with the patients, many of whom brightened under the boys' attention. Most of the students were selected for the seminary after attending a "life guidance camp" that each year draws hundreds of local teenagers for a three-day session at St. Paul's.

Those who seem promising are invited back for a vocation retreat, and the best of those are invited to join the seminary.

In a first-year class, the students studied a pamphlet called "Growing up Gracefully." The school's rector, the Rev. Sebastian Panjikaran, demonstrated proper priestly etiquette. Father Panjikaran acted out the wrong way for a priest to walk through town, charging down the aisle between the students' desks, his eyes fixed on the ground.

"A priest should not walk so fast," he said, turning to face the students. "He should walk how?"

"Slowly," the students said.

"He should walk slowly," Father Panjikaran repeated, strolling casually up the aisle and making eye contact with the students. "And he should ... ?"

"Help," the students say in unison.

If you walk slowly, Father Panjikaran explained, the people will see you are friendly and accessible and will ask you for help. He concluded, "You can have that sense of usefulness if you do good for others."

Changing Landscape

Catholics represent a tiny proportion of the population in India — about 2 percent. But they have played an outsize role in weaving the country's social safety net, establishing schools, hospitals, old-age homes and other organizations that serve many non-Catholics.

The church here is ancient, with three separate rites, each with its own liturgies and bishops. Here in Kerala, a state in southwest India, Catholics of the Syro-Malabar rite trace their roots to the Apostle Thomas, who according to lore arrived by boat in A.D. 52, made disciples among the ruling Brahmin class and planted seven churches.

About 20 percent of Kerala's population is Catholic, and being faithful is more than a once-a-week event. Families pray together at home in the evenings, kneeling at shrines in their sitting rooms. Mass attendance in many dioceses is over 80 percent. And the entire community turns out for local festivals on saints days.

After evening Mass one Sunday at Sacred Heart Keezhmad, the parish just up the hill from Don Bosco College, the young altar boys and some friends were helping the priest close the sacristy. Of eight young men, including the president of the local Catholic youth organization, only one said he was interested in becoming a priest. Six said they aspired to be engineers, and one said he wanted to be a doctor.

Like many seminaries run by religious orders, Don Bosco College traditionally did not accept students who were the only child in their families. But that policy has changed, said the Rev. Sebastian Kalambaden, the seminary's administrator. The seminary also has two students who were brought up Hindu and converted to Catholicism. Until recently, most seminaries avoided taking converts.

Duty to Serve Abroad

Some graduates and former teachers of Don Bosco College are now serving overseas. The students are aware that if they do well they might be tapped. And many see it as their responsibility to go.

"People came from foreign countries as missionaries, and because of them we have Christianity, and in many ways we are benefiting," said Augustine Thekkepookombil, a seminarian. " So I feel it is my duty to give spiritual help. That would be the best way of showing gratitude."

The Diocese of Irinjalakuda has 10 priests serving in the United States, as well as 3 in Germany, 2 in Canada and one in England. Four are studying in Rome.

In the United States, four of the Indian priests are in Birmingham, Alabama, where the former bishop arranged about seven years ago to pay the Diocese of Irinjalakuda $5,000 a year for each borrowed priest, an official in the Indian diocese said. Many bishops have such arrangements, giving them a motive other than generosity to loan out their priests.

Bishop Pazhayattil said he chose which priests to send abroad very carefully. Some who volunteer, he said, could easily go astray so far from home.

And some do not want to go. The Rev. Jolly Vadakken had studied in Rome and worked short-term in parishes in Germany, Minneapolis and Birmingham. Tall and prepossessing, fluent in five languages, Father Vadakken had offers to work as a parish pastor in Italy and Atlanta. But he preferred to stay home.

In Irinjalakuda, he runs a Catholic resource center across the street from the diocese's towering pink cathedral. He buzzes around the diocese on a motorcycle, often in his cassock, his cellphone ringing incessantly. He operates a suicide hot line (Kerala has one of the highest suicide rates in India), counsels couples, teaches courses in parenting and runs a program that mediates local conflicts.

He said he feels more vital here than he did in the United States or Europe, where he was needed only for the sacraments.

"In the other world, we are official priests," he said. "We are satisfied just doing the Mass and sacraments, everything on time, everything perfect.

"In India, the people come close to us," he continued. "The work satisfaction is different. Our ministry is so much wanted here."

At the same time, the Catholic church in Irinjalakuda is expanding. When Bishop Pazhayattil was appointed in 1978, the diocese had 78 parishes; it now has 129. He said it was unlikely he would be so eager to send his priests to Europe or the United States in the future.

The rectors of both large seminaries in Aluva, with over 400 students each, each said in separate interviews that the Catholic church in the United States and Europe would eventually need to stop relying on India to supply priests.

"It is not a solution," said Msgr. Bosco Puthur, the rector of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Mangalapuzha. "It is only a stopgap that does not solve the problem."

Cistercian Monks from Vietnam Found New Monastery

"'There is God in this deserted place' -- Vietnamese monks live in remote Lucerne Valley monastery"
By DAVID OLSON
The Press-Enterprise

Long before dawn in the remote desert south of Barstow, the only light for miles around is a faint glow from a triple-wide trailer.

Inside, several monks chant in Vietnamese. Then there is silence.

The trailer is home to the first cloistered Catholic monastery in the Inland area. The white-robed monks pray and chant together seven times a day and silently meditate twice. Here in Lucerne Valley, off a dirt road and at the foot of barren mountains, there is little to disturb them.
"There is God in this deserted place," said Brother Matthew Nguyen. "There are not many people here, but God is here."

San Bernardino Diocese Bishop Gerald Barnes celebrated the opening of St. Joseph Monastery on Aug. 17, but for now, the two cream-colored trailers, a water pump and solar panels are all that sit on the 80-acre site.

The monks hope to one day erect permanent buildings to house a chapel, retreat center and living quarters.

St. Joseph is the second U.S. outpost of a Vietnamese congregation of Cistercian-order monks, who seclude themselves in monasteries to devote their lives to contemplation. The other opened in June near Sacramento.

There are nearly 7,000 Cistercian monks and nuns worldwide. Most sites are open to the Catholic faithful for retreats, as St. Joseph's visitors trailer will be in a few months.

The monks and nuns in Cistercian monasteries typically spend little time outside them, except for shopping for groceries and other necessities, and for special events such as ordinations.

Although the number of monks and nuns in U.S. monasteries has declined over the past few decades, experts say the drop has not been as steep as the fall in nonmonastic priests and nuns.

Proportionately more people choose a monastic life than before as a reaction to secularism and an increasingly fast-paced U.S. lifestyle, said Sister Patricia Wittberg, a professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

There are about 200 Catholic monasteries in the United States, but there is no reliable count of how many people live inside them.

Like the parish priests who minister to their congregants and the nuns who serve the poor and sick, Cistercians and their devotion to intensely contemplative lives form a vital part of the Catholic church, said the Rev. Thomas Rausch, a professor of Catholic theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

"It's a special vocation," Rausch said. "The church needs people who energize it from within with their prayer."

Prayer and Meditation

The monks of St. Joseph rise each morning at precisely 3:55 a.m.

Twenty minutes later, they gather in the dim light of the trailer's chapel to chant for a half-hour. Then comes 30 minutes of meditation broken by the ringing of a bell announcing daily Mass.

The rest of the day is dedicated to prayer, meditation, singing, Bible-reading, study and work. They speak to each other as little as possible, said the Rev. Anthony Pham, the monastery's superior.

"Most of our time is for God," Pham said, as he ate a breakfast of fried eggs topped with soy sauce.

Pham said that, while he is meditating, he reflects upon God's love and the meaning of his calling as a monk. Work is an integral part of monastic life. As much of it as possible is manual labor, to leave the monks' minds free for contemplation.

The monks are now clearing brush, digging trenches for pipes, grading land and performing other tasks to build and adorn their monastery.

Like other monasteries, St. Joseph must be self-supporting, so the monks are discussing possible business ventures.

Other monasteries make products such as beer, fruitcake or cheese, and one in Wisconsin sells toner cartridges under the name Lasermonks.

The St. Joseph monks are thinking of opening an on-site gift shop featuring Vietnamese religious articles that they would also sell online. Or perhaps they'll make tofu for Vietnamese markets.

Spiritual Retreat

The 12-bed retreat center that will open in several months is why the monastery exists. A Vietnamese priest from Santa Ana, who attended a Cistercian boarding school as a boy, contacted the Cistercian order to convey the need for a retreat house geared toward Vietnamese immigrants, Pham said.

Many older Vietnamese Catholics do not speak English and would not feel at home or get the spiritual nourishment they seek if they were to attend a retreat at an English-speaking monastery, he said.

They and many other Catholics yearn for a place to recharge, to take a break from their busy lives to focus on their relationship with God, Pham said.

The retreat guests -- visitors who are not Vietnamese will be welcome as well -- will participate in the same prayers, singing, meditation and other devotions as the monks, Pham said.

If asked, the monks will guide them, suggesting which Biblical verses to read. But much of the benefit of a retreat will be the example the monks set, Pham said.

"The way we live has a special effect and impact on other people, in the way that we get closer to God," Pham said. "When we are closer to God, we love God more."

Even more than parish priests, the monks forgo worldly goods. Because they rarely leave the monastery, they have few material needs. They do not eat meat, as a way of sacrificing for God.

"If we put too many things in ourselves, we cannot serve other people," Pham said. "If you're willing to throw things like the good car, like status in the community away, you come back to only being a human being, nothing more. We try to empty ourselves, so God can pour his graces into us."

Building A Monastery

When a permanent monastery is complete, Pham will spend almost all his time there.

Until then, Pham is busier than he would sometimes like. He regularly interrupts the contemplative life of Lucerne Valley to drive to Victorville. There, he fills out forms, applies for permits and talks with county bureaucrats. Even monks can't avoid San Bernardino County land-use and building codes.

He has a studded ring on his right hand that he rubs while driving, so he can pray the Rosary while on the road.

All six monks who live at the monastery spent at least six months at a Benedictine monastery in Pennsylvania to improve their English and acculturate themselves, Pham said.

Two more monks are now in Pennsylvania, preparing to move to St. Joseph. The goal is to have 13 monks by the end of 2009.

The monks receive several-thousand dollars a month to support themselves and the monastery. Most money comes from Vietnamese immigrants in Orange County. Further donations, along with revenue from the monks' forthcoming business, will fund the construction of the permanent monastery.

The trailer chapel where the monks now spend much of their time is spare. The monks sit on white plastic chairs or kneel on a blue-and-white carpet before a crucifix and a wooden altar carved in Orange County by a Vietnamese craftsman. Statues of St. Joseph and Our Lady of La Vang -- an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 18th century Vietnam -- stand near a plaque commemorating Bishop Barnes' visit.

Outside, there is little but sand and desert brush.

Taking A Risk

Lucerne Valley was chosen for the monastery because it is remote enough to foster contemplation but within driving distance of the huge Vietnamese community in Orange County.
The land cost $80,000. Pham started paying for it with his $200 monthly stipend, along with donations from Vietnamese families.

It was a risk. Pham knew the money wasn't enough to pay the entire cost of the land. But he trusted in God.

Then a Vietnamese family took him to Florida with them on vacation. By chance, he met a wealthy Vietnamese Catholic there. Pham mentioned the monastery he was building. He didn't ask the man for money. But by the time he left Florida, the man offered to pay the remaining cost of the land.

"I didn't know this person, and I didn't have the money to pay for the land," Pham said.

"But everything comes together with God."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"The Pink Sisters"

Holy Spirit Adoration Nuns Mark Centenary of Founder’s Death
From The National Catholic Register
By Kimberly Jansen

My three-year-old daughter loves to visit the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters’ Eucharistic chapel of Christ the King here in our hometown of Lincoln, Neb.

After all, these cloistered contemplatives don a little girl’s favorite color — pink! Their rose-colored habit has even earned them the affectionate nickname “The Pink Sisters.”

I still remember getting lost on one of my first visits to their chapel several years ago. I drove up and down the snowy street looking for a steeple. Little did I know that from the outside the sisters’ convent looks like just another mansion in the upscale midtown neighborhood.

I later learned that the property was once the bishop’s residence, but Bishop Glennon Flavin — who preferred simpler quarters — gave it to the sisters upon their arrival in 1973.

Several years ago, I was blessed to regularly visit the adoration chapel, thanks to a “Holy Hour swap” with a friend of mine.

Each week I would drop my children off at her house and head over to “The Pinks.” When I got back, she took her turn. Play time for the kids and prayer time for the moms — talk about a win-win situation!

It comes as no surprise, then, that my favorite part about the sisters’ chapel is the silence. The peace and warmth I find here have been especially welcome in the midst of the hectic seasons of Advent and Christmas.

As I visit, all I can see, at first, are large panels of colored glass windows off to the left. Instead of a smooth, seamless look like stained glass, these broken pieces resemble a large puzzle shining forth bold hues of blue, red and yellow.

Upon further inspection, I notice an image of the Magi’s visit to the Holy Family and other scenes from Christ’s life.

At certain times of day, I can hear soft voices singing the Divine Office on the other side of a high wall to my right.

During the daytime hours, lay adorers often volunteer to keep Christ company while the sisters attend to cooking, sewing, cleaning and other duties. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, though, one of the sisters will be praying in the sanctuary — in clear view just on the other side of the wooden grille.

The small chapel affords each visitor a clear view of the high altar, built in throne-like fashion to house the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

As I round the corner, my eyes are drawn upward to the monstrance. It sits under a golden half-arch about 10 feet off the ground. Ruby-colored stones stud a crown in the center and the tips of each finial.

On either side of the throne, slanted lines like the sun’s rays draw further attention to the Blessed Sacrament in the center. I learned that they were sandblasted into the pink-tinted Kasota marble.

The sisters’ collection of exquisite monstrances also sparks my interest. My favorite displays a pale blue band with large white stars surrounding the host. It reminds me of the Blessed Mother, the Ark of the Covenant and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. I can’t help but reflect on Mary’s humility in never drawing attention to herself, but only joyfully bringing us to her Son.

It was this joyful devotion to the Holy Spirit that inspired the German priest Arnold Janssen (canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2003) to found the sisters as the last of three religious orders at the end of the 19th century.

This month, Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters in 10 countries worldwide (four in the United States) will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their founder’s death.

St. Arnold possessed a great concern and zeal for foreign missions that led him to open a seminary for future missionaries in Steyl, Holland, in 1875. Four years later, his newly founded Society of the Divine Word sent its first priests to China.

St. Arnold’s dream also included active and cloistered communities for women. He compared them to Martha and Mary and spoke often of the important relationship between the two.

Although one spent her energy in service and one sat at Jesus’ feet, he emphasized their complementarity by dedicating both groups of sisters to the third person of the Holy Trinity, the source of the Church’s missionary dynamism.

Furthermore, he gave the cloistered branch a pink habit (pink being a sign of joy and a sign of their consecration to the Holy Spirit) and instructed them to perpetually adore the Blessed Sacrament.

Even today, the sisters continue the traditions of their founder. Not only do they offer frequent Monday Masses in honor of the Holy Spirit (a habit St. Arnold’s father practiced for many years), but every 15 minutes, they pause to unite themselves with the Holy Spirit in the brief “quarter-hour prayer” that their founder wrote.

Although St. Arnold designated the sisters to primarily pray for missionary priests, The Pink Sisters run an impressive apostolate answering hundreds of spiritual bouquet requests by mail, phone and in person.

I still remember the power of their intercession when complications arose during the birth of my first child six years ago. A friend of ours hurried over to the convent and slipped an urgent prayer request through the grille. On our way home from the hospital several days later, we stopped by the chapel with our newborn son to offer prayers of thanksgiving for his safe delivery.

Although my married vocation more closely resembles Martha than Mary, I am greatly inspired by The Pink Sisters’ witness. Following their example, I pray that I may more fervently strive after holiness in the “cloister” of my home in order to bring the souls of myself and my family safely to heaven.

Kimberly Jansen is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters
1040 S. Cotner Blvd.
Lincoln, NE 68510
(402) 489-0765

HolySpiritAdorationSisters.org

Planning your visit:

The chapel is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mass is at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Compline and Benediction are held daily at 8 p.m.

The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters also have convents in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

"Feeding Body and Soul in the South Bronx"

From The New York Times
By Mathew R. Warren
Photos by Christian Hansen


Hearing a knock at the door, Brother Nicholas White peeked through a small cross-shaped window and opened the door at St. Crispin’s Friary in the South Bronx. On the steps outside, a man stood and asked for a blessing. Without hesitating, Brother Nicholas put his hand on the man’s shoulder, closed his eyes and prayed with him.

The man, Wilbert Barber, who has been a frequent visitor, had been homeless until recently and was now in an apartment paid for with public assistance. “I needed prayer, I needed God’s protection,” said Mr. Barber, 48. “I can’t make it without God.”

Nourishment, spiritual and material, is something that the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have been dispensing since 1987 when a group of friars started the religious community in the South Bronx to serve neighborhoods with a variety of problems.

The order has grown steadily, attracting men from across the country willing to give up material possessions and devote their lives to prayer and charity. The order now has 120 friars and 14 friaries worldwide.

Brother Nicholas, 32, is from Ohio, and has been in the South Bronx for more than a year. He has a close-cropped head and a red beard, and wears a gray robe with a hood, sandals and a wooden cross attached to rosary beads that hang from a rope tied around his waist.

The friars, who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, spend four to five hours a day praying and most of the rest of their time trying to help the poor. They depend almost entirely on donations to support themselves and their charities, which include a homeless shelter, a youth center and food handouts.

Brother Nicholas was working as an audio engineer when he went through what he described as a religious conversion, a calling to a devout life. While doing research on the Internet he came across the Web site of the Friars of the Renewal.

“I saw a picture of a friar in a beard with his habit on and his hood up and bare feet, sitting on the floor praying the rosary, and I was like: you mean to tell me people are actually doing that?” Brother Nicholas said.

“I was floored,” he added. “I recognized an authenticity that here was a group of men that desired to live the Gospel and nothing more.”

Every brother at St. Crispin’s has his own small room, sparsely furnished with a chair and a desk and a thin mat on the floor on which they sleep. Some keep books or musical instruments, but they have no televisions, cellphones or computers.

“It’s funny that we have all this communication and media that are good and could be used for much good, but somehow there’s a lack of communication still,” said Brother Juanmaria Arroyo Acevedo, who at 24 is the youngest friar at St. Crispin’s.

For Brother Paolo Kim, 25, who arrived from California three years ago, becoming a friar gave him a different view of the city than most people his age ever have. (The friary is at 420 East 156th Street, between Melrose and Elton Avenues.)

“Being a friar allows us to experience what it’s like to live a life that is less distracted than the contemporary lifestyle that most young people, especially in New York City, would experience on a day-to-day basis,” Brother Paolo said.

The combination of living with the bare minimum and working with an impoverished community is what draws many of the friars to New York.

“I felt that this is what fulfills my life, this is what gives it meaning,” Brother Juanmaria said. “When I put whatever talents that I have in the service of other people, then I feel useful, that I have dignity.”

Every week the friars visit the homes of people who have asked for help with food. Beyond distributing the food, their purpose is to establish a relationship and to offer friendship and counsel.

Brother Juanmaria visited recently with Maria Quiñones, 82, who lives at the Jackson Houses, a project within walking distance of St. Crispin’s.

“When somebody visits you in your home, it makes you feel good,” Ms. Quiñones said, as she showed Brother Juanmaria photos of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren while her two parakeets, Nene and Chula, chirped away in their cage.

“The friars do a lot of good things for us,” said Ms. Quiñones, who has received food from the brothers for more than 10 years.

While their charity work has made them feel welcome in the neighborhood, many of the friars still have some difficulty adjusting to the area.

“I’m from the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, where you can see a beautiful beach in my backyard,” Brother Juanmaria said. “Coming up here, you’re stuck in between buildings and traffic.”

He joked that every winter he experiences a “vocational crisis.”

The oldest and longest-serving resident at St. Crispin’s, the Rev. Rich Roemer, 39, who grew up in Wisconsin, said he certainly felt out of place when he first arrived in 1990. He remembers a friar telling him people would assume that he was a cop because young white men were not common in the South Bronx.

“That sort of tipped me off that I wasn’t in the Midwest anymore,” said Father Rich, whose curly brown beard reaches below his collarbone. “I suppose I was a bit fearful in some ways, but it turned out to be really a great blessing.”

Father Rich took final vows and became a priest 13 years ago. Brothers and priests take the same vows though the brothers cannot perform sacraments because they are not ordained.

“Early on, definitely it was the decision to live a life of chastity, not to get married, is the big hurdle to making a decision to enter this life,” Father Rich said. “As time goes on there’s still a natural struggle that goes on with that, but also in some ways the vow of obedience becomes more difficult. You try to surrender your plans, your time, where you are going to live.”

“This is a radical investment in the afterlife,” he added.

Father Rich recalled that when he was 23, a reporter talked with him for an article about St. Crispin’s and its relationship with the tenants of a neighboring building.

“There’s a new door on it, but other than that I think it’s pretty much the same,” Father Rich said of the building, whose tenants still struggle with poverty. “Some families still get help from us with food.”

Brother Nicholas said he intended to take his final vows and stay on at St. Crispin’s. “Those are my plans,” he said, “to commit to this way of life for the rest of my life.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Update on the Progress at Clear Creek Monastery

My apologies for not posting this sooner. It's been going around the internet for a while, but when I first saw it, I thought it was the older video about Clear Creek and stopped watching it too soon. Please help support the Monks in this beautiful and worthy endeavor!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A discernment reflection and information on retreats from the Sisters of Life

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May the Name of Jesus be praised!

A blessed fourth week of Advent to you!
The next Sisters of Life Come and See retreat
will be Thursday, March 19 – Sunday, March 22.
If you would like to attend, please call 718.863.2264.


We’re also hosting a retreat for young women ages 18-35 from Friday, Jan 30 – Sunday, Feb 1 called “Perfect Love Casts out all Fear” (not a discernment retreat). The information is on the attached document. To register, go to www.sistersoflife.org/vmg.html. (We can only register those who have not yet attended this retreat) Please pass the word!

In Christ, our Life,
Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV & Sr. Mariam Caritas, SV

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When we Sisters of Life gather for supper during the days preceding Christmas, we do so in the dark. All the lights in and near the refectory are out, and winter darkness shrouds the yard outside. We begin to pray without the benefit of seeing the ones standing by our side, until the candles on the Advent wreath are progressively lit, lending a warm glow to the room. The blessing said, the Sisters begin to sing and the sound of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” fills the air.

Emmanuel. God-with-us. He is with us, and Advent draws us back to this truth as darkness gives way to light. It was our Blessed Mother who first conceived the light of the world - how easy it is to forget she did so in the darkness. In the midst of the weariness of sin all around her, she held with fidelity the flame which was the Life of Christ within her. She did so during the first Advent as she did at Guadalupe, when, pregnant with Jesus, she transformed a culture and a people with the beauty of roses in winter.

Her yes opens a way for the light. Her generous maternity fearlessly offers it to others. In the warmth of her yes we are healed, we see our truest self, we find courage. The light dawns, and we have the benefit of seeing those who stand by our side. Christ is conceived again, by you and me, even if in darkness: the darkness of our time, the darkness of the unknown required of total surrender, the darkness of our own hearts (one thing we do not share with Mary). Emmanuel, God-with-us. God-with-us as we are, not as we would like to be. The very name Jesus means God saves, and he does.

And when we let him, what a transformation, what a revolution of love it is! Like the vulnerable Babe of Bethlehem, this fire is alive; it must be tended in the confessional, fueled by charity and forgiveness, delighted in through adoration. Encountering his Life within is heaven on earth, and joy that no circumstance, no suffering, no evil, can take from us. His presence reveals that you and I are known and loved and awaited[1] by the One who governs all things. This is peace the world cannot give, and the power behind any good we accomplish. The more faithfully we tend the flame of his Life within us, the more truly free we will be and the more blazing his Life will be in the world.

Doing something great, something worthy, with one’s life starts in the darkness, in the secret recesses of the heart. It starts with the courage to say yes to a love which will set you on fire, which will burn away every impurity, every fear and hesitation holding you back from total worship, total giving.

Pope Benedict has said that “…the world needs lovers, and these we call saints.” Yes the world needs lovers: lovers of Christ, lovers of his Life which he so readily gives us. Lovers of the human person, of the poor, the weak, the voiceless, lovers of truth, lovers of beauty. The world needs lovers so confident of being loved, so filled with God, that they are able to take off the masks and let others come close. Purity does not hold others at a distance – quite the contrary. If the word ‘diabolical’ means to separate, slander, divide, this is what sin does. Purity, innocence, allows others to draw very close.[2] Yes, the world needs innocent lovers, not afraid to allow others to be a burden, not afraid to allow others to lean on them that the flames of the Holy Spirit, the ever-newborn Life of the Christ, may warm and heal and, eventually, set their hearts ablaze.

This Christmas, let us kneel with humility at the foot of the crib. Let us give our yes to the light, however great the darkness seems. And, receiving the fire of God’s love anew, with fearless generosity let us offer Him, our true hope, to the world. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

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[1] cf. Pope Benedict XVI. Spe Salvi, 3

[2] “…the privilege of (Mary’s) Immaculate Conception… which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary’s purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Lourdes Sept. 14, 2008)

Monday, December 22, 2008

"A Prayerful Advocate"

From Catholic New York
By JOHN WOODS

Like many of you, I occasionally ask someone to keep me or a member of my family in their prayers. And when someone makes a similar request of me, I take it seriously.

This week, I made such a request of someone the first time I spoke to her, and I have a good hunch that she'll follow through.

Her name is Jenna Marie Cooper. She is 23 years old and a graduate student in theology at Ave Maria University in Florida. On Saturday, Jan. 3, she will be consecrated to a life of virginity at an 11:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Newburgh to be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, co-vicar for Orange County and pastor of Sacred Heart.

As a consecrated virgin, the oldest form of consecrated life in the Church, Ms. Cooper will spend much of her time in prayer. (A Vatican II document called for a revision and revival of the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World, restoring the ancient vocation in the life of the modern Church.) It will not be a great departure from her current daily life, which includes praying the Liturgy of the Hours five times, attending Mass and spending other time in prayer.

Chief among her intentions are the Church and people of New York. Cardinal Egan granted permission for Ms. Cooper to be consecrated and she will remain directly under his authority as Archbishop of New York.

She said she felt privileged to be invited to attend the Mass for clergy and religious that Pope Benedict XVI celebrated in St. Patrick's Cathedral in April. "That was such a wonderful and awesome experience. I couldn't talk about anything else for a week afterward," she said.

When the Holy Father thanked those present for their prayers on his behalf, it made a firm impression on her. "That sense that prayers were needed and appreciated was very meaningful to me," she said.

She will be the youngest person in the United States living as a consecrated virgin, and one of four active in the archdiocese, according to Father Bartholomew Daly, M.H.M., who as co-vicar for religious is in charge of their oversight and meets with them regularly.

During our phone interview, Ms. Cooper said she had felt a religious calling since she was about 12. She is part of a devout Catholic family that includes her parents, Douglas and Judith, and two younger siblings, Joseph and Tess. They are parishioners of St. Thomas of Canterbury parish in Cornwall-on-Hudson. She assumed that she would eventually join a religious congregation. She met with several during her undergraduate days (she holds a bachelor's in philosophy from Seton Hall University), but didn't feel like that was the right choice for her. Still, she continued to feel a call to serve the Church in a special way.

In 2004 she met Father Luke Sweeney, now the vocation director for the archdiocese who was then serving at Sacred Heart in Newburgh, where Ms. Cooper at times attends Mass. He gave her information about different religious orders and showed her a copy of the rite for consecrated virgins. She said that she was familiar with the lives of some of the consecrated virgins of the early Church, including some who were martyred for their faith.

"The courage they had to live a Christian life in such a hostile culture made me realize what a foundation they were for the Church," she said. "I wanted to be able to imitate that courage and love in my own life."

Eventually Father Sweeney arranged for her to meet with Father Daly. Last year, she began meeting with him on a more regular basis in pursuing her vocation. She had to formally request Cardinal Egan's permission for her consecration, which was given shortly before the papal Mass.

The prayer request I made of Ms. Cooper was for Catholic New York and its readers. It's only fair that we return the favor as she enters consecrated life.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Priest and Seminarian Training - Extraordinary Form - 1962 Missale Romanum

CHICAGO, IL (DECEMBER 20, 2008) - Ever since Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago have been hard at work in educating priests how to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.

Since many approach the Canons Regular to learn more about the Extraordinary Form, it is advantageous to offer group workshops for priests, deacons, seminarians, and for the lay faithful so that Catholics will better appreciate the celebration of the Classical Roman Rite..

Working in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Canons Regular received the blessing of Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, to carry out this work of formation.

The next workshop for Priests and Seminarians will be held from February 9 - 13 , 2009 at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House on the campus of Chicago's Mundelein Seminary (P.O. Box 455 - 1000 E Maple Ave. Mundelein, IL 60060-0455). Visit the Stritch House online at www.stritchretreat.org.

This February training session will assist beginners in the celebration of Low Mass (Missa Lecta) and more advanced students in the celebration of the High Mass (Missa Cantata).

Registration Costs for Priests

Housing/Meals/Workshop-$500
or
Meals/Workshop-$350

Registration Costs for Seminarians

Housing/Meals/Workshop-$400
or
Meals/Workshop-$250

Questions about our training program, should be directed to:

Rev. Scott A. Haynes, S.J.C.
Canons Regular of St. John Cantius
825 N. Carpenter Street
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 243-7373

Those interested to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Roman Rite (1962 Missale Romanum) will have a special opportunity over a period of five days to study the Traditional Latin Mass with the Canons Regular, as well as an opportunity to gain experience with the Traditional Roman Liturgy through hands-on demonstration, conferences and question/answer sessions.

Each day the Mass will be celebrated according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. Low Mass and High Mass will be celebrated at all workshops. At some workshops Solemn Mass and Pontifical Mass will be celebrated additionally.

Every workshop will provide:

* Instruction in the Rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum
* Instruction in the Low Mass (Missa Privata)
* Instruction in the High Mass (Missa Cantata)
* Instruction in the Gregorian Chant for the Priest
* Instruction in the Pronunciation of Ecclesiastical Latin

Questions about the registration process or about the facilities at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House can be directed towards:

Deacon Richard Hudzik - Retreat House Director
Email: rhudzik@archchicago.org
Phone: 847.566.6060 & Fax: 847.566.6082

To download a registration form go to:
www.sanctamissa.org/workshops/for-priests/documents/REGISTRATIONFORM2-9-08.pdf

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Young New Yorker leaves police force to become priest"


From Catholic News Agency:

New York, Nov 6, 2008 / 01:34 pm (CNA).- At the age of 25, Nicolas Fernandez had all of the qualities needed to be a great policeman and his future in the force looked promising. However, during his daily work he discovered he needed different weapons to help the “troubled souls” he encountered, so he decided to become a priest.

Born on Staten Island of an Irish mother and a Spanish father, Fernandez has begun his six year-long formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He had been serving as a police officer for two years when, inspired by the teachings of John Paul II and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York, he decided to change careers and become a priest.

According to El Nuevo Diario, the young seminarian recalls that when he was a policeman, people went to him with their problems because of the uniform he wore. “Now, they will do so because I’ll be wearing a priest’s cassock,” he said.

Fernandez was a patrolman in Brooklyn and his partner always said he could easily rise to the rank of lieutenant. “But that was the last thing I wanted,” he said.

“My choice for the priesthood was influenced by the discourses and speeches of John Paul II on the culture of death, which includes thousands of murders, suicides, homicides and national situations in which children are being abandoned or are victims of abuse in their homes because of drugs,” Fernandez said.

“For these turbulent souls, I never had an external solution as a policeman. There has to be an interior change, a change of heart and therefore, being a priest is necessary,” he added.

The Little Brothers of St. Francis, Boston

Visit the Little Brothers of St. Francis website HERE.

H/t to Don Gelinas

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Stunning turnaround for St. John's Seminary"

From The Boston Globe

Enrollment doubles after years of decline
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff

Enrollment at St. John's Seminary (Boston) has doubled over the last two years, a stunning turnabout for an institution that seemed to be spiraling toward closure in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The stone hall in Brighton, where two generations ago hundreds of young men prepared for the priesthood, is still strikingly quiet, but the pews of the Romanesque chapel are now about one-third full, as fresh-faced young men from around the world help to revive a 125-year-old institution that teetered on the brink of extinction just a few years ago.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who resisted calls from priests to close the Catholic seminary when he arrived as archbishop of Boston five years ago, has made preserving St. John's a top priority for his administration, and has cajoled bishops from New England and beyond to send young men to Boston to prepare for the priesthood. This fall there are 87 men studying theology at St. John's, up from 42 two years ago.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Cardinal Arinze Presents "Letter to Young Priest"

Book Defends Value of Celibacy

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A priest who lives his celibacy with joy, fidelity and a positive spirit is a testimony that cannot be ignored in today's world, says Cardinal Francis Arinze.

The cardinal, who just retired last week from his post as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, affirmed this today when he presented on Vatican Radio his book "Riflessioni sul sacerdozio. Lettera a un giovane sacerdote" (Reflections on the Priesthood: Letter to a Young Priest). Excerpts from the volume were published by L'Osservatore Romano.

"The Church has always had great esteem for the celibacy of priests," the cardinal wrote. "Christ lived a virginal life, taught chastity to his disciples, and proposed virginity to those who are willing and able to follow a similar call."

"In priestly life, perpetual celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven expresses and stimulates pastoral charity," he added. "It is a special fount of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. […] It is a testimony that stands out before the world as an efficacious way to follow Christ."

The cardinal said that in today's world, "immersed in an exaggerated preoccupation with sex and the violation of its sacredness […] a presbyter who lives his vow of chastity with joy, fidelity and a positive spirit is a testimony that cannot be ignored."

Through priestly celibacy, the prelate continued, "the presbyter consecrates himself more directly to Christ in the exercise of spiritual paternity." He is more available "as a minister of Christ, spouse of the Church," and he can "truly present himself as a living sign of the future world, which is already present through faith and charity."

Loneliness

The priest "should not doubt about the value or the possibility of celibacy because of the threat of loneliness," Cardinal Arinze contended, because solitude is also present to a certain degree in every state of life, also in matrimony.

Thus, he affirmed, it would be erroneous to try to avoid loneliness, "diving more and more into activities and continuously organizing new meetings, trips or visits." Instead, what the priest needs "is silence, tranquility and recollection to be in the presence of God, to give greater attention to God and to encounter Christ in personal prayer before the tabernacle."

"Only then will he be able to see Christ in every person that he encounters during his ministry," the prelate stated.

Fraternity

The retired Vatican official acknowledged that fraternity is also important in living celibacy. "The ideal is that the bishop makes it so that priests live in pairs or trios by parish, instead of alone," because "they need each other to make their potential grow to the maximum."

The priest's master and teacher is Christ, the cardinal recalled, and even if it is not possible to imitate him in the tiniest detail, "this does not exempt us from following him in the closest way possible."

Cardinal Arinze also mentioned the other two evangelical counsels in the life of the priest: obedience and poverty.

Obedience to the Pope, the bishop and their representatives is based in faith, he said, "and it is the instrument by which the priest gives God the opportunity to avail entirely of himself so as to fulfill the mission of the Church."

"God protects the priest who respects and obeys his bishop with firm fidelity and nobility of character," the cardinal said.

And the virtue of poverty, he continued, involves the priest's use of his money, avoiding anything that could lead to attachment to earthly goods or be an inclination to excessive spending. The priest, he said, should remember the poor, the sick, the elderly and all those with needs. His means of transportation, his house and furnishings, his way of dressing -- all should avoid being like the rich and powerful.

The cardinal suggested that a test of priestly generosity is to ask himself how well he lives charity, and how many poor people -- needy seminarians or consecrated persons -- will mourn his death as the loss of a father in Christ and a benefactor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Carmelite Hermits



From the Friars website:

The Hermits of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel are a community of men called to a life of silence, solitude, prayer, and penance for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The hermits live in a Laura, a colony of Hermits living in separate dwellings around a central chapel, following the original Carmelite rule.

The vocation of the Carmelite Hermit is the contemplative vocation, and the foundations of his life are the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel . For the hermit the cell is the place of encounter with God.

The Carmelite Rule states "Let each one remain in his cell, or near it, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer, unless occupied with other lawful duties." The cell is also the place where the hermit sleeps and takes his meals alone, except on Sundays and special days where the hermits eat in a common refectory. The cell is composed of a study, chapel, bedroom, bathroom, and porch. Each cell is separated from the next by an enclosed garden.

Centering their lives on the Word of God, through the Eucharist and Lectio Divina, the main activity of the hermits is prayer. This single-minded attention to God in prayer becomes the means for assuming purity of heart, the "Pearl of Great Price."

For the hermit, manual work takes its place beside prayer as a most important means to follow Christ, giving of himself in mind and body under obedience, as Christ was obedient to the Father unto death. Also, the hermit humbly remembers that he must toil to earn his living, identifying himself with the poor of the world.

Our life is strictly contemplative; we do not engage in any apostolic, pastoral or educational ministry. Such a life bears its own witness: God's majesty is so great and His love so powerful, that men may give themselves to His service completely for a lifetime.
_________________

Experience the daily life of a Carmelite Hermit. Live the monastic lifestyle for a weekend to see if God is calling you to the hidden life of prayer and praise as a Carmelite Hermit. For men ages 18 to 40. Fri. - Sun. p.m.

2009 Schedule:
January 2-4
January 23-25
March 13-15
May 22-24
June 26-28
July 24-26
August 7-9
September 4-6

Visit the Carmelite Hermits' Vocations page HERE.

Support the Friars at their online store HERE.
Hat tip to the Roman Sacristan

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Vocations eLetter

Click HERE for the December vocations eLetter from the CFR's.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Deacon Bartulica took the long road"


From The Catholic Key
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

Photo at left: Deacon Angelo Bartulica prays in the sanctuary of St. John LaLande Church in Blue Springs. Photo by Kevin Kelly

He is going to be a priest for all the right reasons.
But first, he wanted to be an FBI agent for all the wrong reasons.

"I just wanted to have a cool job and impress people," Deacon Angelo Bartulica said.

So he earned a degree in criminal justice from Missouri Western College in St. Joseph and joined the Knights of Columbus solely to build up his resume to impress the law school he wanted to enter on his way to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But one of the St. Joseph Knights, Steve Schieber, asked him completely out of left field, "Have you ever thought about being a priest?"

Suddenly, the call he had been hearing since fourth grade came in loud, if not clear.

"It just blew me away," Deacon Bartulica said.

But he still had to take the long, hard road.

At 10 a.m. Dec. 20, a full decade after Schieber popped the question, Deacon Angelo Bartulica, 34, will become Father Angelo Bartulica as Bishop Robert W. Finn ordains him the newest priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Under ordinary circumstances, Deacon Bartulica could have finished his seminary education a few years ago.

But Deacon Bartulica was not an ordinary seminarian.

Haunted by his images of all the priests he had ever known growing up - such as Fathers Jerry Waris, Tom Hawkins, Robert Murphy, and Benedictine Father Paschal Thomas who was his confessor at Conception Seminary College - he doubted that he could ever measure up to them.

"We have so many priests in this diocese who have had such an impact on people's lives, that I still worry about my competence to fill their shoes," Deacon Bartulica said. "It was just the joy I saw in them being priests. They are all great priests, and they all bring their gifts to the church."

For the next decade after he entered Conception Seminary College to complete his pre-theology degree, he would bounce in an out of the seminary.

"There was a lot of uncertainty," Deacon Bartulica said. "When you are making a lifetime decision, I wanted as much certainty as possible."

He sought the advice of a longtime Bartulica family friend, Msgr. Lawrence Speichinger, who advised him to relax and stop beating himself up.

"Msgr. Spike told me that I wouldn't know I was called to the priesthood until the bishop put his hands on my head" to ordain him, Deacon Bartulica told The Catholic Key Dec. 2 at St. John LaLande Parish, where he will begin his priestly career.

"Up to that moment, it was a hunch I would have to follow," he recalled the elder priest telling him.

Still, he waited for that "Gethsamene moment," that sure sign from heaven that he was meant to be a priest, the sign that simply wouldn't come.

So he dropped out of the seminary and enrolled in law school for a year. He did well.

"It just wasn't what I felt God was calling me toward," Deacon Bartulica said.

He tried teaching at both his home parish school, St. James in St. Joseph, and at St. Monica School in Kansas City. He loved it.

"Kids are kids. They just want to be loved," he said. "I'd like to believe that I grew in patience with them and tried to make teaching the faith to them more real."

But teaching wasn't it, either.

"Whether I liked it or not, God was calling me to the priesthood, and I am not going to be content until I answer that call," he said.

Only then did he get his "Gethsamame moment."

In the first-week retreat at Mundelein Seminary where he had re-enrolled to complete his last year of seminary preparation, Deacon Bartulica found himself wide awake at 3 a.m. He went to the chapel, knelt before the tabernacle and prayed.

"I told God that I am going to respond to his call, but I am going to depend entirely on him for the graces I need to fulfill it," Deacon Bartulica recalled.

After that moment of surrender to God's will, his self-criticisms vanished into insignificance.

"I am my own worst enemy," he said. "I have always feared failure in the vocation. But I know if I keep up my end of the bargain, I have no reason to believe that God is going to let me down."

For the first time, he felt at peace.

"All the while before, there was something holding me back in all my fears," he said. "I finally gave in and put my trust in God."

Deacon Bartulica, whose brother Matthew is a third-year theology student at North American College in Rome, credits his parents, Nicholas and Bozica Bartulica, not with pushing him into the seminary, but for providing the home life where a call to the priesthood could be heard.

"They may have even prayed that one of their sons would be a priest," Deacon Bartulica said. "But it was never pushed on us. They were influential in that they provided the home life that is necessary to grow in faith."

His advice to other young men feeling that they might have the same call is the same advice given to him years ago by Father Joseph Cisetti, then diocesan associate director of vocations. Follow that feeling. The worst thing that can possibly happen is that you will receive a great education in theology.

"Seminary is really a time of discernment," Deacon Bartulica said. "Some people may think that seminary is the place we go to prepare to be priests. But some go and decide there that it (priesthood) wasn't for them. They will still come out of it better Catholic men."

Though he no longer lets his fear guide him, he remains in awe of the priesthood.

"It's humbling to think I have that call," he said. "In less than three weeks, I am going to be celebrating Mass."

He said he is also looking particularly forward to hearing the Sacrament of Penance. It is there, he said, that he will turn all his human weaknesses, failures and doubts into strengths.

"My strengths are my failures in life," Deacon Bartulica said. "I hope that gives me compassion for people who are struggling."

Even though he took the long road, that path will help him be a better priest, he said.

"When I read the letters of St. Paul, I can now understand what he is talking about," Deacon Bartulica said. "It has become real to me. I believe all those things he wrote about, and I'm not just going to be blowing hot air at people.

"Up to now," he said, "Angelo Bartulica grew up pretty selfish. It was always all about me. Now I pray everyday that I get out of the way and let God work through me."

On his ordination day, Deacon Bartulica said he will have just one regret.

Msgr. Lawrence A. Speichinger won't be there physically. The longtime family friend died Oct. 16, barely two months before Deacon Bartulica's priestly ordination.

"Msgr. Spike told me that no matter what condition he was in, he would be at my ordination," Deacon Bartulica said.

Without a doubt, Msgr. Speichinger will keep his word.

The Ligouri Society

This morning I discovered a new blog - The Liguori Society. From the blog:

"Announcing the foundation of The Liguori Society, an association of faithful Catholic young men of high school and college age for the purpose of prayer, work for and discernment of priestly vocations. Everyone is either called to a priestly vocation or knows someone who is. Young men are ideally situated for this apostolate and the Liguori Society, named for the patron of priestly vocations, positions them to pursue this important work for Christ in a better way."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Book in the "Roman Catholic Vocations Bookstore"

Religious Vocation: An Unneccessary Mystery

By Fr. Richard Butler, O.P.

Product Description: The question of discerning a vocation is agonized over by many generous young Catholics today. A solid Thomist, who wrote this book in 1961, Father Butler shows that this type of question shows a totally wrong approach to a religious vocation - an approach that began with misguided theology in the 20th century, which then trickled down to the popular level, confusing both aspirants and spiritual directors. Though Fr. Butler deals primarily with vocations to the religious life, he also gives the classic guidelines on priestly vocations. The author states, based on the tradition of the Church, that religious vocation is not uncommon, rare or extraordinary and that it does not require an introspective search for some special voice or attraction. This book provides welcome, intelligent guidance both for spiritual directors and for those considering the religious life or that of the priesthood!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Priestly Celibacy: Yes, it is Apostolic"

From Catholic Exchange.com
by Amy Blythe

Christ came to redeem mankind from slavery to the passions by His life of sacrifice. Everything about Him went against the grain in a most unprecedented, radical manner causing scandal to the Jewish people who were expecting a temporal Messiah. Observe: he loves sinners, and eats with them; adulterers receive mercy; the ill He heals on the Sabbath. Most disturbing of all, He is not married but is a virgin and preaches continence for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

The priesthood of the New Law is not made up of the powerful and intellectual but of men from ordinary walks of life who have renounced everything to live in continence, to follow the Master more closely. There are many in secular circles, and some even within the Church today, who question the validity of this charism in relation to the priesthood, arguing that it no longer suits the modern times in which we live. Others claim that there is no evidence, either scriptural or historical, that supports the apostolic roots of a celibate priesthood. Contrary to all the negativity, in-depth research vindicates priestly celibacy as indeed apostolic.

The proponents of abolishing the celibate priesthood use Scripture, claiming that the Apostles were married based on the passage relating the cure of Saint Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever by Jesus (Matt 8:14-15). The reasoning is as follows: the Apostle has a mother-in-law, therefore he is married. Yes, Saint Peter obviously married at one time, but does that mean that he is married at the time of his apostolic call by Jesus? There are women who pass away before their mothers and before their husbands. In some such cases the mother-in-law moves in with her son-in-law. This possibility cannot be ruled out. Even if the Apostle is married at the time of his calling, the Lord states unequivocally what is required to follow Him: to leave everything, including family and wives (Luke 14:26-27). What of the invitation of Christ to a continent life (Matt19:10-12). Further on in the same text renunciation of possessions is declared a necessity to be a disciple. It is in response to the words of the Prince of the Apostles that we receive confirmation again from Jesus’ own lips as to what they have sacrificed: lands, home, mother brother, sister, wives and children inclusive (Matt19:16-30). It is clear that the desire of the Lord is to have men who are divested of all worldly ties and responsibilities in order to devote themselves unreservedly to His service.

A subsequent argument by the opponents of celibacy is that it is an invention imposed by the Catholic Church in the fourth century. Opponents present Scripture and early ecclesial history in a manner that can be misleading for the ordinary lay Catholic unacquainted with all the facts. Major research has been undertaken into this controversy by scholars Cardinal Stickler, Father Cochini S.J., Roman Cholij as well as Stefan Heid. What they all assure us of is that continence is the norm for the priesthood both East and West from the beginning of the Church’s history. Among the aforementioned, Stickler provides the most succinct and easy to understand presentation of the subject. He demonstrates that if a man was married prior to ordination, both he and his spouse took a vow of perpetual continence, this applied from the lower clerical ranks up to Bishop. In the West, the Council of Elvira in the fourth century makes direct reference in Canon 33 to this renunciation of the martial rights and notes that this meant no begetting of children. The penalty for violating this vow is removal from the clerical ranks. If a priest violated this solemn promise and begot a child it was considered adultery. As Stickler points out, Saint Jerome — who knew many Bishops, Fathers and monks throughout the East — testifies in his writings that continence is the norm in the Eastern Church and that married men who were ordained would separate from their wives. The same Council Elvira, in Canon 27, as well as Nicea, in Canon 3, gives even further specifications: that a Bishop and priest is only permitted to have a blood sister, mother, aunt, or a daughter who is a consecrated virgin dwelling under the same roof. This excludes a wife.

Probably the favorite of all opponents arguments centers upon a Saint Paphnutius of Egypt called “a Bishop and hermit.” It is asserted that at the Council of Nicea this holy man pleads with the Fathers to not impose continence on priests saying that it is too heavy a burden to place upon them. He proposes to allow the particular Churches to decide on their own practice. Up until recently, this was believed to be a justification for the current married practice among the clergy of the East. Stickler, Cochini, Cholij and Heid all masterfully tackle this long-standing. The veil was lifted from this mystery by study into the Council documents, in which accurate records were kept of every Bishop present. Examination of the oldest texts revealed that among the names of Fathers in attendance, there was no such Bishop by that name. Stickler acknowledges that his name does appear in later copies of the Council’s proceedings but it is a contradiction because he was honored at the time of Nicea as a Confessor, not a Father. It is concluded that his bishopric was of the nature of a legend, a creation of hagiographers’ pious devotion.

The perplexing question then arises: If priestly celibacy dates from the Apostles, why is it that only in the fourth century do we begin to see actual Church law enforcing celibacy? A principle which must be understood is the following: the absence of a formal ecclesial declaration up to a certain period does not imply that the dogma, doctrine or discipline is not universally believed by the Body of Christ. In other words, controversy begets definitive pronouncements by the Church. The Divinity of Jesus Christ, his being fully God, was not formally declared until the fourth century at Nicea but the Church always professed this belief. The denial of this truth by the heresiarch Arius demanded a concrete defense. The same can be applied to Mary’s title as Mother of God. It was not formally declared until the fifth century at the Council of Ephesus, yet she was venerated as such from the very beginnings. Again, it is the refusal of Nestorius to render Mary her rightful veneration that prompted a concrete response. In this case, as Stickler notes, the Church made specific laws regarding celibacy among the clergy because of widespread abuses where the vow of continence was not being faithfully lived out. It is at this point that we begin to see one of the first rifts between East and West.

Eventually, due to these increasing difficulties and abuses, the Latin West began gradually selecting more and more candidates to the priesthood and Bishopric from among the monastics. Over a period of time, especially with the establishment of seminaries by the Council of Trent, the phenomenon of married clergy completely disappeared. As for the Eastern Church we have a very different response conditioned both by geography and politics. While the Latin Church had the great advantage of the central authority of the Pope, the East had problems attaining any kind of conformity in discipline due to myriads of regional Councils all making decisions in dealing with abuses and there was no one to give a definitive judgment. Added to these issues is the close relationship between the Byzantine Empire and the Church. This had benefits in allowing for religious freedom but often it led to the government interfering with the hierarchy’s efforts to properly exercise governing authority. Despite these influences, there is today within the Eastern Churches a large number of celibate priests, but, if the circumstances of history had been more favorable, the clergy of the East would be entirely celibate as well.

Ultimately, continence - celibacy — receives its supreme value from the fact that Jesus chose it for Himself and for His Mother Mary. This should not be brushed away as a mere coincidence nor should this way of life be viewed just as a “discipline.” This is missing the point. Priests share in the eternal priesthood of Christ and are Persona Christi, to be mirrors of His very Person not just in word and act but their very mode of being. The Lord came not to be served but to serve and to pour Himself out as a ransom for souls. By this charism of continence - expressed most completely and perfectly by virginity — the priest is poured out and consumed like Christ, not for a physical family but for the souls of the faithful. Of course, the debate on the celibate priesthood will always exist but for Catholics the best answer will be found by kneeling before Jesus crucified where virginity’s lasting value is silently conveyed in two words: love and sacrifice.

For further information please see:

The Case for Clerical Celibacy by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler (Ignatius Press)

Celibacy in the Early Church by Stefan Heid (Ignatius Press)

The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Father Christian Cochini S.J. (Ignatius Press)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Renew religious life by returning to founding charisms, Cardinal Rode tells orders"

From CNA

Boston, Dec 5, 2008 / 08:15 pm (CNA).- The prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Franc Rode, spoke on the origins of the crisis in religious life this week and encouraged authentic renewal by pointing to the continuity of tradition and the decisive contribution of Vatican II.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, during an extensive speech given in Boston at a meeting of religious men and women, Cardinal Rode said that today there are some “who have chosen paths that have carried them away from communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, even though they have decided to physically ‘be’ in the Church.”

Others, however, “firmly believe in their vocations and seek out ways to reverse the current trend, in other words, to bring about true renewal,” he continued.

Noting that Vatican II has often been misinterpreted by some who have fall into a series of errors and distortions, the cardinal pointed out that “surely there was much to be corrected in religious life and much to be improved in the formation of religious. We should also admit that society posed challenges that many religious were not prepared for,” he said.

In any case, he went on, “we must categorically affirm that not only was the Council not wrong in its drive for renewal in religious life but that it was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so.”

“Religious life, being a gift of the Holy Spirit for each religious and the Church, depends especially on fidelity to its origins, fidelity to the founder and to the particular charism. Fidelity to this charism is essential, because God blesses faithfulness, while he ‘resists the proud.’ The complete rupture of some with the past, therefore, goes against the nature of a religious congregation and in essence, leads to the rejection of God,” he said.

Cardinal Rode said the misinterpretation of the Council made “naturalism accepted as a new way, with obedience (in religious life) becoming its first victim, because it cannot survive without faith or hope. Prayer, especially community prayer and the sacramental liturgy, was minimized or abandoned. Penance, asceticism and what has been called ‘negative spirituality’ became things of the past. Many religious felt discouraged from wearing the habit.”

In addition to these problems, other emerged such as “political and social agitation, which became the focus of their apostolic action. New technology led to the personal interpretation and dissolution of the faith. Everything became a problem to be discussed. With traditional prayer being rejected, the genuine spiritual aspirations of religious have been directed towards more esoteric forms.”

As a result, Cardinal Rode said, religious communities suffered mass exoduses, with charitable ministries and schools suffering the consequences. Vocations declined, and “many of those responsible for the disastrous decisions and actions of the post-conciliar years also themselves abandoned religious life.”

“Many of you remained faithful,” the cardinal said gratefully. “With great courage you see yourselves called to remedy the damage and reconstitute your spiritual religious families.” Central to this renewal is fidelity to the charisms of the founders, which “attracts vocations,’” he said.

“The Council,” he stressed, “insists on this point. “We must guarantee that in our congregations, our lives are fully Catholic and forever aligned with the charism of the founder or foundress. There cannot be contradictions regarding this issue since the charism has been given to the founders in the ecclesial context and has been subjected to the approval of the Church.”

“We should not be surprised that the path we must follow is full of difficulties and challenges,” Cardinal Rode said. “Nevertheless, I want to assure you of my total support for any sincere effort at renewal in each religious family in fidelity to the Church and to its founder.”

"Catholics welcome three new priests"


From FIJI Times online
By Samuela Loanakadavu

Photo: Archbishop Petero Mataca blesses the hands of Donato Kivi during the ordination yesterday. Behind Fr Kivi are, partially obscured, Father Mikaele Marisi and Father Iosefo Brandon. Picture: ATU RASEA

The sacrament of Holy Orders was held for three new priests at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Suva yesterday.

Farther Iosefo Brandon from Namosi, Father Mikaele Marisi from Taveuni, and and Father Donato Kivi from Tokou, Ovalau, were yesterday ordained by His Grace Archbishop Petero Mataca into the priesthood.

Father Kivi told The Fiji Times after the ordination that he was happy with his achievement and was now ready for the work that he had been called upon, and dedicated his life to do.

"I have been studying for eight years and it's a big relief to have finally completed the program. It's a blessing to join the family of priesthood because all the good things in life are always difficult to achieve," he said.

Father Brandon, who had been doing his pastoral work in New Zealand last year, said that having achieved of being a Catholic priest was a dream that he had cherished and nurtured for a very long time.

"I am happy that I have come this far and I am now ready to serve the people," he said.

More than 300 people, from all over Fiji, among them family and friends, attended the mass at the Sacred Cathedral in Suva yesterday.

The feast for the new priests was later held at the Laucala Bay Parish hall.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's Address to Italian Seminarians

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Friends of the Regional Seminaries of Las Marcas, Puglia and Abruzzo-Molise

I am particularly happy to welcome you on the occasion of the centenary of the foundation of your respective regional seminaries, encouraged by Pope St. Pius X, who appealed to Italian bishops, especially of the center and south of the Peninsula, to come to an agreement to concentrate the seminaries, in order to be more effective in the formation of aspirants to the priesthood. I greet you all affectionately, beginning with archbishops Edoardo Menichelli, Carlo Ghidelli and Francesco Cacucci, whom I thank for the words with which they wished to express the sentiments of all. I greet the rectors, formators, professors and students and all those who live and work daily in your institutions. In such a significant event, I wish to join you in thanking the Lord, who in this century has accompanied with his grace the life of so many priests, formed in such important educational realities. Many of them are occupied today in the different sections of your local Churches, in the ad gentes mission and in other services to the universal Church. Some have been called to fill posts of high ecclesial responsibility.

I would now like to address you in particular, dear seminarians, who are preparing to be laborers in the Lord's vineyard. As the recent assembly of the Synod of Bishops also recalled, among the priority tasks of the priest is that of spreading with full hands the Word of God in the world, which, like the seed in the Gospel parable, seems too small a reality, but once it has germinated, it becomes a great bush and bears abundant fruit (cf. Matthew 13:31-32). The Word of God that you will be called upon to spread with full hands and which brings with it eternal life, is Christ himself, the only one who can change the human heart and renew the world. However, we might ask ourselves: Does modern man still feel a need for Christ and his message of salvation?

In the present social context, a certain culture seems to show us the face of a self-sufficient humanity, anxious to carry out its projects on its own, which chooses to be the sole architect of its destiny and which, consequently, believes that the presence of God does not count and so excludes it from its choices and decisions.

In a climate marked by a rationalism shut-in on itself, which considers the practical sciences as the only model of knowledge while the rest is subjective, non-essential and determinant for life. For these and other reasons, today, without a doubt, it is increasingly more difficult to believe, more difficult to accept the truth that is Christ, more difficult to spend one's life for the cause of the Gospel. However, as we see every day in the news, modern man often seems to be disoriented and worried about his future, seeking certainties and sure points of reference. As in all ages, man of the third millennium needs God and seeks him perhaps without realizing it. The duty of Christians, especially of priests, is to respond to this profound yearning of the human heart and to offer all, with the means and ways that best respond to the demands of the times, the immutable and always living Word of eternal life that is Christ, Hope of the world.

In face of this important mission, which you will be called to carry out in the Church, the years spent in the seminary take on great value, a time allocated to formation and discernment; years in which, in the first place, must be the constant search for a personal relationship with Jesus, a profound experience of his love, which is acquired above all through prayer and contact with the Sacred Scriptures, interpreted and meditated in the faith of the ecclesial community.

In this Pauline Year, why not propose the Apostle Paul to yourselves as model in which to be inspired for your preparation to the apostolic ministry? The extraordinary experience on the road to Damascus transformed him, from persecutor of Christians to witness of the resurrection of the Lord, willing to give his life for the Gospel. He was a faithful observer of all the prescriptions of the Torah and of the Hebrew traditions; however, after having found Jesus "whatever gain I had -- he writes in the Letter to the Philippians -- I counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (cf. 3:7-9). Conversion did not eliminate all that was good and true in his life, but enabled him to interpret in a new way the wisdom and truth of the Law and the prophets and thus be able to dialogue with all, following the example of the Divine Teacher.

In imitation of St. Paul, dear seminarians, do not tire of encountering Christ in listening to, reading and studying sacred Scripture, in prayer and personal meditation, in the liturgy and in every daily activity. In this connection, dear ones responsible for formation, your role is very important, as you are called to be witnesses for your students even before being teachers of evangelical life. Because of their typical characteristics, the Regional Seminaries can be privileged places to form seminarians in diocesan spirituality, inscribing this formation in the largest ecclesial and regional context with wisdom and balance. Your institutions should also be vocational "houses" of welcome to give greater impetus to vocational pastoral care, taking care especially of the world of youth and educating young people in the great evangelical and missionary ideals.

Dear friends, while thanking you for your visit I invoke over each one of you the maternal protection of the Virgin Mother of Christ, which the Advent liturgy presents to us as model of those who watch while awaiting the glorious return of her divine Son. Entrust yourselves to her with confidence, take recourse often to her intercession, so that she will help you to stay awake and vigilant. For my part I assure you of my affection and daily prayer, while I bless you all from my heart.