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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Rays of Musical Light: Cloistered Nuns Share Record Label With Elton John"


From Catholic Online
By Sonja Corbitt

NASHVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - "The whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to [Benedict's] eyes in one ray of light" (The Life of Our Most Holy Father Saint Benedict, Pope Saint Gregory the Great).

It seems the cloistered, self-sufficient community of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation near Avignon, France, also sees the world through a Benedictine ray of light, and is about to diffuse a radiant love all over the world through the slow, soaring movements of their Gregorian chant.

Benedictine vows include Stability, Fidelity to the Monastic Life, and Obedience, and their communal life is centered around the eight canonical hours of the Divine Office. The Benedictine Divine Office is one of the most ancient daily observances of any kind anywhere in the world, and Gregorian chant is the oldest music ever written down.

Originating in the ancient Jewish prayer tradition, Benedictines continued the practice of daily singing of the psalms (meaning, songs) and have conducted the Divine Office for the 1500 years since St. Benedict first wrote and compiled his Rule. The Benedictine sisters at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation, following the Liturgy of the Hours, sing eight times a day.

Ora et Labora, Pray and Work

The mystery and poetry of Scripture at its earthly best, Benedictine prayer rolls on, as daily as parenting, washing dishes, and marriage. Its chant is a living, lived-in song, a relationship with God and Church revealed and expressed in ordinary, but sacred, words and music. It is benediction.

It is this blessing, this work of prayer at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation, France that attracted the attention of a talent scout for Decca Records. "When you hear them chanting, it's like an immediate escape from the stresses, noise and pace of modern living," he said of the prayer of Benedictine nuns cloistered there.

Decca Records is part of Universal Music, a British label which also produces albums by The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Amy Winehouse, U2 and Elton John. After chant first gained secular popularity through Enigma's chart successes in the 1990s, and the last Gregorian chant album released sold over a million albums, Decca Records went on a worldwide search for the finest female Gregorian chanters.

Their anxious ears finally came to rest on the lilting prayer of the Benedictine sisters in Avignon who were chosen over more than 70 other convents worldwide. Typically, prospective pop stars cannot garner enough publicity, but this group is slightly different.

Hidden Life

"We never sought this, it came looking for us," said the abbey's Reverend Mother in a statement released by Universal Music, and indeed, their seclusion posed some challenges for both the record label and the religious community.

"Before starting the recording we were a bit nervous," said English speaking Sister Raphael in an interview. She expressed the whole community's concern for the extraordinary project:

"We were a bit afraid of what was going to happen to our cloistered life, so we confided this to St. Joseph in our prayer: that if this was going to help people to pray, if it was going to help people find God, if it's going to help people find peace, [he should] make this go through."

And "go through" it did, presumably under his patronage and special protection. In accordance with St. Joseph's lifelong, heroic protection of the consecrated, Decca took exceptional measures to protect the isolation the nuns vow until death.

The album contract was passed to the sisters for their signature through the beautiful wood-worked partition that secludes them from the outside world, and recording engineers were only allowed into the convent when the nuns were in different parts of the abbey.

After setting up microphones in the chapel, they retreated to a separate room when the sisters sang, remotely directing the recording. To promote the album, the sisters filmed their own television commercial and photographed the album cover.

"We had to give the cameras to the nuns, because they had access to the more beautiful parts of the monastery," a Decca spokesperson remembered fondly, "so we had to actually hand everything over to them. And they were making their own TV advert, they were making their own CD cover, and it was a very interesting and different way of working."

A Ray of Musical Light

They have no access to newspapers, TV or radio, but the sisters are now on Facebook and YouTube, and their album, Voice: Chant from Avignon, will be released early this November. Remarkably, although the nuns never leave the convent, the whole world will feel the radiant peace of their singing.

"I think that our music appeals to a wider audience, secular and non-secular. The words have a very profound meaning that is coming from the Sacred Scripture. The singing in our daily lives is very important for us. It is our prayer," said Sister Raphael, conveying the heart of her community. It has been said that other than the Bible, the Benedictine Rule was the most influential book in the development of western civilization, a light in medieval darkness.

"It's not quite a question of how we feel when we sing, but who we are, and for whom we sing," the sisters confirm. Indeed, the chanted Office is a song of Love, and they consider this song as one way to contemplatively bring sacred, musical, Benedictine light to a dark, frantic, noisy world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

N.C. Prep School has third alumnus accepted as seminarian

From the St. Thomas More Academy website:

Photos at left: Jonathon Baggett (far left), Michael Schuetz.



Raleigh, NC, July 2, 2010 / St. Thomas More Academy (STMA) congratulates John Kane (Class of ‘07) on being accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Raleigh. He joins fellow alumni Jonathon Baggett (‘07) and Michael Schuetz (‘08) as the third graduate from STMA in formation for the Diocesan Priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Kane began discerning his vocation while at STMA and continued to discern during subsequent years at Belmont Abbey College, near Charlotte. He related that it was friends at STMA who helped him grow in his faith and begin to take it much more seriously. He said that the faculty provided a solid Catholic environment where he was able to begin discerning the call to become a priest.

Jonathon Baggett, STMA’s first seminarian, when asked about the role St. Thomas More Academy played in his formation and discernment of a vocation, had the following to say: “St. Thomas More Academy was a major contributor to my discernment. It was the only place outside of youth group where I knew peers who were excited about Catholicism. These experiences solidified for me the reality of our faith and inspired me to want to live that faith out radically.”

Baggett added “STMA also prepared me academically for my studies at the seminary. Having studied philosophy and Latin really put me ahead of the learning curve at St. Charles Borromeo.”
Michael Schuetz related: “My time at STMA gave me the opportunity to grow in my faith and to realize that it was ‘cool’ to be Catholic. This open Catholic environment allowed me to explore my faith and enabled me to begin my discernment. I know that no matter where God is ultimately calling me in life, the time I spent at STMA helped me to grow and mature, giving me the beginning formation that would, God Willing, help me become a man of God.”

Schuetz continued, “Looking back at my education at STMA I realized that my teachers’ main goal was to prepare me for college. The education I received in high school gives me comfort in college, because I had previously seen these materials and I knew something about the subjects we are covering.”

Of the sixty-five graduates of St. Thomas More Academy, three alumni, roughly 10% of the male graduates, are now studying for the priesthood – a remarkable percentage for any institution in the Church today.

We are extremely proud of all our graduates, and very pleased to count these three fine young men among them. They have said “Yes!” to Our Lord’s call and have offered their lives in service to the People of God in the Diocese of Raleigh. In doing so, they stand as wonderful examples of generous and faithful individuals, attributes that STMA students and alumni have come to embody.

Please continue to pray for these young men and for the other young men and women from STMA who are in the discernment process. AMDG+

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar"

From Homiletics and Pastoral Review

By Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray

Photo at left: Pope John Paul II after his ordination to the Priesthood
1. The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. As a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolizes the union they enjoy, so the Roman collar identifies bishops and priests (and often deacons and seminarians) and manifests their proximity to the Divine Master by virtue of their free consent to the ordained ministry to which they have been (or may be) called.

2. By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty. The priest does not choose his clothes – the Church has, thanks to her accumulated wisdom over the past two millennia. Humble acceptance of the Church’s desire that the priest wear the Roman collar illustrates a healthy submission to authority and conformity to the will of Christ as expressed through his Church.

3. Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.

4. The wearing of the Roman collar is the repeated, ardent desire of Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father’s wish in this regard cannot be summarily dismissed; he speaks with a special charism. He frequently reminds priests of the value of wearing the Roman collar.In a September 8, 1982 letter to Ugo Cardinal Poletti, his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, instructing him to promulgate norms concerning the use of the Roman collar and religious habit, the Pontiff observed that clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”In a homily on November 8, 1982 the Pope addressed a group of transitional deacons whom he was about to ordain to the priesthood. He said that if they tried to be just like everyone else in their “style of life” and “manner of dress,” then their mission as priests of Jesus Christ would not be fully realized.

5. The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognize the priest’s intentions when he finds himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. Let’s suppose that a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. The Roman collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. Idle speculation might be triggered by a priest known to neighborhood residents visiting various apartment houses dressed as a layman.

6. The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum. A cheerful but diligent and serious priest can compel others to take stock of the manner in which they conduct themselves. The Roman collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.

7. The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women. A priest out of his collar (and, naturally, not wearing a wedding ring) can appear to be an attractive target for the affections of an unmarried woman looking for a husband, or for a married woman tempted to infidelity.

8. The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard “for oneself. The Roman collar provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.

9. A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others who think: “Here is a modern disciple of Jesus.” The Roman collar speaks of the possibility of making a sincere, lasting commitment to God. Believers of diverse ages, nationalities and temperaments will note the virtuous, other-centered life of the man who gladly and proudly wears the garb of a Catholic priest, and perhaps will realize that they too can consecrate themselves anew, or for the first time, to the loving Good Shepherd.

10. The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics. Most non- Catholics do not have experience with ministers who wear clerical garb. Therefore, Catholic priests by virtue of their dress can cause them to reflect – even if only a cursory fashion – on the Church and what she entails.

11. A priest dressed as the Church wants is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular morass is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears the Roman collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.

12. The Roman collar is also a reminder to the priest that he is “never not a priest.” With so much confusion prevalent today, the Roman collar can help the priest avoid internal doubt as to who he is. Two wardrobes can easily lead – and often does – to two lifestyles, or even two personalities.

13. A priest in a Roman collar is a walking vocation message. The sight of a cheerful, happy priest confidently walking down the street can be a magnet drawing young men to consider the possibility that God is calling them to the priesthood. God does the calling; the priest is simply a visible sign God will use to draw men unto himself.

14. The Roman collar makes the priest available for the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Anointing of the Sick, and for crisis situations. Because the Roman collar gives instant recognition, priests who wear it make themselves more apt to be approached, particularly when seriously needed. The authors can testify to being asked for the Sacraments and summoned for assistance in airports, crowded cities and isolated villages because they were immediately recognized as Catholic priests.

15. The Roman collar is a sign that the priest is striving to become holy by living out his vocation always. It is a sacrifice to make oneself constantly available to souls by being publicly identifiable as a priest, but a sacrifice pleasing to Our Divine Lord. We are reminded of how the people came to him, and how he never turned them away. There are so many people who will benefit by our sacrifice of striving to be holy priests without interruption.

16. The Roman collar serves as a reminder to “alienated” Catholics not to forget their irregular situation and their responsibilities to the Lord. The priest is a witness – for good or ill – to Christ and his Holy Church. When a “fallen-away” sees a priest, he is encouraged to recall that the Church continues to exist. A cheerful priest provides a salutary reminder of the Church.

17. The wearing of clerical clothing is a sacrifice at times, especially in hot weather. The best mortifications are the ones we do not look for. Putting up with the discomforts of heat and humidity can be a wonderful reparation for our own sins, and a means of obtaining graces for our parishioners.

18. The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The Roman collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as an alter Christus has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square, regardless of personal cost.

19. The Roman collar helps priests to avoid the on duty/off duty mentality of priestly service. The numbers 24 and 7 should be our special numbers: we are priests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are priests, not men who engage in the “priest profession.” On or off duty, we should be available to whomever God may send our way. The “lost sheep” do not make appointments.

20. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such. Traditionally, we have remarked that those who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation become “soldiers” of Christ, adult Catholics ready and willing to defend his name and his Church. Those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops must also be prepared – whatever the stakes – to shepherd the flock of the Lord. Those priests who wear the Roman collar show forth their role unmistakably as leaders in the Church.

21. The saints have never approved of a lackadaisical approach concerning priestly vesture. For example, Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Patron Saint of Moral Theologians and Confessors, in his esteemed treatise The Dignity and Duties of the Priest, urges the wearing of the appropriate clerical dress, asserting that the Roman collar helps both priest and faithful to recall the sublime splendor of the sacerdotal state instituted by the God-Man.

22. Most Catholics expect their priests to dress accordingly. Priests have long provided a great measure of comfort and security to their people. As youths, Catholics are taught that the priest is God’s representative – someone they can trust. Hence, the People of God want to know who these representatives are and what they stand for. The cherished custom of wearing distinguishable dress has been for centuries sanctioned by the Church; it is not an arbitrary imposition. Catholics expect their priests to dress as priests and to behave in harmony with Church teaching and practice. As we have painfully observed over the last few years, the faithful are especially bothered and harmed when priests defy the legitimate authority of the Church, and teach and act in inappropriate and even sinful ways.

23. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministry of poor and sinful men.
Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995).

Founded over one hundred years ago, Homiletic & Pastoral Review is one of the most well-respected pastoral magazines in the world. HPR features solid articles on every aspect of pastoral life and eloquent weekly sermons that illuminate through exposition of Scripture. Subscribe to HPR here.

THE AUTHORS

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan has been appointed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to a position serving the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Ordained in 1989, Msgr. Mangan formerly served the Diocese of Sioux Falls in several parishes.

Father Gerald E. Murray is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and was ordained in 1984 after completing studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N. Y. Currently he is studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"From the pub to the convent: sisters seek new vocations in changing world"

From Catholic News Agency
Rome, Italy, Jul 19, 2010 / 07:21 pm (CNA).- A summer course for religious sisters began on Monday at one of Rome's Pontifical Colleges which examines the approach of religious congregations to attracting interest for new vocations. The course takes a look at vocational pastoral ministry in a changing world.

The official program for the July 19-24 "Animation Vocation"course promotes it as "a week of prayer, listening, exchange of international experiences, proposals for new strategies and planning."

Included among the variety of attention grabbing sessions within the six days of the course at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum University are titles such as "From the internet to the convent" and "Vocation promoters among cosmetics and pubs." Of the latter, Italian media in recent days have run a variety of headlines, perhaps topped by Italian news agency TGCOM's "Sisters, between whiskey and make-up."

CNA spoke with a spokesperson of the University's Institute of Religious Studies, Dr. Laura Salvo, about the idea behind the course, which has drawn 100 religious sisters from more than 30 congregations worldwide.

She said that it takes a look at how congregations can get in touch with youth, adapting their vocational ministry to the contemporary world by meeting potential candidates on their playing field.

Dr. Salvo noted that they are making an effort to understand the "language" of the younger generation, transmitting values while recognizing the changes that have taken place. The modified approach, she said, "doesn't change values just the modality."

Changing the approach is important, she emphasized, especially in more developed nations where there are more distractions. She explained that "We're living a much stronger crisis in vocations (in Italy) than in other places" where the "consumerist" culture isn't as widespread and faith is "more at the center" of people's lives.

The official communique for the course promotes the returned enthusiasm to the consecrated life as "crucial" to the third millennium, describing the religious sister as "the bearer of the most characteristic values of human nature."

"More than 1,300 teens studying in minor seminaries in Spain"

From the Catholic News Agency

Madrid, Spain, Jul 19, 2010 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- The Spanish daily La Razon reported this week that more than 1,300 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 are currently pursing a call to the priesthood by studying at the 53 diocesan minor seminaries that exist in the country.

An article written by Alex Navajas revealed that while “some kids at that age dream about being soccer players, business leaders, doctors or bullfighters,” others, “as soon as they enter adolescence, want to become priests.”

Such is the case with Alvaro Pinero, a 16-year-old from Toledo, who entered the minor seminary school in Madrid in 2006. He discovered his vocation at the age of 12 but felt unsure. “The school helped me a lot. It’s a great environment where we have good friendships and my classmates feel like they are my second family,” he said.

Another student, Adrian, felt the call to the priesthood at the age of five as an altar boy in his hometown of Monturque. At the age of 12 he entered the seminary of San Pelegio, and now at age 16 he says of the seminary, “Our ideal is Christ. Prayer is part of our formation, because without it we can do nothing. Our spiritual retreats are times of more intense prayer in order know and love Christ more.”

Santiago Fernandez, 18, has been in the minor seminary for two years and in September he will graduate to major seminary. “At first, my friends reacted very negatively. Then, when they saw how well I was doing, they began to support me,” he recalled.

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba also discovered his vocation at an early age and attended minor seminary. “I wanted to be a priest since I was seven,” he said. “I was an altar boy and I told my pastor, who was a key part of my vocation.” He said the years at minor seminary “were the happiest of my life. I only have positive things to say about minor seminaries,” Bishop Fernandez added.

Bishop Fernandez is one among many Spanish bishops who attended minor seminary, including the Archbishop of Toledo and the Bishop of Jaen. According to Antonio Prieto, the rector of the minor seminary of Cordoba, “more than 60 percent of the clergy of our diocese has passed through these halls.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"PRIESTS MUST ALWAYS REMAIN WITH CHRIST"

VATICAN CITY, 20 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI celebrated Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica, during the course of which he conferred priestly ordination on fourteen deacons from the diocese of Rome.

In his homily the Pope explained how, "in prayer, the priest is called to rediscover the ever-new face of his Lord, the most authentic content of his mission. Only one who has an intimate relationship with the Lord can be seized by Him, can bring Him to others, can become His envoy. This involves a kind of 'remaining with Him' which must always accompany, and be the core of, priestly ministry, also and above all during moments of difficulty when it seems that 'the things to be done' must take priority. Wherever we are, whatever we do, we must always 'remain with Him'".

"The priesthood must never represent a way to achieve security in life or to attain social position. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood in order to increase his personal prestige and power has radically misunderstood the significance of this ministry. Anyone whose main goal is to realise an ambition of his own, to achieve success, will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be noticed he will have to adulate; he must say what people want to hear, he must adapt to changing fashions and opinions. In this way, he will deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he praises today.

"A man who organises his life like this", the Holy Father added, "a priest who sees his ministry in these terms, does not truly love God and neighbour, he loves only himself and, paradoxically, ends up by losing himself. The priesthood - let us never forget it - is founded on the courage to say yes to another will, with the daily-growing awareness that - precisely my conforming ourselves to the will of God, 'immersed' in this will - not only is our originality not cancelled but, quite the contrary, we increasingly enter into the truth of our being and our ministry".

"When we celebrate Mass", said Benedict XVI, "we have the bread of heaven in our hands, the bread of God Who is Christ, the grain broken to be multiplied and become the true food for the life of the world. This cannot but fill you with a sense of inner wonder, of living joy and immense gratitude because now the love and gift of the crucified and glorious Christ pass through your hands, through your hearts! It is an experience of wonder, ever new, to see that in my hands and in my voice the Lord achieves this mystery of His presence".

The Pope asked God to give the new priests "the grace to achieve a profound experience of all the beauty and power of your priestly service and, at the same time, the grace to be able to live this ministry coherently and generously, every day.

"The grace of the priesthood", he told the newly-ordained priests, "will unite you in the depths of your hearts to the sentiments of Jesus, Who loved unto the end unto the total gift of self, it will unite you to His becoming bread multiplied for the holy meal of unity and communion".

The Holy Father concluded by explaining that "care over the celebration of the Eucharist must always be accompanied by commitment to Eucharistic life; that is, a life lived in obedience to the one great law, the law of love that gives completely and serves with humility, a life that the grace of the Holy Spirit makes ever more similar to that of Jesus Christ, High and Eternal Priest, Servant of God and of man".

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Priests must not use vocation as social stepping stone, cautions Benedict XVI"

From EWTN

During Pope Benedict's homily for the ordination of 14 priests on Sunday for the Diocese of Rome, he emphasized that the vocation of the priesthood, must not be viewed as a way to achieve social status in life, but rather as a way to “rediscover the ever-new face” of Christ.

In his homily for the ordination, which took place Sunday morning in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father cautioned that the priesthood “must never represent a way to achieve security in life or to attain social position”

“Anyone who aspires to the priesthood in order to increase his personal prestige and power has radically misunderstood the significance of this ministry,” explained the Pope.

He noted that if a priest's main goal is to “achieve success,” he will say “what people want to hear” and “adapt to changing fashions and opinions.”

“In this way, he will deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he praises today,” Benedict XVI warned.

"A priest who sees his ministry in these terms,” he continued, “does not truly love God and neighbor, he loves only himself and, paradoxically, ends up by losing himself.” The vocation of the priesthood “is founded on the courage to say yes to another will, with the daily-growing awareness that” by “conforming ourselves to the will of God ... we increasingly enter into the truth of our being and our ministry.”

Pope Benedict also encouraged the priests to “rediscover the ever-new face” of Christ through prayer.

“Only one who has an intimate relationship with the Lord can be seized by Him, can bring Him to others, can become His envoy. This involves a kind of 'remaining with Him' which must always accompany, and be the core of, priestly ministry, also and above all during moments of difficulty when it seems that 'the things to be done' must take priority.

“Wherever we are, whatever we do, we must always 'remain with Him'."

The Pontiff drew his homily to a close by asking God to give the priests the grace “to be able to live this ministry coherently and generously, everyday.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

"PRIESTS MUST ALWAYS REMAIN WITH CHRIST"

VATICAN CITY, 20 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI celebrated Mass this morning in the Vatican Basilica, during the course of which he conferred priestly ordination on fourteen deacons from the diocese of Rome.

In his homily the Pope explained how, "in prayer, the priest is called to rediscover the ever-new face of his Lord, the most authentic content of his mission. Only one who has an intimate relationship with the Lord can be seized by Him, can bring Him to others, can become His envoy. This involves a kind of 'remaining with Him' which must always accompany, and be the core of, priestly ministry, also and above all during moments of difficulty when it seems that 'the things to be done' must take priority. Wherever we are, whatever we do, we must always 'remain with Him'".

"The priesthood must never represent a way to achieve security in life or to attain social position. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood in order to increase his personal prestige and power has radically misunderstood the significance of this ministry. Anyone whose main goal is to realise an ambition of his own, to achieve success, will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be noticed he will have to adulate; he must say what people want to hear, he must adapt to changing fashions and opinions. In this way, he will deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he praises today.

"A man who organises his life like this", the Holy Father added, "a priest who sees his ministry in these terms, does not truly love God and neighbour, he loves only himself and, paradoxically, ends up by losing himself. The priesthood - let us never forget it - is founded on the courage to say yes to another will, with the daily-growing awareness that - precisely my conforming ourselves to the will of God, 'immersed' in this will - not only is our originality not cancelled but, quite the contrary, we increasingly enter into the truth of our being and our ministry".

"When we celebrate Mass", said Benedict XVI, "we have the bread of heaven in our hands, the bread of God Who is Christ, the grain broken to be multiplied and become the true food for the life of the world. This cannot but fill you with a sense of inner wonder, of living joy and immense gratitude because now the love and gift of the crucified and glorious Christ pass through your hands, through your hearts! It is an experience of wonder, ever new, to see that in my hands and in my voice the Lord achieves this mystery of His presence".

The Pope asked God to give the new priests "the grace to achieve a profound experience of all the beauty and power of your priestly service and, at the same time, the grace to be able to live this ministry coherently and generously, every day.

"The grace of the priesthood", he told the newly-ordained priests, "will unite you in the depths of your hearts to the sentiments of Jesus, Who loved unto the end unto the total gift of self, it will unite you to His becoming bread multiplied for the holy meal of unity and communion".

The Holy Father concluded by explaining that "care over the celebration of the Eucharist must always be accompanied by commitment to Eucharistic life; that is, a life lived in obedience to the one great law, the law of love that gives completely and serves with humility, a life that the grace of the Holy Spirit makes ever more similar to that of Jesus Christ, High and Eternal Priest, Servant of God and of man".

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"PRIESTS ARE A GIFT FOR THE CHURCH AND FOR THE WORLD"

VATICAN CITY, 13 JUN 2010 (VIS) - The Year for Priests, which came to an end last Friday at a Mass attended by some 15,000 members of the clergy, was the theme of the Holy Father's remarks before praying the Angelus this morning.

"The Year for Priests came to an end on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is traditionally the 'day of priestly sanctification', and this time it was especially so", the Pope told the faithful gathered below his study window in St. Peter's Square.

"The priest", he went on, "is a gift of the Heart of Christ, a gift for the Church and the world. It is from the Son of God's Heart, overflowing with charity, that all the good of the Church comes, in particular the vocation of those men who, conquered by the Lord Jesus, leave everything to dedicate themselves entirely to the service of Christian people, following the example of the Good Shepherd.

"The priest is moulded of Christ's own charity, that love which impelled Him to give His life for his friends and to forgive His enemies", the Pope added. "This is why priests are the primary builders of the civilisation of love. At this point my thoughts go to many priests, the well-known and the less well-known, some raised to the glory of the altars, others whose memory remains indelible in the minds of the faithful, perhaps in some small parish community. This was the case in Ars, the French village where St. John Mary Vianney worked his ministry".

The Pope also mentioned Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, the priest and martyr who "generously and courageously practiced his ministry along with those committed to freedom, to the defence of life and its dignity. His work at the service of goodness and truth was a sign of contradiction for the regime that then governed Poland" he said. "Love for the Heart of Christ brought him to give his life, and his witness was the seed of a new springtime in the Church and in society".

The Holy Father went on: "If we look at history we can see that many episodes of authentic spiritual and social renewal have been written with the decisive contribution of Catholic priests, animated only by their passion for the Gospel and for man, for his true religious and civil liberty. How many initiatives of integral human promotion began with the intuition of a priestly heart", he concluded.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Recruiting For The Priesthood A Hard Sell In France"

Now even NPR is jumping into doing articles about vocations to the Priesthood? What's going on here? And the title of this article is misleading - from what I understand there doesn't seem to be any shortage of traditional vocations in France.

From National Public Radio
By Eleanor Beardsley

Photo at left: A French newspaper displays an advertisement recruiting young men to be Catholic priests. The French church has launched a public relations campaign to try to update the image of the priest and reverse the decline in numbers of French men entering the vocation. Photo by Thomas Coex

The Roman Catholic Church in Europe is struggling with a shortage of priests. In France, the number of priests has been in steady decline since the 1960s. Determined to reverse that trend, the Catholic Church recently launched a public relations campaign meant to attract more young men to the priesthood.

But the campaign has come at a difficult time, amid ever-expanding sex scandals, and its intended targets are skeptical.

On a recent Sunday, bells call the faithful to morning Mass at St. Christophe de Javel Catholic Church in Paris' 15th arrondissement.

The Rev. Paul Ndour leads the congregation in song and prayer. An African priest from Senegal, Ndour has been preaching at St. Christophe since last August, and he will stay in France for two years.

Ndour is one of about 1,500 foreign priests in parishes across the country who are helping to fill in for the dearth of French priests. Ndour says his time in France has been a wonderful opportunity for him and his congregation.

"This has been a rich experience that has fostered more openness on both sides. For example, before, I had an image of French priests as missionaries or colonizers. But now I see that I was wrong," Ndour says. "And I also feel that I'm teaching the congregation many things through our exchanges."

Improving The Image Of French Priests

In the 1960s, there were about 41,000 priests in France. Today, there are around 15,000. About 800 priests die each year, and only 100 are ordained.

Frederic Fonfroide de Lafon is the head of the firm that the church has hired to run its public relations campaign. He says to attract new priests the church must first improve the image of the priest in France.

"Priests suffer from a low social status, so we're trying to change that by showing what being a priest really means. A priest has extensive training in philosophy and the humanities. He is not someone who lives apart from society in his own world, but someone who participates," Fonfroide de Lafon says.

"A priest accompanies people in the most important moments of their lives," he adds.

The campaign tries to reach out to the public with newspaper inserts and brochures that showcase real priests and their passion for people and humanity. The campaign is also distributing 50,000 postcards in cafes, cinemas and on college campuses specifically aimed at 16- to 22-year-olds.

Fonfroide de Lafon says the recent child abuse scandals haven't hurt the campaign, but instead made it more important than ever for the church to show the important work that priests do every day.

Need For Mea Culpa, Modernization

But in a student center at the Sorbonne, history major Nicolas Dolivera stares skeptically at one of the cards. On it, a smiling young man holds a cardboard cutout of a priest's collar and jacket. A button on the lapel reads "Jesus is my boss" in English. The caption "Why Not?" — also in English — is printed across the bottom of the card.

"They're trying to show they're hip by using English words," Dolivera says. "But it's not some slogan or a few flashy colors on a postcard that's going to attract people. The Catholic Church is full of scandals and has to do its mea culpa."

Church officials say they are pleased with the campaign's reception; its Facebook page has had 40,000 visitors already.

Near the university, 21-year-old Maxime Bermann is hanging out with his friends. He has seen the church's campaign on the Internet. But he thinks it will be difficult to draw more young people to the priesthood as long as there are so many arcane rules.

"[The church] seems to look back to old values that don't mean anything to young people today. They have to show with actions that they are able to modernize and not only with cards," Bermann says.

Interesting...

In recent days, articles have appeared in media outlets that are not typically known for their strong support of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and orthodox vocations to the priesthood. Below are two...

From the New York Times: "Prospective Priests Face Sexuality Hurdles"

From America Magazine: "Weeding Out Gays from the Seminary"

Concerted effort?

"Australia: Significant increase in ordination of Catholic priests"

From Spero News

Six new priests ordained in Sydney and others ordained in Melbourne in 2010; a significant increase in seminarians throughout the country... These are the figures that make up the "miracle that occurred in the Year for Priests," says Fr. Brendan Lane, Rector of Corpus Christi Seminary in Melbourne, noting that the phenomenon goes against the trend of decline in vocations and priestly ordinations in recent years. "Twenty years ago, we may have thought we were headed into extinction," he said, but now the prospects are quite different.

The Australian Church is experiencing this moment of joy that offers new hope for the future. The Catholic community in Sydney is preparing for the ordination ceremony for six new priests, which will coincide with the closing of the Year for Priests, Friday, June 11 at Saint Mary's Cathedral, presided by Cardinal George Pell. The Archdiocese also has 63 seminarians, a significant increase considering that in 2000 there were only 17.

Six new priests will be ordained in Melbourne, home to more than 50 seminarians from the states of Victoria and Tasmania. In Brisbane, where a new seminary was built in 2008, the number of seminarians has doubled in two years, from 16 to 32 today. The same phenomenon is noted in the Seminary of Wagga Wagga (which houses 20 students) and in the two existing seminaries in Perth (with around 40 students).

The figures show great hope for the future of the Church. "Confronted by a postmodern world lacking in beliefs and values, many young people are seeking something solid and I would like to think they find it in the Catholic faith," said the rector of Sydney's Good Shepherd seminary, Father Anthony Percy. "I also think Pope John Paul II and the World Youth Days inspired this generation," he said.

"THOUSANDS OF CLERGY AT PRAYER VIGIL FOR YEAR FOR PRIESTS"

VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2010 (VIS) - A prayer vigil was held yesterday evening in St. Peter's Square for the close of the Year for Priests. The event was attended by some fifteen thousand priests from ninety-seven countries.

During the first part of the vigil, live television linkups enabled those present in St. Peter's Square to share the witness and experiences of a German family with six children, a deacon, an Argentinean priest who works in a poor neighbourhood, a pastor from Hollywood, U.S.A., and a cloistered nun.

The second part of the vigil began with the Pope's arrival in St. Peter's Square by popemobile. Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, greeted the Holy Father noting how this Year for Priests has served "to promote commitment to interior renewal among all clergy, for an evangelical witness that is more powerful and incisive in the modern world".

Cardinal Hummes continued his remarks: "We would like the Year for Priests never to end; that is, we would like our striving towards sanctity, each in his own identity, never to end, and that on this journey (which must begin in the seminary and last all our earthly lives as a single formative process) we may always be comforted and supported, as we have been in this Year, by the ceaseless prayer of the Church, by the warmth and spiritual support of all the faithful".

Cardinal Hummes thanked the Pope "for everything you have done, are doing and will continue to do for all priests, even those who have lost their way. We know that Your Holiness has already forgiven and will always forgive the suffering some of them have caused you".

A passage from the Gospel was then read out, after which the Pope responded to questions put to him by five priests, representing the five continents.

After praying the Lord's Prayer, the Blessed Sacrament was borne in procession from the Bronze Door to the altar positioned in front of the Vatican Basilica. Following a moment of silent adoration, the Pope read out the prayer of the Year for Priests.

The vigil came to an end at 11.15 p.m. with the Eucharistic blessing and the singing of the "Salve Regina".

PRIESTS: ACCOMPANY HUMAN BEINGS ON THEIR JOURNEY

VATICAN CITY, 11 JUN 2010 (VIS) - Today, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic concelebration in St. Peter's Square to mark the close of the Year for Priests which was called to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy "Cure of Ars".

The Eucharist was concelebrated by cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia, as well as by more than fifteen thousand priests from all over the world. The Holy Father consecrated the wine in the same chalice as that used by St. John Mary Vianney, which is conserved in Ars.

In his homily the Pope noted how the Year for Priests was celebrated to ensure "a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder. ... Rather, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ's name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ's words of thanksgiving, ... which open the world to God and unite it to Him. The priesthood, then, is not simply 'office' but Sacrament".

"This audacity of God Who entrusts Himself to human beings (Who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in His stead) this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word 'priesthood'. ...This is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, ... we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist".

"It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the 'enemy'; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the Sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light - particularly the abuse of the little ones. ... We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey".

"Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God's gift, a gift concealed in 'earthen vessels' which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes His love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, His gift becomes a commitment to respond to God's courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility".

The Pope continued his homily by commenting on Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my shepherd" - which forms part of today's liturgy. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want", said Benedict XVI. "God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. ... The world's religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant. ... There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it. The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not, could not, intervene in them". However, "wherever God's loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry. ... God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share His concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share His concern for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete experience of God's concern".

"We should strive to 'know' men and women as God does and for God's sake; we should strive to walk with them along the path of friendship with God. ... The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask, and one which remains valid at every moment of one's life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, Who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd".

"The people of Israel continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments He pointed out the way of life. ... God has shown us the way and how to walk aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesised in the life of Jesus and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which He is pointing out to us. ... By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way".

Explaining the Psalm's reference to the "darkest valley", Benedict XVI pointed out that this can refer to death where, however, the Lord will not abandon us. Yet, "when speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life He is there. ... Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light", he said.

"'Your rod and your staff - they comfort me': the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. ... The Church too must use the shepherd's rod, the rod with which she protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor is it love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God's gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd's staff - a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord".

The Psalm closes with a reference to the "table set", to "dwelling in the house of the Lord". In these words, said the Holy Father, "we see a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God Himself makes us His guests and offers Himself to us as food - as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man's hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God? ... How can we not rejoice that He has enabled us to set God's table for men and women, to give them His Body and His Blood, to offer them the precious gift of His very presence".

Finally, the Pope commented on the two communion antiphons which recount the lance thrust in Jesus' side which caused blood and water to come out. This, the Pope explained, recalls "the two fundamental Sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism and the Eucharist. From the Lord's pierced side, from His open heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life".

"Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirsty world. Lord", the Holy Father concluded, "we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Posting should resume tomorrow

After moving to a new house over the memorial day weekend, and all that entailed, I soon had to leave for a five day canonical retreat prior to ordination to the permanent diaconate on Saturday, June 26, 2010. Just back today. Things should settle a bit for the next week and a half and posting should resume tomorrow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back soon...

Just as soon as I got back to posting, we had to load up everything for a big move. I'll try to get some things up in the next few days, but there may be another blog gap next week. After that, things may finally settle down.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"THE PRIEST MUST GOVERN WITH THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST"

VATICAN CITY, 26 MAY 2010 (VIS) - In today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the duty of the priest to "govern and guide - with the authority of Christ, not with his own - that portion of the people which God has entrusted to his care".

In the last of three catechesis on the essential tasks of priestly ministry, the Holy Father asked: "how, within contemporary culture, can we understand this dimension which implicates the concept of authority and has its origin in the Lord's command to feed His sheep?"

"The regimes which spread death and terror last century are a powerful reminder that authority, in all fields, when exercised without reference to the transcendent, when it ignores the supreme authority that is God Himself, inevitably ends up by turning against man. It is important, then, to recognise that human authority is never an end but always and only a means, and that, necessarily and at all times, the end is always the person".

"In order to be pastors after God's heart, we need to be profoundly rooted in a living friendship with Christ (not only of our minds, but also of our freedom and will), clearly aware of the identity we received at priestly ordination, and unconditionally ready to lead our flock where the Lord wills, not in the direction which seems most convenient and easy. This requires, first and foremost, a continuous and progressive willingness to allow Christ Himself to govern the priestly lives of clergy. No-one, in fact, is truly capable of feeding the flock if they do not live in profound and authentic obedience to Christ and the Church; and the docility of the people towards their priests depends on the docility of priests towards Christ".

Referring then to the concept of "hierarchy" in the Church, the Pope noted how a prevalent idea among the public is of "an element of subordination, ... and for many people this contrasts with the flexibility and vitality of pastoral service. ... This is an erroneous interpretation which has its origins in the abuses of history", he explained. "The true meaning is of a sacred origin, it is an authority that comes from another, and subjects the person to the mystery of Christ, making him His servant. Only as His servant can he govern and guide, for Christ and with Christ".

Thus "the Pope, who is a point of reference for the communion of all the pastors of the Church, cannot do as he pleases; quite the contrary, he is the custodian of obedience to Christ and His word".

"Without this clear and explicit supernatural vision, priests' duty to govern cannot be understood. It is however, when supported by true concern for the salvation of each member of the faithful, a particularly important and necessary duty, also in our own time".

"Where", the Pope asked, "can a priest today draw the strength to exercise his ministry in complete faithfulness to Christ and to the Church, with total dedication to his flock? There is", he said, "only one answer: in Christ the Lord".

Benedict XVI told priests: "Do not be afraid to guide to Christ each of the brothers and sisters He has entrusted to you, certain that each word, each action, if they come from obedience to God's will, will bear fruit. Appreciate the advantages and recognise the limits of the culture in which we live, in the firm certainty that announcing the Gospel is the greatest service we can do mankind. In fact, there is no greater good in this earthly life than to lead man to God, to reawaken the faith, to raise mankind from inertia and desperation, and infuse the hope that God is close and guides the history of individuals and of the world. This is the profound and ultimate meaning of the task of government the Lord has entrusted to us".

The Pope concluded by inviting priests to participate in the closing celebrations of the Year for Priests, due to take place in Rome from 9 to 11 June when, he said, "we will meditate on conversion and mission, on the gift of the Holy Spirit and on our relationship with the Blessed Virgin; and we will renew our priestly promises, supported by the entire People of God".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Higher Calling Leads Cartwright From Georgetown"

From CollegeSwimming.com

Georgetown University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed announced today that Men's & Women's Swimming and Diving Head Coach Steve Cartwright will step down from his position at the end of June.

Cartwright is resigning and returning to the seminary in the fall at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia, Pa., studying for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, N.C.

"I am very happy for Steve and we wish him the very best as he pursues something that is very close to his heart," Reed said. "This decision was a very difficult one, but Steve has done a great job with our program here and he leaves it in great shape."

Cartwright has coached at Georgetown for six years, serving as the head coach of the program for the last three. He had previously served as the interim head coach since December 2006. He had been an assistant coach for the prior two-plus seasons.

During Cartwright's tenure at Georgetown, the Hoyas experienced tremendous success both in the pool and in the classroom. Since his arrival on the Hilltop, 34 school records have been broken and more than 50 percent of the times listed in the all-time top-10 list were recorded. The Collegiate Swimming Association of America has awarded academic All-American honors to team members for 36consecutive semesters. In addition, they named the Hoyas one of the top All-Academic Teams in the nation for the spring semester of 2006, the same semester the women's team recorded the highest grade-point average in the nation. For the spring semester of 2007, the men's team had the highest GPA of all Division I swimming and diving programs in the country.

This year, the women's team went 10-2, posting the best dual-meet record in school history and broke nine school records. The men's team broke five school records and placed seven swimmers in the top-16 in their individual events at the BIG EAST Championship.

A search for a successor to lead the program will begin immediately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"New York Franciscan monks battle crime in Irish projects"

From Irish Central
Picture at left: Brother Shawn O'Connor, CFR
Since the beginning of the decade the Moyross estate in Limerick City has been a battle-ground for vicious gangland criminals.

Violent crime stalked the streets, making everyday life a nightmare.

But now, the estate is being turned around by a group of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, from the Bronx, New York.

The Moyross estate was built in the late 1970s and is home to 5,500 residents. The vast majority of householders are local authority tenants.

Back in 2006, crime in Moyross was at its peak. The most famous incident took place when two innocent children who were sitting in their mother’s car were nearly burnt to death when three teenagers petrol bombed the vehicle. Violence was an everyday threat on the estate.

In 2007, the monks opened the friary in the troubled estate and over the past four years they have seen a vast improvement in the standard of living in the people living in the surrounding area.

Brother Shawn O’Connor said the monks' "primary purpose" was to "take care of the spiritual and material needs of the people, to give them a real sense of hope and a sense of knowledge that God cares for them and loves them."

Brother O’Connor is impressed by the changes that he has witnessed.

"We have seen quite a few changes. The biggest we have seen is with the people and the way they live their daily lives," said Brother O'Connor.

"Neighbors told us when we first moved in there, that (their) kids wouldn't play on the street very much or else with great caution. Now they are out there almost every day. I don't think anyone thinks anything of it to let their kids go out and safely play in the streets. That is one change, I don't know if that has anything specifically to do with us.

"It's gotten quieter there certainly, I know that. Obviously there are still things going on that everybody knows aren't so good. But there haven't been big violent events or things of that nature.

“If we can inspire people just to make that difference, no matter how small it might be, then you have made a difference. That is what we are trying to do at a tangible level."

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have now opened a second friary in Derry City.

"We won't go anyplace unless we get invited by a bishop,” said Brother O’Connor. “The two places we got invited to were Limerick and Derry and we accepted both of those. They are good places to be."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI to Priests, Deacons, Religious and Seminarians

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
TO PORTUGAL ON THE OCCASION OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE BEATIFICATION OF JACINTA AND FRANCISCO,
YOUNG SHEPHERDS OF FÁTIMA

CELEBRATION OF VESPERS WITH PRIESTS,
RELIGIOUS, SEMINARIANS AND DEACONS

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Fátima
Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son born of woman, […] so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4,5). The fullness of time came when the Eternal broke into time; by the grace of the Holy Spirit the Son of the Most High was conceived and became man in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, type and lofty model of the believing Church. The Church does not cease to beget new sons in the Son, whom the Father willed to be the first-born of many brothers. Each one of us is called to be with Mary and like Mary, a humble and simple sign of the Church who offers herself constantly as a spouse into the hands of her Lord.

To all of you who have given your life to Christ I wish to express this evening the Church’s appreciation and recognition. Thank you for your witness, often silent and certainly not easy; thank you for your fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. In Jesus, present in the Eucharist, I embrace my brothers in the priesthood and the deacons, the consecrated women and men, the seminarians and the members of the movements and new ecclesial communities present. May the Lord reward, as he alone can and does, all those who have made it possible for us to gather together before the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I mention especially the Episcopal Commission for Vocations and Ministries, with its President, Bishop António Santos, whom I thank for his greeting, full of collegial and fraternal affection, at the beginning of Vespers. In this “upper room” of faith which is Fatima, the Virgin Mother shows us the way to place our pure and holy offering into the hands of the Father.

Let me open my heart and tell you that the greatest concern of every Christian, especially of every consecrated person or minister of the altar, must be fidelity, loyalty to one’s own vocation, as a disciple who wishes to follow the Lord. Faithfulness over time is the name of love, of a consistent, true and profound love for Christ the Priest. “Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalistic ethic and a shallow religiosity” (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). In this Year for Priests which is drawing to its close, may grace in abundance come down upon you that you may live joyfully your consecration and bear witness to your priestly fidelity grounded in the fidelity of Christ. This evidently supposes true intimacy with Christ in prayer, since it is the powerful and intense experience of the Lord’s love that brings priests and consecrated persons to respond to his love in way that is exclusive and spousal.

This life of special consecration was born to keep the Gospel always before the People of God, as a reminder which manifests, certifies and proclaims to the whole Church the radical nature of the Gospel and the coming of the Kingdom. Dear consecrated men and women, by your dedication to prayer, asceticism and growth in the spiritual life, to apostolic action and mission, you are progressing towards the heavenly Jerusalem, you are a foretaste of the eschatological Church, solid in her possession and loving contemplation of God who is love. How much we need this witness today! Many of our brothers and sisters live as if there were nothing beyond this life, and without concern for their eternal salvation. Men and women are called to know and love God, and the Church has the mission to assist them in this calling. We know well that God is the master of his gifts and that conversion is a grace. But we are responsible for proclaiming the faith, the whole faith, with all its demands. Dear friends, let us imitate the Curé of Ars who prayed to the Lord in the following words: “Grant me the conversion of my parish, and I accept to suffer all that you wish for the rest of my life”. And he did everything to pull people away from their own lukewarm attitude in order to lead them back to love.

There exists a deep solidarity among all the members of the Body of Christ. It is not possible to love Christ without loving his brothers and sisters. For their salvation John Mary Vianney decided to become a priest: “to win souls for the good God”, as he said when, at eighteen years of age, he announced his vocation, just as Paul had said: “to win as many as I could” (1 Cor 9:19). The Vicar General had told him: “there is not much love of God in the parish; you will bring it there”. In his priestly passion, this holy parish priest was merciful like Jesus in meeting each sinner. He preferred to insist on the attractive aspect of virtue, on God’s mercy, in comparison to which our sins are like “grains of sand”. He pointed to the merciful love of God which had been offended. He feared that priests would become “insensitive” and accustomed to the indifference of their faithful: “Woe to the Pastor – he would warn – who remains silent while God is offended and souls are lost”.

Dear brother priests, in this place, which Mary has made special, keep before your eyes her vocation as a faithful disciple of her Son Jesus from the moment of his conception to the Cross, and then beyond, along the path of the nascent Church, and consider the unheard-of grace of your priesthood. Fidelity to one’s vocation requires courage and trust, but the Lord also wishes that you join forces: that you be concerned for one another and support one another fraternally. Moments of common prayer and study, and sharing in the demands of the priestly life and work, are a necessary part of your life. It is a fine thing when you welcome one another into your homes with the peace of Christ in your hearts! It is important to assist one another with prayer, helpful advice and discernment! Be especially attentive to those situations where there is a certain weakening of priestly ideals or dedication to activities not fully consonant with what is proper for a minister of Jesus Christ. Then is the time to take a firm stand, with an attitude of warm fraternal love, as brother assisting his brother to “remain on his feet”.

The priesthood of Christ is eternal (cf. Heb 5:6), but the life of priests is limited. Christ has willed that others continue in time the priestly ministry that he instituted. Keep alive in your hearts, and in others around you, the desire to raise up – in cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit – new priestly vocations among the faithful. Trustful and persevering prayer, joyful love of one’s own vocation and commitment to the work of spiritual direction will allow you to discern the charism of vocation in those whom God calls.

Dear seminarians, who have taken the first step towards the priesthood and are preparing in the major seminary or in houses of formation, the Pope encourages you to be conscious of the great responsibility which you will have to assume. Carefully examine your intentions and your motivations. Devote yourselves with a steadfast heart and a generous spirit to your training. The Eucharist, which is the centre of Christian life and the school of humility and service, should be your first love. Adoration, piety and care for the Most Holy Sacrament during these years of preparation will lead you one day to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Altar in an edifying and devout manner.

Along this path of fidelity, beloved priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians and committed lay persons, may the Blessed Virgin Mary guide us. With her and like her, we are free so as to be saints; free so as to be poor, chaste and obedient; free for all because detached from all, free from self so that others may grow in Christ, the true Holy One of the Father and the Shepherd to whom priests, as his presence, lend their voice and their gestures; free to bring to today’s world Jesus who died and rose again, Jesus who remains with us until the end of time and who gives himself to all in the Most Holy Eucharist.

"Seminaries see no 'hard times' uptick"

From time to time I try to post articles that give a perspective on how other denominations and seminaries are doing with regard to vocations/enrollment. With the frequent call by some within the Church to allow married priests, or change the Church's understanding of the priesthood and allow women to be ordained, it is interesting to see that those denominations with married men and women as ministers are experiencing a decline in vocations.

Seminaries see no "hard times" uptick
From The Christian Century
by John Dart

The notion that enrollments at theological schools rise in tough economic times did not hold true for Protestant and Catholic seminaries in North America this academic year. In fact, over the past three years, the total student population slipped about 6 percent—down to 75,500 from a three-year plateau in mid-decade when more than 80,000 students were studying theology.

"The idea of going back to school seems to have worked for U.S. education in general," said Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, but not for seminaries, whose enrollment slid again in the past year about 2 percent, according to ATS data released in April.

Mainline Protestant schools have seen enrollments rise and fall over the past decade. Between the fall of 2000, when student bodies totaled 22,651, and last fall, when they had 22,068, mainline seminaries had peak years of 24,133 in 2002 and 24,024 in 2005.

Aleshire said in an interview that he has not heard convincing reasons for the fluctuations in enrollment.

Some speculation, at least for mainline Protestants, suggests that with the number of congregations able to afford a full-time pastor gradually declining, prospective students are asking, "Why go to seminary?" For prospective students with a sense of "call" or commitment to ministry, added Aleshire, such theories will not hold water.

Evangelical seminaries have increased enrollment at their satellite centers or extension campuses—going from 7,598 students in 2000 to 11,025 in 2007—but slipping the past two years down to 9,734. By contrast, enrollment at mainline seminary extension centers rose from 620 in 2000 to 1,401 by 2004, but only about 480 students now study at those centers.

"The drop in enrollment away from the main campuses may reflect the number of extension centers that have closed for financial reasons," said Aleshire.

One statistical trend shown in new ATS figures is that large schools are enrolling a higher percentage of students. About 30 seminaries with at least 500 students—12 percent of ATS schools—account for half of the 75,500 seminarians. In 2001, schools exceeding 500 students accounted for 47 percent.

Evangelical seminaries have grown larger in size and more numerous in the past decade, according to Eliza Smith Brown, director of communications for ATS. They now have more than twice the enrollment of seminaries with mainline Protestant ties.

The 13 largest schools (with enrollments above 1,000) are all known for their theologically conservative perspective. The largest is Fuller Theological Seminary (4,038), followed by two Southern Baptist schools—Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas (2,591), and Southern Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky (2,585). Dallas Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary are fourth and fifth largest in size at 1,974 and 1,892 students respectively.

Fuller has steadily added what its officials call "regional campuses." Its newest is in Houston, the seventh satellite of the original campus in Pasadena, California.

The ATS annual enrollment report did not include figures on courses taught online. But that option—at least at Fuller—has grown in popularity with students and some faculty members, said Kevin Osborn, Fuller's executive director for distributed learning.

When ATS leaders hold their biennial meeting this June in Montreal, Aleshire said, seminary leaders will begin what "is going to be a complex and, I anticipate, tough conversation" over the percentage of course work done on the main campus and about the length of time needed to earn a degree. "Already it's taking an average of over four years to get through a three-year program," he said. "At Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America schools you can't earn it in less than four years." The discussions in Montreal will inform a task force that will report back in two years.

"We have schools deeply divided on this. We've got schools that think that we've got to have more course work, not less, and it's got to be all residency," Aleshire said. "But others are committed to make it with shorter duration and [through more] options than [are] currently available."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Solemn Profession of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Kansas City

Kansas Catholic has FANTASTIC pictures of the Solemn Profession of Vows of the
Click on Kansas Catholic above to see all of the pictures, and make sure to see all four parts.
Below are just of few of the incredible photos...




Friday, May 14, 2010

Women of Mystery Women of Hope

Hat tip to Emily.

"Budding priests in a time of crisis: Seminarians enter scandal-scarred vocation"

From The Washington Post

By William Wan
Photo by Michael S. Williamson

From behind his desk and wire-rimmed glasses, Monsignor Steven Rohlfs surveyed the class of 24 men. For almost six years, he had led them on the long, difficult path to priesthood, and now, as they stood on the cusp of reaching that goal, he worried.

He knew his seminarians would be entering an institution under fire over clergy sex abuse cases around the world. And he had seen the devastation a single bad priest could cause.

He had often told them about the job he'd held before becoming the seminary's rector -- the one that sent him to bed many nights a broken man. For seven years, he had investigated priests accused of sex abuse in Illinois.

And it was a darkness he was determined to keep out of their lives.

So, as Rohlfs began his last class with them at his rural seminary in Western Maryland, the 59-year-old monsignor raced through his notes, cramming in a long list of last-minute advice. In quick succession, he reviewed everything from the nitty-gritty of administering the holy sacraments to the common pitfalls of first-year priests.

At the end of the hour-long lecture, he paused and looked up from his notes.

He had come to know and love each of the students graduating from his class: the aspiring park ranger, the former Starbucks manager, the Air Force veteran, the newcomer from Nigeria. Many of them had confided their deepest doubts to him.

And in return, Rohlfs had shared the lessons he'd learned from 34 years as a priest. From the outside world, he warned them, they would encounter suspicion and, at times, outright disdain. From within, they would encounter something even more sinister: temptation.

"If you remember nothing else from today, I would boil down all this advice to one thing," he said as the class came to an end. "Fall in love with the Lord, and it will change everything. Fall out of love with Him, and it will change everything."

Sacrifices and suspicion

This year, 440 men will be ordained in the United States. They will enter the Catholic Church at a time of need, amid a decades-long shortage of priests. Two dozen of them will come from Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, a town so rural it only recently acquired a second stoplight.

Six years ago, when most of this year's class arrived, the church was reeling from hundreds of abuse cases emerging across the United States. Now, just as they were preparing to leave for ordination, the church was once again mired in scandal.

They'd already experienced some of the far-reaching consequences of the sex abuse crisis. Getting into seminary had required a battery of psychological tests, long interviews and background checks.

"In the last six years alone, I've been fingerprinted four times," said out Mick Kelly, a 32-year-old former philosophy student who will be ordained next month in the Arlington Diocese. "That's more than some criminals out there get."

After he entered the seminary, one of Kelly's friends asked him: "How can you join an institution as corrupt as the Catholic Church?"

When he began wearing a clerical black robe and white collar four years ago, he noticed the stares he'd get from people. Some would look away.

"You try not to be defensive, to explain as best you can," he said. "It hurts. The world sees these abuse cases and judges the church as a whole, all its priests and all its work by the action of these few people. But it's not the priesthood I grew up with. The one I know and love."

For some seminarians, the abuse crisis only made them want to be priests more.

"It invoked that almost boyhood drive to be a hero," said Matt Rolling, 27, a soft-spoken student from Nebraska. "You want to help the church restore its name. You want to be an example of what the priesthood really represents."

To be a priest, Rolling said, means sacrifice. For him, answering God's call meant abandoning all his careful plans -- a career as a forest ranger, the girlfriend he'd been dating for three years at the University of Nebraska, the prospect of marriage and children.

Even now, he said, there are times when he feels a desire for a wife and family. And, of course, there is the issue of sex.

"It's not like when you become a deacon or priest, the hormones somehow shut off," he said. "There are temptations. There are doubts. How do you deal with that? You try to realize that temptation comes from the devil and salvation comes from God. You pray for that salvation. You build up the spiritual strength to look past the distraction. . . . When I see a girl, I try to think, 'If this were my daughter, how would I feel if someone looked at her that way, if someone mistreated her?' You try to move into that role of a father, which is what you're supposed to be, in a sense, as a priest."

Embracing celibacy at Mount St. Mary's is complicated by the fact that the seminary is housed on the same campus as a college, with a student body that includes plenty of young women.

Strolling through a lush garden dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Dave Wells, one of Rolling's close friends, put it this way: "I don't want to sound like it's the only thing we think about, but, yes, it can be tough."

Midway through the conversation, two girls in tight running clothes jogged by. Wells's eyes, however, remained fixed on a statue of Mary.

"It's good practice for us," he said later, "because in the parishes, we'll be surrounded and ministering to women, too. You may as well get used to it now."

Not everyone, however, can. About 15 percent of the seminarians leave without finishing. In the past year alone, Wells has attended two weddings for former seminarians in his class.

"Some of us are called to be fathers in the natural sense," he said. "Some are called in the spiritual sense."

Loving God

Such open talk of sex and the official dissection of temptations are things that have changed in the wake of the abuse scandals. Since Rohlfs arrived at Mount St. Mary's five years ago, he has made extensive teaching on celibacy a priority. Seminarians spend an entire year examining its history, theological roots and practical challenges. And they pore over reports on the abuse scandals, looking for clues.

It is a deliberately open approach for a man who, when asked to talk about the problem of abusive priests, takes off his glasses and rubs his face. A weariness creeps into Rohlfs' voice.

From 1998 to 2005, he was responsible for investigating accused priests as vicar general of the Peoria diocese. He was the one who had to hear the heart-wrenching accounts from abuse victims, who had to delve into the private lives of more than a dozen accused priests and confront them with his findings.

"It was the most painful time of my life," he said. "I had known a lot of these same priests growing up. But even worse was meeting the victims. You don't know what to say to them. The pain they've felt. There's nothing you can say that will change that."

He likened himself to a garbage man and woke up depressed every morning. It got so bad that he eventually made a new vow -- to watch a half-hour sitcom every night before he fell asleep just to make himself laugh. "I Love Lucy." "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Frazier."

Most of the priests he investigated had come from an era when celibacy was not taught at seminaries in a pragmatic, thorough way. Another thing the fallen priests had in common, he said, was that not one had kept up his daily prayers.

So at Mount St. Mary's, he has urged seminarians to pray at least one hour every day. If they don't, he demands to know what they could possibly be doing that's more important than talking to God?

But not even prayer can substitute for love. That's what stuck out most to Rohlfs in the wreckage of the fallen priests' lives. "We can teach them everything we know, but, in the end, duty cannot do it," he said. "It must be love -- loving God more than you love sin."

The crucial lesson

In his last class with them, Rohlfs watched as his seminarians dutifully wrote down this last piece of advice on love. But did they understand how crucial it was, he wondered. Would they remember?

The Class of 2010 is the first he has overseen from start to finish, and he confessed that he felt at times like a nervous parent on the first day of kindergarten -- eager to see his children succeed but, having seen the dangers in this world, scared of what they will encounter.

Sitting in his office last week -- with the year officially over and his seminarians packing up -- Rohlfs couldn't help picking through all the lessons he had given during the past six years. He asked himself whether he should have done anything different, whether he had missed something important.

He had taught them everything he knew, he said at last with a sigh. Now it was up to God.

View slideshow that goes with this story HERE.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"New US bishop was one of nation’s most successful vocation directors"

From CatholicCulture.org

Pope Benedict XVI has named Father Eduardo Nevares, the vice-rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum, as Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix. Father Nevares served as co-vocations director of the Diocese of Tyler (Texas) from 2001 to 2008.

A 2007 Catholic World Report analysis found that in three of the previous four years, the Diocese of Tyler was one of the nation’s dozen most vocation-rich dioceses-- that is, dioceses with the highest ratios of seminarians to Catholics. Father Nevares attributed the diocese’s success in attracting seminarians to Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio, SJ, who, he said,

"has called all of the pastors to follow the newest directives from Rome concerning the renewal of the liturgy so that our faithful Catholics may enjoy the beauty of the Catholic liturgy in all of its fullness. He has called all of the faithful to be as faithful to their individual vocation . . . Bishop Corrada hopes that this new awareness and love for the truths and beauty of our Catholic faith will lead to a new evangelization . . . showing forth the splendor of truth found in the Catholic Church."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI entrusts and consecrates the worlds priests the Immaculate Heart of Mary

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
TO PORTUGAL ON THE OCCASION OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE BEATIFICATION OF JACINTA AND FRANCISCO,
YOUNG SHEPHERDS OF FÁTIMA

ACT OF ENTRUSTMENT AND CONSECRATION
OF PRIESTS TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Church of the Most Holy Trinity - Fátima
Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!

Amen!