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, January 30, 2008

The Catholic Priest Today DVD

Yesterday a DVD entitled The Catholic Priest Today showed up on my desk. The video was produced by the Midwest Theological Forum. I must admit that I had never heard of it, despite my daily efforts to try and stay on top of all thing vocations related. So of course I was intrigued, especially seeing the list of advisors, which includes Bishop Choby of Nashville, Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Morlino of Madison, Bishop Sample of Marquette, Msgr. Checchio, Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Msgr. Jenkins, Associate General Secretary of the USCCB, and Fr. Armenio, Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei for the Midwest.

I watched it immediately. It is an EXCELLENT video. It's about 30 minutes long and an outstanding follow up to Fishers of Men. It does an great job of presenting the life of Priests today. It also has many notable guest appearances including Archbishop Malcolm Ranjinth, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal George of Chicago, Dr. Scott Hahn, among others.

I could go on at length, but it would be better for you just to watch it. You can watch the etire video online, but I would suggest ordering copies and showing it to as many young men as possible.

View the Windows Media version of the video here.

View the Quicktime version of the video here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

10 Suggestions for Parents

Article on the Ten Suggestions
by Fr. Todd J. Petersen
This month, we mark National Vocations Awareness Week(January 13-18). While so often we single out priesthood and religious life, we know that we need holy husbands and wives, following the model of the Holy Family. We need holy married couples to raise children in an environment of holiness. Any response to the call of God is first made possible by the loving example of family. Without holy families, the chances of responding to a call are greatly diminished, simply because no one has modeled how to respond to any call, whether to priesthood, religious life, the deaconate, the missionary life, or even holy marriage.

There seems to be a certain confusion among parents for the best practices that would open their children’s hearts to responding. Perhaps we should take comfort calling to mind Pentecost – despite all the confusion, it was the work of the Holy Spirit in which we find the trust that God to still be in control. We also know that more than the minimum is necessary. Following the precepts of the Church are the minimum. What follows are some humble ‘hints’ for parents in how to create an environment in which children will be open to hearing God’s voice and responding in love to that call.

1. Develop your relationship with Christ and impart a desire for discipleship in the lives of your children. Especially important would be participating in Eucharistic Adoration and even if possible daily Mass. Silence is necessary for growth (both your own and for your child), and in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we are profoundly touched by His loving embrace. In frequent reception of the Eucharist, we grow in grace and freedom.

2. Live your vocation to marriage out as fully as you can. By responding to your vocation to marriage, asking for the fullness of grace that God offers, you will model to your children how to live and respond to God’s grace.

3. Speak of the holy and influential priests and religious in your life. Sharing these stories helps to show the impact a religious life can have.

4. Provide opportunities for your children to speak with priests and religious. Invite them to your house, or let your children interact with them after Mass or at various functions. Your children will see them as human beings and begin to ask if God might be calling them, too.

5. Pray for your children’s vocations, that they may understand their call, and place them in the care of the Blessed Mother, through praying the rosary as a family. By placing your children’s vocations to her maternal protection, she will lead them to Christ.

6. Speak of your children responding to whatever vocation they have, showing your support of them without pushing them. Be aware that the vocation comes from God, and that their free response will lead them to lasting happiness. Parents walk a fine line between showing support and forcing a response. Let your children know you are pleased by their response to God’s call.

7. Instill in your children a desire to serve and a proper understanding of stewardship. This can be done through your ‘open’ service and stewardship. Let your children see your joy-filled gift of self, and help them to find opportunities to do likewise.

8. Inspire a heroic life of virtue in your child by reading to them or with them about the lives of the saints and encouraging moral choices.

9. Help your child develop a wide range of activities and discern what gives them joy and what their talents are. By knowing their talents and gifts, your child may be able to know what God desires. There are certain skills that are useful in any lifestyle and vocation, and by learning to place these in the service of God, your child will more readily be able to cultivate other ‘specialized’ gifts that will led to discerning God’s will.

10. Develop a sense of the sacred and transcendent in your child. Great art, literature, and music can inspire us and teach us of the human condition.

There is nothing profound in any of these things. Together, we can build a culture for vocations in our homes, parishes, area faith communities, diocese, and world. We can create an environment which enables and encourages all of us to respond more deeply to God’s call. We can inspire our youth to take their proper places at the altar as lay men and women, as religious, as deacons, and priests, together worshipping God with one unified voice of praise!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Beautiful Pictures from the NC Mass for Life and the March for Life in Washington, DC

Paul Tomas has put together a slideshow of his incredibly beautiful pictures from the NC Mass for Life in the Basilica and the March for Life with Bishop Buribidge. Enjoy...

NC Mass for Life and March for Life Slideshow

Nobody Said They Were Saints Yet - Rowdiness at the Clericus Cup

ROME: A Vatican-backed football tournament for Rome seminarians and priests that has already had its share of red cards and rows on the pitch has been forced to crack down on rowdy supporters in the stands.

After neighbours living near the ground complained of noise, trainee priests supporting their teams in the Clericus Cup tournament have been told that they will be barred from entering the ground if they continue to show up armed with drums, megaphones, trumpets, maracas and ghetto blasters.

Loud chanting, sometimes in Latin, will also be discouraged to avoid "disturbing the peace", the organisers said.

Singled out for excessive celebrations were drum-beating fans urging on the Mexican players of Maria Mater Ecclesiae College. African seminarians turning out for Urban College have been backed by loud reggae music, and fans of Italian trainee priests from the Romano Maggiore Pontifical Seminary have used megaphones to great effect.

American seminarians from Rome's North American College, nicknamed the NAC, have been chanting "Come on you Knackers, kick some caboose", at games before singing doo-wap numbers.

Despite the noise ban, supporters of the cup holders, Redemptoris Mater Seminary, have reportedly said they will continue to sing a hymn from the stands before each game.

The ban comes in the wake of tense moments on the pitch in last season's final, when players from the losing side, Pontifical Lateran University, harangued the referee, saying an opponent had dived to win a penalty, and earned themselves spells in the special sin-bin set up for the tournament.

Pope Benedict said this month that football should promote "honesty, solidarity and fraternity".

Chalices Spur Family Prayers for Vocations

By Bennet Bolton
The Florida Catholic (www.thefloridacatholic.org)

DELRAY BEACH, FL (The Florida Catholic) - A new practice is spreading in the Diocese of Palm Beach and elsewhere around the nation: families allowed, one Sunday at a time, to take a chalice home after Mass for a week of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The latest parish to join in the concept is St. Vincent Ferrer here, which began it a few weeks ago. Families sign up at the start of the month, each requesting one particular Sunday.

“This began three years ago in the southern part of Palm Beach County at St. Thomas More Parish in Boynton Beach, then it spread to St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton — and now it is also done with Spanish-speaking parishioners at St. Jude in Boca,” said Bob Venezia, communications vice president of the Serra Clubs in the lower county.

Serra’s mission is to promote vocations. The worldwide movement has 23,500 members in 700 clubs in 36 nations. It is named for Blessed Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest who was a California missionary in the late 1700s.

“What we did here at St. Vincent was to copy how they do it at St. Thomas More,” Venezia told the Florida Catholic.

How the chalice effort works

One family takes a chalice home after the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas More. Family members pray every night with the chalice in their midst, using prayers appropriate to advance the need for more priests and religious. They must return the chalice in time for the 8:30 a.m. Mass the following Sunday. At St. Vincent Ferrer, a chalice goes to a family’s home after the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass, due back the next Sunday in time for Mass.

Father Joseph Kuczborski, now in his second year as parochial vicar at St. Vincent, is largely responsible for the spread of the concept. He began the vocations chalice idea while at St. Sebastian Parish in Sebastian, the northernmost part of the diocese. The chalice program idea has since taken place in other northern parishes.

“Here at St. Vincent we insist that it must be a group of family members who takes part,” said the former U.S. Air Force chaplain who retired as a major.

Participants must be families with children. Grandparents with their grandchildren are good candidates.

Parishioner Joyce Evans, who took part in the program in December, invited her daughter, grandchildren and daughter-in-law to accompany her to Mass to receive the chalice and to help with prayer for vocations. As it turns out, the entire Evans clan showed up in support of the grandmother and vocations to the priesthood.

“I think that it is really special that she got this,” said teenage granddaughter Mahalia Evans. “I think that it is really nice.”

Joyce Evans is encouraging her family members to gather with her in prayer for an increase in vocations.

“I hope they will,” she said. “Prayer from families will nurture vocations. Prayer is the one thing we can lean on to change things.”

‘Priest and chalice go together’

Parishioners at St. Vincent are reminded at Mass of the program and the parish bulletin contains notices of the project.

“We have a signup sheet at the church entrance and families can write their names there to volunteer. There are prescribed prayers that go with the chalice — prayers to be said each night at the evening meal seeking God’s help in fostering vocations,” Father Kuczborski said. “We request that the chalice be placed in the home in a quiet respectable location, not at the dinner table or atop the TV.”

Father Yves François, director of vocations and seminarians for the diocese, said the idea of a vocations chalice has been around for a while in the Catholic Church.

“It is hard to think of a priest without thinking of the chalice that is so central to his celebration of the Mass every day. Priest and chalice go together,” he said. “We want the church to be alive within the family itself, not just in the church building. The chalice and the Mass are at the heart of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is a beautiful thing. We hope that one day all the parishes will have this.”

- - -

This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Florida Catholic (www.thefloridacatholic.org), official newspaper of the dioceses of Orlando, Venice, St. Petersburg, Palm Beach and Pensacola-Tallahassee, and the Archdiocese of Miami.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another great video from the Marines

I don't know who the firm is behind the Marine Corps new marketing campaign, but I wish we could hire them for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. These videos are outstanding. This one is particularly powerful. Watching it I can't help but think of our Priests. Obviously some of the wording would change, but the idea that our Priests stand watch over us and protect the souls in this country from spiritual attacks fits. Enjoy the video. Pray for our troops!

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Irish Papers

Sorry for the no posts of the last few days. It has been incredibly busy since the return from the March for Life. It was a great trip. I had a few opportunities to catch up with old friends and make a few new acquaintances. It was great to see Stephanie with the Sisters of Life, and my good friend Dcn. Gregory Plow, T.O.R.. I ended up sitting directly in front of Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV, Vocations Director for the Sisters of Life, during the Vigil Mass and I also had a chance to catch up with Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR, Vocations Director for the CFR's, after the Vigil Mass. After the Mass I was humbled to be able to spend time with Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Zubik - truly wonderful successors to the Apostles. I didn't take as many pictures this year, but hopefully I'll post what I took soon.

Below is an article fromt the Independent in Ireland. I couldn't find the picture the writer talks about in the beginning (UPDATE: Fr. Luke sent me the picture below). The cartoon goes with this article. If you don't know already, the Friars really only locate their friaries in poor/rough neighborhoods. The story behind how they ended up in Limerick is an amusing one - another day when I have more time. However the rules are that if a neiborhood improves - they move. This is good article about the loss of religious in our communities/world.

It's last orders as the self is elevated over service
By David Quinn
Friday January 25 2008

The photo on the front page of this paper on Tuesday showed a smiling President Mary McAleese being blessed by a bearded friar who looked like a character from the Middle Ages.

The President was in Limerick to announce a scheme that everyone hopes will lead to the regeneration of Moyross and Southill, two areas that are usually in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Writing about the issue on the same day, child protection expert Shane Dunphy struck a note of scepticism about the regeneration plan.

He wondered whether improving the physical infrastructure of the neighbourhoods would really do much good unless their real and underlying problems were addressed. For example, does moving someone into a better house suddenly bring an end to their drug addiction?

To this effect he quoted 'Barry' from Ballymun, where a similar regeneration scheme has been in effect for some time. Barry told him: "My ma has a nicer place to live, but then, the drug dealers have better-maintained street corners to work off now, too. All they did was move the problem to a nicer neighbourhood."

Enter the good friar who blessed Mary McAleese on Monday. Fr Paulus is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. As the name implies, they are part of the family of Franciscan orders.

The Friars arrived in Moyross to a considerable blaze of publicity last year. With their distinctive garb and trademark long beards it was hard to miss them, and the fact that they were moving into one of the toughest neighbourhoods in Ireland was bound to catch the attention.

They chose Moyross because they always opt to live in the most socially deprived areas and because they know that the problems faced by any such area go much deeper than the physical environment. To address them you have to lift people out of poverty itself, and not just through hand-outs but by giving them the skills needed to lift themselves out of poverty.

Those skills are not merely technical ones. They are also emotional, and spiritual.

The Friars are a reminder of what we are going to lose as the religious orders in Ireland decline precipitously in numbers or disappear into oblivion altogether.

The orders have received terrible publicity, a lot of it deserved, because of the scandals, but the scandals have caused an awful lot of people to completely overlook the tremendous good the orders have done, and continue to do.

One of the main reasons the orders are in such sharp decline is because they require their members to take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

These vows could not be more anti-modern. Vowing never to have sex strikes a lot of us as being a denial of life itself. But maybe that's because we over-value sex.

And although the vow of poverty still retains a certain prestige, nonetheless it doesn't sit too easily alongside a hyper-consumerist society. As for the vow of obedience, that is completely rejected as a sacrifice of independence and freedom of mind.

But is that really what those vows really mean? The vows of chastity and poverty mean giving up family and money for the sake of service. The vow of obedience means giving up personal freedom, again for this sake of service. Viewed this way the vows aren't negative at all, but positive, in the same way that marriage vows are positive if lived out properly.

Now, ask yourself this question; are we better or worse off as a society if we lose all those thousands of men and women who have devoted themselves so completely to the service of others? The answer is that we are certainly much worse off.

On a purely practical level, the person who has taken the three vows will have far more time to devote to the service of others than let's say, me, or probably you.

Very few doubt that Moyross will benefit from the presence of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

No reasonable person can doubt that other communities would benefit if there were more of the Friars to go round.

We used to have such people in abundance and they worked in every manner and type of religious order. Often they were taken for granted. We thought they were a permanent feature of Irish society.

But now flawed thinking, closed minds and a radical shift in societal values that often puts self over service has led too many people to doubt that the vows which are an intrinsic part of the religious life are worthwhile.

Moyross does indeed need more than a brand new physical infrastructure to properly regenerate itself, however important this is.

It needs more people like the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

These Franciscans are a reminder of what Ireland is about to lose as many of our religious orders fade into history, for the time being at any rate.

We should appreciate them while we have them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Off to the March for Life

We're off to the March for Life in Washington, DC today. Hopefully, I can get a post in tonight after the Vigil Mass at the Basilica. Should be plenty of opportunities for good vocations pictures. Perhaps I'll see some of you up there - safe travels if you are going.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On Discernment and Changes in Formation

From the St. Louis Review Online...

Path to priesthood changing, say those who’ve walked it

by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer

The times they are a changin’.

That certainly can be said for men who are thinking about a vocation to the priesthood.

And for two archdiocesan priests who attended Kenrick-Glennon Seminary during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, cumulatively, it’s another fact of life that the path in which men today are called to the priesthood is unlike what it was during their time.

Seminary president and rector Msgr. Ted Wojcicki attended St. Louis Preparatory Seminary South and Kenrick-Glennon in the ’60s and ’70s, and Father Michael Butler, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, attended St. Louis Preparatory Seminary North and Kenrick-Glennon in the late ’70s and into the ’80s.

The two recently spoke about their personal experiences of discerning a call to the priesthood and the societal changes they have seen since their days in the seminary.

Msgr. Wojcicki stressed the spiritual steps a man takes to discern a call to the priesthood have not changed but have remained constant for centuries. Those steps include growing in an understanding of one’s self, developing a strong prayer life and receiving guidance from various role models and others in the Church, he said.

However, the priest said, "I think the path by which they’re called to be a priest in the first place is very different."

Reflecting on his own time in the seminary dating back to the 1960s, Msgr. Wojcicki, who sensed a calling to the priesthood at age 13, said almost everyone his age had the same "call story," the tale that described how a man was invited by God to consider the priesthood.

"We went to Catholic school. We served Mass," he said. "We went to church every Sunday. We had young associate priests in the parish, and we liked them. And we thought that we could be like them someday. It wasn’t much more complicated than that," he said.

"There was a large Catholic subculture there that defined all of that."

Today, some of those components may still be there for some men, but many are not, noted the priest.

While he said he couldn’t speak for everyone who has been through the seminary, Msgr. Wojcicki said many men today don’t receive a strong calling to a vocation early in their childhood.

"’What can I do with my life?’ is a very different question than, ‘What am I called to do?’" he said. "We were raised with the idea that we were called to something. If you’re raised with an idea in general, then it’s a lot easier to plant the seed that maybe you’re called to be a priest."

Psalm 1 states: "Happy are those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company of scoffers. Rather the law of the Lord is their joy."

That Scripture passage teaches the path to happiness comes from following God’s will, said Msgr. Wojcicki.

It’s translated into what his parents taught him as a child: "Do what God wants you to do, and you’re going to be happy," he said. "They wanted us to be happy."

As a student at Kenrick-Glennon in the 1980s, Father Butler said, there were a number of structural changes that likely had an effect on the discernment process.

"In the late ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, things became less structured in the Church and in the seminary," he said, which included downplaying parts of seminary life, such as praying the Liturgy of the Hours or the rosary or eucharistic adoration. "I think there was a tension about how much was too much," he said.

Today, some of that structure has changed. Kenrick-Glennon requires seminarians to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and participate in other devotional practices, for example.

Father Butler stressed that having less structure in his days as a seminarian was needed during the time. The push for a different framework, he said, came in the days of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate when he "came to realize more structure was needed."

There’s also been a change in the sense of community compared with decades ago, said Father Butler, which ultimately has had an effect on how men are called to the priesthood.

Citing an old study from the 1960s he’d once read, Father Butler said he believes baby boomers were behind the shift from moving from the term job to career. That could be translated into moving the priority on community to placing one’s self first, he said.

The priest noted he’s been reading a book, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," in which author Robert D. Putnam describes the breakdown of society as Americans become disconnected from their communities.

In his book, Putnam has cited that while a majority of Americans still claim a serious "religious commitment," church attendance has declined about 25 to 50 percent from the 1950s.

"Nowadays, people don’t seem to be clinging to organizations," Father Butler said. "It’s really hard across the board to get people to join anything."

"But it’s not because people are necessarily rejecting God," he said. "There’s a whole different emphasis that’s it’s about me. With televisions, air-conditioners, Nintendo and iPods, I can find my niche and things that will make me happy without reaching out to the community."

"The idea is we’re asking them to be all God wants them to be — to be what we can be together," said Msgr. Wojcicki. "That’s the difference in the Church.

"We don’t wake up every day and figure out, ‘What can I do today to make my life better?’ It’s ‘What can I do to make other people’s lives better? What can I do to make the world better, the Church better?’ It’s a whole different outlook on life. It’s actually very freeing, once you believe it."

Each era must provide in its own unique way the resources needed to help people discern their calling in life, the two said. In previous generations, for example, St. Louis Preparatory Seminary high schools offered young men a chance to consider a priestly vocation in a formalized setting. Today, the Office of Vocations offers programs and peer groups for men and women considering a vocation as a priest or religious.

It also means reaching out to people of various ages, said Msgr. Wojcicki. The Vocations Office’s programming reaches out to young people from about sixth grade up through young adults who are college-bound or working professionals.

The priest said it’s becoming more common to find men who are deciding on a vocation to the priesthood later in life. He recalled attending the ordination of a man from another diocese and meeting one of his classmates who was in his 50s at the time of his ordination.

"I asked him, ‘When did you receive your call?’ He said, ‘"Oh, I’ve always had it, it just took me 30 years to respond to it.’ But you hear other people say that in other aspects of life, too. I think priests are not unique in that regard."

He offered this advice for families in teaching their children about being called to a lifelong vocation: "Teach them to follow the Golden Rule," he said. "And Psalm 1. The path to happiness is following God’s way. There’s no parent who doesn’t want their child to be happy. But the best way for that child to be happy is following God’s will for them."

Father Butler agreed.

"I would encourage families, individuals, to begin to ask not the questions, ‘What do I want to do?’ ‘What will make me happy?’ Where are my career plans taking me?’ But to ask the more important questions: ‘Lord, how can I best serve you?’ ‘Lord, what are you calling me to do?’ And then do something about it."

A Visible Sign: The Roman Collar

I couldn't have said it better myself... from Deo Juvante...

A Visible Sign: The Roman Collar

The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, prepared by the Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope John Paul II on January 31, 1994 has this to say:

In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to bedisappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest-man of God, dispenser of His mysteries-should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as arecipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in away that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.

When collars were quickly taken off a few decades ago, the common argument proclaimed was, "What's really important is what's inside me . . . I don't need an article of clothing to define my priesthood".

Let us examine the importance of the Roman Collar.

The Roman Collar is a clerical collar that should be worn by all ranks of clergy. Bishops, priests, transitional deacons, and seminarians who have been admitted to candidacy for the priesthood (as is the case in the Diocese of Rome and many other Seminaries throughout the world). Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church.

Rev. Ken Collin's, explains that "clothing conveys a message. A business suit says, 'Money!' A police uniform says, 'Law!' A tuxedo says, 'Wedding!' Casual clothing says, 'Me!' Clericals say, 'Church!' "

A priest is never 'off-duty' when he puts on the Roman Collar. Any occassion he is in can be turned into a pastoral ministry. Whenever a priest has his collar one, he no longer needs words to explain his presence. It is unlikely that anyone would stop a Roman Catholic priest with his collar on from entering a hospital after visiting hours or bar him from crossing the yellow tape at an accident scene.

A priests' ministry is unending and there are no definate working hours. Casualness about being publicly identified as a priest of the Catholic Church may signify a desire to distance himself from his priestly vocation. The collar becomes 'workclothes,' which are put away when one is not 'on duty.' The functionalistic notion of the priesthood revealed by this attitude is in contradiction to the ontological configuration to Christ the High Priest conferred by priestly ordination. Furthermore, to have a 'split personality' is never healthy. No priest can temporarily put his priesthood on the shelf.

With this visible symbol of his sacred ministry around his neck, the priest allows the faithful to approach him no matter where he is; be it at the cafe having his morning cuppa or at the grocers picking up some provisions.

A person can make a confession and be reconcilled to God, a young teen may ask a quick question about the faith and be strengthened, an lost soul may come up to the priest and ask, “Father, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, a businessman may receive a blessing before his flight, etc... Christ's faithful (and even those outside the fold) deserve nothing less. Lay people depend on their priests for spiritual support andstrength. They feel that something is not right when their priests try to blend into the crowd and, as it were, disappear.

Many priests often say that their people are adverse to the Collar. Well, trying to 'blend-in' isn't really the solution. Allowing the reactions of others affect the priest's decision to wear the collar is only allowing the problem to fester unresolved. Could it be that some think that what the collar signifies- Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, the priesthood- are obstacles? Priests must relate to others as priests, never in spite of being priests.

"A white collar on a priest's neck should remind him of a ring and collar - his marriage to Christ and to the Church and giving his freedom to Christ, thus letting him control his life. We, priests, wear a collar because we want to be directed by Christ in all things. Please notice that our collars are white as opposed to our cassocks. In the background of a black robe it is a symbol of the light of resurrection. We go through the world giving up baubles and colours, living the hope of participation in the brightness of resurrection. This white collar in the background of our black dress is actually a sign of our desires and aspirations." Rev. Fr. Andrzej Przybylski.

We use symbols all the time, and need not be embarrassed by them. To obediently and humbly wear the collar expresses one's submission to the authority of God and his Holy Church.

Dear Rev. Fathers, please display the desire to manifest the presence of the Savior to a world gone mad... The reward is to be able to lead others to Christ is significant. Be aware that the priestly work you now do will not suffer but will be enhanced when you dress according to the venerable custom of the Church.

References & Acknowledgements:

'Why a Priest Should Wear His Roman Collar' by Reverend Gerald E. Murray.

The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, prepared by the Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope John Paul II on January 31, 1994.

'Why Clergy Should Wear Clericals' by Reverend Ken Collins.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fantastic Pictures from the NC March for Life in Raleigh

If you're interested please check out these beautiful pictures by Paul Tomas.

Vocations Holy Hour in the Diocese of Raleigh with the Nashville Dominicans

Saint Catherine of Siena Parish is happy to sponsor the first parish based Holy Hour in conjunction with Bishop Burbidge's monthly Vocation Holy Hour. Because of our patroness, Dominican Sister, St. Catherine of Siena, we are honored to initiate this Holy Hour to promote women's vocations to religious life with special guests from the dynamic Dominican Sisters of Nashville who will also join the youth at the John 6:35 Retreat the following day in Garner. The night will follow the same schedule as the Bishop's Holy Hour so that we may all be united with our Bishop and Shepherd and join him in one prayer for vocations in front of our Lord, the Master of the Harvest. Please join us as we pray Evening Prayer on Friday February 1st at 7PM, a reception will follow from 8-9PM where young women can meet and greet the Sisters and discuss the joy of discerning a vocation to religious life.

Video from the Nashville Dominicans...

Culture of Divorce, Culture of Death

From InsideCatholic.com

Culture of Divorce, Culture of Death
by Anthony Esolen

"Come sit over here," my wife whispered to me. "Let's give Dad a chance to be alone with her."

It was a quiet room in a hospice, the only sounds the muffled pumping of oxygen, and the softer and slower breathing of my mother-in-law, Esther, as she lay a few hours before her death. Her husband, Herb, stood by the bedside, stroking the gray curls on her forehead, a slight gesture. It seemed to wave away 50 years of sorrow and disappointment and strife, leaving only the love he felt for her in the beginning, like a seedling under the ruins of a city.

He could have abandoned her years before -- not for another woman, but for what the world calls peace. Dad is not a Catholic, so he had no Church precept to warn him against divorce. He didn't need any. "You never know what you'll get in life," he put it to me once. "You have to do the right thing, because if you don't, you'll probably make things worse." So he never left, and at the last moment of Esther's life he was there, fulfilling a patient vigil, his eyes red with weariness and loss.

♦ ♦ ♦

"Moses allowed our forefathers to present their wives with a bill of divorce," said the Pharisees to Jesus. "For what cause do you think a man may put away his woman?"

Consider them the pundits of that time, eager to learn whether on this matter of public policy the preacher from Galilee would position himself on the left or the right. Would he agree that you could divorce your wife for burning the soup, or would he hold out for a far narrower range of grounds -- adultery, for instance?

But Jesus rejected the terms of the question. "Moses permitted you to divorce," he said, "because of the hardness of your hearts; but it was not so from the beginning. Therefore you have heard it said that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. So I say to you that any man who puts away his woman -- I am not talking about fornication here -- and marries another, commits adultery." He concludes with a stern admonition: "What God has joined together, let no mere man put asunder."

We may be too familiar with these words. They should strike us with the same shock that once silenced the Pharisees, or enraged them, when the Lord reached back behind all the history of the Israelites, behind the Temple and the kings and the judges and the tribes, behind even creation itself, as He said, "Before Abraham was, I AM." Here alone, in this discussion of marriage, does Jesus answer a question about good and evil and human life by appealing to the time before the Fall. "It was not so," he says, "from the beginning." It was no part of God's plan for innocent mankind. It can be no part of God's plan for man regenerate in Christ.

Jesus has presented to us two potent truths, each unbearably alive and full of import for fallen man, yet leaving it to us to connect them. The first has been celebrated joyfully by Pope John Paul II: Man and woman are made for one another. Our bodies, our very souls are stamped with a nuptial meaning, and in the embrace of man and woman, an embrace that in God's providence can bring into being a living soul, we recall our innocence in the Garden, and we share in and anticipate the wedding feast of the Lord. The second? We were not made for sin and death, for alienation from one another and from God, our life. That too was not so from the beginning.

Make the connection. Culture of divorce, culture of death.

♦ ♦ ♦

If any man had cause for procuring a divorce, short of adultery and mayhem, my father-in-law had it. Esther was a difficult woman to live with. Over a trifle, as when we should leave for the diner, she could go into a towering rage, then storm off to her bedroom, her face set like flint, certain that she was right, that she was ill-used by everyone, and woe to my wife if she tried to reason with her. "Gram's on the warpath," she'd say. She could jest about it then, nervously, but when she was a girl she didn't dare bring any of her friends to the house, for fear that her mother would cause a scene. Hers was a lonely childhood.

What caused this habitual anger, I can't say. Perhaps a deep insecurity, a hunger to be loved; her own mother was by all accounts a tyrant in the household. When Esther returned home with Herb from their elopement, her father said to him, "If you can live with her, more power to you." And she was her father's favorite.

For a few years they lived together happily, in unlikely conditions: quarters for married midshipmen at a naval base in the Bahamas. They always spoke about that time with wistful humor. The poverty was something they shared and couldn't help, so they took it in stride, and made jokes about how much they grew to hate bananas. Esther was also one of those women who genuinely enjoys the company of men, and whom men will treat with a big-brother jocularity and kindness. Those years were good for them.

Then they settled down in New Jersey, where they would live most of their lives. Dad is a sharp man and a hard worker, holding down two and three jobs all his life before he retired. But for a while money was tight, and though Esther grew up with eleven other children in a rented house with an earthen floor, or maybe because she grew up in such straits, she never learned any measure in her spending. She was one of the most generous people I've known, lavishing my children with Christmas presents, but she spent on herself, too. She wanted nice things they could not afford. So she upbraided her husband about his pay, and went to work herself.

My wife was born then, and maybe all would have been well had Esther been able to trust her husband's industry and thrift, and had she not been afflicted by a painful condition that compelled her to have a hysterectomy. It was a severe loss. In her frustration she took a job at a monstrous candy mill, working at rotating shifts, two weeks in the day, two weeks in the evening, two weeks in the dead of night. The body never accustoms itself to that; it is always sleep-deprived. So she took to having a nightcap before bed. Then she fell in with some cynical companions at work who also liked to drink. Soon she was an alcoholic.

Many readers will be able to fill in the details. She was impossible to predict; sometimes ingratiating, sometimes as unappeasable as rock. She would throw cups and dishes about the kitchen. Her fists were not idle. She'd shut herself in her room for days of terrible silence. She insisted on separate bank accounts, throwing it in Dad's teeth that it was her money, that she made more than he did (for a year or so this was true), and that she could spend it as she pleased. My wife cannot remember when they shared the same bed.

But to her credit, Esther recognized that Dad was a terrific father, and in her own way she was true to him. Nobody else dared criticize him -- but she would humiliate him publicly. He didn't care, or didn't let on. They could unite only in their love for their daughter, whom they showered with gifts, partly to compensate for their inability to give her what she wanted more than anything, namely love for one another. Finally, when she was 15 and presumably capable of surviving the blow, her mother approached her with bad news.

"I can't take it anymore! Your father and I are getting a divorce."

But divorce was still rare in those days, and my wife hadn't entertained the possibility. It was as if someone had told her that her little world, so fraught with suffering, so fragile, yet so beloved, would be smashed to bits. She broke down in bitter tears. Her mother backed away, and God would bless her for it. The word "divorce" was never uttered again.

♦ ♦ ♦

Divorce destroys a world; it smothers an echo of Eden. What was the Fall, if not man's first attempt to divorce? "Where are you, Adam?" calls God in the cool of the evening. "You haven't come out to meet me as you used to do." Adam is steeped in shame. He doesn't want to be seen. Consider the unselfconsciousness of little children who parade naked in front of their parents, because they sense no separation; they feel themselves to be at one with mother and father. Only later, with a growing sense of separate identity, and a growing loneliness, does the child wish to hide. Adam is hiding not because he is naked, but because he is alienated from God, and it is that separation that causes him to look upon his nakedness, an emblem of his own being, with shame.

But the severance could not end there. When Adam and Eve admit their guilt -- a graceless and skulking admission -- they chisel the fissure more deeply, divorcing themselves from one another and from creation. "It was this woman you gave to be my help," says Adam. "She gave me the fruit, and I ate it." Eve passes the blame in turn. "It was this serpent you created! He tricked me, and I ate the fruit."

What can we expect should follow? The very earth shuns us. The ground shall bear thorns and thistles, and in the sweat of his brow must man eat his bread; the woman will bear children in pain, and will have to submit to the domination, not the loving headship, of her husband. Their children grow up in separate pursuits -- Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer -- and in envy for a blessing he lacks and does not sincerely desire, Cain slays Abel, not in rage, but in cold malice. When God accosts him, as he once accosted Adam, we see in Cain's reply that the fissure has widened into a chasm. "Am I my brother's keeper?" he sneers.

There you have the motto for a culture of divorce. Cain's words assume that the brother, the parent, the spouse, the neighbor is not worth keeping. What to do with one who obstructs my will, or casts a pall over my daydreams? If I can get away with it, and if I am angry enough, I put him away. No matter. Around any house or barn there's plenty of noisome matter to be buried, shoveled over, cast into a pit, or burnt. We rid ourselves of the sights and smells.

Cain begins in Genesis a saga of family strife, occasioned by lust or greed or envy. Lamech is a multiple murderer, and proud of it. Men begin to take several wives. Lot listens to his grumbling men and separates from Abram, taking that fateful left turn toward Sodom. After Sarah finally conceives a child, she cannot bear the sight of the woman she had encouraged to become Abraham's concubine, so she forces her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. Though God would bring forth good from her guile, Rebecca causes deadly enmity between her sons when she tricks Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob and not Esau. Jacob's uncle Laban tricks him into marrying Leah, whom he does not love, and then extorts seven additional years of work from him in exchange for Rachel, whom he does love. The intense rivalry between the two sister-wives causes a rift in the family between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, whom old Jacob favors. One of those sons, Joseph, is hurled down a well by his brothers, then sold into slavery.

If heaven is filled with life and light, a wedding feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb to his bride the Church, then hell, as C. S. Lewis imagined it, may be the Great Divorce, a realm of alienation, whose "citizens" detest even the thought of a city, and who wish, in an endlessly fissiparous parody of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to move further and further away into the outskirts, to put as much distance between themselves and God (and their neighbors in damnation) as possible. Dante saw it too: One of the traitors in his Inferno, fixed in ice up to his head along with all the others of his ilk, defines his neighbor simply as that one "with his head in my way to block my sight" -- a head that will annoy him for all eternity, and that he would gladly lop off if he could, with no more compunction than if he should swat a fly.

♦ ♦ ♦

But Herb and Esther never departed for that gray city that promises much and delivers nothing. They stayed with one another; they endured. They kept their vows. "Son of Man," said the Lord God to Ezekiel as he stood before a valley of dry bones bleaching in the desert sun, "tell these bones to rise." And from those vast dead sands they did arise.

Not immediately. They sent their daughter to college, and after years of wandering in the academic wasteland, joining a tent revival, falling away, brought closer to the Lord by a rabbi, a musician or two out at heels, a good old girl from Tennessee, a motorcycling professor of Milton, and a lover of Crashaw, she ended up in North Carolina, where we met; and I had left my own footprints over many a desert mile. Each of us became the instrument by which the Lord brought the other one home. We fell in love; we worshiped together at Mass. At our wedding, our priest delivered a sermon on the Song of Songs, and on the righteous souls in Revelation, the communion of saints whose robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

I have a picture of Herb walking down the aisle with my wife. He looks embarrassed, as if he couldn't tell how he had come to be there. He had been raised in an evangelical church. His father, a sternly righteous man, took the faith seriously, but imparted little of the joy of it to his children. Herb's churchgoing did not survive the Navy. Esther, meanwhile, had been raised with hardly any religion at all. She may have attended a Dutch Reformed church for a few years as a child, but her parents paid so little attention to it that they failed to have her baptized. By the time we were married she had given up drink for good, and the AA meetings she attended may have turned her toward the Bible; or maybe she had turned on her own. In any case, though she was ashamed to be found in a church on Sunday, she read a little of the Bible every night, in secret.

I don't know if, except for marriages and funerals and an occasional Easter long ago, Herb and Esther had ever been in a church together. I do know that our marriage, and our increasing steadfastness in the Faith, made them happy. They suddenly had something new to unite them. If they could not love one another, or at least not admit to it, they could together love my wife and me, and then the little girl and the little boy we brought them -- the only grandchildren they would ever have. Esther was a hard woman, but she had also the corresponding virtue of loyalty. If you hurt someone she loved, she might never forgive you, but if you loved the one she loved, her heart would swell in gratitude. Now she and Herb had unexpected reasons to be grateful to one another. They could tattoo their house with pictures of the toddlers, who adored them in their turn, as was just.

♦ ♦ ♦

"God is not the God of the dead," said Jesus to the Sadducees, whose hearts were too cramped to believe in any resurrection, "but of the living." To accept divorce as a way of death -- no way of life -- is to deny the very being of God as revealed by Jesus. It is to say that love can, or should sometimes be permitted to, die utterly. But had God so acted toward us, all this universe would have winked out of existence at the first sin of Adam. With every sin we commit, we pretend to sever ourselves from the fount of our being, as if we were lords of life and death; yet should God respond to us in kind, we would find the divorce complete, and would fall into the nothingness of everlasting loss. But He does not do so, and at the last moment, like the thief on the cross who joined the others in their jeering, but who then thought better of it -- and maybe it took the torment of crucifixion to wake him -- we may turn to Christ and hear him say, "This day you shall be with me in Paradise." Christ did not put away that dying criminal. So much the better for us, who are all criminals, dying.

♦ ♦ ♦

Esther too was dying, though nobody but my wife noticed it. "Something's wrong with Gram. She remembers things that never happened." Old age, I supposed. Esther did not look like she was about to depart. She still fought mercilessly with her husband. She still squandered her money, though it had been many years since illness had forced her to retire from the factory. She still raged against how badly everyone treated her. She still slammed the door to her room, to hide, to be miserable; and, at night, to open her Bible, though she never talked about it.

But she was suffering a series of small strokes, as we learned much later. These strokes compromised her memory and her ability to get things done around the house. Herb never complained. He'd always been handy, and now he began, unobtrusively, to take on chores she could no longer perform, sweeping and vacuuming, loading the washer, tending the garden, along with all his old chores and his hard work, post-retirement, at his auto junkyard. The strange thing was that as Esther's memory faded, so did her rumination upon all the wrongs she thought people had done to her. Weakness wore away the edges of her anger.

All this took more than ten years. It was punctuated by times of madness, when she would storm out in the dead of night and pound on a neighbor's door, because a "strange man" was in her house -- her husband; or when on a snowy Christmas night she forgot that she was visiting us 250 miles away, and insisted that she was going to walk home. I had to sleep in front of the door to bar her way. But in general she was softening, mellowing. When, after his open-heart surgery, Herb could no longer take care of her and she had to move to the county home, she was pleasant to the nurses and the beauticians, and would brighten up whenever anybody came to see her. Herb visited her three or four times every week, which was as often as her condition could bear, wheeling her down to the solarium where they would talk with other patients and visitors for the whole afternoon.

Esther could be most kind when she wanted to be, and could accept kindness too, but for much of her married life she would not accept it from her husband. Now, as she grew more helpless, she was glad to accept it from him, and he gave it without stint. She called him, in a moment of tenderness and lucidity, her "savior." She was not far wrong. His most important act of kindness he performed just before his operation and her entering the nursing home. He'd become friends with a local Presbyterian minister, a genuine believer in Christ. Now he knew that Esther was too ashamed to admit that she hadn't been baptized. He also knew that if he were to suggest a baptism, she would reject it in anger and hurt, and that would be the end of that. So he told everything to Pastor Forbes, and invited him to visit now and then, so that Esther would get to know him. Then the subject might come up unbidden, or certain suggestions might be made. So he did; and, not long before the time would pass when she could reasonably make any decisions she would remember, without any prompting she asked to be baptized. A few days later, Pastor Forbes baptized my mother-in-law, a frail old woman but at last a daughter of God, in her own kitchen, christening her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

♦ ♦ ♦

We in a culture of death hunger after life, but on our own terms, and at the expense of others, even at the expense of their lives. But some of us will only begin really to live when we have lost all capacity to pretend that we are our own. That is one of the meanings of Jesus' mysterious saying, that unless we become like little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of God. Esther now entered that childhood, and Herb was there, to feed her, to wheel her about when she could no longer walk, to talk to her even toward the end, when a massive stroke had left her still wishing to speak, but unable to form more than one or two intelligible words.

And he was beside her those last few days, making sure, if by some miracle she regained the ability to swallow, that the hospital staff would not abandon her to starvation. He would not allow them to hasten her death with morphine, prescribed less often to alleviate pain than to soothe the onlookers and free the doctors and nurses from the ennui of a natural death. We watched by turns at the bed of the dying woman, not because we believed there was something magical about squeezing out each breath from the clamp of death, but because it was the right thing to do. She was going to die, but we didn't want her to die alone. The dying life was a mystery. It was not our place to abandon it, to cast it away as inconvenient, as trash, as we are urged to do to so much else in our barren lives.

How can we know what fleeting notes of grace came to her in those last hours? If God wills, who can obstruct Him? After nearly 53 years of struggle and disappointment, yet 53 years of faithfulness and duty, Herb stood by, never divorced. The Lord God, against whom she had sinned the more mightily, never turned from calling her back to Him, and as a child of over 70 years she finally answered that call.

What keeps people from believing that a good God loves them and desires never to be parted from them, unless they themselves should flee that love? Look in the mirror, and see the cause of despair in others. Do not repeat the words of the great divorcer at the bottom of hell, who says in his loneliness and misery, "I am my own, I am my own." Say rather, "I am a wayward child, and the one I am called to stand beside is a wayward child." Do not dare mull over your "quality of life" and your "fulfillment" -- wrapped in a shroud of deadly self-regard, while the Lord of life, who dies to bring you to life, gasps for His last breath on the cross above. If anyone had grounds for divorce, He had; no one ever loved as deeply as He, and no one was ever betrayed as He. You, reader, have betrayed Him shamelessly, as have I. Yet He remains faithful, and waits for us, to bring us life:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a contributing editor for Touchstone magazine. He has translated and edited Dante’s Divine Comedy, in three volumes, for Modern Library (Random House).

On the Permanency of the Permanent Deacon

Permanent Deacons (I believe) assist the Holy Father at Solemn Vespers for the Feast of Mary Mother of God.

I've had this dicsussion a few times and thought this was worth posting. The Permanent Diaconate is a call unto itself. If one is single and discerns a call to the permanent diaconate, he could be ordained at age 25 and takes a vow of celibacy. A married man can be ordained at age 35. However, should a married deacon become a widower he too would embrace a life of celibacy and is not to remarry (a permanent deacon's widow is able to remarry with the Church's blessing).
From Deacon Dan Wright's Blog...

On the Permanency of the Permanent Deacon
A reader commented in the previous post, asking:

"We have a friend who was ordained in the permanent diaconate. Does that mean he can't ever change his mind, and go on to become a priest? My husband was thinking that due to such a clerical shortage, this deacon ought (and would be the type) to pursue that, but it's called permanent diaconate for a reason--yet it seems likely there is some dispensation or form to release him from the diaconate into pursuing that? "

Fortunately, to address the question we are now able to consult the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, which was approved in 2003 and released for publication in 2005. For those of us in the diaconate, the National Directory was a long-awaited document that answered many questions, for which the responses tended to vary regionally.

It does, in fact, seem reasonable that there should be some permission or other means available by which a widowed or celibate deacon might enter the priesthood. After all, people do change directions in life, and it's true that many deacons possess the qualities that go into making good pastors.

I have, in fact, known of several deacons who became priests after being widowed. Though this certainly has never been the norm, even before the release of the Directory. There are also occasions that I am aware of in which the transition from deacon to priest didn't work out.

In one case, with which I am familiar, a deacon became a priest and then subsequently left the priesthood to remarry. Naturally, such mishaps might give rise to practical arguments against ordaining men to the priesthood who have been accustomed to married life. However, in my opinion, this in itself is not a strong argument against allowing deacons to become priests. The stronger argument simply has to do with the permanence of the order.

What does the Directory have to say about all this? Here's an excerpt that gets right to it:

Since the history of the order over the last millennium, however, has been centered on the diaconate as a transitory stage leading to the priesthood, actions that may obfuscate the stability and permanence of the order should be minimized. This would include the ordination of celibate or widowed deacons to the priesthood. "Hence ordination [of a permanent deacon] to the priesthood...must always be a very rare exception, and only for special and grave reasons..."

However, the document goes on to leave open the possibility of ordaining a permanent deacon to the priesthood given that the diocese adheres to the correct protocol and insures the suitability and proper education of the candidate. Still, it is clear that the role of the permanent deacon is, typically and most suitably, to remain a deacon throughout life.

Nevertheless, in the case of the deacon in the question, I would advise him to consult with his bishop and be in prayer and discernment. Some the Lord called as teachers, and some to be prophets. Others he called to be evangelizers, and still others to be apostles. By the same reasoning some are called to be priests, and others the Lord calls as deacons.

Whatever the calling, our role--our responsibility--is to accept God's will in our lives and to rejoice in that which we do. Our responsibility also is to discern the call of God and to be ready to go forth when he calls.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Article on the Benedictine Monks of Clear Creek

Hat tip to Fr. Z at WDTPRS for posting this article from Tulsa World.

A Vision Appearing

Monks in Oklahoma are creating a cloistered compound built to last 1,000 years.

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer

HULBERT -- A vision born 35 years ago on the campus of the University of Kansas and nurtured in a monastery in France moved closer to reality this week, as monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery moved into their new residence building.

The building is the first part of a monastic complex that will include an 80-by-180-foot church with a 110-foot bell tower.

"This is a dream come true," said the Rev. Phillip Anderson, the prior, or leader, of the Benedictine community living at the monastery.

"All of a sudden, after all these years, it's happening," he said.

To a visitor driving the gravel roads of rural Oklahoma east of Lake Fort Gibson, the new monastery emerges suddenly from the landscape, tall and imposing.

The idea of establishing in the United States a contemplative community, where monks would live a cloistered life in a monastery, was inspired in the early 1970s among a group of KU students by a Catholic professor.

Most Catholic monasteries in this country are devoted to service, operating schools and other institutions, Anderson said.

"We wanted to build a community like the ancient monasteries, a place devoted to the contemplative life and prayer."

During the 1970s, a number of the KU students went to France to experience monastic life. Some stayed. Others left after a few years and later married.

Anderson was among those who stayed, living for 24 years at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault, originally founded in 1091 in the province of Berry, France.

In 1999, the dream of building a monastic community in the U.S. took root. Anderson, by then a Catholic priest, led a group of monks who returned to this country to establish a community under the authority of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault.

With the blessing of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, the community purchased more than 1,000 acres in a picturesque valley cut by the waters of Clear Creek. The property had a large rustic house, which became their home, and they built other modest structures.

But their dream was to build a European-style monastery, constructed to last 1,000 years.

The monastery is being built as Romanesque architecture, in the style of its parent Fontgombault monastery.

On Jan. 2, some nine years after arriving in Oklahoma, the monks began moving into the new residence building, the first part of the compound to be completed.

Adjacent to that building is the foundation and lower level of what will be the church.

The four-story residence building is divided into two sides. The first, which will face a garden courtyard, contains 36 cells, or rooms, for the monks, the members of the monastic community. All but six rooms are filled.

The courtyard and monks' rooms are part of the cloistered area, not open to the public, as part of the monks' discipline in separation from the world, and silence.

"This is to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer and communion with Christ," Anderson said.

The other side of the residence building has rooms for eight male guests, each with its own full bathroom. The rooms are similar to the monks' rooms but less spartan, Anderson said, and the area will have its own courtyard.

Hospitality is a hallmark of the Benedictine Order, providing a place where visitors can find peace and quiet, and a sense of orientation, sanity and spiritual light, Anderson said.

The lower level has kitchen and dining areas, and other meeting rooms. The original building where the monks lived will be converted into guest housing for couples and families, Anderson said.

The building will be dedicated on April 12.

The Benedictine way of life includes strict disciplines of prayer, study and work. The monks tend sheep, gardens and orchards on the property. They are building wood furniture for the new monastery.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

***VIDEO*** Documentary on the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

To quote Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR, "Finally! Full version of Bagage, a popular documentary on the CFR's." (quote from January 2008 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Vocations eLetter)

I've been wanting to see this for years but couldn't bring myself to order a VHS copy - the only type available - no DVD's. Lot's of great discussion about discernment and vocations to religious life.

Check it out...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

***VIDEO***Archdiocese of New York Office of Vocations - Hispanic Day for Vocations

In English:

Ven y Verás: Día de las Vocaciones Hispanas...

2007 Rector's Cup - VIDEO of the Annual Seminary Soccer Tournament

Yet another great production by the guys over at Grassroots Fims! This one is short, but it's good. This is a video of the Rector's Cup, an annual tournament between four seminaries, in one day. St. Joseph's, Mount St. Mary's, St. Andrew's, and St. Charles Borromeo battle it out for the honor of being the Rector's Cup Champion. Some of the guys from Raleigh are in the video.

The results:

1st Place - Mount St. Mary's

2nd Place - St. Andrew's

3rd Place - St. Joseph's

4th Place - St. Charles Borromeo

Not the best showing for St. Charles. Unfortunately their star player was injured days before the tournament. Bishop Burbidge reminded our seminarians that when he was rector at St. Charles, they lost the first year, but won the following four. God willing St. Charles will reclaim the championship next year. Hopefully the Diocese of Raleigh will be sending some ringers up there soon!

Vocations to Marriage AND Holiness

"Cardinal Saraiva Martins also revealed the beatification, later this year, of the parents of St, Therese of Lisieux, Louis Martin and Azelia Guérin. The heroic virtues of the parents of St. Therese, who is now one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church and a Doctor of the Church, were proclaimed on March 26, 1944."

The beatification of St. Therese's parents would be significant. To my knowledge there are not many married saints, if any. Let me restate that. There are not many canonized saints who were married to each other - and did not die as martyrs. There are saints that were married, some who were martyred and some who heroically endured the torments of their spouse who was not canonized. Readers may be able to help, but off hand I can't think of any other saints whose faith and heroic virtue was lived out in a devout and fruitful marriage. Louis and Zelie's beatification would be extremely important in a world where it seems that almost everyone has lost the idea of what a vocation to marriage really means. A call to holiness in marriage is beautiful, but it is not without sacrifice and crosses. It certainly bears little resemblance to horribly distorted marriages we see lived out, and all too frequently abandoned, in our world today.

Which brings me to another vocations point. Two posts ago I noted how there was a time in the Church when every family had at least one child who considered a vocation to the Priesthood or religious life. In the case of the Martin's, they had 9 children. Four of them (the boys) died in childhood. The surviving five girls would all eventually become nuns.

If more husbands and wives today lived out the vocation to Holy Matrimony the way Louis and Zelie Martin did, we would not have a shortage of Priests and Religious. The witness of their faithful self-sacrificing love of Our Lord and each other obviously made a deep and lasting impact in the lives of their children. Perhaps they will become the patrons of married couples and through their intercession more men and women will live out holy and virtuous marriages. In turn they may encourage their own children to remain generously open to God's holy will for their lives - even supporting them if He might be calling them to the Priesthood or Religious Life.
Servants of God Louis and Zelie Martin, Pray for us!

Archbishop Burke: Seminary the Heart of the Diocese

"I serve the whole archdiocese best by providing worthy priests to serve in the parishes as spiritual leaders. So it is right at the top of my responsibilities, and I dedicate myself to it." Archbishop Burke
By Barbara Watkins
Catholic News Service

ST. LOUIS (CNS) - Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has called Kenrick-Glennon Seminary "the heart of the life of the Archdiocese of St. Louis."

"That's very true," Archbishop Burke told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. "That's simply because the seminary is the place in which I'm providing the priests for the parishes. I serve the whole archdiocese best by providing worthy priests to serve in the parishes as spiritual leaders. So it is right at the top of my responsibilities, and I dedicate myself to it."

Seminarians frequently refer to the archbishop as fatherly and supportive, and that support is one reason enrollment at the seminary is up almost 50 percent over last year, with 111 men studying at the archdiocesan seminary in the St. Louis suburb of Shrewsbury.

Deacons Noah Waldman, Edward Nemeth and Michael Houser, who are fourth-year theology students at Kenrick School of Theology, all spoke of the archbishop's strong and visible support.

Deacon Houser said, "By his actions and his concern, Archbishop Burke has been a great force in influencing young men who are discerning (whether) to come to the seminary."

"Knowing the archbishop is around, and that he genuinely cares, and that any of us can get ahold of him when we need him is a great comfort," said Deacon Nemeth.

Fifty-six of the current seminarians are preparing to serve in the St. Louis Archdiocese. Other dioceses without seminaries frequently send men to St. Louis to prepare for the priesthood.

In May, 14 seminarians are expected to be ordained priests. Nine of them -- including Deacons Waldman, Nemeth and Houser -- are to be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, making it the largest ordination class for the archdiocese in 20 years.

Msgr. Ted Wojcicki, president-rector of Kenrick Glennon Seminary, said the archbishop's strong support has a great impact on the seminary.

"His support adds to the confidence of the seminarians," he said. "And it helps people value priestly vocations even more, even the laity, because he's so public in his support.

"I keep a photo on my door of Archbishop Burke's first day in St. Louis -- Dec. 2, 2003," Msgr Wojcicki added. "The seminary was the first place he came after the pastoral center. I think that shows from Day One the importance he placed on it."

The archbishop said he views himself as the seminarians' "spiritual father." His own fatherly support of them -- which includes regular visits and one-on-one walks with them around the seminary grounds or in a nearby park -- is modeled after his own experiences with his parents and priests he knew as a boy in rural Wisconsin.

"The way my own father and the priests I knew growing up interacted with us children in a particular situation gave me a good example," he said. "They were encouraging and gave good counsel when you went to them with questions."
If the seminarians have questions about their vocation or other matters, they discuss them with the priests at the seminary and often with the archbishop.

"The conversations we have on our walks are substantial," Archbishop Burke said. "So the men will tell me if they are having some serious doubts or some particular challenge or something that is discouraging them. We talk about those things, and I try to offer them whatever wisdom I have."

He added, "A vocation is a call from God. I don't make vocations. I don't call people to the priesthood. God does. I have the responsibility to discern whether the call really is of God, and then to call the seminarian to ordination."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Problem of Narcissism

A post over on Fr. Toborowsky's blog reminded me about this article:

Messing with the Mass: The Problem of Priestly Narcissism Today

Interest in the Priesthood is on the Upswing

This is an article that I found at CatholicOnline, but is originally from The Catholic Review. Fr. Francik was one of the generous Priests hosting this past years National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors convention. As vocations director from the host city of Baltimore, he helped put together an outstanding convention. The points that Fr. Francik makes below are VERY good ones. Especially his point that if every parish in a Diocese had at least one man in seminary, there would be no shortage of priests. Think about it. Time was that every Catholic FAMILY encouraged at least one vocation. Now we're in a time where not even parishes encourage vocations. Something has to change!

Interest in the priesthood is on the upswing, says Baltimore archdiocesan vocations director
By George P. Matysek Jr.
The Catholic Review

BALTIMORE, Md. (The Catholic Review) - When Father Gerard Francik recently interviewed a 19-year-old man who was thinking about becoming a priest, the archdiocesan vocations director asked him to talk about his prayer life.

The former high school football player told Father Francik how he faithfully makes a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attends Mass or Communion services, prays the rosary and observes the liturgy of the hours – every day.

“I was just blown away,” said Father Francik. “He was very dedicated to his faith.”

That young man is typical of the kind of people who are stepping forward to become priests these days, according to Father Francik. Many are still in their teens, and they show unbridled enthusiasm for living out their religious convictions, he said.

“This generation has a different view,” said Father Francik. “They’re much more service-oriented. They’re selfless, and they want to give their all.”

Numbers tell the story

The vocations director said there are more young men inquiring about becoming priests than in previous years.

“We have 16- and 17-year-olds just beating down the door,” said Father Francik. “It gives me encouragement to see so many young people on fire for their faith. It gives us hope for the future.”

There are currently 26 men studying to become priests for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They come from all parts of the archdiocese, and they include several international seminarians from Central and South America and one from Nigeria.

Last year’s incoming seminarian class stood at 13 – the biggest class in nearly two decades, according to Father Francik. He expects that this year’s class will also hit double digits.

The vocations director believes new archdiocesan efforts have helped renew interest in the religious life. They include programs like “Operation Genesis” and “Dare to Dream” – two daylong priesthood vocations camps for boys and teens. Cardinal William H. Keeler has also been very supportive, holding vocation suppers for young men considering the priesthood and serving as retreat master at annual discernment retreats – programs continued by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien.

Encouragement needed from parishes, schools, pastors, parents

Although parishes and schools have become more proactive about encouraging Catholics to consider becoming priests, sisters, brothers or deacons, Father Francik said there are still some that need to do more.

“Some of our parishes have three or four guys who are in the seminary and many have zero,” said Father Francik, noting that there are about 20 parishes represented among the men currently preparing for the priesthood.

He observed that if every parish could encourage just one man to consider the priesthood, more than 150 new priests might be ordained in the next several years.

“The pastor really sets the tone,” said Father Francik, noting that personal invitations to consider the religious life are critical. “If you talk about vocations and pray for vocations, it makes a difference.”

It’s important for parents to be open about the possibility of their sons becoming priests, Father Francik said. And it’s up to everyone to show their support to those in the discernment process, he said.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Video Interviews from the 2008 Diocese of Raleigh Men in Black Vocations Game

The Second Annual Men in Black vocations basketball game was, by all accounts another success. Below is an interview with Bishop Burbidge about the game and vocations...

An interview with 1st Year Theologian Brendan Buckler...

An interview with 1st Year Pre-Theologian Michael Burbeck...

Quote of the Day

From the Director of Vocations to a man in our Priesthood Discernment Group...

"Your cross will carry you farther than you will ever carry your cross."

The Adventure - returning by another way

The post below was written by Fr. Tighe, a Priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, for his Eucharistic Adoration blog. He will join 14 other Priests of the Diocese tomorrow in training to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. My prayers are with them all.

I was always amazed at my parent's ability to be open for adventure. As I look back on them and the sacrifices they made for us, their children, I am amazed at the joy they kept in the midst of change. Their whole life was an adventure. In the Gospel reading at Epiphany, we learn that the Magi "having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, departed for their country by another way". Saint John of the Cross, 15th Century Mystic, Priest and Doctor of the Church says that to "go to the place that you are not, you must go by the way in which you know not". As I contemplate the mystery of God's call in my life it is abundantly clear that we must, as Catholics, always have our sandals on, our staff in our hand and be ready like a people in flight. The task is not always one of physical movement, like moving from Cary, Bolivia, Clinton, Rocky Mount or Wake Forest, no, it is one that demands the movement of the heart. God gives us the opportunity for daily conversion when we enter into prayer. It is there in prayer with him, that we learn how to move by way of the heart. It is in prayer that we actually receive new hearts that allow us to love courageously. From the Prophet Ezekiel we learn of what God desires to give us: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh".

The Magi returned to their country by another way which indicates that the destination had not changed but their route had indeed changed. As I head out tomorrow to learn Latin, I know that the destination remains the same but I go by a way in which I know not. St. Thomas expressed the same sentiments to Jesus. "Lord how can we know the way?". Jesus replied, "I am the way, the truth and the life". Like my parents, I too love an adventure. What an adventure it is to follow Christ.

N&O Article About the Solemn High Mass at the Cathedral

From the Raleigh paper:

Latin Mass revives an ancient Catholic rite
A Raleigh cathedral celebrates Tridentine Mass for the first time in years

Yonat Shimron, News and Observer Staff Writer

Roman Catholics filled Sacred Heart Cathedral to overflowing Sunday afternoon to celebrate Mass in a language not heard in that church in nearly 40 years: Latin.
It was a historic moment for the Raleigh church, a chance to experience the Mass as it was celebrated in Catholic churches for centuries.

Worshippers arrived appropriately attired: men in suits, women wearing lace head coverings, and many clutching dusted off missals -- prayer books containing the Latin and English texts of the Mass.

They sat in the church in silence as tradition dictates, contemplating God before the priests arrived wafting incense through the sanctuary. There were some awkward moments as worshippers fumbled, not knowing when they were supposed to rise, sit and kneel. But that was to be expected. The rhythms of the ancient rite are no longer second nature to Catholics.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI gave permission to broaden the use of the so-called Tridentine Mass. Since then, Catholic churches across the country have been gradually adding the service alongside the now common English- and Spanish-language Masses.

"It reminds us of our roots and our tradition and where we come from," said Bishop Michael Burbidge, who delivered the homily at Sunday's Mass. Burbidge said he has received 50 to 75 requests from Catholics asking for the Mass in Latin since he arrived in Raleigh about a year and a half ago.

From now on, the Latin Mass will be provided monthly at Sacred Heart and monthly or weekly at three other churches across the diocese, which spans 54 of North Carolina's eastern counties.

To prepare for the additional services, 15 of the diocese's 115 active priests will participate in a three-day seminar, beginning Tuesday, to train them in performing the Mass in Latin.

An olive branch

The addition of the Latin Mass is aimed at ending (THIS IS WOEFULLY POOR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PURPOSE OF SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM) a liturgical dispute that has alienated traditional Catholics for decades.

By allowing the old rite, the church is, in effect, extending an olive branch to people who felt left out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 conference that deliberated how the church should function in the modern world.

"I've been waiting for the Latin Mass for more than 30 years," said Barbara Padovano, 66, as she stepped into the tiny stone cathedral on Hillsborough Street.

Fans of the Latin Mass said they appreciate the sense of solemnity and pageantry in the old rite in which the priest faces the altar and chants the prayers and Scripture readings in Latin. Since 1970, when the new Mass was published in English, many traditions associated with old rite disappeared.

Called Tridentine after the 1570 Council of Trent in which it was standardized, the Latin Mass is elaborately choreographed. The ritual includes rules called "rubrics" that call for kneeling, bowing and making the sign of the cross. To many Catholics, that careful attention to detail connects them more intimately with the purpose of the Mass, which is receiving the Eucharist, or the bread and the wine transformed into the body and blood of Christ, according to the Catholic faith.

"It makes you realize there's solemnity going on at the altar," said Stan Wesner, 61, of Raleigh, who participated Sunday.

Unlike in the modern Mass, parishioners take communion by kneeling at the altar rail and receiving the wafer on their tongue.

But traditionalists aren't the only ones who like it. Catholics too young to remember the rite were well-represented at Sunday's Mass. They are people such as 28-year-old Erich Engel of Cary, who said the English Mass is lacking in spirituality, in large part because parishioners feel obliged to hang on every word the priest says -- an experience they say places the priest rather than God at the center of the service.

The Latin Mass is not entirely new to the diocese. In 1988, Pope John Paul II gave permission for the Latin Mass to be celebrated in its traditional form with the consent of the local bishop.

Since 2004, it has been celebrated monthly, and now weekly, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Dunn. There, the Rev. Paul Parkerson was trained to celebrate the Mass in Latin after retired Bishop F. Joseph Gossman gave him permission to do it.

Last year, two churches -- one in Rocky Mount and another in Wrightsville Beach -- added a monthly Latin Mass. But there is no plan to incorporate the Latin Mass at each of the diocese churches or to substitute the Latin Mass for the regularly scheduled English- and Spanish-language Masses.

"We're already stretched thin and overworked," said the Rev. Patrick Keane, vicar to Hispanics, a large and growing group in the diocese. "In our diocese I would love to see more priests learn Spanish. I can't imagine a whole lot of us learning Latin."

Keane, like 14 other priests, signed up to learn the Latin Mass nonetheless, mostly as a way to educate himself about it.

For some priests, such as Parkerson, who celebrated the rite at Sacred Heart on Sunday, the tradition has renewed and transformed his faith.

"It is similar to discovering in your 20s and 30s who you really are," said Parkerson, 37. "You discover you're a descendant of a royal family, and there's a whole lot more to your identity than what you've been taught to believe about yourself."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Solemn High Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh

What a glorious Mass! My first Solemn High Mass, and it was absolutely joyous.
As providence would have it I was able to assist (back row between Fr. Parkerson [celebrant] and Fr. Ferguson, FSSP [subdeacon]). Three of our seminarians became very sick last night, and two of them were unable to serve. Brendan Buckler toughed it out and served as the main MC for the Mass, with Adam Richard assisting. I received the call to serve this to afternoon as I was getting out of diaconate formation, and was very happy to be able to be a part of such a historic Mass - the first Mass in the Extraordinary form in the Cathedral in almost 40 years. I'm not sure how many prayers of thanksgiving I offered - I simply couldn't believe that we were there celebrating a Solemn High Mass. Of course prayers were also with the seminarians, Charles and Patrick, who I filled in for as one of the torch bearers.

More information about this Mass will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

Thank you Your Holiness for Summorum Pontificum!
Thank you Your Excellency for so faithfully implementing it!
Thank you Frs. Parkerson, Meares, and Ferguson for making tonight happen!

Deo Gratias!