Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI's New Encyclical

We preempt this series of pics from last weekend to bring you our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical, Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love").


1. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.
We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life” (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4-5). Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others. That, in essence, is what the two main parts of this Letter are about, and they are profoundly interconnected. The first part is more speculative, since I wanted here—at the beginning of my Pontificate—to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love. The second part is more concrete, since it treats the ecclesial exercise of the commandment of love of neighbour. The argument has vast implications, but a lengthy treatment would go beyond the scope of the present Encyclical. I wish to emphasize some basic elements, so as to call forth in the world renewed energy and commitment in the human response to God's love.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pro-Life Mass and March

Yesterday marked the 33rd Anniversary of Roe v Wade and the March for Life in Washington, D.C. I had been three times before but this was my first time as a seminarian. It was an amazing experience to participate in this capacity. Seeing the overwhelming numbers and support of seminarians from all over the country was very inspirational. I even got to join the procession of the Vigil Mass for Life in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The procession alone took 30 minutes! There were hundreds of seminarians, priests, and bishops. One thing that struck me the most was walking the long procession, winding through the crowd and seeing the faces of the thousands of faithful packed into the Basilica. All of their smiles and waves as we processed through were very encouraging and I could really feel the love of the Universal Church for her seminarians. And's some pics:

Here is one of my best friends at St. Mary's, Dan Hoffman of the Diocese of Erie, PA, in front of the side altar of St. Agnes in the crypt church of the Basilica............... and me:

Here are just a few of the hundreds of seminarians who donned their cassocks and surplices to get ready for the procession and Mass..... wait for it.....wait for it.....P.O.D.!!
And a deacon prepares for Mass as well, in prayer before the tabernacle of the crypt church.

Here's a shot of the many, many priests vesting for Mass and the best shot I could get of Fr. Frank Pavone (I must admit I was a little star-struck!) - he's on the right.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the main church. I can't explain well enough how huge the basilica is (largest Catholic Church in the Americas, top 10 largest of any church in the world) and how many thousands of people were packed in for Mass.

In future posts coming soon: Pics from the Youth Mass for Life at the MCI Center, and pics from the March for Life!

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just in case...

Just so we're clear and to prevent any scandal/formation issues with my seminary brethren, the pics in "My Christmas Break: Part 2" are NOT of me, but of my twin brother Nick... I promise! :)

Monday, January 16, 2006

My Christmas Break: Part 3

The third and final week of my Christmas Break was awesome too. I stayed and worked at Fr. Paul's parish (my old spiritual director). He has St. John the Apostle in Brandenburg and St. Martin of Tours in Flaherty, KY. The whole week was very busy with M.C.'ing daily Mass (with two on Sat and two on Sun), mass at the convent at St. John's, mass at the nursing home, hospital visits, work at the tribunal, and most memorable: An Anointing, death, and funural.

One day Fr. got a call from a lady he didn't recognize, asking him to come over because her neighbor was dying. I had brought my clerics home just in case I needed them... I didn't expect too... but Fr. asked me to put them on because he thought a time like this would be appropriate. So I hurried to change and couldn't find the tab for my collar! I finally had to borrow one from Fr. Paul and then I couldn't find my black dress shoes! I rumaged all through my stuff and in my car, finally found them, and we hurried on to the lady's house. We went down several country roads until we turned on one that led to her house only to find two cars side-by-side in the middle of the road talking to each other! We had to wait a couple minutes for them to finish and then finally go to their house. I was a little nervous because I'd never seen anyone die before. I asked Fr. Paul if there was anything special I should know. As he reached in his glovebox to get his holy oil and prayer book for Anointing of the Sick he said, "Just stand politely off so the side and don't say anything." "I can do that," I replied.

Apparantly the lady was on hospice care. She looked very old, laying in a recliner hooked up to a breathing machine thing, with all her family surrounding her, crying. A couple of the men there shook our hands quietly without saying anything. Fr. said later he didn't recognize any of them from his parishes. He thinks they were fallen-away Catholics because no one he talked to afterward had heard of the family. We knew they were Catholic because they all made the sign of the cross at the beginning of the Rite. Then Fr. Paul began:

Lord Jesus, you healed the sick:
Lord, have mercy.
R. Lord, have mercy

Lord Jesus, you forgave sinners:
Christ, have mercy.
R. Christ, have mercy

Lord Jesus, you give us yourself to heal us and bring us strength:
Lord, have mercy.
R. Lord, have mercy

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
R. Amen

He then did the Laying on of Hands, then anointed her forehead saying:
Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen
And anointed her hands saying:
May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.
R. Amen

Let us pray.
Father in heaven, through this holy anointing grant (Anna) comfort in her suffering. When she is afraid, give her courage, when afflicted, give her patience, when dejected, afford her hope, and when alone, assure her of the support of your holy people.
We ask this through our Christ our Lord.
R. Amen

Then we said the Our Father and Fr. Paul gave her a final blessing.

The above is what I can remember, looking at the Rite, that Fr. Paul said when we were there. I know he abbreviated the rite but it's all a little bit of a blur. I remember how profound it was though to be the only one saying the responses because everyone else was crying. I almost got choked up as we said the Our Father but I held it back because I knew I had to be strong for the family. Fr. Paul said later that it was nice having me there to say the responses because no one is ever able to. He also said he gave her the Apostolic Pardon but I don't remember that part.

Two minutes after he anointed her she died. I think I missed it too. When we first got there I noticed she was having the short rattley breathing that you hear about people having before they die. I made a point to listen to her breathing but then I got caught up in the prayers and the whole moment. I just said Hail Mary's over and over.

... "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death..."

I was standing sort of above and behind her with Fr. Paul and her family standing and kneeling in front and beside her. I didn't hear her final breath. The only reason I knew she died is because after the rite her daughter walked toward her to give her a kiss and then recoiled toward Father. It was then that I knew. I was surprised at how unassuming it was. She died peacefully and quietly with her family surrounding her. Then I glorified God and his Providence. Despite all the delays -- my having to change, find a tab, find my shoes, getting stuck behind two cars -- the timing of Father's anointing was perfect. It's like she was waiting for us to get there. There were some prayers after she died as well.

We stayed with the family for a while and then headed back to the rectory. On the way he got a call from one of his parishioners saying his mother had died earlier in the week. She died in a nursing home and for some reason Father didn't know about it. We went straight to his house to console him. His wife was a wonderful lady, very hospitable. He was on the phone when we got there, talking about arrangements with his brothers who were out of town. When he got off the phone other relatives showed up at the door and we all sat down together. He (I think his name was Joe) choked up a little bit here and there as he talked about what happened. I think he was in his 50's or 60's. He started to share a prayer that his mother had written before she died, but he started crying and couldn't finish it. We stayed with his family a while longer, discussing funeral plans, and then left.

That day we never heard from Anna's family about a funeral or anything. But we were in contact with Joe and the funeral Mass was scheduled for Friday. I got to serve my first funeral Mass. When it was time to insense the coffin I hadn't lit the charcoal well enough so barely any smoke came out... darnit... But, at the meal following the burial Joe's family was very thankful so I felt good about being a part of that too.

God, Father of Mercies, look with favor on Anna Pendleton and Joe's mother. Bring them into your kingdom where you reign forever and ever. Amen.
St. Mary, pray for us.

My Christmas Break: Part 2

The second week of my Christmas break, I spent with my family. It was great to hang out with them again plus I missed mom's cooking... and laundry! :) I saw a ton of my relatives too, which was nice. And also, Nick's new giiiiirlfriend came in town! hehe I was looking forward to meeting her, she's cool. And now, to embarrass Nick, here's some pics!

Monday, January 09, 2006

My Christmas Break: Part 1

Well, I'm back from Christmas break and anxious to update my blog, it's been a while.

I got back Saturday night after a ten hour drive and hit the ground runnin! Classes started back up today!

I have so much to say that I worry about how long this post may be!

During my break I spent one week in El Salvador, one week with the family, and one week working in a parish. It was a break filled with many excellent opportunities and experiences, probably the best Christmas break I've ever had. I have a ton of pictures so I'll share a few here and then maybe setup an online slideshow later.

The trip to El Salvador was awesome. One of our seminarians, Pablo Hernandez, is from San Vicente and wanted his Diaconate Ordination to be in his home town. So my vocation director, a priest-friend of his, his associate, my brother seminarian Michael, and I flew down for it! I got to serve his ordination as the crosier bearer, which was an immense blessing.

Oh...and what's that? A priest in a cassock folks, that's P.O.D.
Here's me:

Now THAT'S a crucifix! I was speechless when I saw it...
My pics of Pablo's nieces and nephews are my favorite of the hundreds I took. Here's two I particularly like:

Here the new Deacon Pablo and Fr. Bill blessing Pablo's family's new house:

Ahhh... the beach, I got to swim in the warm Pacific ocean for the first time:

Living the Corona commercial:

Here is the Cathedral in San Salvador, where Archbishop Oscar Romero's tomb is located:

Finally, dinner at a restaurant at the top of one of the many Salvadoran mountains. Notice the lights of San Salvador below... and one of Pablo's nephews conks out on Fr. Bill's lap during the bus ride back to San Vicente after a long, eventful day...

Next entry I'll talk about Christmas with the family (and Nick and Amy!) and working in a parish (plus witnessing my first death).

In Jesu, per Mariam,