Saturday, January 26, 2008

update from the sick bed

Ugh... sniffle...caugh... since I've had the flu since Thursday and its still going strong, I figured now is the best time to update the 'ol blog. Several people asked me about it over Christmas break so I want to reassure you that I am still in formation (!) and am still interested in keeping the blog going.

Because I haven't posted since September '07 I wanna share a few of the more memorable moments of the end of last semester.

First, Loaves & Fishes. This is a community service the seminary offers on a monthly basis. Friday afternoon several guys help assemble hundreds of sandwiches. Then on Saturday afternoon a group of 3 or 4 guys goes out in a van with the sandwiches, large containers of soup, and a huge load of clothing collected over time. We then just simply go where the homeless are in Baltimore and give it all away. I had wanted to to this for a while but just never got around too it. I'm glad I finally did because it was a very valuable experience and opened my eyes to the extent of homelessness in downtown Baltimore. One of the 4T deacons went with us and I'll never forget him giving away the hat and gloves off his own body to the homeless when we ran out of them.

Second, a Lifeteen Mass at St. John's, Westminster here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Now, personally, this isn't the type of Mass that I prefer. But, I wanted to go for a few reasons. One, who knows, I could be assigned when, God-willing, I'm ordained to a parish in Louisville that offers this kind of Mass. Second, I've been a fan of St. John's since I've been in seminary here in Baltimore: they have a saintly monsignor as pastor, a beautiful new construction, and are known for good liturgy. And Third, one of my best friends Dan Hoffman is the head of a team of guys assigned to that parish as part of our pastoral formation program.

I have to give the Lifeteen movement credit. They were reprimanded for being a little too loose with the liturgy and have really worked hard to correct themselves while still maintaining their core, youth-oriented, identity. I was impressed by this Mass. The hymns were contemporary and utilized a band but there was no sense of performance and everything was very tastefully done. The church was filled with high schoolers and young adults who sang loudly but were also very reverent: purposefully genuflecting toward the tabernacle, bowing at the proper time during the Creed, kneeling in prayer after receiving Communion, etc. It was a model lifeteen Mass.

Third, during the first week of my Christmas vacation I went on a Charismatic men's retreat! My younger brother Andrew, praise be to God, over the last few years has really grown alot in his faith. Since becoming the D.R.E. at his parish in Owensboro he has worked very hard with his pastor in developing this retreat. He was very excited about it and really wanted my twin brother and I to go and I wanted very much to support him. Again, I typically don't identify with the charismatic movement but it has been affirmed by the Vatican and is a good movement. It too has undergone reform, here to avoid Pentacostalism. So I thought "hey I'll give it a try".

It was actually a very good retreat, led by the pastor of my brother's parish and several of the young adults involved in the retreat's development. My brother even gave one of the talks and I was very proud of him. The retreat centered around the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and what they call "the battle over men's hearts." The talks and many excellent scriptural reflections focused on the obstacles men encounter that keep them from becoming authentic men after Jesus Christ.

One memorable activity: There were about 20 guys who participated and we were each given "clay pigeons" on which we wrote obstacles to true Christian masculinity - laziness, anger, lust, etc. We then took them out to a field behind the retreat center where they were loaded in a thrower. The one manning the thrower would yell out the obstacle written on the loaded clay ("Lust!") and pull the trigger. Then two men armed with shotguns would blow them out of the air... very gratifying. It took me about 8 shots before I could hit one of the clays, but then, I must say, I turned into a bit of a crack-shot ;)

By way of prayer there was a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, much praise and worship music, and a "prayer ministry" in which the guys would lay hands on one who came forward and pray for and with him as he vocalized his intentions before God to overcome obstacles in his life that kept him from being a Christ-like man. I didn't feel comfortable participating in the "prayer ministry" part of the retreat but I admit it was a pretty powerful experience. Oh... and at the end of the retreat we each got for-real swords to symbolize the spiritual warfare in which all Catholic men are engaged... suhhh-weeet.

Next time I'll post a bit on my Christmas break and on planning the seminary's trip to the recent Vigil Mass, Holy Hour, and March for Life in D.C.


In Jesu, per Mariam,