Summer at St. Brendan’s

After finishing a Licentiate-level theology seminar on the Ecclesiological Thought of Henri de Lubac at Regina Apostolorum I left Rome in early June for Merrimack, NH, to participate (and serve as chaplain) in a Fides et Ratio seminar on the Church Fathers, Doctors, and Popes held at St. Thomas More College and organized by the Faith and Reason Institute. The format of the seminar is an academic retreat by and for educators, and we enjoyed a wonderful “repast” of great Catholic and Christian authors, discussing selected texts in a quiet college campus on summer break.

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After the seminar I traveled to Cumming, GA to spend the majority of my summer at St. Brendan the Navigator parish. St. Brendan’s is a parish of the Archdiocese of Atlanta under the direction of the Legionaries of Christ, and ministers to around 3,500 families, including a substantial Hispanic community. The Cumming area over the last twenty years (at least) has been growing on overdrive, and the parish was founded in 2001. Starting this summer I’ll be regularly helping the three Legionary priests assigned full time to this parish in addition to spending every fall and early winter teaching in Rome.

St. Brendan the Navigator

My priestly ministry to date has mostly consisted of an academic ministry, chaplaincies for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and a chaplaincy for a girls’ boarding school. I’d occasionally help a parish out with Mass or confessions, but this was my first experience spending an extended period of time not only visiting, but working as a part of the parish team. About a month and a half of my stay there I was dedicated full time to the parish, covering for the other priests on vacation, spiritual exercises, or visits home. At the parish we had four times a week scheduled for Confession, each at least two hours long, which was usually not enough. The only day I didn’t have penitents in line from the beginning and for the duration (and usually beyond) was the day after Hurricane Irma blew through.

For the first time I was “on call” for a sacramental emergency line: if a loved one is nearing death the priest “on call” can be contacted, day or night, to come and give him or her the sacraments and send them to Our Lord. The morning Hurricane Irma, downgraded to a Tropical Storm, was scheduled to pass through the area I visited a hospice and administered the last rites to a man not expected to survive the day. His family was understandably grateful I braved the adverse weather to come (I told them to thank God in his Providence that the storm’s arrival had been delayed).

We have three Spanish Masses, in addition to confession, and I also celebrated quinceañeras for several young women turning fifteen who wanted to present themselves to the Lord for his blessing and entrust themselves to the Blessed Mother. On the first Saturday of July a group dedicated to nocturnal adoration of the blessed sacrament had a ceremony of initiation as part of the Saturday evening Mass, and a large group of young men and women joined the group (over thirty). These same people devoted to the Blessed Sacrament would also become altar servers for the Spanish Masses. A growing Indian group of parishioners also starting organizing nocturnal adoration monthly and asked me to preach for them a few times.

During July there were also intensive Faith Formation courses for children K-5. I gave talks on sacred vessels, the parts of Mass, and Adoration, along with a little adoration time in silence. The Faith Formation concluding with a celebration of the Eucharist. Among the questions were, “The purificator is used when giving out the Precious Blood for sanitary reasons, isn’t it?” (Answer: among other things). and “Can I take one of the used hosts home with me?” (Answer: no, we keep it in the tabernacle if we don’t consume it).

Working in a parish also gives you many unexpected opportunities for pastoral outreach. After Mass people would ask for confession, advice, counseling, and blessings. One distraught person sought some guidance after not having set foot in a parish since before the Second Vatican Council. He’d attended my Mass, in the back, and said “things have changed a lot” (an understatement). I was happy to see a few weeks later that he is now attending Sunday Mass again.

While in Cumming I resided in the Legionary community that ministers to Pinecrest Academy, the parish, and the Territorial Direction and Administration of the Legion in North America. It’s my home away from Rome (sorry, I couldn’t resist). I had the opportunity to attend the Regnum Christi Spirituality Center offsite meetings for the first time since I started writing Finding the Plug for their website two years ago. I had never met a third of the team: working via e-mail and the occasional Skype does not give you enough perspective on working with a great team of people who really want to nourish as many people spiritually as possible.

Back in Rome classes are underway (Ecclesiology and a Licentiate-level seminar on Priesthood in the Thought of Joseph Ratzinger), and I’m preparing a conference and article for a theology congress (Church Unity and Christian Divisions: Paradigms and Perspectives) and a plenary assembly of the theology faculty. Working in a parish is beautiful, but some priests have other ministries too. Back to the books!

Mass times while visiting Watsonville

Just a quick note to let everyone know where I’ll be celebrating Mass during my visit to Watsonville, CA at the beginning of August. I hope to see you.

Date Place Time
2-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM
3-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM
4-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM
5-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 4:15 PM
6-Aug St. Patrick’s Church 5:00 PM
6-Aug St. Patrick’s Church 7:00 PM (Spanish)
7-Aug St. Patrick’s Church 8:00 AM
8-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM
9-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM
10-Aug Our Lady, Help of Christians 9:00 AM

Latin, Liturgy, and Tradition

When I arrived in Rome for the first time in 1999 a brother from my community took the new arrivals on a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. At one point I asked him if St. Pius X was buried there. The Gregorian Chant choir that had been instrumental in my spiritual conversion five years earlier was the St. Pius X Choir of the Pajaro Valley (some of whom now form part of the Latin Mass community at Sacred Heart Parish, Hollister). The brother replied, “I’ll take you to him.” It wasn’t the response I expected. St. Pius X is incorrupt and actually buried in an altar in the main basilica. You can actually see him (see the photo below). After that realization I’d always wanted to say Mass at that altar, but it was usually first come, first serve in the morning at the Basilica and I never got the chance. During Christmas time it was blocked by a Nativity Scene.

One of my brother priests asked me to help him edit an English text, and one day I’d mentioned to him in passing that I’d always wanted to celebrate Mass at that altar. Little did I know that you could reserve the altar. Thankfully, he did, and he made a reservation for us to concelebrate at the altar on Monday, May 29th and surprised me with it as a small thank you for my help. I prayed for Traditionalists, for everyone who loved the Latin Mass, and for all the schismatic Latin Mass groups to return to full communion with Rome.

I love celebrating Mass in Latin. The thought of it raises many peoples hackles. The generation that preceded me was very hurt and polarized by what happened during the liturgical reforms after Vatican II, and much of it raged concerning the use of Latin in the liturgy. They either lament its loss or become angered at its mention. I was too young to remember if I ever heard a Latin Mass as a child, but in 1992 or 1993, as an adult, it captivated me and quickly became a devotion.  Thankfully under Pope Benedict XVI a provision was established for those who wanted to celebrate the Mass in Latin to be able to do so unhindered in full communion with Rome.

When in Rome I frequently have an opportunity to celebrate the Ordinary Form (aka the Novus Ordo) in Latin, the same Mass Catholics of the Roman Rite celebrate in the vernacular throughout the world. I respect the Extraordinary Form (aka the Tridentine Mass), but the Ordinary Form has always been enough for me, and in centers for formation we Legionaries usually celebrate solemnities in sung Latin (Ordinary Form). For me it evokes the mystery we participate in every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

Whatever language the Mass is celebrated in, remember that you are partaking in a profound mystery.

Second semester, unplugged

I’m two days shy of not having blogged here for five months, and I have no excuse. I can only characterize them as quiet and uneventful. In December we prepared for Christmas with priestly ordinations and I helped with confessions at the retreat for the families of the deacons about to be ordained priests.  I was also invited to give a talk at the International Pontifical College Maria Mater Ecclesiae on preparing lectures (looking for video clips to illustrate my points was the funnest part), and various Christmas parties, followed by a nice quiet Christmas at the Center for Higher Studies with my religious family. I had a serious attack of the lazies and didn’t blog post-Christmas as I usually do.

Before I knew it, the first semester ended, exams came and went (the students did very well this year), the second semester began, then Lent and Easter went by as well. During Holy Week I helped out a group coming from Canada and New England whose chaplain got sick at the last minute. I’d helped the same organizers for similar reasons ten years ago as a newly-ordained priest. This time it was Mass and confessions at home, then a day in Assisi (a beautiful day; below is a photo of St. Clare’s, where I prayer for all the Poor Clare’s I know, including those in Aptos and the nuns of EWTN, and the chapel of St. Damian, where the crucifix miraculously spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and Our Lord asked him to rebuild the Church).

I would characterize the second semester as unplugged (with apologizes to musicians, since the metaphor is a little forced). This semester I’m doing a Licentiate-level theology seminar on the theology of Henri de Lubac. I have six students, and each week we read and discuss selected readings from de Lubac’s Catholicism and The Splendor of the Church. It’s unplugged since no laptop or PowerPoint are needed, unlike my bachelor’s level course during the first semester. Just reading and discussion. It’s nice to have quiet time to read and reflect.

I also finally published the American edition on Amazon of the proceedings of the university’s theology congress on the Kingdom of Christ (in Spanish). If you know any Spanish speakers who’d like a systematic theology reflection on the Kingdom of Christ, this book is for them. I hope someday to translate it into English. Included is my paper on the relationship between the Church and the Kingdom of Christ.

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Have a wonderful summer everyone. I’ll be visiting California in August and will post Mass times when they’re finalized.

 

10 Years of God’s Wonders

Saint John Paul the II described his priestly vocation as a gift and a mystery. I have seen that the priestly vocation is a gift because it is totally unmerited, and is never separated in your heart from the love of its giver, a love that endures forever. The gift testifies to that love, because the more perfect a gift it is, the more it suits you, and the more it shows how much the giver knows and loves you. The vocation is a mystery because is a part of God’s Providence that always has something more to say, and will only be fully fathomed when we meet Him face to face in Heaven.

A vocation, which is the calling God extends to each and every one of us on this earth, is a gift and mystery of the mirabilia Dei (the wonders of God) in a life, and, like the Israelites in times of the Old Testament, and the budding Christian communities of the New Testament, the mirabilia of God aren’t confined to one past moment in history, nor can they be contained in one moment of history. In times of light and darkness they shine through, reminding us of the past, illuminating the present, and promising the future. They occur in the grandest moments as well as the most intimate ones of our lives.

Today I celebrate the tenth anniversary of my priestly ordination, and it continues to be a gift and a mystery. This morning, during my meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, I meditated on the ten years of priestly blessings that I have received. I’ve come to the altar on many days with joy, some days with tears, but every day bringing the intentions of the whole world with me to entreat Our Heavenly Father through His Son to bless and protect my flock and all those in need of prayers and grace. I’ve considered every soul I’ve tried to help as a member of my constantly expanding flock, which I remember in prayer at every celebration of the Eucharist, asking the Lord to hear their prayer intentionsand to watch over them.

This morning in I concelebrated, in the same chapel where I was ordained a priest, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with all my Legionary brothers of the Center for Higher Studies in Rome, presided over by our General Director. Four of my brothers, my former students, received the ministry of Acolyte and, God-willing, in May will be ordained deacons as a step toward their own priestly ordination.

I remembered you all in my Mass, in gratitude for the gift of the priesthood. I am grateful to all of you for your prayers and support in these ten years of priesthood. Please count on my prayers and my priestly blessing.