“Behold Your Mother” – A Lenten Reflection

Below is the video of the Lenten Reflection, which I gave to my brother seminarians at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis this evening. This is the third in a series of Lenten Reflections, which our senior class gives each year on the 7 Last Words of Christ. May our Blessed Mother intercede for us as we walk the Way of Beauty, and may we accept her into our lives, that she may cooperate with us in our vocations now, and in the future as priests.

 

The full text of my reflection follows, it draws on the book: “Mary and the Priestly Ministry” by Father Emile Neubert, SM:

7 Last Words Reflection                                                                                        2-23-16

   “Behold your Mother”

 

+In the name of the Father, and of the Son…

 

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27).

 

As his final gift, right before he died, Christ gave His mother to His whole family on Earth. Christ says: “Woman behold your Son. He gives us to his Mother, to be placed under her care. For us who feel called to give our lives to the service of God as a priest, Christ in a very special way through these words, commits us to the School of Mary. He says: “Look, this is your Mother. Go to her! Son, behold your mother!

 

The Son of God, became flesh in the womb of a little Jewish girl from Nazareth. While we call this the Incarnation, the Council of Ephesus taught that Mary is also “Theo-Tokos, Greek for Mother of God, or God bearer. This is profoundly at its heart a Christological declaration. It depends on Christ in order to be real.

 

The one whom Mary bore is truly God and truly man. Christ, the high priest received his human nature from Mary. Thus the Blessed Virgin, is involved in making the Son of God our priest. He received his priestly vocation from the Father, who sent him into the World. His priestly anointing is the grace of the hypostatic union, a gift of the Holy Trinity. But it is his human nature, which enables the Son of God to be Priest, to offer sacrifice on our behalf and it was Mary who gave it to him.

 

The words of Christ from the Cross, “Behold your Mother!” confirm then the spiritual maternity of Mary and they proclaim the culmination of it, at the very moment the mystery of the Redemption itself is achieved. If we notice at the foot of the Cross there are others who would have seemed more likely to be chosen by Christ to care for his mother. Mary the wife of Clopas, the brother of St. Joseph who is the mother of St. James, Mary Magdalen, whom Christ had a special affinity for and John whose mother, Salome was still alive. Nonetheless, it was to John that Christ confided Mary. Precisely because John was a priest and it is to priests, above all, that Christ gives His Mother because He has a great love of them and they have a greater need of her.

 

Mary, too though needs priests. It is especially through them that she is able to continue to carry out her mission of giving Jesus to the world, of sanctifying souls and transforming them into other Christ’s. Thus, as men in formation for the priesthood Mary has a special love for each one of us. She desires to help us in our Vocation and in the future as priests of the Church.

 

In his very nature a son carries something of his mother. He receives his body and his very life from her. The nurturing she gives him reflects all that is the best, the noblest, and the most generous in her. All of these make him an extension and a part of her with the consequence that whatever pleases him, pleases her, whatever he suffers, she suffers; and when he dies, something more precious than her own life dies within her.

 

In Mary’s case, these maternal rights were more intense than any other mother. Mary’s motherhood was uniquely for her only Son. She existed only for him and she alone through the Holy Spirit formed him within her womb. Mary, shares in the redemptive and sacrificial nature of Christ’s death on the Cross. She cooperates with his priestly service. From the moment she presented him in the temple, and heard the words of Simeon she knew of the sorrowful role she would eventually play in his Sacrifice.

 

She nurtured the Victim in view of the Cross. As Jesus grew in age, the closer the fatal hour came. Yet, still she loved him. Her fiat becoming ever more sorrowful and yet, more determined, became more loving. With every step of Christ in his passion, she renewed her fiat. She gave her yes to God, again and again and again. This time, instead of giving Christ to her, her yes gave him away to the world. It was then at his crucifixion, that Mary, united herself to the will of the Father regarding her Son, and to the intentions of her Son regarding the Father and the redemption of mankind. Her will, her love, and her sufferings were entirely one with those of her Son. She offered him, and offered herself with him.

 

Mary played a real part in the Sacrifice of the Cross – a part of unlimited suffering and love that lasted thirty-three years. If Christ then was willing to make Mary an associate of his priesthood as Pius X states, then any man who desires to be effective in his future priestly ministry, must allow the Blessed Virgin to be an associate and cooperate in their vocation and their priesthood as well.

 

The last gift, Jesus gave us before giving every drop of his Sacred Blood on the cross, was His mother.

 

Most of you know that on the first day of class this semester I was in Chicago for my Great Aunt’s Visitation. I was blessed to get to go and take my Mom and Grandmother to go and spend some time with her a few days before our retreat. While we were there, my grandmother pulled out one of our Schola CD’s and gave it to her. Aunt Carol looked down at the CD and the image of our Lady on the cover and began to cry. She had battled cancer, mourned the death of her husband, and had lost most of her desire to eat. With an infection on her lungs she struggled to breath. Aunt Carol was dying. As she started to cry, Aunt Carol made a statement, which I believe sums up the role that Mary must play in our discernment of the priesthood: “Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it….”

 

Mary, comforted Christ through his passion. She bore his sufferings within her heart, and still she gave her yes, totally, freely, and thus fruitfully back to the Father. I think it is safe to say that Mary helped Christ to embrace his death. She loved him and formed him for 33 years in preparation for it.

 

If you want to know your vocation, go to Mary. If you want to know Christ, go to Mary. If you want to have strength to say yes to a major decision in your life, whether it is to become a Rector of a seminary or to embrace your death, go to Mary. If you want to be a priest, you cannot do it without her help. We must go to Mary. Mary, our mother always leads us to Christ, she always points us to her Son, and she always helps us in whatever we need. We like John must be willing to take her into our home, we must take her into our hearts. If we want to be like Christ; if we want to be a priest, there is no other way. And so we too must act when we hear Christ say: Woman, behold your son. For brothers, we must behold our mother. Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary…

Seminaries are Full of Death and Dying Men

“Hey Cemeterian Corey!” is a phrase that I will never forget one of the kindergartners in Mrs. Stringer’s class at St. Joseph in Bowling Green shouting at me as they came back inside from the playground when I was visiting them a couple of years ago. Calling a seminary or a seminarian a “cemetery” is more common than you would think. Heck, even I slip up some times and say that I go to the cemetery, when I mean seminary

Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery

Fall at Crown Hill Memorial Cemetery.

For all the times that I and other brother seminarians have heard that, I wonder if it has ever really sunken in?

You go to seminary to die, in a multitude of ways. Your life is not really about you anymore, and that can really be a hard pill to swallow.

The cross that we encoutner in seminary is often carried and met in very simple ways: breaking out of your old routines, moving and pushing back your comfort zones, and pruning those areas of your life out that are detrimental to grace. The word “seminary” literally in Latin means “seed bed,” for this is where men go to become the fertile ground out of which one’s spiritual life can grow. Thanks be to God you’re not walking alone through this period of purification.

I had friends growing up and ones that I really enjoyed the company of in high school, but in seminary I finally encountered other guys wanting to be men after the heart of Christ, men who had a love of and devotion to Mary. This love of Christ saturated our conversations and guided our activities.

If you will permit me to use another analogy; seminary in a way is like a river. (And now the voice in my head is singing Peace is flowing like a river but replacing it with: “Seminary’s like a riiiivvver.” Such is my life!) IMG_0217The seminarians are the stones and the moving water is community life. Living in close quarters with 40 men is a plethera of purification. In seminary you get to learn a lot about your brothers. You learn their sleep schedule, the times of day (morning) when you don’t say anything to them lest you die. You quickly learn the patterns, peeves, and quirks (smells) of these men who you call your brothers. Like the stones in the river, community life tests and purifies you, hopefully smoothing out your rough spots, though not always. The grace is abundant though and the amazing ways in which the Lord works through your life in community can be incomprehensible.

So yes, you go to seminary to die. Seminaries are full of death. In fact every one of the men there is in the process of dying. But it is a beautiful death. A death which gives birth through Christ to a new life full of love.

In Conclusion:

Seminary life in many ways is like a cemetery. It is like a river. It’s a place where we are in a sense forced to die to ourself and our narcissitc desires and focus on others. It is in seminary that we learn the way we can love as Christ did and be able to give completely of ourself to the church. Priests marry the church. They marry the people of God whom they will serve (everyone else in the world.) As seminarians we start to be betrothed if you will to the people (the church) through our ministry experiences. We “date” the Church and decide if we are called to give of ourselves totally to her. Likewise, the people of God choose us and “date” us. At Ordination, God-willing as in a marriage when a man and woman marry one another and give their consent to marry each other. “I do.” So too, a man at his ordination standing before the Bishop and the people of God, is asked: “Do you know him to be worthy?” After which the Vocation Director responds and the people join in an affirmation of their consent by applause.

Seminary, a seed bed is a place of death. It is a cemetery of sorts, a place where we die to ourselves and our sinful desires so that we may love Christ more. Seminary is a river. It is a place where our rough edgs are made smooth and the good that the Lord has begun in us is finally brought to completion. Please pray for your seminarians. You want to have good priests? Pray for good and holy seminarians! Pray that we might be faithful to our Lord, that we may have the grace to completely surrender our will and ourselves to the process of formation. Pray for all of the new seminarians who are starting this Way of Beauty, that is seminary. Pray for us as we die to ourselves so that through Christ we might rise to give ourselves to you.

Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner - Indianapolis 2014

Bruté Seminarians attend the Right to Life Dinner – Indianapolis 2014

“That All Might Sing” – My Paper on Pope St. Pius X’ paper on Church Music and the Chant Method of Justine Ward

For the Feast of Pope St. Pius X:

Originally written for Dr. Katharine Harmon’s History of the Catholic Church in America Class on 11-21-14.

690_Justine_Ward_Gajard_1949I enjoyed writing this piece on how Pope St. Pius X’ document Tra Le Sollecitudini was interpreted and engaged here in America, specifically by Justine Ward, who founded an amazing way of teaching Gregorian Chant to children. Justine started and held the first Congress for Chant in America. “What she wants above all,” wrote Dom Augustine Gatard, O.S.B., Prior of Farnborough Abbey, England, who was at the Congress, “is to put the faithful, all the faithful, in the position to participate actively, as much as possible … in the liturgy and in the chant of the Catholic Church.” (2) She especially encouraged girls’ choirs. (3) In a private audience in 1924, Pope Pius XI gave his Apostolic blessing to her work. (4) Thanks be to God for Justine Ward and the many others who assisted in the beautiful Liturgical Renewal we have had in the Church. May it continue to be renewed and may Justine Ward and St. Pius X, help teach us a little bit about walking the Way of Beauty to Heaven, more specifically through the Heavenly Liturgy.

That All Might Sing: American Catholic Responses to Pope St. Pius X’ Tra le Sollecitudini

John Adams once wrote: “Went in the afternoon, to the Romish Chapel [in Philadelphia]. The scenery and the music are so calculated to take in mankind that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded … the chanting is exquisitely soft and sweet.” (Chase, 61) While Adams witnessed the beauty of the proper execution of “Romish” chant in October 9, 1774 he never could have envisioned what would one day take place in the country soon to be founded in regards to the proper execution, teaching, and use of Gregorian chant. Throughout the early part of the 20th century a response to Pope St. Pius X’s 1903 Tra le Sollecitudini (Instruction on Sacred Music) was carried out across the globe by Catholic musicians in different ways. Some, embraced the changes wholeheartedly, others chose to implement parts of them with and without proper catechesis. In the United States of America Pius X’s Motu Proprio was embraced particularly by Justine Ward a woman with little musical instruction, but with a passion for music and her new faith. Across the board, the training of the young in the church’s tradition of music was seen as one of the most important responses to Pius X’s instruction on Sacred Music. Ward and others took this to heart in developing programs, which educated the young in methods of chanting and ensured that all might sing.

From 1903 on into the 1920’s and finishing up around the 1950’s what could be called as the last “traditional” Catholic music movement occurred in response to Pius X’s Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (hereafter referred to as “TLS”). TLS was written and promulgated by Pius X after a series of abuses in regards to music in the liturgy kept happening. Pius ordered that there be two particular types of music to be used in the Roman Liturgy. That is, Gregorian chant, which has been “inherited from the ancient fathers” (Pius X, II 3) and Classic Polyphony. The main reason for these abuses was that the music was becoming quite operatic and theatrical. Instead of being music, which by nature of its’ composition and execution lifted the congregation to God and was a prayer in itself; music in the Sacred Liturgy had become a show, detracting from the sacred action occurring.

As previously stated, throughout the early twentieth century there was a varied array of

Pope St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X

responses to Pius X’s TLS, one of which was the action of Justine Ward. Ward, thought to have had no formal training in “vocal music, choral music, or pedagogy” (Brancaleone, 7) became known as one of the leading advocates of and promulgators of Gregorian chant in America. Due to her parent’s wishes for her to not pursue a musical degree in Europe, she was left with receiving private musical instruction. (Zuberbueler, 14) Ward, a Catholic convert started to fall in love with Gregorian chant due to her friendship with Fr. Thomas E. Shields and Fr. John B. Young SJ (Brancaleone, 8) and having attended a retreat given “at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattanville in Harlem” (Brancaleone, 8) by another Jesuit she began to learn the basics of pedagogy (the methods and concepts of teaching) and formulate ideas on how to teach Gregorian Chant to children.

America in the 20th century was still largely protestant, no doubt due to the large number of protestant immigrants who settled the country early on. One has to wonder as to why in 1903 a church, struggling to become better recognized and understood in the mainstream (and mostly protestant) culture would continue to push the use of a language (latin) which was no longer spoken conversationally, in not only their worship but especially in their music. Robert Holzmer S.M. wrote an article about the people not “liking” Gregorian chant in the then-popular Catholic Music journal: The Caecilia. In his article he discusses a few reasons of why Gregorian chant is not liked by the majority of Catholic congregations. Pius X and his Motu Proprio is one of the first “authorities” on the subject that he quotes. Holzmer argues partially that because the pope said it, it must be true, but also from an informed knowledge and understanding of Gregorian chant. “Gregorian Chant is Church music while the other forms are also church music” (241) Holzmer reconnects his future points back to Pius X, reaffirming what he stated of Gregorian chant as having pride of place in the Roman Liturgy, but also acknowledging that other types of music (classical polyphony) can be used as well. Holzmer goes on to state that there are several factors at play with why people don’t like Gregorian chant. Factors such as an ill-trained choir, poor musicianship on behalf of the choir, conductor, and organist, and the basic element of people not understanding the reasons for the use of Gregorian chant or the language it is in. Holzmer closes his article by stating: The most important of all, and, unfortunately, the most neglected. It is the training of the young in music…” (241) Like Ward, Holzmer recognized that without the training of the young in the music of the church, there would never be a hope for “this venerable music…to come back to its rightful domain, when it will be supreme again in fact as it has always been by right?”

Dom G Mercure, a Benedictine Monk of the Monastery of St. Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec wrote in a 1935 issue of The Caecilia: “one of the reasons why Gregorian Chant is not more widespread in ecclesiastical music circles is because the public expect to find in Gregorian chant, or plain chant, the same element of sensible pleasure that is found in profane music or even in religious music other than plain chant.” (213) Pius X in his Motu Proprio TLS knew well the state of music in the church and world. For instance throughout the War Between the States (1861) Union and Confederate Soldiers used hymns as a way of rallying the troops and bringing them comfort from home. Hymns such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, or Dixie would be heard across the battlefields as soldiers marched. Still others such as Amazing Grace, or It Came Upon the Midnight Clear were sung in many protestant churches at their services. Hymns in the spoken language of the people gathered, tended to have more emotional and pleasurable connotations associated with them. As people heard these hymns full of poetic and beautiful language they were attracted to them more and more. The chants of the church in a language unknown seemed distant and did not stir the emotions of the musically untrained ear. How were the Catholic musicians in America supposed to combat these feelings, which could not be ignored?

Justine Ward in her article for the Atlantic Monthly published in 1906 The Reform in Church Music puts it well: “church music is made up of two elements, music and prayer, and it cannot be judged by the value of one of its elements tested as a separate entity . . . “Lex orandi lex cantandi”… Prayer and music must so combine as to make one art; the music must pray, the prayer-must sing…This, then, is the true test of a musical composition for the church: Does it conform to the law of prayer?” (455) According to Justine music should not be judged as solely inspiring emotion or being judged on the music alone, rather music for use in the Liturgy is interwoven with prayer in such a manner that the two cannot be separated. For to separate these two things, which in a way are one, is to tear that work of art apart. To Pius X, Gregorian Chant is the primary music of the church. Holzmer, Ward, and Mercure all agree that there are certain aspects of Gregorian Chant which must be met in order to ensure that it is sung properly and can truly be that unification of “music and prayer” (Ward 455) The promulgation of Gregorian chant in the church as well as to provide the means necessary for its’ survival relied upon the teaching and training of the young in chanting and the proper execution of this tradition. Ward, working with Fr. Shields, Fr. Young, and eventually Dom André Mocquereau (founder of the Solesmes method of Gregorian chant) created a program that would do just that.

Early in her career, after her conversion to the Catholic Church and divorce of her husband (which left her considerably wealthy) Ward started working with Fr. Shields and Young while assisting at the Catholic University of America. After a short period there “in the summer of 1916, Mother Georgia Stevens asked Ward to come to Manhattanville” (Brancaleone 10) In 1917, she with the help of Mother Stevens created the Pius X Institute of Liturgical Music, a school devoted to training teachers and students in not only what was becoming known as the “Ward Method,” but also in other forms of Liturgical Music in the Church. Ward’s method of teaching chant to the young was unique in that it used body movements as a way of understanding rhythm. Through the Pius X Institute and her newfound friendships with Dom Mocquereau, and others Ward began to share her method of teaching Gregorian chant with others in other countries. “In 1925, Ward brought her method to Holland…Belgium, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, China, and Italy.” (Zuberbueler, 16) For Ward teaching and singing Gregorian chant was a chance at learning, singing, and praying. It was a way of living the liturgical life of the church in a new way.

While Ward worked on the teaching of Gregorian Chant others in America took a different approach to the Pius X’s TLS. According to Paul Hume’s Catholic Church Music, one of the ways in which the objectives of the Motu Proprio were enforced was through the creation of a “White List.” “The “White List” is a list of music approved for use in church by the St. Gregory Society of America. The idea of having a “white list” comes from Pius X: “Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces.” (Pius X, II 5) This movement in the church away from music of a secular nature was led by Pius X and joined by Ward, the St. Gregory Society of America and others. Ward and the St. Gregory Society of America published hymnals containing chants and hymns, which followed the “Classic Polyphony” called for by Pius X. Pope Pius XII later in 1955, published Musicae Sacrae Disciplina an instruction on the usage of hymns for the liturgy.

In Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, Pius XII says: “We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore rightly called religious music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and it has developed happily under the Church’s auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful, both when it is used in churches during non-liturgical services and ceremonies, or when it is used outside churches at various solemnities and celebrations.” (Pius XII 36) Granted the usage of hymns was already something that was customary in the church at the time. With the stipulations imposed on music by Pius X, hymns (note: vernacular hymns) were not to be used in the Liturgy, but instead could be used for prayers, gatherings, processions, novenas, etc. In short, they could only be used for celebrations outside of the Liturgy. Gregorian Chant was still the official music of the church and remains so to this day.

For some 60ish years the stipulations imposed by TLS stood and the Ward Method helped ensure its’ future survival. Though as the Church drew closer and closer to the middle of the 20th century the advent of the Second Vatican Council appeared on the horizon. Up until this point Gregorian Chant and Classical Polyphony were the only types of music to be used in the Liturgy. Ward’s method seemed to prosper, for decades, being spread throughout the world. With the end of the 1950’s and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in sight, church music in America was once again something talked about. Gregorian Chant was the norm for music in parishes; even the smallest tried to create a choir, which would be able to chant the Propers of the Mass. Hymns were sung by Catholics in the 20th century (including some protestant ones) as long as it was for worship outside of Solemn Liturgical Functions.  The renewal of Gregorian Chant in the church was almost complete and there were many to thank for it. The movement of 20th century Catholic Church Music in America was one that will forever define the history of the church here and around the world. The impact of one woman who embraced the call of the Holy Father to return to the sacred traditions of music in the church through the construction of her teaching methods ensured that all, whether young or old could chant with a little effort. For Justine Ward chant could not be “listened to as music” rather through the “ears of faith”(Ward, 460) To her “the music must pray and the prayer must sing” (455) “For the carrying-out of the full ideal demands the co-operation of the entire people, who will no longer assist at, but take part in, the liturgy. This may not be accomplished in a day, but the Church works for the future, and already she is sowing the seeds. The little Catholic school child is learning to pray, not only in words, but also in song; not only in the Church’s language, Latin, but in her musical language,

Chant; and when these children grow up, our choirs will be the whole Catholic world. While the variable and the more elaborate parts of the liturgy will demand the great genius, the great artist, the simpler parts will be taken up spontaneously by the entire congregation; producing the superb contrast of, on the one hand, the perfection of art, and on the other, the majesty of numbers. This is, indeed, nothing new: it is thus that the liturgy is intended to be rendered; it is thus that it has been rendered in the past, and is still rendered in a few centres of Catholic life. It is simply a return to the true ideal, a “renewing of all things in Christ,” a revitalizing, through art, of the spirit of Catholic democracy and universality.” (Ward 462-463)

Justine Ward and others worked tirelessly, embracing the call of the reforms instituted by Pius X and catered them specifically to children. They worked for an idea that would be largely envisioned in coming years by the Second Vatican Council. They worked to ensure that all might sing.

Work Cited

Brancaleone, Francis. “Justine Ward and the Fostering of an American Solesmes Chant Tradition” Sacred Music Fall 2009: 6-26. Print.

Chase, Gilbert. America’s Music New York: McGraw- Hill Book Company, Inc. 1995. Print

Holzmer, Robert. “People don’t Like Gregorian Chant” The Caecilia May 1935: 239-232. Print.

Hume, Paul. Catholic Church Music Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Pres, Inc. 1956. Print.

Mercure, Dom G. “True Church Music Should Calm the Mind Not Minister to the Senses” The Caecilia May 1936: 213-214. Print.

Pius X, Pope. Tra Le Sollecitudini, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1903. Vatican.va

Pius XII, Pope. Musicae Sacrae, Vatican City: Vatican State, 1955. Vatican.va

Ward, Justine B. “The Reform In Church Music” The Atlantic Monthly January 1907:455-463. Print.

Zuberbueler, Amy. “The Ward Method: Chant from the Ground Up” Sacred Music Spring 2006: 14-17. Print.

The flower of Jesse will blossom! :: Reflections on praying about my vocation at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

“A shoot will spring forth from the stock of Jesse, and a flower will blossom from his root. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him!

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord. This feast is one of my favorites especially since my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last December. One of my 3 favorite locations that we got to visit was the Basilica of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The church even though it is quite modern is very traditional through the way in which it teaches the faith and teaches about the Annunciation.

I think that the first place to start is to go from the top down of the Basilica. The dome is made to look like a giant Lilly bud which is turned upside down, showing that it is coming down from Heaven. The Lilly is an ancient symbol for our Blessed Mother. One of my favorite Springtime flowers is the Lilly of the Valley which grows outside our house. I have many memories of bringing back tubs to my Grandmother’s house and taking sections of her Lilly of the Valley back to Kentucky with us each year. My dog Maggie, much to my mother and I’s dismay LOVED to dig the root-bulb systems up. It is such a sweet and pungent scent and we use them to decorate our May altar each year. Here at Bishop Bruté, the sisters planted them everywhere. So I am VERY happy!10858516_10205530775565656_285478047220799284_nThe story of the Annunciation is from Luke 1:26-38:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
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The Cave where Mary gave her Fiat

Being in the place where Mary gave her “fiat,” her “yes” to God gave me such immense joy. I remember walking into the lower church where the Cave of the Annunciation is and just kneeling there crying. It was so immensely beautiful and peaceful. Being in seminary I spend a lot of time in prayer asking the Lord where he wants me to go. What he wants me to do with my life. Specifically if he is calling me to become a priest and bring his mysteries to Earth through the Sacraments. Kneeling there, praying the rosary I renewed my consecration to Mary through her Immaculate Heart. I asked her to draw me closer into her heart so that I could be closer to her son.
Inside of the dome of the Basilica. (Lilly)

Inside of the dome of the Basilica. (Lilly)

At the moment of the Annunciation, Mary gave her “yes” and the Holy Spirit came upon her, thus Christ was conceived in her womb. I asked Mary, who was the first tabernacle to draw me into her womb as Christ was there, that I could be closer to him and be able to let him work through me in my life.
The upper church at the Basilica of the Annunciation

The upper church at the Basilica of the Annunciation

When we arrived at the Basilica after celebrating Sunday Mass at the Church of St. Joseph next door (Another amazing church) we came to the Basilica to pray the Noon Angelus. You can find the video below. I was quite sad that I wasn’t able to capture the organ beforehand. It was BEAUTIFUL!

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The front of the Basilica of the Annunciation Front entrance. (Lower church)

On the front of the Basilica it reads: “Verbum Caro Factum Est Et Habitavit In Nobis” (The Word of God was made flesh and made his dwelling upon us) The Altar in the lower church reads: “Verbo Caro Hic Factum Est” (Here, the Word was made flesh)

This is one of my favorite feasts because it is the Feast of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Incarnation, a mystery and beautiful gift. For God so loved the world that he sent his only son to dwell among us, to sacrifice and die a horrible and excruciating painful death on the cross. What an amazing God we have! He loves us so much that even though we sin and turn away from him he always calls us back.

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On this great solemnity of the Annunciation I humbly ask that you pray for me, as I continue to discern the Lord’s will in my life. May the Holy Spirit guide me and may the Blessed Mother continue to draw me closer to her Son, so that when the moment is right, when he asks me to do what he desires of me, that I may give him my “yes” unreservedly and with full trust in his infinite mercy. Pray Lord, may it be so!

The Owensboro contingent in front of the Church of the Annunciation

The Owensboro contingent in front of the Church of the Annunciation

See my blogpost on our adventures in Nazareth at our blog from the trip: “We give our yes with Mary!” https://holylandtrip2014.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/we-give-our-yes-with-mary/ 

May God bring this good Seed he has planted to fruit and fulfillment!

O Mary, who gave your Fiat, help us to give our Yes to Christ when he asks it of us. Amen.

Whips & Chains Excite Me :: A Reflection on 50 Shades of Grey from a Catholic Seminarian

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“Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in his viselike grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his lips … His other hand grabs my hair and yanks down… ”

What did the above quote make you think of? How about this next quote? What does it make you think of? What is the first thought that pops in your head?

“Suddenly he grabs me, tipping me across his lap… He throws his right leg over both mine and plants his left forearm on the small of my back, holding me down so I cannot move… and he hits me – hard.”

The above quote is from the now “best-seller” Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 Erotic novel by British novelist E.L. James. The book now lies on the best seller list with classics such as the Lord of the Rings series, a Tale of Two Cities, and The Bible. I want to return now to my former question: What did you think of when you read the two above quotes? How about these quotes? What do you think of when you read them?(Warning: The following 2 quotes can be seen as vulgar and obscene. I have **** out most of the offensive material. Feel free to scroll past and continue reading this post.)

“You are not just a pretty face. You’ve had six o****** so far and all of them belong to me.”

“It’s taking all my self-control not to **** you on the hood of this car, just to show you that you’re mine”

So what did you think when you read the previous four quotes? Let me suggest some words that popped into my own head: abuse, rape, harassment, forced sex, non-consensual, woman about to be kidnapped and/or raped  in the elevator, fear, woman-beater, controlling… I could go on and on. What did you think of when you read them? Seriously, if you had no idea that they were from 50 Shades of Grey, what did or what would you think?

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The coming attraction for the erotic drama based on the hit E.L. James novel notched more than 36 million YouTube views in its first week.” This comes as no surprise to scholars of pop culture. The movie trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey, along with the trilogy of books it’s based on, is nothing short of a media phenomenon. The trilogy, which is among the fastest-selling books of all time, has been celebrated by the media as “porn for women” and a playful fantasy that encourages women to become more daring in their sexuality.

DomesticViolenceMissing from this hype, of course, is a detailed discussion of how the books eroticize violence against women and render invisible the predatory tactics the “hero” uses to groom, seduce, and abuse a much younger woman. (Yes, Christian Grey grooms Anastasia like a pedophile or sexual abuser grooms their victims.)

If a man were to do the things that Christian Grey does in the book today, he would most likely would end up in jail and Anastasia would end up in a battered woman shelter, or even a morgue. Why is it that this book which objectifies women, makes them something a man can use for his sexual pleasure and treat as property making the best seller list?

We live in a broken world.

We read in the book of Genesis on how Man was created in the Imago Dei, the image

Carpioni - Creation of Eve from Adam

Carpioni – Creation of Eve from Adam

of God. To be created in our very maker’s image means that we have something very special about us. We are different than a dog or a cow or a tree. The problem with the quotes I shared from 50 Shades and the book as a whole is how it forgets whose image we are created in. As the Catechism of the Catholic  Church puts it:

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment

Christian Grey in 50 Shades forgets that Anastasia is created in the image of God. He forgets her dignity and treats her as his sexual toy, able to be used as he please for his own personal gratification. He does this so much that he convinces her to sign a contract saying she will do what he wants her to sexually. WOAH?!? Wait, WHAT? When was the last time that you ever met someone who signed a contract to allow another to do anything they want sexually to you? Even in marriage, when a man and woman become one, they do so of free will  and through free gift of self.

FaithStreet.com puts it well in their article when they state:

We live in a society in which there seems to be no limits regarding what you can experience sexually. We erase the shame of hooking up, joke openly about porn, and celebrate sexual experimentation like BDSM. Yet, at the same time, more than a quarter of the American population fits the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or substance addiction. Is there a correlation here?

In case you’re wondering what BDSM stands for: (I had no idea, now I wish I didn’t know)(Definitely something Satan thought up)

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Why would it be that in our culture we would celebrate something like BDSM or that we would ever joke about the sexual exploitation of women through porn, sex trafficking and the like? As much as we might want to experience a “sexual high” sexuality is WAY more than just having sex. (Let alone saving it for marriage) It’s quite clear that the “sexual freedom and expression” we “think” we have hasn’t solved our relational problems and has, perhaps, even intensified them. Underneath all of the sex, we are lonely.

Lonely but made for SO much more!

God did not create us to be lonely. Again we read in Genesis (Gospel from this Thursday) that God created all these different animals and brought them before the first man to see if they could be his companion. Dr. Sherman, my moral theology professor likes to say that he imagines God saying something like: “Hey, Adam buddy here’s a dog, how about her? No? Okay. Aw man! I found you the perfect one, it’s a Liger! Too ferocious? Okay. And then we read of how God made woman, fashioning her from the side of man thus she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. God put her by Man’s side, not apart, but by his side and told them to exercise dominion over all of creation; to be fertile and multiply! God does not ask us to do something we cannot do. He made us to be sociable. We were made for so much more!

When we read of the first sin in the Garden we see how Adam and Eve were selfish. Instead of relying on God to take care of them as he always had and walking with him forever in the garden we see a world where sin enters and with it, the punishment of death. To have sex is not a bad thing. What is bad is when we do it contrary to how God intended it and when we use it as in 50 Shades, solely for pleasure, and not procreation. To have sex just for pleasure is selfish. We were made for so much more.

FaithStreet.com also said that:

Material like Fifty Shades of Grey fuels the allusion that fantasy and a sexual release will bring satisfaction. It leads to an insatiable desire for more. Men and women who engage in pornography and erotica will ultimately be less satisfied in their intimate relationships.

This is statistics, folks. If you look at porn there is a higher probability that you will try to imitate things you have seen with a partner later in life, which can lead to you not being satisfied, because no one can do it like the person you saw can. Again, selfish. Relying on ourselves for sexual gratification and watching a screen has been scientifically proven to change the chemical make-ups of our brains and change what we are attracted to.

Pope Benedict addressed the issue of pornography and erotic literature saying, “A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity . . . The moment has come to energetically halt the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the internet in particular.”

Couples (married) who really “get it” know how to fully share their sexuality — how to communicate the most intimate of experiences with and without words. Being emotionally naked makes you extremely vulnerable. Both you and your spouse have to feel completely safe to let go, to share thoughts, desires, and physical sensations. The journey toward authentic intimacy is one of creating the safest environment possible so that you can bear all with each other and become as Genesis puts so well: “one.” To be “one” with your spouse is to be vulnerable, to share everything and in doing so to help each other strive for holiness and for Heaven.

Fifty-Shades-of-GreySo to wrap up here are some points that 50 Shades of Grey tries to instill in it’s readers/watchers (If you disagree trust me. As a philosophy major you can get pretty good with reading subliminal messages):

1. Girls want guys like Christian who order them around and get rough.

No! A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain.  She wants to feel safe, respected and cared for by a man she can trust.  She dreams about wedding gowns, not handcuffs.

2.  Guys want a girl like Anastasia who is meek and insecure.

Wrong.  A psychologically healthy man wants a woman who can stand up for herself.   If he is out of line, he wants her to set him straight.

3.  Anastasia exercises free choice when she consents to being hurt, so no one can judge her decision.

Flawed logic.  Sure, Anastasia had free choice — and she chose poorly.  A self-destructive decision is a bad decision. (think about the holocaust)

4.  Anastasia makes choices about Christian in a thoughtful and detached manner.

Doubtful.  Christian constantly supplies Anastasia with alcohol, impairing her judgment.   Also, Anastasia becomes sexually active with Christian — her first experience ever — soon after meeting him.  Neuroscience suggests their intimacy could jump start her feelings of attachment and trust, before she’s certain he deserved them.   Sex is a powerful experience — particularly the first time.  Finally, Christian manipulates Anastasia into signing an agreement prohibiting her from telling anyone that he is a long time abuser.

Alcohol, sex, manipulation — hardly the ingredients of a thoughtful, detached decision.



5.    Christian’s emotional problems are cured by Anastasia’s love.

Only in a movie.  In the real world, Christian wouldn’t change to any significant degree.  If Anastasia was fulfilled by helping emotionally disturbed people, she should have become a psychiatrist or social worker.



6.  It’s good to experiment with sexuality.

Maybe for adults in a healthy, long term, committed, monogamous relationship, AKA “marriage”.  Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault.  It’s wise to be very careful who you allow to get close to you, physically and emotionally, because just one encounter can throw you off track and change your life forever.

The bottom line: the ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: “What’s healthy in a relationship?  What’s sick?  There are so many shades of grey — I’m not sure.”

– From Catholiceducation.org

All in all. PLEASE don’t go watch or read 50 Shades of Grey. If you have, go to confession! Burn the book! Throw it out with the trash! As a Mother (The group of buyers the book tries to suck in) would you let your son keep a Playboy in his room? Would you let your daughter allow a man to hit her… let alone, HARD? Why is it okay then if we as adults read it? What makes it not affect us like it would affect our children? The answer is nothing. We are what we put in. So don’t put bad things in! 50 Shades of Grey is not full of blurred or grey lines. It is in fact very, very defined and not full of any shades of grey at all. Resist the temptation!

St. Augustine said: ‘Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.’

Now the main reason why I chose to call this blogpost “Whips and Chains Excite Me, probably has to do with I wanted something catchy. And whips, chains and seminarians is definitely “eye-grabbing.” But seriously, this book has been a long time coming. With our culture, theater, and music spreading horrendous things like Rhianna’s S&M (where I got the whips and chains line). A book that softens the look on abuse, porn, and violence, goes right in line with the degrading of the value of the human person and the dignity which each is endowed with.

Let us ask our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, the perfect example of a chaste, caring, and loving family, to pray for us and for our world as we renew our attention to defending human dignity and praying for it’s greater respect from conception to natural death. As we continue to walk this way of beauty toward Heaven, let us pray for a greater respect of real beauty, which has been placed by God in the human person. Feel free to comment your thoughts and share this post!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph - Pray for us!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph – Pray for us!

Notate Bene – Researching some of the things about this book worried me. I tried to stay as clear away from images/and excerpts from the book because I don’t want to invite that type of evil into my life. If reading any of the excerpts or seeing the covers of the book led you to be scandalized I apologize, it was not my intent. As of late we have been discussing this book with some interest at school and at the seminary. All of us pray that we can reverse the damage already done by the movie and book and that souls will be saved. I offered my rosary tonight in reparation for the sins against the human person committed by this movie. I encourage you to do the same.

Walking the Way of Beauty: Speak lord, your servant listens

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In this period I have recalled several times the need for every Christian, in the midst of the many occupations that fill our days, to find time for God and for prayer. The Lord himself gives us many opportunities to remember him. Today I would like to reflect briefly on one of these channels that can lead to God and can also be of help in the encounter with him. It is the way of artistic expression, part of that “via pulchritudinis” — the “way of beauty”, of which I have spoken several times and whose deepest meaning must be recovered by men and women today.” – Pope Benedict XVI (31, Aug. 2011)

Usually I change my blog design in the Spring, something new, fresh, etc. This time, I took it a step further and changed the name and design of my blog completely. Those who know me will tell you that I love beautiful things. I love art, music, architecture, liturgy, woodworking, flowers, etc. For me, beauty has always been a lens through which I am able to see God in my life. Whether it be through the beauty of human achievement and the powers of the mind and intellect or a walk through nature smelling the scent of fresh lawn clippings or feeling the warmth of the sun on my neck through my window as I drive down the road I always find myself smiling and saying: “Thanks, God!”

Beauty is a very prevalent part of what I would define as my spirituality, how I experience God in my life. As I continue through seminary I am constantly amazed at the ways in which God works through our lives. His plan which covers everything down to the most minute detail leaves me speechless at times. In the first reading from 1 Samuel we hear at Mass today of the way in which our Lord called Samuel and the somewhat lengthy way it took for him to finally realize who it was who was speaking to him. In Seminary we listen to his call, we try to interpret it, with the aid of our Spiritual directors, formators, brother seminarians, Bishops, etc. For me, beauty is a way in which I hear Christ speak and call me. It’s no mystery that one of the major factors that drew me to consider a vocation to the priesthood was my involvement with beautiful liturgies growing up. To take something created by God, sometimes imperfect-ed by our human hands, and offer it back up to him in thanksgiving, love, and worship has such a powerful influence on me.

Pope Benedict continuing his address discussing the “via pulchritudinis”  explains how “A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colour and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.”

He goes on: “May the visits to places filled with art, then, not only be opportunities for cultural enrichment — that too — but may they become above all moments of grace, incentives to strengthen our bond and our dialogue with the Lord so that — in switching from simple external reality to the more profound reality it expresses — we may pause to contemplate the ray of beauty that strikes us to the quick, that almost “wounds” us, and that invites us to rise toward God.

I end with a prayer from a Psalm, Psalm 27[26]: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and contemplate his temple” (v. 4).

Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate his beauty, both in nature and in works of art, so that we, moved by the light that shines from his face, may be a light for our neighbor.”

At the end of the Gospel today we hear: “Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” May we be able to listen to our Lord’s call in our own lives, may we who discern his call to whatever vocation he asks respond with Mary’s humble “yes.” And may we who contemplate his temple see the beauty that exists in our world and walk this path, this way of beauty which leads us to him, to God, May the beauty that we create and experience always lead us closer to him, the source of beauty.

So this is the new design for my blog and hopefully more of the path in which I hope to take it. Let me know what you think. Pray for me and I will pray for you as we walk the way of beauty together.

Check out the above video for an excellent organ-based musical piece, from one of my favorite movies.

2014: Gossip, Anger, Forgiveness, Joy, and Blessings

2014. What a year it has been! I am amazed at how quickly the years keep going by. As we keep moving forward in time, we each keep gaining more things to do and fill our time with. This year has been full of blessings without measure. I’m sure that each one of us could name our blessings in this year, but can we name the wrongs we have committed against others and whether or not we have been forgiven them? I’ll reflect on that in a moment, but first here are some of my “top” moments of 2014:

Directing the Brass Quartet

Directing the Brass Quartet

January 2014:

  • March for Life in DC!

March 2014:

  • Attended the 17th annual Youth 2000, my 6th or 7th one!

May 2014:

  • Started working AGAIN at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp & Retreat Center. What a blessing to call this place my second home in Kentucky! I love my Gasper family!

    Working at camp - Selfie!

    Working at camp – Selfie!

June 2014:

  • My dear friend and brother  Will Thompson was ordained a priest! Father Will had a beautiful Ordination and Mass, which I was blessed to take part in.wpid-img_20140601_164852174_hdr.jpg wpid-img_20140614_194054167_hdr.jpg
  • I turned 20! Two decades old, nothing too special about this birthday though!
  • Sponsored my cousin Raymond Musholt, as he was confirmed under the patronage of St Eligius! What a joyous day!

    With Ray (Eligius) at his Confirmation

    With Ray (Eligius) at his Confirmation

  • Participated in St. Joseph, BG’s Corpus Christi Procession. What a wonderful procession with our Lord!wpid-img_20140727_082503102.jpg

July 2014:

  • Celebrated my dear friend Kaffryn’s birthday with a bunch of friends and fun!10492184_10203329489111987_8759803617691381455_n

August 2014:

  • Camp ended 😦
  • Junior year of college seminary began!10414434_10201857998651758_4180219194056489891_n 10704126_10203964369903045_2397698355877978784_n

September 2014:

  • Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary turned 10 years old!
  • Started my ministry assignment at St. Joan of Arc in Indy! I love every minute of it!

October 2014:

  • Parents and Pastors Day with the Brass Quartet and Organ!

November 2014:

  • Attended my second ODYC! Saw lots of amazing campers and friends from across the Diocese!10806489_730417970359575_5743648509804853820_n
  • My third niece, Nora Lynn was born!

December 2014:

  • Went on a 9 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with my brothers from Bruté. What an amazing experience of which I will always remember!10689572_10205559876693166_1067577437774352330_n 10845911_10205544349064985_4690569302940670562_n
    The pilgrim group from the Seminary

    The pilgrim group from the Seminary

    Me, on the Sea of Galilee

    Me, on the Sea of Galilee

    Me, on Mt. Tabor

    Me, on Mt. Tabor

    The Owensboro pilgrims!  (CJ Glaser, Jacob Fischer, me)

    The Owensboro pilgrims!
    (CJ Glaser, Jacob Fischer, me)

    Me in front of the Church of St. Ann

    Me in front of the Church of St. Ann

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    Church of the Pater Noster

    Church of the Pater Noster

    Basilica of St. Stephen

    Basilica of St. Stephen

  • Saw my new niece for the first time!
  • Saw my Quincy relatives for the first time in over a year!

As I think of the joys of 2014, I am also reminded of the wrongs I have done and what I must continue to do. I call to mind St. Paul’s First letter to the Thessalonians:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

It amazes me how much energy we as humans give to being angry and upset toward others. We talk about each other and gossip about who’s with who, what that person did that we didn’t like, how we are going to let that person have it because of this one time… The list goes on and on and on! We waste so much precious time being angry and upset at each other instead of giving our brothers and sisters what the Lord offers each of us at every moment: forgiveness.

Personally I struggle at times with forgiving others for their transgressions against me. Call it my german-blood, stubbornness, or just pride, it is something that I and most humans struggle with. The ability to forgive others is a virtue that we can all do with more of. So how do we get it? Well, one of the things I have done since middle school is each night, placing the names of those who irritated me, wronged me, or who are angry at me and place them at the foot of the Cross, giving them from myself to our Lord, the Just judge and letting him deal with it. Through letting Christ work on the Hearts of those who are angry at me and through forgiving those who have wronged me I tend to be a much happier person.

Now, I’m not perfect and sometimes I do tend to be angry at others, but each night I am faithful to asking our Lord to give me the grace to forgive and moving on. Each new day is a new start to be Christ to others and receive him from others into my own life. During our pilgrimage to the Holy Land a few weeks ago, Tony, our tour guide told us of the significance of “turning the other cheek.” To smack a man with the back of your hand was to take away his dignity and treat him as not human. When the man would then turn his cheek the other way, you had to smack him again with your palm, acknowledging that he was a man and deserved respect. In a way you forgave him of his wrong. As we progress to this new year, let us turn the other cheek. Let us forgive and forget. And let us devote all of our new energy to praying without ceasing for others, for building up God’s kingdom and for spreading his Gospel of love throughout the world!

2014 is a year in the books! Let’s pray for the blessings of 2015 and for the good work we will be able to accomplish together for Christ’s glory in these next 365 days! Thank-you all for your support, love, and prayers over this past year. Without them, I couldn’t be where I am today. May God reward you in this New Year

To God be the glory! To the heights!

O Mary my Mother, I consecrate to Jesus your Son, through your Immaculate Heart all of the actions, experiences, and undertakings of 2015. I ask that you watch over me in this new year as you always do, and that our Lord will bless each person that I come in contact with. Make me an humble instrument of the Lord, as you were. Help me to accept his will in my life and to surrender myself more completely to his plan. O Mary, Mother of God lead me to your Son, the source of my happiness and joy, the giver of my Salvation. AmenCapture2

If your brother has sinned against you…Community living

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Being a seminarian means living in community. It can be rough at times, you live, eat, pray, sleep, and work besides 40 or so men your own age and you really get to know each other. I mean REALLY get to know each other. I always say that my seminarian friends are my best friends that I have ever and will ever have, and that is true. We share intimate things with one another, it’s all part of the formation process.

Whether it be asking your brother to pray for you because you are struggling with a particular sin, asking them about their spiritual life practices as a way to enhance your own, or just unloading all of the struggles that you have been having that day to someone and having them listen and give you support, seminary community life is full of such moments. In Formation, both spiritual and human, we are encouraged to go deep, to  in a sense: “Stretch out our nets for a catch” Luke 5:4. Formation can be a challenge. There, I’ve said it. Having someone else tell you what they see you struggling with, holding you accountable, and encouraging you to grow can be hard. Why? Because we as humans like to be private! We don’t like to let people inside and see our broken-ness, our failings, our hurts, and our fears.

But, it is necessary! For growth! For Holiness! For Heaven!

Living in community, has it’s moments. Good and bad. I like to normally focus on the good, but for a short post, I want to focus on the bad.

“If your brother has sinned against you…”
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
 and there recall that your brother

has anything against you, 
leave your gift there at the altar,
 go first and be reconciled with your brother. Matthew 5:23-24

Living in Community, we tend to rub down each other’s hard edges into smooth spots, but in order to do that, we find our sharp spots and those tend to hurt. Christ, in Matthew’s Gospel says that when we go to the Altar and recall that our brother has sinned against us, we should first go and make amends with him, before we continue at the Altar. This has always been something that I have found beneficial to myself. If I am going to go and receive communion, I have to be free of hatred, envy, anger, toward my brothers. The sign of peace that we give to our closest neighbors at Mass is just that. A sign of peace, of an end to division, an end to anger against our neighbor.

God has a sense of humor, or at least he likes to make me smile and say, “Gee, thanks God! I’ve really been foolish this time!” There’s countless moments, I find, as I go about my day, in which I laugh at my own stupidity. Laugh at my own humaness.

Recently, I went to Mass in the morning after finding out the night before a sin that my brother had committed against me. It was an action which really cut close to home and made me feel quite upset. I had prayed the night before for God to give me the strength to deal with it and for Mamma Mary to help me to forgive him. Lo and behold during Mass the next morning, celebrated in Mary’s honor I was near the brother who sinned against me. While I struggled with the idea of forgiving him, when the time of peace came around I felt an immense sense of peace and as I offered him a sign of peace I made peace with him.

There is much to be said of forgiveness. Christ, forgave his killers as he hung across the cross, countless saints have forgiven their persecutors. Imagine what this world would be like if people learned to make peace with one another and forgive each other’s short comings. Something which I pride myself in trying to remind myself constantly that I am a sinner and when others sin against me, I could have sinned against them first. Let by-gones, be just that. By-gones! Let now-be’s, be now-be’s!

Live in each moment. Take each day, each encounter as a gift from God. Strive for what is eternal! Leave behind the temporal vices of this life! Forgive, be at peace, reconcile yourselves to each other. If your brother has sinned against you, do not let the sun go down on your anger, forgive him. Because hopefully in the future, he will forgive you.

murillo

Insights into the Battle for Holy Purity from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Hellfire: Judge Frollo before his fireplace

Hellfire: Judge Frollo before his fireplace

Purity, Chastity, Virginity, all of these terms surround topics of wide discussion among our youth and adults. In case you didn’t know, I LOVE watching Disney musicals, in fact, I love almost any musical, with several of them holding the title of “favorite. Ask any of the men I go to seminary with, or the men and women I work with at camp and they will tell you of my love of musicals. I sing lines from them to entertain kids, one of my favorites when leaving a table is Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita. Or when leading a group in the blind caterpillar: “Come along and follow us” from POTH’s Love Never Dies.

Music, to me speaks to the soul and helps us teach us lessons of life, as well as increasing our love  of Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas once  said:”Music is the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal, bursting forth in sound.” Isn’t that lovely? I love music!

I have always said that Disney musicals are not really for children, they are for adults and here’s the reason why:

1. Disney films tend to contain largely adult inuendos and things, which a child should never be shown. Why do we think that most children are first exposed to pornography at age 10? (yes, because it’s easily accessible) Because we flood their brains with advertisements and subliminal messages in the movies that they watch. Granted, we don’t show our kids “porn” in their kids movies, but the movies do talk about heavily adult themes. (Whether or not adults should be shown them is another story altogether.)

2. Disney musicals tend to have some of the BEST musical scores and combined with their words and the animations associated with them, you can go very deep in discussing what they could mean.

Today, I want to discuss one of my favorite Disney Musicals of all time: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, released in 1996. This film could be the subject of a book, as there are so many symbols and hidden meanings which appear in it, both visually and audibly.

One of the common themes which appears in many movies’ musical scores, is the ancient chant: Dies Irae, or Day of wrath.  It usually occurs in movies right before something or someone dies. It appears in movies such as: Star Wars IV, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lion King, The Lord of the Rings, The Exorcist,  and more. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll always spot it in other movies. And when you hear it, it’s like a present on Christmas Morning! For more history on it, as well as what other films it appears in, click here.

In the first part of the Hunchback when Quasimodo’s mother is being chased down the streets of Paris by Judge Claude Frollo (Who, in the book is actually the Archdeacon of the Basilica, not the judge.) we hear the haunting melody which plays along with the pace of the horse galloping down the street. The chant fits perfectly here as it exposes the film not only as a film which has meanings of life or death, but also the moment is one which is a play on words.

Dies iræ! Dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.

This play on the words of the Dies Irae, talking of the wrath and doom impending for Quasi’s Mother, (foretelling her death on the steps of Notre Dame) and also the “Sentence” descending from the “Judge” (Frollo) makes me laugh. Hey, I’m a latin and a music nut, so these type of things amuse me!

You can watch the afore mentioned scene here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POzUUn9Wnbc

Back to the subject of the title of this post though, The Battle for Holy Purity, Let’s take a quick refresher on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us about purity:

I. PURIFICATION OF THE HEART

2517 The heart is the seat of moral personality: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication. . . . “305 The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance:

2520 Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail

2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

2531 Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God.

So purity, is something that we all struggle with at one point or another in our lives. I say struggle, because we struggle with the temptation to remain pure. Being impure can mean a variety of things, it can mean: masturbation(self abuse), premarital sex, dressing immodestly, or a host of other things. Through our Baptism, we are washed clean of ALL sin in that moment, but because of our fallen nature, we have to struggle to resist the temptations of the flesh and desires which are disordered and point us away from God. In the end, after striving to live according to God’s law we will hopefully be with him in Paradise. But, by practicing purity and having a pure heart, here on Earth, we are able to see things here on earth, more so as God sees them. (i.e. the good in others, wanting to will the good of others, desire to see others succeed, loving purely, etc.)

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Judge Frollo has a famous scene, one of which many say is the BEST evil antagonist scene in all of Disney’s movies. The scene is know as Hellfire. By far, it is the BEST scene (musically speaking) in the entire movie! Maybe even in all Disney movies…

Here’s a link to watch it, please go ahead and watch it (it will open up in a new window) and then come back here so we can talk about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqGL9B_TPTI

Okay, so what did you notice about it? Here’s some main point wrap ups, that we will dissect:

1. The Archdeacon, followed by Friars, chanting and swinging a thurible (the gold dish with incense coming out) singing in Latin. (Yes it’s Latin, not Spanish!)

2. The hymn, which they are chanting is the Confiteor (We will get into why this is so important.)

3. Frollo starts to sing in Latin as well, before switching to English (even though he is in France…hmmm…haha)

4.The phrase Frollo sings first is Beata Maria Blessed Mother

5.The imagery, ie. Starts in Basilica, Frollo looks out window toward Basilica then to the fire, image of Esmerelda dirtily dancing in fire, inquisition like shapes of monks judging him, Kicks the soldier reporting out, Falls down in the shape of a Cross on the ground of an empty room at the end.

Okay, so you saw at the beginning the Archdeacon and the Friars walking around and singing for Vespers. (Judging by the sun going down, I would presume that it would be Compline though, which is why they were chanting the Confiteor. (It is chanted during the public recitation of Compline or Night Prayer.)

What is the Confiteor? If you’re Catholic you pray it at every Sunday Mass, it is the public acknowledgment of our sin. After reciting it, the priest absolves us of our Venial sins. (May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our…) We pray it following the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of Mass, and before the  Lord have Mercy and Gloria (if there is one.)

I have provided the entire text of the video piece below. My comments throughout it are in red.

Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti (I confess to God almighty)
Beatae Mariae semper Virgini (To blessed Mary ever Virgin)
Beato Michaeli archangelo (To the blessed archangel Michael)
Sanctis apostolis omnibus sanctis (To the holy apostles, to all the saints)

Here, the Archdeacon and the Friars start to acknowledge their own sins, as they close their day by praying Compline.

Beata Maria (Blessed Mary)

Frollo, here acknowledges Mary as he looks out the window towards  Notre Dame (translated as: Our Lady) Throughout the movie, Notre Dame is a symbol of innocence, and purity of both mind and heart for all in the film. Whenever themes of purity, innocence, or right judgement come up in the movie, Notre Dame appears somehow. The scene of Frollo, closing his night, acknowledges the church, his faith, and Momma Mary is touching, it shows that underneath everything evil about him, he still has some ray of good. 

You know I am a righteous man
Of my virtue I am justly proud

Here, he starts to show his pridefulness, and his thinking that sin is above him.

Et tibit Pater (And to you, Father) (Sung by Archdeacon) Shows that God is still to whom this prayer is directed, but for now, Frollo is asking the Blessed Mother for help.

Beata Maria
You know I’m so much purer than
The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd

Here, his pride gets out of hand and it is where I believe he falls and begins to sin. I am reminded of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee in the temple, how one begged for forgiveness and the other judged him.

Quia peccavi nimis (That I have sinned) I said, I thought this was where he began to sin, no?

Then tell me, Maria
Why I see her dancing there
Why her smold’ring eyes still scorch my soul

Here Frollo is imagining impure thought of Esmerelda and is trying somewhat to see why he is having these thoughts, what lies beneath?

Cogitatione (In thought) Again, acknowledging that he is having impure thoughts.

I feel her, I see her
The sun caught in raven hair
Is blazing in me out of all control

Here, he is really getting into his impure thoughts and is letting them become his reality. (He is lustfully thinking about Esmerelda)

Verbo et opere (In word and deed) He has sinned here.

Like fire
Hellfire
This fire in my skin
This burning
Desire
Is turning me to sin

Here, he is acknowledging that he is sinning and recognizes it as such.
It’s not my fault And then, he forgets all of that, and tries to blame it on someone else.

Mea culpa (Through my fault) The Archdeacon and Friars echo that it is through MY fault. (Excellant play on Frollo’s words, almost judgmental you could say.)

I’m not to blame

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

It is the gypsy girl
The witch who sent this flame Here, Frollo has blamed his impurity on Esmerelda. (Who, could have some responsibility with it, as she does dress somewhat immodestly, with low cut blouse, etc.)

Mea maxima culpa (Through my most griveous fault)

It’s not my fault

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

If in God’s plan Here, he turns to blaming his sin on God.

Mea culpa (Through my fault)

He made the devil so much
Stronger than a man Confirmed.

Mea maxima culpa (Through my most griveous fault)

Protect me, Maria Starts to ask Mary to help him, protect him from his impure thoughts.
Don’t let this siren cast her spell
Don’t let her fire sear my flesh and bone
Destroy Esmeralda And forgets it all, blaming Esmeralda for all of his sin, instead of accepting it himself.
And let her taste the fires of hell
Or else let her be mine and mine alone
Hellfire
Dark fire
Now gypsy, it’s your turn
Choose me or Back to sinning, he starts to give ultimatums to Esmeralda to choose to be with him in sin, or he will burn her for not doing so.
Your pyre
Be mine or you will burn

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

God have mercy on her Still a little judging from Frollo

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

God have mercy on me Ironic, no? but still, he is asking for forgiveness.

Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)

But she will be mineAnd he finishes by wanting to stay in his sin.
Or she will burn!

 

Now, I have to say that whoever did the research for Disney and compiled the Confiteor in the way that they did was genius. Everything flows and it retains most of the structure of the original prayer. Well done!

The Imagery which is involved in Hellfire has much to do with Frollo struggling with purity as well. Throughout the movie, the Basilica of Notre Dame stands as as symbol of purity and innocence, Frollo stands looking out the window toward the Basilica at the beginning of the Confiteor, he starts his night pure, and seeking to follow the will of God. Then he goes down hill. Pride, the root of most sin, leads him to more sin and he shuts himself away in his room, with only his temptations to keep him company. As the Confiteor progresses Frollo begins to feel the weight of his sin. (shown by the Inquisition styled Monks) Frollo then, when he is interupted in his sin, he kicks the soldier who disturbs him out. At the end of Hellfire, Frollo falls down in the shape of a Cross on the ground of an empty room, alone.

This post is inspired by talking with many of the young men at camp this Summer and from teaching the kids about the difference in what the culture teaches us and what Christ asks us to do.

As we travel through our lives on our journey to Heaven we strive for many things. One of the things which seems to be afflicting our youth, and more and more people in the world is the struggle for purity. Whether it means, staying pure as in not masturbating, having premarital sex, etc. I’m reminded of questions from campers this summer, who asked: “How far is to far when making out?” “If you’re not having sex, but just masturbating, by yourself why is it wrong? You’re not harming anyone.” and other questions like it.

Some talk of having a “God-Hole” in our hearts, while I don’t agree with this statement, per se, I do agree that we are searching for things that only God can fill. Things, which give us much joy, peace, love, security, etc. These are things which the world can offer us for a time, but in the end only God can fill those things we desire permanently. St. Augustine talks of desiring eternal vs. temporal goods. He goes so far as to even say that children, family, etc. are temporal goods and keep us from following after and striving for things eternal.

We were made for Heaven. We were made for union with the Trinity in Heaven. Our life is filled with striving for eternal goods. Death is but a passing moment, Heaven is eternal. Each of us is dying. Where we go, we choose ourselves. Live a holy and virtuous life or a sinful life, that choice is up to us. We were made for God, we were made for greater things.

In battling for Holy Purity there are many steps that we can take to stay pure, to stay holy for Christ. Engaging in the battle for purity is a way of striving for eternal things. This post has gone on long enough, but I will be publishing a follow-up soon of how we can learn from Judge Frollo’s mistakes. I’d like to close with a line from the beginning of the movie, which I feel explains Judge Frollo’s thoughts, but encourage us to look inside ourselves and see what sins we have attachment to, and start finding ways to battle those sins and fight for Christ!

“Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin,
And he saw corruption everywhere… except within.”

Look inside yourself, pray about what you can start doing to fight sin in your life. See you next time, and keep the faith!

End of the Year… And where, I will be this summer…

Well, here it is the end of my sophomore year in College seminary! It has been a year full of many blessings, great joys, saddnesses, and growth. I am currently in the middle of taking a break from finals studying, so I will make this short and sweet.

Congratulations to one of my Bruté, brother seminarians, Dominic Rankin (who is also from Quincy, IL. and the Diocese of Springfield)Dominic was recently accepted to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, for Major Seminary! Congrats Dominic! Here is a link to his blog post about it, as well as his other fantastic blog posts: http://openwidethedoorsforchrist.blogspot.com/2014/04/an-important-announcement-ii.html

I will be leaving Saturday for home, I will get home later that afternoon, and then take Emily to Murray to leave for her Mission Trip at 2am. (Eek!) actually, I rather enjoy late night trips like that, because of the prayer time they give me. There is something so beautiful and natural of being the only one on a dark road with stars out and praying to Christ.

Wednesday I will leave for staff training at camp. Yes, that’s right! I will be back at camp this summer. I’m looking forward to it!

100_0363 gasper_river

Well, back to studying and Mass I go. Have a blessed week! St. Joseph of Cupertino – Pray for me!!