24 Hours in Antigua – A time to encounter

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“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho The Alchemist

Coelho’s The Alchemist  has long been a favorite book of mine, ever since my Highschool sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Rachel Gavin recommended it to me. The story covers a young man, (interestingly a former seminarian) on his discernment journey as he seeks to discover to where he is being called in the world. He has many adventures and the book recounts those travels he makes, those little “Parenthesis (  ) in eternity.”

I’ve been absent from my blog for a while now, as I was busy with school things again. Now that it is the summer I thought I’d use the time to post more, especially about my experiences here in La Antigua, Guatemala. Yes, dear Toto that’s right. I’m no longer in Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, or Kentucky anymore. In fact I’m quite a bit south in Central America spending my summer doing  a Spanish immersion course at the “Probigua” school here in Antigua. I’ll give more details about the school as time goes on. For now, I’d like to focus on what my first 24 hours has been like, share some photos with you all and then go to bed, because my first day of class starts in the morning.

I arrived at the airport in Guatemala City at 12:08 pm. Somehow (and I don’t remember doing this) I must have turned my watch an hour back at some point. Who knows? I was on the wrong time until 2:13 pm until I asked my House Mom what the time was. LOL

Anywho, it took me almost 13 hours to go from Bowling Green, KY to Antigua. After arriving at the airport, I was met by Reginaldo, my driver sent from the school who took me on a little over an hour drive to Antigua. Curvy roads, crazy traffic, and no uses of turn signals, just honks of the horn led us out of town into the beautiful, and I mean BEAUTIFUL mountains. Then we went down down down, left paved roads and for a brief moment it seemed, civilization behind as the van began to bump, jerk, and pitch on the cobblestone streets of beautiful La Antigua.

As we drove along, I thought to myself: “gee, this place is bigger than I thought.” Bright colors, clay tile roofs, crumbling plaster, statues of saints, churches, ruins of churches, people, smiling people, laughing people, kissing people (apparently the park near my house is where the young teenagers go scuba diving or something. It’s a wonder after the length of their kisses that they don’t need to come up for air sooner. HAHA just kidding.) working people, poor people, people driving Jeeps, people driving Audis, Volvo’s, Volkswagens, Toyotas… the list goes on and on and on.

Once we arrived at my house, we stood out side the gate, me looking up at it, waving hello to the two women making tortillas in the store across the road, and my driver climbing in the van and beginning to pull away. “Wait!,” I exclaimed as he stopped inching forward. “Is someone coming to the gate?” I asked. “Sí, he’s coming.” “Reginaldo replied and sure enough the gate began to open. But it wasn’t a man. It was my Madre de la casa, my House Mom, Sñra. Flores! “Corey, Bienvenido a Antigua y mi casa!” she said.

And then it got real.

Really real.

Reginaldo spoke english and didn’t practice spanish with me on the way down. Sñra. Flores only spoke to me in spanish. I only spoke to her in spanish. Did I just communicate for 15 minutes in spanish? I thought to myself as I sat my backpack down on my bed inside my room she had shown me to? Yes. Yes I had. Wow. Never in my life have I done that before.

Sñra. Flores made me a delicious lunch of rice, and chile de renos and pickled cucumbers. After getting a key from her, as well as the Wifi password, I texted my Mom, Vocation directors, priest friends, and others who were wondering about my safe travels to let them know that all was well and I was happy.

But was I really happy? The truth is, when Father Andy and Father Josh gave me a blessing before I got in the car with Preston to drive down to Nashville at 2 in the morning, my stomach was doing flips. Infact, until lunch, my stomach was doing flips. After lunch, they stopped but then they started again. Oh no. Not indigestion, not the cucumbers, what did I eat? Maybe she didn’t actually have purified water for me to drink? What if I get mugged? What if I die here?

Oh shut up Corey. You need Jesus.

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You haven’t gone to Mass yet today and you need to pray. So I asked Sñra for directions (in Spanish) and I headed out to find my parish for the summer: La Merced.

La Merced is an absolutely beautiful parish, built in a spanish baroque style. I walked around the church, found the Beautiful Blessed Sacrament Chapel, plopped down and prayed. I asked Our Lady and our Lord to really help me this summer. I asked them to help me be at home. To quench my home-sickness, to help me to grow in faith and love. And to fill that parenthesis, that Paulo Coelho talked of with a summer of abundant blessings. And after praying my rosary, I kept falling asleep so I headed back to my casa for a little siesta.

I was awakened to the sound of Sñra. Flores calling from downstairs: “Corey…. Corey….Corey….Corey….” And I in a half asleep state after recognizing that it wasn’t a dream answered: “I’m coming! Un momentito por favor!” There went my first english words. LOL. I had a lovely dinner (which I had forgotten about in my tired state) with Sñra Flores and her daughter Daniella. We had Guatemalan Tamales, different but just as tasty as the mexican tamales I have grown up with. I had a lovely time speaking in spanish to them, they spoke slowly so I could understand them and we found out more about one another. We canonized my Mom, for having trisos or triplets and I shared photos, laughed, had questions answered: “Que hora es la Misa a La Merced En la Mañana?” What time is the Mass at La Merced in the morning.

I then retired for the evening and fell quickly back asleep. Waking up around 4am to the sound of the local dogs barking, I went back to sleep for a couple hours and then got up and started my day. It was a beautiful morning. 70ish degrees, sun out, etc. I said good morning to the tortilla lady across the street, walked through the park (figured out part of it is where the dogs leave their business so I needed to cross the road) and went to La Merced for my first Mass in Antigua. It was the Feast of Pentecost! I prayed my office prior to Mass, was joined by a couple of kind couples in the pew and understood most of Fathers homily. He’s a very engaging preacher. And after 34 minutes, I’m glad he was so engaging. lol

After Mass, they had Presentations of around 12 babies. Father would pray, throw a bunch of holy water on them, they would cry, he would lift them up above the people (to my eye level lol) and then we would applaud. It was a bit different than in America, but this was the quick version from what I gathered. I prayed mid-morning prayer as it was now 10:24 or so and headed down the street in search of brunch. Father Gary had recommended me to try Luna de Miel. I am so glad I did. They make sweet and savory crepes as well as smoothies. A delicious, cheese, bean, and ham crepe with a watermelon/mint/OJ smoothie and aqua pura a bottle of water while sitting on a balcony overlooking part of the city was perfect. At 11am the bells of the church started to ring and the next Mass began. I loved listening to the bells all day long.

33159079_10216511719042380_8287542141010313216_n.jpgAfter Brunch, I went walking, exploring, getting my bearings on things. I had already found the school last night, so I wanted to venture out even more. I ended up first finding and taking the necessary picture in front of the Arch of Saint Catherine. Arco de Santa Catalina. Walked into some beautiful shops with kind shopkeepers who visited with me, inquired where I was from, where I went to school in town, how long I was visiting for, where I had been, and offered assistance in directing me to places I wanted to visit. They even promised prayers for me when they found out I was a seminarista. Like Paulo said: In each moment ” we have stopped to encounter each other, to love, and to share.” Part of the Spanish immersion involves sharing. And strangely my extroverted side was working overtime and I was making friends, meeting people, and speaking to them in spanish all within my first 24 hours. Wow!

I visited downtown in the Parque Central, found where I could go to the bank in the 32951021_10216511697881851_8684240189645651968_n.jpgmorning to obtain some more Guatemalan currency. (Thankfully both places I ate at accepted USD, but thanks to Robin Murphy, now an alumnus of Saint Meinrad, she had sent me with about $20 worth of Quetzales, so I used that for my meals today.

I visited a few more places, then headed back to the casa as it was starting to get rather warm. I purchased some bottled water for brushing my teeth on my way back, got back to my room and took a nice siesta. did some reading. Afterwards, it was time for dinner so I went in search of a new place. I had passed a few cool restaurants on my way earlier in the day, so I headed back to the parquet central to see what I could find. I ended up in a beautiful little Café Condessa or the Café Contessa, named after the beautiful old home 33139970_10216511715402289_1018768080857202688_n.jpgbelonging to a line of Counts and Countesses it was located in. I kept thinking back to one of my favorite films: “The Count of Monte Cristo” even though they speak french and I was speaking spanish. I was able to FaceTime my Mom there for a bit before the Wifi started to cut out more and then I switched to texting.

After a delicious meal, I headed to see the old Cathedral, pray EP, and work my way up some new streets back toward La Merced, so that I could pray my rosary and make a Holy Half Hour. I wanted to beat the rain. Luckily I did, made it home, and was able to type up this little blogpost about my time thus far.

Hopefully, as the summer goes on, I’ll be able to incorporate

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The Old Cathedral

more spanish into my posts (and translations) as well as photos and stories of my time here, the people I encounter, and the place which already I am coming to love very very much. This is truly a precious moment in my formation, in my life, and in my journey to become the man God has created me to be. Pray for me that my time might be fruitful, that I might be generous, and that I might be able to as I prayed this morning on the Feast of Pentecost, to speak in Spanish. The Apostles could be heard in many different languages, I for now, only ask to be heard and be able to use one.

Good night, Buen Noche desde Antigua! I’m praying for you. I hope you’ll say a prayer for me!

 

Top left: Shrine to Christ in the Sepulcher in the old Cathedral

Top Right: Mass times in the old cathedral: Quote: “There exists no sin, that God cannot forgive! None!” – Pope Francis

Lower left: Church ruins near my house

Lower right: the little inner courtyard going to my house and others.

 

My Vocation Story

The following is my Vocation Story up to this point. Why do I say  up to this point? Because, it is a never ending process. Until the day I die I will always be seeking to discover and discern where/to what God is calling me to next. The following are just specific points along the way

All three of us in the Fall of 2013.

All three of us in the Fall of 2013.

that have stood out to me. Pray for me, that I may discern well, you are all in my prayers daily!

Growing up I was always encouraged to do whatever God wanted me to do. And no matter what my “ideal” job was in my mind my Mom used to always say that I should keep my options open incase God wanted me to be a Priest. Going through my life up until the 5th grade I wanted to be everything from a Construction Worker to a Veterinarian, but the thought of a being a priest was never that high on the list.

A little background before I start: I was born a triplet in the town of Quincy, IL to my parents Larry and Sue. I have one triplet brother, Brody, one triplet sister, Emily, and two older brothers: Adam and Nathan. (Both of whom are married with children now) In Quincy my family and I attended St. Peter’s which is where Servant of God Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first black priest in America was baptized and did some of his first ministry.(Because of our connection, I have a devotion to him.) My grandparents attend St. Francis Solanus in Quincy, which has had a big impact on my vocation, particularly through several of the Franciscans there.

My vocation story  really starts out in the little town of Beatrice, NE. We had moved to

Our family in Nebraska

Our family in Nebraska

Nebraska when I was in the second grade. My Dad had just got a job there and we moved to be with him. We made many friends, particularly ones from church. We attended St. Joseph’s and were blessed with two great priests. The then Fr. Mark Seiker and Fr. Finnian, who was a priest from Africa. Our faith really began to take off in Beatrice, not that we weren’t Catholic in Quincy or such, but too me it seemed to really take off. Mom was involved with the Ladies Sodality at the parish, which was blessing not only for her, but also for our family as it helped deepen our prayer life. My dad was involved with the Men’s group and we three kids went faithfully to CCD, and Mass with my parents. There is something unique thought about our time spent in Beatrice. I distinctly remember going to Holy Hours throughout the week. If memory serves, it seemed like we went each Saturday before Mass, as well as different points throughout the week. I remember Mom taking us there with her to pray, since Mom was a teacher she knew the value of good books and we were blessed to always have good Catholic books to read during adoration. We were particularly fond of books about the saints. They had a statue of the Infant of Prague in an alcove, with a basket of saint books under, that we would always peruse.

I remember even then looking at saints and praying about who I should choose as my confirmation saint down the road. (It was between John Bosco, Nicholas of Myra, and Francis of Assisi (Francis won, though I hold the others as patrons as well)) There was a statue of St. Theresé of Liseuix off to the left of the church in an alcove near the confessional, and for some reason I have always had a devotion to her since then. I remember dealing as a child with nightmares of hell, demons, etc. One time in particular I remember being at my grandparents and hearing a terrible voice saying that it was going to get me and that I was a sinner and that I was doomed to Hell. I ran out to the garage crying where my Grandma was and told her about it. Her words of advice have always stuck with me, she prayed a Hail Mary with me and told me if I ever heard the voice again to pray and ask Mary to defend me with the help of my guardian angel. Back in Beatrice I remember thinking about it and looking over at St. Theresé and seeing the shape of someone kneeling in front of it, facing toward the tabernacle, and they were shining with a white light. I asked Mom who it was and she didn’t see anything. I always took it as either a sign of my guardian angel showing that it too prayed with me and was there with me, or it was the trick on the eyes of a child, whatever it was it certainly deepened my faith.

I remember sitting and praying there in the church during the time, reading about the saints and falling in love with the Eucharist. My siblings and I received our First Holy Communion there by intinction. (sort of a neat fact) It was either at our First Communion, or our First Confession that I remember getting to sing the Alleluia and Alleluia verse prior to Fr. Finnian reading the Gospel. (I never thought that one day I would be leading the community as I intoned it at seminary years later!) The year we spent living in Nebraska was one of much peace, love, and happiness for my siblings and I. Sadly, I know my Mom and Dad struggled more than we did with being so far away from our family in Quincy, but I would have never known it.

Christmas came, and because all of our decorations were boxed up in storage, my Mom had the great idea to do an “old-fashioned” Christmas, decorating our real tree (I have yet to have a fake tree for Christmas!) with popcorn, apples, oranges, etc. I remember learning to ride our bikes in the park down the road without training wheels, the pet cemetery, the nature reserve across from our apartment where we got in trouble for catching grass hoppers for a class project. (If they hopped across to our side of the road we could keep them, go figure!) It was a time of much joy, spiritual growth, relying on Jesus in the Eucharist to console us as we missed our family and where I believe my vocation story really began. Thanks to my Mom, my siblings and I all have a great love, devotion, and sense of reverence to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and love to make Holy Hours.

After our year in Beatrice, we said good bye to our friends and apartment as we moved yet again to Marion, Kentucky where Dad had got a different job. I have lived in Marion ever since then, and while not having a Walmart or Kohls is a slight drawback, I wouldn’t change it for anything. It didn’t take long for us to get active in Marion, make friends and we had started attending St. William’s Catholic church down the road. Mom would still have us pray a family rosary, and during Lent/Advent my siblings and I got to choose devotions to do as a family each night.

Life was good and after one year of living there it came time to get a dog. We had a had

Maggie and the triplets

Maggie and the triplets

animals growing up in Quincy and because we had to put our Golden down shortly after we moved to Nebraska, Mom had promised that we would get a dog once we had lived in Kentucky for one year. So in May of 2003, my Grandma came for a visit and all of us went to Fancy Farm, Kentucky to look at Labrador Retrievers. One month later we returned to Fancy Farm and then home, this time with a growing yellow ball of fur who we named Magnolia (Maggie). Maggie was my joy, even though she had her temperamental qualities like nibbling on your back if you weren’t paying her attention, or digging up moles, wounding them, then leaving me to finish killing them. She was my best friend growing up, but I’ll continue on:

Later during the month of June St. William’s received a new pastor; Fr. Richard Cash. My family always went to the Saturday morning Mass at St. William’s and my brother and I had started serving for Fr. Bruce Fogle. Fr. Bruce is such a genuine man who really welcomed my family into the parish and was one of the first to show me that priests can have fun. (My siblings and I would have snowball fights with Father in the parking Lot after we left Mass on Saturdays.)

On the Saturday that I first met Fr. Cash I remember Mom and Dad were gone somewhere for something and an older couple from the parish who we called Grandpa Mike and Grandma Annie picked us up to take us to church. I remember Grandpa Mike pulling up in his white pickup, Brody and I sat in the bed with their dog Jake, Emily rode with them in the cab and we went to church early, so that we could welcome our new pastor.  I remember this “old man” driving up and getting out of the car and walking over to talk with all of us. Little did I know that Father was not “old,” rather he was in his 40’s and his hair was just turning grey. We all introduced ourselves and he asked if Brody and I were going to serve. We said yes, and proceeded to help him carry his things into the church. One of the things he handed us was a pillow that he told us to sit behind the Altar. Confused, my brother asked what it was for, Father replied: “Incase I get sleepy and want to take a nap during Mass.” (I later learned that Father used pillows as bookrests for the missal on the Altar.)

That day was the start of a great friendship between my family and Father Cash, one that has had a huge impact on my life. Father would come over with Aaron our organist at church to eat Easter dinner with us or come to our Mardi Gras birthday party for our grandma. He was a great role model and one whom I looked up to immensely. He taught my brother and I how to serve with the help of another dear friend: Jim Butler. Our Liturgies at the tri-parishes (of which St. William’s was a member) were always beautiful and steeped in tradition. We used incense, and torches for the procession and Consecration, we wore Cassock and Surplice, and we learned the proper ways to ring bells and polish the metal in the church.

Life was good. Then one day Fr. Cash announced that he was being moved. I remember going home and my whole family seemed sad. We knew that we would still keep in touch with Father, but we were definitely going to miss him. One of his last Sunday’s after Mass the five of us young boys who always served Mass, reverenced the cross, gave Father hand shakes for a job well done and then listened to him tell us some advice. It was in this moment that I learned so much respect for the priesthood and how to be humble. Father said something along the lines of: “Promise me that when you all get your new pastor, you will treat him with the same love and respect that you do me. He might not do everything that I do at Mass, and he may celebrate Mass differently, but instead of arguing or being angry I want you all to always remember to say “Yes Father” and do it. Every priest is different and that is good, he will bring new things that will help St. William’s to grow and you all will get to witness it, so keep serving, stay close to Christ, and thank you for always serving! You guys are the best!” These words have stuck with me and I have always remembered that even if I don’t agree with a priest he is still a priest and deserves my respect. Whenever I was asked to do something at Mass or to help the parish I would always say; “yes Father” and give glory to God.

During a Confirmation class at my Parish one day in 5th grade I had a talk with Fr. Cash about my plans in life, he said that after knowing me for awhile he thought that I might have some qualities that would be good in a Priest and encouraged me to ask God what he wanted me to do with my life. From that moment I began to have that question in the back of my mind saying: What would your life be like if you became a Priest? Throughout the years since I have always tried to ask God what he wanted me to do with my life whether it be with a secular job as a husband and father or as a Priest.

My family continued to attend St. William’s in Marion during this time until my 8th grade year, when we changed parishes to go to St. Ann which was located 45 minutes away. People always seem shocked with how far we drive to church each Sunday, driving 45 minutes, vs 5 minutes down the road, but moving to St. Ann was one of the best things we did for the spiritual health of my family and for my own vocation. (Note: When I’m home over break, I still go to St. William’s for Thursday Mass and still keep in contact with those there, as they are where I first felt called to the priesthood.)

Our pastor at St. Ann was Fr. Gerald Baker. Fr. Baker and Fr. Cash both have a love for beautiful Liturgy, something that I have inherited from them. A major part of my vocation story is from serving at the Altar and getting to interact with so many holy priests within the Liturgy. St. Ann not only had beautiful Liturgy, but they also had Perpetual Adoration. If you remember my family has a love for adoration, which started back in Nebraska when my Mom would bring us, continued to our weekly Holy Hour on Saturdays at St. William’s and continues to making time for it today at St. Ann.

I started serving at St. Ann with my brother and got to know Fr. Baker and the then associate, Fr. James Walling CPM. Fr. James and Fr. Baker loved Christ and preached his love from the pulpit each day. They increased our faith in the real presence, preached God’s mercy in confession and truly helped us to blossom and grow. My sophomore year in High School, Fr. Cash was named as our associate at St. Ann, so my family got to have both of our favorite priests under one roof.

Throughout High School, I was blessed to have several great teachers, who even though they were protestant they encouraged me in discerning seminary and the priesthood. My Ag Advisor, Larry Duvall always taught us his students what it meant to be a man of virtue, to give to others freely, and always help those in need. It was through my time in the FFA, that I gained so many valuable leadership skills and experience in leading others. Our Systems Engineer for the district Technology office, Don Winters became a close friend as I worked with him in STLP and running the school help desk in the mornings. His own ministry as a youth minister inspired me to seek to do more. Carol West, our librarian was always there ready to talk to us and encourage us to follow God’s calling. And lastly, all of my English

My new niece Winnie!

My new niece Winnie!

teachers, Mrs. Gavin, Quertermous, McCord, and Lacy always inspired me, as they read my English writings, several of which discussed what I was thinking of doing. Mrs. Quertermous even proof-read my application for seminary for me! I was blessed to go to a fantastic high school, which even though it was public, still retained it’s Christian roots and morals. The staff was always so supportive of each student in achieving our dreams.

Fr. Cash was moved my Senior year, but prior to that he helped me set up an appointment with Dr. Litke, the new Associate Director of Vocations for the Diocese and he had helped me in Spiritual Direction as well. I applied for Seminary the Fall of my senior year and was accepted right after graduation. I always joked about how it took almost 5 months to get my results back from my psychological evaluation. I would walk in the sacristy to serve Sunday Mass and Fr. Baker would alway say: “Well, Mr. Bruns have you found out if you’re crazy yet?” To which I would respond: ‘Well, I already know that!”

Pictures of myself and Fr. Cash and Fr. Baker, as well as my brother Brody.

Pictures of myself and Fr. Cash and Fr. Baker, as well as my brother Brody.

I graduated from high school as Senior Class President and the Vice President for the FFA, STLP, and Beta Club. Life was good. I drove up to seminary in August of 2012 and the rest is recorded on random posts throughout this blog. My vocation story is still developing. I am still discovering what direction Christ is calling me toward. I feel that I am called to be a priest, and that I am in the right spot for now in my life. I am engaging in spiritual and human formation and striving to become the man God created me to be. Whatever direction Christ takes me in my life, I know that he is always there watching, guiding, and guarding. I have had so many people who have walked alongside me in life thus far, and I know that there will be many more. God has blessed me abundantly and continues to do so each day, as he constantly converts my heart and calls me to himself. This is only fraction of my Vocation Story, there is a lot more to it, as well as a lot more people who have played a part. If I were to go in to everything, it would probably take triple the length of this post. So I will spare you the length!!

When was the last time that you thought about your vocation? When was the last time that you invited a young man to consider a vocation to the priesthood? When was the last time that you said yes to God’s will in your life and followed his lead? I encourage you to go, invite that

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young man at your parish to think of seminary! Pray for Vocations! Inspire Vocations by your own life and ministry! The Harvest is abundant but the laborers are few!

Pray, encourage, and invite others to think  about their vocations. Pray for them and please, please in your kindness pray for me!

 

 

 

The above piece, is one of my favorite musical pieces. Enjoy!