My random thoughts on life as I prepare to enter the religious life this summer. "In the first place, you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future! And second: When deciding your future, you must not decide for yourself alone!" -Pope John Paul II

Friday, January 30, 2004

I'm off for retreat

I'm on the team of retreat for high school students called Teens Encounter Christ (TEC). You may have heard of this program. I've never been on one myself, so this should be interesting. I'm giving the talk "Church-People of God." Pretty much, I'll be using Paul's analogy of the body (I Cor 12: 12-31) to talk about some important issues. I talk about how the Church is a great gift from God. At the same time, we are all gifted in certain ways to help the people of God. It starts very briefly with my parents and baptism. Then, I touch upon Adoration, my vocation, saints, the Pope, World Youth Day, Matthew 16:18, service, how the Church has helped me, how I've helped, and much more. Please pray that the Lord may use me as His instrument. Please pray for the candidates and the team.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

First, I'd like to give my thanks to all of you for visiting the site. Thanks for your comments, and for your prayers during the application stage. It was very much appreciated.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor. I believe we should make a movie about his life. Think about how exciting it could be. A young man-very wealthy. His family wants him to be the Abbot of Monte Cassino. He could probably be Pope someday. But, he is attracted to the apostolic life. He wants to follow Christ as a mendicant, a beggar, a Dominican! Well, God has a lot in store for him-including being kidnapped and jailed by his family! His family tempts him with sex, yet the angels help him. And that could be the opening sequence. Then there is the fighting heresy, journeys, brilliant disputations, and simple humility. The Dumb Ox, they called him. I love how he was able to give the "other side's" arguments better than they could. I wish I could debate in such a loving way, calling people to conversion and to the true Faith. And then I think about his relationship with St. Albert the Great! What it must have been like to be there with those two.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for all Dominicans, for all involved in Catholic education, for all engaged in apologists, and for us all.

Here's a book that I found helpful, and inspiring:
Guide to St. Thomas Aquinas by Joseph Pieper.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Thanks be to God, I'm accepted

Well, I am so joyful to report that the application process is now over with results that make me very happy. What a relief! Wow! How exciting this is. The several interviews were tough, but I think went fine.

Saturday afternoon, I was praying in the chapel. The vocations director came into the chapel, I had just finished the Rosary. Fr. says that the admissions board would like to speak to me...so my heart is beating 140 mph...I'm thinking maybe they need to ask me a follow up question or two...Fr.'s face doesn't give anything away...I go into the boardroom. The whole board is there. The vicar provincial says that I should exhale. He says some words about how he represents the board for the provincial, then he says some more things, which I can't remember. Finally, he says, "and I am happy to say, congrats, welcome to the order." Actually the whole thing, from the interviews to the acceptance seem a bit hazy. I can't remember most of the questions they asked me, or exactly what he said when they acccepted me. I was pretty nervous, but I believe the Holy Spirit was helping us all. I pray in thanksgiving for how God has wonderfully lead me to this point in my life. It is fulfillment of lots of discernment, prayer, and struggles. How good it is to be able to follow the Lord in this way. I pray that many more will accept their callings from God. The other men who were accepted give me much to look forward to- a great group of guys. There will be more admissions boards later this year, so I hope we can have a very nice novitiate class. I believe we start in July with the pre-novitiate. That consists of learning basic liturgy, Catholic teachings, and how to live in community. One joke was that we'd be learning how to kneel and bow. Then, in August, we go on a retreat. Finally, in August we receive the Holy habit of the Order to mark the official beginning of the novitiate. How wonderful to be able to partake in this life. Thank you so much for your prayers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Wow! It's almost here. How about some prayers?

"What do you seek?" That is the question the provincial asks at profession.
The answer: "God's mercy and yours."

I think it is appropriate to think of where this whole application process can lead. This weekend is the last stage of the application process for the Order. I will be interviewed by the novice master, as well as a couple sets of brothers. They will ask me questions and put together all the application materials. With this information, they'll come to a decision as to whether they think I have a vocation to the Order, and should try the novitiate. By the end of the weekend, they may come to 3 answers: yes, yes in a year or two, or no. I am a bit nervous. But, I don't think I'm as nervous as I thought I'd be. I take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide me and the board. I ask for their mercy!

After Communion at Mass today, I was so moved that God has led me to this point in my life. How many times had I doubted and been afraid? Many! How many times did I hear that call? Many! He has made it possible to move past the many fears and follow Him. Now I place myself in Jesus' hands and ask that His will be done. I ask for God's mercy! I believe the Lord has led me to this very important point in my life. I continue to pray that His will be done. Won't you join me in prayer?

Please pray for the men applying, for the board, and for those who have already promised us their prayers. Know that I will say some prayers for you, too.
I still can't believe that the decision time is almost here! Wow, how God has moved me! It is incredible! It is wonderful! As I reflect on my life, I see how God has led me to this decisive point in my life. I have come to do His will. "Be not afraid."

Sunday, January 18, 2004

My interview with Dennis Kucinich
I work a few hours as a television reporter each week. My school is in Iowa, the state that the rest of the country will be watching tomorrow evening. We've had most of the Democratic candidates in town this week. Yesterday I interviewed Kucinich. I can say one nice thing about him: he was extremely nice. He gave all the reporters the time of day, unlike Edwards and some others. But...

I asked the candidate, while my heart pumped 120 mph, "The Vatican came out with a declaration declaring that Catholic politicians should not vote pro-choice...How do you feel about this, since that you are Catholic and pro-choice?"
He said, "Was that today?"
I said, "No."
He said, "Well then I can't answer that."
So, that's that. Kucinich quotes the Bible and is Catholic. But, he wouldn't discuss the topic. Well, I guess it wouldn't be the first time. I remember reading an article in Crisis where a reporter did something similiar to Kennedy and other Catholics. Their answers were similiar to the one Kucinich gave me: a look of surprise and challenge.

Meanwhile, after the Kucinich interview, a super-famous Kucinich fan/former SOA protest prisoner, Sister H., give me a straight answer. I asked her about Archbishop Burke in St. Louis. The Archbishop recently told his priests to refuse Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians.
She said, "Bishop Burke is wrong. It's not that he [Kucinich] is pro-abortion. He just supports a women's right to choose."
What? Is it enough that the sister was on stage with her Dennis Kucinich t-shirt? Do you see Jay's eyes rolling now?
And this wouldn't be the first time that a Catholic sister would be on stage with a politician. Two nights ago, a sister was on stage with Kerry, "the Catholic."
And, want some more? Both sisters make hundreds of phone calls for their candidate.
If you have any questions that you want me to ask Gephardt tonight, please leave them in the comments box. I'd be more than happy to ask!

Friday, January 16, 2004

Why OP?
The interest started because I had attended a Dominican high school. I was attracted to the devotion and lives of the sisters. As I learned about Dominican spirituality, I found the 4 pillars of study, ministry, community, and prayer to be the pillars that keep the spiritual house in order; I found peace in this structure of balance. It made sense to me and fit me well. For me, all 4 aspects go hand and hand and should be kept in some equal ratio. In high school, I first felt some inclinations to the priesthood. However, in this entry I want to answer the question: why the Dominicans and not the many other terrific groups? Most importantly, I felt a calling to this group. I feel that this group would help bring out the best in me, so I in return can hopefully bring out the best in the brothers and those we minister to.

Community- From my previous experiences, I felt like I was called to community life. Prayer in community was important to me. Going to a communal ministry site during the day and then coming home and sharing a meal, prayer, and dinner is something I found enriching. Living in that fraternal brotherhood seemed to fit me. My experience visiting several houses, made me feel at home. The community was warm, inviting, and very alive, from the older men to the students, it was very similar. Home. I can't tell you what this feeling is, except that it’s a peace. It's awesome. The community bug bit me.
I also was attracted to the saints of the order. What a sweet bunch! I am also attracted to the youthful enthusiasm that is sweeping this order right now, as seen in the friars and in a few of the women groups. I would be joining good company. All these people, living and dead inspire me to say yes. I also remember listening to a Catholic Answers show about St. Dominic. I was amazed how much their life appealed to me. I attended retreats. I attended professions and an ordination. I read. This community was where I saw myself. I also ran into many Dominicans at WYD. After talking to them and talking to other orders, I felt that if God was really calling me to religious life, it must be to the Order of Preachers.

Prayer- I enjoy the Trappist monk's prayer life, but I feel called to the apostolic life. I was so glad to find out the Dominicans follow some of the traditional monastic observances, namely the chanted office. I see myself growing closer to God in the prayer life of the Order. I see a healthy balance there. And then there is the Rosary. There is an emphasis on blending the contemplative with the active life. Contemplating, and then giving the fruits of contemplation to others, as St. Thomas put it. Of course there is the communal Mass, etc. etc...

Ministry- The Order’s mission is preaching for the salvation of souls. The preaching takes the form of preaching missions, media work, high school and graduate school education, campus ministry, and parish ministry. I was attracted to the many opportunities, all around the province. With this group, I can be moved around, and do a variety of ministries. My gifts and talents seem to match the ministries they provide. These ministries could be areas where I would be able to best serve the people of God. But other orders have similar ministries, so I would say it was the Dominican community and charism that convinced me.

For me, I feel two callings. Not only do I sense a calling to the priesthood, I also feel a calling to be a member of a community, to be a brother. I pray that His will be done

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Since this is Vocations Awareness Week, please join me in a prayer for vocations:

Holy Spirit....
It is You who open the heart and the mind to the Divine call;
it is You who make effective every impetus toward good,
toward truth, toward charity...
Open the heart and minds of your people,
so that a new flowering of vocations may show forth
the fidelity of your love,
and all may know Christ,
the true light come into the world,
to offer to every human being,
the sure hope of eternal life.
~Pope John Paul II
Please Pray for Fr. Benedict Groeschel

Fr. Benedict is in critical condition after being hit by a car. Please pray for him and all who love and know him. This is very sad news. He has done terrific work. I just got done reading a book by him. May the Lord bless him.

Monday, January 12, 2004

A few updates on my journey

I met with the psychologist for our feedback session. It was not very long. Frankly, I wish it would have been a little longer. She told me that I am normal! She also gave some suggestions for improvement. I agree with her on the places that I need to develop. Those who know me well say she painted my picture clearly. I think she did a fine job. But, I do not get my own copy of the report. I think it would be beneficial to give me the same report she gave to the vocation director. I'd be interested to know a lot more about my personality. So, if you go in for a feedback session, ask for more explanations. I did not think of questions until it was too late. It is not everday we are in these kinds of learning situations.

The physical/dental exams went fine.

I am busy at work on my autobiography. I keep thinking of things I want to include. I went from 29 pages to 15. Now I'm back to about 20. For me, this has been the toughest part so far. It has been difficult for me to write my life story and answer the questions they have asked in the allotted 12 pages. I really need to finish it soon. He wants it by tomorrow or so.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Awesome Discernment/Discipleship/Concert Opportunity-Chicago/Rockford

Check out this press release, pretty cool. I wish I could attend. My friend from that area sent it to me, and she'll be attending..She's only one person out of hundreds! Pray for this event.

The weekend of January 9-11, 2004 is a ‘must see’ weekend for over 750 High School and College students. St. Patrick Youth Ministry in St. Charles, Il. is hosting “Here I Am Lord”, a weekend featuring Chris Padgett of Scarecrow and Tinmen and Bob Rice of Backyard Galaxy. From the opening concert on Friday evening to the closing Mass on Saturday, this is a weekend of renewal focusing on Vocations and Discipleship. Music, dynamic preaching, workshops and awe inspiring liturgies are sure to reach teens and adults alike.

Last year over 32 religious orders were present. This year we are hoping for over 50 religious orders to participate. Scheduled speakers in addition to Chris and Bob (and their wives) speaking on marriage as a vocation will be Fr. Aaron Brodeski from the Vocations Office, Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P. (St. Albert the Great Province), Sr. Mary John, O.P. (St. Cecelia Dominicans from Nashville, TN.) and Sr. Joseph Andrew, O.P. (Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI) and others still to be scheduled.

In addition to priests and deacons from the Rockford Diocese, religious orders such as the Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Maryknoll and others are scheduled to attend and participate in the scheduled weekend events. Vocations Directors from other men’s and women’s religious orders are invited to contact Mike Zak – Director of Youth Ministry at St. Patrick to find out how they can participate.

The weekend features a variety of ways teens and adults can participate:

The Friday evening concert is open to the general public with preferred seating for high school, college age and adults and general seating for middle school students. Because the concert is anticipated to be at capacity, parishes are requested to reserve their space as soon as possible to guarantee seating.

High school and college students as well as adults are invited to be part of the Saturday workshops title ‘I Have Called You By Name’. The morning will focus on vocations with Fr. Aaron Brodesky giving the keynote address. Srs. Mary John and Margaret Michael will speak to the young women about religious life. A panel of priests and deacons will address the young men on religious life. Chris and Linda Padgett with Bob and Jennifer Rice will speak on marriage as a vocation and the need for a sacramental relationship with God at the center. The afternoon will focus on Discipleship and Evangelization and feature Bob Rice and Sr. Joseph Andrew respectively, as the keynote speakers.

Peer Ministry, Campus Ministry, Student Ministry Teams and Newman Center Teams have the unique opportunity to not only attend the concert and workshops but also spend late Friday evening at a Holy Hour in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Special arrangements have been made to accommodate up to 250 High School and College students for a unique overnight experience.

Following the Eucharistic Holy Hour, Chris Padgett and Bob Rice will lead students in Night Prayer, an ‘unplugged version’ of Praise and Worship music and prayer. Saturday morning they will be part of a special “by invitation only” Mass with members of the various religious communities followed by a breakfast cooked by the Knights of Columbus. Overnight accommodations will be provided at St. Patrick for the various leadership teams.

Designed as a weekend to rejuvenate souls, many opportunities will be provided for times of reflection in which the Holy Spirit will speak to the hearts of all those present. All ready the Holy Spirit has prompted 600 teens to commit their time, thus debunking the myth that vocations are ‘not there’. Many of these young people are simply responding to the call of the Holy Father when he reminded them at World Youth Day in Toronto that they are ‘The Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth.’ In a time when some are using any excuse to ‘walk away from’ their Catholic heritage, these young people are ready and willing to ‘Give God a Chance’. Priests from the Rockford and surrounding dioceses are invited to consider being a part of this weekend and to encourage their teens and parents to support this effort to speak to the heart of our Catholic identity. By examining the vocation call God has in mind for us and how we ‘respond to Jesus’, we acknowledge that God truly does have a plan for us. “Here I Am Lord” is a weekend where you can experience the love of Jesus Christ.

To reserve your space, please contact Mike Zak – Director of Youth Ministry – St. Patrick Catholic Church, St. Charles, Il. (630) 513-3315. More information can be found on the “Here I Am Lord” website – www.hereiamlord.CatholicWeb.com or thru e-mail – hereiamlord@stpcc.org

Special arrangement may also be made for the hearing and sight impaired as well as other ‘special needs’ students. They will be given complimentary passes and priority seating for the concert and/or workshop Pastors, youth ministers and parents are urged to make arrangement with Mike Zak as soon as possible to guarantee availability of seating and allow time to make whatever arrangements are necessary for our young people.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Application Exams, continued...

Today I have to go in for my dental exam and my full physical exam. It is sort of surprising how many questions I already had to answer about my health history for the application. I pray and hope the exams go smoothly. I always get a bit nervous, especially having a physical. And this will be a physical like none I have ever had.
You know you are a catholic nerd when....

[Believe it or not, yesterday these were left in my comment box for a post I made in November. I thought I'd post them. Thanks to my friend Angela and her friend for making this list. And remember, the real Catholic Nerds page can be found here.]

...you ask someone how many brothers and sisters they have, and they respond "one," you can't help but wondering...
...you refer to your friends as brothers and sisters
...you plan social events around mass
... on a friday night, you get in a 2:00 in the morning because you were at the adoration chapel
...you wake up early on a saturday morning so you don't miss your morning prayer time
...you have a feast day party for a saint
... You refer to John Paul II as the cutest man alive or "my buddy"
...you discuss with your friends which priest is better at giving out penances
...you are good friends with multiple seminarians
...the bishop signs your paychecks
...you are proficient in your palm sunday palm weaving skills
...Triduum is your favorite liturgical season, or you even have a favorite liturgical season

Friday, January 02, 2004

Add this to your New Year's Resolutions...more use of Gregorian Chant

Check out this article from Crisis. Restore the Sacred this year.

"You can find recordings of Gregorian chant in every CD store. You can hear it at the concert hall, between settings of great polyphonic motets of the high Renaissance. You can hear it also in movies, radio, and television. But one place you are not likely to hear it is at your local Catholic Church. Truly, anyone who visits expecting to hear something resembling chant is in for a shock."

Thanks to My Domestic Church for the article.

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