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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, February 27, 2004

I'm off

Two of my friends and I are off to the Come and See. Please keep all the men in your prayers this weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

On Human Weakness and God's Great Mercy

A common obstacle to religious life/priesthood is discerners thinking they are not good enough to take on the vocation. But, please consider a few things. First and foremost, priests/religious aren’t perfect people. They are sinners too, just like you and I.

As Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” What was the sin that Saint Paul writes about? I do not know. But, what I do know is he was a human with human weaknesses. He suffered from a thorn in his flesh, but became one of our super saints. As he writes, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

God’s grace is sufficient. Let us trust in him to turn our weakness into power. I’ve seen the Lord’s grace working in me. I’ve been dragged down by sin. And thank God, I know the power and mercy of Christ in Reconciliation! Some sins have not burdened me anymore. This breakthrough is possible with prayer, God’s grace, and a firm resolve to do no more. What a joy to know that God’s grace is sufficient. So, don’t think that your negative aspects are automatically a disqualifier from trying out religious life/seminary. Second, because we are sinners, we need the all-powerful Father of love to give us what we most need: His Mercy and His absolution.

In the words of Saint Padre Pio, “But when sin is followed with profound sorrow, with an honest resolution of never sinning again, an intense understanding of the great pain we have given to the mercy of God; when having rent the hardest fibers of our hearts we manage to shed scalding tears of repentance and love then, my son, the sin itself becomes a stepping-stone which brings us closer, which raises us up, which leads us to Him more securely” (Giorgio Festa 171).

And former Dominican Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe, has almost identical words on failure,"Even moments of failure may, in the grace of God, belong to the path by which we mature, for 'we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him'(Romans 8:28)."

Amen! This is so true! I know that I’ve grown closer to the Lord when I was stumbling, and he raised me up to new trust in Him.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Giggles, Part 2: Ignoramus

Oh, no! We had the giggles once again. Yesterday's first reading was from St. James. I read. Part of the reading was, "Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?" When I got to "ignoramus" I said it like it was adoramus-very Latin. Second, I guess to call the congregation ignoramus is sort of funny. Father laughed out loud when I said it. That was it. I could see the orthodox mafia in the front roll giggling, most looking down. Others were smiling. I stopped my eye contact. I turned my concentration to getting the reading done without laughing myself. My eyes glued to the Lectionary. I knew if I looked at them, I'd probably lose it. At one point, I bit my lip to stop the laughing. I stopped and had to take some deep breaths. Thankfully I reached the end,"The word of the Lord!" I had made it. Yes!

No! By the time I reached the responsorial psalm, the hilarity that was trapped inside got the best of me. I started to chuckle. I sounded like I was crying. I fought the giggles. People in the church were now giggling again. I fought so hard. I had to stop, I didn't think I'd make it through. My voice got very very low, as the fighting continued. What was that all about? Low voice=no laugh? Thankfully, it was a short psalm, I sat down and that was that. Next time the word ignoramus comes up, I will make sure to bring my liturgical ear muffs. I probably won't be able to read it myself.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Come and See
About three years ago, I attended a Come and See for the Dominicans. It was terrific.

I felt at home. The community was warm and friendly. While a college student, I had grown to love the chanted office of the Trappist monks here in town. When I visited St. Louis, it was so refreshing and affirming to learn the Dominicans followed this monastic observance. But, there was so much more! The retreat gave me a lot to think about. I had found home. Here I am three years later, about to find home as a novice for the Order. The countdown begins until my entrance! What a journey it has been. Really, the Come and See was such an affirmation of a calling. It set the seeds for where I am now. However, it's just a good place to go as a first step. They don't call it a "Come and Sign" weekend. If you are even interested in religious life, then attending a vocations retreat near you would be a great help.

If maybe someone reading this is interested in attending the next OP Come and See for the Central Province, it is the weekend of February 27-29. You can get information by clicking here: Come and See. There are a lot of guys already signed up, but at least e-mail the vocation director if you are interested.

And not to ruin the surprise, but I'll be giving a brief talk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Passion

About a week until the opening of the Passion. I can't recall being this excited for a movie's opening. My hope and prayer is that this movie will be used by God to bring so many souls to Him. Christ went through the greatest agony, and Mel Gibson has tried to portray this sorrowful passion. My friend saw the movie at the FOCUS convention. He said he'll never look at Christ's Passion in the same way.

Did the Jews kill Christ? Mel Gibson responds,"The answer to the big question is, we all did."

I have sometimes felt uneasy on Good Friday chanting the words, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
But, now I see reasons why we say these words each year. Truly, we all have our part in the greatest story ever told. We are the reason he went through this suffering and death. Praise Jesus for setting us free by his Sacred Cross. We are his friends, He gives his life for us.

Let us ask the Lord to use the Passion to show the world God's great love, mercy, and sacrifice.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Regimented Hand Holding during Our Father

After reading some lively discussions on Andy's site, as well as Julie's, I wanted to make an observation or two.

It is interesting to note that there is truly a formula to the Our Father hand holding. It goes something like this: while the priest introduces the prayer, the congregation places their hands out to their neighbors, many go as far as to join in the aisles, many stretching like pretzels. Some people even join 3 hands, so no one has to go it alone. Then, the hands stay connected at a medium height until the "For the Kingdom..." when hands all go up above the shoulders. At the very end of this practice, there is the squeeze of support.

I think it is interesting to note that holding hands probably came out of a spirit of spontaneity. Now, in most parishes I've attended, the hand-holding is very regimented, as discussed above. So much for being spontaneous during Mass!

When I attend Sunday Mass with family and friends, they usually offer me their hands. I do not refuse. But, I don't go out of my way to hand hold, nor do I go out of my way to put my hands up to the ceiling. For weekday Mass, we don't hold hands. I know this issue is more important to others, than it is to me. Like I said, I grew up with hand holding as part of the Mass. It is only now that I have learned that there may be some reasons to not hold hands.

Sometimes, if I'm by myself at Mass, I'll just bow my head in prayer and that's that. Custody of the Eyes does a pray-er good.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Just in time for the special day, it's
Patrick Madrid's Top 10 Catholic Pick-Up lines

My favorite from his list: You've got stunning scapular-brown eyes.
Hopefully you can enjoy a laugh this day, too.
2 articles of interest

The Call of St. Dominic by novice Br. Athanasius

When God Calls, interview with Mother Assumpta Long of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Giggles

It's that hysterical moment in prayer when the pray-ers cannot control themselves anymore. Laughter flows from the mouths of the humble servants and each laugh adds more fuel to the fire. You try stopping, you try to get serious again, but no! The giggles is just too much for you to handle.

On Monday night, we had a case of the giggles. I was leading our Rosary group. I was into the fourth decade. I start a bead with "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death." Everyone looked around at each other like deer in the headlights. Then, the giggles took over. It was a laugh fest the rest of the way through. As each word brought us deeper and deeper, to the point of tears-kind of laughter. I didn't think we'd make it through. Some brave soul led the last decade and wrapped it up. I guess some in the group wanted to start laughing from the very first decade, when I said "O My Jesus..." I guess I sounded like a street preacher or a televangelist.

How about you? Let me know if you have had a good case of the giggles.
New visitors, welcome.
or: What in the world is Discernment Group Blog?


We've been getting a lot of hits the last few days. So, a welcome is in order. Most of the new hits are coming from the DomLife website. Thanks to Br. Don Kania, OP for giving us the publicity. Julie's site, and Andy's site are also linked on DomLife.

So, why discernment group, you ask? This site was founded to give some students at my school, as well as some of my friends, an internet forum to discuss vocational related topics. Originally, we had a group on campus that discussed these topics in person. After much consideration, I figured an internet page could be helpful, especially since the discernment group had stopped meeting this year. This site did not become the discussion group I had intended, because I became the only post-er. Slowly but surely, people outside of my campus community started regularly checking the site. Indeed, it was surprising. I never got around to formally "unveiling" the site because I thought I'd start a new site, with a different name. If it wasn't going to be a "group," then I thought I'd want to change the name. Meanwhile, I continued posting on here. It was quite interesting. I met a lot of people who were in formation or discernment. I'd say hosting this blog has been quite a rewarding experience so far.

So, here we are now. We is really only me. I was hoping to change the name to something more catchy, and something more appropriate. Let's face it, Discernment Group is not the best name. I figured I'd keep the name D-group until the time I entered the Order. In the meantime, I thought I could share my experiences in the application and pre-formation stages. Now, since you, dear readers, have found this site, I guess I'll keep this name and this site. I guess all of life calls for discernment. This site will become more of a group in the next week. Some of my friends should start posting soon enough. I call this the unveling. Make sure to stop by St. Blog's Cookbook for some delicious desserts to celebrate this event.

I am glad you have stopped by this site. Welcome. Don't forget to check the excellent discernment related links to the right, as well as some very fine blogs. It seems to be quite popular to have formation/discernment blogs now. You can find many in the right hand column. You can always challenge, question, comment, or just say hello in the comment box under each entry. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

A New Weblog

I've posted a few more blogs to the right.
One I'd like to especially note is Andy, the Dominican Novice
I found the link from Disputations, and from our funniest priest, Fr. Bryce.

I'm so happy to see this novice posting online. I'll be in his shoes in a few months, and I think reading his reflections will give us all a sense of what the novitiate is day by day. It's an inside look at religious life. Good job, brother. I can't wait to be part of the novitiate in a few months, but I'll enjoy my time with friends and family in the meantime. Seeing his blog makes me think I'll be able to continue this next year, on a limited basis. I was concerned I'd have to stop this blog.
Consecrated Life Day

Let us pray for all of those who have devoted their lives to God through the consecrated life. Check out the Bishops' site here. Let us pray that they may always stay committed to God and His Church through their lives. What a great gift it is to be called to this vocation. Let us pray that by their example, many more will respond generously to the call.
Thanks be to God for all the consecrated people who have inspired me to give my fiat to the Lord. Their joyful and loving presences have been so helpful in the discernment.

Re-read the Mass readings for today.

"Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of hosts!...now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Confession. It is in our weakness that we come to rely on God. God can use us. Our sins are purged. We've seen His wonderful work in the world,in our souls, and in His forgiveness, how could we not give our lives to sharing this love with others?

Ok, now start singing "Here I am Lord"....
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will
go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!"
Please, Lord send me! I am right here wanting to do you will in every action of my life. Teach me, help me, guide me on your path. If not me, then who? I am here, ready to serve. [Inside joke: help us, help us...help us."]

Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be
catching men." "When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him."

Let's put our nets in the deep and count on the Lord to show us how to do things. He'll teach us how to fish. It is through a loving example that many more will be able to respond with a Fiat. How can you be that loving example?
Back from Retreat

I'm back from the retreat I was on team for. It was so nice. It was very contemplative. I had much needed time to pray and be still. Actually, probably the most time in a long time. Most school retreats are jam packed with activity, this was different. We had so much time in quiet. We did have adoration, confession, Mass, rosary, some of the Office, journaling, they even had us do the angelus, but mostly I was able to do some Lectio Divina, private prayer and reflection and meditation, and I was able to contemplate the wonders of our Lord. I'm glad Campus Ministry pretty much let us students put this together ourselves. We obviously thirst for quiet, contemplation. There were 3 talks, very nice. I was so happy. The community was amazing. We had about 30 people. Even though most of the retreat was silent, we did have some good conversations during meals and recreation. Actually, one of the guys I've grown into a good friendship with over this semester should start posting on here soon. So, look for his unique insights soon.

Friday, February 06, 2004

On retreat again...

This weekend I'm on the team for the journey retreat, which is a more contemplative retreat. Lots of quiet time. It should be nice. I'll have some time to reflect and pray and read. I can't wait. On Sunday, I'll be giving a few notes on Lectio Divina, and then leading the group in a group form of the prayer. Peace!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

JP2

My school is trying to start a floor for those clean cut kids that like to stay away from drugs and drinking. A place for those students interested in the whole of Catholic social teaching.

The group was trying to come up with some names for the floor. I happened to be in Campus Ministry at the time, so I gave my opinion. We came up with (Blessed) Mother Teresa, and the women said, "Well, what about the men?" The idea was that men would be turned off by a women's name. I doubt it. But, we came up with some guys' names. One person mentioned the Pope. Right away several leading ladies decided that high school students would be so turned off by the Pope that they'd run away from the option. But, high school student would like Jimmy Carter! Give me a break. Bringing in a political figure would alienate way more people than the Pope. I said we could not use Jimmy Carter's name. So, we decided on just Mother Teresa: The Mother Teresa Social Concerns Community.

This scenario reveals a lot! Think about it. These older women don't understand that the younger generation would even have a little interest in the Pope. I guess they aren't reading the signs of the time. I think about all the youth at World Youth Day. I think about all the kids who go to the Youth 2000 retreats. Millions of Catholic youth around the world love the Pope. The exact kids we are trying to recruit to a "clean-cut" kind of floor would be those students who'd look up to the Pope.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

An Army of Martyrs

"Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9a).

Every Tuesday night, we read this in the Liturgy of the Hours. What a magnificent teaching from our first Pope. God has helped me so many times through this reading.
Tonight, my friends and I had a very lively discussion about the Church. Most were against the teachings we talked about, some of which were crucial to our Faith, some were disciplines that could change.

My terrific friend and I battled our way through some tough waters. When we were finished, we reached no consensus with the group. We left, and we were upset, disappointed, etc. My only thought was we had to get our butts to the Adoration chapel and pray for conversion. We need to pray hard and relentlessly for conversion. It would be so easy for us to give in to the arguments these friends have spewed tonight. Wouldn't the devil enjoy seeing us fall from our Faith? We must stay steadfast in the faith. We must hold on tight.

The Church needs us. It is time for holy and faithful martyrs of the Church to rise up. I don't use the word lightly. We are going to have emotional rocks thrown at us. We are going to lose some friends, we're are going to make people angry at us. We will face many sacrifices along the way. People are not going to enjoy us standing steadfast in the Faith. We are going to go through so much. BUT, we must stand firm. We must fight the good fight today. This mission has never ever been so clear to me. Are will willing to die for our faith? On this feast of St. Blaise, may we strive, like him, to be always ready and alert to defend our most awesome faith. May we strive to never give in to the devil. And if you are discerning a call, he's going to try and keep you from answering. Don't give in. Jesus is our prize. He's our crown and glory. He is worth giving it all for. He's worth the vows. He's worth our life. Holy Martyrs of God, Pray for Us!

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