Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for September, 2010


So today is a special day as it happens to be the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel… Today, also being the name’s day of Father Abbot, we had no classes so I was able to catch up just a little bit on my studies. Today as well, we had our mass in Latin, which I have been told happens once each month. In addition, we had a common meal all together at lunch time. Usually, every meal time, the major seminarians, myself included, eat in our own room, separate from the minor seminarians, who themselves are separate from the monks. While we are all one big community here in the seminary, there are 3 distinct mini-communities as well. The monks, the major seminarians, and the minor seminarians. 99% of the time, these communities do everything separately. The only things we do together are certain prayers (Majors are always present during the monks’ prayer times in the abbey church, but the Minors aren’t) and mass, where the whole community gathers as one. Very very rarely, like today, we had a common meal where we all sat down together in the same room… majors, minors and monks… It was pretty interesting and I got to meet some of the monks who I would never have been able to meet otherwise. 😛

Feasts are always pretty big celebrations here in the seminary. Their importance is most easily seen during meal times as well… Heheheheh you can totally tell that I’m getting a bit hungry… I can’t seem to stop talking about food… 😛 Anyways, on weekdays, we usually eat lunch and dinner in silence. We listen to one of us who’s been designated a table reader as he reads out loud a book that has been chosen by our rector. This past month, we have been hearing stories from a book written by a hospital chaplain… One of the bigger adjustments I had to make was to keep quiet as I ate… That’s still something that’s not very easy for me to do…. Luckily, on Friday afternoons, we break the silence for the weekend, which is one of the things to look forward to during the week.

On big feast days though, which we know when we see incense used at mass, we don’t have table readings and we can chatter and blab about whatever we want to at table… c”,) Those times don’t happen very often so it’s really nice when they come around.

Learner’s corner

So last time, I was bugging you about the difference between spirit and soul. All living things have souls but only man have a soul that is also a spirit.. One other characteristic about spirits is that they do not take up space because they are partless. Being immaterial, there are no parts to a spirit… When we think of hamburgers, for example (going with the same theme of food), there are different parts to a hamburger.. the patty, the bun, the lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. Making up the patty are atoms of carbon, hydrogen… etc that are present in the meat. Anything that is material has parts to it, and having parts makes it occupy space. Spirits, being partless mean that they do not occupy space… It doesn’t have an inside or an outside, top or bottom, one end or the other end… so it’s not in space. That’s why if you cut off your arm, you’re not going to have your spirit retreating really quickly into the rest of your body.

Sheed gives an example of the phrase “mercy is more useful than judgment.” In this phrase, there are 3 ideas… mercy, judgment, and usefulness… In order to compare the three, we need to bring them together and synthesize all three to get one distinct new idea of the usefulness of mercy and the usefulness of judgment.  If these were concepts separate from each other in our spirit, there wouldn’t be any way for us to get these together and be compared. This part is still a little bit weird for me I must admit… but there you go!! 😀

God bless!!!

How can you tell I’m in a Canadian seminary

When the biggest sport we play here is hockey.. Just as the Canucks season is just about to begin (and I’ll try to follow it as much while at the same time, balancing all the prayer, academics and everything else), the SHL is well underway. The seminarian hockey league (SHL) is the intense little street hockey league we have here in the Seminary of Christ the King. We have 3 teams this year in the league and so far, this week, my team has already played and lost our first two games. Although I’ve been a HUGE fan of the Canucks for a number of years now, I’ve never actually played hockey. Part of the reason why is because I’m not that great of a skater but that doesn’t really matter here because we do get around the court by running!!!

Despite that, there’s still a pretty steep learning curve with hockey! I may be able to watch hockey well on TV (Hehehehhe) and play it well in video games but playing hockey in real life is quite another story!! So far, I’ve already gotten a couple of bruises from blocking the puck and from sticks flying everywhere!! Officially, I haven’t gotten any points yet but during some of our pickup games, I was able to score once and assist once. I’ve still got a super long way to go though!!!

Learner’s corner

So last time, I was talking about spirit (my first lesson in Religion 100) and the fact that it is immaterial and produces the thoughts we have, that are immaterial too. It’s the spirit that allows us to know and to love. Today, I’ll bug you guys a little bit about the difference of spirit and soul.
Animals and plants have souls too. Souls are the life principle — plants have souls that enable it to grow, assimilate nutrients from their environment but a plant’s soul cannot allow the plant to walk… despite what is said by Tolkien. 🙂 Animals have souls too that are more highly developed. They allow physical locomotion and sense knowledge.. Animals see and recognize society but animal souls don’t allow animals to think abstractly… You don’t have to go much farther than watching a cow (of which we have many here in the seminary, being a Benedictine monastery) as it ruminates and you know that it doesn’t have a thought in the world. In his book “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy, the protagonist is driving through the woods and sees at the corner of his eye a bird flying parallel to the car. Being pretty sadistic, he reaches into the glove compartment and gets a revolver out. He cocks it and gets ready to shoot the bird when he realizes that it wasn’t a bird but it was his own reflection in the mirror. When he gets home, he sees his tomcat basking in the sun. He looks at that cat and say “Look at that cat!! That cat is complete!! It lacks nothing!!! It’s just a fat cat laying in the sun with no anxiety at all” Father Peter says that that is one of the contemporary problems of human life… how can one ever become a fat cat laying in the sun!!
As human beings, ours is the only soul that is a spirit — it was created in the image of God and is what gives us reason and our ability to reflect on ourselves. We have anguish, we want the truth, we are always looking for something and are always unsatisfied with what we find… That’s something to think about a bit! 😀

God Bless!!!

A Mixing of Priorities

One of the big peculiarities about the seminary and its life, I learned just the other day. I’ve just graduated from university, meaning that for the past… umm… 18? years of my life, I’ve been a student. As a student, I’ve always prioritized God first then, my studies second… Everything else would come after that… Lately, I’ve been getting a little bogged down with the studies here in the seminary… It seems that the biggest enemy I’ve really got is time. With all the things that we’re doing, and I’ve attached my schedule, as it stands so far, there’s barely any time to do everything that’s required. I’ve allocated a lot of time to my studies but even with that, being the semi-perfectionist I am, I don’t have enough time to learn all these brand new material.

In bringing that up in spiritual direction this week, I learned that here in the seminary, priorities are really flipped upside down. As always, God always comes first. If I have to make a choice between studying for something or praying at an allocated time, praying will always come first. People want a holy priest, not a scholar. Following God though is community! I need to prioritize, to some extent, the social life I have with the other seminarians over my studies! That really flew at my face as something completely different!! Never before have I ever went out until I’ve finished studying… What they want is not a straight A student but rather a B student who is holy and has very strong human qualities as well, that comes with building relationships with others. That just really struck me so I wanted to mention that here… It’s definitely different in that sense.

Learning that took a whole load of pressure off me. I think that maybe it’s a little more for reasons of pride that I wanted the good grades. A’s aren’t bad but they are bad if they’re attained at the expense of either the spiritual or the community formation of the priest. It’s funny how that all works… I still don’t completely understand it but I guess I’ll have to adapt around it.

Learner’s corner

As per a request from a friend, I will also be posting  a second post each week on what I have been learning. In this section, I will be posting, little by little what I’m learning in my religion class. For anyone interested, the book we’re using is called Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed. The class is taught by Fr. Dunsten, who’s a really smart priest. He’s also the artist of the abbey and if you ever visit the abbey church, you’ll notice all these sculptures throughout the church.. all those are made by him. Trivia: Apparently, he’s still got the record as being the youngest artist to ever have his own exhibit in the Vancouver Art Gallery.

I’ll be sharing a little bit about what I’m learning on the topic of spirit. Spirit is not something that is material. It is intangible and invisible, thus it can’t be described by our sense knowledge (sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing). We can’t describe it but we can see it’s effects… when we suddenly get a bright idea that suddenly appears out of nowhere or when we’re working on a problem all night and give up, go to bed, wake up the next morning and bang! we’ve got the answer!!

Ideas are the work of spirit… As a scientist, I would normally say… no they’re not… Ideas are action potentials firing from specific parts of the brain but that isn’t what an idea really is. Those action potentials describe how the idea transmits, they accompany the idea but they aren’t the idea itself. Thoughts aren’t material… You can’t describe thoughts with color, shape, length weight… it won’t work because those are properties of materials. It doesn’t make sense to say our brain, which is material can do something that is immaterial! Immaterial products need to come from immaterial sources and that immaterial source is the spirit. In addition, a problem would arise if we were to describe our thoughts as something physical: THERE WOULD BE A LIMIT! You can only take so much thoughts and there would come a point where you can’t receive anything else but with knowledge, we know that there isn’t an end to what we can know.

That’s it for right now!! God bless!!!