Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for October, 2010

Chehalis

I mentioned earlier in the week that we recently started our catechisms… I’ll try and talk a little bit more about it here today… Most of the other seminarians catechize in one of the nearby parishes. We have St. James and St. Ann’s in Abbotsford or I think, also St. Joseph in Mission… I’m not 100% sure now. Others also do prison ministry — visit some of the prisoners once each week, while still others have hospice care where they visit the sick and dying each week. One thing that the seminarians of old have apparently always taken care of, in addition to these, is the missions to the First Nations communities. There are 3 First Nations communities we help out. I’ve only been to Chehalis but there’s also one in Seabird Island and another one somewhere else (sorry… it’s my first year and I don’t know them all yet)… c”,)

Anyway, I am working with the group that heads out to Chehalis. This year, our team is made up of all new seminarians, with not a lot of catechism experience. There has been a bit of misunderstandings between previous seminarians and the sister who has over the past 4 years taken up residence in Chehalis and so we weren’t completely sure what exactly we were walking into yet. Over the past couple of Wednesday nights, immediately after Vespers, I drive our team of 4 guys as fast as I can to make it all the way there in time for the 6:30 catechism… Now, the direction I’m driving in is interesting too… Most people consider Mission to be really far our there… Let me tell you!! I don’t go west (in the direction of Vancouver)… I go further out east! It’s about a half an hour drive as this reserve is about 30+ km east of Mission and the in between, all we see is one convenience store, one gasoline station, one restaurant and LOTS of fields. Our marker for knowing when to turn is an interesting looking signboard with a human-like figure that appears to be glaring at you as you drive by it. It’s really captivating though… c”,) Hehehehehe

The church is a small but pretty little church. It can fit maybe about 40 people and it’s well decorated with lots of paintings and a few First Nation style candles, which really give it a rustic and different feel. Walking in, I feel like I’m in a very familiar but at the same time, very different world… familiar in the sense that most Catholic churches have the most essential part, the tabernacle easily present but different in the sense that this one has a very First Nation feel to it. It feels like if I was walking in the forest and ran into a church in the middle of it, this is what it would look like. I really like it… c”,)

The kids are absolutely amazing… they’re very very energetic and so it’s usually a big challenge for us to try and maintain a bit of order in the place. Their community is not very big and so they all know each other really well and in fact, are mostly related to each other too. They’re very enthusiastic in their answers, motivated by the fact that we provide them with lots of treats (candies at first, but that got them a little too sugar high) for a fairly correct response. Their knowledge of the faith is very rudimentary but it’s there… For now though, what they know about their faith is mainly in their heads… Part of our work should be to move that into their hearts so, not only do they know it, but they fall in love with it. That’ll take time though. For now, all we’re doing is preparing them for their First Holy Communion this coming Easter.

I think that’ll be it for now… I’m having a bit of a tougher time getting these posts out on a regular basis as I’ve been getting steadily and steadily busier as the days go by… You’ll have to keep me motivated by leaving comments and feedback!! Let me know how I’m doing so far!! What do you like and what don’t you like… How can I improve this blog? Thanks! c”,) God bless!!!


Weekend of Life

Among the studies, prayer time and the chores, something else that keeps us really busy out here in the abbey is the different committees that each of us are a part of. There is the sports committee that organizes our Monday and Friday community sports, the entertainment committee, that comes up with fun things for us to do together, the socials committee–of which I’m a part of, that organizes our parties, and the media committee that works on the yearbook and I think, DVD as well… That’s just to name a few… One of the most active committees we’ve had so far though is the prolife committee and all the activities we’ve done this weekend just demonstrate the hard work and dedication they pour into their cause.

This Friday, the Knights of Columbus of Mission gave us seminarians 8 tickets to go to the annual fund raising dinner gala… The funniest part was that four of those tickets went to the only 4 Filipino seminarians here in the major seminary… So typical… Us Filipinos… as long as there’s food involved. Speaking of food though, it was really fantastic.. we had chicken, ham, salads, some kind of potato dish… We really had a blast. But the best part of the evening was the talk. The guest speakers were Mark Pickup and his wife, LaRee. Their talk was absolutely fantastic… The Catholic Church has always valued the sanctity of life from conception to its natural end… this family has lived that. When they were really young, right as soon as abortion became completely legal in Canada in 1969, LaRee told us that she became pregnant. She was still a teenager at 17, and at first, she was both afraid and excited, thinking about marriage and new beginnings. Then however, others became involved starting with her grandmother who started speaking about abortion and her friends, including her future husband… She told us that how she was treated should never be how people behave toward a woman in crisis pregnancy… She felt completely alone and immense pressures were put on her to have an abortion. There were no alternatives presented… She went to see a “therapeutic abortion committee” which apart from the name, she claimed was just a rubber stamp process. She went to see a psychiatrist as well who spent two minutes with her asking her if this was what she wanted to do then sent her on her way. This happened about Christmas time so overtime now that she sees Christmas lights, it reminds her of her experiences and brings her a sense of sadness and regret. Her husband then said that abortion has consequences for men too… He felt his hands were bloodied as God demanded of him–what had he done? He felt terrible because he knew exactly what he was doing… His father had kept a large series of books from the mid 1960s that showed photographs of early development… he knew what he was doing. He insisted that if someone as dumb as he knew, surely the doctors did too… and yet most of us, like Pilate wash our hands and remain silent. Their family lived that part of the prolife debate…. but their story was not yet over…

At age 30, Mark told us how he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis… he then proceeded to narrate to us how, over time, he started to lose different bodily functions. He narrated the horror of going to bed at night not knowing what would be lost when he woke up the following morning. He loved music and so when he realized that he had lost the sense of timing and coordination in his right hand, he took his precious guitar to the basement and sawed it in half, saying that this was the beginning of a new life for him… a life of great difficulty and sadness. His wife, seeing what he was doing watched in stunned silence… it was a very difficult time for her too. She told us how she would be crying angrily to God asking Him why it was her husband, he who was the more energetic and active of the two who was getting MS and not her. She was tempted a few times to divorce him and leave him with their kids but she said she knew who it was who was tempting her. It really hurt her to watch what was happening to her husband and she told us how painful it was to see him one day trying to crawl up the stairs so he could use the bathroom. She told us how they asked God through prayer, to help them find a one story home for the family, so it wouldn’t be as difficult for her husband to get around… She ended off her story saying how in our society today, people like her husband are often deemed undesirables. Part of the force behind euthanasia today is the desire to terminate suffering as if all suffering was a bad thing. People want to live a life without the cross… but I believe that while suffering is difficult to endure once one has it, there is still a lot of value in it.

Mark’s Blog: http://www.markpickup.org

This week, I sprained my ankle… Yesterday, while I was playing badminton, I think I sprained it but it didn’t start hurting until about 3-4 hours later, right before vigil prayers. In between, I had been running around, doing things I normally did, not noticing anything wrong. It was just after recreation time, after playing a little bit of foosball, on the way to the abbey church that I started feeling the pain. The other seminarians have been having lots of fun with that, insisting that I injured myself playing foosball… but I honestly am not sure when it happened. The pain started gradually getting worse and worse during vigils that I needed some help walking back to the residence. That night, it was very difficult for me to sleep because of the pain I had in my foot. I think that if I injured it during badminton, I may have aggravated it a lot by not noticing that it was injured at all. The lack of pain may have made the injury worse because the pain would have told me that I needed to take things a bit easier and rest my foot a little bit… Sometimes, when we run away from pain, we’re making things a lot worse for ourselves later on. Fr. Peter would always insist to us about the goodness of suffering for the sake of love… that which he called good suffering… A mother who suffers because her child is a drug addict, for example… she suffers because she loves her child–that’s not a bad kind of suffering… Pope John Paul has a really good treatment on the value of pain and suffering in his letter Salvifici Doloris. I’ve included a link for it below.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris_en.html

Also this week, Saturday morning, in fact, we’ve had a visit from the Saskatoon-Humboldt MP, Brad Trost. Before he came, I’ve had a fairly negative view on politicians and politics in general, just because I never really felt that politicians are truly passionate about the issues. I always felt that they would easily jump back and forth between issues based on how their constituents felt and in order to win as many votes as possible. It didn’t help when I had gone to Ottawa and met some of these politicians and seen them in action during a Question Period which was spent, essentially shouting and screaming at each other over one issue after another. But that view was radically changed after meeting Mr. Trost. He seemed really genuine and honest, and he was a passionately prolife politician. He got elected in 2004 and is a member of the cross party prolife caucus. He was very honest in saying that, although government can change things, it isn’t the best way to change things. He also spoke of some of the work the cross party caucus has done in cutting off funding for international abortion groups. He then encouraged all of us there to speak out and get involved in the political sphere… He spoke of the importance of building a relationship with your elected representative and as priests, viewing the politician as a member of one’s parish. He also urged us to get involved in even just the small time politics, such as those that exist in school boards and not just focus on the Stephen Harpers and Michael Ignatiefs of the world because it’s from these school boards that politicians are born. He spoke about the new initiative the caucus is doing, called Roxanne’s law, which is a law that’ll impose penalties on those who coerce others to have abortions. It was named after a Filipino woman who was killed by her boyfriend because she didn’t want to have an abortion. He ended his talk saying that politics isn’t about getting everything perfect at once… it’s all about doing things little by little and working towards that one aim we all share in common.


Living in Community

Life here in the seminary has picked up quite a bit… I can’t believe how precious time is!! I’m way way more efficient than I ever was in 6 years of university but at the same time, I always feel like I’m behind and trying to catch up. And apparently, it’ll get even harder as I go up… This week for us, I had a paper due, I have a midterm coming up next week and another paper the following week. That’s not as bad as a typical university workload but the problem comes in balancing all the time and trying to allocate time to specific tasks. That plus balancing my prayer and community life is a huge challenge.

Speaking of living in community, I’ve been finding how difficult it can be lately… Putting 25 guys in the same residence, all really passionate about what they do and what they want to become but at the same time, all having each, their own unique personalities is crazy.. This week has been a bit of a struggle for me to get past certain tendencies of people… One thing that I’ve been slowly realizing is that unless something is labelled really really well, it’s basically communal… That’s how my laundry detergent and sometimes, my chant books ended up missing… In addition, just coping with the different personalities is difficult too… Some guys have just come off high school, some guys are quite a bit older… we’ve got really loud and crazy guys, shy quiet guys!! It’s really interesting trying to get along with everyone here… That’s the fun but also challenging part of community… It’s definitely not easy…

Two days ago, we’ve had a sister come over from Pauline Media in Toronto… she came to sell all kinds of books, CDs and DVDs… First time I’ve been shopping in the seminary… heheehhe… Also this week, I’ve started my catechism classes… I’m helping out in a First Nations reserve called Chihalis… It’s a place about 45 minutes away from Mission… in the direction away from Vancouver… That means it’s in the middle of nowhere… I met a few of the kids though and they are pretty cool… I’ll post up more on these later! God bless!!!