Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for January, 2011

Who’s that knocking outside my window???

Reason # 52310 why silent retreats aren’t such a bad thing:

I was “studying” or at least getting ready to study in my room when I heard some loud banging on the window. I looked out and didn’t see anyone out there even after I shined my flashlight. So I figured it’s probably some of the minor-majors (majors who graduated from the minors) having some fun… So I ended up closing my window again and sitting down when the banging started up again. I’ve always been a little bit afraid of the dark so I just left my room to bug some of the guys in the foyer. When I got back, I opened up my window again and saw this:


Losing the key to happiness

This week, we had a ton of visitors up at the abbey!!! It was the busiest I’ve ever seen it up there… starting from this guy who was flying around the place, landing on the tops of our trees or our goal posts. I walked out of the residence one morning and saw a whole bunch of the seminarians and Fr. Abbot just staring out into the open so I kinda just joined them, not knowing exactly what they were looking at. When they pointed this little guy out to me, I had to sprint back in, grab my camera and sneak over to it to grab a picture… HAhahahah Whoever said it’s impossible to sneak up on a hawk is sorely mistaken!!!

Also, this week was the second half of ecumenical week. Ecumenism is an important part of the church as it involves our dialogues with the various other Christian denominations and other world religions. To commemorate this week for us, we also started inviting over a small bunch of different guest speakers from various faiths to speak to us. We had Eparch Ken, from the Ukrainian Catholic Church and a priest from the local Coptic Church visiting on consecutive nights speaking to us about the history of the Catholic/Orthodox split that happened over a thousand years ago and where we’re at, somewhat, in our talks for unity. We’ve also had a Protestant minister from the Alliance Church down the road talking to us about the history of the Alliance church, how it’s distinct from the other mainline Protestant churches and what aspects we hold in common to them. It was really informative and I really enjoyed it! Plus, because we had guests, we also had tons of dispensations for our evening meals–meaning, instead of quiet table reading, we can actually talk!!!

I’m really enjoying our table readings now though… We’re currently working our way through the book “A Song for Nagasaki” on Dr. Takashi Nagai. He is a Japanese convert who survived the atomic bomb in Nagasaki that ended the Second World War. He had some very powerful things to say in front of the completely destroyed Urakami Cathedral a mere three months after the destruction that claimed his beloved wife and contributed more to his sickness from radiation poisoning. He died 5 years after the bomb exploded. What he said though has helped shape Japanese Catholicity in a significant way. He called the death of thousands hansai or “sacrificial offering” saying that after the death and hate that was spread in the world as a result of war, mere repentance was not enough. They had to offer a stupendous sacrifice–the “one pure lamb” that had to be sacrificed as hansai on His altar in order that millions might be saved. He called for everyone to be thankful for the sacrifice for through it, peace came into the world! If you want to learn more about this amazing man, check out the book “A Song for Nagasaki,” his biography.

Also this week, I lost my keys. It was quite disastrous actually because the whole community ended up finding out about it. This particular community is a great group of guys but one thing about them is that they really enjoy playing practical jokes. There’s some nastiness in it… Anyway, over here, a room that is never locked is like an open temptation for them… It’s like giving a 2 year old kid a big lollipop and asking him not to eat it! I had to prepare my room for whatever they ended up doing… Some of the stuff they had done in the past was either really strange or really nasty. I’ve heard that they had once managed to build a little snow man in someone’s bathroom. They’ve also done some really nasty things with people’s toilets that I think might be too disturbing to talk about on a blog like this. Something else they’ve done in the past was they somehow managed to fill another seminarians room with crumpled rolls of newspaper that were almost knee deep and was spilling a little bit into the bathroom. They’re pretty creative here!!!

Needless to say, I figured I needed to set up some defences to prepare. But I didn’t know the best way to keep them out without making a mess that I had to clean up too… So instead of fighting them, I decided to play the guilty card!!! Once you opened the door to my room, the very first thing you see is this:

The statues of Jesus and Mary looking at you!!! On the chair also is a little mug with candy and a note that says “If you’re going to booby-trap my room, you may as well help yourself to some candy while you’re at it.” I also included an offertory prayer in it that Fr. Peter had taught me–that way, they would at least sanctify the work they were doing in their jokes… The prayer of St. Gertrude that Fr. Peter taught me is as follows:

Lord God, I offer you this (action) in union with the love with which you (acted) when you were on earth for the glory of God Your Father and the salvation of man

That’s a great prayer to say before doing anything at all… It kind of consecrates the action you’re about to do and offers it up for the glory of God… It’s also a very practical way of making everything you do a prayer!! c”,)

The last thing I did to protect my room was my favourite… I printed out a picture of Judas (from Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ) and added a nice little scripture verse underneath it. It was from St. John 13: 27 — your homework, look up that verse!! You’ll love it!! Anyway, that’s all for this evening!! Hope you have a fantastic week!! God bless!!!!!

Into the Silence

Sorry for the lack of updates!!! It’s been a pretty busy week so far because we just came out of a silent retreat last weekend… Now before you jump in and say “Why on earth do we, who live in a monastery/seminary need a silent retreat?” let me just say that for the most part, especially among the majors (but even more so among the minors), the seminary isn’t that quiet of a place. You can imagine what putting 26 guys all together under the same house might do… Hehehehe There’s lots of quiet times for sure though–every time you’re at the church or hallways, when someone else is praying, during most of the meals, nobody talks. But for the rest of the day, it’s all fair game. That’s why one always needs to be ready because there’s always a lot of jokes that go on in the seminary too. This week, because I didn’t lock the door to my room, a couple of guys snuck in there, hid under my desk and in my bathroom and tried to scare me when I walked in. Only the guy under my desk worked (because he jumped out first)… After that, I knew that there was someone else in the room… Hehehehe In any case, these sorts of things goes to show that sometimes, it’s nice to have a little quiet here too… 🙂

But this retreat wasn’t just a little quiet… It was the most quiet I’ve ever had!! I’ve been on silent retreats in the past but in them, there were always these discussion groups and question and answer sessions where we could talk and they’d normally only last for a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon). This one lasted for 4 days and there was absolutely no talking AT ALL!!! All classes we had were cancelled (Thursday and Friday class). All we had were 3 30 minute conferences a day in addition to the times for normal prayer (midday prayer, vespers, office of reading). The rest of the time, we had all to ourselves! I almost finished a 450 page book in 4 days, because I had so much time on my hands.

Sometimes, in the afternoons, we were asked to spend some time helping out in various chores around the monastery, like cleaning windows, shovelling snow, chopping wood or, in my case, stacking hay. I promised before that I would go back to the farm and take lots of pictures… Here’s my promise!! Hehehehehe The Thursday afternoon, about 7 of us went out to the farm to help Brother Emerich transfer these stacks of hay from one big enclosure to another. We were to stack them one on top of another, spreading them across the floor of this one big room. Despite how tightly we’d try and pack all these stacks together and work our way up, there were always these little gaps that I’d sometimes have my leg falling through… I really enjoyed myself in this, even though it was definitely fairly hard work. The cows around us also had such a blast watching us stumble our way through all these huge stacks of hay.

The conferences themselves were very good. They were all led by Fr. Fernando, my old spiritual director who is the chaplain at SFU and a priest of Opus Dei. He talked to us a lot about the different mysteries of the rosary, which was the theme of the retreat. With him, we worked our way from the joyful mysteries all the way up to the glorious mysteries as he gave us lots of commentaries and insights he had taken on meditating on these mysteries.

Honestly, the silence was pretty interesting at first and I had no trouble managing it until around the Saturday. By that point, I was soooooo tired of the quiet. It’s really great for praying, reading and reflecting and believe me, I got lots of that done, but I’m so used to noise that it was very tough to give it up. That’s the amazing thing I think about living in the world, even the generally more quiet world of the seminary… we’re always surrounded by noise and uncomfortable around silence. Before I came in here, I’d always be plugged in to my iPod everywhere I went and I’m most definitely not the only one. One of these days, I’ll have to go again on the skytrain and see how many are plugged in too… just for fun. c”,) Anyway, that’s all for today!! Hope all is well with you!! God bless!!!