Despite our many quirky personalities and strange behaviours, I really believe that many of us here at the seminary are as normal as normal guys can be. We’re not a bunch of weird, strange people that I used to think seminarians were, because you’ve got to be absolutely crazy to be willing to give up everything, including marriage (vow of celibacy) and will (vow of obedience) to follow God. Well, the seminary is not just a training ground for future priests, but really, a training ground for future men. Only about 25%, statistically, of guys who enter into the seminary actually make it all the way through to the end. At least, that’s what the guys here have told me. Most leave, either after their first year or after philosophy… Some have even left after a week, from what I’ve heard! I think part of our quirkiness comes from the fact that being constantly surrounded by just guys, we’re most free to be men. We don’t have to worry that much about behaving that properly, even though we’re expected to have a gentlemanly conduct, because we don’t have anyone we need to try and impress. There aren’t any girls around! c”,)
Well, what’s more manly than going out into the middle of nowhere and staying there? This weekend, half of us went out camping. Annually, a bunch of the seminarians, led by soon to be Fr. Brian, head out on some random adventure in the middle of the woods, followed by an intense hike the next day in the mountains. This year, we went to a mountain about 30 minutes west of the abbey. We left right after Vespers and got there about an hour before sunset. To get to our site, we had to drive through some old logging roads with about a billion potholes. The deacon was fine since he had a ginormous truck whereas everyone else’s suspensions took quite a beating to get there.
Since we were 15 guys, it was easy for us to set up camp in this location. We pitched our tents, built our fire, set up some massive logs that we found all over the place around the fire.
Actually, the setting up of those logs were a story in themselves. Scattered relatively close to the site where we set up camp were some huge tree trunks that were left behind from all the logging that had gone on in the past. 10-12 of us were needed to carry these logs all the way from where we found them to our fire pit so we’d have a chair to sit on. That took a lot of grunts and man-power and we were all dirty and a bit muddy afterwards.
For dinner, because we were able to drive right up to our site, allowing us to bring as much gear as we wanted, we had steak, noodle bowls, and cheese wieners. Such manly food!!! Hahahahhaah I think most of our food this weekend was soooooo manly!!! Now I know that it is Lent, but at the same time, Friday was also the solemnity of the Annunciation. Solemnities and Feasts at the abbey mean one thing–mini party time! The steaks were really really good… and so were the wieners. We roasted some of the wieners over the fire and they tasted even better. The first batch of noodle bowls (either spicy chicken or kimchi flavoured) were a little bit sketchy because the water from the stream that we added to our noodle bowls was not boiled enough… Boiling water is really important in camp… Even though that stream or that lake looks like it has the cleanest water in the world, I learned from my parasitology classes that it can still contain Giardia, which can cause beaver fever. I don’t want to go into the details of what the symptoms of beaver fever are but suffice it to say, they’re not pretty. You can look it up if you REALLY like but I’ll have to attach the disclaimer to advise you not to look it up unless you really really want to. In any case, some guys exhibited some of those symptoms, though I’m not sure if it was because of beaver fever or if it was because of the interesting combination of foods we were feasting on.
I didn’t realize how much I enjoy looking at and watching fire… It’s such a peaceful thing to look at and it’s so nice crowding around it on a cold night. We had a lot of fun around our campfire too.. We roasted smores and a whole bunch of other stuff around it….
Yes… that’s an orange peel (a particular specialty of our seminary that only people who have stayed at Westminster Abbey for a prolonged period of time will really appreciate). We ended our day around the campfire with lots of chatting and the office of readings. The only surprise that came during the night was the rotting, partially eaten sandwich that one of us found in his sleeping bag (that he had borrowed from the minors). You gotta be really careful when borrowing gear from the minors.. c”,)
The next day, we got up at 6:30, had a breakfast of wieners and cereal (another fantastic combination) for a day-long hike. We first drove a little bit up the mountain (some of us had more trouble than others) to get a head start on trying to reach the summit before the end of the day.
Most of the trail that we walked on was filled with snow. I’ve never hiked in snow before!! I didn’t realize how incredibly difficult it actually is. We had to take each step carefully, trying to make sure that we wouldn’t slip. We kind of lined up single file behind the guys who had hiking boots and stepped in their footsteps. It ended up being a gorgeous day for a hike, though we didn’t quite make it all the way to the top.
After having lunch in front of a beautiful view of the mountains, and leaving behind a nice little souvenir of our presence, we tried to make our way down quickly to try and get back to the abbey in time for mass.
Unfortunately, on our way down, because we went so fast and because by this point, we were already exhausted, some of us got injured. One in our group tweak his knee so we ended up lining in front of him, trying to flatten the snow so he didn’t have to bend his knee as much. It took us so much longer to get down because we had to go slowly for him but it was really something to see all of us working together to help out one of our own… Hehehehehe It was a fantastic trip, though now, all of us are really really sore… c”,) Anyways, that’s all for today! Have a happy Sunday!!
I’m very glad that one of the things I gave up for Lent is NOT movies because last night, something very special happened at the abbey. It being the vigil of the Feast of St. Benedict, we had a very special gift come to us from Salt and Light TV, the Catholic TV network of Canada. Its founder and director, Fr. Rosica came over to visit us because two years ago, a team of about 10 (I think… I wasn’t here at the time) people came over for close to two weeks to film the lives of the monks as they prepare for Holy Week and the Easter Triduum celebrations. Last night, monks, majors and minors all gathered together in the gym for a very special premiere screening of this documentary. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself… that wasn’t all that happened yesterday.
Because yesterday was also a Sunday, everything revolved around it being a Sunday. We did not have the Vespers of Saturday evening celebrating St. Joseph’s Feast Day and likewise, we did not have the Vespers of yesterday celebrated in anticipation of St. Benedict’s feast. Both were Sunday order, which here takes precedence over any and all other feasts and solemnities. Normally, for big celebrations like those two, we would have what’s called First Vespers the evening before in anticipation for the feast or solemnity and Second Vespers the evening of the day of, to celebrate its close.
But really, why am I telling you all this when I wasn’t even around at the abbey at the time of Vespers yesterday? A group of 8 of us were sent down to the Cathedral to help serve mass with Archbishop Miller for the catechumens and candidates who will be fully entering the Church this coming Easter Vigil. It was a glorious mass with really beautiful readings on the Transfiguration and his grace, Archbishop Miller, had some wonderful words for the many catechumens present. It ended up being a long mass too because all the new elect were invited to come and shake the Archbishop’s hand before signing their name on the book of the elect. The whole mass went by mostly without any problems… Last week (when another group of seminarians went for a similar mass for those catechumens who couldn’t make it this week), they apparently put a little too much incense into the thurible causing the fire alarm to go off during mass. Everyone at first thought that these ringing bells were a part of the mass because it was timed so perfectly during the sanctus but soon realized that it was the fire alarm when it just kept going and going… Hehehhehehe No fires for my little group yesterday!
After mass, we went off for a quick dinner to try and get back to the abbey in time for the movie. I had night and day for my meal, eating a sub from Subway (because we wanted to stay healthy) and a milkshake from McDonalds (because I love milkshakes!!). Hehehehehhe By the time we got back, we had just missed the sung vigils and were right on time for the movie.
The movie itself was absolutely stellar!! It was shot completely, I think, on HD during Lent two years ago, meaning that I still recognized a few of the seminarians who were there, albeit, they were much younger then. Some of the minors there have moved up to the majors, while some of the majors, including the deacon has gone on to become a priest today. But most of the “actors” of this particularly movie were the monks. It focused particularly on the young monks, showing how really, young people today still choose to give their lives completely and totally to Christ. It’s not as unusual as one thinks. It brought me to so many places I have not at all seen, even after close to 8 months of living on these grounds, such as the monk’s dining room and the inside of the bell tower (although I might get to see this after I asked Fr. Alban, who’s in charge of the bell tower, a bit… I won’t be able to climb it though). These guys were given complete access to the monastery and a lot of the footage they caught was stupendous… One can visit the monastery everyday, or even live here for as many as 8-11 years, as some seminarians end up doing, without seeing some of the things we saw in the movie. Unless you become a Benedictine, you’ll always be looking from the outside in and will only get a really small taste of the hidden life they all share. But from the taste you get out of this documentary, you will see that it is, in fact, very good. I hope you take advantage and try and see it this coming Palm Sunday. It will be aired this coming Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm ET/9:30 pm PT on Salt and Light but from what I heard, it will also premiere on EWTN and the Catholic station in Boston this Holy Week. I don’t know the times there though… Again, for those who have not yet seen, here’s the link for the trailer!!!
Happy feast of St. Benedict everyone!!! God bless!!!
Quick update for today:
This day in history, as happily pointed out by my drama teacher, was the death of Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago. Well drama class was in the morning so I had to spend the rest of the day kind of watching my back to make sure no one was plotting anything nasty!!! Sigh… That’s life I guess in a Catholic seminary.
Also today was Game 1 of the Monroe Cup – the finals of the annual seminarian hockey league. It was a really tough and tearful fight but unfortunately my team ended up in 3rd place, losing to the team that is now in the finals in our 7 game series. We ended up winning only 1 game… Sigh… At least we finished 3rd!! Today, the final two teams began their quest for the cup. I’m pretty stoked to find out which team will go all the way!!
The last thing about today is that we’ve seen the trailer for an awesome documentary that was filmed by Salt and Light Catholic Media here last year. It’s a documentary about the life of the monks who run our seminary and it’s pretty epic!!! It’s entitled “This Side of Eden” and depicts the monks in their daily life. The guys who were here last year apparently even got access to the monastery so I saw clips of places I’ve never even been too though I’ve lived here for close to 6 months!! If you’re interested in this documentary and have access to the Salt and Light channel, it will be coming out on Palm Sunday this year!! We’ll be getting a sneak peek at it this Sunday though so I’ll tell you about it later on… In the meantime, here’s the trailer for you to check out!!
This Side of Eden trailer saltandlighttv.org/thissideofeden/
That’s it for tonight… I’ve still gotta work on a chapter summary of Etienne Gilson’s “Spirit of Medieval Philosophy”!!! God bless!!!
Featured Image today from iBjorn (Flickr Creative Commons)