Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for April, 2011

The best time of the year

These past few days have been quite a huge blur. As we have been incredibly busy approaching what is perhaps the three most important and critical days of the whole year… the summit of Catholic Christian liturgy, that which is to the year what Sunday is to the week, the Easter Triduum. And there has been quite an unbelievable amount of preparation, 40 days of it, to be exact, to prepare all of us for what is to transpire between this evening and the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Well, this will probably be one of the last times I’ll be using the internet until Sunday, so this post will not be an incredibly long one (I hope)… This past week, since the last time I’ve posted, has gone by pretty quick. So much has happened, much of which I’m still pretty much in denial of whether it was something that really happened or not… Part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that for the last 3 Introduction to Philosophy classes, we’ve been analyzing, philosophically, the Matrix Trilogy. It’s actually far deeper than all the superficial action in it suggests!! I’ll try and make up a post on that sometime this summer but it, in addition to everything else going on has made me start to doubt the reality around me.

Are the Canucks really up against the Blackhawks 3-1 in their series? Did it really SNOW last night and early last week… in April!!! Was that really a barn owl that we let go? Have half of the minors seminary really gone home? Have I really reached the end of my first year here in the seminary? It feels like it’s all gone by in a blink… Yes, the Canucks are winning (and I hope they can close out their series tonight, though I will not at all be able to watch it). Yes it really snowed… in fact, here are some pictures to prove it…

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Yes… the whole incident with Wilfred actually happened. Earlier this month, the minors really did find, outside their door, a barn owl staring at them. One of them did run around to distract it while the other caught it in a little box. It turned out the poor thing was sick and injured because of lack of food so they age it to Wildlife Rescue, whose volunteers nursed it back to health. Then, late last week, these volunteers did come back with Wilfred (the name christened to the owl by the minors, after the last monk who passed away) and released him back in the wild. AGain, here are some pictures to prove that!

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Yes, over half the minor seminary actually went home (or rather was sent home) because a huge flu hit the seminary. It penetrated, first the minors and slowly, some of the monks started getting sick. I ended up catching that flu too on Monday (my birthday) and was knocked out for the entirety of Tuesday because of it… I’m feeling much better now though and unlike all the minors who had it (and were not resting in spite of having it), I was not sent home, thankfully!! c”,)

And yes, the year is finally ending and what better way to end it than to celebrate the most solemn of days, the Triduum. All of these began to hit home for me, really last night, when I was called over to the Vancouver Cathedral with all the other seminarians, to serve the chrism mass. It was literally the first time I had ever seen ALL of the priests of the Vancouver archdiocese all gathered in one building. It was quite a sight to see and has made me, once again, ask myself whether this is really what I want to be… or rather, what I am called to be… I’ll be talking about that with Him tonight! c”,)

To quote the Vancouver Canucks, THIS is REALLY what we live for!! This is the most amazing time to be a Catholic Christian. In just under an hour, the bells will toll for the last time, voices will be hushed, a spirit of reflection and silence will prevail throughout the entire community. For the God-man has died. He who was innocent as a lamb has taken upon Himself all our guilt and bore it up with Him on the cross. And in spite of all that has befell Him, He has nevertheless, overcome all. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting (1 Corinthians 15:55) What a mystery! What love! c”,) Have a blessed Triduum!!!

I slipped his fingers,
I escaped his feet,
I ran and hid, for Him I feared to meet.
One day I passed Him, fettered on a tree,
He turned His head, looked, and beckoned me.
Neither by speed, nor strength could He prevail.
Each hand and foot was pinioned by a nail.
He could not run and clasp me if He tried
But with His eye, he bade me reach His side.
“For pity’s sake,” thought I, “I’ll set you free.”
“Nay – hold this cross,” said He, “and follow Me.
This yoke is easy, this burden light
Not hard nor grievous if you wear it tight.”
So did I follow Him who could not move,
An uncaught captive in the hands of love.

Poem popularized by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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Wrapping up the year: Sports Day

Soooooo much has happened this week that I can only really give you guys tiny bits and pieces. First of all, as I’ve already implied in the title, the whole year is slowly starting to wind down. It might get a little tougher for me to maintain this blog the next couple of weeks because this week has been our last full week of classes. Our last day is on Holy Thursday and we will be having all our exams (sigh) a few days after Easter. So I’ll most likely be incredibly busy over the next few weeks but I’ll definitely try to keep this running.

So as I mentioned before, the past Friday and Saturday was our infamous Sports Day. Friday, we held our opening ceremonies with the presentation of our prepared skits and displays. There were three teams. My team was the Vaticannons so we had a huge obelisk and Vatican flag for display, and we themed our skit after that as well. Our skit however, was waaaaaay to cheesy to really talk about! Hehehehehe suffice it to say that its highlight included a tiny dance sequence by two of the four Filipinos here in the seminary. c”,)

Speaking of cheese, the other group called themselves “Cheese smokies” in honor of the delectable morsels we all feasted on during our camping trip earlier in the year. they wore these plain white shirts with mustard and ketchup plastered all over it and even composed a song honoring its meaty goodness. For their display, they used a large trough filled with some kind of powdery substance (I’m not sure what exactly it was) and lit it on fire causing tons of colored smoke to rise up into the sky. They also held a very large head poster of Fr. Corapi (which unfortunately ended up being a little bit vandalized by the third group later on during the day–they used some of their face paint to draw some battle markings around his face and a little lightning on his forehead). Fr. Corapi was shown as a huge lover of cheese smokies.

Finally, the third group was named the “Lions/Loins (used interchangeably) of David. They, for their display built a gigantic tree complete with a stuffed model of a man (whom they called Absalon) with long golden hair (recycling the wigs we bought for our advent program) hanging from the tree. You have to read the story of Absalon in the bible to really get this. All I really remember about him is that he died by getting his hair stuck in a tree. Their skit was EPIC. They used their tree extensibly in it and depicted a fierce battle between “tree minions” greatly resembling those guys from Avatar with their blue face paint and businessmen complete with tons of pyrotechnics and special effects. They also poked fun at one of our speeches (the one against the use of fluorescent light bulbs) by showing a scene where the minions defeated the businessmen by their use of lightsaber fluorescent bulbs. Again… who says seminarians don’t know how to have fun?

The Friday afternoon and Saturday (whole day) was jam packed with tons of events. We had running events (2400, 400, 100 and 4×100 meter events), high jump, badminton, golf, basketball and hockey. We also had a three-way tug of war, three-way soccer, and a huge “amazing race” style event at the end of the day. Everyone was literally sore most of the day. You could not not be sore running around sooooo much.

I was assigned by my team to most of the long distance running events and to the high jump. These two events are among the BEST ways to realize just how out of shape one really is. I found out just how much I’ve been prioritizing my academic, spiritual and community life and kind of neglecting my own physical health, participating in sports only when it was mandatory. I think that part of that has to do with the fact that being a pre-theology student, there’s only so many hours one has per day to study for 3 massive philosophy courses among other things. Time management, just like in university is critical here too not only because of the heavy academic material but also because one is expected as a seminarian to spend lots of time in prayer too, as well as with the community. The balance is very difficult to find. Anyway, I had to “run” the 2400 and I was doing fine until I started cramping up a bit and had to start walking more than jogging. I was joined by Brother Gregory who was out jogging too for his afternoon run and who ended up trying to get me to pick up the slack a bit… Heheheheheheh Without saying how many we actually were who ran, I will say I ended up in 6th place for this event… c”,)

The day ended with the infamous boat race. I mentioned that one of the activities the preceding week was the building of a well decorated and sturdy cardboard boat. I have to admit that even though our boat was awesome with its built in cannon, the boat of the Cheese Smokies team was in my opinion even better. Their team had built of all things, a make believe grill, complete with a liftable lid on the back of their boat with paper smokies roasting on it. It was fantastic!

The race as well did not disappoint and as exciting as the finish was, with the cheese smokies boat finishing first by a wide margin, nothing could beat what happened right at the beginning. Our team’s paddler was Pablo, the soon to be deacon for the archdiocese of Vancouver (June 3 at Holy Rosary–mark it down!!! Woot woot!! 🙂 ). If you actually personally know Pablo, you’ll get a far better appreciation for why all of us (including him) really enjoyed this. Most of us were waiting on the other side of the lake watching in anticipation when Ryan (the Commisioner) started the race. Pablo took two strokes with his paddle, noticed and said to himself wow… there’s a bit of water going in here and that was the last thought that entered his mind before he and his boat toppled over into the water. It was fantastic!!! c”,) It ended up distracting Deacon Bryan (soon to be Fr. Bryan, June 11 at Holy Rosary–mark this one down too!!!) who was the driver of the third boat of the Lions/Loins of David enough that Dan of the cheese smokies team took a significant lead. It was a fabulous way to finish all of the sporting events!

We ended the day after Vespers out in the burning pit of the abbey creating a nice, big fire (from burning our boats, the big “tree” of the lions/loins and the obelisk. We brought with us our grill, roasting on it what else but cheese smokies (and burgers too). We also had from Brother Benedict (the cook) some amazing potato salad and chili. Fr. Alban (from the monastery) joined us as we spent the greater part of the evening just hanging out and reminiscing about the year that had been.


Friends, Roman (Catholics), Countrymen!!!

Sorry for the lack of updates thus far. It’s been, as usual incredibly busy here at the abbey as our school year is slowly but surely winding down. This coming week is our last full one of classes and following that, it will be the beginning of Holy Week and exams! Ouch…

Speech Contest:

As promised, I have for you a quick update on the elocution contest from last Sunday. It’s amazing though how much has happened since then so I’ll try and post a follow up to this as soon as I can. Anyway, as I mentioned before, five of us had made it all the way to the finals for the elocution contest with a range of topics that go from dissuading the use of fluorescent lightbulbs to the importance of chastity. My particular topic was on the appropriate use of Facebook, especially among Catholics today. Just like the other finalists, I spent a considerable amount of time practicing for this but was always trying to find a good balance between this and all the other projects that needed to get done during the week. We were all extremely nervous during the day of the event… hheheehhe sometimes, I guess, the hype of the event itself especially within all three communities here (monks, majors and minors) gets pushed up so much that there’s quite a bit of pressure felt by the finalists to do well and put on a good show. And there’s more people in our audience because the parents (mostly of the minors) come by to visit their kids as well during that day. Though our speeches are the main event, we are nevertheless accompanied by the majors choir, Quasimodo (literally translated from the Latin: as if…) the minors band, and the minors schola choir.

I was the fourth to have to go and present my speech and from hearing what the other guys had done before me, I was sooooooo nervous. It’s not as if I hadn’t either spoken in front of a large audience before but it doesn’t matter whether I’m in front of a big crowd or in front of a small group, I always inevitably get nervous. What made this most difficult was that the speeches had to be memorized as well so when one combines nerves and memory, it definitely does not bode well for memory. I was doing fairly well in the delivery of my speech when towards the end, I forgot a quote from Pope Benedict. I stumbled along trying to get it back and was so stressed out about it that I forgot how my conclusion went. So I had one tiny paragraph left to go when suddenly, it wasn’t there. I stood on the spot in front of everyone frozen in silence. There was a huuuuge urge in me to want to just walk off and end it there but there was also a part of me that was telling me that the message I was giving was important enough to end it well. I was frozen for about 10 seconds, uncertain about what to do. From the corner of my eye, I saw Fr. Abbot looking at me, mouthing out the words calm down… So I took a deep breath and suddenly, there it was! The ending of my speech!!! I finished and walk off the stage partly relieved but also partly upset at myself for having messed up. I just kept telling myself that at least I had gotten the message out there but that whole ending colored my whole impression of how I had done during the entire thing.

You can imagine my tremendous surprise when it was announced that I somehow came in second despite all of that. The judges had not taken any marks off from the forgotten quote or from the veeeery long pause because according to them, these things happen, especially when one uses relatively long quotes and it’s not so much about that it has happened but how one responds to it when it does. That I was able to recover from it turned out really well for me in the end… The winner for the whole contest was Peter, a seminarian from Olympia, Washington. His speech topic was on the acceptable use of animal testing which he addressed in a very funny but convincing sort of way. All in all, it was a great experience…

Spirit Week:

This week was also a very special one because it marked the beginning of a long-standing tradition here in the seminary of “Spirit Week.” Spirit Week is a time of preparation for our annual sports day, which we held yesterday. What do we prepare for you ask? Well, the following story may give you some insights to what we do and why we call the whole thing “Spirit Week.”

On Friday, I had to quickly drive down to Canadian Tire to pick up some supplies for my team. I bought three cans of spray paint and two HUGE rolls of duct tape!! The clerk saw all my duct tape and inquisitively asked what I needed all the duct tape for… “We’re building a cardboard boat made of just cardboard and duct tape that we’ll be racing across a little lake tomorrow…” Hehehehhehehe she just looked at me kind of stunned… 😛 But there’s more… we not only have to build a boat that will actually float, it will also have to be well decorated and in line with whatever theme our group chooses. In addition, we have to also prepare a big display for our team (Whatever that display is is of our own choosing) and a skit for the opening ceremonies which were on Friday afternoon. Who says seminarians are not fun?

My team was called the Vaticannons and so, being themed after the Vatican, we built a huge replica of the obelisk outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as well as a massive yellow and white flag (made by joining together I don’t know how many table cloths). We built a boat with, what else but an actual functioning cannon!!! Hehehehehehe But I think I’ve gone on a little too much for today. I’ll continue on this story more sometime during the week. Happy Sunday and God bless!!!