Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for June, 2011

Tough times

This has been a pretty difficult week for myself and a lot of people both from the city of Vancouver.

First of all, for those who may or may not know (and I don’t know how one cannot know what has happened,) a few days ago, my favorite hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks lost their final game in the Stanley Cup Finals to the bigger, tougher Boston Bruins. If that’s not bad enough, immediately afterwards, a bunch of stupid kids decided to completely humiliate the Canucks and the rest of the city by rioting, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and tarnishing a reputation the city and its people have worked so hard to build. I did go downtown extremely nervous for the game but hopeful for a celebration when I noticed on the sky train a slightly different vibe among fans. In the past, particularly during the Olympics, there would be an excited, enthusiastic crowd who, even though we were all squished together like sardines, were nevertheless upbeat. I remember that there were even lots of kids and young families around. I think the blue vested volunteers everywhere made a tremendous difference for an event like this.

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On Wednesday, I saw a lot more aggravation on the train to downtown. There were a lot of young guys bringing with them a bit of alcohol too. There was also a lot of pushing and shoving as people by the thousands were trying to be downtown for the game. The game was over really after the second period as the Bruins were too rough and big for the already beaten up Vancouver team and kudos to them, because they deserved to win that game. I was watching the game from the archdiocese along with the youth and young adult ministry office. What’s nice about watching from there was the fact that the chapel was nearby so after the first period, with the Canucks down by a goal, I was able to go in there to pray a bit. It helped me a lot to keep things in perspective… Hockey is, ultimately, just a game!

The whole riot thing was pretty tragic to see and led me to a whole bunch of different questions. The big one, ultimately was why was it that kids, and in particular, young men, were so drawn to all the violence and destruction that went on downtown. As a Catholic Christian, it’s true that I believe in man’s fallen nature but it’s also true that man has been redeemed already through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Why therefore are so many of the youth inclined to violence? Is it simply a matter of the messages sent to them by the media in the form of movies, television and video games? Is the virtual world clouding their (our) perception of the real world? Does it go deeper? This week, during some theology talks up at Simon Fraser University, we talked a little bit about how God, having revealed Himself to Moses as “I am” is a God, really of the present. The devil, prefigured in the Book of Isaiah (Is 14: 12-14), as the king of Babylon on the other hand seems to be the ruler of the uncertain future. The mass and in general, Catholic liturgy, really is one centered around the “hodie”… the “today.” All the readings, the prayers, everything about Catholic liturgy and worship centers around God’s message for each one of us TODAY… Hopefully, as I learn more about this in liturgy classes next year, I’ll be able to say more about it… Maybe the youth of today, given the many options open to them in their life and given the many distractions surrounding them through the mass media no longer live in the NOW. Maybe they play in the devil’s playground in their anxieties and fears for the future and their neglect of the past?

Maybe there’s even a psychological twist to this whole thing too? I was recently watching an amazing interview conducted by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ with Dr. Ray Guarendi, a Catholic psychologist on the effect of the psychological movements of the 70s, not just on the Church but on the world of today. I’ve embedded the link of this video for anyone interested in checking it out… It’s just on youtube. This topic though was one we looked at a little bit during my seminary year too… It’ll take a whole blog post (or two) to really dissect it… Ultimately though, they speak of how, in today’s society, with the taboo attached to telling people what’s RIGHT or WRONG because of fear of upsetting their values, making judgments and stepping on their rights. Instead of saying “that’s wrong” when a kid is punching his sister in the face, we say “that behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable.” Morality is no longer talked about and yet it exists… there IS a universal moral law… We totally see it even in the backlash that’s happening now against the rioters. We’re trying to hold them accountable for their actions, not because it was inappropriate but because it was wrong and bad!

Maybe it has to do with the lack of father figures in our society today. Do we men really know what it means to be a man, and greater, a husband, and even greater, a father? Society seems to think we’re mindless, gutless, chauvinistic, alcohol-driven and violent animals… We see it all the time in the media we’re showing to our kids. Where are all the men? Where are all the fathers? Where are all those who show us the proper way of dealing with any kinds of aggression we have in us and teaching us the proper object to direct that aggression to? Where are the fathers who, totally confident in us, thrust us into the world, affirming us all the way? (Mothers tend to hang on to their kids, sheltering them from the dangers of the world)

These are all fronts in a battlefield where not just priests, but all lay people really need to be present and fighting for. It’s an exciting time to be a priest and just as exciting a time to be a seminarian… c”,) Have a fantastic evening!!!

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PS. These are cookies baked by a friend of mine that we ate on Game 5 (a game we won) and symbolize hopefully what we’ll do to the Bruins and any other team next year!! Hehehehehhe Go Canucks Go!!! Thanks for a fantastic season

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Ordinations Galore!!!

Less of the structure of the seminary unfortunately has also translated into less blogs.Sorry about that you guys… hehehehehehe Like a lot of the other seminarians, I had big plans to begin this summer with that have slowly started to fall through… Part of the fun of all of this though is not so much in the victories (or the defeats) but rather in the battles themselves… that’s a little tidbit, perhaps also applicable to Game 5 between the Bruins and Canucks later on today… c”,)

So what have I been up to since my last update? Well, in spite of the lack of order in my life, there has been a lot of ordinations… hheehehehehehe… A couple of weeks ago, a whole bunch of us got together and braved the mighty Coquihalla highway to get out to Kamloops for one of our friends, Paul’s ordination to the diaconate. Getting to Kamloops was an adventure already in itself… The Coquihalla was backed up for a number of hours because of a very bad accident involving a couple of semis and cars just on the outskirts of Merritt, BC. We had left (in individual carpools) relatively early because there was to be a dinner hosted by the diocese of Kamloops in honor of Paul and a choir practice (before dinner) in preparation for the Mass. Because of the accident, we knew that it was incredibly unlikely we were going to make it for the choir practice… The adventure began when Mark and I discovered through the GPS, a smaller highway just below the main Coquihalla route that we would need to get to through a small logging road. We were not driving an off road vehicle (not even by a longshot) so just the fact that we made it through to the end of that highway was a mini miracle in itself…

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We were absolutely thrilled when we saw this…

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The ordination itself went really really well. We did manage to get in a short choir practice (as soon as everyone else arrived) after dinner inside a small broom closet where we could practice out of the way of the craziness of the preparations going on everywhere around us. The cathedral of the Kamloops diocese is a really pretty one, as you can see, and by the end of the day, we were very happy for the new deacon.

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A week later (so this would be last week), we were even happier when this time, Pablo, another seminarian classmate, was ordained to the diaconate, this time for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. For his ordination, we ended up serving the mass. My job (one of my favorite jobs because it’s very difficult to mess up on) was the boat. The boat is the little container of the incense that the thurifer needs whenever the incense is to be used. I love this job because I am only really needed essentially at the beginning of mass and around the time of the Gospel. It’s a very straightforward assignment and really allows me to take part in the mass without having to worry about anything else around me. I loved seeing Pablo getting ordained by Archbishop Miller. It must have been an amazing moment for him!!! During the reception in the hall of the cathedral, we all gave Pablo a very special gift. All seminarians have their very own peculiarities and his involves fish… Last year, Deacon Bryan (soon to be Fr. Bryan) and a few other guys managed to sneak into his locked room by climbing through the window (I believe it was 3 stories high) and “borrowed” his most prized fish, leaving behind a nice little Betta in its place. Pablo was a little upset about that (from what I heard, almost to the point of tears c”,) ). Well as a present for his ordination, a parish decided to give him 19 Bettas which were presented to him by all his fellow seminarians… Hehehehehe that was quite a sight to see!!! Because Pablo also really likes the movie “Despicable Me” (partly because he thinks he can relate to Gru, the main protagonist,) I also bought him a copy of the book “Sleepy Kittens” complete with three finger puppet kittens to play with, just like in the movie… hehehehehe He really liked that gift too…

The third ordination is probably one of the biggest ones. It will be tomorrow in the Vancouver Cathedral and, as I’ve alluded to a little bit, involves Deacon Bryan getting ordained to the priesthood. For this, a lot of the seminarians came back to Vancouver, whether they live way up north in Prince George or way down south in Olympia, Washington. Most of us met yesterday evening for a holy hour in Deacon Bryan’s home parish followed by a small dinner hosted by his family at their home. It was a really awesome reunion for most of us, some of whom haven’t been back since the last day of the seminary. In addition to eating, we played a few games (just for fun); one of which involved trying to balance a piece of marshmallow on a straw without the use of hands by sucking on that marshmallow through another straw… It sounds complicated but it actually was a lot of fun… Heheheehehehe So please pray for Deacon Bryan!! It’s a huge and special day for him tomorrow and for anyone who’s around, it will be in the Cathedral at 10 am… That’s all for now guys… I’ll try and fight to get more blogs in more frequently!!!