Thoughts from a young theologian

Flexes and Dragons


Each year, apparently, as your stay in the seminary gets longer and longer, your responsibilities grow more and more too… This year, I have added a couple of new, permanent jobs under my belt… Maybe because I’m a blogger, one of the first things given to me was official “diary taker,” which essentially entails writing up short little blurbs (significantly shorter than a blog post) about important days within the community for the Pax Regis, which is the monastery/seminary newsletter for its supporters… The other job I got this year is head waiter, one of two positions, which makes me directly responsible over all the waiters every other week. As I’ve mentioned in a post a while back, one of the more “interesting” jobs out here is the waitering position where, each day, you set the food on the table, serve your brother seminarians their food, clean up after them once they set their plates aside after eating, and eat after the entire community has eaten. This, I believe, is a monastic tradition passed on to us in the seminary… As head waiter, I get to make sure that everything is running smoothly, regardless of who the waiters are that week and that the head table, where the monk in charge of us sits, is well taken care of… It’s a lot of fun, actually… Hehehehehe

This past week also, we held our annual elections for our student council that basically takes care of ALL 25 of us… Hehehehehe… While last year, the elections were pretty straightforward with proclamations of “Habemus presidente, Habemus vice presidente, etc…” going on after pretty much every second vote, this year, we had tons and tons of black smoke before finally getting the white! For every position, there appeared to be a fierce battle and when the smoke cleared, I was elected to the vice president position. What does that mean? Not that much actually… hehehehe of all 4 positions (president, vice president, secretary, treasurer), the VP has the least amount of extra responsibilities… What it has meant for me though these days are extra nighttime meetings, such as the one we had last night for our Debt Meeting (at least that’s what I call it… It really is our Budget meeting). Hehehehehehe So that has taken up a little bit more time, but it’s still pretty fun…

One of the days this past week also marked one of my most stressful vespers ever…. Hehehehe… If you ever want to try and have an adreanaline rush during vespers, all you really need to do is come in as a cantor at the last minute on a feast day when all the familiar intonations to begin each psalm are gone and changed because of the feast… We celebrated on Wednesday last week was the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, which meant that instead of doing the normal Wednesday Vesper psalms, we chanted the psalms from the common of Apostles… The problem was that I (and coincidentally, the cantor on the other side of the choir stalls) forgot that the psalm tones change with the feast until right when the bells were already ringing… That means you’ve got 5 minutes to figure out what you’ve got to do… The first psalm looked relatively straightforward to me and I was able to figure out how exactly I needed to sing it, however the second psalm had the much dreaded flex!!!!!! Flexes come up whenever there’s a longer psalm and it usually entails having to go down before going around, such as you can see in this picture… The problem was, with this particular flex, I had absolutely no clue where to start from and how low to go… Hehehehehe As the time for chanting that psalm drew nearer, I was frantically trying to figure out how to go about it while at the same time, trying to look composed and calm exteriorly… Hehehhehee that was fun… I did end up messing up on it at first, but thanks to the help of Fr. Basil, the organist, I recovered decently and came away from Vespers relatively unscathed… Sigh… flexes…

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The other thing I’d like to bug you guys about this week is the fact that spiritual direction started for me this week… I went over to see my spiritual director, Fr. Peter, with all the tough thoughts and vocational issues that had piled up with me over the summer… How far am I going with this? Is it really my calling? How do I know? All of these questions that had been building up inside me, and that I have been taking to prayer poured out… Ever wise, he gave me some really fantastic advice… He spoke of how the minors, over the past weekend, watched together the movie “How to train your dragon.” There’s a scene there where, monk-like, he drew tremendous insight… It’s the scene where Hiccup, the young, skinny, wimpy viking with a heroic, super buff, chief of the tribe father asks his friend and mentor, Gobber, why he’s not being allowed to fight dragons like all the other vikings… What’s wrong with him? The dialogue is worth quoting in its entirety, I think…

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Gobber: Don’t you… no, Hiccup! If you ever want to get out there to fight dragons, you need to stop all… this. [gestures to all of Hiccup]
Hiccup: But you just pointed to all of me!
Gobber: Yes! That’s it! Stop being all of you!

The problem isn’t one part of him, rather it’s all of him!!! In a similar vein, for vocations, we’re always trying to find that one event, that one experience, that one sign that’ll tell us immediately what we are supposed to do, sort of like Mary with her Annunciation, or St. Paul and his horse falling episode… But more often than not, that’s not how God works… It’s almost never ONE thing but rather, it’s a convergence of many things that make up all of us…. So to truly discover our vocation, we need to take our time (a lesson I still really need to learn lots of)… In trying to find that one answer so I can “move on with my life,” either in the direction of priesthood entirely or in the direction of marriage, I’m really trying to take huge leaps when I’m still trying to learn how to walk… Just like Hiccup had to train himself and Toothless, his dragon, everyday and spend hours on end learning how to fly before finally piercing the sky, so I too need to spend more time in prayer, what should be the foundation for the life of any and all Christians, learning how to walk with Christ… It’s really only then, little by little, that I’ll be able to find my vocation and place in this world… Vocation discernment is a long process because it’s not my work, but God’s work with all of me… Cool eh? Have a good day and God bless!!! c”,)

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Photos from the movie “How to train your dragon”

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