Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for October, 2011

Some things never change

It’s amazing how fast this month and this semester seems to be swinging by!! Already almost the end of the month with Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day just around the corner! So much and yet so little has happened since my last post…

In all honesty, there’s not really anything out of the ordinary seminary life that has happened… Daily life has been marked by regular getting up at 4:30 – 5:00 am (something that I’m already pretty used to nowadays). Whenever I get up at 4:30, I’m usually able to join the monks for their Lauds (morning prayer) at 5, though that hasn’t happened much this year because of my late studying nights… Then, at 5:30, I try and spend some time doing some spiritual reading. Unofficially, on my own time, I’m working through St. Augustine’s Confessions, a masterpiece for anyone interested in reading it… There’s so much that I can relate to in it… Officially, that is, with my spiritual director, I’m also reading Jacques Philippe’s In the School of the Holy Spirit, which is incidentally one of the books highly recommended by Fr. Abbot. Then, we have mass at 6:30, breakfast at 7 and classes begin at 8:30. I’m really loving the classes I’m taking this year. It’s been a ton of fun learning Greek because, although it’s really its own thing, there a lot in it that has been adapted into English too, just like Latin. Plus, we have Fr. Lawrence for our teacher. He’s one of the older Benedictine monks in the community but his mind is still as sharp as razor. The best part about Fr. Lawrence is by far his tangents… Often, when we encounter a word or situation that we’re trying to translate, either in Greek or in Latin, it reminds him of certain experiences he’s had in the past and it’s sooooooo much fun hearing him go into these. We learn a little more about the history of the monastery and a lot about Fr. Lawrence’s life, and quite often, they’re pretty funny. The Latin and especially the Greek classes are by far, my favorite…

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Another class I’ve been caught up in te middle of is Metaphysics… We’re currently working through St. Thomas Aquinas’ De Ente et Essentia and, while it is quite challenging, we have a more than capable teacher of it in Fr. Peter. Trying to wrap our minds around “being”, “substance”, “essence”–what something is and “existence” — that something is, has been a challenge for most of us, but a very welcome one at that… Fr. Peter’s new thing this year (apparently, he always introduces something quite different each year) are powerpoint presentations. The monks are so into this new One Note application, that I honestly have not heard of, nor have not had much experience of, by Microsoft… They’re loving the program to bits and they’ve been designing these pretty intricate powerpoint presentations to help in their teaching… How can you use power points to try and teach metaphysics you may ask? Well, the last class, we had tons of pictures of observatories to illustrate an important point. We’re in the middle of discussing what ideas and thoughts are, and for St. Thomas Aquinas, they’re the means
by which we know things… Contrary to Descartes, the ideas are not what we know when we say we know (otherwise, we’d be stuck in our minds and untrusting of everything else around us) but they’re the means by which we get at reality… So Fr. Peter used these pictures of observatories to show us that when we’re trying to look at the stars, what we know isn’t the telescopes but rather the stars by means of the telescopes which we use as a tool to view them. He goes into a bit more detail on that, but I don’t want to either bore or lose you in this, so I’ll leave it there… Hehehehe… Needless to say, our metaphysics classes have an extra little doohickey (to use the favorite word of Fr. Lawrence) added to them…

So that’s how things have been pretty much the same here in the abbey… Life has been fairly regular with prayer, studies and community time… Hehehehe… at the same time though, amidst the constancy, there has been quite a bit of dynamism too… The environment around us has been changing pretty dramatically… The colors of the trees have been exquisite too lately! There’s one tree in particular, I think it’s a Japanese maple, that’s found on the little walkway between the majors residence and the abbey church that exemplified this really well… It now has a beautiful fire red color that stands out against the dull grey sky behind it…

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Also, we’ve shifted in our Divine Office from the upbeat and “cheerful” summer tone on to the more reserved and soothing winter tone… That’s unfortunately something that I can’t really illustrate… You’d have to come here and experience it for yourself… c”,) Our food has been changing too… We’ve been having a little less corn (which we’d had in abundance just a couple of weeks ago) and more squash… Apparently, we’ll have to really get used to squash because they’ve just harvested a truckload of it from the farm… Hehehehehehe And speaking of food, one interesting thing that I did as well last week was I helped the fraters (younger monks) make some sauerkraut… In a little room underneath the monastery, we basically spent a Saturday afternoon grounding up about 8 boxes of cabbage (trust me… that’s a lot of cabbage) and dumping it all into this huge bin, adding salt and hammering it down until the juices (water) in the cabbage came out… Then we sealed it and are now allowing it to ferment for about a month… Apparently, it gets really hot too as it ferments so periodically, a few of us guys are definitely going to be checking it out to see how it’s going… And that’s been my update for you so far… Have a Happy All Saints Day!!! God bless!!!20111030-094638.jpg

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Letter from one about to die

Also, today being the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, I thought I’d write a little blurb about him… He was a Father of the Church, meaning that he lived just a little bit after the apostles were around… In fact, he is thought to be one of the students of the Apostle John… He was a bishop in Antioch, which was one of the larger Christian cities in what is today, Turkey… While he was a bishop, he was captured for his faith (this was the time that lots of Christians were being persecuted and even martyred for their faith and it was on the boat between Antioch and Rome that he wrote a small bunch of his most famous letters that have survived until today. The reason I’m mentioning him today, apart from the fact that it’s his feast day, is because when we did the office of readings yesterday, we ran into an excerpt from his letter to the Romans… It’s one of the most touching and endearing letters I’ve ever read and so I thought it’s worth quoting here in its entirety… Remember as you read the letter that this is a man who’s being transported to Rome to die at the hands of lions in the coliseum… Have a great day and God bless!!!

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This picture, I got from Wikipedia 🙂

Letter to the Romans: From the Office of Readings, October 17, Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favor, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.


Mass from the mountaintop

Sorry for the silence… I’ve really been scrounging around for time to blog (and, as you’ve seen, have been having a tough time getting it). This year really is just that much busier than last year… Last week, the reason I wasn’t able to blog was because of a home weekend that we all had… Again, home weekends are those times when, once a month, we all get to go home and be with our families… This particular home weekend coincided with Canadian thanksgiving so, rather than blogging as I should have, I spent most of the weekend with family and friends eating turkey and being merry,,,, Heheheheheh

Again, it has been a pretty busy year so far… We haven’t gotten much “free” weekends where we get to just settle down and study (and blog)… This past weekend, a big group of us spent the weekend with our newly ordained (just this past June) Fr. Bryan in the middle of the forest… It was our annual camping trip! We headed out to the nearby Dewdney Mountain (the same place where the minors went camping a couple of weeks prior) right after our chant class. We packed along with us so much food!!! Most of the rest of Friday night went by like a blur… We ate noodle bowls, home-made stir fry and one piece of steak. We chatted, particularly with Fr. Bryan a bit on how his first few months of priesthood were going. He shared with us something that I have been hearing a lot lately as well… the fact that you’re still the same person before and after ordination. You don’t magically change once the bishop lays his hands on you… Sure, ontologically (in your being) there’s a huge change because you become a sharer in the one priesthood of Christ and can now begin acting in persona Christi to celebrate the sacraments but personally, you’re still the same person with the same strengths and weaknesses… You still have the same struggles you’ve had before… They don’t magically go away… It’s a bit of a testament to the importance of our seminary formation… If we’re to be good, holy priests, we need to start acting on it all now… We need to develop our prayer lives now. We need to organize our days, through our rules of life, now and be as faithful as we can be to those rules…We can’t wait for ordination and expect a sudden change to occur in our habits… Hehehehehe… Anyways, that’s enough of my little tangent there…

The next day, after getting up at 7 am, we began by praying the lauds… It was super cold that morning so we huddled around the campfire as we prayed… That was followed by a breakfast of oatmeal and omelette… After packing up all our stuff, we headed over to the trail… Our camping trips aren’t just for eating but a big part of it is the hike… Last year, our biggest challenge was the snow we ran into on the way up that mountain… This year, the challenge was the mountain itself… From the get go, we had nothing but close to a 45 degree angle incline!!! It was like doing the Grousse Grind without stairs and while some of us were in relatively decent shape, it was almost a bit too much for most of us. We had to abandon our idea of hitting the summit, also because Fr. needed to be at a nearby parish to celebrate anticipated mass at 5 pm that day too… Rather than making it to the summit therefore, we stopped about halfway at a little cabin with a fantastic view. It was there that we had one of the most memorable masses I’ve ever experienced… Pope John Paul II, as a university chaplain, used to bring students out on canoeing trips and celebrate mass on top of overturned canoes… We had the luxury of finding a little table from within the cabin, piling up some of our nicer hoodies on it (as a tablecloth), and positioning it so that we were all facing the view… Then, Fr. Brian celebrated mass for all of us. It was exhilarating… Heheheehehe We didn’t quite make it up to the summit of our mountain but, because of the mass, heaven instead came down to our little group and we ascended even higher than tiny little Dewdney Mountain… Hehehehehe… At least that’s the way I looked at it…Today, 3 days later, I’m still feeling the effects of that hike (more in my legs though than anything else)

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After the mass, we ended our day before our quick descent, with a lunch of pita bread, cheese, beef jerky, nutella, Oreos and honey… You can imagine what kind of delicacies we all concocted with that kind of combination of food… Heheheehehe…

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I’ll unfortunately have to end this quick little blog post here… I’ve got a sociology, metaphysics and Latin exam all this one week and I’ve still got a ton of stuff to study… So once again, I’ll try really hard to get the next post out sooner but I can’t make any promises… I hope and pray for all the best for you though… God bless!!!