Thoughts from a young theologian

Archive for November, 2013

Back to Banneux

Do you know the feeling of when you’re a little kid in like this massive candy store where you’re able to eat just about anything you like and it’s all yummy and tasty and healthy for you? And then at a certain point, after eating so much great stuff, you start feeling a little bit sick and just a little bit tired… and you start craving for vegetables? Maybe it’s not a universal experience…. Hahahaha Anyway, that’s a weird little analogy to illustrate where I got to a little bit this week. The semester has been a seemingly very long one with very few pauses in between… almost a bit like a marathon which, though it’s been very good has also been very tiring… Well I remember sitting in my funerals class this week thinking “This stuff is so great but I’m starting to get a little bit tired of all this goodness…” J I don’t know if any of you guys can relate to this… It’s sorta like that feeling when the semester is starting to wind down, exams are coming up and the weight of everything that you’ve received and worked on throughout the semester is starting to be felt…

Well one of the ways I tried to refocus and to get some rest at the same time was by just taking a night off one of the days this past week to watch a little movie. I recently bought from iTunes the movie “The Wolverine” and I really wanted to check it out when I had a bit of free time. The problem is that as a student, free time is an extremely rare commodity… So I grabbed at it when even the smallest bit of free time came up… and it was awesome! Wolverine who’s in Japan after being invited by his dying friend whom he saved years and years ago then has to battle tons of gangsters and ninjas to save this man’s daughter from the baddies. It sounds soooooo cheesy but it was exactly the kind of movie I needed. And it raises some pretty fascinating questions—particularly on the question of immortality. This will be a spoiler free review so don’t worry. As most fans know, Wolverine is a mutant from the Marvel universe who has adamantium claws able to cut through anything and a fantastic healing power that allows him to recover from anything he receives—and gives him the power of being able to live forever. What the film greatly tackles is the question about what a great gift and what an immense curse this immortality is… It’s something that I think fascinates all of us a bit… the thought of living forever. I remember as a biologist in SFU, learning about this one powerful little enzyme that a lot of people are studying called telomerase. Basically, the process of replicating DNA, a process necessary for each time the cell divides (when we grow or heal, etc.) eats up a little bit DNA each time it happens. To compensate, an enzyme called telomerase adds tons and tons of “junk DNA” at the ends of the chromosomes (the cluster of DNA) to protect the person’s DNA from getting snipped off at the end. But this enzyme is only active in babies (and in cancer cells—which is why they can reproduce indefinitely) and shuts off a little bit after birth. So each human being has a limited supply of “junk” DNA to protect him from the very slowly self destructing process of DNA replication—and it’s this enzyme, dubbed “the immortality gene” that’s causing quite a bit of whisperings in the academic world… Who knows? Stop aging by reactivating a rogue enzyme… but it’s intriguing… and just a little bit scary actually…

A very well known Catholic philosopher, Peter Kreeft, once acknowledged to us in the Vancouver seminary, when he came to visit about 3-4 years ago now, that he believes that the minute we discover a way of stopping death, that’s when the world will end… that’s when man sneaks past the angel with the flaming sword into the Garden of Eden and tries to steal fruits from the tree of life and that’s when, “hell on earth” begins… A fallen world of immortals… can you imagine? I mean it’s true that none of us have the desire to die… it’s true that our hearts were made for an eternity… BUT NOT HERE. Not on this earth… because regardless of how long we have on here, we’ll never ever ever ever find the infinite happiness that our bottomless, restless hearts yearn for in the finite, perishable material world around us… Just a few thoughts from Wolverine… What do you guys think? c”,)

Another way I refocused and got a bit of rest came from the outside—this weekend, the Emmanuel Community here in Belgium got together in Banneux. I’ve spoken to you guys about Banneux already (when we prayed a massive worldwide rosary for the consecration of humanity to Our Lady of Fatima) and it was awesome to be back there… We were there for an overnighter this time on a silent retreat led by one of the priests of the Community, a chaplain at Paray le Monial named Jean-Rodolphe Kars who gave us a whole series of talks on the Sacred Heart. He spoke firstly on the biblical, scriptural groundings of the heart of Jesus, going through in precise detail (i) the Last Supper when John rested on the heart of Jesus and (ii) the piercing of the Sacred Heart on the cross as well as the implications of the two references St. John gave during that moment. It was cool!! After giving us these, he went specifically into the message of Paray le Monial itself… the 3 Great Visions of St. Margaret Mary, etc. J The best part of the retreat though, for me personally was on the one hand, the silence, and on the other, the intimate time I could spend with Our Lady of the Poor.

Our Lady of the Poor

Saturday night, towards the end of a mercy evening that we all celebrated (with adorations and confessions) in one of the churches of the sanctuary, I stole away for a few moments to head over to the little part of the sanctuary where Mary told the visionary, Mariette, to push into the earth and where a spring started sprouting from. Normally, that place is packed with people but it being about 10 pm, I was all alone there with Mary… I spent a few minutes in prayer there—among numerous little prayer intentions, I promised a friend of mine who was getting ordained deacon that Sunday that I’d pray for him before Our Lady. So that’s what I did… I came back refreshed… and boy will I need all the bits of strength that I got from there… These next few weeks coming up are going to be suuuuuuuper intense!! I can see it coming already!!! Augh!! Please pray for me!!! c”,)

Shrine of Banneux

Advertisements

I’m Louvain it !

Yeah… I realize that this is probably the cheesiest and most cliché title I’ve come up with to date but it’s the best that I’ve got so far… It’s been both a busy and a relaxed week or so since the last time I’ve blogged. Last week, we had our one and only break during the semester (so we’ve got to hang on from now until basically, Christmas!) and it lasted for about a week. It gave me the chance to catch up on my courses and to go and visit a bit more of Belgium. So Alex, my Australian seminarian friend, also in the Emmanuel Community, and I visited Camille, a friend from Vancouver, who’s studying in the Catholic University of Louvain, not unreasonably far away. And together, the three of us spent the day checking out both Brussels (15 minutes away by car) and Louvain… It was awesome…

Basilica of the Sacred HeartInside the BasilicaThe back part of the basilica

We started out praying our Holy Hour in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels… It was my first time visiting this magnificent basilica a little off on the outskirts of the city… It’s a gorgeous place… what struck me most were the different stained glass windows that decorated it—they’re a bit more modern and reflect a certain artistic style but they’re gorgeous! Here are a couple of them for you guys to see:

ChristmasLast Supper

After praying (they had a little adoration chapel off to the side with a gigantic Jesus in a giant monstrance) for an hour, we went off for lunch… a “traditional” Belgian Brussels lunch of fries and mussels. We went to a place I visited last year with my maisonnée (household) brothers… Chez Léon. It’s a famous little place not too far from the Grand Place and today, surprisingly for a weekday, it was packed full… We had their special mussels and fries, and apart from the fact that we had a slightly grumpy waiter who I think was just having a bad day, it was an awesome meal. Then we started exploring Brussels a little bit… One of the little chores we had to do that day was to “Asian shop” at one of the mega Asian supermarkets in Brussels—I am a Filipino living with 2 Indonesian and 1 Chinese seminarians… of course we eat Asian!

Grande Place

Then, we checked out this supposedly famous used bookstore called “Pêle Mêle”. It was okay… I found some pretty cool books, including one comic-book/painting style book of a pilgrim on the way from the South of France to Santiago de Compostella. It’s in French, called Compostelle carnet d’un pèlerin by Jacques Dary… Here’s a little excerpt of it.

CompostelleCarnet d'un pèlerin

In general though, I think Powell books in Portland is still by far, the best used bookstore I’ve ever been in worldwide… I’ve found nothing to match it yet. But this one was okay… Then, we did a bit of the regular sight seeing in Brussels—we checked out the Mannekin Pis, like EVERYBODY else… It’s a tiny itsy bitsy little statue of a little boy peeing folks!!! Nothing to see… Sigh… Then we went over to Louvain.

Louvain by dayCity Hall

By this point, it was getting a little later on in the day… it was in fact starting to get dark when we arrived at the infamous Catholic university… It is a student’s dream home and the academic in me was jumping out loud, all excited and jittery… Those who know me well, know what that’s like… I kept telling myself, Archbishop Fulton Sheen once walked these paths… a hundred years ago, it wouldn’t be uncommon to run into a number of priests in cassocks wandering through the labyrinthine streets of Louvain. It’s still a bit of a student’s dream university but today minus the clerics in cassocks and minus the catholicity. While the student in me was sooooo excited, the Catholic in me was getting more and more depressed. The central place was littered, no longer with what I’d imagined were perhaps once quaint little coffee shops but bars and pubs. The churches littered throughout the university city, which still every so often rang out in bell-song, were closed and, I’m pretty sure, empty. And to illustrate this radical change a little bit, I took a picture of the entrance to the law faculty here, where a statue of the goddess of Roman law decorates the entrance…

Sigh

…a foreign goddess decorates the law department of this once famous Catholic university… And I’ve heard a number of rumors of the declining Catholicity of this place… The fact that neither the French (who study with me in Namur) nor the Flemish (who study in Bruges) seminarians of Belgium study there anymore speaks volumes… I don’t want to sound soooo critical here but I couldn’t help myself as I was walking around, seeing so many young people there who don’t know Jesus… who are living the “you only live once, YOLO” life. Sigh… Here’s more pictures of the place though… I think that if I get the chance to, when I get a day or so free to study, I’d like to come and study here wearing my boldest Catholic t-shirt and carrying in my pocket a few rosaries and holy cards… hehehehe we’ll see how that goes…

The LibraryInside the library

To end on a relatively good note, yesterday, I found myself again in the Brussels area, but this time for a joyous occasion… I went to the ordination of two of my seminarian classmates here in Namur. The mass was presided by Mgr. Leonard, a fantastic and extremely solid archbishop… It was a great mass—my first French ordination mass… and the homily he gave was excellent… He’s a real preacher! So dear friends, please pray for this country… especially for its people who, though surrounded by a Catholic heritage so rich, have, in far too many places, turned their backs not only to the Church but to Christianity in general… Have a great week!