Okay… this’ll have to be a relatively short and quick post—just to show that yes, I’m still alive and kicking (perhaps barely, but still going anyway). I’m deep into the final week and a half of class before Christmas break and they’re super busy days. I’ve often said to my friends here that I’m living advent to the full nowadays in the sense that I’m keeping watch… If the Good Lord comes at some point during the night, I think He’d be mildly amused to find me still up and waiting. c”,) Hehehehehehe
So what’s been going on? Well, I’ve rejoined a little bit of my youth… Since my last post, I’ve had two field trips down to Brussels for my Hebrew class. The first visit was to the Jewish museum where a professor well versed with Jewish culture and traditions gave us a bit of a tour. The other field trip, which took place yesterday (Tuesday) was to the Grand Synagogue in Brussels, located on what the grand rabbi who gave us the tour called the central street of Brussels. On one end is the towering palace of justice with the royal palace in the middle and the legislative offices far on the other end. There are a whole bunch of museums dotting the sides too… it’s one of the main streets of the city. Well, the grand rabbi welcomed us yesterday and spoke to us a little bit about Jewish theology—the value of the Sabbath, the meaning of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (rather than punishing and destroying the people for their sins, the good Lord destroyed the building), and a few of the symbolisms of Judaism (the synagogue itself and the little skull cap which all of us were required to wear). One of the first things he did to encourage us on our Hebrew studies was to offer us (at 50% off reduced price) his book on Judaism. He did it in such an enthusiastic way that we all just laughed at it and most of us decided to pick up his book in the end.
The other thing that I’ve been up to was to go to a huge celebration in the abbey of Maredsous. About 50 years ago sometime around this time, the council fathers of Vatican II released the first conciliar document “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, on the Sacred Liturgy. The bishops and the cardinal of Belgium, I think appropriately decided to celebrate this great document by gathering together and celebrating Liturgy—we went to the abbey and sang solemn 2nd vespers (for the 2nd Sunday of Advent) with the monks. It was a longer than usual Vespers and it included a nice long homily given by Cardinal Daneels, which was really more like a prayer of his memories of the times surrounding the Council. Another highlight was the fact that for the intercessions, they read some of the key passages of Sacrosanctum Concilium and drew the intercessions from there. It was an amazing event!
And, because one of my classmates in the seminary is a monk in Maredsous, just before the event, he gave me a little tour of the ancient monastery. What a holy place! We went by the boarding school where a whole bunch of students study, the grounds… I got to go into a part of the cloistered area and see the chapter room where the monks hold their community meetings/chapters. He also took me down into the crypt and to the cemetery. I also, later on in the evening, got to see the monastery refectory because that’s where they held a small reception for all of us who came to the abbey for this liturgical celebration.
Okay… that’s as far as I’ll post for now… I’ve gotta get back to work… I’ll try and have something longer and more substantial for you guys after classes end next week! In the meantime, have a holy Advent and God bless!
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…
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:
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!
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.
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.
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…
…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…
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!
This week, we had a couple of pretty awesome surprises. It started out as a normal week with the Introduction to St. Mark course where we studied the narrative elements and structure found in the Gospel of Mark. Then on Tuesday, during the Hebrew course, we started looking at all these massive Jewish feasts – Roch Hashanan – the big feast of the Jewish New Year. We also looked at Yom Kippour (these are all phonetically transcribed sounds because the Jewish alphabet looks completely different than what we use in English and because I can’t read it… yet… J). That’s the Jewish day of pardon, 10 days after Roch Hashanan. We’re now making our way through Sukkot (the Feast of Tents) where the Jews pitch and live in these tents just outside the city of Jerusalem for a number of days as a reminder of their 40 years of life in the desert. Wednesday was the day of the big surprise…
Wednesday, we have our course of Canon law… Right now, we’re studying the canons governing the life and structure of the Catholic parish… but our professor (a canon who’s also the rector of the Cathedral) adapts it so well to real life situations. We’re discussing, for example, whether the system of distinguishing parishes according to their territorial boundaries still holds given the enormous mobility and sense of freedom Catholics of today have. Well, in light of all of that, our professor arrived about 15 minutes late last time. So there we were, all kinda wondering what was going on—it was unusual for him to be late. Then he suddenly popped in and asked us: Do you not want to see the king and queen? So for the next 20 or so minutes, our entire class walked over to the nearby Parliament buildings of the province of Namur (just across from the cathedral of Namur) and, with the humongous crowd that was already there, tried to get a passing glance of the newly installed king and queen of Belgium. There were these Belgian flags everywhere as well as members of the press all over the street. Then when the convoy of the king and queen arrived, everyone started cheering and waving their flags. The king and queen went around greeting the people first of all… I kinda got a brief glance at both of them. The only thing that stuck in my mind is the fact that the queen had on this gigantic but very fashionable, very chic orang hat… Hahahahahaha But for the most part, I was too short to see so, like Zacchaeus, I had to jump up and down to get a glimpse of them. I didn’t really want to climb up something, though there were people who were climbing up various windowsills to see better. It was pretty awesome and it’s even more great to know that we have a professor who’s that free in his courses.
The rest of the week went by normally. We had a lively discussion on the strengths and limitations of the historo-critical method of study of Scripture in our Christology class and looked in quite a bit of detail how this method was used and abused in the past. And finally, on Friday, we ended our week with a great little history lesson on the martyrs and emperors of the 2nd and 3rd century leading up to Constantine.
On the weekend, I did something pretty cool as well… I made my way, hitching a ride with some of the guys here who were on their way to a community weekend, to Lille, France where I spent Saturday evening and the whole of Sunday with the l’Arche community of Lille. It was so great seeing some of my friends from l’Arche again and it worked out even better for me because that weekend, they too were holding a retreat where my foyer was, which allowed me to see the entire community and not just my own foyer. The theme of the retreat was taking care of oneself and one of the talks was given by one of the persons welcomed in the community. She was helped by an assistant to present the various things that she liked that she would use to take care of herself – whether that be makeup to take care of herself physically or a little catechism book showing the importance of her faith to take care of herself spiritually. She also showed us a few of the different ways she would take care of the other people around her—by sweeping the floor or by preparing the tea they would take at the end of a long day. It was a very simple talk but it was awesome being there.
By the way, this is the Church of Wambréchies (in Lille) where I assisted at Mass this Sunday… It’s pretty cool eh? Anyway, I think that’ll do for now for my blog. Have a great week and God bless!