Just to show you guys that I’m still alive (barely) and kicking, I’ll make a very quick post. After Christmas, which I spent in a parish I was assigned to in Rouen, France this year, I’ve been back at Namur and since essentially early January have hit the books really hard. I’ve got about 8 massive exams that start up on Tuesday so it’s been really really tough for me to find time to put up a post.
But seeing as this is a post that I’ve wanted to do since Christmas, I figured I should greet all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before the Christmas season ends with the Baptism of our Lord today… So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! c”,) I’ve added a few pictures for you from my travels… the first being the nativity scene in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this year. It changes every year and this year, they had this style of creche. The second photo is a quick view of the Rouen cathedral with the Christmas market up in front. Unfortunately, the facade is currently being worked on so you can’t see more of it but it’s a gorgeous ancient building… It’s the same cathedral that the painter Claude Monet worked on with his impressionist artwork. Finally, the last photo, once more from Paris shows the city’s newest, biggest attraction. I never thought I’d seen a lineup this long for this exotic cuisine!!! I’ll post more once exams finish next week… in the meantime, take care and God bless!!!
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!
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.
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”,)