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”,)
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 is a post that I’ve been meaning to publish about three weeks ago now… but I’ve been so crazily busy that I haven’t been able to finish it until now – so it’s a little dated but here it goes anyway…
On Saturday morning, October 12, one of the seminarians I live with here pitched the idea of making our way to Banneux that evening for a massive prayer. As some of you may know, the pope asked for a vigil of prayer throughout the whole world as he prepared to re-consecrate humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the request of Mary made at Fatima. Here, there’s an enormous amount of stuff already that I can talk about. Our Lady of Fatima, for my non-Catholic readers, refers to a set of Marian apparitions that took place in the tiny village of Fatima, Portugal in the year 1917 between May 13 and October 13. Mary appeared before three shepherds, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco promising them that she would appear to them on the 13th of each month and on the final month, October, she would reveal to them a sign that would, in a way, prove the authenticity of these apparitions… She asked the children to pray the rosary each day as well as to have a chapel built on the site to remind people of her love and intercession for humanity. Well since the first apparition, each month, more and more people started making their way to Fatima… people of faith, people who were just there, curious… people who were entirely skeptical and wanted to prove these kids wrong. Very few people, especially in the Church hierarchy, believed these kids… And yet the hype started building up more and more… There was a sense of mystery and awe in what was going… And finally, on the big day of October 13 – a great miracle happened that EVERYONE, including the atheistic journalists who came to draw ire and scorn on what they believed to be a total hoax, witnessed. It’s called the miracle of the dance of the sun. For a few minutes, the sun seemed to dance around in the sky… then it started to grow and grow and grow—People felt it was going to fall on them so they shrunk in terror at the site. And the miraculous phenomenon ended… And the pilgrimages to the great shrine of Our Lady of Fatima began.
Hehehehe… Here’s a super old video from an old film depiction of the event… I think it’s quite fitting seeing as my poor post is close to three weeks old! :p
Well from Fatima, 3 prophecies developed… two were revealed early concerning the rise of communism in Russia and the great war (WWII) that was going to be bigger than the one previous (WWI) with the urgent urges of prayer coming from Mary… The third prophecy, which then came to be known as the secret of Fatima, was not revealed until later on. It concerned the suffering and later assassination attempt on the life of the pope – which, not surprisingly occurred on May 13, 1981 – the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady! It was a secret known only to the popes since Fatima. John Paul II, though, had decided at the beginning of his pontificate, not to read the prophecy. It was only after he had been shot and was starting to heal that, in the hospital, he asked his attendants to fetch for him the secret of Fatima. When he opened it and read it, it was apparently then and there that he realized that the miracle was written about him. It shocked even his would be assassin that he hadn’t died… the primary question that Mehmet Ali Agca asked him when the pope came to visit him in his prison was “So why aren’t you dead?” He fired from extremely close range and he knew he had hit the target but for some reason, the bullet missed all the vital organs! John Paul II’s conclusion was that “one hand pulled the trigger and another guided the bullet.” The bullet today is found on the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the consecration she requested to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been offered by numerous popes, up to Pope Francis! It’s an interesting story with very interesting consequences… Here’s a link to an EWTN page that illustrates historically how the consecration took place and what events in history occurred since: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/FatimaConsecration.htm
Anyway, that’s a very long intro to the fact that that Saturday, a bunch of us went over to Banneaux to join the rest of the world in prayer! And it was one super cool evening of prayer! What I didn’t realize before going is that Pope Francis had asked 10 of the most popular Marian pilgrimage sites throughout the world to unite in prayer with him. So 10 places from Banneaux, Belgium to Lourdes, France… Czestochowa, Poland to Akita, Japan… Washington DC, USA to Nazareth, Israel – and even a Marian shrine in Africa, India, Argentina and Brazil! It was awesome!! You could taste the catholicity of the Church all over!
There were these big screens in the chapel where we were that was streaming live the event in Rome and, as we prayed the rosary, every 5 Hail Marys, we would go to a Marian sanctuary where all the people present would pray, in their own language. Then, after a brief testimony, we would switch over to another site… And the screen would be showing us the people praying at the same time at this place! The technology was soooooo cool!!
Let me end this post with the prayer that Pope Francis used to entrust the entire world to Mary… Until next time (and I promise, it wont be as long as this pause)!
Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, with renewed gratitude for your motherly presence we join in the voice of all generations that call you blessed.
We celebrate in you the great works of God, who never tires of lowering himself in mercy over humanity, afflicted by evil and wounded by sin, to heal and to save it.
Accept with the benevolence of a Mother this act of entrustment that we make in faith today, before this your image, beloved to us.
We are certain that each one of us is precious in your eyes and that nothing in our hearts has estranged you.
May that we allow your sweet gaze to reach us and the perpetual warmth of your smile.
Guard our life with your embrace: bless and strengthen every desire for good; give new life and nourishment to faith; sustain and enlighten hope; awaken and animate charity; guide us all on the path to holiness.
Teach us your own special love for the little and the poor, for the excluded and the suffering, for sinners and the wounded of heart: gather all people under you protection and give us all to your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus.