Thoughts from a young theologian

Posts tagged “emmanuel

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

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Voici ce cœur

As promised, here is my little walking tour of Paray le Monial. Technically, I was there last week but if my experiences of this week give a little bit of a hint, it’ll be a tough year to keep up the blog once more… Theology as a seminarian with the Emmanuel Community will take up quite a bit of time but I’ll try my best to blog as often as I possibly can. I hope this little tour will inspire you guys to make the little pilgrimage out here so that some day we’ll hang out together and check out all the holy sights of the City of the Sacred Heart! Here’s a bit of what the city streets look like to get you started…

Here's a little bit of the city streets

Paray le Monial is a little medieval city in the heart of the Bourgogne region of France, with the Bourbince river cutting right through the middle of it.

A picture of the basilica by the river

Once you get to Paray, perhaps the very first thing that will catch your eye is the magnificent Romanesque basilica. It was built in the 12th century by the monks of the nearby Cluny monastery who settled in the area in the year 973. If you google Cluny, I’m sure you’ll find a ton of stuff about this group of Benedictines who played an immense role in the expanse of medieval western monasticism throughout Europe. They are, I believe, the biggest monastery of all time. Unfortunately, the abbey church of Cluny was destroyed piece by piece during the French Revolution as locals scavenged all the stones and building material to construct their own houses. Today in Cluny, nothing remains of what was once a powerful congregation. Hints of the splendour of these monks though can be seen in some of the priory churches they left behind. Paray le Monial is one such place… Next time, I’ll chat with you guys about another place I visited (today, in fact) in Belgium that is another priory of Cluny. The grand basilica of the Sacred Heart is special though because it was constructed as a replica of the mother house which was destroyed.

The basilica20130903-202616.jpg

You’d be surprised (or not) however to know that this grandiose basilica is not the centre point of Paray le Monial… In typical Jesus-like fashion (after all, he did choose to be born in a stable rather than an inn), the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus took place not in the basilica but about 100 feet away in a tiny little chapel of the sisters of the Visitation. Beginning on the eve of December 27, 1673, a young Visitation sister named St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received visits from Our Lord in this little chapel with an important message. He showed her his heart on fire… burning deeply with love for humanity and yearning desperately almost for that love to be returned back to Him. Then, after a series of revelations asking for a feast (which is today the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrated each year in the Catholic Church), Jesus during the octave to prepare for Corpus Christi (the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus… yeah… as Catholics we have a ton of awesome feasts), He appeared to her saying what is perhaps the most well known line of Paray le Monial: Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part, only ingratitude. We had an awesome time visiting the chapel that was capped off with the fact that the very last night of our seminarian entry retreat, we had a night of adoration in the Visitation chapel. I went with the guys in my room from the little hotel where we were staying to the chapel for the 3 – 4 am hour!

Chapel of the Visitation

St. Margaret Mary isn’t the only saint of Paray le Monial, though she is the most well known. If you ever go and visit, after passing by the beautiful chapel of the Visitation and seeing the mosaic of the apparition decorating their back wall, as well as the glass casket housing the body of St. Margaret Mary, keep going down the road a little bit to the Jesuit chapel. There, you’ll find a golden sarcophagus housing the body of St. Claude de la Colombière… He was the Jesuit spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary who, at the time he met her (as you can probably imagine) was facing a ton of persecution from her peers who wouldn’t believe what she was telling them. St. Margaret Mary herself was starting to doubt these visions until Jesus told her basically not to worry because He’d send her his “perfect friend” to help her out – St. Claude de la Colombière. His story is fascinating as well! A very gifted Jesuit, he spent, I think just over a couple of years in Paray le Monial as the spiritual director of the Visitation sisters before he was sent over to Anglican England where, after a ton of persecution and imprisonment, he returned with the sickness that would eventually kill him. He’s known as the apostle of trust because most of his letters speak so beautifully of the importance of trusting Jesus. During my Ignatian discernment retreat last year, I spent quite a bit of time with him so I owe him a lot for helping me get to where I am now… so, to begin this year, I visited him once more and chanted softly the Veni Creator Spiritus to ask him, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to come and guide me this year.Chapel of St. Claude

Since the year 1985, the Emmanuel Community (to which I now belong) has been entrusted with all the pilgrimages to this site. The rector alongside a large number of the chaplains of the sanctuary are members of the community. Alongside that, the Community runs a School of Mission from Paray…

ESM Paray

Just for your information, the Emmanuel Community runs 4 schools of evangelization and mission (in Paray le Monial, France; Altotting, Germany; Rome, Italy; and Manila, Philippines) during which young people (around 25 – 35 in total) from literally everywhere around the world come and live together, learning about their faith and how to share it with others. I’ve never been so I can’t say exactly all that they do but if it’s anything like the discernment year that I went through last year, I know that they live an intense and intimate community life together, they go off in missions and they take studies in either German, French or English (depending on the place) about the faith. It’s a fantastic year and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested. I’ve added the links for ESM Rome and Manila below for anyone who’s interested…

ESM Rome: http://www.esm-rome.com

ESM Manila: http://www.esm-manila.com


Okay… I think that’s enough for today… It’s getting quite late and I want to get to bed so thanks for reading! Hope to see you in Paray le Monial some day (the community also organizes massive summer and one winter session in Paray le Monial… There should be a forum this winter as well for anyone interested)… God bless! O Sacred Heart of Jesus… I place my trust in thee!!!