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.
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!