Archive for May, 2007

Memorial Day – Proud of US

US flagToday, Memorial Day, we remember the martyr patriots that make the United States the greatest country in the world.  I’m grateful to have been born, raised and living here.  I support this country in good times and in bad, unlike fickle Dolfans who jump ship at the sign of trouble.  I’m not ashamed to be called an American, even if we are hated by the world.  Even parody movies like Team America: World Police can’t deny the importance of the U.S. in the world.  Just look at today’s demonstrations in Venezuela when Chavez closed a TV news station because they spoke out against him.  Why the outcry?  That’s what you get when you elect a dictator.  The people like Chavez because he speaks out against Bush and the U.S., but then borrow our freedoms (of the press, in this case) when they open their eyes.  People in the U.S. have the right to support Chavez, hate Bush, call our troops “terrorist” & “baby killers,” blame US for world problems, and condemn the very country that grants the freedom to do so.  People are dying to come into this country, so remember you can leave anytime you’d like to your choice of socialist, communist or “benevolent dictatorships.”  The media criticized Pat Robertson for his assessment of Chavez, and now the U.S. will probably have to fix another mess the world has created (yet another reason to hate us). 

On Sunday, I learned of yet another parish youth now in Marines in Iraq.  I’m extremely grateful for soldiers’ sacrifice.  If medical conditions didn’t keep me out of the military, then I would be in Iraq myself.  God’s got a funny way of closing some doors to open others, I guess.  May God bless the troops, this country, and all those fighting for freedom worldwide.  — I’m praying for you all.

Pentecost – my blog’s b-day

PhatMass PhorumAs today is Pentecost, I thought I would make a final decision about blog/website.  I’ve been playing with Community Server 2.1, but the blogging is limited and I need to upgrade to get some newer features.  I like the forum, photos and downloads capabilities, but I don’t see anyone using them except for me, especially after seeing the forums on PhatMass.comWOW!  6 years and counting worth of Catholic dialogue.  I wouldn’t want to take away from his efforts (as if I had a chance). 

I like WordPress.COM (simpler & easier to use) more and more as I keep posting.  My webhost gave me access to WordPress.ORG, which has more features and customizations.  I can see it’ll take time to master, but it’s got great potential.  The larger selection of themes alone was overwhelming.  A reviewer wrote “WordPress is the MySpace for intelligent bloggers,” probably because the sky is the limit for customizing, but it will take some effort.  I just hope the work doesn’t kill the joy of blogging. 

Categories: blogging

I’m Mr “Procrastinator”

May 26, 2007 1 comment

Since I need to replace a dead hard-drive, I started reviewing what’s taking so much space on my other hard-drives.  Most of my disk space is taken up by vacation videos I “haven’t got around to” edit yet.  I know I procrastinate, but this is ridiculous.  I have vacation videos from 2003 I haven’t edited yet, not to mention Cornerstone 2004, Cornerstone 2005, 2 trips to the Holyland in Orlando, and more.  Since I work best under pressure, I should promise to finish editing all video before going on any vacation!  But I don’t want to put that in stone just yet.  — Let me think about that one.

old out, new coming soon

Today, my main data hard-drive died, finally.  I knew it’s been coming when “chkdsk” ran a few times and bad sectors kept popping up.  Luckily, I backed it up 3 weeks ago.  I can finally get a SATA drive.  The old and reliable has outlived its time.  — I should be able to apply the lesson to something else, but I’m not in the mood.

Categories: 01 ME

vacation or not

Some friends wanted to go on vacation to various places like Cornerstone festival, ALIVE festival, whitewater, caving, etc.  I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to over the next few summer because I think the Vocation Director assigns summer pastoral work.  They may even send me to Mexico or the Dominican Republic if I don’t learn Spanish well enough.  I think I’m free next summer, but after that, who knows.  I’m leaning toward the ALIVE festival in Ohio, mainly because I’ve never been.  — But I’m easy.

“Lost” season ends

Today is the Jewish festival of ShavuotI wrote about it a couple weeks ago.  It’s parallel to our Christian festival of Penecost this Sunday.

A 3 hour “LOST” season finale was tonight.  1 hour of review and 2 hours of asking more questions that answering.  It was better than I expected, but they just add long meaningless side stories to sell commercial time.  I’m getting tired of it.  At least they’re getting rescued … maybe.

Categories: TV

Priesthood = Marriage

St Katherine Drexel in WestonToday was the installation Mass for Fr Pedro Corces as pastor at St. Katharine Drexel in Weston.  As the former Vocations Director for the past 10 years, it was nice to see Bishop Noonan with several other priests & seminarians, many of whom he pastored to the priesthood.  Fr Pedro was also one of the 3 vocation board members that interviewed me.  In the short time I spoke to him, I can see what I great pastor he will be with his sincerity, insight and compassion.  During the bishop’s sermon, I was struck by how the marriage vows were used to show the relationship between pastor and parish family:

Do you [Pastor] take [the church] to be your Bride [of Christ]? Do you promise to be true to Her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health? Will you love and honor Her all the days of your life? Is this your solemn vow?

And the parish responses as the “Bride”.  What a beautiful picture of the priesthood.  Just as in a marriage, self-sacrificing to care for each other.  In Ephesians 5:23-28,

23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. 24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her 26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.   (NAB)

A priest sacrifices his own bride & family to care for and sanctify the church as the “Bride of Christ.”  It makes sense to me.

Categories: matrimony, priesthood

no NEW car for me

May 21, 2007 1 comment

New 2008 LancerA friends just got a new car, a Mitsubishi Lancer (my ’97 van is behind it).  As happy as I was for him, I started realizing how 7 years of seminary will be a financial sacrifice for me.  I’m grateful for the Archdiocese for paying my tuition, room, board & insurance (mostly from the A.B.C.D. collections), but living expenses outside of that will be rough; car insurance, cell phone, travel, savings, etc.  My minivan, with 140,000 miles) is reaching the age of more maintenance, with engine & transmission cries.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I’d have time to make spending money, but 7 days at the seminary with some of Saturday & Sunday for myself, doesn’t look promising.  I know I SHOULD trust God to provide for my needs (as the Archbishop said at Convocation), but there are things that I would still WANT to have.  A wise man said, “caviar dreams with sardine pockets.”  Kermit?  Anyone? 

I should “do as I say”

After reading my blog from yesterday about presenting ALL vocations in order to encourage the priesthood, I smiled.  I realized I should lead by example.  This blog may encourage someone to consider the priesthood, but what about the other vocations?  Maybe I could have a forum section (which I could do with Community Server 2.1) for each of the vocations.  Anyone would be able to post questions and answers about any vocation.  A blog is more “I talk, you listen” while a forum encourages more community response and communication.  I’ll look into it.  — Kermit?  Anyone?

Present “ALL” Vocations

“Vocations in Scripture” audioThe best way that I think we can encourage vocations is by presenting “ALL” the vocations.  In an audio talk by Scott Hahn called, “Vocations in Scripture: Discovering & Discerning God’s Call,” (#5627-CD) he does just that.  He begins his talk by saying we all have the same inherit primary vocation, and that’s to be a “child of God the Father” by accepting Jesus and living active christian lives.  Besides that, we can live out our faith through the vocations of single life, married life, religious life, or the priesthood.  He then details each one as seen through Scripture.  I think that is how we should encourage vocations.  We need to present ALL of them as equally necessary, yet individually unique.  I think that approach would make people more open to priesthood and the religious life, because I wouldn’t be seen as so far removed from each of us.  — Kermit?  Anyone?   

TV show idea: new “Big Brother”

Marketing is super important to vocations. That’s why I started this blog in the first place (even though it goes against by personality — a friend noted).  As we encourage vocations and make them more “transparent” to everyone, we risk exposing ourselves.  If we have to make ourselves more vulnerable to scrutiny from others, than that’s a risk we must take (isn’t that what we’re called to do anyways?).  The marketing needs to be done by the whole church, but begin with the clergy, religious and seminarians (the newbies).

God or the GirlWe need better marketing! Take more pictures and videos, make more relevant websites and blogs, present the “reality.”  The cable special “God or the Girl” was a good start, but what about a reality show like “Big (Seminarian) Brother (or Sister).”  I think lots of people would watch that, especially non-believers.  Even if you have some bad examples on the show, it would just be an opportunity to evaluate, grow and demonstrate our humanity.  — Am I the only one who sees this?  Kermit? Anyone?

Seminaries need Windex

doctor’s waiting room signToday, I’m in the waiting room of a doctor’s office for a physical.  As I begin to get impatient waiting more than an hour for my appointment, I hear laughter from behind the frosted glass as I stare at a sign next to the window.  It reads, “Please check-in & notify us.  We will NOT know you are here if you do not. Thank you.” First of all, I already checked in (so they know I’m here).  Second of all, since the frosted glass is closed, I start assuming the worst as the laughter continues (like I’m being delayed because of slow officer workers who have time for fun & jokes when patients are waiting).  And third, as I’m trying to calm myself and think happy thoughts, I can’t help make a connection with this experience to the seminary.  Why? Let me explain.

When parishes try to encourage “vocations,” they usually refer to the “priesthood and religious life” in very broad terms without great detail about what each involves or even the differences.  Most people understand matrimony (which is also a vocation), but see priesthood & religious life so different & mysterious, that they don’t give it attention.  I don’t think young men & women know what they’re saying “NO” to. Even as an active Catholic involved in catechesis and youth ministry, I didn’t know much detail about the priesthood & religious life until I actively did some research and started asking question I think many have.  Questions like, “What the difference between priesthood and religious life?” “What kind of things do priests do (during the week)?” “Are they expected to do EVERYTHING?” “How much to they get paid?” “Do they get time off or vacation?” “Do they have to be perfect?” “What is seminary life like?” “Can you quit?” “If I want to get married, any I rejecting a vocation?” and more.  We need better “marketing” of vocations.

As a catechist, I know I have not presented priesthood & religious life to be very attractive (if I presented at all).  Because of ignorance or lack of knowledge, many develop our own picture of vocations that are not only irrelevant to our own lives, but just plain wrong.  As I tell people I’m a seminarian, some of the questions I get are surprisingly simple.  We need ways to make vocations (and the formation process) more “transparent” to everyone.  Replace the “fogged glass” with “clear glass” so that attitudes on vocations don’t rest on bad examples of priest, seminarians and the Church.  We need Windex! Windex

I know priests are always to encourage vocations.  And seminarians are probably the best poster-children for vocations, but “who knows a seminarian?” A young man goes off to seminary for 6-9 years and parishes get a occasional “freak show” viewing that make the formation process look even more irrelevant to the laity.  Maybe if the formation process toned down the emphasis on “community life” (to live at seminary 7 days a week and be removed from the laity), seminarians would be more “real” to outsiders and (in my opinion) a better preparation for the “diocesen priesthood” (around “real” people) instead of the “religious priesthood” (where community life is more important).  — What do I know?  I’m new here. Kermit? Anyone?

Convocation ‘07 – Mass @ Shrine

Convocation 2007 group picConvocation 2007 Mass 1Convocation 2007 Mass 2After morning prayer, breakfast, and group conference with Fr. Manny (our Vocation Director), we left for the Shrine for Mass with Bishop Agustin Roman.  A beautiful celebration in a beautiful shrine.  At the end of Mass, the bishop gave each of us a beautiful rosary (I’ll try to take a picture to put here) to encourage prayer, especially every morning before any ministry work to always remember what we are called for and by whom.  We also took a group picture (I’m on the far right) and departed for home.  An awesome experience.

Categories: retreat

Convocation ‘07 – Authenticity, beach, Mass

After morning prayer & breakfast, we had talk by guest speaker and counselor Ana Pando on the topic of “Authenticity.” I first thought it would be real abstract, but now I wish I took notes because it was very good, especially with all her real-life examples.  I guess the main point I got was to be “true to self.”  In practical terms, I remember her illustrating “authenticity” by avoiding “blaming, hiding & denying,” but instead, “take responsibility, admit mistakes, and make health choices.”

Convocation 2007 beach MEConvocation 2007 beachConvocation 2007 beachWe had lunch (pizza) at the beach in Key Biscayne.  The weather was beautiful until we started playing volleyball.  That’s when it not only started raining (south Florida is in a drought), but gail-force winds picked up and then it poured, forcing all of us into the pavillion for shelter.  We suddenly remembered the Archbishop’s prophecy last night (about praying for rain) at dinner and laughed.  It was like the Apostles at Pentecost in the upper room remembering Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit.  Hearing it and believing it are not always connected.  Nevertheless, we waited for a break in the storm (probably the Archbishop taking a break from prayer) to get back to the retreat house to rest.

The newly ordained priests came to celebrate evening Mass with all of us.  I especially remember the homily by the new Fr. Lucien Pierre highlighting our attitude of “gratitude” is a reflection of our fruitful praylife.  As we grow in the Lord, we recognize and thank God for all our blessings, and especially our “priesthood” as a blessing that brings us joy and reflects Christ to His Bride (the church).  He inspired all our “brothers and sisters.”  🙂

St. Agnes Men’s Emmaus GroupConvocation 2007 dinner 1Convocation 2007 dinner 2Convocation 2007 dinner 3
Dinner was sponsored and served by St. Agnes Men’s Emmaus Group and was so good I had to take pictures.  We had carrot soup, tilapia (fish) and an ice-cream & fruit cocktail for dessert.  It was delicious!  After dinner, we were free to fellowship some more.  End of day #2.

Categories: retreat

Convocation ‘07 – Archbishop Mass

Today, began my first 3-day Convocation Retreat.  It’s a time for all Miami seminarians from minor seminary (St. John Vianney), major (St. Vincent) and newbies (like me) to spend time together in prayer, fellowship and great food.  I thought it was going to be a super-spiritually reflective time for 3 days non-stop, but it wasn’t (although it had several opportunities).  It was more of a 3 day vacation with frat-brothers.  Even though I only knew a couple of guys when I arrived, I had a great time getting to know several of the 40+ other seminarians.  No matter how diverse our backgrounds were, everyone connected at some level and the welcome and encouragement was overwhelming.  It all began with Mass, the ultimate celebration.

Archbishop Favalora @ MassEvening Mass with Archbishop Favalora in the chapel of St. Mary’s Cathedral was great.  As soon as the Archbishop noted the feast day of the Apostle Matthias, I knew the tone was set.  As the first reading, Acts 1:15-17, 20-26, spoke of Matthias being “chosen” to replace Judas, it made me question my own “call” as the reality of being called a “seminarian” starts to sink in.  The Archbishop spoke on 2 major points specific to us, as seminarians.

His first point was about “our personal call.”  When considering the priesthood, many of us ask, “why would I like to be a priest?”  As the reading highlights, the priesthood is not something we “choose,” but are “called by God” to respond to.  Despite all our gift, talents and abilities that we may have, the real question we should ask is, “why would God call me to the priesthood?”  This is what discernment in the seminary experience is all about.

His second point was about “God providing our needs.”  As we respond to his call to a vocation beyond our own gifts and abilities, we should trust that the Lord will provide for our needs.  But we must never forget to spend time in prayer.  The mass and homily were a great beginning, not only to the retreat, but to discernment as a seminarian. 

After Mass, we had dinner with the Archbishop and with Bishop Estevez.  It was comforting to see how personable both were, especially since I didn’t know what you talk about with a bishop.  I’m glad I just listened.  The Archbishop even joked (or so we thought) about praying for rain while we’re at the beach tomorrow.  As I ate and shared with “veteran” seminarians, I began to realize how much of the seminary experience I’m missing out because I can’t speak spanish yet.  I want to talk to others, but I hate to interupt conversations that I walk in on and don’t understand.  Since I’m slow to find english words to express myself, I’m afraid my biggest challenge in seminary will be to master spanish to communicate the Gospel to as many people as God sends to me.  I welcome the challenge and know there will be many to help me as I help them. shaking hands

After dinner, we drove down to the Youth Center Retreat House (next to Viscaya) to some evening freetime spent getting to know other seminarians.  I was especially drawn to the guys in major seminary, like the new transitional deacons, to hear their experiences in minor seminary and how they persevered through the rough patches in their discernment process.  I was happy to see how they were so down-to-earth and easy to talk to.  A great first day!   

Categories: retreat

Pope, drugs & Brazil

Pope in Brazil (May 2007)I read an article in the Miami Herald today on Pope Benedict XVI in Brazil saying “Drug dealers face God’s wrath”on the front page.  Americans (especially non-believers) must see that (like I did) and say “Duh! — the Pope just discovered drugs are bad?”  I think it’s because most Americans forget how many Latin American countries have government officials so influenced by drug dealers (like special interests in our country), that they’ve been numbed to any promises of changes.  A fresh outside voice may jump-start the hard work that needs to be done to bring healing.  With nearly half of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics in Latin America, the churches are experiencing an “exodus” of the faithful, like in Europe:

”People only go to church to ask for a favor, and when they get it, they go away.” …”People don’t know what church they belong to anymore, and they’re trying out everything.”

Surveys show that although Brazil remains the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Catholics are now only 64% of the population, down from 89% in 1980. Those calling themselves evangelical Protestants rose to 15% from 7%.

What’s going on?  I can’t say I’m surprised about the numbers.  What’s always surprised me is how most Latin Americans can be Catholic in the first place.  They have such an extremely patriarchal culture, where woman are expected to ignore “modesty” and ignore their men’s extra-extramarital affairs as a by-product of being over-sexualized.  I understand that our response to our Catholic faith differs dependent on our culture, but this kind of culture make Catholicism so superficial that it justify the exodus.  I hope and pray that the Latin American and Caribbean bishops’ conference finds some practical ways to awaken a “purified” fruitful response, and not just a paper mission statement.  If they don’t, ministry to Latin Americans, especially in south Florida, will continue to be an uphill battle that the church can’t ignore.

Kermit?  Anyone?  

Priest Ordination Today

2007 Miami OrdinationToday, I was at the Cathedral for the ordination of 4 new priest to the Archdiocese of Miami.  It was AWESOME!  Since I’ve never been to one, I thought it would just be a long Mass with the Archbishop and lots of people that I’ve never met before.  Well, it was all of that, but way cooler!  The organ music, choir, 150+ priests, layout of the Mass, the applause, the families, the … EVERYTHING was a emotion-filled worship experience that can’t be put into words.  It was surreal.  I didn’t feel worthy to sit in the 5th pew (behind immediate family with other seminarians) to participate in such a celebration with all those priest and faithful united in the Eucharist.  I especially liked Archbishop’s homily and how each of the 150+ priest laid hands in prayer on each new priest followed by a hug.  It was powerful! 

20/20 on Nuns & Exorcisms

Cloistered NunsWhen the public cries for more reports on “faith” topics, I can always count on 20/20 to sieze any opportunity to make Catholics into a “freak show.”  Today’s 2-hour special was called “Seeing and Believing: The Power of Faith.”  As soon as I heard Diane Sawyer’s voice, I knew the extremes of our faithful would be found and exploited with “Cloistered Monasteries” and “Exorcisms.”  The show can be seen on their website (if you hurry!).  The exorcism part was OK, but the monastery piece made those sisters (the Poor Clares in New Mexico) look so brainwashed, it hurt to watch.  Diane Sawyer was embarrassing to watch with her insulting questions like “celibacy in 2007?” and “do you really think your prayers make a difference in the world?”  Her shock and cluelessness when confronted with a committed faith was both sad and comical.  That “anti-vocation” piece should be shown at “vocation awareness” retreat to illustrate how “the world” tries to discredit the consecrate life with “the world’s” juvenile perspective.  Most are not called to live the monastic life (I can’t do all that!).  This community is just one out of hundreds of different religious orders and we’re each called to respond in “our” way.  I thank God for them and I hope their prayers help me better discern my response.  (I found a blog about the sisters here)

Spiderman & Venom

Spiderman 3 posterI saw Spiderman 3 today, all 2.5 hours of light-speed CGI fight scenes separated by long relationship breaks and some cheesy musical dance numbers by Tobey Maguire.  Not being a really big Spiderman fan, I found Venom to be an very interesting character that I knew little about.  As an alien symbiote organism that needs to bond and feed off a living host, it gives the host enhanced physical abilities, at the cost of fatally draining them of adrenaline, eventually killing the host.  This particular parasite (attached to Spiderman), however, wants to bond with its host instead. It seems to feed off Spiderman’s weaknesses, anger and revenge, and multiplies its devastating, yet tempting (at times) effects.  The rejection of the symbiote leave it extremely bitter toward Spiderman, a trait it shares with its future hosts.  The movie’s byline reads “the greatest battle lies within.”

What I saw was an extreme visual for our own “dark-sides,” manifested in Venom, who exploits our weaknesses because we’ve fed and allowed it to grow for so long.  I don’t know if that’s the intention of the character, but I couldn’t help but connect Venom with deep-rooted sin that’s ignored and allowed to grow.  If we could only “see” what our sins do to others, ourselves and, above all, our Savior, we would run to cross in humble submission to His grace & mercy.  In ministry, demonstrating that in love & mercy is not done through our own ability, but through our own submission to the “Anti-Venom” that we invite everyday (not just one conversion experience) as a light to our darkness. 

Church history, #1 Pentecost

While awaiting “Lost” on ABC, I caught a bit on PBS on the Inquisition.  I realized that I didn’t know much about Church history, especially the bad stuff.  So I found The Story of the Church: Peak Moments from Pentecost to the Year 2000, a book we used in the 2-year lay ministry program I went through some years ago.  I wanted to review it (especially since I didn’t read it during the course) and started with peak #1, Pentecost.

Pentecost (50 days after Easter)After Pentecost, Peter reminds the crowd that Israel is to be the light of nations, that is, to be a missionary witness helping all people to know God, just like in the story of Jonah.  The Tower of Babel was human pride resulting in a breakdown in communication, separating people.  In Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit unified the people in mind and heart for God.  The day coincides with the Jewish feast of Shavuot.  As the old covenant was commemorated in Passover and completed on Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments, so the new covenant begins with the Easter Triduum and ends with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), the birth of the Church.

That alone should rally all Catholics to evangelize the world, but then I read this:

Only two percent of Catholics are willing to witness their faith to others and invite them to faith in Jesus and communion with the Church.  Contrast this with evangelical Protestant Christians, who are far more enthusiastic about sharing their faith.

That 2% may account for all priests and religious.  As if priests don’t have enough to do.  Lighting a fire under apathetic Catholics is what frustrates me about our faith, and a major reason I put off pursuing the priesthood.  I’ve got patience, but this requires a real revival.  I guess I just got tired of just complaining and want to be part of the solution.  So here I am.  “Send me!”