Saturday, December 29, 2007

Challenged by the Rule

For a while now, I've made it a practice of studying the Rule of St. Benedict each day. When I first began my discernment journey, I was praying about and investigating a monastic vocation, and for about a year and a half I studied the Rule this way, and found it very rewarding. The journey today, of course, is in discernment and formation toward diocesan priesthood. But I've come to realize that there is still something within that is attracted to, formed by, and desires to conform to Benedictine spirituality. With my Vocation Director's permission, I was received as an Oblate Novice of St. Meinrad where I study for the priesthood. Oblates are those who strive to apply Benedictine spirituality to wherever they are called in life. There are men and women, young and old, married, priests, all walks of life represented among the Oblate community. (You can read more about the Benedictine Oblates of St. Meinrad at this website:

Anyway, this morning as I was reading and reflecting on the Rule I got hit right smack dab between the eyes. (That's a good thing, by the way. Not always comfortable. I don't always enjoy it. But how can we grow without the occasional BAM right between the eyes?) In Chapter 20 of the Rule, Saint Benedict instructs his monks this way: "We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words."


I hope you won't be scandalized if I share a "secret" with you: I'm not perfect in the pure of heart category. And there are many days that my "words" may seem much more pure than my heart can match. I suppose in some respects that's a reflection of the human condition. And one of my important goals is to learn to live for and seek a heart that is devoted to God and by His grace acceptable to the vocation of the priesthood. But wow do I have a long way to go. And my sense is that I will always have a long way to go. We are, after all, humans. We are, after all, sinners.

This morning, I am reminded that it is only by God's grace that I can even attempt to utter the right words in His praise and service, and that any purity of heart I've attained is His doing alone through grace. I'm reminded that I am broken, and made whole by His love and care. I'm reminded that I lack perfection, which is no excuse not to strive for it, but rather it is an invitation to humility in the face of Him who leads me.

I may have shared here before (I don't remember) words of challenge and comfort shared with me by a priest at the Cathedral that is my home parish, Fr. Frank: God doesn't call those to the priesthood who are qualified, He qualifies those He calls. Thank God.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different...

OK - I'm a bad blogger. Haven't written anything in almost TWO WHOLE MONTHS!! Arg - sorry folks. I wish I had some good reasons, but I don't. Just got busy with school. So, for something completely different ... instead of NOTHING on my blog... here's something. ;-)


1. Is everything OK?
Yes - absolutely! Everything is MORE than OK. I settled well into the routine as St. Meinrad, have made some great friends, and (now) have finished my first semester of school in more than ten years. I really, really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet most days - even when there are things I don't like about being in formation, I absolutely adore being there. (Does that make sense?)

2. Are you silent because something troubling is going on?
No. *grin* I really appreciate all the emails I've received asking if everything was OK. I tried to answer them individually as I got them. But - and this is the truth - everything is just fine. Some asked if I was leaving the seminary. Nope - right now you'd have to drag me away. (See #1.) I am home for Christmas, but you know what I mean. True - there are some things that come up during the formation experience that aren't completely appropriate for the universal world of the blogsphere - and these aren't always bad or difficult things, just some stuff isn't for "public consumption" you know? But, really, there's nothing troubling going on.

3. You haven't quit writing all together have you?
No - absolutely not. I write all the time. I write papers. Gosh do I ever write papers. And I guess that's one of the differences with the blogging. In my previous job, I didn't get to scratch my writer's itch at work, so I was drawn more often to blogging perhaps just because I love to write. But papers aren't all that I'm writing. I'm starting on a small book, too. Don't know yet if its a book that will ever be for anyone else to read but me - in fact, writing the book is really something that I decided to do as part of my spiritual formation, so the act of writing it accomplishes the goal. But, some day, perhaps it'll be something that's available.

4. What classes are you taking?
Interesting that I never blogged about that. I'm in the first of a two year of the philosophy program that's required for those with bachelor's degrees that weren't in earned in seminaries, so it's a little "light" on the theology, but here goes:

* Creed in History & Theology
* Ancient Philosophy
* Logic
* Human Development/Christian Maturity

Those are done now. During the month of January, we have a short term during which I'll be taking two classes: Human Sexuality (a celibacy formation seminar) and Christian Spirituality. During January, we'll also begin our ministry assignments which for philosophy men is parish observation. I've been assigned to the Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Louisville, where I'll spend the better part of most Wednesdays.

5. Is it really that busy at seminary?
Oh yes, as one of our Deacon class men would say. True - we're only in class in the morning four days a week. But, intellectual formation (classwork) is only 25% of the overall formation program. In addition to prayer, study outside class, and completing assignments, I've been having to focus on planned "down time" to keep some good balance. This comes in many forms, sometimes reading, continuing to practice icon writing, hanging out with the other men in my class, and things like that. Overall, I'm sometimes amazed at all that I've accomplished in a day - and sometimes amazed at all that even the productive day leaves undone.

6. What do you miss most?
My family and my home. But I keep in touch by talking on the phone and emailing, and sending written correspondence. It's funny - but one of the things I've found myself doing more since going to the seminary is actually writing a card, a letter, or a postcard - it had probably been 5 years since I'd done that before going to school. Don't know why... it just seems to fit a bit better.

7. What do you like most?
The rhythm of prayer that is the skeleton for everything at the seminary. I hope it helps me to create that rhythm of prayer as the foundation of my days even when I'm not in the seminary. And oh do I ever love the beauty of prayer at St. Meinrad. There's nothing quite like the chant that even us poor seminarians pull off in our seminary chapel. I hope to be able to practice enough to be able to do that also even when I'm gone.

8. What are you reading?
Apart from classwork, I keep two or three books going at once and try to stop a couple times a day to read just a couple of pages from one or another of them. These aren't books I "study" - but rather books I try to reflect on slowly, over time, in the context of what's happening in my life. I suppose its a sort of lectio divina - though you'd have to have a broad definition of that to include this. Anyway, I blogged some about the "Prayer for Beginners" book I started with. I've also finished a book on St. Ignatius's Examen practice written by Fr. Tim Gallagher. Right now, I'm reading Fr. Gallagher's book on St. Ignatius's rule for Discernment of Spirits. Along with that, I'm reading a book by the Rector of the seminary on Priestly Spirituality, and a classic seminarian read in Fulton Sheen's "A Priest is Not His Own". I try to spend a couple minutes each day with reflection on a small paragraph or so from The Rule written by St. Benedict, and reflecting on the mass readings for the next day and the coming Sunday.

9. What Will You Do Over Christmas Break?
NOTHING!!! Just kidding. I am excited, though - its the first time in FOREVER that I've had this much time off at Christmas. I've visited a 2nd grade class to talk about vocations and had a great time. I'm sleeping in (but just a little). Doing a little work to try to raise some funds. I'm at the cathedral's evening mass every day, and keeping to my LOTH prayers. And - just enjoying some frivolity with my time too. I bought two computer games my first day home, and have played them some - something I haven't done in months. But the days aren't empty at all. Seems like something worth doing (as in, not really a waste of time) comes up as I go along - like Monday I went to Louisville to visit a great friend who lives on the other side of the country who was in for a few days.

10. Will you keep blogging?
Yup - I'm gonna' try. Hopefully in the new year, I'll be able to get in the habit of more regularly posting.

Well - those are the answers to some of the common questions I've been getting. If you're reading this, I congratulate you. It means you didn't completely give up on checking the blog. Now I'm off to have some dinner with mom & dad, and see what the evening has in store.

Blessings to you all as we keep vigil this last week before a most excellent celebration!!!