Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Congratulations!

This evening St. Meinrad celebrated the installation of the 1st Theology men to the Ministry of Lector and the 2nd Theology men to the Ministry of Acolyte. Lectors are designated by the church to be ministers of scripture in liturgy, Acolytes are designated by the church to be ministers of Eucharist and to serve Deacons and Priests at the altar. This isn't a precise theological definition, but its close.

Anyway, congratulations to them all. And especially to Jeff Estacio, my diocesan brother studying here at St. Meinrad with me who was installed as a Lector. As we pray together with and for Jeff, we continue to thank God for the gift of vocation, and ask Him to bless Jeff with guidance, strength, and the wisdom of discernment.

I took a couple of photographs during this evenings Eucharist when the Bishop of Lafayette (IN) installed Jeff and the other men, but the pictures were wobbly and shaky. (I'm learning that happens sometimes when you're not using a flash.) But I did get this good picture of Jeff (far right) along with Fr. Noel Zamorra, a priest of our diocese and Jeff's cousin, and Deacon Saviour Nundwe at a banquet we shared as a community following the installation.

And - can you believe it - we DID get our snow day after all! One of our professors was not in my second class this morning, and due to bad road conditions, the seminary has cancelled our ministry assignments for tomorrow. Imagine that - 34 years old, and praying for a "snow day" still works. (Mrs. Holbrook, if you're out there somewhere reading this, I learned all about praying for Snow Days from you!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

OK - We're Not In High School, But...

There's something about the magic of snow (and the fond rememberance of "snow days"???) that gets even seminarians a little goofy when the white magic begins to fall. It started earlier today, and sifted all around - and was quite beautiful. Here's a shot of the "Holly Tree Courtyard" (not the same courtyard as the photos a couple weeks ago) with the snowcover.
And it was REALLY coming down hard. Compare this view out of the front window my room with the one I posted a couple of weeks ago. The treeline just beyond that small parking lot in the center of the photo (clearly visible in the earlier photo) is nearly obscured by the snowfall in this picture.
So - of course - what was "the talk" at dinner? Among other things, whether there would be a "snow day" tomorrow, and the fun we'd have sledding down the back hill from the monastery. The senior men here tell stories about how you can get from the monastery on the crest of the hill all the way down and across the state road that runs along that edge of the property and WELL into the cleared field beyond. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Although - the chances of an official class day cancellation is next to nothing. Most of the faculty and administration reside in the monastery, and those that don't live very closeby. But we can remember how fun it is to "hope" for a snow day, can't we?

After dinner, it REALLY began to fall. And I couldn't resist a couple other pictures showing how beautiful the snowfall is around here. This picture is taken in the same Holly Tree Courtyard as above, from nearly the same spot. Look at the SIZE of those snowflakes!
The lights illuminating the front of the Archabbey Church (just through an archway from this courtyard) also really show off the beauty of the snow as it falls:
So, knowing of course that we wouldn't get to tune into some radio or TV station tomorrow morning and hear those magic words from our youth, "No school today in YOURTOWN County" we took a few minutes to go outside and enjoy the white wonder. Here's a picture of Chris Hess, a 1st Theology man (who's room just happens to be right beneath mine - both our rooms are located just above the porch where this picture is taken).
My pet even got in on the excitement of it all. (SHHHH - don't tell the rector or the formation staff - technically, we're not supposed to have pets. It'll just be our secret, OK?) This is "Lindsay the Ladybug" enjoying the snow. See - she had to get over to the window to keep an eye on it too.
Enough of my crazy rambling! Honest, I had something "deep" to blog about today - and I may still write about it sometime soon. (The significant difference between "individual" and "personal".) But, here's a deep thought for today that I think we all overlook way too much: Sometimes the "depth" of life exists in the joy we can take in the frivolities. We are living for a world to come - but we are also living in this life, and can, and should, and MUST enjoy it from time to time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

"It's a perfect day for the beginning of Lent," I thought to myself as I was getting dressed this morning. It was a grey overcast day, the wind was blowing, and there was a strange humidity in the air. Perfect for the penitent, soulful reflection that we launch into during Lent. Muggy, grey, rainey. Just what Lent is all about. Right?

As I was outside following Morning Prayer, I noticed that the wind was picking up. It reminded me of how "tossed about" I feel sometimes in a season of reflection like Lent. Brought face to face with my shortcomings. Brought into the only light I ever thought there was to Lent - the light of reality at how unholy I am sometimes. How far from the mark I often fall. And there was stirring up a chill in the air - not quite here yet, but on its way. (You know how you can feel that in the air?)

I returned to my room, and spent some more time in prayer and reflection. Yes - indeed - this is a perfect day to be reminded that we are of dust, and to dust we will return as the ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the cross.

Mid morning I decided to go to a communal Stations of the Cross. Standing in the narthex of our seminary chapel with others participating in this devotion, I was touched by how small by comparison the physical inconveniences I was enduring were compared to the physical catastrophe Christ endured. My knees creaked and popped every time we genuflected - and they hurt, just plain hurt. But how could I complain, even to myself. But even as the narthex seemed to transform into a sauna, and the sweat trickled down my back, I didn't find myself emotionally "flogging" me for my limitations, physical and spiritual. Instead, I found some strange blam for my shortcomings in this devotion on the Passion.

Again outside, the clouds had cleared away almost completely. And a brisk, almost spring air, blew through the courtyard. "Yes, this IS a perfect day for Lent to begin," I thought as I reflected on BOTH the greyness of the earlier part of the morning, and yet at the same time this refreshing breeze that was now blowing. Lent must be a mixture of these two somehow - not because that's what I was experiencing in the weather, but more because that's what I was experiencing within. I could have not gone to the Stations meditation, it wasn't required. But I gained a new sense of comfort from it - comfort even of my shortcomings. And that comfort was a refreshing breeze to me.

At mass, our rector reminded us the the ancient mark on our foreheads this Ash Wednesday was not just a reminder that we are among the clan of the sinner penitents, but also a reminder of Who we are claimed for, of the hope we have in Him. Into lunch where we ate a simple meal and instead of our typical conversation listened to a reading from the Holy Father on the "hope we have in Christ", this interesting mix of grey and sunny continued in all that I was doing and experiencing. It had to fit together somehow more than I was able to grasp.

And then at midday prayer, the Archabbot provides the answer - something I'd never really "got" as deeply before: We celebrate Lent because of Easter, not the other way around.

We celebrate Lent because there IS an Easter. We don't find our way to Easter because there is a Lent. The brightness, the joy, the peace, the dawning, the joy of Easter - THAT'S why we enter into the somewhat more grey days of Lent. And yet - even in the "grey days" we can't lose sight of the brightness, the spring breeze that blows around us, the REASON for our Lenten journey that's never really apart from us - the Easter that draws us forward.

We don't "earn" Easter with our Lent, we celebrate Easter through our Lent. We're never closed off from it.

Yes, indeed, today was the perfect day to begin Lent. I have a greater sense now of what St. Benedict meant in his Rule when he said for the monk Lent should be always before the monk - every day should be a Lent. The sunny days, the grey days, the muggy unpleasantness of the days as well as the crisp refreshing awakening days. Every day, we should see and find and embrace both...and be amazed at the beauty of it all.