Over the past weekend I was also able to preach during a holy hour with some of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was my first time doing exposition and benediction. It was a beautiful evening. The mother superior asked me to preach a few words during the holy hour, of course I obliged. I must say it was a little different than preaching during the Mass. Below is a rough text of what I’m pretty sure I said, I gave the homily without a prepared text and in Italian, however, later that evening I typed it out in English to send to one of the sisters in the USA. I think the text if faithful to what I actually said, I’m certain it’s faithful to some of the sentiments I wanted to convey. While it is geared towards a very specific (and wonderful) congregation of women religious, I believe some of the sentiments found therein have a universal application.
As many of you already know after my first year in Rome I could not go back to the United States. So I went off to Albania to go on mission with the Apostles. However, when I arrived, as I stepped off the airport to go down the steps to bus, as I looked at the bus with an Albanian advertisement on the side, I realized something. I was in a country where I didn’t speak the language, a country even further from home, where i knew no one, didn’t know the culture. I suddenly felt quite alone, quite lost, I started to question myself, what was I doing here? Did I make a mistake? What’s going on? Etc.
Then when I walked into the house of the Apostles, something changed. No, I didn’t know those individual sisters themselves or even their names yet, but it was as if I already knew them, because I already knew all of you, and all of your sisters in the United States. I was able to immediately recognize them, not just by the habit, but rather by their faith, their joy, the way they lived out their vocation. The same way I see it in all of you and your sisters in the United States. By the end of lunch it was as if I had known them for years. All of my worries, confusion, and doubts had been taken way because I was able to recognize these sisters right away.
This is how it is when we enter the chapel anywhere in the world. In the Eucharist, we recognize the presence of Christ. We we are far from home, when we feel confused, when we have doubts, concerns, problems, when we feel alone. We come to the chapel and recognize Christ in the Eucharist, for it is he who can take away all of these burdens. When we recognize him and he takes away everything, we can be at peace, we never have to feel alone again.
After posting my homily from this past Saturday, I’ve received some requests for my first homily after my diaconate ordination. The Mass was celebrated by my Bishop at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The Church is very important in Rome because it houses the relics brought back to Rome by St. Helena, mother of Constantine. Given that I had family and friends present from eight different countries, I decided to preach in both English, Spanish and Italian. I didn’t want anyone to be left out!
First the text as prepared in the different languages, then a translation with the full text in English. While homilies are meant to be delivered, I hope reading the text provides for fruitful reflection as well.
Today I preached at Mass for the first time since my Mass of Thanksgiving the day after my diaconate ordination. Since then, I have deaconed many times, but not had the opportunity to preach.
The Mass I was assigned to preach today was for seminarians and it was in Spanish.
Here is the original text, followed by a quick translation. Homilies are meant to be delivered obviously, so this is not the same thing, but maybe it helps you get a grasp of my message.
En Febrero después de los exámenes de mi segundo año en Roma fui con unos de nuestros hermanos a Polonia. Mientras estuvimos allí fuimos un día a Auschwitz. Fue una experiencia muy difícil, muy fuerte. También es muy difícil explicar mis emociones cuando estaba en aquel lugar donde un número inexplicable de personas habían sufrido tanto y donde habían muerto. Siempre digo a otros que me preguntan acerca de mi visita que era como caminar en un nube de maldad. Al fin de nuestro tour de tres horas, tres horas en el mal, estuvimos muy cerca a la puerta principal de Auschwitz, estábamos en un círculo y cuando mi di la vuelta la primera persona que vi era… un sacerdote. Inmediatamente, mi paré.
En otras palabras como dice San Pablo hoy, “El «subió» supone que había bajado a lo profundo de la tierra”
Estuvimos en uno de los lugares más horribles en el mundo, un infierno sobre la tierra, y allí fue un sacerdote, en imágen de Cristo, En frente a los horrores incompresibles, algo casi incomprensible donde me sentía como en una grande oscuridad, allí encontré un sacerdote: una luz de Cristo, una luz en la oscuridad de nuestra existencia humana.
Nosotros quienes somos llamados al sacerdocio tenemos que reflexionar sobre estas palabras de San Pablo, este ejemplo del sacerdote y el ejemplo de Jesu Cristo.
Como también dice San Pablo hoy todos tenemos una vocación en la Iglesia para la salvación de los otros, y nosotros como sacerdotes, o futuro sacerdotes, tenemos que salir de nuestras casas, de donde nos sentimos cómodos, tenemos que ir a los lugares difíciles, los lugares donde existe la maldad, donde la gente está sufriendo, en lo profundo de la tierra.
El sacerdote que vi aquel día no tenía medio de ir en un lugar tan lleno del mal, pero hay también otro sacerdote que en aquel mismo lugar, Auschwitz, dio su vida por un otra, San Maximiliano Kolbe. Estos dos sacerdotes nos presentan un gran testimonio de cómo podemos imitar Cristo. Si querremos traer, mejor, subir, la gente a Dios, a Cristo, antes tenemos que ir donde están ahora, incluyendo en los lugares más difíciles, en lo profundo de la tierra.
Y si podemos hacer esto cuando hablen de nosotros no digan, “supone que habían bajado” sino “sabemos que habían bajado.”
In February after exams of my second year in Rome I went with some of our brother seminarians to Poland. While we were there we went one day to Auschwitz. It was a very difficult and powerful experience. It is very difficult to describe all of the emotions I experienced when I was in that place where an inexplicable number of people suffered so much and died. I always tell people who ask me about my visit that it was as if I was “walking in a cloud of evil.” At the end of our tour, three hours walking through this evil. We were very close to the main gate of Auschwitz, we were huddled up in a little circle and when I turned around the first person I saw was…a priest. Immediately, I stopped.
In the words of St. Paul today, “What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth?
We were in one of the most horrible places on earth, a hell on earth, and there a priest went, in the image of Christ. In front of incomprehensible horrors, something that was so incomprehensible I felt like I was in a great darkness, there I encountered a priest, a light of Christ, a light in the darkness of our human existence.
Those of us called to be priests need to reflect on these works of St. Paul, the example of that priest and the example of Jesus Christ.
St. Paul also tells us today that we all have a vocation in the Church for the salvation of others, and for us as priests, or future priestes, we have to leave our homes, where we feel comfortable, we have to go to the difficult places, the places where evil exits, where people are suffering, in the “lower regions of the earth.”
The priest I saw that day did not have fear to go to a place so full of evil, but there was also another priest in that same place, Auschwitz, who gave us life for another, St. Maximilian Kolbe. These two priests present to us a great testimony of how we can imitate Christ. We we want to bring, better, raise people up to God, to Christ, before we must go where they are now, including the most difficult places, in “the lower regions of the earth.”
If we can do this, when others speak of us they will not say “suppose they went down” but, “we know they did.”
(On this last point the English translation of the scriptures varies from the Spanish text by not using the verb to suppose.)
After finishing first cycle, and more importantly, getting ordained a deacon, the next step for me in the past few weeks has been beginning my new degree program, an S.T.L. in Fundamental Theology. One of the many questions I’ve been asked lately has been, “What is Fundamental Theology?” Well, a part of the reason for that question is that you don’t see it appear as a discipline in the United States very often, usually, it is an introductory systematic course. However, at a few universities in Europe it is considered an entire discipline within theology.
This semester I am taking six courses plus a seminar, the seminar is titled, “The Specificity of Fundamental Theology,” in short it is a survey of the major themes found within the discipline. For the first weekly paper we were asked to answer among a few questions, “How do you define Fundamental Theology?” It was meant to be a personal response as we begin this two-year long journey of study. I thought I would share that part of my paper here too, since so many have been asking. Though a warning, given the scope of the paper (there was another question and it was max. 1 page), in my mind this is an understandably limited definition, but hopefully it’s a start for the person asking the initial question:
What is Fundamental Theology?
In one sentence I would define fundamental theology in the following manner. Fundamental theology is the study of the credible presentation of revelation and faith in the modern world. Such a definition can be unpacked in order to expose the principal elements of fundamental theology. One arm of fundamental theology is the apologetic arm which seeks to develop a “credible presentation” to the “modern world.” However, the other arm of fundamental theology, the dogmatic arm, serves as its core and is found at the center of this definition, the theology of revelation and faith. By the study of revelation, fundamental theology seeks to understand the means by which God, “chose to show forth and communicate himself,” (DV, 6). Therefore, fundamental theology does not seek to understand all the contents of revelation but rather the whole of revelation including the relationship between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which, “flowing form the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end.” (DV, 9). By the study of faith fundamental theology seeks to study man’s response to God’s revelation. It is a response in which, “man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of the intellect and will.” (DV, 5). Therefore it is the responsibility of fundamental theology to analyze the relationship between faith and reason. This brings fundamental theology from its dogmatic aspect to apologetic aspect. This latter aspect of fundamental theology seeks to bring its dogmatic aspect into dialogue with the modern world. It seeks to analyze the signs of the times and then develop a credible presentation of revelation and faith, not necessarily to explain particular dogmatic truths of the faith, but why it even matters to believe in anything in today’s world, and more specifically to believe in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
DV = VATICAN II, Dei Verbum.
Let me know if you have any follow up questions or if something is still not very clear in this brief description.
After an incredible week full of so many blessings and lots of activities, most importantly ordination to the diaconate, I was blessed to have a week of vacation. While all the events were so much fun, there’s no denying I was pretty exhausted by the end.
Many of my classmates have already begun the new academic year, however my particular program does not start until next week.
So I was able to arrange a short three day trip down to Bari to visit some friends and get away from Rome for a few days.
In Bari I was able to deacon a few times in Italian, but more importantly I was able to relax some.
I took many walks around the city with no worries regarding time or where I was going.
Now I’m back in Rome and ready to start the regular routine. My little excursion to Bari turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Yesterday I was finally ordained to the Order of Deacons along with 42 of my classmates in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter. We were blessed to have Donald Cardinal Wuerl as the ordaining prelate.
While I’ll have more thoughts and reflections in the coming days, for now I know many people have been asking for photos. This is a very preliminary and initial collection of photos taken over the past few days. There will be more to come as I receive them from everybody else, so be sure to check back for more!
Obviously the thing I am most looking forward to this week is ordination. One of the other things I was most looking forward to was welcoming so many family and friends from all over the world. Given the nature of my family, living everywhere, I am so humbled to have guests coming from five different countries on three different continents. Everyone has been arriving in the past couple of days and what a blast it has been already.
A few days ago we had a special welcome Mass for the families. Here’s a photo of the four of us on the roof of the North American College.
One of the other perks of this week is getting to meet the families of my best friends. It really has been a pleasure, despite what the following photo might suggest on first glance. I guess between Guayaquil and Italy I’ve learned how to talk with my hands too.
When my friend and I saw this photo we had a good laugh, and I hope you did too.
More to come throughout the week.
In anticipation of ordination our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Missourian, publishes a profile piece on every ordinand to the diaconate and priesthood.
Given that this week is the week I will be ordained to the diaconate, they ran a profile on me in their most recent issue.
For those that don’t live in the diocese and get the paper edition, I thought I’d pass on the link to the story on the diocesan website.
Look for more posts later in the week as the big day approaches.