Just before leaving the diocese to return to Rome, I was able to serve our annual diocesan Hispanic Heritage Mass. This is an opportunity for all those of hispanic origin to come together at our Cathedral for Mass with the Bishop and a meal. It is really beautiful to see so many come together from all over different parts of the diocese to join together in prayer. As one of the three hispanic seminarians for the diocese, and the only not in school at that point, it was a pleasure for me to serve. I finally came across a photo from the event, so that’s why I’ve waited until now to share.
Last week was the week known as “diaconate week” here at the NAC. That’s because forty-one of our 4th year men were ordained to the diaconate last Thursday. The celebration is absolutely stunning and the week is a lot of fun for the ordinandi. The rest of the house help pitch in to make sure its a memorable week for the men getting ordained. I helped by taking photos at many of the events. To see the photos be sure to check out our flickr page. My photos are the ones with “GB” in the file name. You’ll notice that there are photos by the other three photographers as well. I was blessed to be able to work alongside some really talented men.
Despite being back in Rome for a month, this week is our first week of “regular classes” at the university. We spent the month of September engaging in relevant pastoral workshops on preaching, pastoral counseling, hispanic ministry, and a week of silent retreat.
As previously mentioned in various posts, last year I served the College by working as the managing editor of our student magazine, Roman Echoes.
We finished the fourth edition over the summer and it is now available online by clicking here.
This year I will be serving as the editor-in-chief, so look for more links in the future.
Working on the magazine has a been a fun way to use my journalism experience in the seminary.
Yesterday I returned to Rome in the morning to begin the new school year. In the evening Pope Francis hosted a vigil for peace as a part of the worldwide day of fasting and penance for peace.
So, jet lagged as I may have been, I knew this would be something worth attending. And I was right, it was a beautiful and prayerful evening.
This event stood out to me in relation to other Papal events because of the spiritual attitude and atmosphere in the square, it was very profound.
I was not able to stay until the end because I was falling asleep standing up and starting to topple over, however I did make it through the Rosary, Litany, and the Pope’s homily.
As I reflected this morning about what made last night so different I came to the following conclusion: all of those present had the same purpose, peace.
So often with Papal Masses, Angelus prayers, audiences etc. many people attend for the sole purpose of seeing the Pope.
Last night was different, yes the Pope was present, and we were blessed to have him leading us in prayer, but the people weren’t there just to see him, they were there to pray for peace.
A beautiful and humbling way to return to Rome and kick off the new year.
Please join me, Pope Francis, and the whole Church in praying for peace, particularly in Syria and Egypt.
As mentioned in a previous post, last weekend I participated in the Gasconade County Fair BBQ Contest sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal.
This was not a KCBS sanctioned event, so it was very unlike any of the other competitions I used to compete in before entering seminary. The rules and regulations were much looser or relaxed. This made for an easy going, enjoyable day, but definitely left me a little confused at times as well.
The day of the competition they only announced the top 3 finishers. There were exactly 80 contestants.
Yesterday the final results arrived, I ended up in 9th place! I’m pretty pleased with that considering I had to throw it all together at the last minute. Most importantly, it was a fun time and I got to hang out with some of the parishioners and other good folks of Gasconade County.
This evening I was able to give a talk to the parish on Pope Francis. There was a great turnout, especially for a summer weeknight. It was a great opportunity for many people from the parish to get together and share a meal, and then after the meal, I spoke on our new Holy Father.
The first half of the talk is very similar to my post on the experience of the papal transition this spring. The second half of the talk I propose three steps that one can find across the many speeches given by Pope Francis thus far.
Below is a link to a .pdf of my prepared talk. Much like our Holy Father, I tended to veer off of the text, particularly in the first part when I was telling stories. However, when it comes to the more substantial part, about the content of his preaching, I stayed closer to the text with some variations here and there.
Today was the launch of the Gasconade County Fair. It takes place right here in Owensville. It was a great opportunity to get out and get to know many of our parishioners better. I had a lot of fun just walking around the grounds and socializing. I also helped our Knights of Columbus volunteer at the ice cream stand.
Thankfully the fair will go on for three more nights. On Saturday I will be competing in the BBQ Contest. Hopefully I’ll have a positive report about that event after it’s done.
In the mean time here are some photos from the first night. I forgot to take my camera with me so they are all cell phone pictures and thus, please excuse the low quality. I’ll remember my camera for Saturday.
Last month many of you may have read the countless reports about the fact that Pope Francis blessed many motorcycles during a Sunday Angelus.
I have now been in the parish of Immaculate Conception in Owensville, Missouri for a week. It has been very full week with lots of unique and fun opportunities. Today was another great example.
Much like last month, we were able to bless motorcycles. A group invited the pastor to come out and bless their bikes. I was able to tag along and help. It was a great experience and and enjoyable afternoon for all.
The third issue of Roman Echoes, previously known as the NAC Magazine is now available to view online.
This issue focuses on everything related to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Conclave and the election of Pope Francis.
I wrote one article in this issue in addition to overseeing the editing process. The issue contains the thoughts and reflections of many seminarians.
For more of my take on these historic moments, click here.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am now in the summer exam period. Unlike the United States, here exam period is not one week, but three. Our exams are all comprehensive and all 10 minute oral exams.
This semester we had a professor who threw my classmates at the Gregorian and I for a little bit of a twist. The course is on the Sacraments of: Ordination, Matrimony, Anointing and Reconciliation. We had to do a unique assignment that would turn into a great opportunity to share our cultures.
The assignment was to compose a short simple reflection on the life a person who has lived in our country in the last 150 years. The reflections were to be no more than one page and were to tie a quote from the figure to some of the theological themes we have discussed in class. We then had to get together in pre-determined groups of three to share and discuss our persons of interest. The groups were set up by the professor so that each of the three students came from different cultures. I was in a group with a young Italian lay woman and a Croatian seminarian. We had a great discussion.
I chose Fr. Augustine Tolton, the first African-American priest, who was baptized in my diocese.
I thought I’d share my reflection here too.
Servant of God, Fr. Augustine Tolton was born as a slave on April 1, 1854 in Brush Creek, Missouri. His slave owners were Catholic and allowed him to be baptized. In 1862, after the death of his father, Fr. Tolton escaped slavery along with his mother and siblings. They resettled on the other side of the Mississippi river in Quincy, Illinois. Young Augustine worked in factories, but loved Mass, eventually he got a job in the rectory so he could study under the priests. He himself wanted to be a priest, but was rejected by every U.S. seminary and many religious orders. Finally, he was accepted by the Propaganda Fidei, getting ordained in 1886. He believed that he would be sent to Africa to minister and evangelize. In a surprising move he was then sent back to Illinois to serve black Catholics until he died of heat exhaustion while visiting the sick in 1897. He was the first African-American priest.
“The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery – that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavors to free us of both. I was a poor slave boy but the priests of the Church did not disdain me. It was through the influence of one of them that I became what I am tonight. I must now give praise to that son of the Emerald Isle, Father Peter McGirr, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Quincy, who promised me that I would be educated and who kept his word. It was the priests of the Church who taught me to pray and to forgive my persecutors… it was through the direction of a Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Herlinde, that I learned to interpret the Ten Commandments; and then I also beheld for the first time the glimmering light of truth and the majesty of the Church. In this Church we do not have to fight for our rights because we are black. She had colored saints – Augustine, Benedict the Moor, Monica. The Church is broad and liberal. She is the Church for our people.” 
The circumstances of the death of Fr. Tolton are a powerful expression of the sacrificial priesthood, a total giving of self for others. He died bringing the Eucharist, anointing and confession to the sick and dying. This makes it quote easy to see the intimate connection between the priesthood and the Eucharist, Christ gave up his life man, Fr. Tolton gave up his life for his parishioners. He also speaks of the importance of the Church. In the above quote one can find the vocational aspect of the priesthood, that is that God frees us from slavery of sin, but calls us to do his will. This is seen in the life of Fr. Tolton, a freed slave who makes a promise of obedience to the Church. A man who thought he would be sent to Africa, but was sent back home to a much more hostile environment, and by obedience, he went. This is the great paradox of this man’s life. In this way he unites himself with Christ who is God, who humbles himself not only to become man, but, “taking the form of a slave…becoming obedient to death, death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7-8). Fr. Tolton demonstrates how one can find true freedom by following the will of God, and obediently serving his Church. It is obvious in this text that the has a great respect for the Church, in which demonstrates the closeness of the priest with the Church, with the people of God, the mystical body of Christ. His reverence shows the priest is always united to the Church, through prayer and sacrament. The text also expresses the importance of the priest’s role of teaching. Fr. Tolton was grateful for the teaching of an academic subjects that he received from priests. However, this also another kind of teaching referenced, not an instruction of academics, but rather an instruction of the heart. He notes that it is from the priest that he learned to pray and forgive his persecutors, who were many in his time. Thus the priesthood is also an instructing the faithful in how to grow in their relationship with God through prayer and the forgiveness of their persecutors.
Here is the prayer we can all pray for Fr. Tolton’s Cause for Canonization.
O God, * we give you thanks for your servant and priest, Father Augustus Tolton, * who labored among us in times of contradiction,* times that were both beautiful and paradoxical. * His ministry helped lay the foundation for a truly Catholic gathering in faith in our time.* We stand in the shadow of his ministry.* May his life continue to inspire us * and imbue us with that confidence and hope * that will forge a new evangelization for the Church we love.
Father in Heaven, * Father Tolton’s suffering service sheds light upon our sorrows; * we see them through the prism of your Son’s passion and death.* If it be your Will, O God,* glorify your servant, Father Tolton, * by granting the favor I now request through his intercession * (mention your request) * so that all may know the goodness of this priest * whose memory looms large in the Church he loved.
Complete what you have begun in us * that we might work for the fulfillment of your kingdom.* Not to us the glory,* but glory to you O God, through Jesus Christ, your Son* and our Lord; * Father, Son and Holy Spirit,* you are our God, living and reigning forever and ever. Amen
Prayer found on http://www.toltoncanonization.org
1. The quote can be found on pg. 22 of the Biography found here.