Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday May 31, 2009

Another LONG Sunday. Mass at 8:00, 10:00, 12:00, and 6:30PM (and, just like last week, I either served or sang at each one, minus the 6:30PM), but with the added bonus of having to direct church patrons for a wedding followed by a choir concert in the afternoon. I recall almost falling asleep numerous times throughout the day (especially during the concert; I feel slightly ashamed about this, as the music was, in all honesty, breathtakingly beautiful. It's just a shame that my "breath taking" was manifest both audibly and visibly in my frequent yawning!). This is strange, considering that I didn't get enormous amounts of physical exercise, but I am certainly very tired tonight, more so than I have been in awhile.

But enough bellyaching! I'm a Christian. I preach Christ crucified. That means no whining on my part!

Anyway, I guess seeing as today is Pentecost Sunday, I can't be surprised that I had such a plethora of work to do. Even when I thought I had a couple of minutes of time off in the afternoon, something kept dragging me back to work; chalk one up to the Holy Spirit on that one. "Inspiring" is a word for it, I guess, though the modern connotation of that particular word does miss the point, IMO. By "inspiration," I don't mean some kind of mind control, nor do I mean the cozy warm fuzzies we get when we get a good idea and chalking it up as divine "inspiration". The Inspiration I'm talking about comes at really odd times, ESPECIALLY inconvenient times. It pushes one to abandon what seemed like a good idea at the time for something that, though unquestionably good from an objective point of view, still requires us to give up something we think we'd rather have. Today, "inspiration" came from surfing the internet briefly to discover the News Headline regarding the murder of abortionist George Tiller. As a very pro-life individual, I deplore his murder and the murders he committed; what was initially a foray into some good ol' R&R turned into a rosary for the repose of his soul a the 6:30 mass that evening. THAT, I think, is genuine Inspiration: the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in us, compelling us to bear fruit for God's glory. In this case, it was a spiritual act of mercy; maybe tomorrow, it will be something else. Either way, this Pentecost will not be soon forgotten. I am a daily rosary devotee, but it's rare that I pray it as "well" as I did today. May God have mercy on us and protect us all! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your Faithful. AMEN!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Learning how to properly utilize a "day off" is doubtlessly going to be one of the most daunting tasks of this summer. It's not that they don't come often enough; it's just that with loads of downtime in between the usual activities of the day (which simultaneously tends to come at a very abrupt end, as I'm quickly discovering), it's hard to employ this time in ways that will serve to edify me spiritually as well as those around me. I haven't had any trouble finding time to pray the daily Office, and I've kept up with my daily rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. However, there's still the unexpected quiet times - the Saturday evenings following the 5:00PM mass, for example - where no one else is around at the rectory and no parish activity is there to occupy my time, either. It's times like these, I'm discovering, where extreme loneliness strikes. Sometimes even trying to "pray my way" through it doesn't quite work. I feel as though there's something that needs to be done, some unfinished task that must be completed.

It could be that I simply can't bear the thought of being alone, but as an introvert, such a diagnosis seems awfully unlikely. There's a really dreadful sort of emptiness in these moments that I can't quite explain. I don't think it's fair to call it a simple fear of being alone, and it's certainly not a "dark night of the soul" ass described by people like St. John of the Cross. It's days like today, where the only "work" I had was to attend the school dance recital and the 5:00PM mass, where it strikes the most. Is it the idea that I'm not useful? That I'm not loved? That I am not loving?

Whatever it is, I can only imagine what it must be for an ordained priest to live through this day after day. I don't know how the priests here at St. Ben's do it! I never see them really chatting with each other outside of dinner and before mass; they seem to keep to themselves. For my part, I made sure to call up another seminarian buddy for dinner to keep myself in check. We briefly mentioned this same topic and he mentioned the advice of a certain Fr. Ted Ross, a Jesuit spiritual director who specifically warned us all at a retreat this past winter about the loneliness of the priesthood. I don't think any of us quite understood what he meant at that point; I certainly didn't. Nights like tonight, however, are helping me to at least begin to understand ever so slightly.

So what is the cure to this loneliness? The "magic bullet" to any form of spiritual darkness is Jesus; people dismiss this as a cliche, "feel-good" aphorism, but there is definitely truth to it. Some people flee to bar scenes only to cry and moan from a hangover the next morning; some try to grasp a cure in money and material possessions, and it does, at the very least, give them some security for awhile. But they are rarely, if ever, satisfied, and they die off leaving behind nothing but piles of green paper in their wake.

But it isn't always easy to just "let go and let God," even when I'm cooped up in a rectory (of all places!). Having already finished a rosary and other prayers, what more can I do that will cure this ache? I can't just drown my sorrows in books and video games; that's just a slightly less scenic and slightly less individualistic version of the "bar scene" route. There must be SOME way out of it...what is it?

Dear Lord, help me find the cure to loneliness! I know it must surely be You, but finding you amidst darkness is harder than trying to find a needle in a haystack...or is it? Are these the moments in which You are "waiting in plain site?" Please, in all things, in all times, both good and bad, never, ever lead me away from You! AMEN!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pretty uneventful Thursday...after opening car doors at the elementary school as students were dropped off by their parents for the day, I grabbed the mail from the front desk of the school for the rectory staff to sort and spent the morning doing a bit of much-needed reading. I wish I could have said it was entirely spiritual, but being a junkie for politics, I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing websites like realclearpolitics and politico. On the plus side, I DID manage to work out a little worksheet for a presentation scheduled for 11:40 that day - Fr. Steve, Associate Pastor here at St. Ben's, planned to show the excellent vocation promotion video Fishers of Men, followed an investiture of the class into the scapular. They all eagerly put it on, and a couple who were already familiar with this beautiful devotion instructed the others in the proper wearing of the scapular, too. Not at all like the 8th grade I graduated from not even a decade ago! I don't think that even I knew what a scapular was at that age, and I was without question the "goody-two-shoes" and "holy roller" of my class. If I didn't know that, I doubt anyone else in my class did!

The class seemed generally receptive to the movie and Fr. Steve's follow-up questions, but I wasn't satisfied with the amount of time given to the questions afterward. I also felt as though someone a little younger, someone not so far removed from the educational system, might "lower their guard" a bit - I wanted to get the Holy Spirit to set the hearts of these newly confirmed Catholics on FIRE! Alas, the all-school Award Ceremony was about to begin, and it looked as though my scheduled talk with grade 8 was not gonna happen after all. Mrs. McCue and Mr Dalton, the two homeroom teachers, graciously granted me permission to stay after the all-school award ceremony to talk with the class a bit longer.

The Awards ceremony itself was quaint and professional. Fr. Beaven dressed formally, which I'm sure the parents and teachers, though perhaps not the students, appreciated very much. Rachel, the principal, seemed geniunely pleased with how quickly the event transpired, as well; the ceremony lasted just over an hour - a new record, according to her.

For my part, I sat in the back watching (mostly) nameless faces (well, nameless to me, anyway, until teachers announced their names as they came forward for awards) receive countless certificates of achievement. Self-esteem is well-guarded at this school. Hopefully the kids aren't spoiled by it - but if 8th grade is any indication, the students at St. Benedict's know that the world doesn't revolve around them, and this is something EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING HIGH SCHOOL. A little humility goes a long way - something I found out at the ceremony today, when I kindly asked a woman sitting in front of me to remove her hat, as we WERE in church. Though I did preface my request with an obligatory "I don't mean to be rude..." quip (it seemed like the pastoral thing to do after about 10 minutes of wavering on whether or not to ask the woman the question in the first place), she responded that she was on chemotherapy and consequently would NOT be removing her hat. I apologized immediately at that point and made sure to talk to her again once the ceremony had concluded - she was quite friendly and it seems as though we're both on good terms now. She's the proud parent of two kids at the school; I pray for her and her children as they cope with the cross of cancer in their lives. I'm glad that true humility - what God wanted, rather than what would have kept me most comfortable - won out at the end. I would never have met this woman if I hadn't asked an uncomfortable but necessary question, and it worked out for the good of both of us at the end.

My return back to grade 8 was bound to be brief - I knew that I had very little time with them befoer dismissla, but I also knew that I didn't need very much time, anyway. I wasn't there to promote myself. I was there as an instrument of the Holy Spirit; I was to do my part to promote vocations, nothing more, nothing less. I hope my 10 minute "grill the seminarian" session did the trick. Plenty of good questions all around, but one student in particular seemed VERY interested in what I call the "business of discernment." I told him what I told Mrs. McCue during the pizza lunch we had with the class following the showing of "Fishers of Men": one of the early signs of a priestly vocation is a hearty appetite. Considering this guy had just devoured nearly an entire pizza for lunch, I think he was able to catch the hint. His curiosity and openness at his age reminds me very much of my own interest in the priesthood during 8th grade and my decision to attend Quigley Seminary; perhaps the Holy Spirit will work to bring this young man down the same path I now trod? Even if he doesn't, I hope that both he and the entire 8th grade learn the value of their vocations; we need more holy men and women now more than ever, and as
Papa John Paul II (soon to be JPII the Great!) said, "Do you think there can be anything greater than to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus?" How can this happen if we don't have the courage to respond to the vocation given to each of us? Lord Jesus, by the vocation you have instilled in each of us, bring all of us closer to you! AMEN!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I did yet another committal today; I'm told it will be my last for a good week or so. It really is starting to become routine, so I'm glad I'll be taking a break from it. The last thing I want is for something solemn and sacred to become routine - alas, if I become a priest, celebrating Mass WILL be routine. For that matter, attending daily mass is already a daily activity for me, as well. I guess the problem isn't making the sacred "routine" - on the contrary, the more we come into contact with the sacred, the closer we are to our ultimate union with Christ in heaven - but there's something about any making any action "routine" that automatically makes it terribly mundane. Hence why an maintaining an interior disposition receptive to God's grace is so important! Every moment is a gift from God! Every moment is sacred!

Upon my arrival back to St. Ben's, Pastoral Associate Mike O'Malley invited me out to a lunch with the "Ministry of Praise" - a group of parishioners who work to communicate with the homebound to keep them informed of the goings-on at the parish. Sr. Emmanuel (a Franciscan who has been in her Order for over 50 years!) and Sally, a woman whose extended family has been at St. Benedict's for generations, made a delightful lunch for Mike and I. Both of them are extraordinarily healthy for their advanced age, not to mention independent. For a good portion of the afternoon, we worked to organize a bulletin for the 40-50 seniors - writing petitions, picking out comic strips, mulling over current and future parish events - all in all, an afternoon well-spent. It was also a powerful lesson in learning about the importance of the "behind-the-scenes" parishioners. The mystical Body of Christ is made up of many members, and each member is endowed with specific gifts to keep the entire body functioning. As important as the principal at the high school or the pastor of the parish may be, they need other parishioners as much as other parishioners need them. Cliche as it may sound, we are all connected - so long as we stay in Christ.

The same applies for Choir practice, too. There's quite an eclectic group of people comprising the choir here at St. Benedict's, buts that a GOOD thing. One minute, we're talking about American Idol; the next, you're speaking about praying outside abortion clinics and signing up for Eucharistic adoration. It goes a long way in keeping the sacred from becoming routine!

Heavenly Father, bring us closer to you in every activity of our day. Grant that we may find you in every moment of life you have given us. May everything we do glorify you, the only One truly worthy of being glorified, Lord forever and ever. AMEN!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing up some reports for the seminary last night (this internship is being taken for class credit, after all!) left me slightly sleep deprived this morning, but I still made it to 6:30AM mass and spent some time with Jesus immediately following. There's no better way to start the day, and I hope that, whether as a priest or as a married man or as a consecrated religious, I continue to foster this devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament throughout my life. I think the second graders Ispoke to today received that message loud and clear! I still remember the shock on their faces as I told them the story of Blessed Alexandrina, who, for 13 years, consumed solely the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus as her daily bread. Having just received their first Holy Communion, these children need to know that the Eucharist is indeed everything that the Catholic Church says it is. It cannot be reduced to some vague symbol of humanity or any other mundane thing; such a sacrilege is unacceptable in a secular age that is starving for Christ. I'm glad Fr. Steve was able to reassure me that these kids had already learned about the rosary back in the fall - the "refresher course" I gave them will, I am sure, keep them linked to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament through the intercession of His Blessed Mother. The teachers were also very pleased to have me visit; they encouraged me to stay to field questions from the students - something which I'm glad I did. I only hope I supplied them with some satisfactory answers! It's amazing what 2nd graders can and WILL ask you if you give them a chance. They wanted to know the nitty-gritty details about everything from school to rectory living to Sacraments and spirituality. I remember how shocked to find out that I went to Mass everyday - I have to admit, in second grade, I couldn't imagine going to mass everyday, either. Look where I am now! The Lord works in mysterious ways. Hopefully when I speak to the 8th grade with Fr. Steve on Thursday about vocations and the Holy Spirit, God will provide a similar grace to bring them closer to Him.

I did another "Rite of Committal" today, as well. Today's was a gravesite committal - I saw the body being "laid to rest," as it were - and there is a certain poignancy about this mundane exercise (excuse the pun) that amplifies the spiritual element of the Rite. It has been said that the Resurrection of the Body is the most widely attacked teaching of the Christian religion. For some reason, seeing a body being buried in the ground and being covered with dirt didn't challenge my belief in this particular teaching at all. I'm not sure if it "validated" o "strengthened" it, either, but I can't help but think the death of a loved one must be a challenge for many professing Christians, Catholic or not. I'm sure the apostles felt the same way at the ignominious death of Christ. But as St. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians:

"...For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead also came through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in the proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at His coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over his kingdom to His Father." (15:20-23)

This theological argument for the resurrection really "speaks" to me. I had the privilege of reading this at the funeral mass today before the committal; Reading it again now, I'm glad that I have the privilege and blessing of sharing it with all of you, as well. St. Paul's writings offer the argument that God's omnipotence necessarily dictates power over death; the subjection of death is the only way God can truly be "all in all" (Corinthians 24b-28). As I continue throughout the week and indeed, the rest of my earthly life, help me, O Lord, to recall to mind that your bodily resurrection is the key to my own eternal life. May the Living Bread of Life always keep me connected to the One I love - whether I'm in high school board meetings, calling cards in bingo halls, running errands in elementary schools, or eating dinner in parish rectories - forever and ever. AMEN!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today I attended EVERY. SINGLE. SCHEDULED. SUNDAY. MASS. All 4 of ‘em. 8:00AM, 10:00AM, noon, and 6:30 PM. I served as an acolyte for the 8:00 AM – by the time it had dawned upon everyone in the sacristy that the scheduled server was NOT coming, it was 4 minutes to the hour, and I scarcely had time to don my cassock and surplus. Fr. Steve graciously allowed me to be a crossbearer, as well, and all in all, my first time serving as acolyte at St. Ben’s was quite successful. Shame that I forgot to ring the bells at the moment of transubstantiation. I got multiple comments from parishioners about that afterward. Won’t forget that again!

I sang with the choir at the remaining morning mass and at 12 noon. Luciano, the Music Director here at St. Benedict, seems very pleased to have me aboard. Hopefully this out-of-tune tenor (me, not Luciano) remembers to give glory to God before himself. One of the more awkward moments throughout the day was when I had to stand during the consecration – I can forgive myself for forgetting the bells, but I CAN’T STAND not kneeling during the consecration. The veil of the sanctuary is torn, heaven and earth are brought together; a new covenant is made between God and man, and the source and summit of Christian life (thank you Pope John Paul II) is made present before our very eyes. I had BETTER show some outward sign that I acknowledge this fact. To neglect to do so would be one of the most profound mistakes one could make. I cringe at the fact that I only could make a head bow. Knowing that many other Catholics in the pews in parishes across the world seem completely unaware of the real significance of this sacred mystery in front of them saddens me greatly. Both as a seminarian and (God willing) as a priest, I will make sure that the Eucharist is treated with the respect and devotion it deserves. There can be nothing as important as this, if the Eucharist TRULY is Jesus Christ. If not, well, as Flannery O’Connor said: “To Hell with it!”

Another poignant lesson I learned today was the importance of courage. Despite my rantings about the importance of the Eucharist, despite how much I insist that every Christian must be willing to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for Jesus, there was a time today when I couldn’t even muster the guts to say “hi.” Around 5:00 PM, following an afternoon stroll, I was looking around the church to find the location of the reception immediately following the 6:30 PM mass (which is actually coordinated by a group of individuals from 4 different parishes in the Irving Park/Ravenswood area), where, I was told, the Ravenswood Catholic Youth Group would meet to discuss upcoming summer events. Being a “young adult” myself, this sounded like it was right up my alley, and I was very excited to meet everyone involved. Yet when I entered the church, all I saw were some unfamiliar faces practicing for the upcoming mass. I ignored them because I thought the meeting would be in the parish basement. I went to the basement, and, discovering that no one was currently around, went back upstairs. Rather than inquiring with the practicing choir, however, I decided to “save face” and simply go back to the rectory, where I promptly drowned my regrettable failure to simply ASK A QUESTION in Oreo cookies and video games until the 6:30 mass.

If I can’t muster the courage to simply ask questions, how can I possibly be an effective witness for Christ? Christians say that they’ll die for Him all the time; even the supposedly secularized youth of the country still join facebook groups proudly proclaiming their willingness to die for Jesus, and bulletins featuring similar motifs commonly circulate through the realms of myspace and other social networking sites, as well. I can’t judge the sincerity of the actions of these individuals, but I can say with certainty that my unwillingness to do something simple surely also means that I am unable to do greater things. Scripture actually affirms this message in no uncertain terms in Luke’s gospel: “…the person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16: 9-10).

Hopefully my attendance at the 6:30 Mass and the reception afterward redeem me somewhat. A certain Fr. Terry, of St. Matthias parish (not the Augustinian mentioned in yesterday’s posting), said the Mass; while I was disappointed in his “look at me!” style of prayer (there’s nothing worse in a priest, IMO), I can see why he is beloved by so many people. He preaches the Word with a liveliness that reminds the other Mass attendees that Christ is the LIFE. He is also very friendly and outgoing – the opposite of the “I-always-look-like-I’m-sucking-on-lemons” priest stereotype that many Catholics seem so familiar with. After meeting him and many others at the reception afterwards, I will be sure to pray for him as he moves out to Holy Family parish in Inverness. May God bless him and keep him safe.

At the reception, I met Greg, a 40-something year-old who, like me, has certain wallflower tendencies at social events (hence how I managed to gather up the courage to start talking to the man!). Turns out he’s recently been part of a workshop for older men interested in the priesthood; he mentioned it to me after I told him of my living situation at the rectory. I know better than to think such a conversation is a coincidence! Here’s hoping Chicago has another “late bloomer” in Greg!

I also met another St. Matthias parishioner who shall remain unnamed. We spoke about rosary devotion. I’m glad to see that this powerful prayer hasn’t died out in the great city of Chicago yet! May devotion to Our Blessed Mother and her Holy Son increase!

I also had the privilege of connecting with Carla and Stephanie, the two ladies-in-chief of the Ravenswood Catholic Young Adults. Looks like I’ll be joining their softball league, among other things. Should be fun, and I NEED the exercise. All in all, a very satisfying and grace-filled day. For tomorrow, when I get a much-appreciated (though perhaps not so well-deserved) break from St. Ben’s, I ask you, O Lord, for the grace of discernment and courage even in relaxation. May I never forget that the way of the cross is the way of salvation. AMEN!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Congratulations to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Ordination Class of 2009! For the 9 men who comprise this group, today is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable days of their lives – it’s comparable to a wedding, both in terms of its theological significance and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event. Invite only? Check. Formal attire? Required (much to my dismay – I had to borrow a dress shirt from a brother seminarian this morning just to make the cut!). Ceremony and reception packed with hordes of people? Check. All that’s missing are the bride and groom – and, as these men are to be ordained to act in persona Christi capitis – “in the person of Christ, the head” – to serve his bride, the church, it’s not unfair to say that they are, in a certain sense, the “groom” at this “wedding” (this is, by the way, one of the reasons the Catholic Church only ordains men to priesthood. A woman can’t be a groom!). They are called “Father” as a reminder of their role to spiritual guide Christ’s flock to Him; they are to be spiritual fathers to the children of God, and with the entire congregation (laypeople, priests, bishops, consecrated religious, and His Eminence Cardinal Francis George) praying for them, I know these men will, by God’s grace, do just that. They are now priests forever, ordained to be servants of Holy Mother Church! I can think of nothing so profoundly powerful and existentially amazing than this. The entire mission of a Christian is to become more Christ-like on a day-to-day basis. If the Catholic understanding of priesthood is accepted, how can one possibly get any closer to the Lord in this life than to be ordained a priest?

Even during my high school days in the minor Seminary, where discerning young men were guided by the Rule of St. Benedict – Ora et Labora – “prayer and work” (hence this blog’s name), I wanted this. I find it no coincidence that, halfway through my formation in the Chicago Seminary system, (6 years since I first entered, and 6 more years, God willing, before my ordination), I find myself at a parish whose patron is none other than the man who prayerfully lived this life, sharing Christ with others through his daily work and prayer. Whether I am attending finance meetings, working with the maintenance team, or singing with the church choir (and tonight, at the 5:00PM Vigil Mass, I did just that!), I hope that the people of St. Benedict parish and I all grow closer to the Lord together! St. Benedict, pray for us that we may unite ourselves to Christ as you have! AMEN!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Today I had the privilege of praying the Rite of Committal - in layman's terms, these are the prayers said before a Catholic burial. The Rite concludes with this ancient prayer, followed by an intercessory prayer asking God's blessing upon those gathered to mourn the dead as well as the soul of the dearly departed loved one.

When Fr. Beaven, the pastor of St. Benedict's, asked me to go to the cemetery and "preside" over this particular ritual, I was, to say the least, slightly nerve-racked. Not being a priest myself (well, not yet, anyway), I felt uneasy leading any sort of ceremony that even slightly resembled a mass; I don't have the power to give blessings, I tend to get "stage fright" in front of people I don't know, and I had absolutely no desire to spend 1 hour+ in a car ride with a funeral director as he dropped me off at the cemetary grounds in Westchester, IL to commence the ceremony.

As much as I was dreading the impending experience, I also felt very blessed myself knowing that the pastor wanted me to do this - as egotistical as that sounds, I knew that my first "Rite of Committal" was bound to be an unforgettable experience. It's certainly not something that happens everyday, that's for sure. People crave new experiences; even with the dread that was at times threatening to overwhelm me, the anticipation brought about a certain positive tension in its own right. The strange concoction of conflict and confidence forced me into a precarious position; I wasn't sure exactly how I was feeling, and this left with one course of action: prayer.

I made sure not only to pray for myself, but also for the bereaved family and their loved one. Catholics believe in a little place called purgatory; a funeral is an opportunity not only to remember the earthly life of a loved one, but also a special chance to pray for their soul to be welcomed into the arms of our loving heavenly Father. The prayers of the Rite of Committal reminded me that my role as a minister was to unite the prayers of all present at the ceremony with the communion of saints – to allow us all to act as instruments of God’s grace to unite both their dearly departed loved one AND themselves to God. Is this not, after all, the ultimate end of our existence? The physical world is full of finite things, but our God is infinite. If we are to live with God eternally, won’t we eventually have to leave the material confines of earthly existence at some point?

It makes perfect sense to me now that the church considers “burying the dead” to be a corporal work of mercy. It is a special, grace-filled moment that serves to unite us with the father in a way that logical explanations cannot hope to accomplish. I’m very blessed to have prayed with this family today, and I hope that other opportunities to pray and cooperate with God arise again during my summer apostolate.

I also had the opportunity of reacquainting myself with a certain Fr. Terry Deffenbaugh, an Augustinian priest whose youth retreats are renowned throughout the country. Having experienced Fr. Terry’s retreats when I was in eighth grade myself, I was all to pleased to see that he was scheduled to do the retreat for St. Benedict’s eighth grade class of 2009 TODAY! While this particular retreat lacked a specific focus on catechesis or spiritual growth, it did a fine job at promoting reconciliation for a group of kids that had been in school together for years; I hope they remember Fr. Terry for both his flaws and his virtues as they begin their high school careers. For my part, I’m just glad that I got to see this remarkable priest once again; the fact that he managed to sell me his latest book, “No Longer a Stray,” is just an added bonus.

Mary, Mother of the Church, I beg your intercession as I end this day. Together with all the Saints in heaven, plead for me that your Son may grant me the grace needed for discernment as I continue my summer apostolate. May my soul, and the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. AMEN.