Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So today I went over to the Common Food Pantry at the Protestant Church again. Same crowd, and we finished at roughly the same time, too. Well worth it. One of the gang over there just found a job and consequently won't be returning to volunteer; another has been out of a job for a month and a half and is still looking. Prayers for her! St. Anthony, intercede on her behalf!

I returned to St. Ben's to play video games for a good 2+ hours, then helped Fr. Beaven and a St. Ben's high school student with some heavy lifting; we had to move some supplies up to the high school weight room. It only took about 20 minutes, so I had plenty of time to say a rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. In fact, I finished before the 4:00PM hour.

Dinner was an quick and quiet affair: leftovers from yesterday (and Sunday's pizza). Fueled me enough for the LONG night of bingo ahead; there were no meetings tonight (happens about twice a year, according to Fr. Beaven), so I was at bingo from the very outset all the way to the closing. Got out of that auditorium at around 10:20 - just in time to get my clothes out of the dryer, and write up this journal entry. May God Bless everyone, especially those in most need of His Divine Mercy - including my own wretched and sinful self. May He make me more worthy, day by day. AMEN!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Today was the day of the Chicago Young Republicans Grand Old Party - but I didn't go. In fact, as much as I would have liked to go to it (not to mention the meeting of the township GOP of Berwyn, my hometown), I found myself doing things here at St. Ben's that really clarify the vocation I am currently discerning and the deep sacrificial meaning of the priesthood.

I didn't make 6:30 Mass, and I got a late start after that, as well. By the time Ihad finished breakfast/lauds/Divine Office it was a quarter till 10:00AM, and I rushed over to the school only to find out (as expected) that I was not going to help anyone by hanging around there. Content to know that I had at least tried my earnest to make myself useful, I checked back at the rectory to see what the others were up to. I found a note in my mailbox - not exactly typical of a Monday morning, so I promptly opened it up to read it. Turns out that Anne, the parish grounds gardener, is out of town. She wants me to water the garden for the next two weeks! So much for lazy mornings - Mary Sue, the receptionist on Mondays, remarked that I had quite an easy job if my chief concern for the morning is flowers! I gotta admit, she's right. Anyone reading this blog knows that, too. For crying out loud, I actively lament the lack of activity at the parish to parishioners, too, so I'm sure they're getting quite sick of my complaints, as well. Time spent complaining is time not spent praying - or is it? If my 3:00PM Holy Hour is any indication (not to mention numerous psalms, the book of Ecclesiastes, etc.), "complaining" IS prayer, and perhaps some of the best prayer we can offer to God. Maybe if I did a bit more of that complaining to God instead of directing it at parishioners, I'd actually develop a deeper prayer life worth bragging about, not to mention writing about. Pray for me, everyone!

Anyone, Fr. Steve graciously invited me along to his errands for the day once he had finished checking his e-mails. By 11:30, we were off to my favorite little religious goods store (and, from what I can tell, something of a "best-kept secret" as far as lay Catholics are concerned) - House of Hansen, just a few miles west of St. Ben's on Irving Park Road. It is renowned amongst seminarians and priests for the handmade liturgical vestments; Fr. Steve was just getting his own refitted in time for his new assignment, which, if he is to be believed, starts in only a few days!

After Hansens' (I bought a book on the Latin mass! w00t!) we went to yet ANOTHER religious goods store - Morrow's, which offers a bit more in the "non-vestment" category of religious goods that Hansens' generally lacks. Didn't but anything - nor did I buy my own lunch at Panera, because Fr. Steve absolutely refused to let me do it! "You can repay the favor when you pay for another seminarian's lunch after you're ordained." Well, ok...

Our last stop of the afternoon was St. Alphonsus parish - about 2 miles south of St. Ben's. Turns out Fr. Steve is MOVING IN HERE. It's apparently the only location that "works"; I can certainly say that it terms of his living arrangements, he's got something that "works" (understatement of the year!). He's going to be living in an old former convent with all the comforts of home; let's just say that "opulence" doesn't describe it. At least he's got a beautiful chapel with a high altar and icons EVERYWHERE. He's got it made! Lucky guy...

Anyway, I also found out that a soon-to-be St. Joseph's seminarian is working at St. Alphonsus, though I didn't get to meet him. Alex, if you are reading this, good luck and God bless!

We got back to St. Ben's in time for me to finish a Divine Mercy Chaplet and a rosary before dinner; Anne, the cook, also had us help out with the leftover cake from yesterday's reception. Note to self: never trust Fr. Steve with cake. He placed the box lopsided in the fridge and the whole thing collapsed in on itself! At least Anne salvaged it; heck, I'll probably grab some before I head off to bed tonight...

Monday also means Benfest meetings, and tonight's was a doozy. Over an hour of chitchat on topics in which I can offer nothing of use; even when I try, it turns out I'm better off staying quiet (it's a good exercise in humility, though!). Dear Lord, keep my humble throughout my tenure here. Let me honor and respect the Way, the Truth, and the Life that has created all things, including ME! AMEN!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Well, it's been the usual busy Sunday. Masses throughout the morning lasting until early afternoon, with the added bonus of having Fr. Steve's reception interspersed throughout the entirety of the day. The high school was either very smart or very stupid to host its rummage sale after all the masses, as well. They set up just outside the gym entrance on Bell Street; I can't help but think that they could've done better if they had "mooched" off of the Benbuck/Benfest volunteer recruiters standing outside the church main entrance. Hopefully some of the stragglers to Fr. Steve's sending off managed to catch the rummage sale as they entered/exited through the back door to the Ackerman/Social Center, where the reception was being held.

For my part, I didn't really get to talk much to either one of the priests here at St. Ben's today, and I didn't really help much at the receptions, either. I decided to pray Morning Prayer and the Daily Office in between one of the masses, so that naturally kept me busy and away from the partying. I caught the rummage sale after helping Luciano clean up after the noon mass, and that kept me from helping out with the clean-up for the reception.

The Choir was fantastic today, or at least as fantastic as we've been for quite some time. I know on my end I was actually subpar (I can now say with some certainty that I am NOT a tenor! Baritone, maybe?), but the choir as a whole actually got some compliments from parishioners after the mass; I've actually never seen that happen before, though I don't think today is the only day our little schola deserved it. Nonetheless, I was glad to be a part of the "farewell to Fr. Steve" choir. Too bad the "farewell" for me will likely be a quiet postlude to packing away boxes in his car when he moves out later this week...perhaps taking him out to dinner is in order! I can't wait to see what Anne has planned for him in the kitchen this week...

Anyway, the rest of the afternoon was spent with Luciano and Lauren, another cantor and friend of Luciano. We went to lunch at Giordano's, which was certainly well worth it (though I will admit I was a bit too gluttonous, as usual...and to think I just confessed that sin yesterday in confession...ARGH!), but the follow-up of having to endure the hullaballoo following the Gay "Pride" parade was much worse. Lauren lives close to the parade route, so trying to drop her off was a PITA. One particular awkward moment: some parade watchers were being dropped off at a curb in front of us after Luciano had just dropped off Lauren. These two ladies, once they saw us, immediately waved their rainbow flags in glee and cheered at us. I cocked an eyebrow in my confusion to Luciano, who was immediately to my left
(I was in the front seat next to him); it didn't occur to me until after we hit the next block that they might have (and gauging by their reaction, "probably" is the better term, here) thought Luciano and I were a gay couple! I snickered a bit, then thought about the potentially scandalous situation I was in. Now, I realize that two guys together hardly constitutes scandal, and it's not like I'm running off to the confessional to confess this as some mortal sin, but this definitely stands as a reminder for the future. It's an unfortunate side-effect of my vocation that I need to be careful of what I do and say even in what appear to be innocuous circumstances. It's the same reason why priests now have to be extremely cautious when they're working with youth. One wrong step and it's lawsuit time! A few bad apples really have spoiled the barrel for the whole bunch. Pray for priests, everyone! They need it!

After watching a bit of "24" at Luciano's place (I still don't get why people like this show, BTW), we made our way over to St. Sylvester's church, where I had earlier in the day reluctantly agreed to visit with Luciano. He had a gig there as a substitute music minister; he told me that the liturgy and the priests there were wonderful. Knowing Luciano's rather refined liturgical sensibilities, I was willing to trust him, and I forewent my Sunday afternoon to attend the 6:00PM mass.

Let's just say I didn't regret it! I had heard of St. Sylvester's before, and I quickly recalled why once I walked inside: the associate pastor there was an intern at my home parish of St. Leonard while he was a seminarian at Mundelein! He remembered me, too, I think, and he asked me if I'd like to serve mass. I declined, though, once again, in retrospect, I probably should have. I did manage to get a head start on my rosary (I LOVE saying the rosary during mass!), but there seems to be little point in avoiding serving the mass I will eventually have to "say"/pray (the latter is the better term, I think!). If the sacrifice of the mass is the essence of priesthood, I should naturally desire to be as close to it as possible. Avoiding it because of fear of messing up/looking silly/wanting to do something else is NOT conducive to my vocation.

I managed to talk to Fr. Jose after mass, and some of the other parishioners gladly handed out cupcakes, bulletins, and advertisements for Theology on Tap (!!!) at the parish in the coming months. They also have Eucharistic adoration on Fridays; looks like I have another alternative to Our Lady of Lourdes for my devotional life! W00t! Thank you Lord for priests like Fr. Jose and Fr. Paul! They will be instrumental in the fruition of what JPII called the "springtime in the church," I am sure of it! They will attract converts by the truckload!

After mass, Luciano brought along Eric, a Seattle native who recently moved to the city. He cantored for the mass at St. Sylvester's, and he appeared very happy to see St. Ben's and get the "grand tour" with Luciano. He seems like a fairly devout fellow; he gives off what I would call the "Franciscan University Catholic" vibe; it's similar to what I see in the Ravenswood Catholic Young Adults group. Basically, it's my euphemism for a young, devout, but not quite "mature" Catholic. I hope that doesn't come off as too patronizing...as a 20-year-old, I probably fit into this mold myself as it is. "Don't judge lest ye be judged" knows no better recipient than yours truly! I must do better to heed it; perhaps it will lead me to solve my problems with courage and humility (there were plenty of those opportunities with Luciano, Lauren, and many others today and on Saturday). For now, however, I'll say Night Prayer and catch some shut-eye...I won't have the luxury of 6:30AM mass for much longer, as Fr. Beaven is canceling it once Fr. Steve moves out.

Lord God, never let me forget how much You love me. I love You dearly in return. May nothing ever be as precious to me as You. Keep me forever in Your warm embrace that You gave to me on the cross. May I live my life in a way that attests to this trust. AMEN!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Went to confession at my "home parish" of St. Odilo back in Berwyn, IL at 11:30-ish or so, then got on the Blue Line to get back to St. Ben's in time for evening mass at 5:00PM. I arrived at around 1:30PM, which was, unfortunately, too late to help out for the set-up for Fr. Steve's "Auf Wiedersehen" reception (I still can't believe it's his last weekend here!). I did get a chance to chat with him a little before mass; looks like the conference with the FOCUS missionaries went very well! He's going to be in good company when he starts his new assignment at the Newman Center at UIC!

My singing voice was practically non-existent for the 5:00PM mass today. I think it gradually improved as the mass went on, though. Throughout the entire mass I kept wondering if singing in the "choir" (which for tonight was just me) is really the best way to be a witness for Christ during the mass. There was no need for extra servers, Eucharistic ministers, or lectors tonight, but I wonder if just sitting in the pews would actually be a BETTER witness. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being an attention-seeking neo-clerical seminarian; other times, I think of the excerpt from "Diary of the Country Priest" where one of the "old school" priests chastites the main character for being part of the "choir boy priest" generation. It reminds me also of the priest character from Gran Torino, a character I find to be far from the ideal priest (even if he is leagues beyond the idiot malcontent passive-aggressive, sexually perverted depictions the media tends to bestow upon priest characters in movies and TV shows these days); when I saw the movie in theaters, I saw a character that reminded me scarily of myself - in all the wrongs ways, and for all the wrong reasons. Miss Marge actually said something to that effect a few weeks ago, when school hadn't quite finished for the summer yet. She didn't mention the association in the same negative light I just did (in fact, I'm fairly certain she wanted to compliment me, for which I thank her!), but I made no secret of my displeasure in being compared to the "Father Gran Torino."

The whole "am I doing the right thing?" was especially prominent in my discernment today for other reasons, as well. Having just received the sacrament of Reconciliation, I was determined to "sin no more," which naturally turns on the "scrupulosity alert" to its maximum setting; having just arrived back at St. Benedict after a day and a half off of work didn't help things, as I felt obligated to get some meaningful work done after accomplishing virtually nothing during my time off.

Luciano invited out to ANOTHER priest's "farewell" reception at another parish after mass; I thought about it, and I fear that I did so for the wrong reasons, but I decided to stick around for Fr. Steve's reception here at St. Ben's instead. I'm glad I did, as I was able to help out with the take-down and various other odd jobs that inevitably result from these kinds of parish events, but I still wonder if I declined Luciano's invitation simply because I didn't want to go to a parish function where I:

a) didn't know anybody
b) wouldn't get back home until late;
c) wouldn't be able to enjoy the company of other St. Ben's parishioners
d) wouldn't get much to eat

As I said, it's probably just scruples. Dear Lord, protect me from the scourge of this spiritual disease! St. Louis Du Montfort, pray for me! Grant that I may find my solace and strength within the comforting caress of the Blessed Mother, as you did! AMEN!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ok, today was OFFICIALLY the shortest work day EVER. I went to the earlier mass only to be left with nothing to do after 9:30! And I actually LOOKED FOR WORK TO DO! There was absolutely nothing I was able to help out with today!

At least I got in some quality time with the Lord. It's never a waste of time to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus, I trust in You! Help me to relax and enjoy my (official) day off of work tomorrow! AMEN!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 23, 2009

It's my brother Tim's birthday today! I gave him a cheery (albeit obligatory) facebook birthday wish, but I'll be calling him just to rub it in. Happy Birthday, Tim!

My day at work was considerably shortened today due to the second "Day of Recollection" for the seminarians involved in this "Discernment Internship" thing. Since our location for the event was St. Thomas of Villanova parish in Palatine, I had to wake up early to catch the Brown line just to get to St. Joe's in time. All in all, everything went really well; everyone seems to be doing well, though if I had to guess, everyone else, whether they are saying so or not, are suffering from the "routine" syndrome I've described so much in my blog. One, however, mentioned his particularly sticky circumstances dealing with church teaching and its implemenation in the parish. His description of the events made me happy to be at St. Ben's. Heterodoxy exists here, but it's covert. When the enemy is so obnoxious as to use in-your-face tactics in the church itself, well, you know you've got an uphill battle on your hands. Prayers for courage, Pollo! Good luck!

Anne, our cook here three days a week, made a wonderful pasta dinner tonight. Filled me up and primed me for the long but satisfying High School Board meeting. My Quigley experience compelled me to chime in on more than once occasion; however, just being an observer and NOT an official board member, I was a silent listener the whole time, with the exception of the under-my-breath guttural mutterings that I'm sure those next to me heard. At least the meeting wasn't boring (I'm looking at you, buildings and grounds committee!)

Overall, a very satisfying day, although I wish I could have remembered to pray a bit in the high school chapel after the meeting. It was probably too hot anyway...oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Dear Lord, grant me the courage to stand up for Your truth and follow it whereever it leads. Thank You for the gift of life and love; keep me grounded in You forever. AMEN!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today I:

-Went to Mass early (6:30AM!)
-made phone calls/e-mails to potential Benfest volunteers
-had lunch with the Vice Rector of St. Joseph College Seminary, Fr. Peter Snieg
-went to an incredibly long-winded and overly extensive meeting relating to the buildings and grounds of the parish
-helped out at Tuesday night Bingo (as usual)

Highlight of the day: Mrs. Marge, the secretary at the school, commented, "You're good at the phone, you're good with the computer, and you're not afraid to talk to people. I think you're going to make a good priest!" A very gratifying moment!

Lowpoint: Joe, a volunteer at bingo, called me "big guy" again today. Hrmm....

Lord, help me to take both the good and the bad of everyday and glorify You with ALL of it. Never let any moment You have given me go to waste. Jesus, I trust in You! AMEN!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I thought was going to be another lazy Monday turned out to be quite the clock-stopper. Even with a 45-minute nap in the afternoon, I was so famished and fatigued that I thought I was going to fall asleep at the dinner table!

Morning brought mass at 8:30AM, and I elected to have breakfast at McDonald's after chatting with Barbara at the rectory. I was curious about the nearest Gamestop location; I wasn't sure if she would even know what Gamestop is, but after she responded with details and directions of two different store locations, she confirmed to me once again that she is the "go-to gal" at the parish for directions. Thank you Barbara!

I did spend a LONG time in the shop, though. I bought one game for myself and one for my brother, whose birthday is this week. I agonized over what game to get him for a good 45 minutes. Here's hoping he likes it!

I got back to the parish in time to grab a snack and check e-mail. I decided to give Mary Anne Kufner a call and try to schedule a communion visit again. I will admit that I really didn't WANT to do it; I knew that it would easily take up my entire afternoon if I did, and I wasn't looking forward to venturing out into the hot weather again! At the same time, I knew that Mary Anne absolutely craves the Lord in a way that even this Catholic seminarian finds unfathomable. I was not going to deny her the chance to receive our Lord if she truly wanted it!

After sorting out some business with the seminary, I gave Mary Anne a call. She told me that afternoon visits would be fine, even on weekdays! Slightly disappointed (and also slightly inwardly pleased!), I managed to get the tabernacle key from Fr. Steve and head out to the Senior Center to visit Mary Anne.

I spent a good 2+ hours there. I met her housekeeper, Tiffany, who mentioned her own relative's time in the seminary. Looks like she gets alone with Mary Anne pretty well, though not in a "best friend" kind of way. Mary Anne herself mentioned something to the same effect in our conversation over the course of the afternoon.

It would be quite futile to try to recall every ounce of chitchat I had with Mary Anne, but I do think it is worthwhile to write down that I think that she is a very holy woman. Perhaps not QUITE as holy as she lets on, but this woman is doing quite a bit for the poor souls in purgatory, let me tell you! God bless her! Lord, please keep her, your servant, safe as she suffers for your greater glory!

Dinner was, as I mentioned earlier, strangely tiring. The afternoon heat combined with my time spent visiting Mary Anne left me ready to collapse; being sleep-deprived from the night before didn't make things better. At least I still managed to finish my daily rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet before I fell asleep. God is good!

Anne, our cook, seemed slightly fatigued today, as well. She didn't seem quite like herself; maybe it was just me. Her cooking was excellent, as always. God bless you, Anne!

Now, the Benfest meeting - THAT was interesting. Just when I thought that I was about to catch a break (only 4 people showing up to the meeting scheduled for 7PM? 7:15, and only 5 people are there? Can you say "cancellation?"), the people there essentially chatted amongst themselves about everything Benfest-related. Looks like I'm helping out with volunteer check-ups tomorrow; Mrs. Marge is going to need even more help than what she originally told me she would need when I saw her this morning. Hmmmmm...here's hoping she isn't stressing about this TOO much. God help her and all of us!

Lord, keep us safe from all that could harm us. May your Eucharist satisfy every longing of our hearts and keep us firmly united to You forever. AMEN!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Since I forgot to write an entry in after last night's course of events, today's entry will actually cover TWO days - hopefully it won't be too long. Given that Saturday's particular happenings weren't too time-extensive anyway, I doubt I'll be typing this entry much longer than I normally would. We'll see! Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful! Lead the way!

AFter an extended leave of absence into Saturday afternoon, I arrived at St. Ben's about 40 minutes or so before the 5:00PM mass. I felt slighty...awkward. My left ear was filled with wax and I couldn't hear myself sing! To make matters worse, this continued all weekend. Good thing I had other parish activities to keep me busy; For one, Kyle, an active parishioner (and, as I found out, a relatively recent "revert") started a "baby bottle collection" for a local Crisis Pregnancy Center. I got to help with the distribution of the "bottles" (the idea is that the parishioners will fill them with loose change and bring them back in three weeks' time)after all the masses; I gradually devised a slick "marketing" campaign, too: "Help Women! Save Babies! Just take a bottle!" turns quite a few heads, especially when a little tyke is standing with mommy just a few feet away. Now, how do we make sure they bring the bottles back? Well, we'll worry about that when we come to it.

Dinner with Luciano following the mass at 5 was...a little different. Mexican food (hadn't had that in awhile), and though things were never really "hostile," we began talking about homosexuality/gay marriage as we finished dinner. We ended up talking about it all the way to his apartment, where he was showing "Slumdog Millionaire" (great movie!) to a group of friends. I'm going to have brush up on effective ways of arguing the Catholic position on this. It's very hard not to resort to "it's spiritually/physically dangerous" or "bodily complementarity," neck-deep in theology arguments when speaking about this subject. Thank God his cat greeted us at the door, promptly changing our conversation (I've got a cat allergy, and Luciano told me that I had nothing to worry about. He was right!). The company was also quite friendly (God Bless Barbara of St. Bart's parish. From what she tells me, Fr. Jason needs prayers, too!)

Now the night out left me with little time for writing, and as I hadn't said my rosary for the day at that point, I figured that "chaining myself to God" could scarcely be a worse way of ending the day. So the rosary culminated my Saturday. I think it was a good decision! I woke up fairly refreshed despite the slight sleep deprivation, and I sang as well as I could given my condition. I probably should've served that mass, instead, though. I need to clean that cassock! It's not fair to me or anyone else that it just sits in the sacristy closet taking up space. TO THE CLEANERS IT GOES!!!

Luciano invited Rahul (the cantor) and myself out to breakfast at his favorite little joint, The Lincoln. Being Indian, Rahul had a little to share about Slumdog; but this time the "controversial" topic of the moment turned out to be abortion. Gotta say, I think I was a much more effective witness to the Truth in regards to this topic. Rahul threw out the usual "no one is pro-abortion" and "they just wanted people to make up their minds for themselves" quips, which I thoroughly rebuked. Luciano, though a slightly tougher nut to crack (he's made illusions that he's pro-life already), was speechless at my commentary about voting for a pro-abortion political candidate. After admitting that he would never vote for a pro-slavery candidate, I asked him why, using that standard, why he WOULD vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Speechless. Time to divert the subject to Sarah Palin. Le Sigh.

Anyway, the rest of the day was helping Kyle and Luciano with their respective errands. The heat of the day left me tired; when one of my gradeschool teachers, Mrs. Covington, made a surprise visit (she lives only a few blocks away from St. Ben's!), I didn't know if I was gonna collapse from the heat or the shock of the moment. By God's grace I made it through this day as all days. Bless the Lord my Soul!

I tried in the afternoon to make a communion visitation with Mary Anne Kufner again; no luck this time. She called me back later in the evening; I'll try to reach her again tomorrow. At least I was able to chat with my dad for Father's Day! Yay! I'm still praying for you, Dad!

After the 6:30PM "Youth" mass, Kyle invited me to dinner with another parishioner from the elementary school board. Being dedicated converts and reverts, Kyle and this other woman (What's her name?...Sharron?!?! I can't remember!) chatted up a storm about Notre Dame, their own peculiar "church teaching" moments (an aunt who's living in a homosexual relationship with two daughters from in-vitro fertilization...both from the same donor, but each with a different "mom." YIKES! Maria Goretti, pray for us! :/ ) Kyle also talked about his experience with Men's CHRP (the "Christ Helps Renew His Parish" initiative from the diocese). Finding men to join the group is getting harder and harder; we ended up chatting long after dinner was over, and after "Sharron" had left, too. Both of them left, from what I can tell, at least not being offended by my company, even though I didn't pay for dinner (they refused to let me pay! ARGH!!! It happens every. single. time!).

Dear Father in heaven, bless Kyle, "Sharron," the priests, and all who came to St. Benedict's for mass today. May our voices not drown out your munificence, but only serve to magnify your greater glory. Through Christ our Lord, AMEN!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nothing muh to report today whatsoever (it's my weekly day off!), but as today does mark the beginning of the Year of the Priest:

O Jesus, Eternal Priest;
keep all Your priests within the shelter of Your
Sacred Heart, where none may harm them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips purpled with Your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts sealed with the
sublime marks of Your glorious priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and shield them
from the world's contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit,
and may the souls to whom they have ministered to
be their joy and consolation
and in Heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown.

O Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us;
obtain for us many holy priests.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Woke up for mass at 8:30AM, and I managed to pray the Office a bit beforehand for once. At least I managed to get back into the rectory before 9:30AM!

Breakfast today marked the last time I'm likely to see Fr. O'Boyle for awhile; he's going to Ireland for vacation for a month or so, and he's arriving back in the states just after I'm scheduled to leave!

Ah Well. Fr. Steve, Associate Pastor who is also soon-to-be-gone (less than two weeks! *sadface*) took me out to a nursing home for mass today. First time I'm seen a mass at a place like that, though I'm not too surprised how it all "turned out." I've been to nursing homes before, and I've even seen ecumenical "services," but seeing Fr. Steve trying to pray in the "orans" position with a microphone was certainly...well, novel. To think that I will have to be his replacement now that he's leaving is very humbling. The plaque the residents and managers of the nursing home bestowed upon Fr. Steve after the mass clearly does not show their gratitude sufficiently. They will miss him dearly. You are a good priest, Fr. Steve.

Afternoon turned into a few errands (both personal and church-related), and everything was relatively quiet until evening, when Fr. Steve invited me out to dinner. Italian - yum! We talked about politics, the church, the priesthood, and...wait for it...Saturday Night Live. You name it, we covered it.

Suffice it to say that I think Fr. Steve is more than a good priest. I'm not sure he's on the verge of "greatness" yet - the essence of sacrifice is there (he paid for my dinner :P), but sometimes I think he lack the courage of the Saints I'm hearing about more and more these days. More likely, it is my own lack of prudence that is causing me to reach this judgment (and I'm no model of bravery, either), and although it is with much sadness that Fr. Steve leaves St. Benedict, it will be with much rejoicing that the Catholics at UIC receive him into their "parish." I wiash Fr.Steve the best and will certainly be praying for him earnestly. I owe him that and so much more just for the dinner alone!

God, never let me forget all that has been given to me, both directly by you and through your creation. As the Year of the Priest begins tomorrow, bless all seminarians, priests, bishops, and the Holy Father with your most powerful graces. Lead us all ever closer to you. AMEN!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I must confess that I thought I would have for more to write about today than I did yesterday. One would think that meeting a politician is worth spilling ink/typeprint over - especially when that politician is the infamously pro-abortion and self-identified "Catholic" Illinois State Representative John Fritchey.

Mary Fitzgerald (the St. Ben's Parish Nurse) and I scheduled a "political tour" of the Irving Park/Ravenswood/Uptown/St. Benedict Parish area on Monday; Alderman Gene Schulter's office was the first stop on the whirlwind tour. He was and is still a parishioner at St. Benedict, though being a politician has naturally led him to attend just about every church (Catholic or not) in the area for *COUGH*pandering*COUGH* - I mean, public service purposes. I'm told he's still a member of the St. Benedict High School Advisory Board, and Helen Schott, an elderly parishioner, recalls how active he was in the parish only 2 decades ago before his Aldermanic candidacy. He's currently the Democratic committeeman for the city's 47th Ward; his office is a "triplex" of sorts that's shared not only by his staffers (he's rarely in the office, and today was no exception), but the staff of Commissioner Forrest Claypool and Senate President John Cullerton. In short, it's the political bigtime here in Irving Park, and as a pro-life Catholic who has nothing but disdain for the way in which Fritchey, Cullerton, and Claypool have acted, I was eagerly trying to find out how the political climate here allowed these guys to get elected (this neighborhood is also the political home of Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emmanuel, as well as the newly-elected congressman Mike Quigley).

Fritchey's office is a tad farther from St. Ben's than I thought it would be (in fact, Greg Harris, the State Rep. from the next district over, has his office closer to St. Ben's than Fritchey does), and he quickly proved himself to be a schmoozy, cynical politician that I already knew he was. We arrived at his office in the midst of a demonstration; various groups protesting proposed cuts to human service programs (youth programs, senior benefits, etc.) were all gathered outside his office protesting his recent "no" vote to Gov. Quinn's proposed income tax hike. He did his best to play the crowd with lines like "we need an income tax hike" (!!!) using the excuse that the proposed property tax hike is what made him a "no" vote on this issue.

His chief-of-staff also struck me as a bit of a "tool," so to speak. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I don't buy the story of "I'm actually a chef, and I just wanted to help other people, so here I am with John, just trying to do the right thing, you know?" to be convincing. I'm sorry, buddy, but "John" just recently ran for the 5th U.S. congressional district open seat. He's not a nobody. He's a powerful politician with connections to some rather unfortunate political lobbies (like Planned Parenthood, for example). I'm not willing to buy the idea that he just recruited a chef to be his chief-of-staff. Something else is at play here.

Anyway, Fritchey himself was all too happy to speak with the non-confrontational guests such as Mary Fitz and myself (with a cameraman setting up a nice shot angle just off to the left side of us, naturally). "Oh, I love St. Ben's!" he said. "I've got Alphonsus over here, but it don't beat Ben's!" John Fritchey really turns me off. I can smell that political patronization from a mile away, buddy. You can fool your constituents, but you can't fool me.

And that's why I made sure to pray for him during my holy hour today. I realized that my disdain for this man's behavior is certainly qualified, but that disdain can't sit still - otherwise it becomes resentment and hatred. Fritchey, like so many other Catholics of all occupations, really just needs a conversion of heart. He is just one of many who lost his moral bearings and his sense of objective justice a long time ago. He needs to be renewed, just as I do. Praying for him as I meditated on the 5th Joyful Mystery was probably the most prayerful part of my day. It was worth meeting the scumbag if only for that reason. May God bless him and heal him!

The follow-up to Fritchey was a short tour of the "mothership" Senior Center. Despite the fact that the St. Vincent DePaul Senior Center dwarfs this other center in size, it seems to me that the "mothership" still offered far more in terms of service. It once again confirmed to me that Seniors in this part of the city are indeed well-off. But another question came to my mind, and Mary Fitz's comments certainly didn't eliminate the question from my mind: Why do all these Seniors need this simple, basic care? The obvious answer: they have no family willing to help them out! Just another example of the degenerate state of the family here in Westernized, consumer-driven, "Christian" America :(. May God have mercy on us!

I'm relieved that they have the care, though, even with the obvious implications of the collective failure of the faithful to obey the fourth Commandment. At least the Elementary School Board Meeting injected a bit of hope into me. I'm continually impressed by Rachel Gemo, the principal, in particular. She knows her stuff, and she's tireless in her efforts to make St. Ben's elementary as great as it can be. Many of the Board members are, as well. What's really needed at this point is some extra grace to push them along. They're not doing badly at all, but a little push on the spiritual side of things, and St. Ben's could really skyrocket! Is it a bit presumptuous of this 2nd-year seminarian to be saying so? Well, yeah. But even a second-year seminarian can tell when parents have put the cart in front of the horse, and the business "focus" of these meetings is leaving everyone there spiritually decayed. Dear God, through the intercession of Christ's Blessed Mother, show to them the glory that only you have! Take away the obsession with the minutae of business life and give to them the pure joy of You! They need You. I need you. We ALL need You! For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Jesus, we trust in You! AMEN!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nothing new to report today that I haven't written about before (Bingo, various Parish Organizational meetings, and the like occupy just about any Tuesday of any given week), though I must admit that bingo left me a bit bewildered tonight, if only due to the heat. The one "new" thing I get to write about today is my volunteer hours at the Common Pantry, located at the United Church of Christ on Damen Avenue. While I can't brag about any sort of ecumenical accomplishment (the only thing I told any of the other volunteers there was that I knew Al, a regular volunteer at the pantry hailing from St. Ben's). Long story short? I spent the better part of my morning at the pantry, sorting canned goods, shelving bread, and crushing cardboard boxes. Tedious? You bet. A little strenuous? Well, just a tad. Worth it? Absolutely!

Though I am no stranger to the world of Food Pantry volunteerism (like many other Catholic high schoolers, I spent time doing (mandatory) service hours (?) in order to graduate), I still find it strangely fulfilling. I won't pontificate about the deep theology of serving the poor and whatnot, as it is something I still need to "work out" before I can effectively elucidate it. I can say this, however: the authentic JOY of some of the volunteers at these places should be enough to make any non-believer sweat. I certainly saw that joy at the Common Pantry today in the volunteers; I can only imagine how many converts and reverts the church would gain if each of her members had this joy. Just some food for thought (no pun intended!)

I managed to sort out some tensions between the maintenance staff and the rest of the "Bingo gang" tonight, as well. I've mentioned before how they don't always see eye-to-eye; without going into unnecessary detail, let's just say that the gymnasium full of Bingo devotees will finally have it's exhaust fans working next week!

The other "bonus" of being the go-between (or, perhaps, perceiving that I'm the go-between) is that I get to do some genuine "ministry." At one point tonight one of the maintenance men started doing what I wish everyone at this parish was more willing to do: talk! And not just talk as in socially acceptable chit-chat (which seems to dominate everything and anything we do these days) Before I knew it, this guy telling me his life story!

I really dislike the formalities that come with the "conversion" process. No one ever wants to be honest! No wonder the sacrament of Reconciliation is never utilized - everyone's afraid of actually saying what's on their minds (and, consequentially, their souls are virtually impossible to get to.) I do not see how intellectual honesty can be separated from a conversion of heart. Are they the same thing? No. But I cannot have the latter without the presence of the former. How can I effectively minister to people that can't take the "baby steps" needed to walk in the reign?

Well, yeah, I know I'm part of the problem. The fact that I have to resort to writing about these issues here instead of a private diary is probably someway symptomatic of this problem. This will not keep me from begging God for the graces needed bring more souls to His side. May my own soul be saved alongside the countless others that need his mercy! I should be so privileged as to bring even ONE soul to Him; Lord, may you grant me the graces necessary to bring many souls to you, including my own! AMEN!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today was possibly the most uneventful day I've had at St. Ben's thus far. I realize that I sound like a broken record on this subject, but Mondays are quite possibly the most boring days in the life of an interning seminarian. I had literally NOTHING to do. I tried the schools, the rectory, the church...anything to get me off of my computer and help out in any way possible.

I found absolutely NOTHING, anywhere. I managed to run a few personal errands in lieu of the actual "business" of working. I thought I might actually have something to do when Fr. Steve invited me along to the Vicariate "cluster" meeting of the parish priests from the immediate area, located in the social center. I was there for all of 20 minutes before I was asked to leave (Brotherhood of Priests and all that, ya know). Even a seminarian isn't privy to that inner sanctum of information, though I don't begrudge them for not including me. My presence would've undoubtedly "censored" certain topics of conversation, anyway, so hopefully everything that needed to be said at the meeting was said. God bless our priests!

I was slightly miffed that I had to hightail out of the meeting; it's not that I'm bitter about not being able to hear anything, it's just that I was, once again, left with absolutely nothing to do! At least my 3:00PM holy hour was made all the more prayerful. Nothing like a dull and dreary Monday to make one crave the Eucharist!

6:00PM brought some much-needed changes. The St. Benedict Holy Name Society was holding a cookout; not only did this 3-hours affair keep me out of the scheduled Benfest meeting, but I got to hear some hilarious wedding stories from Fr. Steve and Dradyne (a woman from the group who coordinates the events inside the church building). Bridezilla's got nothing on the "Attack of the Wedding Paparazzi," the drunken grooms puking in the parish garden, or the nervous stepfather hiding out in the choir loft hoping to avoid the mother of the bride's wrath at his very appearance at "mommy's little girl"'s wedding. Eye-opening stuff, to be sure! It sounded like a book deal in the making - I wonder what kind of weddings I'll have to "preside" at? I'm not so naive as to believe everyone that gets married is a saintly image of heaven, but I'm also hopeful to avoid some of the awkward and embarrassing situations I heard about tonight. Fr. Steve's been a priest for all of 5 years, and he's already got "wedding stories" for any occasion. Hmmmm...well, whatever God gives me, I receive. I pray that any couples that get married on my watch realize that.

God, give me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. AMEN!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another busy Sunday! I sadly woke up VERY late for the 8:00AM Mass; fortunately, servers and cantors were in no short supply, so my absence wasn't TOO conspicuous, even with the Eucharistic Procession at the end of Mass (it is the Solemnity of Corpus, after all!) The servers all did a fantastic job - including the man who had to do an emergency substitution for yours truly at the 6:30PM Mass. I had to make a quick "Communion call" to the Senior Center again. A deeply devout woman named Mary Anne hadn't received the Blessed Sacrament in quite some time and was very, very eager to finally receive Him again. She chewed my ear off for a good 90 minutes; it's not that I mind the time I spent (this woman has had 5 surgeries. That alone means that she's got some interesting stories to tell!); on the contrary, she really is probably the closest I've ever met to what many Catholics would call a "suffering soul" - someone who is, in effect, doing their time in purgatory here on earth she actually has a second-class relic that promises EXACTLY that to whoever owns it; don't take this "superstitious Catholic" stuff lightly, folks!). Between the various surgeries, constant pain, difficulty walking and using the bathroom, living with a severely mentally-handicapped daughter in need of constant care - all of the pieces are there. Yet she is HAPPY! She offers every ounce of this pain and suffering for the greater glory of God, and it shows! I felt absolutely privileged to be able to bring the Body of Christ to her on the Solemn Feast that celebrates precisely that!

Deacon Phil Bertolani wins the "best homily" award for this weekend; Fr. Steve takes second place with his excellent delivery during the 6:30PM mass, but Deacon Phil covered all the bases. Emphasizing the importance of the Real Presence and not shying away from the church as "bride of Christ" imagery makes for truly excellent homiletics. The fact that Deacon Phil lent me his "101 Questions & Answers on Deacons" book was just a bonus! :)

Lunch was pretty good today, as well - Luciano and Fr. O'Boyle took me ought to a local restaurant for a brunch buffet following the noon Mass; we stuck around till about 3:00 PM, and I got a nice little Holy our before napping at 4:00PM - I was actually very nearly late for my aforementioned Communion visit; having to track down the tabernacle keys didn't help things!

After the 6:30 mass came the real deal of the day, though - a party for Fr. Steve for his last 6:30 Mass, courtesy of the Ravenswood Catholic Young Adults Group! Pizza, pop, and cake. YUM! Having Sue, a blind parishioner, for dining company, was even better. I managed to advertise my gaming blog to a fellow parishioner, as well - here's hoping the game enthusiast finds something worthwhile!

And here's praying that God finds my conduct of this past Sunday worthwhile. May I do everything for His greater glory. Body of Christ, be my sustenance. AMEN!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Didn't get back to the rectory today until about 1:30 or so. Had traffic not been so awful (thank you torrential downpour!), I may have arrived a bit earlier, but as it turns out I really didn't have much to do until 4-ish anyway. I scheduled a Communion visit, had a bit of chit-chat with a brother seminarian, and updated my other blog a tad...but 4:00 came FAST, and with a vengeance!

Being the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and all, Luciano, the music Director, and Fr. Steve, the celebrant for the 5:00PM mass, were naturally quite busy trying to figure out how to work in the Eucharistic procession with the mass. Fr. Steve had his hands full; I'm sure he was more than a tad disappointed when I told him I was cantoring (meaning that I couldn't be Thurifer/incensor). To top it off, only 1 server showed up, and the candles we had planned to use literally fell apart when we tried to set them up! NOT cool.

But hey, I got to sing Pange Lingua, and Wyatt, our lone server, did a pretty good job being thurifer for a first-timer (and, seeing as I have yet to be a thurifer myself, I REALLY gotta give him props!). Hopefully I didn't scare him off with my accolades and constructive criticisms afterward. His dad seemed content, as well - the family recently suffered the death of a loved one, and I'm sure it's still on their minds. To any who read this blog: Please offer a prayer or two for Wyatt and his family!

I had a fairly prayerful evening till about 8:00Pm or so, when the aforementioned Luciano and Ursula, a cantor at St. Benedict, invited me out to a carnival at St. Bartholomew Parish. He introduced me to Fr. Jason (who I had met at a party the week previous), and I took the opportunity to ask him about a certain Fr. Dave Sadjak, a priest who, after a brief two-year stint at my home parish of St. Leonard, did another two-year term at St. Bart's immediately following. There have been all sorts of rumors about what exactly happened to him after that - though I was fairly close to Fr. Dave (he was my "priest sponsor"/spiritual director at my high school, Quigley) even I wasn't sure of his whereabouts since then. Fr. Jason told me what everyone had feared to be true: his father had passed away (requiescant in pace!) and that he was currently residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. He told me he'd send me Fr. Dave's e-mail; unfortunately, I didn't get Fr. Jason's contact info, so looks like I might have to do a little digging AGAIN. Ces't le vi.

God almighty, may everything I do be a testament to Your glory, power, and love. Never let me stray from you! Keep me close to You and keep me safe from all that can harm me. AMEN!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another late start today - mass at 8:30AM, followed by Lauds and a quick breakfast. Mary Fitzgerald, the parish nurse, had scheduled a tour of the St. Vincent Depaul/Catholic Charities Senior Center for 10:00AM, so I couldn't afford to mess around too much.

It turns out that Liza, the Secretary at the Senior Center, is a St. Ben's parishioner who worked at the rectory for 10 years. She was more than happy to show me around the place with Mary Fitz, and I learned enough to know that the low-income seniors in the Irving/Lincoln Park area now have a very nice to live - and there's quite a few of them! Between St. Ben's very own Laboure House, the Martha Washington home, and this particular building, you'd think there would be enough living space for any and all Seniors in need (pardon my ignorance, but I like to think that in a town so Catholic, finding suitable living with FAMILY for the elderly wouldn't be so difficult). At any rate, seniors of all varieties and incomes have housing that is structured to fit their needs at all of these locations; rent is charged according to their own income, and the facilities make me wish I was 55 or older, that's for sure. There's even the Advocate Health Care Clinic right next door. The only problem? Even with all of these locations for seniors (and more less than a mile away!) There's actually a 2-4 year waiting list for applicants already! That's how many needy seniors there are in the city?!?!? I couldn't believe it!

A few minutes before we left (Mary Fitz was filling in Liza on all the parish gossip) Liza managed to give me her business card in case I could volunteer in the future. Though I'm sure volunteering here would be a bit of a tall order (and having volunteered at a nursing home just last summer, I do know a thing or two about it already), my schedule as of late has been freed up now that's school's out. I will have to seriously consider it alongside the other option of visiting patients at Resurrection Hospital, where I visited with Mary Fitz just last week.

I had lunch with two more college buddies (thank you Melissa and Christina!), and got back to the rectory just in time to find out that I had BARELY MISSED Kevin Walsh, the high school recruitment director. We had been trying to find each other for the past few days in regards to a LAN party for high school recruitment that's scheduled for tomorrow. I went to the high school to look for him. No luck. My voicemail was also empty when I got back. NOT good. I hope I can find him tomorrow, as video games and high school recruitment is familiar turf for me. I hope he didn't decide to cancel at the last minute!

Dinner came (salmon, with a side of zucchini and potatoes pancakes...not bad!) and went, with choir practice afterward. Looks like I'm filling in for the cantor on Saturday this weekend. It's nice to have the forewarning this time, that's for sure. Bonus: We're singing both the Tantum Ergo and the Pange Lingua for Corpus Christi (There's going to be a procession, too! w00t! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!!!), though only the latter will be in latin. No matter, the music is beautiful regardless of what language the lyrics are sung in. Lord, have mercy on me and keep me in your radiant love forever. AMEN!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

8:30 Mass again today, with nothing else following after; I had a quick breakfast and got ready for the "Day of Recollection" over at St. Hillary parish in Edgebrook, where about 8 other seminarians met with our supervisor, Fr. Paul Cao. I was glad to see all my brother seminarians again. I won't go into deep detail here, but after spending 4 ours or so I was, needless to say, very edified to hear about how everyone was surviving and discerning at their respective summer apostolates.

The rest of the day was fairly simple: A Wedding Music Rehearsal in the church began at around 8:00PM, and with the usual Tuesday night Bingo occupying the High School Gymnasium from 7 until 10PM or so. I bounced back and forth between the two, finally getting back to the rectory at about 10:30PM.

Not sure what else to write about tonight, despite the many goings-on...tomorrow looks to be another "slow" day, even with my scheduled visit to the Senior Center. Dear Lord, just help me to show up and get the job done. All things for your greater glory, ALWAYS. AMEN!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

After a very busy Sunday, I was very glad to have what was, for all practical purposes, a virtual "day off." I purposely slept in, knowing that there really wasn't going to be much for me to do early in the morning, especially now that school is no longer in session. After mass and morning prayer, I went off to the school to run some errands. I tried to find Kevin Walsh, the Recruitment Director for the High School, about the upcoming LAN party scheduled for this Thursday. He wasn't around, at outside of the regularly-scheduled mail pick-up, I really had absolutely nothing to do with my morning. I prayed a rosary and attempted to update my video game blog for the remainder of the morning. I also scheduled a visit to the St. Vincent Depaul/Catholic Charities Senior Center with the parish Nurse for Wednesday morning; I'll deal with that cross when I come to it.

At around 11:30 or so Fr. Steve knocked on my door with an invitation to come along to the Women's Center on Elston Avenue. Having been to this crisis pregnancy center once before, I was all too happy to oblige.

Fr. Steve said a beautiful mass at the chapel at the center (they recently expanded their adoration hours - it's now a perpetual adoration chapel, meaning, among other things, that the closing of the nearby abortion mill that spurred the creation of the Women's Center in the first place shouldn't be too far off. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

I prayed a decade of the rosary with a group of volunteers after the mass, and then Fr. Steve and I went back to St. Ben's just in time to catch the tail-end of lunch with the Elementary School teachers, who were busy in their post-school year evaluation with the principal, Rachel Gemo. We mooched off some of the leftover food, stuck around for about 20 minutes or so, and headed off back to the rectory.

I had the rest of the afternoon free; I once again attempted to read "Diary of a Country Priest," but fell asleep AGAIN after only 10 pages of reading (and this during the Hour of Mercy no less!). At least I have a good sleeping aid for the lonely nights now...

The Dinner bell (yes, we have a dinner bell here at the St. Ben's rectory!) rung at about 5:30, as usual. Tonight was the first night every priest here at St. Ben's was actually around for dinner! I felt like taking a photo or something. I still don't understand why the priests here don't spend more time together. It can get awfully lonely as a parish priest, even in (especially in!) the midst of city living, which fosters a certain kind of spiritual isolation courtesy of our individualistic culture. Just how do these priests do it? Is the day-to-day contact with parishioners really so taxing as to demand some "alone time" that even other priests dare not interfere? I don't get the impression that the priests here particularly dislike each other, unless they're putting up a facade because of me. But why would I make that kind of substantial difference? Besides, I would have seen at least SOME indication by now if the priests here had any bad blood between them. St. Benedict, Ora Pro Nobis!

Following dinner, I met Fr. Beaven over a Benfest meeting (the annual fundraiser/block party for the parish and schools); lots of interesting exchanges, but my favorite comes from a woman remarking about managing the scheduled outdoor mass with the scheduled appearance of a clown for the younger ones in another area of the parking lot. The group was trying to figure out just where exactly the clown could be during the celebration of the mass. "Can the clown help out at mass?" was her semi-facetious query. Deacon Phil, who was sitting right next to me, immediately burst into a bout of nervous laughter. I have a feeling both he and I were sharing the same pretentious anxiety about the liturgical nightmare that could envelop with or without the clown's participation. Oy!

In the midst of the automatic volunteering that inevitably becomes a part of being the parish's resident seminarian for the summer, I'm apparently signed up to help out with the "water and pop" tent at Benfest; Deacon Phil gave me some good pointers, as did a couple of the other attendees at the meeting. Not being particularly big with manual labor and checklist-variety maintenance work, I gotta admit that this particular job looks like it could be more than I bargained for. Already the butterflies are soaring in my stomach at the thought of having to deal with rude drunkards and noisy kids, with my hands chaffed with freezerburn as my skin boils beneath the sweltering summer sun. No doubt I'm going to have to learn to "let go and let God" in this situation and many others throughout the course of my life; trust in the Lord (which is really just a layman's way of citing the theological virtue of Hope) must take deeper root within me if I am to be an effective priest, or an effective ANYTHING, for that matter.

O God, I am heartfully sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of your just punishments. Most of all, because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love, I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. AMEN!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A "cantoring crisis" at the 8:00AM mass this morning left out Music Director in a bit of a bind; the scheduled cantor had to cancel (and at the last-minute, naturally), and, with Fr. Beaven's permission, I became the replacement cantor for the mass! Hopefully the "morning modulation" that accompanied my singing wasn't too jarring for the congregation. As this nun knows all too well, however, Everything is for the greater glory of God, including my crummy singing voice. I'm just happy to do my part when I'm called to do so. That's vocation for ya!

Sometimes that's easier said than done, though. I mentioned my breakfast invite in an earlier entry - well, it started out as well as could be expected, considering that I was a guest at a party for a group of people whose "common thread" was some sort of active participation and/or leadership at St. Ben's at some point in the past. Many of them, for one reason or another, were no longer parishioners. This didn't present any obstacles to conversation and/or social improprieties, though my introversion naturally led me to being more or less a wallflower for most of the early part of the brunch. I was still managing to enjoy myself at least mildly, however, with Fr. O'Boyle, Ben, the man who had originally invited me, and Janette, a fellow choir member, doing their part to introduce me to the rest of the group. I met Ellen, a former rectory staffer, who I quickly discovered to be the comedian of the group (and a very good one at that!). I also met Kent, the host, who's quite the cook if I do say so myself. As good as the cooking was, however, things took a turn for the worst as more and more drinks were served. Apparently being the new seminarian on the block doesn't dissuade these St. Ben's vets from talking about their issues with church teaching in rather explicit terms and in very dramatic ways. I don't think they were deliberately trying to make me uncomfortable and/or get my take on the various issues, but the end result was that I was made EXTREMELY uncomfortable in a circumstance where I was, in the first place, merely content. As much as I appreciate the invitation, I really can't imagine going to a brunch with this group again, truth be told. Quite the pastoral challenge, at any rate. By the grace of God I hope I can do more than sit in silence the next time a situation like this arises again. Jesus, I trust in You!

Dinner turned out to be a far more palatable affair; I managed to hook up with the Ravenshood Catholic Young Adults Group, along with Fr. Steve and Mike, a brother seminarian and fellow Quigley alumnus. Now, THIS was a group I felt far more "at home" with. My age group? Check. Totally into defending the faith? Check. Totally interested in talking about it? Check. Totally into Jesus? Check! God Bless the whole lot of them!

Really, I don't understand why there's such a movement to "modernize" everything in the church - be it music, liturgy, doctrine, you name it - when the young, devout Catholics want nothing of the sort! They dig the "red meat" homilies chock full of deep theology; they love devotions like Eucharistic adoration and the rosary. I suspect many would assume the older crowd would be the one to fit the latter description, whilst the young would be the ones eager to berate and belabor their particular problems with the church. Well, for the upteenth time, I am discovering the REVERSE to be true. Not that it matters much in the long run; every soul that is saved gives glory to God, and EVERY soul, including my own, needs saving. Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! AMEN!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Not once, but twice I intended to go to mass today, and not once, but twice did circumstances either force me to skip mass altogether or come in far later than what should ever be acceptable. After my day off yesterday (I saw "Up" and "Night at the Museum" in celebration of the commencement of my brothers' summer vacation), my dad drove me back to St. Ben's this morning, arriving with about 15 minutes to spare before the 8:30AM mass. I told him that I'd meet him inside the church after running some errands in the rectory; unfortunately, I couldn't finish off everything in time, and it was well after 8:30 by the time I had everything sorted out. I decided to pray the daily Office and wait until 9:00, when I was scheduled to volunteer to decorate the church with some other lay volunteers. I arrived just in time to see my dad off and welcome in a wedding photographer, who was arriving early to prepare for an 11:30 wedding, which, to the surprise of both Fr. Steve and myself, would coincide with the scheduled Saturday time slot for Reconciliation.

No matter. Ann (who I had met at a previous meeting) Julie (a young mother who is expecting another child!) and I worked for nearly 2 hours decorating the church; an abundance of green plants now decorate the altar area, which, I think, is quite fitting considering the liturgical season we've just entered (priests wear green vestments for mass during Ordinary time). We finished just in time for me to do a bit of spring cleaning in my room before Reconciliation at 11:30. I waited until after Confession before I had anything to eat; I'm surprised I didn't pig out later tonight at dinner, all things considered.

My free afternoon was spent playing video games until the Hour of Mercy; after finishing off my daily devotions, I began reading Diary of a Country Priest again - only to fall asleep while reading. This is the second time this has happened, and I really wish I knew why I have this strange propensity to begin with. The book certainly isn't boring (in fact, I can't imagine a better book for a seminarian to be reading during an apostolate, especially at a parish!), so it's really frustrating that I can't even get through a full chapter without falling asleep! Heck, I'm lucky I'm past the page 50. Mrs. Marge, the Secretary at the school, really wants to borrow it to, and since it's on loan from Fr. Steve, who's leaving in only a month for his new parish assignment, I've got a lot of reading to do in the coming days!

By the time I woke up from my afternoon nap it was after 5:00PM - mass! Luciano, I was sure, was expecting me to sing with the choir and/or cantor; clearly this was NOT happening today. I washed up in time to arrive for Fr. O'Boyle's homily; I saw Sue again, who greeted me quite jovially during the Sign of Peace. This, combined with the fact that we sang "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" for the recessional, made my grumpy post-nap mood evaporate quite quickly. Luciano seemed genuinely surprised when I talked to him after mass, but it didn't seem to me that he was particularly distressed, either. In fact, he was quite understanding. Hopefully I'll be able to make up for my absence at the masses tomorrow!

I had to have dinner alone tonight, though I didn't particularly mind (pasta, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!) That will NOT be happening tomorrow, given my brunch date with a certain group of parishioners following the 10:00AM mass. I'm looking forward to it! Hopefully I won't make too much of a fool of myself!

Lord, give me strength to overcome Satan's temptations throughout the day tomorrow. By your saving grace,stifle my pride and grant me eternal life with you. Jesus, I trust in you. AMEN!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm glad I managed to wake up for 6:30AM mass today! It's the first time I've done so in nearly a week (more proof that I'm letting my internship become too much of a "routine"?), and I'm glad I managed to do so. It gave me ample time to pray Morning Lauds and the Office of Readings, AND eat breakfast, AND greet the schoolchildren as they headed off to their last full day of school - the end-of-the-year picnic, to which I was a happy guest!

My trek with grade 3 over to the park was so silent as to be distressing - more loneliness. Fortunataely that changed when I found a way to occupy myself by unloading food, blankets, and sports equipment from the minivans of teachers and parent chaperones eager to see their children enjoy a day in the warm sunshine!

Fortunately today's weather was perfectly accomodating to such a desire, as a cool breeze supplemented 60-ish degree weather with enough sunshine to slightly burn my (albeit sensitive) skin. I managed to read a bit of "Diary of a Country Priest," a novel I borrowed from Fr. Steve, until my proximity to a junior high kickball game managed to get me recruited first as a "pinch-kicker" and then as the umpire. I'm glad I remembered to wear my gym shoes, and I know that the two 8th grade teachers as well as the principal were happy to have me aboard.

My afternoon visit with Helen Schott turned into a more...how should I describe it..."psycho-spiritual" affair? This remarkable woman chewed my ear off for nearly 3 hours, sharing stories of her 88+ years here on planet earth and her spiritual journey towards Christ. She is truly the "matriarch" of St. Ben's parish, having lived through the Great Depression, the Cold War, 4 Chicago Archbishops and countless Pastors while living in Irving Park. Though she is no longer active in the parish due to her age and health, she has a plethora of wisdom to share with anyone willing to take the time to listen. I am very blessed to have had the privilege of sharing some of my time with her on her birthday. Thank you Helen! God bless you!

I managed to squeeze in a rosary in between that visit and my dinner, though I did fall asleep as I did so. Recalling the words of a brother seminarian ("When you fall asleep, your guardian angel finishes the rosary for you,") I enjoyed a scrumptious (though perhaps slightly overly indulgent) dinner, and after a 2-hour hiatus, got recruited to do a little church redecorating with Debbie and her two daughters. She must be a holy woman to be able to put up with my klutzy knot-tying and non-existent sense of aesthetics. It took us over an hour to get everything fixed up, but the church certainly looks the better for it, and her kids behaved very well despite the circumstances that would seem to indicate otherwise (Would you want to spend your evening watching grown-ups hang up fake flowers in a church? Especially if you were a 4th grader?) Debbie tells me one of them is already considering religious life. She fell asleep right behind the altar as we were hanging up the flowers; perhaps this is a forbearance of things to come?

The young and the old, praise the Lord; you heavens, bless the Lord; everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord; Bless the Lord, oh my Soul, and all my being praise his Holy Name Forever. AMEN!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quite possibly the shortest work day ever. A funeral at 10:30AM (and I only had to sing in the choir for that; no committal this time) and that's it! I did run a few errands in between a lunch outing with a college friend (Thanks Larry!), but as it turned out, contrary to my initial understanding, I didn't need to show up to the pre-school "graduation" after all...so I didn't. It's the first time thus far I've deliberately NOT ATTENDED a parish event, and in some ways, it has me concerned. Is this life finally starting to become "routine" in the worst way possible? Am I becoming jaded and cynical to the point where I think that some parish going-on are a waste of time? For that matter, if this is indeed the case, is that a BAD thing?

Tomorrow, I've got a lunch date with an elderly parishioner who, I'm told, LOVES seminarians. I received a rather surprising affirmation of this when I called her this afternoon. When I introduced myself as the resident seminarian, she immediately replied "so when are you coming to visit me?" Talk about a warm welcome! It's her birthday, too...maybe I should get her a gift?

The other highlight of my day, besides having oodles of time to work on some "seminary stuff," was the lovely little letter dropped off in my mailbox at the rectory today. I've been invited out to breakfast with a group of 10:00AM mass regulars!

Suffice it to say this Sunday now looks radically different from my first two weekends here. W00t! My first breakfast invite! Does that mean I'm "part of the block" now? As I told Larry as we walked by a young grade-schooler who confidently waved at me, "I'm either famous or infamous." Here's hoping it's the former, and I think this note proves that I am! Thank you Lord for this day! Grant me strength and courage as I move forward with my discernment here at St. Benedict's Parish. May I increase in the virtues of faith, hope and love each and every day I'm here. AMEN!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I slept in for a second day in a row today; as it turned out, it didn't matter too much in the long run, as I still had ample time to wash up, eat breakfast, etc. before heading out to the school. Fr. Steve and I shared a nice breakfast conversation about politics, of all things (who wants to know some juicy details about wannabe congressman John Fritchey?). If nothing else, it woke me up. What a way to start the morning!

I needed the wake-up call, however, for the meeting with Patrick O' Rourke of Resurrection Hospital. To make a long story short, after an rather..."interesting" set of ethical conundrums at a hospital visit my first week here at St. Ben's, the parish nurse here at the rectory, Mary Fitzgerald, thought that it would do me some good to speak to this man - as the resident medical ethicist at the hospital well versed in Catholic medical ethics (he was even in the seminary for three years himself), he could answer my questions about Catholic medical ethics. This isn't the "Catholic Bioethics Blog," after all, so I will not go into the nitty-gritty details of the meeting here, but suffice it to say, it was certainly worthwhile. I look forward to touring the St. Vincent DePaul Center with the parish nurse next week.

Brief errands consumed the remainder of my day, though I did manage to help set-up for Tuesday night BINGO (I'm a regular over there, now...one of the ladies has even taken to calling me "handy Andy"). Hopefully I was a help to the maitenance guys as opposed to a hindrance. They can't seem to catch a break from the other people around the block, so I'm hoping that a little help here and there brings a little bit of Light to their lives. We all need it, and they are no exception.

There was also a (fairly) brief Athletic Department meeting; the principal of the Elementary School, Rachel Gemo, commented upon my arrival: "Wow, Andy! You're here for the Athletic Board meeting. Fr. Beaven must not like you much!"

Well, it wasn't all that bad, actually. Sure, it didn't involve the high-strung financeers at the High School Board meeting, or the spiritual discussion at the Pastoral Council, but I was glad to see SOME committee at the parish were, for once, the majority of attendees were men. Do women REALLY do EVERYTHING at parishes? I have yet to encounter a parish where this isn't the case! Is it just a "motherly" thing that I can't possibly understand? Is it a problem that men, with the exception of the priests, seem to be generally less involved with the running of the parish? I'll be pondering this as I crawl into bed tonight. There's a funeral for a beloved member of the St. Benedict's tomorrow. I won't be doing the committal, but even with the brief time I spent with this particular woman, I understand why she was so beloved to the parish. May she rest in peace. AMEN!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

I woke up late today - I usually spend my mornings opening car doors for parents dropping their kids off at school (or at last for the past few days or so) and I had every intention of doing so today. Unfortunately, oversleeping left me up a creek without a paddle, so I had to delay breakfast and wash up quickly enough to go to the 8th grade graduation Mass at 8:30 AM (since, having overslept, I missed my usual 6:30AM Mass rendezvous!).

The Mass was actually pretty "standard" - a term which, as everyone knows, I HATE using to describe something as holy and sublime as the Mass - just a quaint little procession for the departing 8th graders before and after the mass. Fr. Beaven gave them an excellent homily with plenty of them to ponder; he touched upon the necessity of "metaphorical death" (Christ crucified!) and made sure they all knew that he was proud of them, wishing them the very best for a bright future.

For my part, I sang with the 7th grade choir. I'm sure the 20-something year-old looked perfectly normal with the jittery group of tweens and their two teachers, plus one church cantor brought along to help out with the event. Regardless, I sang, AGAIN. And I will sing, sing to Lord for his goodness to me, all the days of my life!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

The rest of the morning involved a few errands here and there, as did the afternoon. I had enough time to sneak in some reading for the "course," and I grabbed lunch at the fast-food joint across the street from the church. All in all, a very quiet day after that; just a few more errands here and there, and I had plenty of time to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. There was one point where an 8th grader practicing for the ceremony later in the evening unintentionally interrupted me with his rather superb drumming skills (the tabernacle at St. Ben's is located in a little chapel that can't be seen from most parts of the church, so he couldn't have known I was there!); but he and I both had nearly finished with our respective activities at that point, and I am proud to say this graduate was one of two in his class to receive the Andy Kirchoff/Fr. Steve Bauer Vocation Awar- I mean, the Quigley Scholars Brochure. Fr. Steve and I talked briefly at dinner tonight about any potential 8th grade boys who might be good candidates for the Archdiocese's Quigley Scholars, a discernment program aimed at High School age youth (and specifically created to replace Quigley Preparatory Seminary, my alma mater, which closed just two years ago). So, to Chris, the drummer, and Andreas, the 8th grader who is more curious about the priesthood than anyone your age I've ever met: May the Holy Spirit help you two, in particular, to discover your vocations, whatever they may be. Congratulations to the St. Benedict School Class of 2009!