Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Are My God


I have always loved this song and the rich way that Tony Melendez sings it! It is coupled with this wonderful video that must have been put together from a Steubenville Youth Conference. Those are wonderful experiences and the video gives you an idea of what they are like! God bless!

President Bush Takes the Glove Off!


This video is awesome! I love the fact that our President is telling the media like it is! I hope we see more of this! God bless America!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Navy and Marine Silent Drill Teams



These videos really do amaze you! Our soldiers are so skilled! Go Navy! Go Marines!

Cubs Win!


Since my Cubbies are winning I have to celebrate! 100 years and on a roll!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Help a Seminarian


A reader of this blog has contacted me about his desire to become a priest with the Order of Basilian Salvatorian Fathers in Massachusetts - a semi-contemplative Melkite Byzantine order. The Melkite Rite is Catholic and under Pope Benedict XVI--it is one of the several Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church whose Divine Liturgy is Byzantine.

Unfortunately he has incurred $72,000 in school debt while attending the Franciscan University Of Steubenville over the last four years. This debt must be paid off before he can enter the order. To further this purpose he has put together a website and has recorded an album of Catholic music.

If you would like to help a young man become a priest he can be reached at:neven7@hotmail.com

His conversion and vocation story is as follows:

Singing Towards Seminary

I’m a son of Croatian Immigrants who first emigrated to Italy and subsequently to America in the 70’s.

Within two years of their marriage, my brother and I were both born.

My mother lovingly tells me that God willed very much that I come into this world because I came as a ‘happy surprise’ to both my parents, having been conceived only 4 months after my older brother had been born.

My parents gave me the name of “Neven,” which is a Christian name of some very early obscure saint, ‘Neven’ meaning “everlasting,” in Croatian.

I was raised in a typical Catholic household and am happy to say that I enjoyed a particularly joyful childhood.

My Dad, who I admire very much, had a noticeable handicap which was the result of an accident he had at the age of five. This left him with only one usable arm. His injured arm was permanently atrophied and was rendered almost useless. But this did not deter my father, nor did he allow anyone to pity him. Although limited to his job options, he always seemed to find work. My mother was employed evenings as a cleaning lady at a Manhattan office building. This arrangement allowed for at least one of my parents to always be home with my brother and I.

The first peek into God’s call on my life was when I was about 2 or 3 years old.

My mother had walked in on me once in prayer, and saw me standing in front of a high table that had a number of Holy cards neatly arranged and splayed out. My mother took note of this occurrence and brings up the memory of it since it had obviously left a significant impression on her.

But one of the major spiritual epiphanies of my life came when I was 15, while I was visiting the tiny hamlet of Medjugorje, a small Croatian village in present-day Bosnia & Hercegovina. I was there with my family on pilgrimage – after we had heard that six young villagers were receiving apparitions of Our Blessed Mother on a daily basis since 1981.

During our brief stay I was exposed to a number of signs and wonders from God’s hand. I witnessed the phenomenon of the sun dancing and spinning while I stared into it with a group of Italian pilgrims for almost an hour. Another personal miracle I witnessed was when I was at Mass in St. James Church in Medjugorje. There, whilst in attendance I heard the most beautiful angelic voices hover over the altar and reverberate toward the back of the Church during the Liturgy. I kept turning around trying to find the source of these heavenly voices but only saw the Choir loft empty. There was no choir at this Croatian Mass. The only people singing were old Croatian babushkas endearingly singing slightly off-key. Nobody else seemed to be hearing what I was hearing. This left me with such awe and wonderment that it defied words. But more than all of this, I was most impressed with Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence which the He allowed me to feel tangibly. The only analogy I can think of would be the way a person feels standing before the penetrating rays of the sun after a long swim. It felt like a warm blanket was covering my shoulders whilst being filled with an all-pervading Peace. It was this all-encompassing Eucharistic Peace that struck me most of all. It not only pervaded the Church, but the people, the villagers and the surrounding region. You could not help but feel it. It was in the very air that we breathed.

As we were approaching our departure time at one point I blurted out, “Mom, Dad – I never want to leave here! I don’t care if I was to sweep St. James’ Church for the rest of my days, I would be content!”

Reality set in as we boarded the bus. I knew God didn’t want us staying ‘in the Glory’ but to bring it to others elsewhere - to spread the Messages of Our Lady Queen of Peace and bring a little piece of Medjugorje with us wherever we went. Upon our return to New York this ‘spiritual high’ lasted for the duration of months, after which I immersed myself completely into typical teenage High School life.

After High School, I spent a number of years not really knowing what to do with my life. And I had also temporarily put my faith on the back-burner. I was employed doing various though short-lived odd jobs from Sales to Promotions to the Hospitality industry and even attended a local Community College. I was searching. At the time I was also in a serious relationship. My girlfriend, although Catholic, wasn’t practicing - and at the time - neither was I. My faith went from simmer – to lukewarm- to cold. I had walked into a dark period of my life – yet not so dark that it was without intermittent flashes of light and love from God, who kept reminding me in little unmistakable ways that I could run but I couldn’t hide from Him forever. And neither did God’s whisper let up but continued to persist and echo deep within the ‘deepest-deep’ of my soul.

Throughout this period the faint whisper of God’s call kept up until I had to come to a point of decision.

I knew something had to give. As far as my relationship with my girlfriend was concerned, the more I started to immerse myself back into my faith – the more we drew apart. So within a very short period of time my girlfriend and I had broken up, I quit my job (where we were both were employed) and I started going to daily Mass again.

I immersed myself anew in daily Mass, prayer and sought spiritual direction.

But at the time my life had accumulated so much noise, worldly baggage and toxicity that I needed spiritual rehabilitation.

It was suggested to that I take a silent retreat. A few years prior my brother had given me a book that had mentioned a specific religious order that was located in Vermont that was very austere and lived in prayerful silence. I wasn’t sure as to whether I wanted to join this specific order but I definitely needed time to pray where there was little to distract me. So, after a short correspondence with them, I found myself on retreat within the confines of the strictest order of the Catholic Church, the Carthusian Order - specifically, within the thick granite walls of the Monastery of the Transfiguration, located near Arlington, Vermont.

Normally the Carthusians never allow people to take ‘retreats’ at their monastery. And even if a would-be aspirant to the Carthusians was allowed to visit, it would only be for a short period. Well, by the graciousness of the Novice-Master at the time, I was allowed to stay for a little over a month. There I also met a holy monk named Fr. Raphael Diamond, one of the spiritual heroes of my life.

During my stay, which was saturated with silence and prayer - and in the midst of my praying about pursuing a religious vocation, I felt strongly prompted by the Spirit to record a Christian album. This came to me as a strange surprise since I had not written any songs at the time. I had always fiddled with the guitar but it was never anything serious. But this prompting persisted and continued to well up in my soul. It communicated to me that before I “took the plunge” into religious life, I first had to complete this ‘project.’ None of this made much sense to me until a few years later. I just had to trust for the time being. I shared these inspirations with my spiritual director and he believed that this word was coming from God. Little did I know that this same prompting would eventually become instrumental in helping me become debt-free in order to freely pursue my vocation towards the priesthood.

After a series of ups and downs and a particularly powerful retreat with the Intercessors of the Lamb in Omaha, I knew that if I was to eventually enter religious life, I needed to make a serious step towards it.

Whilst staying with the Intercessors and whilst in Adoration and silent prayer about what I was to do next, I felt a feminine caress on my soul – I can’t really put it into words, but it was akin to a wonderful perfume or incense hitting your nostrils out of nowhere. At the same time I heard the words inaudibly but interiorly, “You will be going to my school.”

It was a gentle word, slight but unmistakable - as powerful as a mother’s loving glance.

I didn’t know what this word meant until a few months later.

I eventually found out that any would-be candidate to the religious life needed to first complete a number of credits in Philosophy. I was warned away from going to attend a local secular college that was going to teach me a twisted relativistic philosophy, but I needed to attend a college that taught philosophy imbued with a Catholic world-view, recognizing Philosophy as the handmaid of Theology – not the other way around. My spiritual director as well as my circle of Catholic friends acted as signposts that unanimously pointed me in the direction of Franciscan University of Steubenville, which then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) reportedly called “A Pillar of the Church.”

At Franciscan, I was not only to earn my required philosophy credits but also complete the “Pre-Theologate Program,” which, under the authority of the Bishop of Steubenville, (then Bishop Conlon) is the equivalent of attending the first year of major seminary.

Pre-Theologate students lived on a separate part of campus and would recite the Daily Office together, attend Mass together and be formed under the watchful eyes of Our Lady - Star of Evangelization, the program’s Patroness.

I knew I was under her watchful eyes and was the happiest I had ever been. After 4 years of study, formation and spiritual direction I had come out confirmed to pursue God’s call towards the priesthood within a religious order. Which order? I did not know. But through a little bit of searching and looking at different communities all over the United States

I finally found a community after my own heart. Namely, the Basilian Salvatorians located in Methuen, Massachusetts. This order of priests had the perfect blend of activity and solitude and after a few visits I knew I had to continue discerning with them.

I am happy to say that I was recently accepted as an aspirant for the Basilian Salvatorian Fathers, and am to begin my Novitiate this September 2008. But I was accepted on the grounds that before stepping into the Novitiate I first needed to alleviate the large student-loan debt I’ve accrued from going to Franciscan.

Ouch!

A seemingly impossible task--But this didn’t deter me. So instead of throwing in the towel, in prayer I was reminded of the original inspiration I had received at the Carthusian Monastery.

It was the answer to my dilemma. So, in God’s providential, all-knowing vision, I was given the solution long before the problem was yet on the horizon!

Our God is certainly an awesome God!

I recently did finish recording an album’s worth of original Christian songs and with the help of my sister Marina, I created a website featuring some of my story and where I also provide a means for people to purchase my CD as a “donation” toward my vocation, so that God’s call on my life may eventually be fully realized. But there is a time limit. I only have a few months to meet my goal of alleviating $72,000 dollars in student loans.

Please find it in your heart to help make this happen. May God Bless You all!

Eucharistically Yours,

Neven Pesa

Friday, April 25, 2008

St. Padre Pio Today




The body of the popular Italian saint, Padre Pio, has gone on display in a glass coffin in southern Italy. Padre Pio was said to have had stigmata, or bleeding wounds of Jesus, on his hands and feet. His body was exhumed in March on the 40th anniversary of his death. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. More than a million people are expected this year to see his body, which is said to be well-preserved. But there is reportedly no sign of the stigmata.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A View of Pope Benedict From the Streets of New York


There will no doubt be lots of more follow up posts on the visit of the Holy Father. There is so much to unpack and reflect on from his visit. This video is well done and is a testimony to Pope Benedict from the people in the streets! It gives you hope! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let the Kid's Sing!



These kids are pretty darn good! The choir boy is the best! He should join Libera!

Cardinal Newman Approved for Beatification


Cardinal Newman and the parents of St. Therese, the Little Flower are to be beatified!

Me and Pope Benedict!


Here are some photo's that I took just to show you my limited camera skills... and how close I was to him!
This is when the Holy Father walked by at the procession in St. Patrick's Cathedral!

I took this picture as the Holy Father came near to the concelebrants after the Mass at Yankee Stadium! Both experiences were amazing! Pope Benedict has his own charisma! God bless him!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Secret Agent Helps Boy Meet the Pope


This is a beautiful story from the New York Daily News! I thought it was amazing!

When Beverly Ruiz and her wheelchair-bound son arrived outside St. Patrick's Cathedral early Saturday they had no hope of getting inside.

But all that changed when 9-year-old Aaron, who has muscular dystrophy, caught the eye of one of the Secret Service agents safeguarding Pope Benedict.

Just moments before the historic Mass began, the federal agent singled out the mother and son and whisked them into the house of worship.

"After the Holy Father arrived and went inside, a man came up to us and said, 'We have a special place for you,'" Ruiz told the Daily News.

The Secret Service agent lifted Aaron out of his wheelchair and carried him up St. Patrick's steps. The agent then found a seat for the boy and his mother in the far right corner of the cathedral.

After celebrating Mass, Benedict walked over to Aaron.


"He came over and blessed him, and my son just smiled," Ruiz said. "It's just a miracle in itself, there's no way to describe it. It's just an absolute miracle that this happened in our lives."

Aaron and his mother, who were both wearing papal red, traveled from Corpus Christi, Tex., to be in Manhattan Saturday to see the Pope.

"I had this vision weeks ago and told my spiritual director that I believed that my son would be healed," she said. "It was beautiful, it was absolutely beautiful."

Libera at the Concert of Hope




These kids are amazing! They seem to be having a blast! Enjoy!

Best Images of the Holy Father's Visit!

Director' Meeting in Quito, Ecuador

I am currently in Quito, Ecuador and am here until the 30th of April for a meeting of other Directors from our region. There are Salesians here from Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the United States! It should be a good experience of the larger Salesian Family! It is easy to forget that we Salesians are in over 130 countries around the world! We are part of a rich tradition with over 16,000 men. We have 5 active Cardinal (including Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State for Pope Benedict and second in command of the entire Catholic Church!). We also have 116 Bishops throughout the world, more than any other religious community! It is a rich tradition founded on a beautiful charism offered to us by St. John Bosco! Weeks like this one help me to appreciate the wonderful gift that God has given me in calling me to Salesian life! Pray for me this week (another full Spanish immersion!) and be assured of my prayers!

p.s. I would like to put up some of my photo's from the visit of the Holy Father and photo's from Quito, but so far I am having trouble doing so with the connection here... Patience!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium!


I had another wonderful day today! I felt so blessed to be able to concelebrate the Mass with the Holy Father... It was amazing to walk out of the visitors dugout at the stadium and see all those cheering people! Just amazing! Also, to see Yankee Stadium so beautifully prepared made it really all very special... I then realized how close I would be to the Pope during the entire mass (like I was on deep 3rd base and he was playing deep 2nd)! I kept imagining throwing to the Pope for a force out at second base! I was able to spend a good deal of time meeting and talking with many priests from New York and around the world! I actually spent a great deal of time talking to Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR. He is well known for books and programs on EWTN and he and I sat next to one another at the mass. We also got plenty of time waiting in line for security to chat! The Holy Father came very near to us as he exited the stadium. The secret service actually let him shake the hands of many priests in frot of me. If I was bolder I might have reached over a few and grabbed his hand myself, but I tried to be polite! I just stood and watched and tried to take the moment in as he passed! The entire visit was a grace and I know that the Church in our country will be blessed by it for years to come. It was just great being able to see the joy in the faces of so many other people (old, young, clerical and religious alike). The Holy Father was able to bring us all together and send us home energized to live our lives more like Christ! I will add a few of my own pictures tomorrow! Until then, God bless!

Pope Benedict at Ground Zero


O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths
and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Pope and Youth!


Pope Benedict reminds young people that "The hope that never disappoints is Jesus Christ!" And he adds that "Christ is your friend and he wants to have a relationship with each of you!" The Holy Father speaks beautifully to young people today at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, NY! He challenges the young to respond to the grace of God. He puts a focus on vocations! Some of the highlights:

Personal prayer and silence
What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer....Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.

Liturgical prayer

Whenever you gather for Mass, when you go to Confession, whenever you celebrate any of the sacraments, Jesus is at work....Your faithful participation, is an active hope which helps to keep the world - saints and sinners alike - open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone.

Charity in action
Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form. We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move. The opportunities to make this journey are abundant. Look about you with Christ's eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind. Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice?

Vocations!
Let us pray for mothers and fathers throughout the world, particularly those who may be struggling in any way - socially, materially, spiritually. Let us honor the vocation of matrimony and the dignity of family life. Let us always appreciate that it is in families that vocations are given life. He adds: I greet the seminarians present and indeed encourage all seminarians throughout America. I am glad to know that your numbers are increasing! The People of God look to you to be holy priests, on a daily journey of conversion, inspiring in others the desire to enter more deeply into the ecclesial life of believers. I urge you to deepen your friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Talk heart to heart with him. Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit. Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons. Dear seminarians, I pray for you daily. Remember that what counts before the Lord is to dwell in his love and to make his love shine forth for others.

To Religious he adds:
Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests contribute greatly to the mission of the Church. Their prophetic witness is marked by a profound conviction of the primacy with which the Gospel shapes Christian life and transforms society. Today, I wish to draw your attention to the positive spiritual renewal which Congregations are undertaking in relation to their charism. The word charism means a gift freely and graciously given. Charisms are bestowed by the Holy Spirit, who inspires founders and foundresses, and shapes Congregations with a subsequent spiritual heritage. The wondrous array of charisms proper to each Religious Institute is an extraordinary spiritual treasury. Indeed, the history of the Church is perhaps most beautifully portrayed through the history of her schools of spirituality, most of which stem from the saintly lives of founders and foundresses. Through the discovery of charisms, which yield such a breadth of spiritual wisdom, I am sure that some of you young people will be drawn to a life of apostolic or contemplative service. Do not be shy to speak with Religious Brothers, Sisters or Priests about the charism and spirituality of their Congregation. No perfect community exists, but it is fidelity to a founding charism, not to particular individuals, that the Lord calls you to discern. Have courage! You too can make your life a gift of self for the love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family

Colleen Carol Campbell writes a very good article about the Pope and young people that is very well done! Colleen's article here.

The Pope at St. Patrick's!


I was blessed to be able to share in the Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral with His Holiness! I was not blessed with great seats (but, I had a great view of a pillar!), but it was so amazing to be present. The one moment that really was special for me was as the Holy Father processed into the Mass. He came within a few feet of me and looked right at me! A wonderful feeling! Also, it was great to see our Salesian Cardinal Bertone! I called out "Salesiani!" and he came right over to shake my hand and say "Viva Don Bosco!" The experience was a blessing and I look forward to seeing him again tomorrow at Yankee Stadium! I included below a bit from his homily below and his final remarks at the end of Mass. Enjoy!

So let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world. If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles (cf. 1 Tim 6:20), let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!


In this moment I can only thank … grace (?) ... for your love of the church, for Our Lord and that you give also your love to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will do all the possible to be a real successor of the great St. Peter who also was a man with his faults and sins, but he remains finally the rock for the Church … and so also I, with all my poorness … spiritual … can be with the grace of the Lord in this time the Successor of Peter … and your prayers and love will give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this, my ministry. So I am so deeply thankful for your love, for your prayer, and my answer in this moment to all what you have given to me in this moment and this visit is my blessing at the end of the Holy Mass.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pope Benedict Meets Catholic University Leaders


The following is an article that I found on the Catholic News Service. It is amazing how clear and to the point our Holy Father can be! God bless him and God bless his visit to America!

Pope Benedict XVI in his Thursday evening address at Catholic University of America, delivered a speech in which he emphasized that Catholic education should lead to an encounter with Jesus, who teaches us the truth. Any failure to do so leads Catholic institutions to fall short of their Catholic identity, Benedict said.

“I warmly greet each of you - bearers of wisdom - and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent,” the Holy Father began.

Benedict XVI then launched into his address by quoting from his encyclical “Spe Salvi”, saying, “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth,” he said.

This encounter with Christ, sustains people through “personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge,” he said. According to the Pope, “scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.”

After pointing to the historic service of the Catholic Church to the less privileged in the US, the Holy Father posed the question: How do Church institutions “contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?”

“A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction - do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear? Are we ready to commit our entire self - intellect and will, mind and heart - to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation?”

“Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold,” the Pope replied.

Reflecting on the modern doubt about whether truth does exist, the Pope said that “the contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith’.

Academic freedom is not true freedom if it becomes disconnected from the truth. Academic freedom, and indeed, freedom in general is often thought of as an “opting out”, the Pope said. However, freedom should be thought of as an “opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God.”

The particular responsibility, for every Catholic educator, “is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief,” the Pope instructed.

“Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith, the Pope said of truly Catholic schools.”

The Holy Father also came to the defense of the contribution of Catholic institutions in the public square, saying “The Church's mission, in fact, involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth.” “In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths, he added.”

Most importantly, the Pope said that the Church serves society by reminding society that it is not how people live that creates truth but rather that truth should serve as the basis of how we live.

“In the educational forum, the diakonia (service) of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith.” This type of society dismisses any argument that is metaphysical, that is to say, not based on material evidence, he said.

This “relativistic horizon” leads to the situation where “the goals of education are inevitably curtailed.” Without any reference to transcendent truth, a slow “lowering of standards occurs,” the Pope explains. “We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.”

Faced with this situation, the Pontiff posed the question: “How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity".

Being intellectually charitable means guiding “the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do,” he said.

The Holy Father also spoke about the debate over religious freedom that has been raging over the last few decades. Academic freedom calls on educators “to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” he explained.

Nevertheless, “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it,” Benedict XVI explained.

Catholic institutions must fulfill their duty and privilege of ensuring that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice, Benedict emphasized. “This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, …both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual,” the Pontiff insisted.

In closing, the Holy Father called on Catholic educators to “Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy.”

He left the educators with the words of St. Augustine: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher.”

To read the entire address click here.

President Bush on the Holy Father's Visit

Changing of the Guard


I received the following information from an email from my Uncle and thought it was amazing! These soldiers are so dedicated! They are a great honor for our wonderful country! God bless them for this service!

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?
21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is
the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?
21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.

3. Why are his gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time
and if not, why not?
He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path,he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5 How often are the guards changed?
Guards are changed every thirty minutes,
twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.


6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be
between 5' 10' and 6' 2' tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30.' Other
requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the
tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on
or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the
rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in
any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on
their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only
400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their
lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat
and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the
top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty
in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor
watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid
to rest in Arlington National Cemetery... A guard must memorize who they are
and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe
E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most
decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for

guard duty.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington , DC , our

US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC

evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the

hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of

the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They

respectfully declined the offer, 'No way, Sir!' Soaked to the skin,

marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding

the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be

afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously,

24/7, since 1930.

Pope Benedict at the UN

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Battle Hymn of the Republic for Pope Benedict!


This is incredible and moving! Watch and enjoy! God bless!

Pope Benedict at the White House!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Battle Hymn of the Republic


I will post the version from the Holy Father's visit asap! But, this one is also exceptional from the funeral of Ronald Reagan. God bless!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Church in the United States Today


Immigrants represent the new face of the Catholic Church in America. Once solidly Irish, Italian and Polish, Catholicism in America today is turning Hispanic and even a bit Vietnamese and African. Immigration is keeping the church from losing its vitality in our country. Some social analysts also say Catholic immigrants, especially Hispanics, may even be more in tune with official Vatican stances than native-born American Catholics. They can be are conservative on issues of conscience like abortion and gay marriage, which the Church opposes, and they prefer the more traditional devotions. At the same time, they can take a more liberal perspective on social affairs such as helping the sick and the poor. The Church is changing and will continue to change through the great influence of new immigrants.





Pope Benedict and the Young

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lost Generation?


This was a surprise when I came across it... I have to admit it got me down when I first started to watch. But, there is a happy twist at the end! Keep hope alive! God bless!

Pope Benedict's Revolution of Virtue!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

American Idol: Shout to the Lord!


Wow...! That was all I could say when I first heard this. I haven't watched any of the American Idol's this year, but I tripped over this someplace online and was just amazed! First of all they did a great job singing the song. But, that is not what surprised me! It just surprised me that they sang it at all! It is too bad that our culture has become so secularized that something like this seems so unusual. Maybe Christians will voice their approval and we can get back into the public square!

Pope Benedict XVI on His Visit to the USA

A Carmelite Nun Shares Her Vocation Story


Happy Good Shepherd Sunday! I thought I would add a post with someone talking about their vocation story today and remembered seeing this video by a Carmelite Nun. Of course, she is in a convent in Texas! I keep seeing Texas come up on so many things... Interesting! Let's pray for more good and holy vocations to the priesthood and the religious life!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Be Witnesses of the Gospel!


Speaking to thousands of young people the Holy Father challenged them to "renew Western civilization with the Gospel!" This may give us a sign of some of the things that Pope Benedict with challenge us on his upcoming visit! We will see soon enough!

The Deacon's Bench: George W. Bush, "closet Catholic"

The Deacon's Bench: George W. Bush, "closet Catholic"
Check this story out! Very interesting! You might also want to check out Raymond Arroyo's interview with the President on The World Over. He did a great interview!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Boston Red Sox Moment: Bill Buckner Returns!


You don't have to be a Boston Red Sox fan to know that this was a big moment for Bill Buckner! I was always a fan of his (after all he was a Cubbie) and am glad he had this chance. It was very moving to watch! Enjoy! Admit it Yankee fans... this was cool!

Pray for Peace in Haiti

The Deacon's Bench: Peggy Noonan on "the man at the window"

This is a great little article that I found at The Deacon's Bench
The Deacon's Bench: Peggy Noonan on "the man at the window"

World Youth Day 2008

World Youth Day is the largest youth event in the world and will be held in Sydney from Tuesday 15 to Sunday 20 July 2008.

WYD is organised by the Catholic Church and brings together young people from around the world to celebrate and learn about their faith on a more regular basis. It was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

This 23re WYD will be the largest event that Australia has ever hosted! Let's pray for the success of this event and for all those who will attend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Habemus Papam

It was only 3 years ago that we heard those words: "Habemus Papam!" The Holy Father is only a week away from being with us here in the USA and the excitement is beginning to increase. Tickets for the visit here in New York are finally beginning to arrive and folks are realizing how close the events are to us! Let's pray for a safe trip for Pope Benedict and that the Holy Spirit will reach the hearts of millions through his words!

Cloistered Monasteries


It is amazing to listen to Diane Sawer's disbelief in why these women, and many of them young, would want to choose the consecrated life. It is amazing to listen to the different worldview. On the one hand you have the sisters who are so sure of their faith and love of Christ and on the other you have the secular perspective that is left dumbfounded. Very interesting! I wish the quality of the video was better, but I think it is good enough to get the point across! Let's continue to pray for more vocations to our wonderful Church... Let's also pray in a particular way for the many cloistered communities who everyday and night lift us up in prayer!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Salesian General Chapter Pilgrimage


Before the General Chapter began the Salesian delegates made a pilgrimage to Turin. They were able to visit all of our Salesian holy sites in order to prepare themselves spiritually for the important work ahead. Let's continue to pray for the 233 members of the General Chapter gathered in Rome as they finish up their work. Let's pray that their hard work will continue to animate Salesians all around the world in their mission bring the Good News to young people!

Medal of Honor for a Navy Seal


President Bush awarded the 4th Medal of Honor of the war to Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor. The Flopping Aces blog posted an article on Michael and does a beautiful job following all of our heroes in action. You can see video of the White House ceremony here.

Michael Monsoor, a Navy Seal, sacrificed his life for his buddies on Sept 29th. Just like Marine Corps Sgt Rafael Peralta before him he jumped on a grenade to save the lives of the other Navy Seals in his snipers nest:

A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.

“He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it,” said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. “He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs’ lives, and we owe him.”

Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the explosion in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was only the second SEAL to die in Iraq since the war began.

[…]Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them.


Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez,SDB on Missionary Spirit


Salesian Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez challenges everyone in the Church to see themselves as missionaries! He also challenges us to find new ways to bring Christ to the world! God bless you Cardinal Oscar!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Vocational Perspective from Archbishop O'Brien







I found the following article by Archbishop Edwin O'Brien on the Catholic Review site. The Archbishop speaks about the contemporary situation involving vocations. He speaks as a man who has lead two large seminaries and now is the Archbishop of Baltimore. He speaks of the shift of vocations from the Northeast to the Midwest (at least that has been his experience at the North American College in Rome). I highlighted a couple of things that I thought most interesting. This is the same experience that our Salesian Vocation office is experiencing as well. Many more applicants are coming from the South and Midwest. The times they are a changing!


Archbishop O'Brien

The Catholic Review

This week finds me away from Baltimore and enjoying, absorbing the spiritual grandeur of Rome, the world’s Eternal City.

Over the past eight years, I have served as chair of the Board of Governors of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, a privilege I will relinquish this November when my term expires.

“The College” is owned and supported by the bishops of our country who, since 1859 (with a brief interruption during World War II), have been sending candidates for the priesthood to be formed sub umbra Petri (beneath the shadow of Peter). In fact, the present seminary building, completed in 1959, stands on the Janiculum Hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.

The original site of the seminary in the center of Rome dates back to 1599 when the building served as a Visitation Convent. Now called the Casa Santa Maria, it houses the graduate programs of the College, with some 75 priests studying for further degrees in the theological sciences.

Each year, as well, some 76 American priests, relative veterans in priestly service, spend 12 weeks under the auspices of the College’s Institute for Continuing Theological Education. As they brush up on their theology, they also experience the age-old secrets of Rome from within.

I am drawn to the “NAC” this particular week to help celebrate the annual Rector’s Dinner, a major fundraiser and a rare opportunity for Italian Catholics and some American pilgrims to sample a modern seminary community. Our seminarians host the event – direct traffic, transform the refectory into a banquet hall, wait tables, and provide some fine entertainment for many on hand whose sorry stereotypical image of a seminary and its seminarians would tend to resemble that of a 19th century monastery.

What our visitors see, however, is a large house of happy and healthy young men with a deep love for Christ and his Church and a strong desire upon ordination to return home as parish priests. These days, gratefully, our numbers are strong, with 180 seminarians and newly ordained priests representing 82 dioceses across the U.S.

In recent years I have noticed a trend or two at the College that might say something about the state of vocations in North America. There has been a decided shift in population from the Northeastern and Western dioceses to those of the Midwest. Archdioceses such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have not been sending seminarians in recent years, but there is a virtual roll call of dioceses from farm and ranch states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Texas. I suspect this reflects the vocation situation in various parts of our Land, and one might ask why such heavily populated Archdioceses are not attracting vocations in proportion to the smaller, close-to-the-earth dioceses.

Another impressive and, indeed, inspiring hallmark of today’s seminarians, in Rome and in our own distinguished St. Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park and Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, is a return to a Eucharistic-centered spirituality. At NAC, all are “on deck” at 6:15 a.m. for morning prayer and 6:30 a.m. community Mass before walking a typical 25 minutes to classes across town. Come evening, one would have to be impressed by the numbers in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament during the voluntary holy hour of exposition.

Many seminarians volunteer the fact that they discovered their vocation through devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in parishes where Eucharistic adoration was regularly scheduled with special prayers for vocations.

Nationally, I am told that there are dioceses such as Wichita, where an abundance of priestly vocations can be traced to diocesan-wide Eucharistic adoration. Nor do I think it a coincidence that the three parishes in our Archdiocese with the most success at present in “growing” seminarians for Baltimore all offer parishioners opportunities for Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass:

St. Louis, Clarksville – 4 seminarians

St. John, Westminster – 3 seminarians, 2 applying

St. Peter the Apostle, Libertytown – 2 seminarians, 1 applying

These three parishes provide half of our homegrown seminarians. They have taken seriously the Lord’s solution for great harvests, but too few laborers: “Pray the harvest-master to send laborers into his harvest.”

We are blessed, indeed, to have many deacons, religious, and laypeople working the harvest. But without the priest, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no Church.

How fitting, how necessary, to turn to the Eucharist in our prayer for priests.

A Message from Pope Benedict for the USA!


Pope Benedict is coming! God bless him and God bless the Church!

Remembering the World’s Farewell to JP II


This is a very moving video of the farewell liturgy to Pope John Paul The Great!

Pope Benedict XVI and Liturgy



Vatican watchers have observed that Pope Benedict chooses to wear much more traditional vestments and papal garb. The Los Angeles Times wrote a story on the subject that you can access here. Why is the Holy Father going back to so much of the traditional stuff? That is a natural question to ask these days. Fr. Longenecker from down in South Carolina wrote the following:

Why does Benedict XVI wear all the old fancy gear? Does he just like dressing up? Does he like to display the power and pomp of his office? In fact, it is all part of his commitment to what he calls 'the hermeneutic of continuity' that is to say, that the Church today is built on the past, and what we do today, liturgically, pastorally, politically, spiritually, is empowered and enabled by our faithfulness to the past. This is not to turn the clock back. The Pope is not one of these arch traditionalists who want to return to the 1950s. Instead he believes that the past rightly informs the present, and that there must be a continuity in the tradition so that the faith that we have received from the apostles can continue to thrive.
So, in wearing vestments and using a crozier from three earlier popes Benedict XVI makes visual the continuity of his office and the continuity of his teaching.

As we get closer and closer to the Pope's visit I will add more information and videos on Pope Benedict. I hope Fr. Longenecker's explanation was helpful. It helped me! Below you will find a video to get your appetite going for his visit!!. Viva il Papa!


Monday, April 7, 2008

That Man is You! - a program of Paradisus Dei

That Man is You is a Catholic men's formation program developed a few years ago that has taken off across the country! The program began in Houston, Texas but is now in dozens of parishes (over 60) in over 14 states around the country and in Canada. St George in Louisiana and Our Lady of the Rosary in Florida have huge programs, each with well over 200 men registered. St. Thomas More in Colorado has the largest number of registrants the TMIY program has even seen, with over 350 men signed up around 250 in attendance each week! The southern Catholic renaissance continues! I heard about the program from my brother-in-law Earl who has the program in his parish in The Woodlands, Texas. Imagine dozens of Catholic men getting up early to attend a formation program once a week before going to work! Breakfast, formation and fellowship all before you get to work! I would love to see this program continue to grow and maybe become a part of some of our Salesian parishes as well! God bless these men for seeking to deepen their understanding and love of our faith!
That Man is You! - a program of Paradisus Dei

video

Sunday, April 6, 2008

R.I.P. Chuck


Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923April 5, 2008)was an Academy Award winning actor known for playing heroic roles, such as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Colonel George Taylor in Planet of the Apes and Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur. Early in his career, he was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak out against racism and was active in the civil rights movement. He later became known for conservative politics and was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003. In July 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President George W. Bush. "The largeness of character that comes across the screen has also been seen throughout his life," President Bush said at the time. In August 2002, Heston publicly announced he was diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease. Rest in peace Chuck!


Live Like You Were Dying

Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has terminal cancer. He gave his "last lecture" to his students intending that it would be saved for his 3 small children as well. His message is not overtly religious but there is a quality to his hope that is very much grace filled. His message challenges one to live the life that we have been given to the full. I coupled it with the video "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw. Let's pray for one another that we might live our lives to the full! Let's also pray for those who suffer from human illness that they too might live in the hope of the new life that our faith offers!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Good News for Religious Life

We hear far too many stories of aging religious and closing Churches. Unfortunately that is the time in which we live. However, there are wonderful signs of hope as well! We have to celebrate the good news whenever we encounter it! The short news story below displays one group of religious sisters who have grown remarkable fast over the past 20 years. The community was founded in Argentina and has 900 members in just 20 years! That is great sign of hope

The Human Experience

The film company that did Fishers of Men and God in the Streets of New York are making a new film! I can't wait to see The Human Experience! Sometimes we need to be moved and this trailer for the film is very, very moving! I pray that the film reaches millions and that it moves all of us to be more compassionate and Christlike to others... especially those most in need! Watch the trailer and tell me what you think!
From Grassroots Films of Brooklyn, New York comes THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE – the story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into the middle of the lives of the homeless on the streets of New York City, the orphans and disabled children of Peru, and the abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana, Africa. What the young men discover changes them forever. Through one on one interviews and real life encounters, the brothers are awakened to the beauty of the human person and the resilience of the human spirit.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hermits for Today

Before my ordination I was blessed to spend a week with the Hermits of Bethlehem in Chester, NJ. It is a beautiful secluded spot in northern New Jersey that I had never heard of before. I was a bit nervous to spend a week with "hermits" and had not idea what to expect. It turned out to be a remarkably prayerful experience and a wonder way to prepare myself for ordination. The founder of the community was a diocesan priest from Paterson, NJ named Fr. Eugene Romano. He is a very grandfatherly man who is exceptionally welcoming. His story and the story of Bethlehem Hermitage can be seen on the video. It provides a history of the place and a brief exploration of how the hermits live and why they chose to do so. The program emphasizes that the hermits do not seek to isolate themselves from a suffering humanity. Rather, through prayer and daily sacrifice, they seek to serve the Church and to be a spiritual support for all who are actively involved in carrying out the mission of Jesus. I have occasionally driven up to the hermitage just to make a visit to the chapel and to pray. It reminds me of my ordination retreat and the challenge to live my Salesian priesthood with devotion. I hope you enjoy this half hour in a hermitage!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beautiful Tribute


Five for Fighting just won a new fan! This is a beautiful song and a wonderful tribute to all the folks who protect us and for the millions who have died for our freedom. Enjoy the video and pray for our troops!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Favoured Sons and Daughters



The video below comes from the ANS website and is a fantastic 7 minute summary of the past few days of the Salesian General Chapter. The elections and the visit to the Holy Father are all covered here. I want to thank Br. Tom Dion for keeping his blog going during this busy time in Rome. It has been so easy to keep up with the most important information coming from the Chapter through his timely blog. Much has been written lately about the Salesians and their activity in the Church. I encourage you to read the London Tablet's article here if you would like to learn more about the Salesians of Don Bosco. The article is well done! God bless!

video