Sign Up for Camp 2015!

Tis the season in which we reflect upon all the things we are thankful for. If you would like one extra thing to add to your list, sign up for our summer camp now! You won’t regret and it and trust us, God will give you many wonderful memories to be thankful for! Just check out all of the great times we’ve had in the past couple of years!

Check out our Forms Page for more information about camp and for the sign-up forms!


Holy Week Survival Guide 101

Ok, so can you guys believe that Lent is almost over?! Time went by so fast! So this just means two, super awesome things: Firstly, that Easter is right around the corner. Second, that Holy Week is right next door. So what’s Holy Week? Sure you’ve heard it before, maybe in your religion or CCD class. Maybe you’ve heard a priest mention it in his homily. Well in case you’re still a little confused about this whole Holy Week excitement, here’s a little 411 on what you as a Catholic should know and why you should be preparing for it!

Holy week is the last week of lent, marking the days leading up to Easter Sunday. I like to call it the “Home Stretch” of Lent. Holy Week is so important because it’s when we as Christians celebrate and honor the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us on the Cross at Calvary. 

The final days of Lent are called the Easter Triduum. It begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the Evening of Holy Thursday, it continues through Good Friday and Holy Saturday and ends with evening prayers on Easter Sunday. These are three days of heartfelt reflection of our salvation through Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, as well as the ultimate celebration that Jesus conquered death on Easter through His resurrection!  Here’s a breakdown of these days and how you can make this upcoming Holy Week a meaningful one in your life:

Holy Thursday: Holy Thursday marks the day Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His 12 apostles. During this time Jesus washed the feet of his apostles (a sign of priestly ordination) and most importantly He instituted the Eucharist! So Awesome!!! On Holy Thursday there is an evening mass, in which there is a washing of the feet. I encourage all of you to attend this mass at one of our Catholic parishes. If you’re unable to attend this mass, maybe you can pray the rosary, say a Divine Mercy chaplet. Maybe you can spend some quiet time reflecting on the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. Reading the bible is also a great way to reflect on the meaning of this holy day. Try reading the Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13. 

Good Friday: Good Friday is one of the most important days EVER! It is the day Jesus paid the ultimate price for us and died for us ALL, so we could be saved! It is customary on Good Friday that one be silent from 12pm-3pm (the hour of Jesus’ death). This is a day of fasting. On Good Friday Catholic parishes don’t have mass, but do have a Communion service, followed by the Veneration of the Cross. The Veneration of the Cross is when we are given an opportunity to pray in front of a cross as a sign of reverence for our Savior who took on the Cross for our salvation. This service is usually followed by the Stations of the Cross. So what can you do to observe Good Friday? For starters, try to attend one of the Communion Services and the Veneration of the Cross at one of the local Catholic Parishes. If you cannot make it to one because you’re in school, there are other things you can do to observe this day. You can fast (remember NO meat), it’s customary to wear black on this day, don’t listen to music or watch tv, you can also commit to being silent from noon- 3pm. 

Holy Saturday: Holy Saturday is a day of silence in which we are awaiting the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you have something to do with your family that day and have to go out, make sure you set aside a time for quiet prayer. Thank Jesus for dying for you on the cross. Maybe you can pray the rosary, a Divine Mercy Chaplet or go to the Communion Service at your Catholic parish.

Easter Sunday: Time to CELEBRATE!!!!! Easter Sunday is much more than a bunny and eggs. Easter is the day Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead!!! It’s a day to rejoice that we have a God who was willing to conquer death on our behalf and save us all. Be happy!! Go to Sunday Mass and continue to Thank God for dying and rising for us!!! 

Remember, Lent is a time of transformation. It’s a time to sacrifice and become the person God has called us to be. As we prepare ourselves for Holy Week I pray that you will continue to reflect on the Love God has for us in sending us His only Son to die for us. In doing this may you commit yourselves to observe the Easter Triduum the best you can and to walk with Jesus on His way to calvary and rejoice with Him on the day He rose from the dead.

Remember, God’s not asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us for our whole hearts, that we may serve and love Him!

Praying for you!!!

God Bless,



Our Hearts Are Bound for Resurrection

Saints with Christ This has always been one of my favorite paintings in our side chapel, the image of the Communion of Saints, the entire people of God in worship and awe of the Risen Christ.

“We must build a civilization of love, or there will be no civilization at all.”

-Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston


Are we a world that still believes in the resurrection? I mean, we say we do every Sunday when we recite the Nicene Creed at Mass after the homily.  But I’m pretty convinced that part of our world has given up on that idea, that idea that tells us that we are so unimaginably loved by God that he can’t stand that he would spend eternity without us, that he would give us a share in his life, that he would raise his own Son from the dead, and then give us a share in that life too. Trust me, I know it doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with “how the world really works,” but theologically, it sounds something like this:

God doesn’t need us. In fact, he didn’t need to create us, he doesn’t need to love us, and he doesn’t need us to be alive to praise him. After all, God is Three-In-One, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has all the love and perfection of relationship within God’s self, so what could he possibly need from us?

Ah, but that’s just it! He didn’t need to create us, but he did. We live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17:28), not because we’re a mistake, not because God needed to make us and would therefore be incomplete without us. No, God has made us as we are because he freely loves us into being!

And that’s not where it ends. There is no way we could come to know God, come to love God, come to experience God, if he had not made us, in all the wonder that is our humanity, to do just that. Can you love your friends and family if you were incapable of loving? Could you hear the words of love from your parents if you were deaf, or if they we unable to speak? We only know that God has revealed himself to us, has loved us, because he has loved us first (1 John 4:19), and made us capable of receiving that love.

Ok, so that’s what the head tells us about God, who is love (1 John 4: 8, 16). What do our hearts tell us? Do they tell us a different story? How much are our hearts crying out because of what we’ve seen in the news these last couple of weeks? How are you feeling affected by the mindless violence that ripped through Boston so recently? Have you heard anything about this poor man Gosnell (do not forget, my dear friends, to hate the sin, but love the sinner; yes, I know, a lot easier said than done, but our calling nonetheless), who has become the poster-child for everything hideous and wrong about abortion? Our world is in the midst of a serious identity crisis, one that has mistaken our human bodies and our human dignity for something biological and merely passing, like the dust of the earth.

But you, my dear friends who I very much look up to in faith and encouragement that our future is bright and that the Church will not give up its fight for love of the human person in all his or her beauty and dignity; this isn’t just my battle to fight through studying and preaching. We are in a beautiful, challenging, immensely challenging but even more tremendously beautiful, time to be alive. Because we get to stand up and show the world that death no longer reigns. The world can no longer wait for us to remind it that we believe in the resurrection, that all of what terrifies us most about death and sin is merely on the surface, something to be wiped away like a dirty window, when we let God truly act in our lives, through us, with us, for others, for a world that no longer believes in the resurrection.

The reason this is all on my heart, and not just in my head, these days is because this is what I’ve decided to focus the rest of my studies on, here at the Seminary. I’ve got an amazing opportunity to really integrate my studies into my spiritual life by adding a few more classes here and there and writing a thesis project that will culminate all my studies during my time here. I’ve decided that, indeed, I will study for a Masters of Arts (which is a little more work than the Masters of Divinity that is the requirement for ordination here) and write a thesis (instead of taking comprehensive exams at the end of my time here). All that technical stuff aside, what this means is that almost all the academic work I will be doing for the next four years will be concentrated on Biblical Studies, and I feel so called to really explore what it means when we say every Sunday that we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that we “await the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.”

It’s just washing over me, grace by grace, that our world is in desperate need to be reminded of what it is that makes us humans so special, why it is God has singled us out, in all creation, to bear his image (genesis 1:27; 1 Corinthians 15: 49), and that this forgetfulness may very well be at the root of all the evils we’ve been seeing recently. So please pray for me during this time, and all the men here taking on different challenges academically, that we may not merely be seeking to fill our heads with knowledge, but that we may let our hearts be overwhelmed with love of God’s Word and God’s people, and that that may overflow so that you may all reap the abundance and the bountiful love and care that our God has for each and every one of us, created in his image, bound for resurrection.

-Tim (ST)

A Heart Divided, But Right Where It Should Be

“Believe your beliefs. Doubt your doubts.”

-Mark Hart (@LT_TheBibleGeek)

I was just talking on the phone the other day with a dear friend of mine and we were sharing with each other what we needed prayers for. I couldn’t help but to ask her to pray for me because I’d had a moment that day where I wanted out of the Seminary. It was for sure a confusing moment, one that’s going to stick with me for a while, but a moment that really, in the end, can really make my vocation stronger. After all, none of us can really follow our vocation if we don’t follow it freely, lovingly, and facing the doubts we have honestly.

Bear with me for a moment, but I think I’m going to blame you all for this confusion in my heart (trust me this is a good thing!). Being a part of Holy Week at home and spending last weekend with a lot of you during the Confirmation Masses and celebrations, singing with some of you in the choir at the Sunday evening Mass, and even joining a few of you for a walk on the pier on Saturday, it all felt so right, a great reminder of the kinds of relationships that have gotten me here into the Seminary in the first place. To be a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit moving in your lives: what a gift for me! And when I come back here to the Seminary, I have to leave behind so much of this interaction, my family, my friends.

But that’s just what made my momentary questioning of whether or not I still wanted to be in the Seminary seem so silly. If I’m going to make my life all about your life with God and about helping you all bring that life into my life too and into the lives of others, I’ve got a lot to learn about life and a lot to experience right here. Fr. Jack, one of our Field Education directors said it beautifully, honestly, and bluntly the other night: “None of us are born ministers. We have to learn how to do it.” And it seems that this is the place where I’m going to better learn to serve you all and every one God has blessed me to know.

But I’d be lying if I said there was no tension because of this.

It really hit me the other day that this tension is a beautiful thing, like a collision between the need to serve and the need to learn how to serve first. Our Second Year guys just got their assignments for their internship years coming up next year. That’s what I’ll be doing after next year, a chance to live at a parish for a year, facing the joys and challenges of parish life, away from the academic studies. These guys have been waiting all year to find out where they’ll be sent. And I hear that sometimes the greatest challenge is to come back to the Seminary, back to the studies and community life after being out among the people, sharing their lives with them, praying with and for them, facing their joyful moments and their heartaches with them. I’ve seen firsthand how tempting it is to become bitter after having to leave a community that one had fallen in love with. And I think that is what I’ve been feeling this week: after sharing the holiest of weeks with my home parish at St. Monica’s and then getting to experience the gift of the Holy Spirit with all of you newly Confirmed, it was kind of hard for me to get back into the rhythm of Seminary life, I admit.

But I’m still here and, regardless of any doubts and frustrations that come up here at St. John’s, this too is my home. These men I live with are my family too. I am indeed sharing their lives with them, praying with and for them, facing their joyful moments and their heartaches with them. And it’s becoming clearer that I am needed here. Every man here is needed here. And all of us, you and me, may very well be right where we need to be. So let’s hope to see that we are needed right where we are and that right where we are may very well be the place we will learn to love the best.

So I’m not too worried about my little doubts and my moments of questioning my own vocation. I’d be worried if that wasn’t a part of my daily life. It’s all a part of having faith, of discerning a vocation. I’ve never felt freer in my decision to keep on going towards the priesthood. And I’ve never wanted to be a priest more. And I blame all of you for that. After all, we’re never truly free in our life and our discernment unless we can believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.

-Tim (ST)

Our Anointing Will Overflow

“A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart.”

-Pope Francis, homily on Holy Thursday

I’m running the risk of turning this blog into a blog all about our new Holy Father, but Pope Francis is almost leaving me no choice with all he’s done to remind us how to live simply as Christians. I mean, I spent so much time during my Holy Week here at St. Monica’s and at every meal I sat down to with the priests in the rectory, something about Pope Francis came up. Whether it was his Homily at the Chrism Mass or the fact that he washed the feet, not of other Cardinals and Bishops, but of boys and girls in a detention facility, Christians and Muslims alike, there’s still a buzz. That homily he gave at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday is still reverberating in my own mind and heart, and it seems to be the same for so many of the priests and seminarians I know. I definitely recommend reading it and praying over it so you can see what indeed makes up the joys and hopes, worries and struggles of being a priest today: Holy Thursday Chrism Mass Homily

Pope Francis reminds us about our connection to God’s people and the need for our own anointing to overflow onto others. This reminder became the center of my whole Triduum, leading up into Easter Sunday. And it’s not only our priests whose anointing must overflow onto others. Every last one of us is anointed as Christians: as priests, as prophets, and as kings and queens, at our Baptisms. And I know some of you are about to receive the tremendous gift of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation very soon, and so you will join over a billion other people who have been anointed to more fully share the Easter proclamation of eternal life, true life, life that is no longer dominated and defaced by selfishness and death. We will all share in this anointing, and it is not something to be kept hidden away, as if in a tomb.

So one of the most moving moments for me during every Easter Triduum is the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday. Here at St. Monica’s we invite everyone up to get their feet washed if they want. Our priests begin by washing their feet, but just like Jesus called his disciples to do, and us too, they let those who’ve had their feet washed, including those in RCIA who are going to be Baptized in two nights’ time, begin to wash the feet of others. I feel like there is almost no better liturgical sign, other than the Eucharist, of our anointing as Christians to be servants because we share in God’s own life.

Washing FeetLast year, a picture of me got out in which I was washing the feet of a baby girl. And my heart was nearly rent with how beautiful a moment that was, not because it was so cute or made me look like a good guy, but because in that moment I came face to face with the innocence I turn away from whenever I sin.

Now, this year another picture made its way to the Internet of me getting my own feet washed. I dare say this was just as moving a moment for me as from last year.

Feet Washed

The more and more I hear what Pope Francis has had to say about living like Christ, the more I so desire to live as a servant. But there are times when we need to let others serve us too. I can’t take everything onto myself and be selfish about my good works! It’s not all about me! I wanted to wash the feet of every one I came across that night, but then I would be taking away from our RCIA members’ chances to serve and experience Christ’s humility in the washing of feet. What a paradox for me! So I needed to accept that someone wanted to wash my feet, I needed to humble myself in that way, just like Peter did when the Lord wanted to wash his feet (John 13:8).

So for those of you about to be confirmed, know that your anointing this week is not just something to bring you closer to the Church. Your anointing is a reminder of Easter and an invitation to bring everyone else closer to the Church. And for those of us already confirmed, let’s relive our anointing this Easter season. Let’s remember that we’re called to step outside of ourselves because Jesus knew no other way to live. And let’s all do it in the humility that knows that we’re not working to bring the Kingdom of God to life by ourselves; we‘re letting our anointing, that gift of the Holy Spirit, overflow onto others.

-Tim (ST)

Humility is Fueled by Fire

Pope Francis

Take a moment to think about this: the Pope bowed to

you and asked you to pray for him. Can we humble our

selves to do to others likewise?

“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”

 -Pope Francis, homily in his first Mass as Pope

I’ve got to tell you, we’re more than a week into Pope Francis’ pontificate and there is still a buzz here at the Seminary. It’s as if every meal I sit down to, we’ve still got something new to say about this man. At least to us seminarians, it feels like Francis is a man we can not only look up to, but who we can be like! How can we not be set on fire to be more and more in love with you all when we see even the Pope kissing the feet of the dying, blessing the disabled, choosing to wash the feet of prisoners this coming Holy Thursday, greeting people outside of Mass like any parish priest? I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to be a priest more than at this moment in the Church! But it’s very important for us to remember it’s not just some guy we’re looking up to.

What is it then that draws us to this man? I’m convinced that it is Christ; the Pope is challenging us to remember who Christ is to us today, here and now. I had a great moment of grace the other day when I realized that it would be silly to fall in love with what Francis is doing without realizing that he’s only pointing to Christ. After all, Jesus did it all first and he did it better!

And in all his humility, I find myself sure that there is a strong fire and passion that feeds this humble man, our Pope. We know that even Christ himself had a humility fueled by passion. It can be really confusing for us to think Jesus could have been a quiet, peaceful man who passively accepted death on a cross when we hear him say that he hopes to set the world on fire (Luke 12:49) or that he passionately made a scene turning over tables at the Temple (John 2:13-22). It becomes a little clearer when we see that this passion that led him to be so bold in life was the same fire in his heart that led him to humbly give his body to us in torture and death on the cross, and so to us in utterly selfless and humble love in the Eucharist.

For those of you who were on the Reawaken retreat last week, I hope you got even the slightest glimpse of this during our Passion Walk. That was so moving for me. There’s no way I can put into words everything I felt that night: the mix of fun and seriousness of getting made up to look like a beaten and battered Jesus, preparing to take up his cross; the physical and emotional exhaustion of carrying that cross up that hill; the vibrations running through the cross every time the whip hit it; the very brief, private conversation Jesus had with Simon, as he was practically carried by him up that hill; the incessant crying of the weeping women and jeers of the crowd; the very real tears of Mary running down her face onto the body of Christ.

I’ve got to admit, though, I had a lot conflicted feelings in playing this kind of role. I’ve never tried to “be” Christ in this way before. I wasn’t sure if I should be doing it. Certainly, as a seminarian growing into a priest, I am called to imitate Christ, as we all are, but in a different kind of way. But this felt a little too obvious, a little too tempting to feel like I was trying to be Christ, rather than to fall in love with him and so to imitate him and to be like him.

But still, there was nowhere else I wanted to be. When I spoke to the Confirmation class and their sponsors last week, I said that I didn’t want to be a distraction to you all from seeing Christ. That is a valuable lesson for all of us, especially for me as a seminarian. The challenge is to see Christ in each other, and to see his passion and his love in each other. We can’t be thinking we are saviors or messiahs, as if we have to be Christ and take on all the pain he went through for us.  He did it because only he could, and so that we would not have to! My hope is that it’s not like you saw me pretending to be Christ on the way up that hill. My hope is that God moved you in some way to see his passion and his love as we did our best, gave our all to make it up that hill. I hope we got a real good glimpse at what his love looked like on the cross.

So please, as Lent winds to a close, remember that it was ugly and it was brutal, but the Way of the Cross is part of who we are and part of how we love each other. And know that it’s perfectly ok to fall in love with the humility, the true strength that is in service, and the gentle smile of Pope Francis, but never forget to fall in love with Christ too. He is the source of it all: the One who did it first and did it best.

-Tim (ST)

He Makes All Things New

classroom vacantehabemus papam seminary






Classroom Vacante!                              Hey, aren’t you guys supposed to be in class?

“Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”

                                                   -Christ to St. Francis of Assisi


I kind of felt bad for Charles. But then again, I don’t think he minded so much.

You see, he was giving a presentation about what it means to be a human person, especially the dignity that comes with that, based on images found in today’s culture. But then all of a sudden, I heard some talking in the back of the class, then they yelled out, “We’ve got a Pope!”

No way. Everything I read said this was going to take a few more days to happen. And then the kicker: our student senate president was running through the hall ways, yelling, “HABEMUS PAPAM! HABEMUS PAPAM!”

Yup, there was white smoke.

So we went running out of the classroom (I think Charles himself was one of the first ones out!), bounding down the hallways into the Rec Hall to see, yes indeed, there was white smoke! HABEMUS PAPAM!

So we were the first ones to the tv, and then slowly the whole community arrived as we waited for the new Pope to come out. Every shadow moving on that balcony, every twitch of the curtain, we were laughing and yelling with anticipation. There really is nothing like watching the end of a Conclave at a Seminary (just like watching the same with Laura at Catholic Club will always be memorable!). I never clap and cheer at a TV (well, ok, maybe for the Lakers sometimes), but this was so different.

This was the introduction to the world of our new Papa, Francis. Most of us had no idea who Jorge Bergoglio was. “He’s a Jesuit! He’s a Jesuit!” was all we were getting. And then we saw our Spanish teacher speechless, on the verge of tears. She’s from Buenos Aires, and she knows this man well. But then Cardinal Bergoglio came out on the balcony, wearing that white cassock for the first time, the simplest version he was allowed. He was seemingly overwhelmed, quiet, and then he asked us to pray for him. He bowed his head to us. The Supreme Pontiff bowed his head to us.

He’s not who I was expecting. He’s not who I was hoping. But he may very well be who we need.

I have no doubt that this man, coming from a people struggling for dignity and for life, the son of a railroad worker, and, yes, with a past that seems very complicated because of the great fight against poverty and violence in his homeland, is a beautiful answer to prayers in a way I was not expecting. For those of you who were with us at the Life Night where we talked about the Pope and the Conclave, you’ll remember we talked about a Spiritual Bouquet. This was our chance for some act of charity, to be a part of the Church’s great prayer for a new leader. Well, I have told no one about this until now, but my practice, the thing I gave up until we were once again united as a Catholic people by a Pope, was to sleep not on my bed, but on the floor of my room (don’t worry mom, I was plenty comfortable, enough! And yes, I cheated and slept in my bed at home last weekend). While it was only a small gesture of giving up something I take so for granted every night, it moved my heart in ways I’m only now beginning to see.

At first, I wanted the Conclave to hurry up and start, and to get a new Pope as soon as possible, so I could sleep in my bed again. But then I listened to some of the Cardinals saying how this could not be hurried, how this must be done right. Suddenly, it hit me that I would be on the floor for as long as it took, and I prayed that my inconvenience would not rush it. It dawned on me that my little part of “suffering” could be so intimately connected to the emptiness our Church felt without a Pope to unite us and remind us of Christ’s unfailing presence to us pilgrims. My heart rejoiced to know that I could express in this way our longing for a good, loving man to stand up for us and say, “I cannot do this on my own, but by the grace of God and the love of Christ, all things are possible.

And so I am firmly convinced that my simple act of prayer of setting aside my bed for two weeks has borne fruit, and has at the very least made me aware of the great love and simplicity of this man we now call our Papa, Francis. I am now sleeping in my nice, comfortable bed again. But those two weeks were a tremendous moment of simplicity for me. And I have no doubt, based on what we’ve seen from this man, our brother, Francis, that that simplicity that we have shared in through our Spiritual Bouquet of fasting and good works, has been answered by our God in a most beautiful way. It’s almost as if God has taken us by the hand and said, “See, I do listen, and I do make all things new.”

-Tim (ST)

My Soul Proclaims, My Soul Magnifies…

Cardinal DolanHow could one not be inspired by preachers like Cardinal Timothy Dolan? Definitely my favorite picture of one of my favorite joyful preachers (and papabile?).

“The people of God have called for more powerful and inspiring preaching. A steady diet of tepid or poorly prepared homilies is often cited as a cause for discouragement on the part of the laity and even leading some to turn away from the Church”

– USCCB-“Preaching the Mystery of Faith”

No pressure, huh? It still amazes me that part of what I’m learning to do is giving homilies. That can feel like a pretty big responsibility, a pretty big challenge.

But there’s more to it than that.

Here at the Seminary, during the last couple of weeks, my Theology I class has just started preparing and giving our first homilies in our Homiletics class. I love getting a homily ready: the reading, the prayer, the study, the practice. But for some reason, it’s just plain harder to preach to the people we know, especially when we know each other so well. There’s the added feeling of, how can we tell them what we all really need to hear, while they know our weaknesses more than anyone else? I mean, we’re all learning how to preach just the same, so it’s really easy to be sitting in Mass and critiquing others’ homilies, point by point: how did they grab my attention, were their theological points accurate, did they go on too long, too short? Ahhh! I admit, it’s so hard to preach to those I know best and who know me best. And I know Jesus felt the same at times. Just look at Luke 4:16-30. I’d better not stand near a cliff!

This may be motivation enough for me to preach well in homiletics class, but it’s not enough to help me grow to the point where I can say what needs to be said, so that we can all grow from the experience. When I was at Juan Diego House I got my first taste of preaching without notes, without reading anything, and (most dauntingly) in front of my fellow seminarians. Afterward, I was going over how I did with my Formation Advisor, Sr. Regina. She told me something I’ll never forget: without doing much more work on my preaching, I can be a good preacher, one who gets people’s attention and keeps it. But I should not settle for that. I should want to be a great preacher, but that means I’ll have to put in the work.

This is an invitation to let my prayer guide me into what needs to be said; an invitation to dwell in Scripture, and let it dwell in me; an invitation to let my heart be overwhelmed with the Eucharist, and so let it be the source and summit of my preaching. All of these things will make me a great preacher, and certainly not because of my own effort. The US Bishops later wrote reassuringly: “Homilists should not be daunted by the task and should be encouraged by the grace of their ordination and by the great tradition of preaching that belongs to the whole Church” So pretty much, preaching is not  all about me. I get to put in the effort, to grow closer to Christ in the process, and be the one you all will see at the altar and the voice you will hear. But if I ever think it’s about drawing the attention to myself, we will all suffer, we will all be distracted away from Christ, whose words are the ones that we desire to hear at the depths of our hearts.

And so, because the homily is not about me, but about all of us, we need to help each other. Pray that we might become the best, most insightful, and, at times, most challenging preachers that we can be, not for our sakes, but for yours. But also pray that we will listen to you: I know that there is so much that you have been through that I will never know for myself. Please, tell us what we need to hear too. The homily should not be some one-sided monologue, but an encounter with the living God. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s a part of our worship too, and we do it together!

So, yeah, I survived my first homily, and I even got a good grade on it (my instructor pretty much told me he wouldn’t give me an A, because then I would probably feel like I didn’t have any work to do!). I am so excited, even though it can be stressful, to give myself to this, to throw myself headlong into preaching. I hope you are too, because I would love if we could do this together!

– Tim (ST)

Don’t Let Words Get in the Way of the WORD

Sede Vacante

1 The man and his words have moved on, yet the Word remains!

pope twitter.jpg

         2 Let’s keep this in perspective: NEVER BEFORE has a Pope been so accessible to the world!

“In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thought can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.”




Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

[Sunday, 20 May 2012]

I came across this quote from Pope Emeritus (!) Benedict XVI last weekend when I was at the Religious Education Congress down in Anaheim. I had gone to a talk by the Bible Geek, Mark Hart, about Evangelization through Social Media and this was one of the messages that is still striking me, still reminding me why I write in the first place. The biggest challenge is to make sure that I do keep on cultivating my inner life.

Honestly, I don’t know if there has been anything other than the Eucharist and my daily Holy Hour that has helped me grow stronger in my vocation, closer to God and to all of you, more thankful for ministry than when I’ve been writing these reflections for you. In that same message, Benedict speaks of how important silence is for letting the best, most expressively loving words come forth: my Holy Hour can be that silence and my writing can be that expression.

These words I’ve been writing so often feel like they barely scratch the surface of what God is really doing in our lives. But when I feel that, I’ve got to remind myself to trust that what I write does come out of prayer, that I’m not writing to boast or to build myself up. From the beginning I’ve known that I have to have some kind of non-attachment to what I write. One of the most beautiful things about getting to write these reflections for you, is that I don’t know who exactly is reading this, that I know that my words are merely words and that it is God that will move us. If I start writing to impress, I get in the way of what really needs to be said. So I will not stop writing, because it truly is the fruit of silence and prayer, and I’m convinced that it needs to be written and it needs to be read, not for my own sake, but because it’s something we get to share together.

Oh, and yes, after a long time of prayer and discernment, I have decided to expand my ability to reach out, to make sure more and more people can hear about the graces of what’s going on here at the Seminary.

Yup, I am now on Twitter.

Mark Hart asked how many of us knew we should be on Twitter but just plain didn’t want to be. That’s totally me! He also said St. Paul would have had a Twitter account. Sold! It hit me just then that I had waited too long. So now I’m going to try it out. And I’m going to try to keep in mind what our great Pope Emeritus (it’s going to take a whole to get used to that title!) tells us, that we must keep in mind our inner life. As a matter of fact, I just had a challenging, but fruitful, talk with my spiritual director about this: I cannot let the ways I “broadcast” my life, whether by Facebook, or Twitter, or even through these reflections, replace the time I spend honestly, humbly, lovingly before the Lord in prayer, as friends who don’t even have to say a word to each other.

And so we have an amazing chance these days with the rise of social media. We can bombard each other with Instagrams of food  and we can over-saturate the world with less than loving messages with our Facebooks and Twitters. Or we can open our hearts to the world. We can let the fruit of our silence and prayers create something beautiful, daily, to share with the world. For example, we can post one thing each day that we’re thankful for, simple as that! We can bless the world around us with not just excessive words, but with the Word. As long as we remember not to neglect our own inner lives, as long we don’t neglect how God wants his love to overflow out of us. So we could really be blessed right now to share our inner lives with others, using our Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams, or whatever. And I am the first to admit how easy it can be to say something not loving, without deeply reflecting on it first, but like never before we have the chance to inundate the world with His love.

-Tim (ST)

(aka @Tgrumbach)

These Walls Won’t Hold Us Back

St. Johns

 They are nice walls, but sometimes we need to get outside of them!

So I wrote a little bit last time about our Field Education Class here at the Seminary. But it felt like I said so little about it, and I’m astounded every week I get back to the Seminary how much I’m getting from the experience. It’s especially great because I go out and take part in the ministry on Wednesday afternoons, and then the next morning we have a class where we get to unpack the experience. It’s called Theological Reflection (TR) and I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite experiences here at the seminary (and that’s actually saying a lot!). TR is time spent actively letting faith seek understanding of how God has moved in our lives, especially in the places where we struggled most or when ministry was so confusing. It’s meant to drive home the technical theology classes we wrestle with (or thoroughly enjoy!) and make it clear to us that this stuff does matter and it makes a difference in the world around us. And we get to be the ones who share that with those around us, whether it be with family, friends, or complete strangers.

So I thought I’d share with you a case study I wrote up for my Theological Reflection class, just to show you all a small part of what goes into a seminarian getting ready for active ministry and how blessed we are to be learning how deeply God penetrates into even the simplest, most unexpected moments of our lives. This is called a verbatim because we get to take a short piece of a conversation that we’ve had during ministry and so reflect on it and see what feeling we had before hand, how it made us feel afterward, and what we feel God is calling us toward in future ministry.

Client: Hello

Me (ST): Hello, this is the Senior Support Line calling, my name is Tim, We’re just calling to see if there’s anything we can do for you, to see if there’s anything we can help you with.

C: (sounding down, tired) No… not really.

ST: Is there anything you’d like to talk about. We’re here to listen in case you just want to talk.

C: Well… I’m just having a rough time.

ST: I’m sorry to hear that, is there anything that we can do for you.

C: Oh, it’s just that I’ve got some family issues right now and there’s nothing I feel like I can do but pray. And I’ve been praying and praying until I can’t, and then praying some more.

So began one of my conversations on January 30, 2013, with one of the clients of the Senior Support Line that I’m a part of at Camarillo Health Care District. Upon reflecting on the whole conversation and even further conversations I’ve had with her, I look back on how she sounded at first and it almost scares me. I feel that way because she sounded so down and out, but I’ve come to know her as a woman of great faith who dearly loves her family and remembers many things about them with great joy. She has even confided in me about things that she has no one else to talk to about, and that is not something I would have expected when I first heard her voice. So, some of the feelings I need to remain aware of in this case are that I was a little worried to hear someone who sounded like that, but I am also joyful that I can recognize a shift in someone’s voice and attitude when they have gone from feeling alone in a situation to knowing they have someone who will listen.

I’ve had a couple of other meaningful conversations with her since then, but this one sticks out to me because of that change in the tone of her voice and the lifting of her attitude throughout the talk we had. The issue that was really weighing on her has somewhat resolved itself, but it’s something that may remain a concern. Still, I think she is happy to know that I, or someone like me, will be there to listen. I must remain aware of this though, that it doesn’t make me feel like she needs me, but that she mostly needs someone to listen. On the other hand though, I must find that balance of also recognizing that such conversations do build relationships (and the conversation we had was uniquely ours), even though there is a limit to how far I can take that. My service is only over the phone, technically, so I’m not really allowed to reach out beyond that. So a challenge for me moving forward will be to very much keep her in my prayers, knowing that it’s unlikely I will be allowed to actually meet her in person while I’m still working at this placement, and maybe even beyond. She has even made a mention about how talking to me feels like going to Reconciliation. I shy away from this, but it also makes me smile: it will be important to see this experience as a way to grow in the listening and ability to share wisdom and experience that will be necessary for future ministry in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe that God is preparing me in ways I never expected.

In experiences like this one my time in the seminary has been turned upside-down. My first semester was almost all about transition, fitting into the new surroundings. But this semester, we’re being sent out, while still having to balance our studies with our rest and taking care of ourselves mentally and physically. For a while there, I was thinking that this was all about school work, but this has been a good wake up call.

So sometimes we seminarians find ourselves getting a little antsy, like we need to get out of here! And that’s not such a bad feeling to have. Yes, we’re so blessed to be here and we love learning what we’re learning (well, at least I can speak for myself!), but there comes a point where we just need to get out and share it with you all. After all, we’re not called to be seminarians for the rest of our lives; we’re called to move on from this place as priests!

But it’s not that we’re doing this because we think you’re all helpless and need us to come to your rescue. We’re doing it because we need to remind ourselves about the relationships and the love we’ve experienced that have led us to want to be priests in the first place! And we’re doing this because we want you to feel that same love and urgency to fall in love with God again and again and again… or like it’s the very first time! So, know that even the smallest moments of our lives are filled with chances to see how God is calling us closer to Him.  And know that there’s no way these Seminary walls can hold back God’s deep and active love from spilling out into the world.

-Tim (ST)