Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Debating Humor at Mount Angel Seminary

A short photo essay by Br. Rene Alvarez

Mr. Dominic Sternhagen from the Diocese of Salt Lake City gives the opening statement for the debate entitled "Humor is Necessary for the Spiritual Life."  The debate took place at the hilltop's coffee shop and bookstore on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, at 7 in the evening.

Team "Total Domination" does research online and discusses their next defense.  The team is Chi-Nahn Vo of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon (not pictured), Joseph Baltz from the Diocese of Santa Fe (center), Jorge Mendoza of the Diocese of Fresno (right), and Phillip Shifflet of the Diocese of Orange. 

The second team discusses their defense for the second question presented to the judges.  The team is Tim Segert, Brody Stewart, and Victor Goranov.

Jorge Mendoza gives the closing defense, reiterating his team's beginning and key arguments.

The team of judges, John Kucera, Brother Timothy Kalange, and Fr. Peter Arteaga, prepare their deliberation to determine the winner of the debate.  The verdict: Humor is necessary for the spiritual life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Formation Symposium Focuses on Communion and Church's Social Doctrine

Story by Phillip Shifflet and photos by Jesus Huerta

On Monday and Tuesday, March 13-14, 2017, Mount Angel Seminary hosted its annual formation symposium for faculty and seminarians. This year’s symposium focused on communion and global solidarity, an important principle in the Church’s social doctrine and a way of living the seminary's curricular focus on communion ecclesiology.

The seminary community was joined by Mikaele Sansone and Fr. Tom McQuaid, both of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS is the U.S. bishops’ official international humanitarian agency. Two years ago, Mount Angel Seminary formed a partnership with CRS, and this symposium is one of the fruits of that ongoing partnership.

Father Tom McQuaid speaks to the seminary community.

St. Paul illustrates the principle of solidarity well in his epistle to the church at Corinth when he writes, “If one member of Christ’s body suffers, all suffer. If one member is honored, all rejoice” (12:26).

Three workshops were held during the symposium, each of which engaged the issue of global solidarity in relation to all four pillars of seminary formation – spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral.

In addition to the presentations, faculty and seminarians had small group discussions during the two-day symposium, and they were encouraged to expand their own definition of solidarity, thinking of ways that they could put this issue into practice in their own lives and in the seminary. Seminarians also discussed practical ways that they live communion and global solidarity in the parishes they one day hope to serve as priests.

Formation and academic faculty discussing global solidarity.

Seminarian Benjamin Condon of the Diocese of Sacramento listens during a small group session.

Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 128 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Seminary Community Celebrates Tet

A short photo essay by Br. Rene Alvarez

Tet, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese calendar.  This year is the year of the Rooster according to the Vietnamese zodiac calendar.  The celebration at Mount Angel Seminary this year began with Mass in the Mount Angel Abbey church.

A lion balancing act: The Lion Dance is known as mua lan in Vietnam.  Here the lion is doing a balancing act on a 5-gallon jug.  Acrobatics and martial arts are typical, mimicking the movements of a lion.

The lion is a symbol of power, wisdom, and good fortune that chases away evil spirits and brings happiness and good luck.

The lion visits at the tables with the families while they enjoy their meals.

The MAS quartet performed "Hornpipe" from Water Music by George Friedrich Handel as part of the celebration.  Quartet members from left to right: Mr. Raymond Phillip Napuli, Diocese of San Diego; Reverend Rory Pitstick, formation faculty; Mr. Luke Stager, Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon; Mr. Cheeyoon Chun, Diocese of Orange.

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Photographer Offers a Peek at the Guardians Basketball Season

Photos by Brother Rene Alvarez

As part of his work for the journalism practicum this semester, Brother Rene Alvarez is photographing several seminary events, including this recent home basketball game.  Go Guardians!

Val Park waiting for a rebound from Pacific University's free throw.

Val Park going up against one of Pacific University's players.

Hernan Wences and Val Park watch as Luis Cervantes defends and goes for the ball.

The Guardians taking a time-out; Val Park is giving the team some pointers and strategy.

The Guardians finish a time-out with "Guardians on three!" before getting back to the game.

Val Park passing the ball to another team member (not pictured).

Luis Cervantes setting up a screen so Val Park can go in for a shot.

The 2017 Guardians: back row - Michael Hoolihan (team staff), Right Reverend Peter Eberle, Monico Heredia, Edmund Finley, Joseph Baltz, Val Park, and Luis Cervantes; front row - Robert Villablanca, Jr., Alan Soto, Hernan Wences, Joseph Schaff, and Ian Gaston.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seminarians Join the Walk for Life

Ace Tui, a recent alumnus of Mount Angel Seminary, shares this photo of some of the Mount Angel seminarians who took part in the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco last month.  Thank you, Ace!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Seminary Community Honors Vietnamese Martyrs

by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Friday, November 18, in St. Joseph Chapel at Mount Angel Seminary (MAS), the Rev. Joseph Nguyen, OSB, a monk of Mount Angel Abbey, celebrated a Mass in honor of the Vietnamese Martyrs, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions. The seminary community was joined by many others from the Vietnamese community in the Salem and Portland areas.

After the altar was incensed at the beginning of Mass, Fr. Joseph and the newly-ordained deacon, Br. John Vianney Le, OSB, offered incense before an icon of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, who were canonized in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II. The act of offering of incense is a sign of respect and reverence in the Vietnamese culture.

Commenting on the Gospel passage proclaimed at Mass (Matthew 10:17-22), Fr. Joseph noted that with these words, “Jesus announced the persecutions that his disciples would have to undergo. He spoke to his apostles and to his disciples of all times. He spoke very frankly, telling them what they may expect if they choose to follow him. Jesus did not present to his followers any false promise, but in the fullness of truth that always accompanies his words, he prepares his disciples for the words: Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents, and have them put to death.”

“What Jesus announced in the Gospel reading today,” Fr. Joseph continued, “happened in the apostolic times and has been repeated in different ages of history in various locations. That is also what happened in the time of the religious persecution of the Vietnamese Christians. Since 1533, . . .  throughout three centuries, with some periods of tranquility, the Church in Vietnam has undergone persecution . . . Over 130,000 Vietnamese Catholics were martyred.”

“You and I may not be called to shed our blood because of our faith in Jesus Christ,” he concluded, “but we are all called to be witnesses of the Gospel message. Each day we are challenged to be faithful to the vocations which God has given us. Each day we are called to live with Christian integrity, to speak the truth with love, and to be sacraments of God’s presence and love to one another and to the whole world.”

Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 128 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Theological Symposium on Christology and Trinitarian Theology

Photo and story by Phillip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Monday, November 21 and Tuesday, November 22, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) held its annual theological symposium as part of the newly established Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer lecture series. This year, Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap., was the keynote speaker.

Fr. Weinandy is a Capuchin priest and renowned scholar in the fields of Christology and Trinitarian Theology. He holds an M.A. in Systematic Theology and a Doctorate in Historical Theology. Over the last forty years, he has held various academic positions at institutions such as Georgetown University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Oxford, and two years ago was appointed to the International Theological Commission by Pope Francis. His doctoral dissertation was entitled The Immutability and Impassibility of God in Reference to the Doctrine of the Incarnation, and he is the author of dozens of popular books and articles.

Fr. Weindandy’s symposium was entitled “Issues in Christology,” and spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. All conferences were followed by a period for questions and discussion.

Rt. Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey and Chancellor of Mount Angel Seminary (left); and Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap. (right)

In his first conference, he reflected on a contemporary question in Christology, namely the human consciousness of Christ. In his second conference, he presented the traditional doctrine of God, while noting some difficulties he saw in the formulation and proposing a new Trinitarian ontology which has ecumenical significance. In his final session, he addressed the question: “Does God suffer?” In this conference, he offered counter arguments to the claims of process theology, which, for various reasons, denies God’s immutability (i.e., God cannot change) and impassibility (i.e., God does not undergo passionate changes of state).

It goes without saying that these issues are of utmost importance in the life of both seminarians and priests. Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, makes reference to this when it quotes the fathers of the synod that met in 1992 to discuss “the formation of priests in circumstances of the present day”: “The priest’s identity,” they wrote, “like every Christian identity, has its source in the Blessed Trinity.” If our identity is staked on and has its source in the Blessed Trinity—how important it is, then, to be familiar with the doctrine as such.
Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS, and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Last semester, MAS held a formation symposium with Fr. William Holzinger and Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes, FSE, who presented on “Social Media and Virtual Realities.” Last year’s theological symposium was focused on the meaning of the cross in Scripture, with conferences by Rev. Donald Senior, CP.
Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 128 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Day of Recollection Focuses on Four Last Things

by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Wednesday, November 2, 2016, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) hosted its bi-annual day of recollection for all diocesan seminarians. Seminarians attended the morning Mass in the Abbey Church, so that the hilltop community could celebrate All Souls Day in common.

Two conferences were given by Fr. Thomas Reeves, OCD, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Fr. Thomas, an alumnus of Mount Angel Seminary, serves as a spiritual director for the seminary and the rector of the House of Studies for the California-Arizona province of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Mount Angel, Oregon.

Fr. Thomas began his conferences with a quotation from Cardinal John Henry Newman’s sermon, “The Second Spring,” noting that the Church invites us during the month of November to pray for the souls of the dead, but also to never despair of God’s mercy. Responding to this invitation, his conferences focused on the traditional four last things: death, judgement, hell, and heaven.

In the morning, he reflected on death and judgement. “The reason that we have hope when facing death,” he said, “is because Jesus Christ has given new meaning to death . . . And now the souls that walk through the door of death with Jesus will have the light of life.”

“In the presence of Christ,” Fr. Thomas said of judgment after death, “the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal, even to its furthest consequences, the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life. And everyone will see the grace of God’s design and his plan for humanity.”

In the afternoon, he reflected on hell and heaven. “In the Book of Genesis the Lord asked Adam after he had sinned, ‘Where are you?’ And that’s a question we’ve tried to answer today . . . Where am I personally in my relationship with Jesus Christ? We began this morning by reflecting on death and judgement that we shall all pass through; and this afternoon we’re concluding with the two possible ends, either life with or without God; and we go now to the rest of the evening considering where we are.”

The day was spent in silence to encourage personal prayer and devotion. Fr. Thomas was available throughout the day for individual spiritual direction.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Reflecting on Movie Reviews with the UGP

Editor's Note: After completing his final centerpiece for the Unfamiliar Genre Project, Br. Jesus Romo also composed this final reflection in which he shares his overall experience with this major component of the journalism class at Mount Angel Seminary.

A Final Reflection on the Unfamiliar Genre Project

I often had the experience of feeling out of context when members of my religious community were discussing movies because I did not know much about the components of a movie.  There are two aspects that I wanted to learn from this project.  First, I wanted to learn how to identify the key elements of a movie.  Secondly, I wanted to learn how to be able to think critically about movies and give my own opinion.  I will say that throughout this journey, I learned more than simply these two elements.
The first step I took in the project was to look for samples of movie reviews.  I remember going to the library and asking for the Statesman Journal, a local newspaper.  Since they did not have it, my first attempt at researching the topic was not very positive.  The next time that I had the journalism class, I went back to the library with Dr. Kleiman, my journalism professor, hoping to find the newspaper, and it was not there.  We looked at other journals, and we did not find any movie reviews in them. 

Another option for my research was the internet, so I signed up for the New York Times website and I found many movie reviews there.  However, since I wanted to see a greater variety of reviews, I looked for more at the Catholic News Service web page and at rogerebert.com, and there I found what I wanted.  Although, the experience did not seem positive at the beginning, I learned later on that everything I did was part of the journey, and every step was important.

I chose to look at movie reviews of films that I had already watched in order to have a better understanding of the review and how it related to the movie.  Once I chose the samples that were of interest, I began to read them.  I had not read any movie reviews before, so it was a new experience for me.  Some of them had vocabulary that was unfamiliar to me, so it took me longer to read and understand them, but I knew, from my experience at the beginning of the project, that it did not matter how much time I was going to spend because everything was part my journey. 

From reading the samples, I learned that there are different rhetorical devices that I could use to write my own movie review, such as questions that help to engage the audience and comparing the movie with another movie of the same genre.  I also learned that I need to be patient and see the value of every step that I take on any future project because everything is part of the learning process.

After my research and reading different samples of movie reviews, the next step was to choose a movie that I wanted to review.  I had a couple in mind. One was the classic story Gone with the Wind, written by Margaret Mitchel, and the other was Peaceful Warrior, a film based on a true story, written by Dan Millman and Kevin Bernhardt.  After thinking for a while about which one to choose, I decided to do my review on Peaceful Warrior because it is a story that I identify with.  I identify with the story because the transformation that Dan Millman, the main character, went through is similar to the process that I am going through in my formation as a Missionary of the Holy Spirit and as a future priest.

The next step in my project was to put into words what I had learned from my research, from reading movie reviews samples, and from watching the movie.  I did not know where to start, but as soon I began to write, I remembered what I learned in journalism class. The questions who, what, why, how, when, and where should be answered in a narration.  These questions served as a guide for my writing, but I found some other difficulties. 

One of the difficulties that I had was thinking critically about the movie.  I believe that because of my personality I find it difficult to judge other people’s work and give my own opinion about them, especially when I have to refer to a negative aspect of their work.  In the first revision of my paper, Dr. Kleiman encouraged me to include more of my own opinion in some parts of my review.  Although it was difficult, I did it, and it helped me to express what I thought about the movie.

Another skill that I was able to practice in the process of writing my review was being open to receive feedback and corrections.  Fr. Alex Rubio, MSpS, a member of my religious community, helped me by making grammatical corrections and he also helped me to choose words that better express the ideas that I wanted to communicate.

Now that I have finished my project, I feel pleased with the work that I did and with everything I have learned throughout this process.  Now I am able to more clearly identify the key elements of a movie; therefore, I can be more critical when I watch a movie and be part of movie conversations.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reviewing Films with the UGP

Editor's Note: This semester journalism student Brother Jesus Romo choose to focus on movie reviews for his Unfamiliar Genre Project.  The review below is the final centerpiece of his project.

* * *

Reality Vs Fiction: A Movie Review of Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior
Cast: Scott Mechlowicz as Dan Millman, Nick Nolte as Socrates, Amy Smart as Joy, Tim DeKay as Coach Garrick, Ashton Holmes as Tommy, Paul Wesley as Trevor, B.J. Britt as Kyle

Directed by Victor Salva

Written by Kevin Bernhardt

Based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Genres: Drama, Romance, Sport

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 120 minutes

June 22, 2006

If this movie is based on a true story, why does it have many scenes that could never happen in reality?  The movie Peaceful Warrior is based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, which is based on a true story. Within the fiction scenes in the film the author wants to show the reality that Dan Millman, played by Scott Mechlowicz, was experiencing throughout his internal transformation in order to inspire his audience.

In the first scene of the movie we find Dan Millman having a nightmare.  In the dream he is doing gymnastics when he falls and his leg breaks off into many pieces.  Socrates, played by Nick Nolte, appears in his dream sweeping up the little pieces of Dan’s leg.  This scene is important because it is a foreshadowing that the author uses to highlight another scene that will come later in the movie.
After the nightmare Dan cannot fall back asleep so he goes to a gas station, and there he meets Socrates who is the gas station attendant.  When Dan exits the gas station’s store, he turns back and sees Socrates on the roof.  Given that there is no way for him to have gotten up there so quickly, Dan is amazed, and he asks Socrates how he got up there.  Why does the author use this supernatural event at this moment of the movie?  Perhaps he wants to represent a striking experience for Dan which makes him come back to Socrates, but, it would have been more inspiring if the author had stuck more to reality.
After the encounter at the gas station with Socrates, Dan begins a process of inner transformation.  He is a prideful person.  Dan believes that he has everything he needs in life: he comes from a wealthy family, he has good grades in college, he is a good gymnast, he has friends, and he can have as many girls as he wants to sleep with him.  Here, Mechlowicz could have done a better job portraying an arrogant character, so his transformation process and his role as a dynamic character would have been more noticeable to the audience.  

 Since he is not able to sleep at night, he goes to visit Socrates again at the gas station.  Here the author shows that Dan is looking for deeper meaning in his life.  Dan thinks that he knows everything, so he tells Socrates to ask him anything he wants; therefore, Socrates asks him if he is happy.  Dan does not feel comfortable and does not know what to answer because this question moved a deep feeling of emptiness inside of him.

The relationship between Socrates and Dan helps us to see that we need the guidance of others in our searching for happiness.  Nolte does a remarkable job performing as Socrates.  He is like a wise father that knows what is better for his son.  Socrates has the wisdom and the experience to know what is better for Dan, but Dan have to discover it for himself, and Socrates is there just to guide him in his journey. 

This film is worth watching especially by youth who feel empty and do not find meaning in what they do.  In this way Peaceful Warrior is similar to the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  They are both based on a true story, and the main characters think that they can do anything by themselves until they find someone who questions them and accompanies them in the important decisions of their lives.  This movie is also worth watching by youth because it shows that we do not always have the control over our own plans for life.  About halfway through the movie, Dan is driving a motorcycle, and he hits a car at an intersection.  His leg breaks into seventeen pieces, and pieces of glass from the car fall onto the floor, which is reminiscent of the opening scene.  The doctor tells him that he will be able to walk again, but he will not be able to compete in gymnastics again.
There are some scenes in this movie that are confusing because it is hard to tell what is actually happening or what is simply the imagination of a character.  For instance, there is a scene where Dan is following Socrates, and he enters into the gym where his coach and his companions are.  Socrates is already seated on a rafter that supports the roof of the gym; Dan climbs up to where Socrates is, and he begins to hear everyone else’s thoughts.  Socrates wants Dan to be aware of how thoughts can take control over him if he does not focus on the present.  At that moment, Dan falls from the rafter, and all of a sudden, they both appear at the gas station.  I was surprised and confused by this unexpected shift of scenes, so this feelings made me focus my attention on the teaching that Socrates was giving Dan.
The soundtrack is proper for the events that are happening and helps the audience to get more engaged with the movie.  It also helps the audience to figure out that a significant event is about to happen.  For example, the soundtrack that is used when Dan is going to crash on his motorcycle allows the audience to imagine that a tragedy is going to occur.

Peaceful Warrior is worth watching because it shows the value of true friendship and true love.  When Dan is going through this crisis, Joy, played by Amy Smart, Dan’s friend and a college student who studies at the same college that Dan does, gives him unconditional support; along with Socrates, she accompanies him in these difficult moments.

One of the most intense scenes in the movie --and a key moment to Dan’s transformation-- is when he intended to commit suicide. Dan goes to the top of a tower intending to jump from there.  There he encounters another person just like him who is a part of himself that he has to let go.  I supposed that this person represents his own pride.  This is also one of the confusing scenes because we do not know if Dan actually went to the tower or if it was happening internally.  When he let go of this part of himself he suddenly appeared on his bed.  Because this film is a based on a true story, the author could have made a more clear distinction between the things that physically occurred and those that happened internally.

The author leaves the audience with the question of whether Socrates is real or if he only represents Dan’s intuition.  Near the end there is a scene where Socrates and Dan are at a bar and Socrates tells Dan that he was the one who chose him.  Dan asks him if he is saying that he made him up and Socrates just smiles.  By the end of the movie, Dan wants his coach and his companions to meet Socrates, so he goes to look for him at the gas station, and Socrates is no longer there; someone else is working in his place.  I do not know what the author’s purpose for doing this was, but it leaves the audience with uncertainty and curiosity.