Friday, May 1, 2015

Exploring Book Reviews - Carl Sisolak's Unfamiliar Genre Project

As part of the journalism practicum this semester, Carl Sisolak, a Theology One seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Seattle, worked with book reviews through the Unfamiliar Genre Project.  He reviewed Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Father James Martin, SJ, and also shares his final reflection on his work.

The Unfamiliar Genre Project is an opportunity for a student to learn about the characteristics of a genre with which he has never worked.  The project includes researching samples of the chosen genre, writing an annotated bibliography, and keeping a research journal.  It concludes with the student writing their own piece in their genre, as well as a final reflection on the project.

Carl Sisolak with Jesus: A Pilgrimage
Credit: Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

A Walk in the Footsteps of Jesus Becomes Our Journey Too: A Review of Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin

"Getting to know Jesus, like getting to know anyone, has been a pilgrimage" explains James Martin, SJ.

Martin offers this beginning to a deeply reflective view of the Gospels as seen from one who is walking in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land.  In his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, James Martin takes us along with him on a journey not only to present day Holy Land sites but also on an introspective journey into the Gospels themselves.  This is a journey all are invited to take, whether one is a faithful believer or a non-believer.

James Martin, prior to becoming a Jesuit priest, was a graduate from the Wharton School of Business and had been working at General Electric.  Martin has experience writing and editing on various aspects of his faith for different kinds of media.  He had written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  He has been interviewed for TV and radio.  His accomplishments include his books The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, Between Heaven and Mirth, and Together on Retreat.  He is currently editor-at-large for America Magazine, where he has published articles such as "Life's Second Half."

Martin mentioned a number of sources that were beneficial to him in his writing of this book.  He mentions the Sacra Pagina series edited by Daniel J. Harrington as a line-by-line analysis of the New Testament.  He also mentions A Marginal Jew by the Rev. John P. Meier as having been helpful during his travels.

In beginning this journey, Martin reminds us that Jesus was a real person and not just an imagined person conjured up to make a good story.  The element of knowing the reality of Jesus provides a deeper dimension to go along with the experience of exploring the world that Jesus knew and participated in.  Martin reminisced, "Overall, the pilgrimage made the Gospels more vivid, deepened my understanding of specific stories, and afforded me an enormous amount of fascinating information about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.  This is why the Holy Land is often called the Fifth Gospel."

The book also provides personal insights of the author's reactions to what he learned about himself.  Martin realizes in his reflections of Jesus' rejection by those from his own hometown that when others reject or disagree with what he has written or done, that he could escape from an overwhelming desire to be liked by others.

Martin says it felt like God was asking him on that retreat, "Must everyone like you?  Mustn't the desire to be liked by everyone die?  Doesn't it need to die if you are to have any sort of freedom?"  Even though Martin acknowledges that he can truly need correcting, like Jesus who also was rejected, he does not have to always be worrying about being liked either.

Martin designed Jesus: A Pilgrimage to read as an itinerary of travel and spiritual reflection.  Each section describes a new location related to biblical locations found in the New Testament.  Martin also includes biblical references so that, in his own words, "I hope to bring you [the reader] into that trip as I experienced it."

I found this book really made me feel as if I could go to these places that Martin visited, find the person of Jesus there, and have a conversation with Him as though I were visiting a friend.  I also felt as if I could see the news headlines describing the events in Jesus' life taking place as current events that just happened yesterday and today.

I do believe this book would be an excellent spiritual experience for other seminarians and readers who wish to learn about Jesus' ministry and come closer to encountering the real person of Jesus that we proclaim through our Scriptures.

Journalism With A Purpose: Final Reflection

I began this journalism class Unfamiliar Genre Project with a feeling of excitement.  When I read a good book or piece of literature, I often want to share it with others in hopes that they might experience the same enthusiasm I had with the book.  I hope that other readers find the book useful to their spiritual growth as well.

I appreciated the idea of taking a piecemeal approach to building up this project.  First, in starting with attaining examples from other reviewers, I was able to see what techniques they employed to make their reviews more effective.  I could tell after reading their reviews that I could decide which books they were reviewing that I would want to read or not read.  I begin to think of the book review as an advertisement for the book.  In many cases this is one of the goals of these reviews.

I had not been aware of the amount of time and work it takes to be a skilled journalist until I began taking journalism classes at Mount Angel.  At the same time, though, I found that I can express myself and be creative in my writing without losing the main message the subject matter is supposed to convey.  I have learned how writing respects and engages the audience who would read what I have written.

This creativity and honesty is just as important in doing a book review project like the one I did.  There is definitely a commitment on the part of the reviewer to present an accurate understanding of the book and subject being covered.  I thought at first that book reviewers just quickly made a review up of their opinion in the few minutes they had after reading the book they were covering.  I am realizing this is not the case at all.

What I could not allow myself to do with this book review was to make it all just one subjective rundown of my opinion, even though that is an important part of it.  I had to remind myself that I had to do my review based on the author's perspective as well as my own.  I could see the need for this balanced approach in the impact that quotations from the author have in both the sample book reviews and in the project I was doing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Seminary Community Gathers for 48th Annual Talent Show

The evening of Friday, May 24, students, faculty and staff, and friends of Mount Angel Seminary held the 48th Annual Seminary Talent Show.  The twelve acts included a variety of vocal and instrumental music; original music compositions, essays, and slideshows; and a jump rope routine.

The 1st place winner of the talent show, Ivan Mora, wrote and performed an original song, "We All Can Smile," which he performed with fellow seminarians Gerard Juan, Ethan Alano, and Emilio Gonzalez:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five Seminarians Present Capstone Projects

Story by Philip J. Shifflet

Over the past two weeks, several fourth-year college seminarians presented their Capstones projects in the Mount Angel Abbey Library Auditorium.

On Tuesday, Apr. 7 at 12:15 pm, Jesus Sanchez (an affiliate of Mount Angel Abbey, who will enter the monastery as a postulant this summer) presented on the relationship between Hopkins’ notion of inscape and Heidegger’s notion of truth. His thesis is: "Developing the convergence between the works of Gerard Manley Hopkins with the thought of Martin Heidegger, particularly the relationships between inscape-instress and Ereignis-dwelling, will bring out from Hopkins poetry what Heidegger calls man's belonging to language."

On Tuesday, Apr. 13 at 10 am, Stephen Cieslak (Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon) presented on the philosophical and scientific benefits of the family. His thesis is: “The cultivation of the values of the human person within the context of the family may help increase the natural support system and probability of success in the individual. Furthermore, centering this family on God and de-centering the self through a familial self-giving love are ways to counter the culture of depression.”

At 12:10 pm on the same day, Dario Rinaldi (Diocese of Honolulu), an Oblate of Mount Angel Abbey, presented on the spiritual benefits of silence in the monastic tradition. His thesis is: “The spiritual life should include a regular period of meditative silence of a monastic sense in the Benedictine tradition so that, in an environment devoid of distraction, one’s spirituality may mature.”

On Thursday, Apr. 14 at 10 am, John Hesla (Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon) presented on St. Augustine’s notion of grace in the works of C.S. Lewis and Flannery O’Connor. His thesis is: “Augustine’s understanding of humanity’s fallen state and the necessity for God’s grace illuminates C.S. Lewis’s and Flannery O’Connor’s works and creates a bridge between theology and literature.”

At 12:10 pm on the same day, Zachary Ferell (Diocese of Tucson) presented on the symbolism contained within Green’s The Power and the Glory. His thesis is: “Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory contains complex symbolism that ought to be interpreted with a Catholic historical approach starting with Our Lady of Guadalupe, as it provides literary and cultural insight and appreciation for the author as he demonstrates the struggles of a Catholic priest in Mexico after the Mexican Revolution of 1910.”

Select Capstone projects will be available through the Mount Angel Abbey Library by summer.

Guest Speaker Looks to Seminarians to Strike Up Ecumenical Dialogues

Story by Carl Sisolak

On Friday Mar. 20, the Mount Angel Abbey Bookstore was the location for a discussion on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue presented by Fr. Al Baca from the Diocese of Orange. The event was hosted by seminarians Dario Rinaldi and Martin Magyar, the chairs for the Ecumenical Committee.

Baca said that we all have grown up in an ecumenical and inter-religious atmosphere. Baca said that Catholics were doing ecumenism long before the Second Vatican Council.

Baca began with making some initial and important distinctions between ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. Inter-religious dialogue is with Non-Christian Churches and other religions such as the Hindi, the Buddhists and the Muslims, as well as the Mormons.

The goal of ecumenism, said Baca, “ is full organic Communion where one day we will all participate in the seven sacraments.”  Baca said, “There are non-negotiable elements of this goal such as seven sacraments as noted and a belief in the Trinity.”

Baca then proceeded to speak about those groups that are closest to Roman Catholicism and some of the ways that he and his Ecumenical Committee of 25 in his office are trying to promote this dialogue and sense of unity, including between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. These churches are closest to Roman Catholicism because, said Baca, “the essentials are already in place and we can focus on the non-essentials.”     

In working with the Orthodox, Baca spoke about ideas and suggestions for starting dialogue. These are not only ideas that his ecumenical team are implementing but also ideas and suggestions that seminarians could put into practice.

Baca’s approach includes a kind of door-to-door evangelization in his community in Orange.  For example, he would knock on people’s door and ask them if he could do anything for them, such as pray for their needs or even just ask if he could talk with them for a few minutes.

Baca said, “Go out of your way to smile, say hello . . . The Roman Catholic Church expects you to be ecumenical.” Baca concluded, “If we don’t keep reaching out we are going to become isolated.  The Roman Catholic Church is always involved in the community.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

All Relative Defeats MAS Guardians

News Brief by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

This evening the MAS Guardians volleyball team lost a four-game match to a local team, All Relative.  In the spirit of good sportsmanship, the Guardians and their opponents added a fifth game at the end of the night.

The Guardians included several guest players for the match, including Fr. Theo Lange, a formation director for Mount Angel Seminary.  In the first game, Fr. Theo achieved several good serves and an excellent dig that resulted in a score for the Guardians.  All Relative won the first game, 24-26.

The second game included longer rallies, with the score tied at 22-22, 23-23, and 24-24 before the Guardians pulled ahead to win 26-24.

All Relative took the third game 23-25 and took the match after the fourth game with a win of 27-29.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mount Angel Seminary Holds Symposium on Lectio Divina

Story and photo by Philip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Tuesday, March 17, Mount Angel Seminary held its annual formation symposium. This year, Fr. Michael Casey, OCSO, was the keynote speaker. Fr. Casey is a renowned writer on monastic spirituality. He is a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria, Australia. His books include Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living: Reflections on the Fourth Chapter of Benedict's Rule, Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer, and Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina.

From left to right: Rt. Rev. Peter Eberle, OSB, director of Human Formation at MAS; Rev. Michael Casey, OCSO; and Sister Judith Bloxham, associate director of Human Formation at MAS.

Fr. Casey’s symposium was on the practice of lectio divina, and it spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. In the morning conferences, he gave a brief history of lectio divina, which is a slow, meditative reading of Sacred Scripture or other spiritual writings. Fr. Casey spoke of the importance of regularity in one’s sacred reading, the time allocation given to sacred reading in ancient monasteries, and the different types of books that were read by medieval monks. In the afternoon conference, he reflected on what he called the book of experience – the notion that “the full meaning of the Bible is yielded only through a relationship with God.”

Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, discusses the importance of the Word of God in the life of a priest: “the priest himself ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic or exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings.”
After the community Mass in the Abbey Church, the faculty, staff, students, and guests of MAS gathered in the Damian Center for the beginning of the formation symposium. The two latter conferences were followed by a period for questions. Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Earlier this school year, to celebrate the inauguration of its Master of Arts in Philosophy program, MAS held a philosophical symposium with Prof. William Desmond, in addition to its annual theological symposium, this year with Rev. Msgr. Kevin Irwin.

Mount Angel Seminary, established by pioneer monks, began forming men for the priesthood in 1889. MAS is 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 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MAS Guardians Volleyball Takes a Loss

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In its first match of the season, the MAS Guardians volleyball team faced Los Pumas, a local team from Salem, Oregon.

The Guardians lost to Los Pumas in 3 games, 18-25, 6-25, and 20-25.  In the spirit of good sportsmanship, the Guardians and Los Pumas played an additional game to round out the evening.

The volleyball team and their fans were supported by a 3-man pep band consisting of a trumpet, saxophone, and keyboard.

Friday, March 20, 2015

MAS Seminarian Remembers Father Paschal Cheline with a Poem

This week Phillip Shifflet, a college seminarian studying for the Diocese of Orange, wrote a poem in memory of Father Paschal Cheline, OSB.  Father Paschal, a monk of Mount Angel Abbey and a member of the faculty of Mount Angel Seminary, died Friday, March 13, 2015.

MAS alumnus Dean Marshall also wrote a reflection honoring Father Paschal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MAS Alumnus Writes Reflection Honoring Father Paschal Cheline

As many friends and students join the monastic community of Mount Angel Abbey to mourn the passing and to celebrate the life of Father Paschal Cheline, OSB, MAS alumnus Dean Marshall has written a reflection, "On the Passing of a Friend and Mentor", honoring Father Paschal.

Marshall shares the gifts of literature and faith that Father Paschal offered him.  May he intercede for us and rest in peace!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lay Student Expands His Life Experience with Study at Mount Angel

Story and photo by Carl Sisolak

35-year-old Brian Morin, a lay student at Mount Angel Seminary, said “I feel very connected to the seminarians here and feel very welcomed by the peaceful community” of Mount Angel.  “It is like Cheers where everybody knows your name.”

Brian Morin in one of the classrooms of Annunciation.

Officer and Teacher

For Morin a love for knowledge and learning is par for the course. Morin grew up in the New England town of Vernon, CT. After high school at East Catholic in Manchester, Morin signed up for ROTC training. He attended The College of Holy Cross in Worchester, MA, and received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2002. He was commissioned into the Navy as an officer, and for 10 ½ years served around the country and around the world on active duty.

Morin worked for a time at the University of Maine teaching Naval Sciences.  He met his future wife, Shavonne, in the school’s Newman Center.  Shavonne was a student in the University of Maine’s master of forestry program. In February 2013, Morin transitioned to the US Naval Reserves at the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In the summer of 2010, Morin and Shavonne moved to Everett, WA, and then to Albany, OR, in 2014.

On realizing that he was nearing the end of the requirements needed for his master's in library and information science, Morin said, “I always wanted to get a master's in theology.” He said, “I hope to be a theological librarian at the university level or in a seminary library or even a position in a historical archives."  While studying at Mount Angel, Morin has been given the opportunity to work as an intern in the Mount Angel Abbey Library.

Mount Angel Lay Student

Morin said, “I stumbled across Mount Angel’s website" and learned about the graduate school.  Morin said he also learned about Mount Angel from seeing the seminarian vocation poster for the Archdiocese of Portland at his church, St Mary’s in Albany.

Morin said he brings to his church ministry what he learns at Mount Angel. He was asked by his pastor to lead a discussion group on Fr. Robert Barron’s video series Catholicism. He also leads another group that discusses the works of G.K. Chesterton. He said he chose G.K. Chesterton for his works that balance faith and reason.  He said, “I would like to use what I learn at Mount Angel to teach RCIA at my parish as well.”

This is the second semester of his first year here. He then will have two more years of study to complete his master's degree. He said, “I haven’t yet decided on a thesis topic yet, but it could be in the areas of either Celtic or Benedictine spirituality.”  Morin said his favorite classes include church history and patristic studies.

Hopefully in reading about Brian Morin, the rest of the Mount Angel community will now get to know Morin’s name.