Thursday, February 28, 2013

Father Jeremy's Letter from Rome

Father Jeremy Driscoll, a monk of Mount Angel Abbey and a member of the theology faculty of Mount Angel Seminary, is currently in Rome, and he has offered the letter below to the monastic and seminary communities as he witnesses the historic events of the last few weeks.

February 27, 2013

Dear Abbot Gregory and Confreres, Msgr. Betschart and Colleagues, Seminarians and Students:

I have wanted to address this letter to you all for nearly two weeks now.  There is such an intense atmosphere in Rome since Pope Benedict announced his resignation on February 11.  I say "intense," struggling for a more precise word, but there is a dizzying range of reactions and feelings - in myself, in the people from many different countries whom I encounter daily, in the various archbishops and cardinals with whom I occasionally have contact in my work, and in the media, whether friendly or not.  It is a lot to try and sort out.

I don't pretend to have any special insight as to what it all means or will mean.  I have no inside track on who the new pope might be, and I'm pretty sure there is no such inside track.  Even so, I do feel the privilege of being in Rome at this historic time, and I want to share with you some of my experiences because I believe they belong to us all, to my monastic community and my seminary community.  I hope I share best simply by recording some of what I have done.

The Pope resigned on Monday before Ash Wednesday, when he usually comes here to Sant' Anselmo and begins a procession in prayer with Benedictines and Dominicans to Santa Sabina (down the block from us) for the Ash Wednesday liturgy.  That traditional liturgy, in which I have participated many times with Pope Benedict and before him with Pope John Paul II, was changed to St. Peter's because of vast crowds wanting to see Pope Benedict, knowing this would be his last public Mass as pope.  

Nonetheless, the Pope had kindly asked that we Benedictines and Dominicans still be involved, and several hundred of us formed the penitential procession.  Rather than walking the streets of the Aventino while chanting the litany of the saints, we walked slowly, single file down the whole length of St. Peter's to the melody of the same chants that were so familiar to me from these processions through the years.

We had front row seats at the strange, historic event.  The liturgy in that space is, of course, beautiful and grand; and the texts and scriptures of Ash Wednesday, along with the austere sign of ashes cast upon so many thousands of heads, make for strong prayer.  But I felt a particular sadness, not to mention other unrecognizable emotions, as I kept on thinking that this is Pope Benedict's last public Mass and his last homily.  There was a bizarre sense of this somehow being his funeral, but he was the main celebrant.  In any case, it was a privilege to be so directly involved in this Mass.  The Pope's homily was forceful, as always, but I couldn't stop also thinking, "Am I not to hear any more of these wonderful homilies again?"

At the end of Mass Cardinal Bertone gave a short speech addressed to the Holy Father that tried to put some words to what everyone was feeling.  This was followed by a long steady, very long, applause.  I read in the papers next day that it lasted some four minutes.  It was a unique kind of applause. Often an applause will build, might turn into shouts, will achieve a rhythmic union, will fade and perhaps pick up strength again.  But this applause was just steady and strong.  For myself, though, I felt frustrated, and perhaps others did as well.  I thought, "Is this our only thanks, is this our only closure to the extraordinary ministry of this Pope?  Do we just clap, and then he goes away?"

There are many opinions, inevitably, about the Pope's resignation.  In this context I don't presume to share my own.  One can't help but have them, but I'm not inclined to think that they are particularly significant right now.  Pope Benedict made this decision, as he said, with a clear and serene conscience.  We have to trust in that and pray fervently for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the choice of his successor.  

History will have much to say which cannot be said now inside these events.  There will be much to say because, for better or for ill, this papal resignation certainly "changes the game" of who is pope, what being pope means, and how does a pope live out his ministry in rough and tumble times.  I think it is this "Game Changer" dimension of the Pope's decision that renders the atmosphere of the City so intense in these days - intense and confused.  At the very least, it is "quite interesting."

Sunday, February 24, was the last Angelus blessing that Pope Benedict would give.  I decided to go to Piazza San Pietro to receive this blessing.  I had been there as he walked out on the balcony just after having been elected and received his first blessing then.  I wanted to receive it again one last time.  I went with Msgr. Kevin Irwin, the fine liturgist from Catholic University of America and my good friend.  (He is in Rome this semester with CUA's study abroad program).  Msgr. Steven Lopes invited us to join him on Cardinal Levada's terrace, which has an amazing view of the whole piazza and the window from which the Pope would speak.  Cardinal Levada had not yet returned from the States.

Before I went up, I lingered in the piazza as it continued to fill with enormous crowds of people streaming in.  There were all kinds of people in various sorts of lively groups.  The papers next day said there were some 200,000 people there.  But in the end it was good to be above all this and see it from the perspective of the Cardinal's terrace.  On the opposite side of the street I could see Cardinal Sandri all alone on his terrace. (Could he be the next pope?)  On the roof of the building opposite I could also see Cardinal Ouellet.  (Could he be the next pope?)  Then I could see Archbishop Fisichella, along with Msgr. Graham Bell and many others.

Father Jeremy in the Piazza
Father Jeremy on Cardinal Levada's terrance with St. Peter's and the Pope's window (far right) in the background
The view of the Pope from Cardinal Levada's terrace
The view of the crowd from the terrace

I hope I don't do wrong in confessing that somehow I found the Pope's short address disappointing.  I can't imagine I was alone.  It was just a regular Angelus address delivered as usual, with only a slight acknowledgement of the fact that he would never stand at this window and give his blessing again.  In some ways this is typical of his consistent refusal to let attention fall on him.  But is it possible not to let attention fall on the Pope at a moment like this?  There was such a huge crowd there, obviously wanting to express its love and appreciation, many having come long distances to do so, and he allowed so little scope for that.  Why?

Sant' Anselmo is a rich place to live and try to absorb the meaning of all the questions these events provoke.  That same Sunday evening, for example, Abbot Jean Charles Nault was here from the Abbey of St. Wandrille in France, and Fr. Geraldo Gonzalez y Lima (Brazil) gathered a nice group for a small dinner in the Abbot Primate's parlor.

Present were Fr. Olivier Marie Sarr and his confrere Br. Paul Kolie (Senegal), Fr. Luigi Gioia (Italy), Fr. Xavier Joly (France), Fr. Wolfgang Fischer (Austria), Fr. Fadi Imad (Lebanon), two lay people from France, and myself.  Abbot Jean Charles had just come to visit with Cardinal Ouellet since they are friends from the time when the Cardinal (before becoming a cardinal) was a professor at the Lateran and on his thesis board.  (I too was on The same board with the future cardinal, and that was the first time I met him.  I've seen him on several other occasions since, and he always remembered that time.  He clearly has high esteem for Abbot Jean Charles.)  Obviously with Abbot Jean Charles fresh from such a visit, we had plenty for a lively discussion all evening.

Today, February 27, was Pope Benedict's last general audience.  Ecclesiastical schools cancelled school this morning so that people could go to the audience, and many in our house went.  I did not go myself but chose to watch it live on television.  I wanted to see the whole crowd and the many faces in it, which you can't actually do if you are part of it.  I especially wanted to see which cardinals and bishops would be there and knew that the television would keep scanning that part of the crowd.  (And it did.)

It was a beautiful sunny morning, even if quite cold (around 40 degrees).  The Pope's words were much more satisfying than Sunday's Angelus address.  He spoke directly about his resignation and spoke again of the reasons for it.  He reflected back on his years as pope and offered many thanks.  He expressed a sense of being united with the whole Church.  His  beautiful words are, of course, available to any who want to read them, so I don't take it as my task even to attempt to summarize.  I just report that there was great warmth in the exchange and more ample scope given to people's desire to express their love and gratitude toward him.

At the end he spoke of St. Benedict, "whose name I bear," and said that Benedict serves as an example for him in his new life of prayer he intended to take up within the heart of the Vatican.  He seems to intend to make his presence there, among other things, a symbolic act: ". . . in the service of prayer, I remain, so to speak, within the enclosure of St. Peter."

Tonight at Vespers all of Sant' Anselmo's students who come from outside (some 250) will join us in a special prayer for the Holy Father.  Tomorrow is the Pope's last day in office, with no public appearances scheduled.  He will meet with all the cardinals in the morning and fly by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo at 5 p.m.  I imagine we will hear him fly over, and I suspect, if I hear that, I'll experience yet another little prick in my heart.  What a man of stature, what a great, great man God has given to the Church!

Having you all in my thoughts and prayers, I wish you, the Pax romana!

Father Jeremy

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More Photos of Santo Nino

Enjoy more photos of the celebration of Santo Nino that took place at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary last month.  Yesterday we published a more extensive story on the celebration as well.  Pit Senor!

A large cross near the beginning of the procession.

Two of the musicians who accompanied the dancers and pilgrims.

Fr. Alvin Cabacang, the celebrant for Mass, joins the procession with his own image of the Santo Nino and in his vestments with the image of the Santo Nino as well.

Some of the many images of the Santo Nino that members of the local Filipino community brought to be part of the procession.

Members of a local dance troop were a large part of he procession.

Many colorful decorations greeted the seminary community and their guests as they arrived at the Damian Center.

The dancers continued the celebration in the Damian Center.

Some of the many images of the Santo Nino that the pilgrims gathered on the stage of the Damian Center for a blessing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Santo Nino 2013

Celebrating Santo Nino at Mount Angel Seminary
Story by Gonzalo Siller; photos by Ivan Garcia

Editor's Note: In the spirit of the colorful celebration of Santo Nino, some of the photos by Ivan Garcia have been artistically edited with different effects.
Pit Senor!

We have been called to live a new life!

I am honored to write about Santo Nino (Holy Baby Jesus), his message of new life, and his beautiful celebration on January 19, 2013, at Mount Angel Seminary.  Therefore, I want to share this honor with you, and so I invite you to say together in one voice to our Lord Jesus Christ, "Pit Senor!" (Call upon the Lord!)

The Abbey Church was ready to receive the image of the Santo Nino and all of our guests as well.  The ceremony began with a delightful burning of incense, a procession, followed with songs, and carrying the image of the Santo Nino.  These religious expressions showed and pointed beyond us and towards God.  So, what is the meaning of this celebration, and why is it so important for the Filipino community to celebrate it?  What are the spiritual benefits of it?

Throughout the beautiful liturgy of that day, I noticed how the readings and the Gospel were interconnected in such a way that the celebration of Santo Nino was an invitation to recognize our Lord.  Indeed, in the first reading the prophet Isaiah (Is 9:1-6) proclaimed the Messiah as "Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, and Prince of Peace."

After Father Alvin Cabacang, OSM, presided at Mass, I interviewed him, and he told me about how this devotion of Santo Nino became an official celebration and why it is so important.  He said this celebration has a special indult from the Vatican in order to be celebrated by "all Catholic churches in the Philippines on the Sunday following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord."

The Abbey Church was packed with pilgrims, believers, and followers.  (Left) Deacon Carlo Tejano from the Diocese of Sacramento; (Right) Father Alvin Cabacang, OSM, who was the principal celebrant and homilist.

Seminarians from Mount Angel Seminary gathered with other pilgrims from around Oregon to gather as one family at the Eucharistic celebration.

Father Alvin also told me how this image of Santo Nino de Cebu is that of a child dressed as a king, with a crown on his head, a scepter in one hand, and the universe in the other.  He said this is not difficult to trace because it is what we heard in our first reading.  The passage from Isaiah is the most famous prophecy of the promised Messiah.  God is to deliver his people from oppression, through a child, a prince of peace.  If the image has any meaning at all, it is meant to convey that this child, helpless and innocent through he is, is also the king of peace, all-powerful and able to hold the world in his hand.

According to Father Alvin's homily, the child Jesus, despite his ordinariness, is not an ordinary child.  He is really a king, and more than a king.  He is God among us, Emmanuel (Matt 1:23).  Which is why, although the image of a Santo Nino might appear absurd, for how can a mere child place the whole world in his hand, its meaning is entirely correct: God has decided to show himself in this child of Bethlehem.  Frail and lowly though he is, he is worthy of praise and worship.  Small and voiceless though he is, he is really the revelation of God.

I was told by some of our Filipino guests who came to Mount Angel Seminary from all around the area about the comparison between our baptism and this celebration and how we receive benefits of conversion through Santo Nino.  Some of our guests said that the way we celebrate Santo Nino conveys what is being said in the Gospel of Luke (15:7) and is celebrated by the angels in heaven when a sinner converts his life and when we truly accept our Lord in our lives.

After Mass, the Santo Nino celebration moved to the Damian Center.  There was food, music, and even cultural dances performed by the Filipino community.   The people cheered "Viva Pit Senyor!"

The image of the Santo Nino from the Abbey Church comes to rest in the Damian Center as the celebration continues.  

Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, welcomed everyone to the hilltop and invocated the Rite of Blessing of Religious Statues for all those who brought their own statue of Santo Nino.  He also blessed the food the Filipino community had prepared and cooked for the Santo Nino celebration.

The Samoan community and other cultural communities performed songs that represent their cultural spirituality to Santo Nino de Jesus.

The Feast Day of Santo Nino de Jesus was very well supported by the Filipino community and other cultural backgrounds.

As a matter of act, according to the worship aid of that day (see above photo), which provided background information for this celebration, Santo Nino is rooted in the conversion and acceptance of the historical baptism of King Humabon and his wife Queen Juana on April 14, 1521.

We can see how the Spirit of the Lord is guiding us through the history of the Filipino community to recognize in our lives the lordship and love of God.  Let's continue to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to live the salvation of Christ in our daily conversion of heart and mind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fall 2012 Pastoral Ministry

Portraits of Pastoral Ministry
Story and Photos by Daniel Miller

His fingers hover over the piano keys, the drumsticks stand poised, the guitar strings held firmly.  Three vocalists inhale deeply, and the music begins.  Fifty, no seventy teenagers sing.  The Eucharist is processed to the monstrance flanked by the rising smoke of the incense, the deacon and his humeral veil.  Knees bend, heads are bowed, and prayers are lifted.

This is the picture of ministry for seminarians, a singular instance of pastoral experience in priestly formation that took place at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mount Angel.  As one of the four pillars in Blessed Pope John Paul II's Pastores Dabo Vobis, pastoral formation invites seminarians to numerous off-campus service sites where lessons are cultivated in responsibility, interpersonal relationships, and "progress of the ministerial self," according to the seminary's Pastoral Formation Blue Book.

Pastoral ministry field education assignments vary and include religious education programs in parishes, meeting with residents of assisted living centers, volunteering at food banks and homeless shelters, and tutoring and mentoring youth.  To understand pastoral ministry is to see seminarians in action.

Seven seminarians played out the scene described above on November 28, leading the middle and high school youth of the parish in a night of contemporary praise and worship music and Eucharistic adoration.  Emilio Gonzalez, seminarian for the a Diocese of Fresno, arranged the event in coordination with St. Mary's staff, and he played the drums.

"The ultimate goal of the night was to help the youth - to be an instrument, pun intended - to fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist," Gonzalez said.

Emilio Gonzalez

Pastoral ministry brought about many similar encouraging moments this autumn.  Joseph Paddock, a seminarian for the Diocese of Helena, spent Friday evenings at St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church of Portland with their program called Evening Fellowship.  There he aided in preparing a meal, serving dinner, conversing with the homeless, and creating a safe environment for many Portlanders living on the streets.

"You know they live this really hard life, and they come up there and in a way it transforms them for an hour and a half," Paddock said.  "It's really neat to develop relationships with some of the people.  We trade stories."

Joe Paddock

In the autumn leading up to the elections, Paddock found himself trading just such stories with a typically quiet patron.  The man turned immediately to politics, asking Paddock which presidential candidate he favored.  When Paddock responded by saying he was weighing the issues, the man animatedly and staunchly advocated for a particular nominee.  Paddock decided the opportunity was golden to work on attentive listening.

"I told myself, 'I'm going to try to understand what's driving what he's saying,'" Paddock said.  "I want to kind of see the presidential election through his eyes.  And as an extension to that, through the eyes of the people who are living on the streets of Portland."

Pastoral ministry often provides fresh eyes to seminarians.  Martin Moreno, a seminarian for the Diocese of Tucson, hesitantly began leading Scripture study at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn this year with incarcerated 15 to 25-year-olds.

Martin Moreno

"Going into this ministry, I was absolutely terrified and nervous mostly because I had never worked with incarcerated youth," Moreno said.  "But they're just regular people who have made poor decisions.  They have a thirst for God.  They like to be there.  They all have dreams and goals they want to achieve."

Moreno and his ministry partners, Robert Sullivan of the Diocese of Monterey and Stephen Saroki of the Diocese of San Diego, discussed the upcoming Sunday's Mass readings and met one-on-one with youth.  Most youth come to see their time at MacLaren as an opportunity to change the direction of their life, Moreno said, and for the 10 or 12 in his group each week, faith drives and inspires their ambition.

"When we think of prison, we often think it's God-forsaken, but it really is full of hope," Moreno said.

So are the seminarians in pastoral ministry there.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga

Honoring the Memory of Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga
Story by Raul Barriga; photos by Norman Apo

You may be aware of the recent passing of Nicholaus Marenga, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Portland, on July 10, 2012.  During a camping trip, Nicholaus went swimming at a lake and drowned; a nurse tried to revive him, but he passed away on his way to the hospital.  Nicholaus had just finished his first academic year at Mount Angel Seminary at level one in college.

Nicholaus originated from Africa in Tanzania, and he spent one full academic year with seminarians at this seminary, taking part in events and gatherings, as well as being a blessing to those with whom he became friends.  This article is drawn from interviews of two of his diocesan brothers, Zani Pacanza and Norman Apo.

Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga

According to Zani, he and Norman met Nicholaus for the first time in their vocation house in Portland when Nicholaus had just arrived from Tanzania.  Nicholaus did not know anyone, so Zani and Norman introduced themselves and became friends with him.  During my interview with Zani, he mentioned that this is where his relationship began with Nicholaus.

Norman said that the encounter between himself and Nicholaus was a "normal course [because] those who were in the same boat of adjusting to a new environment were clinging to each other as a support system."  Mount Angel Seminary receives diocesan seminarians from different countries, so like other seminarians at this seminary, Nicholaus left his family back in Tanzania.

Norman's first impressions of Nicholaus were that he was a "very humble and jolly person."  I, Raul, having met Nicholaus at the seminary, also remember this particular characteristic of his personality.  Further, Zani pointed out that one reason some of the people at the seminary may not have gotten to know Nicholaus was that "he only went to people that he was comfortable with.  He did not really talk to people that much . . . because he was pretty shy."  Nevertheless, due to the fact that there are not a lot of seminarians from Africa at Mount Angel Seminary, Nicholaus was very open to friendship.

Norman said that "everyday [Nicholaus] would bother to greet [him] and those he would meet."  Norman continued "I think it was too natural of [Nicholaus] to make an instant connection."  In fact as I, Raul, got to know Nicholaus, he would be very attentive when I spoke to him.  He would follow my conversation with a continual "uh-huh" after every thought I uttered.

Nicholaus with Archbishop John G. Vlazny

One friendly memory that Zani shared about Nicholaus is that when taking photos, Nicholaus would frequently pose as a "noble prince."  Zani noted that Nicholaus would frequently pose "with his back straightened."  This seemed amusing to Zani since he said that he himself would slouch when taking photos.

Norman said that he remembers Nicholaus having a big collection of rosaries in his room at the seminary.  He mentioned that Nicholaus prayed the rosary everyday and encouraged Norman to do the same.  Also, Norman mentioned that "for a non-American to come here in the US, I think one of the biggest assets was to easily appreciate other [cultures]."  He said, "Nicholaus would always request me to cook some Filipino cuisine and enjoy it too much."

Nicholaus with Norman Apo

It is worth adding a final bit of insight from Norman.  According to Norman, before Nicholaus passed away, he had invited Norman to go camping with him.  Norman had to decline the invitation since he had pastoral duties to attend to at a parish assignment.  Norman said this was the last time he spoke with Nicholaus.

Norman also said that he received a voice message of greetings from Nicholaus during the morning of the day he passed away.  Norman said that he mourned his loss.  He said that Nicholaus' "strong sense of adventure and missionary desire led him here in the United States but the same sense of adventure caused his death."  In spite of his loss, Norman said that he is grateful to God for having met Nicholaus Marenga.

I share the gratitude with Norman and Zani of having had the opportunity to get to know Nicholaus Kiwango Marenga at the seminary.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Final Frost Photos

As the hilltop community experiences warmer and brighter weather, the journalism blog shares the final photos from Greg Snyder of January's unusual frost, including photos that document the afternoon during which the frost started to melt away.  You may also see more of Greg's photos on the journalism blog.

Outside of the Damian Center

Looking toward the Abbey Church

The Abbey Church

The sun begins to emerge!

The Abbey Church as the frost melts away.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Lecture by Father Jeremy Driscoll

Last June Father Jeremy Driscoll, a member of the faculty of Mount Angel Seminary and a monk of Mount Angel Abbey,  offered a talk entitled "New Perspectives on Preaching from Verbum Domini" at the Notre Dame Preaching Conference.  The hour-long talk is available here.

Editor's Note: As of 9 a.m. on February 8, 2013, the title of Fr. Jeremy's talk has been corrected.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Basketball Victory Against Multnomah

Last night the Guardians of Mount Angel Seminary defeated Multnomah University in an intense basketball game that included many three-point baskets.  The final score was 78-65. 

The players for Mount Angel Seminary and Multnomah University, along with the referees, pauses for a moment of prayer before the game begins.

Enjoy two moments from the game during which the Guardians scored!

The MAS team and coaches greet the opposing team after the game as the scorekeepers finish their work.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Frozen Hilltop Photo Contest!

Carlo Tejano, a student in Theology IV, won The People's Choice Award for his work entitled "Blending of Frost and Sun."  Graciela Cortes, the administrative assistant to the President-Rector, won The Judges' Choice Award for his photo entitled "Frozen Trees with Sunlight Shining Through."

Thank you to all who participated, and thank you to Beth Wells and Brother Lorenzo Conocido for organizing the contest and sharing the beauty of the hilltop!

More Frost Photos from Greg Snyder

Enjoy more photos of our beautiful January frost from Greg Snyder, this time in and near the monastic cemetery.

The path down to the monastic cemetery

Detail of the trees near the cemetery

The monastic cemetery

Detail of trees near the monastic cemetery

The grotto