Saturday, February 2, 2013

Guest Post: "The Bells of the Past Ring out into the Future" By Deacon James Peterson

Over the weekend, Deacon Andrew Stueve and I took a train up the seacoast to see northwestern Italy. En route to Florence we made a visit to the quaint little town of Pisa. 

While there were thousands of tourists who flocked to see the famous Leaning Tower our mission was slightly more nuanced.  About 70 years ago my paternal Grandfather, Alton Peterson, was a soldier in the U.S. Army and he was stationed near Pisa. The Second World War had ended and the American troops were passing through to ensure that there was some semblance of peace and stability in the liberated region.  According to the stories that my Grandpa used to tell, he and a military friend decided to enter the Leaning Tower for a view of the city.  When they reached the top they were pleasantly surprised to discover some large bells that were tied to prevent them from ringing.  Ever the adventurous fellow, my Grandfather and his buddy untied the bells and began to ring them.  Upon hearing the sound of the bells, people started streaming from their homes with tears in their eyes, smiles on their faces, and songs on their lips. It turns out that the Nazis had occupied Pisa during the War and were using the Leaning Tower- in actuality, the Bell Tower of the St. Ranieri Catholic Cathedral- for an observation post. When the citizens of Pisa heard the bells ringing for the first time in many years it was a sign that the war was over and a reminder that the Lord Jesus was still with them.

Flash forward to Saturday of this last weekend. Deacon Stueve and I were able to enter the tower and ascend the 296 steps to the top. With endearing thoughts of my Grandpa Peterson- who passed away in October of 2000- and his delightful stories running through my mind I practically bounded up the old stairway. Once we were at the top there was indeed a beautiful panoramic view of Pisa but, sadly, no bells...that is, until the tower guides told us to go up to the final level above! Going up the last few steps my heart began to fill with joy and my eyes with tears as I beheld the bells of the tower.  Offering prayers of gratitude for the life of my Grandfather and all the brave soldiers who have served our great nation, I thanked our Heavenly Father for the amazing experiences in Pisa. God willing, Deacon Stueve and I will one day ring out the Good News of our Catholic Christian faith as priests. 

While we did not ring the bells like Grandpa Peterson and his friend, the memories from our visit to Pisa will echo in our hearts for many years to come. 

Deacon James E. Peterson and Deacon Andrew Stueve are in formation for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Their home parishes are Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers and St. Hubert's of Chanhassen, respectively.                                                     

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thank you to Deacon Joah Ellis for stepping up and posting in my stead while I recovered from some derivation of the plague.  Due to illness I missed several of the events he and others attended.

Glory to God, I'm back at it now and have spent a lovely week continuing our immersion in the mission of the Church.

Deacon Joah mentioned our tour through the Vatican Gardens- here are some select pics of that excursion:


St. Dominic's Room

On Monday, we had Mass in St. Dominic's room, although it is said the saint did not spend much time there.  He did spend a lot of time in prayer, and the place pictured below  is where he was praying one time and Satan threw a giant boulder at him to distract him.  The stone cracked the floor, but the saint kept praying.

On Tuesday, we had Mass at St. John Lateran.  In the afternoon, we went to meet with the Secretariat of State in the Vatican City State.  Specifically, we met with one of the Msgr.'s in charge of translating the texts of the Holy Father.  We were able to see a number of official parchments, some containing the signature of Benedict XVI and still needing to be sent out.  This office is also the office that guards the seal of the popes, an example of which you can see below.  The picture down and left is typical for the many meetings we have.

 On Wednesday, we took a break from our normal meetings and instead toured the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, where many Christians died because they wouldn't sacrifice to pagan gods.

Thursday, we had the opportunity to meet with the dicastary in charge of promoting the new Evangelization, and then have Mass at St. Ignatius of Loyola's room.  

On Friday, we met with the Holy Father for an hour and a half long Evening prayer celebration to close the week of meetings and prayer for Christian unity.  Over the past week, we've seen a number of representatives from around the globe, many of whom are staying at our residence.  

That is last week at a glance.  More to come!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Playing catch-up

As I begin this post, I must first apologize for the length of time that has elapsed since the last post.  Speaking at least for myself, I really have no good excuse to offer.  Although I will say that it has left me time to read some great encyclicals and letters of the popes on the mission of the Church.  Most recently, we have been reading Evangelii Nuntiandi by Pope Paul VI, and Redemptoris Missio by Blessed John Paul II.  Both Popes clearly explain that the very reason the Church exists is to evangelize.  They remind all Catholics that they all participate in this mission, each according to his or her state in life.  In other words, it will look different for bishops, priests, religious, couples, and the homebound, but we are all called to it.  And if we have really encountered Jesus Christ, and truly believe in his salvation, we will naturally be impelled to share it with others.  Preaching Jesus Christ is the greatest (but not the only!) service we can render to others!

But I digress.  Picking up where we left off puts us at Tuesday, January 15.  That day we had the opportunity to visit two offices of the Holy See: the Apostolic Signatura and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Cardinal Burke was our host at the former, which deals with disputes over whether or not those in the Church observed the proper processes laid down in the Church's law.  The CDF, on the other hand, deals with making sure the truths of the faith are defended and handed on accurately.  However, in the present time much of the work has to do with cases of sexual misconduct among the clergy.  Both these offices, then, deal with the more unfortunate, unpleasant things that arise when people are not living according to their mission and that of the Church.

The next day, January 16, we attended the Holy Father's Wednesday audience.  Aside from waiting outside in the rain to get in, it was a great experience.  Fr. Carl had registered us as a group, which means that our group was announced at the beginning.  Even more exciting was that the Pope himself mentioned "the deacons from the Saint Paul Seminary" in his remarks in English!  One of us even got it on video!  That afternoon, we once again had the opportunity to lead the Rosary on TV.  Some of you may have seen the video of the first time we did this in an earlier post--it was very much the same this time as then.

Finally, we rounded out the week on Thursday, January 17.  In the morning we toured the Vatican gardens, located behind St. Peter's Basilica.  We saw many shrines, fountains, gardens, and flowers to which the popes retire when they need some time alone for prayer and refreshment.  In the afternoon, we visited a center belonging to a movement called the Focolare.  This movement is not a religious order, though some priests and consecrated men and women belong to it.  Instead, it is a group focused on living the Gospel, especially by doing little acts of charity for those around them.  It also has a ecumenical focus, joining with other religions in their charity.  Getting there was the biggest adventure of the trip so far.  We had to take a train to the outskirts of Rome to get there.  This route is mostly uphill, since Rome sits in a little valley.  We were on the very last leg of our trip when suddenly the train came to a complete stop.  It turned out the engine had broken down!  Since we had no way of going forward, the engineer decided to let the train coast backward downhill to the previous station.  There we were able to get a different train that succeeded in making it up the hill to our destination.

In an attempt to keep this post from being too long, I am going to end here.  We'll do our best to fill you in on this last week as soon as possible!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back at it

Time flies and now we are already well into another week here in Rome!  We all had a pretty good weekend, full of sightseeing as well as various visits to churches and shops.  It is difficult to provide a summary of what we saw and did, since each of us was on our own.  However, there were some things that we did in groups that can be highlighted here.

On Saturday morning, some of us attended the deacon ordination of a member of the Missionary of Charity Fathers.  These were the same Fathers that we visited earlier in the week.  Appropriately, it took place in a small parish church dedicated to St. Stephen, one of the first deacons.  To get there, we had to take first the subway and then a bus.  Such a trip can often be challenging, because it can be difficult to tell where to get off the bus--after all, none of us had ever been to this church before.  But this trip was an exception, because the bus was full of religious sisters and others who were going to the ordination!  We were able to follow their lead.  It was a beautiful Mass, with the Missionary of Charity sisters singing like a choir of angels.  It is always a privilege to be able to welcome a new brother deacon.

The other main thing that many of us did over the weekend was to reconnect with those seminarians whom we know and who are studying at the North American College (NAC) here in Rome.  Some of these we attended college seminary with; some were at the Saint Paul Seminary with us for their pre-theology years.  On two different nights this weekend, groups of us went to dinner with some of these friends.  In addition, on Sunday many of us attended the lector installation at the NAC.  One of the seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Paul Haverstock, was making this early step toward the priesthood.  Congratulations to him and to all his classmates!

And now we find ourselves in the midst of another busy week.  We had a great Monday yesterday, starting off with Mass in St. Peter's at the altar under which Blessed John Paul II is buried.  What a privilege that was!  In the morning we toured the Vatican Museums,where we saw many beautiful and famous works of art.  And in the afternoon, we visited the museum of the missions and missionaries of the Catholic Church.  This latter museum is housed in what used to be the seminary for mission territories.  That is, young men from foreign mission fields, where there were barely churches much less seminaries, would come there to prepare for priesthood.  The picture at the beginning of this post was taken in their chapel.  Behind us is a painting of the magi (representing all nations) coming to worship the infant Christ.  There was another painting above this in which Christ is sending out his disciples to preach to those same nations.  We pray that our Lord helps us heed that same command in our ministry.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rome Week One

Greetings!  It is a privilege to once again be able to help out with the blog for the seminary.  As we have completed our first week of class, I thought I would give a summary of what we've done so far.

Our Study of the Mission of the Church is well underway.

On Monday we visited and had Mass with the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Clavier.  They are a religious organization that is dedicated to spreading the faith especially through outreaches to poor countries.  To read more about them, click here.

For dinner, we went and visited the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, a group of priests and brothers who work with the Poor in Rome (Yes, this group is under the umbrella of the Missionaries of charity, the group started by Mother Teresa.)  We had an hour of Eucharistic adoration with them, and then dinner and fellowship.  On Saturday, some of us will be going to the ordination of one of their men to the diaconate- it should be fun!

On Tuesday we woke up early to go Mass at St. Peter's, a church which is even more inspiring when one goes in and the place is virtually empty, except for priests at almost every one of the side altars saying Mass.  There must have been at least 15 priests saying Mass, and we had to wait in line for one of the priests to finish saying Mass so we could use the altar and have Mass in English.  The universal church was gathered around the one Mass in St. Peter's, and it was amazing.
After mass, we came back for breakfast, had a morning class lecture, and after lunch a tour of St. Peter's Basilica led by one of the seminarians studying in Rome.  We had a free evening, giving us an opportunity to do some homework (yes, we are studying over here :) ) and just sit around enjoying Rome.

Wednesday our scheduled events started late, giving some of us a chance to go out and look at vestments and other liturgical items we will be using once we are ordained.  In the afternoon, we had lunch and a meeting with Msgr. Cihek, who works with the congregation of bishops.  He helps in the selection process of new bishops for English speaking countries. Basically, he takes information gathered by the Apostolic Nuncio in a given region and condenses it down to a few pages to give to the Holy Father.  The Holy Father then makes a selection for a new bishop.

In the evening, we went to the Emmanuel community school of missions, which is a nine-month program run by the Emmanuel community that teaches people how to evangelize.  After Mass and dinner with them, we had a chance to get to know who this group is and what they do.  As part of their program, they have ongoing outreaches in Rome, and had a 7 day outreach earlier to Belgium.  They are looking forward to evangelizing in Lithuania at the end of their course.

On Thursday, we had Mass at the Altar of the Crib, which was brought to Rome from the Holy Land.  The fragments that have survived were part of the creche in which Christ lay after his birth.

After Mass we came back and had the morning free, since class was cancelled due to our professor being sick (say a prayer for us- there are a number of us who are afflicted with illness).

In the afternoon, we lead a Marian devotion that was televised from St. Peter's Square.  The video should be below; if not, you can find it by  clicking here.

After we finished the Rosary, we went and met with the Sant' Egidio community, a community of mostly lay people which started in Rome.   The members of the community work in the world to support themselves, but the spend great time and effort helping the poor and organizing prayer groups in order to spread the Good News.  Their work has brought them to do such things as help provide treatment for H.I.V. in Africa, and help broker a piece deal in Mozambique.  To read more about this community, click here.

That is a summary of our first week here!  Blessings to you all!
-Dcn. Adam Westphal

Monday, January 7, 2013

First full day!

Hello from Rome!  Even though we have been arriving gradually over the last several days, today is the first full day of our program.  Over the course of the next month, we will be learning about the mission of the Church.  And in this context, when we say "mission," we don't mean something like "purpose" or "mission statement."  Rather, we are referring to the fact that we are called to bring the Gospel (the Good News!) to the whole world.  It is a special blessing to have the opportunity to do this during the Year of Faith, in which so much attention is being given to how we can share our Faith.

Since this is our first day, we are just getting started.  We will be having lectures, visiting religious orders that focus especially on the Church's mission, and seeing the sights of Rome.  Stay tuned for more in the days and weeks ahead!

(The photo in this post was taken in St. Peter's Basilica on the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  We had just finished distributing Holy Communion at a Mass with the Pope!)