Late Night Apology from The Big Apple

Over the past two weeks, there have been so much things gone on since my time in Springfield. We lost one of the Postulants in our class, we stopped by the Novice House for a visit in Pennsylvania, right when the ice storm came through. I've gotten sick again, I found a new "addiction," and I feel off-balance because I haven't had a set schedule for weeks.

Perhaps this has been the reason why I've been remiss in my blog updates. There are times when this Postulancy starts to fire so many things at one time, each day is just a way of handling the next new thing that's been put on my plate.

While I can't say that I'll be posting anything soon, I haven't completely forgotten about the blog, and when my body and my mind are in a better place to write some things about these past two weeks, I'm sure I'll fill everyone's need to read completely.

Till then, I say Hi from Brooklyn and hope you enjoy the Super Bowl!

Masculine Spirituality Part 2 or I Love My Sex

I woke this morning at 4AM after spending the better part of yesterday driving to Springfield, IL for our retreat on Spirituality and Sexuality. Since the other postulants are losers and slept during yesterday's drive (not that I hold any grudges) I decided to turn in early last night. So early this morning, I had the chance to spend some time exploring and reflecting on this week and the retreat.

Originally this is where I would have posted my pictures of the Chiara Center here in Springfield, some of the architechure, and even how the TV in my room has a channel where I can watch the Blessed case Jesus feels moved to start admonishing the coaching staff of the Michigan Wolverine football team. Unfortunately the one computer with internet access here does not have a slot for SD cards, nor did I bring my USB cable. Perhaps later this week I'll find a way to get my laptop hooked in.

Being upset that I couldn't give a virtual tour of this fine facility (the shower has enough room for 3 people, which is rather ironic since we're supposed to be dealing with celibacy), I started to reflect on the topics we discussed at last night's session: the introduction to our week.

We will discuss many topics relating to sexuality and spirituality: masculine spirituality, celibacy, practical applications and understanding of relationships, understanding our own concepts of gender roles and gender identities, and trying to be relevant on sexuality when many people feel that the Catholic Church has lost credibility on the topic. There's a lot of things to discuss, and not all of them will be "easy" to talk about.

As guys, we joked on the way here about how we would react. I agreed with another one of my brothers that we should use "...that's what she said!" as much as possible this week. With all the sexual innuendos that will be flying around I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunities. But even as we joked about the weekend, I could see how we as men tend to either trivialize or react irrationally to very serious or uncomfortable topics. We know we're attending this event to better our ministry, to comply with requirements set forth by our Province, and to better understand our own sexuality as we continue to think about living a celibate life. Even still, the 13 year-old boy inside thinks about how he's gonna giggle each time he hears someone say "penis."

So with Benny Bennassi's "I Love My Sex" playing on the iPod, my Detroit Red Wings jersey, and a healthy swagger about me, I decided I was ready to start discussing issues of spirituality, sexuality, my sexual history, interactions with the opposite sex, and the like. I have resigned to the thought that I am a "man's man:" I think fart jokes are funny, I prefer to insult my friends rather than be touchy-feely with them (even though they are both a form of bonding), and I like to say "Oh Yeah!" at really inappropriate times. Whether you people feel I am their champion or an abomination is for them to decide. This week is for me to learn how I can be me and still be respectful, present to, and understanding to others with regards to sexuality.

The first session was mostly an introduction. Today we will get down to business ("Oh yeah!") . I'll try to keep everyone informed as to the topics and reflections of the day.

Please pray that that I don't make a bigger ass of myself than I already am!

Retreating After the Retreat

After a week-long discernment retreat, I decided to take a trip up to our boarding school St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, WI. I know I intended on writing more about my week of discernment, however a lot of it became extremely personal and introspective. I share a lot about my life here, however there are some things I choose to keep to myself.

I can tell you that the experience was beneficial, and it affirmed a lot of my feelings about where my life is headed. I can also tell you that I would have had a better experience had I gotten away and had time to reflect longer on the process.

As a way to reconnect with that sense of silence and retreat, I decided to spend the weekend at St. Lawrence. While it is a high school, I'll have access to a guest room where I'll be able to have a sense of quiet and relaxation from the "noises" here in Milwaukee. It will give me a chance to think, relax, and perhaps catch up on my blog posts.

It's also a chance for me to play some soccer with the students. I got to know most of the seniors as they came to St. Ben's for the Urban Plunge Event. Many of them are soccer players, and are nice enough to not make fun of me when I try to play with them. It's an opportunity to be a little bit competitive, and pretend I can still hang with the boys.

After this weekend, we'll start a week of Masculine Spirituality. We will be in Springfield, IL for the week. I can see sharing more about that retreat week than about my discernment week. Masculine Spirituality is an interesting subject, and I think it's something all guys need to take a look at.

So I wish everyone a good weekend. I can't guarantee the scheduling of my posts for the weekend, however I will try to keep everyone in the loop.

Feelings of Listlessness

There are days I don't want to do anything. I don't want to study, I don't want to read, I don't want to interact...I don't even want to pray. There are times I don't know what I want to do; I just have feelings of apathy towards the world.

Part of this is due to my epilepsy. The medication I take is called Dilantin, and I take 600mg a day to keep from having seizures. Anyone who's ever been on seizure medication will tell you that the common side effects are drowsiness and lethargy. While I've been taking my medication for over 18 years, there are times when I still must fight these symptoms.

That's not to say it's entirely due to my medication. I don't like to make excuses for my actions anymore, so I realize there is a part of me that prefers to disconnect from the world. It is a rare part of me, and it only rears its listless head every now and then. I think it's a side-effect from working too hard, dealing with a cold, and getting off a routine. I still haven't adjusted my body to being back in Milwaukee since Christmas, and 3 times this week I woke up late for morning prayer. Half of me was angry with myself for not being more responsible. The other half of me simply didn't care.

As odd as this sounds for someone in my position, this is entirely part of the process of discerning a vocation. We as humans live in consolation or desolation with God. We may believe, but we may choose not to enjoy that love or follow that desire. It angers me that I am this way when I am choosing to live a religious life, but there is some safety in knowing that I am still me, and that I am being selected on who I am as a person...even if that means I turn into a depressed, emo friar every now and then.

Times like these come and go. When I start to experience this type of feeling, there's a few things I try to do and avoid:

1. I try and avoid huge decisions. If I feel I'm living a lie and that I really don't have a vocation, I don't make a decision to leave. I address those feelings in prayer the best I can, or I discuss them with my peers or spiritual director.

2. I try to designate what I don't want to do from what I don't wish to do. I may not want to go to ministry, but I don't wish that I didn't have to work there. I may not want to pray one morning, but that does not mean I wish I could stop attending morning prayer. By having an internal dialogue with myself, I realize that this is a temporary mindset.

3. If it is only temporary, then I continue to do those things I don't want to, because I know that I've received pleasure from those things in the past. For me to stop eating dinner with my community or any other activity is to make a decision that may effect my future pleasure.

There are even times when I don't want to write this blog. That thought has no actual basis, I just don't feel like it at times. However I know that this is something that gives me pleasure, release, and a sense of therapy. It is also the basis for a ministry that I hope to involve the Capuchins with. Therefore, while I might have the desire to just not write anything, I try to be honest and say whatever I can.

I apologize if I don't always exemplify the positive, heroic image of a man who's given up worldly things to follow the Call of God. I'm still a regular guy dealing with regular things. But by being able to express my feelings in a sincere and open medium, there exists a form of reflection and contemplation that brings about a unique type of spiritual healing.

What is Religious LIfe, Part 4

Last time I spoke about how the Capuchins lived and worked as people in religious life. Today, I wanted to go deeper in-depth about the difference between becoming a diocesan priest and a religious priest. I find it relevant since the name of my blog, The Long Road to Priesthood, says less about my life as a Capuchin Franciscan and brings to mind the image of a seminarian who is studying to be a diocesan life. So to help with any confusion about the difference, I wanted to take a little more time to discuss one from the next.

When a bishop of the diocese feels someone is truly discerning the priesthood and has made his life available to that vocation, the bishop will have the person begin training for the job. Most often this is done at a seminary, where they must first complete the required philosophy credits towards an undergrad degree. Depending on the diocese, there may be more requirements, such as social work, business management, specific languages (Spanish, French, American Sign Language), etc. After having the proper philosophy base, the seminarian will spend the next 3-4 years working on their Theology degree.

The theology degree, also known as the Masters of Divinity (MDiv) is required of all people who wish to pursue the priesthood. Today the program is open to people who are working in pastoral ministry as a way to better understand their careers. Even women take classes at some seminaries, an act disallowed at one point (and still at some seminaries across the world) because it was thought that they may be endorsing the idea of female ordination...a completely different topic worthy of it's own long post.

After finishing their studies, the individual must spend a certain length of time as a temporary deacon, a title that distinguishes them from the permanent deacon that people are more familiar with. This period may last 1-2 years, with an evaluation done at the end of each year to assess the person's readiness to become an ordained priest.

After finishing their diaconate, the individual makes a promise to the bishop of the diocese and becomes an ordained priest.

Obviously there are more details involved with the process, however this is the main journey that must be made by those joining the diocese. This is the prescribed way, as stated in Canon Law, by which priests are to become ordained. Therefore Orders like mine follow this same process when people like me consider becoming a priest.

In joining an Order, you pursuing a different vocation than a diocesan priesthood. Not better, not "more holy," but a different vocation.

In fact, many religious vocation directors will probably tell you to not focus on priesthood in your discernment right away, rather focus on living in that Order's community. Could you live a cloistered life, spending most of your day in prayer or work? Do you have the desire to pursue a number of doctorates that you may be a learned scholar like others in that Order? Could you live a life in perpetual community, owning nothing of your own? Could you work with the poor and homeless? Could you live as a missionary?

All of these are important questions, especially when looking at different religious Orders, and the same question won't always apply to each Order (someone looking at the Franciscan OFMs will have different desires and questions than someone looking at the Third Order Secular Franciscans). It is important to have a spiritual director to help understand your strengths, identify areas of concern, and use those when looking for an Order.

Should someone decide to become interested in living a religious life, a process of formation begins. The formation process can last from 6-13 years, depending on the order. This process is often times separate from the time needed to pursue priestly ordination. This time is used to focus on one's vocation towards religious life.

Terms such as Postulant, Novice, Temporary Professed, and Post Novice come in to play at this point. Again, the specific process varies greatly from Order to Order, however there are some basic rules, as laid out by Canon Law, that an Order must adhere to:

1. There must be a period of initiation, where a prospect becomes acclimated to the order, and is given proper tools, time, and space to further discern their call to the vocation. For a period of no less than one year, a person is often times cloistered from the world, as to empty the person of distraction so they can better discern their call. This is referred to as the novitiate.

2. If a candidate is not suitable at the end of the novitiate time, they are to be dismissed. Those that shown themselves suitable to religious life will take temporary vows.

3. These temporary vows are yearly vows made by the individual, giving them time to live according to the rule and vow of those in their order. The spent in temporary vows ranges on average 3-6 years. While the vows are only temporary, they must be made publicly, without outside pressure, and must be made to the superior of the Order.

4. After that time which a temporarily professed religious has completed a certain number of years, they may take solemn (sometimes called perpetual) vows. These vows are not renewed, but are life long. (see Canons 646-661 for more information)

During that time of temporary vows, many are completing college studies or education required by each Order. Again, the type of study depends heavily on the specific Order. A Carthusian will have a different focus than a Jesuit. It is during this time where, if one also feels called to be a priest, that they will look at their life and start to see what ministry they feel most called to. The option to pursue priestly ordination, once again, depends on the Order. There are some Orders that are strictly clerical (ordination is part of the formation process, you must be ordained to be part of the Order), and in others it is less of a focus (cloistered communities where few people leave the grounds of the abbey).

I hope this gives you a clearer picture of how the process for becoming a diocesan priest and becoming a religious are quite different.

Discernment Retreat At Home, Day 1

After making the turkey dinner on Sunday, we began our 5 day discernment retreat. The hook is that we didn't go to a retreat house, we are still going to our ministries, and we haven't secluded ourselves from the outside world. We are doing our retreat right here in the friary. It's an innovative concept born out of necessity rather than practicality.

The director of our retreat this week is Ignatius Fever, a Capuchin from the Canadian province. I've known Ignatius for almost a year now; he is a very intelligent, articulate, and insightful spite of his Canadian-ness. He's been a pleasure to have at the house, and he has a great sense of humor (especially with all the Canadian jokes we start throwing around)

The focus of this retreat is for discernment. As postulants, we are still in the process of discernment as what God might be telling us. Discernment can be wonderfully insightful or it can leave you wondering where God is in your live. Either way, it is an important part of any vocation, and as we journey on this path towards becoming Capuchin friars, it is an important part of our formation.

The main content of our discernment for this week will be our self-evaluations. I hadn't looked at my self-evaluation since I'd written it last month, so I had to hope I wasn't too critical of myself.

We got together after dinner Sunday evening, and Ignatius introduced himself and gave us the schedule for the next five days. This first session was not meant to be a long discussion, rather an invitation to begin looking inward at ourselves.

The aspect he wanted us each to focus on this first time was change. Specifically, what changes have we noticed in our lives since we've gotten here? What changes have we noticed from a year ago? Two years ago? Were these changes positive, negative, or both? What type of emotions did the changes evoke? The list of questions was long, but each question was designed for us to look at and reflect upon. We would discuss our answers together the next morning.

With my homework in hand, I grabbed a soda, my laundry, and my iPod. Once I got to my room, I got down to some serious discernment. I sat in silence (by silence, I mean with my iPod playing something like Santana, Cafe del Mar, or something soft and/or ambient) and centered myself. After feeling relax and clear in mind, I pulled out my self-evaluation and reread it. After that, I started to fold my laundry.

One of the odd facts I've learned about myself is that I do my best contemplative thought and reflection while cleaning. I hate cleaning and housework. I don't know if it's dramatic irony or poetic justice, I suppose my awareness of this unique link is proof enough that I've become more introspective over the past two years. So in spite of my desire to not clean, I decided it would be better for my discernment retreat if I just went ahead and did it anyway.

As always, I was deep in thought within the first few minutes. I started to count the changes in my life, and saw that I'd only mentioned 3 of my numerous changes in my self-evaluation. Other than money, personal relations, and spirituality, there are many smaller changes that I have made. Some of those changes took years to make; some have happened within the past month or so.

When I reflected on how my life changed, I realized that I was not at all happy with the person I was. I felt disgusted, even ashamed of who I was. In the second paragraph of St. Francis' Letter to the Faithful he writes: "We must hate our bodies with their vices and sins..." While some have taken this to refer to ascetic practices, the more commonly understood expression of this idea from St. Francis is that we are nothing when we focus solely on our personal gratification. It is with our love of the poor and humble Christ that we are worthy and have eternal life.

As I continued to think on this, I also recognized my distaste for my "old self," but for actions and tendencies that I see in others within the community that I used to see in myself. My time in community has been a little intense lately; the more I thought about this link, the more I understood that I did not want people to make the mistakes I once made in my life.

After an hour, I'd written down enough notes and thoughts to keep discussion going for quite some time Monday morning.

I'm very happy with how this program is going, and I will continue to keep you all updated with how my retreat is going. I had thoughts last night of making Ignatius' program available for people to use. I know reading doesn't bring the same experience as listening or interacting with a retreat director, so I can't pass on the exact experience. However I've started looking into doing a weekly podcast along with my blog for special events like this. It's still an idea, but it's something I'm excited about. We'll see how that goes, too.

Br. Vito vs. The Turkey

I decided, rather impulsively, to cook a turkey (with the all the fixin's) on Sunday. In a move that was more personal challenge than menu selection, I decided to cook a 25 pound turkey as a way to "stretch myself."

Just recently, the Provincial sent all the postulants a letter with regards to our mid-semester evaluation. At the end of the letter, he said: "During this next half of your postulancy period, I encourage you to continue to stretch yourselves and try new things." I've been stretched a lot since August; what more could I do!

On Friday, we received a donation of 20 turkeys to the Meal Program. While this was a wonderful act of charity, we at St. Ben's had to find room to fit all the turkeys into one of the freezers. To make room for the newer ones, I said I would take one back to the friary to make for my community. I'd never made a turkey before. I've watched my mom do it enough times at Thanksgiving; it couldn't be that hard.

After being lectured by 4 different people about how to properly thaw, prepare, and cook the bird, I was later engulfed in conversations like: "Well what are you going to serve with it?" When someone makes a turkey, most people reflect on how Thanksgiving was celebrated at their homes. By Friday night, I was expected to make the turkey with about 14 different side-dishes!

Saturday I decided on a menu: I'd serve mashed potatoes, broccoli, creamed corn (because I like it!), stuffing (a la Stove Top), cranberry sauce (because someone started crying when I said I didn't like it and I wasn't planning on serving it), and Jell-O for dessert.

The process started off Sunday around noon. It began rather simply. Grab all the guts out, get the neck bones out, prepare the plastic cooking bag, put turkey in bag, bag onto cooking sheet, and then everything into the preheated oven. I took the time to cut up the vegetables early on. I knew I wasn't able to start the broccoli or the potatoes until an hour before dinner, but I thought it would be smart to do the chopping and peeling when I still had time.

Inspiration when chopping broccoli.

As dinnertime got closer, things became more frantic. I had almost 3 gallons of water on the stove for the potatoes, and it was taking forever to come to a boil. I'd made the stuffing way early, but I had no way to keep it warm without drying it out. I put the meat thermometer into the bird about 4PM, it read 175 degrees - it takes over 4 hours to cook a 25 pound turkey at 350. I opened a Monster Energy Drink to help deal with the stress. Turns out I took the temperature wrong!

By 5:30 PM, I was in full-stress mode. As people came downstairs from evening prayer, they each thought it would be fun to walk into the kitchen and stand in my way. "So is everything going to be done on time?" someone asked. I wanted to beat him in the head with a metal spoon. As more people walked in and decided they needed to sit at the table I was working at, I started ignoring them and running around the kitchen...stirring, mashing, cutting, and basting all at the same time. Some of them got the hint and decided to leave. Others had to be told directly: "Hey. You are in my way."

A wearied pic of Fr. Bill Hugo and I as he prepares to carve the bird.

In spite of all the stress (the potatoes could have been cooked longer, they got cold because the broccoli and gravy weren't finished yet, someone decided to start adding different ingredients to my food, people continued to get in my way, and dinner started half an hour late), the dinner proved to be a rousing success. I was complimented many times on the task of cooking everything. And when they all started to dig in, I took five minutes to be alone in the kitchen , letting the stress leave my body. For as many high-pressure situations that I've been in over the years, the simple act of cooking a complete turkey dinner proved to be one of those memorable moments I will hold on to.

I sat down after everyone had a chance to get their first helping. Even I had to admit it was pretty good, and I was a little impressed with myself for being able to pull it all off.

Perhaps this wasn't the type of "get outside your comfort zone" task I'd envisioned, but it was a good learning experience. I feel I am in solidarity with those who take the time to cook those big dinners for family, and after this experience I feel I can sympathize, at least a little bit, with the amount of time, effort, stress, and coordination it takes to pull off that kind of meal. It was a very humbling task...being the servant towards my brothers.

I don't plan on making a big dinner like this again anytime soon, but I feel more confident in my ability to do it. Most importantly, I feel confident that I can cook something without getting everyone sick...something truly important when living in community. (As of 1:38 AM, no one has complained of food poisoning yet.)

I'll count this one as a success.

A completely unsolicited thumbs-up from the rest of the community
and a few guests who volunteered to help us eat all the food.

Livin' Life By the Drop

Months ago, I wrote about the song Life By the Drop by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Often I mention songs that strike me as personal, spiritual, and reflective of my life. I write song lyrics here because they are no different than a great poem, story, or scripture passage in that they help me contemplate on life. And much like these other objects of meditation, their meaning can change as time goes on.

I also previously wrote about Don, a volunteer at St. Ben's that had fallen off the radar during the Christmas break. He'd fallen off the wagon after being sober for over two years. It's been a tough experience for me because it defines the greatest risk I face in my ministry. I don't worry about losing money or being injured, I worry about losing people I actually care about. I see how easy it is to not get close to people simply to protect my own feelings, yet that is not what I want in life. I want to care, to show empathy, to let people know that I will help if and where I can. I know I cannot save the world, but I can be present to those I meet...that is one of the reasons I've chosen this life.

I listened to this blues song again, listened to the voice of SRV and his 12-string acoustic. I found new meaning in the words that came through the headphones. I heard the singing of someone who will struggle their entire life with addiction. I heard the resignation that life will continue to be ups and downs. I could hear the words of someone aspiring to live a better life, but realizing he could only live a day at a time.

Wednesday evening at the meal, I saw Don again. "Brother Vito! Man, I missed you!" We embraced like brothers long since separated.

He has started to help out again, yet our relationship has changed somewhat. Sadly I am careful now about certain things with him. Places where he had full-access now require permission from me or Br. Dave. He checks in more about what he's doing. And while I want to trust him as implicitly as I used to, prudence tells me I need to be wary...just in case.

I don't know if I'm trying to romanticize this interaction between Don and I to better fit into my sense of "solidarity with the poor," or if I just refuse to admit exactly how deeply affected I've been by this situation. This notion of agape, selfless love, is a great concept. Living it, especially when you worry about that love and trust being misused, is not as easy as told in the stories of the saints. This morning at prayer, I prayed not just for those who suffered from addictions, but for their friends, family, and loved ones who continue to love after their trust has been shaken.

It's 3:45 in the morning; I really should be in bed. Yet the thoughts of those with alcohol addictions, their families who continue to love them, and the struggles that they will face...these things are at the forefront of my mind. At times like these, I simply listen to the music and try to offer those concerns, prayers, and my own fears to my Creator.

I don't have any theological argument for my final thought, but I think God must listen to the blues. For if indeed the Lord hears the cry of the poor (Psalm 34), the truest lamentations I ever found are in the blues.

Cry of the Poor

Michael is one of the many volunteers at St. Ben's Community Meal. He's always there to help, and has done so for quite a long time. However Mike isn't one of the people that tries to feel better about himself by volunteering. Mike is poor himself...a paycheck away from living on the streets. He is aware of his situation, and works hard to stay above water.

Mike is a member of an ever-growing demographic in this country: the working poor. He has a full-time job, "pulls his weight" as some boot-strapping politicians might say, yet life is still a struggle for him.

Wednesday at the community meal, he showed me something he had written up, a brief description of his current life. It is very real, and I thought it something that should be shared with everyone. While his written personal reflection had no goal other than a story, I could see the plight of the working poor as I read his paper. He allowed me to post it.

His story has given me inspiration for something bigger and more profound, but I think I should be true to his story, one author to another, and keep my idea for a later time.


To the working poor stress is a constant companion in their effort to support themselves. This world is one of constantly monitoring how to most effectively use what little they make.

Back in 1980 to 1986, I went to UWM
(University of Wisconsin @ Milwaukee) both full time some years and part time other years. I never got a degree. I dropped out in 1986. I dropped out to learn from the school of life. Only the school of life, I finally realized, was a harsh teacher. The total number of years that encompass my years as a member of the working poor include 13 years prior to college and 19 years after, totalling 32 years in all.

I am a member of the working poor. Although I am 55 years old now, I don't look like it.
(he doesn't) I do feel like 55 on the inside. I live in the Riverwest area. I've had assorted jobs and have been working at G&K Services for just over 4 and a half years now. The business is located in the New Berlin Industrial Park. It's an hour and 20 minutes bus ride one way, so having a functional car is important.

Fortunately I own a quality used car, a 1996 Honda Accord, which I financed with a loan. I also financed a nice bedroom set. I have two loans to pay off. I make $10.71 an hour. I have medical coverage which costs me approximately $65 per month out of pre-tax income. Plus I set aside 10% of my pre-tax income to put into a 401K. I have virtually no savings. How is it possible for me to survive, when the on-going costs of life: rent, utilities, phone, out-of-pocket medical expenses, car insurance, food expenses, etc. eat up most of what little income I make - nevermind the unforeseen expenses that pop up like landmines.

My approximately 18 to 20 thousand dollars per year income has even been reduced by the state economy. Instead of working 40-50 hours per week during this time of the year, which is the busy season of the year at G&K, I am only working 31 to 35 hours per week. So even though it's tough to survive at 40 hours per week at $10.71 per hour, my income has been significantly reduced even further. Plus the possibility of lay-offs loom in the near future.

I figure there is an expectation made by society that when a person becomes a member of the working poor, he or she assume the responsibility of paying my bills, whatever bills are incurred, on time despite one's level of income. I don't know if I am the puppeteer, juggling all my financial responsibilities, or if I am the puppet being buffeted by the cold, hard reality - trying to survive in a world that requires that I make a better income to somehow come out on top.

I don't want your pity. I want to help you understand what my life and others like mine are like. I believe I have raw talent and ability. I volunteer quite regularly at St. Benedict's Meal Program. I've been there 16 years now. My volunteer effort there makes use of some skills and talents my day job does not. This helps me to feel productive and worthwhile, and feeds my sense of spirituality. I continue to believe in who I am, in what talents and abilities I have, and in the hope that I can better my economic status. I hope because without hope one's quality of life slips immeasurably. I know that to have a car, a decent bedroom set, and the ability finance them, put me in a better position than others who are also working poor but make less in wages. To have the ability income-wise to afford medical insurance and a 401K also puts me a few steps ahead of those who make less in wages. That is small comfort for me. The financial realities of survival continue to intrude and have an impact on my life. I know that in a practical and realistic sense, a huge challenge is before me.

Capuchin Guitar Hero

Twice a year, there is a special ceremony I like to go through. It's completely for appearances, it's totally unnecessary, and it shows that I still treat some objects better than another human being! I'm speaking about my pride and joy: my electric guitar.

My Les Paul is the one item that reminds me of my old life. It's an object I wanted since I was in high school. Even when my mother could only able to afford to buy me a cheap Washburn beginner guitar, I loved it as if it were a '59 Custom with a cherry sunburst finish. In the evening, I'd listen to guys who could make their own Gibsons sing and cry in my headphones.

After deciding I wanted to live a more simplistic life, I remembered that desire from my youth and how I thought my life would be complete if only I had that guitar. Already knowing that this was a false idea, I entertained the idea of buying one. I knew I would play it for a month then put it away. I knew if I spent $2000 I would chastise myself for wasting money. Yet the memory of that kid, dreaming of playing with that thick Gibson sound, would not go away. I knew that part of discernment was reconnecting with what gave you true pleasure, and remembering those dreams you once had. I also knew that it would hurt to spend money on such a magnificent instrument and still suck at playing guitar.

In the end, I chose to buy an Epiphone Les Paul Standard. A slightly less-quality version of the guitar that's made off-shore instead of in the U.S. Some of the electronics were different, but beyond that there is little difference. I figured I could live with a $650 mistake rather than a $2000, but I would still be feeding that inner child.

And just like I said, I played it for a month, got frustrated because I couldn't play "Samba Pa Ti" the way Carlos Santana did, and within a month it sat in it's custom case in my closet. But rather than forget it completely, I started doing something different: I kept listening to that inner voice that wanted to still be that guitar rockstar. I realized it wasn't about fame, or money, or being the desire of women, it was that ability to create music so intense that it stirred emotion in your heart. Whether it came from a Les Paul, Fender Strat, or a cheap guitar, I knew that was the dream I was chasing, and it was something I could still attain...even as I prepared to become a Capuchin.

During our lifetime, we go through cycles where we develop certain desires. A lot of the time, we don't even know what to do with them, we're just aware that we want. And as we grow and become adults those wants change, and our ability to be satisfied requires more than an expensive guitar, or a pony, or a 1979 Chevy Monte Carlo SS.

While my Les Paul ran quite a bit of money (relatively speaking), it's more than just an object to me now. My desire to play guitar is something that connects me to my youth: that idealistic state where I could close my eyes and imagine I were Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn, or any of a number of guitar greats. That ability to envision myself living out a dream, a simple dream, helps me to connect with my inner desires and focus on what I see as important.

So twice a year I take off the old strings, get out the guitar polish and an old rag, and spend my time as I go over every square inch of the instrument, polishing it to a perfect glow. I know that by tomorrow I will have fingerprints on the body from playing it, but by taking that time to care for the one last investment I still own, it reminds me that some of the greatest dreams in our lives don't involve a perfect job, a perfect spouse, or even the perfect house and car. Sometimes our greatest dreams are so simple, we confuse them with useless pursuits.

This is about the time where I tie everything together to show how my childhood dream to play guitar is a direct reflection of my vocation. I'm sure you all saw that coming.

But right now, my guitar's restrung, I'm hooked into the system, and 20,000 fans are waiting for me to play Europa.

You're never too old to chase your dreams.

I Am Not A Blogger

Over the Christmas break, I had an interview with my hometown paper where we talked about me, my religious vocation, life here in Milwaukee, and of course this blog. I feel that he did a great job on the article, and presented my current life in an accurate and thoughtful way.

Now I'm sure it's a faux pas to write about people writing about yourself, but the mention of my blog on a bigger level has gotten me to ask myself some serious questions. As I was reflecting over this concept of being a "blogger" while still fighting off my cold, I came to a very clear understanding: I am not a blogger in the commonly accepted use of the term.

1. I rarely read other people's blogs. I know there are people out there that write great things, Kicking and Screaming and The Ironic Catholic were a few of the first blogs I really tried to follow. But between class, homework, ministry, and community, I simply don't have time to read what is being written. For those who have time, I would encourage you to check them out. Both are better experienced at blogging than I am!

2. I'm bad about links and referrals. I suck at consistently writing posts, too. I know these things are essential for people who want to increase traffic to their blog. There is a part of me that would love to have a ton of readers, but I'm happy to be present to the handful of people who continue to follow my journey. Their continued presence reminds me that I'm not just talking to myself (and that I need to be better about spelling and grammatical errors).

3. I have no agenda. Sure, I pull the soapbox out every now and then, but this isn't a soundboard for my personal philosophies. Perhaps this is more of an online diary than a web log; it's a place where I put down my personal ideas and reflections rather than a pulpit to spew my liberal Capuchin agenda. I realize not everyone adheres to my flavor of theology. I realize not everyone experiences God and The Church like I do. And like everyone else, sometimes I need to break out and post a rant about something that pisses me off. But since this is a time of conversion for me, I have to be honest with myself and say I'm not sure of a lot at this point.

4. I have no clue what I'm doing. My favorite boss once told me: "I don't care if you screw up, but admit when you don't know something." I don't know if I'm writing memoirs to one day look back upon. Maybe I'm telling a story in hopes that someone who's possibly considering a religious life might see my story and think: "He seems as screwed up as me. Maybe I too can have a vocation!" Perhaps this is merely a therapeutic way for me to handle change, conversion, and to come to grips with the fact that God has given me a job, and deep down I still don't know if I'm good enough to be the man he expects of me. I have doubts, I have fears, I have sadness...even as my new life here continues to bring me happiness. Because of this, sometimes posts only make sense to me.

5. I do my best writing late at night when I'm trying to get to sleep. We've all done term-papers at the last second...drinking massive quantities of caffeine while typing away at the keypad. One night you may scribe (what you think is) the greatest thesis ever conceived by the mind of a mortal. The next morning it looks like the ramblings of a retarded chicken, high on crack.

I like to let my mind wander at those moments and just hit "Publish" when it's all done. I realize a good blogger would take time to make sure his/her content is relevant and even cognitive before posting it, but I find that spontaneous thought can reveal more about a person's inner self than any canned text which has been filtered and edited a few times.

So for the many of you who have begun to visit this wonderful place because of a link or referral, I welcome you whole-heartedly. But I warn you that I am not a certified blogger. I am a person living through a unique experience, learning a new part of my life. For those interested, I encourage you to follow along. For those looking for another opinion on Barack Obama, abortion, liberation theology, how to fix the economy, or recent comments about the Jonas brothers...there are better blogs out there for you than mine.

Peace and all good,
Vito Martinez, Capuchin Postulant

What is Religious Life, Part 3

Having talked about the difference between diocesan life and religious life, and giving a brief history of religious life in my last post, I wanted to be more specific about how we as Capuchins live that religious life as well as living our charism. While this entire web log is filled with my experiences of learning to live in the Order, I'll try to give a more objective hopes that you may better understand my situation, why I think and act about certain things, but most of all so that religious life is more understandable to everyone.

I mentioned earlier that each Order is bound to a Rule: a governing document by which the community should live, pray, and serve out their commitment to God. Some orders have a long and extensive list of rules by which to live by. The Rule of St. Francis, a document that can be read in just a few minutes, shows how austere, obedient, penitent, and brotherly we should live as Franciscans. Today, the Capuchins still follow the Rule of St. Francis, but we also have a Constitution by which we can understand and govern many of the smaller concerns with religious life.

As most of you know, a territory of the church is known as a diocese. Each diocese is governed by a bishop or archbishop, depending on its size. Each diocese is answerable to a council of bishops as authority works back towards the Vatican. The Capuchins, as well as most other Orders, are divided into what is called a province. The size of a province depends on the order, the number of members, and ministry with which they are involved. I am a part of the St. Joseph Province (mid-west). The area includes all of Michigan, northern Indiana and Illinois, Wisconsin, down to Iowa, and westward to Montana. Since our ministry is to the poor and marginalized, our efforts are focused in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, and a mission at the Crowe Reservation in Billings.

Because we live a social lifestyle (sharing of goods, income, responsibilities), leadership is neither permanent nor hierarchical. Every three years, a chapter is convened in the province where all available friars get together. Issues of ministry, future, vocations, and living are discussed. Along with these topics, a Provincial Minister is elected from among the friars. There are specific term lengths that a Provincial Minister (Provincial for short) can serve. There are also chapters on the international level in Rome, where the General of the order, along with other offices in Rome, are voted on.

Currently our Provincial is Jon Celichowski (we call him Jon Cel for short), a younger friar who spent the last few years as a priest at St. Martin de Porres: the African-American Catholic Church that my friary is connected to. While Jon is the head of our province, one would hardly recognize it when seeing him in community with the rest of us. He prefers to get his hands dirty, and I've often seen him help clean up after an event and doing dishes (something not often seen of a bishop). And while he has the right to be called by his title, "Jon" is how we talk to him, and it is how he prefers to be called.

This sense of community is our major charism, or focus of ministry. When asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind." And in the same breath, said: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matt: 34-40 We as Capuchins try to live those commandments both by contemplative prayer and by treating all people as brothers and sisters in Christ, and by focusing our aid to those who have been alienated or cast aside by society. By choosing to live a life of poverty, celibacy, and obedience while focusing on the brotherhood of all people, we hope to follow the directive of Pope Paul VI when he says: "the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others." (Octogesima Adveniens 23)

Charisms change, depending on which Order you are looking at. The Legionaries of Christ have a charism of fidelity to the Magisterium and to the Pope. The charism of The Order of Saint Augustine is the love of Christ. The charism of The Order of Saint Benedict is work and prayer (ora et labora). And finally The Congregation of St. Paul focuses on spreading the Gospel through modern media.

While each of these groups works to spread the Word of God, they each do it through different means. Even the term "charism" is something that can be debated; no one likes to be pigeon-holed into a specific role. However there is something noticeable about each of the examples I've listed. The Orders are either a. Named after their patron, or b. Named after the work they do. The full name of my Order is Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin. What exactly does being a "minor friar" or "lesser brother" mean?

In trying to understand that role of "lesser brother," I chose to spend a year of my life living amongst the friars. The process is a long road, but is filled with opportunities of learning, prayer, reflection, and experiences that will help guide me in discerning my vocation. Next time, I will further explain the process that I will go through in order fully be a part of this order.

Sick Again!

The last few days I've been laid up in my room, fighting a nasty virus. Runny nose, coughing, aching, stuffy head - the ordinary symptoms that tend to make life suck for a bit. Since new year's eve, I've been fighting this bug.

The illness comes at a really bad time for me. Last Saturday, we hosted an Epiphany party: an event that brought in over 60 guests to our friary for food, wine, and good spirits. Unfortunately I was in no mood for good spirits or company, so I slept while visitors came and went.

Today we had a camera crew come into the house. They were getting footage to put together a 4 minute video about the postulants and post-novices for a vocational video. There were several roles that I was supposed to fill during the shooting. It had been planned a month in advance.

Again by misfortune, I thought I was feeling better yesterday. Rather than continuing my regiment of rest and fluids, I took the opportunity (since all the guys were together in one house) to get a big soccer game going. It was a blast! I felt good at my skill level. I felt healthy! Most importantly, my team won!

But with the exertion, the exposure to cold air, and the lack of sleep (we played FIFA 09 on the xBox 360 after getting back from the gym), I awoke this morning with chills and a fever of 101.
I have since been admonished for playing last night.

I've slept most of the day already, and I'll probably head back to bed after I finish typing this post. The hardest part of this is my separation from the community.

Less than 2 months ago I was sick. I've been told that it may be from the homeless population that I interact with in my ministry, and that I need to be extra careful with germs. I've also been told that by working too hard, my defenses are already lowered. However what I feel is that whenever I get sick and have to retire to my room for a few days to fight a cold, I feel I am not being present to the community. I feel I should have been at that party last week, and I feel I should have helped with the video today. I don't know if guilt helps fight a cold, but I can't deny the feeling as I sit here with my Kleenex box and juice.

I hope that tomorrow will be a better day, and I will once again feel part of the community as I let my body try to fight off whatever is making me sick. I just wish I didn't feel like I was letting others down because of it.

Heavy Reading

I've mentioned before that along with the community life and the ministry, I spend a good 2 hours a day in class here at the friary. Learning things from the life of Francis of Assisi, Liturgy, Biblical Criticism, the Catechism, and other important aspects of life as a Capuchin, my plate stay pretty full just with academics. There's never any grading done; at this stage of our formation I think they just want to make sure we'll do the work when it comes time for college and seminary.

So if you're looking to do some interesting reading, or you're just wondering what exactly I'm learning, here's a brief list of what I'm currently working on.

Catholic Social Teaching - One of the most important aspects of being a Capuchin is learning to be in community with all people, especially those that have been marginalized by society. Catholic Social Teaching is an integral part of how we choose to live out our charism and spread the Gospel message.

Rerum Novarum - Papal Encyclical from Pope Leo XIII in 1891. This is the basis for Catholic social justice today. It's relevance remains as we continue to see the effects of urbanization, polarization of classes and cultures, and the oppression of people in this world.

Along with Rerum, I've also read through Octogesima Adveniens, otherwise known as the "Call to Action" Encyclical from Pope Paul VI. Not only does this show the relevance of Rerum at the time of it's writing (1971) but gives specific directives for the faithful to engage in social justice. Paul VI is critical of Free Market society, leading to Individualism, but also warns against the siren song of Socialism and Marxism.

After reading both encyclicals, I realized I wanted to know even more about these systems, and why The Church always seems to have this "middle of the road" approach towards Capitalism and Socialism. So, for better understanding, I bought 3 more books:

For a better understanding of the ideology and to better digest why The Church gave it's critical description to both Communism and unchecked Capitalism, I thought it best to go to the source. For Christmas, my mom bought me The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital by Karl Mark and Fredrick Engels. For the other side of the spectrum, I bought the "Bible of Free Market Thinking": The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I'm still awaing their arrival from Barnes & Noble.

Over Christmas break, I also had to read and discuss a more recent encyclical, this one from Pope Benedict XVI. Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) was a surprise for the Pope's first encyclical. Many in the Catholic community thought he would write something more about the Magisterium or Truth, rather that something about eros and agape. Nonetheless, it is an excellent encyclical to understanding love in the grander scheme of faith, to recognizing the need not only for justice but for charity, and towards understanding how "Love of God" and "Love of neighbor" are much the same thing.

Along with these books, we're reading in preparation for Biblical study and criticism. This does not mean we're going to start tearing the Bible down, but it does mean that we will start looking at it through a better lens and try to understand when it was written. The metaphor for this process is "getting behind the Word." This stack of books could easily be found in any seminarian curriculum:

Interpreting Scripture by Walter Vogels. An introduction to understanding the need for exegesis and the different ways that is possible for us.

Interpreting the New Testament by Daniel Harrington. A more in-depth look at form criticism, redaction criticism, literary criticism, parallel texts, and the different tools available to get at the meaning behind the text.

New Testament Fundamentals by Stevan L. Davies. This is the application of exegesis on New Testament scripture. I'm still finishing the book by Harrington, so I cannot give you a further description, other than it takes the tools we've learned and begins to apply them to the Gospel, epistles, and to the Apocolypse text.

Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt is the biggest book we have to read, and for obvious reasons. This book is much like Davies book, except for the obvious difference. Thankfully we only have to read selected chapters from this book.

Last, but definitely not least, we have a book that needs to be read before the end of January. We in Milwaukee will spend a few weeks with the guys in the New York province at their friary (I haven't been to NYC in years!) While we are there, we will have a week long course regarding the Eucharist. Before that time, we need to read From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist. I haven't even thought about picking up this book yet, however I'm eager to read it just like everything else.

I would suggest all of these books (yes, even the ones about Socialism and Communism!) if you are looking to gain a better understanding of your faith, living your faith in a sometimes troubled world, or if you're interested in Scripture and would like to gain a better understanding of the Word.

Wish I could write more; but as you can see I'm quite busy.

What is Religious Life, Part 2

I touched lightly on the differences between diocesan life and religious life in my last post. What I wanted to do this time was to explain further in depth what it means to be part of an Order, and more specifically, what it means to be part of the Order of Capuchin Franciscans (OFM Cap.) As always, if you feel I didn't answer a specific question fully, don't hesitate to let me know.

Religious orders began in the early history of the church, around mid 200's. They began as hermitages, people known as Desert Fathers who fled the chaos and evils of the city to connect better with God. It was believed that there, where there was peace, quiet, and purity, one could easier connect with God. Through the example of John the Baptist and Jesus when he spent 40 days in the desert, they tried to learn self-discipline and prayer. This was the beginning of what we call today monastic life.

In the 400's, people would begin to group together. Some people preferred to live in communities; others saw the Gospel as a communal covenant. Either way, cenobitic monasticism began in this fashion. Living and praying in groups, they were more social than their priors or eremitical monks as they were called. They lived in large structures called monasteries or abbies, rather than the huts and caves of old. The even came into contact with the laity (through means of a local church) while hermits preferred solitude.

In these large structures, men and women followed a specific Rule. The Rule of Benedict, The Rule of Augustine, The Rule of Daniel - the rule that was followed would stipulate how the brothers were to live their life. The rule would later be the gateway to what is called the Charism of the Order.

Many of these old monasteries focused on separation from society to better understand God, until about the 1100's. Men like St. Francis and St. Dominic would revolutionize the way Orders were structured. Rather than hiding from society, they both found God in the world, and chose for their Orders to be part of that world. They saw the monasteries as huge structures with land ownings, serfs, and riches - things leading them away from the teachings of the Gospel. They began what are called the mendicant orders: the brothers traveled and spread the Gospel, but lived off of whatever donations they could.

In 1525, Matteo de Bassi began a reform movement within the Franciscan community. Feeling that they had strayed too far from the original charisms of poverty, austerity, and community, the Capuchin Franciscans were founded, named so because of their pointy cowl (not because of the monkey or the frothy coffee).

I hope this has further helped your understanding of religious life and how it plays a part within the Church. Next time, I'll try to explain from a personal experience how we as Capuchins today continue to live the vows of poverty, celibacy, obedience, and staying true to the original ideals of our founder: Francis of Assisi.

What is Religious Life, Part 1

There's a few questions people have had with regards to religious life. Many are familiar with the parish priest, but are less familiar with the life of a friar. Most people would assume I look like this guy here, in my habit with a huge cross and a serious/solemn look on my face - just waiting to break into some Gregorian chant. In reality, there are only a few orders that still live their charism in this fashion.

In my travels and discussions with people, I've been asked a number of questions about what exactly I am, what I do, and why I chose to live this way. While the last is more in-depth, the first two questions are a lot easier to explain. Unfortunately I get asked the same thing over and over:

"So are you going to be praying and singing all day?"
"Can you leave the house, or whatever you call where you'll be living at?"
"Do you have to wear a robe/dress/thingy?"
"So if you're a brother, that means you're not a priest? Can you be a priest?"
"What do you do for vacation?"
"Do you get internet?"
"Can you be around women?"

These, along with a host of other questions, are things that people ask about. I don't think they're trying to be offensive, but there's a lot about religious life that seems confusing or hidden. And unless you've been exposed to a religious order (Jesuit college, Salvadorian parish, grade school run by Notre Dame School Sisters, etc), you might not even know what a "religious order" is. So in an effort to educate the masses, I thought I'd start by writing more about religious life, and how it differs from diocesan (parish priest) life.

First is understanding the root word: religious. Today it's more of an adjective: "He's very religious." However the term originally identified those who took vows to an Order. Religious priests were not seen much; they were bound to their abbey and vary rarely left the walls. A diocesan priest does not take vows per se, rather he makes a promise to the bishop of the diocese. This type of priest was known as a secular priest, but is now commonly called diocesan.

Besides the designation of religious/diocesan, there are two states in which all people are categorized by The Church: laity and clergy. The laity (or lay people) are those who help in the ministry of the Gospel but have not been ordained by The Church . Included in the laity are religious who've taken vows but are not priests.

So to recap:

Secular laity: Cantors, lectors, musicians, those that volunteer, and all others who worship that are not part of an Order nor are they priests or deacons.

Secular clergy: Now called "Diocesan," refers to deacons, priests, bishops, etc that are not part of an order.

Religious laity: Sisters, nuns, monks, friars; people who are part of an Order but are not ordained a priest/deacon.

Religious clergy: Those priests who belong to an order. A "clerical order" refers to a religious order that contains only priests.

Using this model, I am a lay person who is living as a religious with plans to take vows. I'm not bound by any vow currently, however I choose to live as if I was.

There are huge differences between the Order and the diocese, and this was a huge question I had to discern in my process of finding my vocation. Here's a list of some of the more obvious differences:

1. A diocese is a fixed location, today it's usually several counties combined together. The diocese is run by the bishop who installs and moves priests to different parishes. You can remain in the community you grew up in, however you may not travel much.

In an Order, where you are depends on the charism. There are cloistered orders where you rarely go outside the abbey or convent. There are missionary orders where you will rarely ever see home. Within the Capuchin Franciscans, the territories are broken down into provinces. While most of my ministry could be here in Milwaukee, I could choose to move to Detroit, Chicago, or maybe even return to Grand Rapids, MI to start up a ministry. I'd also have the choice of studying in Rome, doing mission work in Panama, or transferring to any other country for a time. I only get home a few times a year, however I am relatively close.

2. A diocesan priest lives alone for the most part. Years ago, a parish rectory could house 3-4 priests at one church. However since the decline of diocesan priests and the plight of poorer parishes, some churches don't even have a priest on site. While it's true that any priest is never without company, his personal life is his alone.

In most religious orders, you live as part of a community. You eat together, you pray together, you may even work together. To live in community requires a special person and plenty of patience. For me, community has been a blessing; I'm able to share experiences, I work better with people, and I know someone is looking out for me.

3. When a diocesan priest is ordained, he makes a promise to the bishop. That promise is based on obedience. Disciplines of being obedient require being present to all the faithful, remaining celibate, being prudent with money, visit the sick and dying, and to perform the sacraments. The priest draws a salary from the diocese, and can be seen as a paid employee.

A member of a religious order takes solemn vows; a binding covenant to God not unlike matrimonial vows. Those vows are Obedience, Celibacy, and Poverty. In cloistered orders, they make take another vow of Stability to the abbey/convent. By being a part of a religious order, I own nothing of my own. While I have my own clothes, toiletries, laptop, books, etc. just like everyone else, I live in a communal environment. This is because we live off of a stipend (a set amount of money) each month, while the order provides all other necessities. That means if a religious priest is helping out the diocese as a parish priest, and the diocese pays him like a diocesan (this happens more often because of the need of priests), he does not keep that money. It goes to the Order. (The joke is that when you see a priest get out of a Cadillac, he's diocesan. When he gets out of an old Ford Escort, he's religious.)

There's so much more to write about, however we're having a party at the friary for Epiphany; I wouldn't be living in community if I didn't get away from the computer and help set up. But stay tuned for more. I plan on writing more about religious life, my future plans, and what it is that I do here as a Capuchin Franciscan.

The iBreviary

Only recently we at the friary joked that by taking the Lectionary, Sacramentary, Liturgy of the Hours, and all the other numerous books we kept and put them onto iPhones, not only would we be saving money and saving trees, but we'd be following the wishes of St. Francis who strictly forbade the brothers from owning books. Of course the older friars didn't see much humor in the idea. But for as fast as technology continues to grow, I wasn't surprised by what I found in my email this afternoon.

The iBreviary is the next innovation in prayer resources developed for the digital Catholic. I received an email from one of the developers Fr. Paulo Padrini, sharing some information about his application for the iPhone and how it already "has gotten the applause and encouragement of the Vatican."

-Available readings in English, Spanish, French, Latin, and Ambrosian

- has the three major Hours, Daytime Prayer, and Compline. Also has the daily missal as well as the principal Catholic prayers.

-The cost is only $.99 in U.S. dollars, with funds going to, an online ministry in Italy aimed at younger Catholics.

Before writing about this application, I wanted to get some first-hand experience with it. One of the Postulants has an iPhone, and he promptly paid the 99 cents to put the iBreviary to the test.

The program can be tricky at first. It's original language is in Italian, and we had some trouble figuring out how to change the languages. We had to go into the iPhone settings, select "English" as the language, and then get back into the program. Without directions, it can be confusing to some people.

After transposing to English, we took a look at one of the psalms for today: Psalm 51. To my surprise the translation is very good. I must assume that the translations were all written and are not transposed by the application. Compared to the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours, the text was very close. I am not a "purist," so the fact that it wasn't 100% was not an issue.

The fact that today's Hours were available without using 5 different bookmarks was a nice change of pace, however those that are familiar with praying the Office will see that the program is not entirely the same as having a breviary or psalter:

-There are no Antiphons available for any of the psalms or canticles.

-There are no tone indicators (the underlines) for those who choose/are obliged to chant.

-It lacks the flexibility of observance that an actual breviary does. If you/your order celebrates a specific saint or feast day with special psalms and antiphons, there's no Index with Commons and/or Intercessions to observe specific days of obligation. (Example: We as Franciscans observe the feast day of Thomas Aquinas with antiphons from the Common of Doctors, while the Order of Preachers observe the feast day of their founder with specific psalms and readings.)

Overall, I think the iBreviary is great for people new to the Divine Office or for religious who are "on the go" and are looking for a cheap and efficient way to pray the Office. If you pray the Office daily and are intent on the observance of those obligated feasts, this probably isn't for you.
Check out your iTunes Store; it's worth the $.99 cents and the money is going to charity.

While I don't think we at St. Conrad's Friary will be replacing our books with digital screens just yet, I have long waited for The Church to embrace the digital age. Perhaps my generation will be the one to help use the digital tools to better spread the Gospel.

My Vocation In Pictures

Months ago I started on a project: an idea to put the concepts and the hopes of my future participation with the Capuchin Franciscans into picture or even video. Already hearing something deeper in music, I wanted to look deeper into other media and find a way to reflect the feelings I had about what I wanted to do, what I planned to do, and about how I was giving up my "old life" to begin something even greater.

On top of that, I wanted to show how esoteric my choice was, and that it was the antithesis of society's apathy. I was looking to make a statement about myself, the world, and how I was soon going to change it.

I made the video 4 months ago. I made it before actually living this life. Now that I am here, it still makes sense.

The music is by Jimmy Eat World. The photos are from various photographers; only a few are mine. This video is only my reflection on life...nothing more. I thank all of them for finding that something in each piece, so that I might create something that speaks to others.