The Digital Nativity

One of the popular videos circulating the Web this Christmas is The Digital Nativity. It tells the story of the birth of Jesus through the lens of social networking, mobile internet, and the power of Google.



Personally I find the video to be insightful. As we evolve, so does our method of communication. For a digital friar like myself, I'm always interested in how people express their faith through technological means.

Enjoy!

First Semester of School (Take 2)

Every once in a while, God gives us a mulligan, or a "do over."

Years after leaving Wabash College, I've felt that I misused the time and funds that were given to me to pursue a higher education. Seventeen years later I finished my first semester of school with straight A's. There's more to this than just bragging about my grades (although I'm sure there's some pride in it!), it's about getting the chance to do things the right way, and see how the Order has allowed me to mature, assess my gifts and strengths, and revisit an important part of my life: being a college student.


Getting What you Pay For with Liturgical Music

A new president gets to appoint an entirely new cabinet when he's elected, but a parish priest is "stuck" with the same choir director as before. This is the topic of Fr. Z's, blog - a lead I got from @4catholics.

I can sympathize with some of the things that he brings up, but there are a few points left out that reflect the reality of running a parish-especially when it comes to paid staff and the church's available funds. This is true especially in urban and/or poor parishes. It's unfortunate that musicians can be out of sync with the presider (and the congregation), but from a friar who regularly attends Mass at poor and minority parishes, it is only a "problem" for parishes that can afford another Music Director.

Working for Equilibrium

I've been in chicago for a few months now, and a student at St. Xavier for over a month. I've cooked a few times already, lead prayer a few times, and had the chance to visit my ministry at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, WI. Living with all these responsibilities has caused me to do a lot of juggling. As I continue to work towards a balance or equilibrium in my life, I recognize that sometimes when you learn to juggle, sometimes you drop the ball.




Adventures in Academia: Trying to Write Right Correctly

For the first time in many many years, I found myself lying awake...preparing for an exam that would be worth 25% of my total grade. What made the experience so nerve-wracking? 60% of the exam was based on a two-part essay question; I was being graded on my writing ability.

New Young Capuchin Bloggers

Seems like a few more guys are interested in telling their journey of discernment and life with the Capuchin friars. I think it's important, especially in a digital world, for discerning people to share their story. I remember when i had a lot of questions, concerns, and even fears about leaving my old life and doing something so different. Hopefully you'll find their stories as enlightening as you've found mine.

Trials in Academia: Making Classes Harder On My Own

For my Christology class, the first book I'm reading is by Marcus Borg, entitled, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary. It's an introductory level to the concept of the Historical Jesus and a historical-critical method of interpreting scripture. Having previous experience in this area has made the class easier, but drudging through this book has been a challenge, both for reading and reflection.

Today's Gift From God

Sometimes it's the small things that bring us pleasure. As a discerning friar, I can be so focused on the big things, that I'm surprised when something little is recognized as a gift from God.

Today at class, I was talking with a few of my classmates. When I told them I was 35, one of them remarked: "I thought you were only 25!"

While some might consider my happiness an appeal to my pride, there is something to say about being accepted and perhaps integrated with the younger culture of college life. As someone trying to identify myself as a strong student, a discerning friar, a Mexican American, a functional person with Epilepsy, and the many more pieces that make me who I am, it's good to have those moments when you no longer feel on the margins.

So while his statement may have been non-chalant, small things like that make this process of school and integration a little bit easier.

Now I Know How a Parish Priest Feels

I was recently in Milwaukee at the reception of our new Postulants. Events like these bring many of the friars together. One of the older friars came up to me and said: "You write great stuff. But sometimes you go a little long."

"You sound like a parishioner after Mass!" I told him jokingly, and we had a good laugh.

it's good to know that friars from my Order keep tabs on me, even if they have some helpful criticisms along the way.

Shock and Awe: Wearing the Habit to School

I made the decision to wear my habit to class at St. Xavier University today. It's only 10AM, but so the impact has had as much to do with the others as it has with me.

New School for an Old Car Salesman

It was 1995 when I last stepped into a classroom, expecting to receive a grade. For the past few months I've been excited for this chance to learn at a higher institution. Now that I'm here, with all the reservations and complications that I bring with me, I find that it is something still new; the first day of school notwithstanding.

School Dis-Orientation (August 9)

Last night I went to Transfer Orientation with two other post-novices at my school: St. Xavier University. It's a required seminar that each student must take before joining. But instead of being oriented with the school I realized the disturbing reality of returning to school as a 35 year old.

Chi-Town is My Town!

Even though I've been in the city for a few weeks, yesterday was our first real "introduction" to the city of Chicago. It's important to know the history of where you live as well as the history of the people who live there. As a way to get us started, we a trip downtown on a beautiful day.

Saying Yes (From August 17, 2010)

"Do you know what you're getting yourself into?" a little voice in the back of my head asked.

"I mean do you really know what you're about to do? What you are giving up?"

I don't think it was the voice of the Enemy or some malignant Force trying to steal my vocation at the last minute. Rather that little voice that spoke came from me. It's a voice that people who've made commitments are probably familiar with: a voice that - after all the planning, excitement, invitations, preparation, and prayer - drives home the greatest question of the day: Am I doing the right thing?

Since Taking the Vows...

I know it's bad form for a blogger to take a month-long hiatus from his/her craft, but taking vows to the Order of Capuchin Franciscans has been a pretty big deal.

Numerous guests came to visit, I was able to attend several different functions for the province, I was struck with tonsilitis and a middle-ear infection, I've started my preparation for school at Saint Xavier University, and this week starts different orientations regarding life as a post-novice as well as being orientated to this year's ministry at Saint Lawrence High School in Mt. Calvary, WI.

Today I Profess Simple Vows

This morning I look out the window, wondering if rain on the day I take vows is either good or bad luck. While something so important is about more than luck and weather conditions, it's a unique feeling to capstone a long journey with the simplicity of the rain.

Summing Up My Novitiate

With 10 days left of Novitiate, I know I'll be taking a break from blogging for about a month. My schedule from now until the end of August is already filling up, not the least of which is my profession date on July 31st.

But before going on break, I know there are many people that wanted me to put my Novitiate year in some form of perspective - to give understanding to year that is spent to allow people the time, space, and support to discern their call to religious life. While I can't speak for everyone else here in my Novitiate, nor for the guys who decided to leave during the year, I can do my best to explain what the Novitiate year has meant to me.

Final Retreat

Today begins the final retreat for the Novitiate year. As of today, there are 20 days left until I return to Chicago.

Unfortunately there won't be any internet access, so I'll be "off the grid" for a while.

One topic of note: I've been recommended for vows, and after making the request to my provincial, I've been approved to take first vows on July 31, 2010 in Milwaukee. There's a lot of thoughts tied into it, however part of our final retreat is to take 10 minutes to discuss the Novitiate year, explain what we've learned, and how it has changed us. It sounds like a great blog article...unfortunately I've decided to wait until after the retreat to share this bit of personal reflection.

Thanks to everyone who's kept me in their prayers this entire time. After this week, it's all about Chicago, returning to college, and living a vowed life.

What's It Like To Pursue Religious Life?

For those of you who've kept hitting the F.A.Q's button on the menu, I've finally gotten around to getting the page up! Sorry about the delay.

I get a lot of questions about my vocation, how everything worked, and how I made it through difficult experiences in my journey. Even when I started blogging four years ago, I wanted to be able to help people going through the same issues I was. Figuring out what God is asking of us can be a tough job; it can be even tougher if we don't know where to seek help. Hopefully by putting up the page, it will give some people access to ask questions while giving them a chance to ask their own.

Enjoy, and never hesitate to ask questions...especially when God's involved. You can either click the F.A.Q button on the menu or click here.

Peace.

World Cup Soccer: The Good, Bad, and The Ugly

While much of the world's attention is focused on South Africa as some of the greatest names in soccer (or football, if you prefer) play for their nations, there are plenty of peripheral stories tied into this competition. What might surprise some people is existence of stories that involve the World Cup and faith.

Unfortunately, not all the stories have good endings.

What's In A Name (Day)?

Today I celebrated my name day. For people outside Catholic Christian culture, this can be a point of confusion. Do I have another name? What kind of "celebration" is it? Where did the tradition come from? Searching online lead to only a few sites, so I thought I'd take some time to explain exactly what a name day is, and how I choose to recognize it.

The concept of a name day goes back to the Middle Ages. It started with the Orthodox and Catholic churches as a way to combat, what they felt, was a pagan celebration. Birthdays were considered to be festivals for the rich, for kings, and for flase gods. (see Natalis Invicti)

A Christology of Debtors and Creditors

Reflecting on the Gospel reading from this Sunday, I saw a lot that spoke of the relationship of debtors and creditors. Having had the experience of both sides, I find it a very interesting and challenging metaphor for the Kingdom of God. In our world where debt and credit are shared as much as blame and personal worth, are we able to truly forgive the debts of others, and expect others to do the same.

I should start out with two stories from my own experience:

Jesus Saves...as the 12th Man?

You know it's World Cup time when Jesus laces up to hit the pitch.

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a picture of the Child of Miracles from St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Mexico. Since 1990, the statue has been dressed up in the uniform of the Mexican national team and considered the 12th man.

Working Out Some Bugs

...with this new template. Hopefully it will be completely functional by this weekend.

Peace and blessings. - @vitoofmcap

Corpus Christi

For the feast of Corpus Christi, I decided to use a prayer written by Fr. Christopher Rengers, OFM Cap., a wonderful man who passed away earlier this year. I hope his words will give some insight into the meaning of this day. Peace. -V

At the Last Supper, Eternal Father, Jesus spoke much about You to His apostles, He also prayed to You for them and for all who would believe in You through their word. In these hushed moments charged with the drama of leave-taking and approaching capture, condemnation, crucifixion and death, His thoughts turned to You. His Heart yearned to make us one with You even as You and He were one.

The Last 47 Days...

47 days left of Novitiate. Some of us have eagerly been counting since the winter. This Memorial Day weekend made it even more apparent that our year is almost over; soon we return to our respective provinces to take First Vows.

So like most terms, there's a desire to "check out." In high school we called it "Senior-itis." The year's almost done; we're almost out of here; let's just coast the rest of the way.

But is that the best way to spend the most unique year of my life?

An Uncomfortable Chair


Mental prayer is a big part of Capuchin life. It's an important time for me to spent time with God in a manner that best fits me. Sometimes I pray the rosary or other devotions, sometimes I sit in silence and try to be open to what the Spirit is telling me. Sometimes I write and end up posting the composite here online. Regardless of how I pray, the time is always beneficial and is usually focused on good thoughts and ideas for the future.

Sometimes, however, those thoughts are shadowed by others...making mental prayer a disturbing or even torturous time.

How Great is Our God: For Fr. Dan Anholzer

On Monday I saw the New Jerusalem.


The church was packed; about a hundred people sat in the vestibule while numerous others watched via closed-circuit TV in the activities building next door. The sea of faces presented every age, shape, and color - all of whom had been touched by this man's life. And in one spirit-filled voice, we sang as God's people:
"How great is our God?
Sing with me...how great is our God?
How great, how great
Is our God?"

Break from Blogging

Just a short notice that I'll be away from the computer for a few days. Today we leave for Saginaw, MI for the funeral of our brother, Fr. Daniel Anholzer, OFM Cap - friar and former Provincial.

When we return, we begin another Day of Recollection where there's no computer access until the day is over.

Peace and blessings until then.

-V

Listening to the Holy Spirit

A reflection on the Holy Spirit as we begin the novena for Pentacost:

The Holy Spirit can be hard for us to understand at times. We understand the role of the Father as creator and liberator, we understand plainly the role of the Son as the deliverer and savior. But it can bbe hard to put our finger on the role of the Holy Spirit, and for one important reason: we can choose not to listen to the Spirit.

New Blogs

As if I'm not busy enough, I decided to add two more blogs to my workload. It's not that I have more to write about, but I think it's best to keep my ideas in Order. I know I sometimes jump from topic to topic, and that can be hard for readers to follow. So to help me stay focused, and to help my readers, I've added two new blogs.

My Rosary Habit is a place for me to put up pictures of the my habit rosary work. I find I write most of my blogs when I have wire and bead in-hand, so rosary-making has become an important part of my religious life. I just wanted to provide a specific blog for it.

Friar Tech is an idea that's been going on for a while. As you may know, my focus after Novitiate will be on Ordination as well as the use of social media, the Web, and modern communications as a way to spread the Capuchin charism as a ministry. This area is limitless in its application, and each day I think of new ideas either as a ministry, as a way for my Order and/or Province to respond to the needs of the poor, reflections on what joyful simplicity means with Web use.

I don't plan to abandon my vocation story. For over three years I've been stumbling as a Christian, as a Catholic, and now as a friar. My goal is to focus in on those areas that are important to me, and make my stories clearer for the people who want to read them.

Thanks to all of you who've followed my life and have kept me in your prayers. I hope the next three years can be just as momentous.

Evaluation Time: I'm Not What I Do

As the Novitiate year comes to an end (71 days to go!), my third and final evaluation takes center stage. I am required to write personal evaluation of my time here as well as several evalutions of my peers here in the community. Evaluations are done a lot differently than my days selling cars, but I still get anxious about the process.

Back at the car lot, my progress meetings were held monthly. I remember days just sitting in my manager's office dreading the same speech every time: "So how do you think we can improve these numbers?" For many years my value was determined by a spreadsheet that figured in the number of cars I sold, the amount of calls I made, number of appointments, profit on each car, etc. The list goes on. And no matter how good or bad the numbers were, there was always room for improvement.

Even looking back, I find it hard to find fault with this kind of evaluation. Hard work and performance equals success. Success equals freedom and security for yourself and your family. Success means that you can get everything you need and some of the things you want.

As a self-confessed Type 3 on the Enneagram, I still value my self by what I do. I remember my apprehension with evaluations because I felt still feel that my work defines who I am. It's a hard aspect of my life to deal with, and American society promotes the Type 3 personality type: The Achiever. Just taking a look at my Postulancy Evaluation from 2008 shows how much of a salesman I still am.

Thankfully the evaluation system for religious formation focuses on much more than just numbers. I'm encouraged to look at myself and seek out my own areas of strength and weakness. I'm challenged to look at the commitment of vows, express my understanding of those vows, and discuss how I intend to live that life. I am judged as a human being rather than by the work I do. I am offered suggestions and accolades based on my past evaluations.

But it's hard to think differently after you've learned to hate episodes like evaluations. So while I write my evaluation and take time to think about what I've done through the year, I'll have to try very hard not to define my life as a Capuchin only by my skills, my gifts, and my accomplishments.

If you're interested to learn about your personality type, go to enneagraminstitute.com. If you don't have the money to take the RHETI test online, check out your local library for more books on the subject.

Mother's Day eCards from ForThisWePray.com

Luckily I remembered to get my mom a Mother's Day card this year. But for those of you who forgot or just realized this Sunday is Mother's Day, the guys at Regis College have created something great for this season:

Joseph Schuner, SJ, president of Regis College and the genius behind the prayer site http://www.forthiswepray.com/ have Mother's Day eCards available.

4 different styles of cards are available for use, all of which have scripture quotes and are ready to send out. And when you're there, why not add a prayer for your Mom to their list of intentions. The community at ForThisWePray.com takes the prayers of visitors and adds them to their own prayer intentions at the community. It's an innovative way of taking the power of prayer and moving it onto the Web.

Thanks to Joseph and his community at Regis College for making these gifts available.

And Mom, if you're reading this, your card is in the mail...I promise. =)

A Prayer for the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker

Heavenly God,
We thank you for the meal that has been set before us this evening.
We thank those who tilled the soil and tended the flock, and the hard work they do.
We thank those who've harvested the field and pick our fruits and vegetables.
We are thankful for those who travel, shipping the food from one place to another, either on land, sea, or air.
We are thankful for those who stock the shelves, who bag our groceries, and provide a place for us by our food.
And we are thankful for those who've prepared this meal before us, that through their work we are able to share in the breaking of bread.
May we always remember that together we are all people of Your Creation. May we be thankful for the work that others do for us, and as Your followers may we never value the productivity of a person over their humanity.

Amen.

It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.
-Rerum Novarum

My Church, Scandal, and Penance

A few days ago, I was (abruptly) asked for my insight regarding the abuse scandals of the Church. I didn't feel I knew enough about the topic and I didn't want my personal statements to be interpreted as that of my entire order. But reflecting on the fact that I am a friar and seek to build relationships, and that I have a voice in this vast blogosphere, I slowly found the words to articulate my thoughts. I was also inspired by the words of Davide Russo, a young Italian seminarian. Regardless of what you may think, know that my statements are rooted in my faith, my commitment to being a Capuchin, and the words of Jesus to love one another.(John 13:34) Peace. -V

As a member of the Roman Catholic Church (by my baptism, not just by my vocation as a religious friar) I experience the Church as a Sacrament; I am part of a salvation message, a flock, to spread to the prophetic teachings of Jesus Christ. These are the words of my Church (Lumen Gentium) , and it's something I profess each day a baptized member of this Body.

 Similarly, when the Church is weakened because of scandal, abuse, or any other sins of It's members (or  attempts to hide those transgressions), I am also weakened. I want to defensive. I want to think that others are attacking me or persecuting me. I want to shout the words of the psalm: Will you be angry with us forever, drag out your anger for all generations?(Ps 85:6)

But in the depth of my heart, I know my "sufferings" will never amount to those who've been abused, harmed, or kept quiet. Rather than seek martyrdom, I think it's best to seek forgiveness and to do penance. Francis of Assisi saw penance as a means of conversion - a way to open our hearts and better perform our roles as disciples of Christ.

For my part, I pray for those who've been harmed by the Church. As we are trained to prevent and identify signs of abuse, I make sure people aren't put into situations that could allow a predator to take advantage of a child. I try to be honest and transparent in my interactions with those I minister to. And in everything, I try to love as Francis did.

If people are angry, if they lack trust in the Catholic Church institution, if they wish to say mean or hateful things, it is because the Church, my Church, has done wrong. That is my cross to bear as a religious and as a member of the Catholic Church. But it is a cross of penance, not persecution. As a Capuchin I am called to seek a life of penance, to make peace with others, and to reflect the love of God to others.

At all times, moved by the spirit of conversion and renewal, let us devote ourselves to works of penance according to the Rule and Constitutions and, as God inspires us, so that the paschal mystery of Christ may be more and more at work within us. -Capuchin Constitutions 102:3

Pictures of Easter at Calvary

While it is still the Easter Season, I realize I've taken a while to post the many pictures of the Triduum celebration when I went back to my home province in Calvary, Wisconsin. Sorry for the delays, as I tend to find other things to fill up my time. Remember that if you're looking for more pictures from the Triduum retreat, they can always be found at the Vocations Update Page.


Formation Row: Mitch, me, and next year's novices MJ and Stephen.
The yearly Triduum Retreat in our province is an opportunity for candidates, friars in formation, Cap Corps members, and other members/affiliates of the province to get together for a spiritual and exciting time together during Triduum. For me it was an opportunity to reunite with my home province after spending so many months away at Novitiate.


However the retreat isn't just about connecting and having a good time. Fr. Gianluigi Pasquale, OFM Cap. was our presenter for the weekend, and presented some very interesting thoughts for reflection during the several seminars that weekend.

Gianluigi shows off a doodle made by Br. David Hirt, post-novice.

Of course the Easter Triduum is a liturgical period from Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil. The following are various photos from the different liturgies. Note: Since the Holy Thursday Mass and Procession involved the student body of St. Lawrence Minor Seminary, pictures of that Liturgy are not listed, per our policy regarding minors and the internet. Thanks for understanding. -V
Morning prayer in the chapel at St. Lawrence Seminary

Veneration on Good Friday.



Future novice MJ and Cap Corps volunteer Christina serve as acolytes for the Easter Vigil.




Again, if you want to see more pictures, be sure to check out our provincial Vocations website at http://www.capuchinfranciscans.org/.

The Digital Continent - Our New Mission

is is an article I've been working on for quite some time. It seemed coincidental that the Pope would talk about this same subject. The decision to pursue a Computer Science degree in conjunction with my Masters in Divinity for Ordination takes a little explaining. It is my hope to stimulate minds as well as further discern the possibilities of my decision to seek this focus as a Capuchin friar. Enjoy. -V

For years the computer and the Web have provided more than just a tool or a modern means of communication. Technology now allows us to exist in another space so to speak; it allows us to be in a new type of universe. Similar to the advent of cheap printing during the Age of Enlightenment, the use of computers and the Web have created a technological revolution.

Today we find ourselves in the midst of a new awakening: the Digital Revolution. We can see changes in the way people communicate, the configuration of the economy and power structures, and how we express ideas. While the Church now looks to take advantage of this new techonology, there are still many questions that need to be asked about how far the Church is willing to get involved with the world of Cyberspace.

The Church has responded with enthusiasm and wariness. Much like the Pope's recent address regarding the use of the Web, the conversation usually couples the advantages of the Web with some sort of caveat. Fart too often I hear the discussion on the Church and Technology to be a two-pronged answer. It's not that I think those dangers should be downplayed, rather it shows the Church's continued unfamiliarity with an important part of our culture today.

So what does this have to do with me? Let's start with the Pope's address:

"I exhort you to walk the roads of the digital continent, animated by the courage of the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is not uncritically placed in any instrument of technology. Our strength lies in being Church, believing community, able to bear witness to all the perennial newness of the Risen One, with a life that blooms in fullness in the measure that it opens up, enters into relation, gives itself gratuitously. -Pope Benedict XVI"


While many believe the doctrines of Science and Religion to be diametrically opposed, there have been many people throughout history who've merged the two schools of thought to seek the path of God. As technology becomes easier to access and a bigger part of our culture, the missionaries to this "digital continent" will require people who can guide, form, and assist them as they make the Web their new ministry frontier. With the the proper schooling and experience as a priest, friar, and computing consultant, I hope to provide (among other things) a support mechanism for people as they choose to venture into this "land."

Pragmatically, the schooling may prove to be the easiest part of this endeavor. There are numerous questions yet to ask regarding different aspects of the Church, and each day I think of new ideas that are possible for this type of ministry. By exploring this area of study, and writing about it as I learn, I hope to evoke thoughts, inspire dialogue, and perhaps challenge previously held concepts.

If you're willing to think about your faith in a new setting, you may be interested in this series of blogs ramblings. The actual talk the Pope gave can be found here.

Art by Designnrg. Click picture for original location.

A Visit From the Minister General

Last weekend was spent cleaning, primping, and making the Novitiate pretty for the arrival of the Minister General: Mauro Jöhri.


Coming from a business background, a visit from "the big guy" is usually an occasion for worry and CYA. However the General's visit wasn't to yell about how we were doing things wrong, rather he wanted to visit the North American & Pacific Capuchin Conference (NAPCC) novitiate. The collaborative model that we use to bring together novices from different provinces in the US, Canada, and the Pacific is a model that Mauro supports, and wanted not just to see how it was going, but to get our input about the experience.

So rather than coming in and raising hell, we had a nice sit down discussion with the Minister General where he asked about our personal experiences being in novitiate under the NAPCC model.

A great aspect of being a Capuchin is that even our leaders don't take themselves too seriously. While his words were translated from Italian (his second language) into English, you could still feel that Mauro did not want to be treated as "someone above," that he had a good sense of humor and of fraternity, and that while his task of being the Minister General was very serious, he didn't take himself too seriously. This is an aspect of Capuchin life that I am proud to be a part of.

He stayed only for a day, but I did manage to pin him down for a photo op:


Not to be outdone, Br. Erik asked Mauro to take a picture of the two of us.



It's good to be a Capuchin friar!

A Night of Music and Witnessing

It's becoming so hard to maintain a constant blog schedule. Between days of recollection, a visit from the General Minister, making rosaries, and other such projects, I can make plenty of excuses to not write. Hopefully I can get turned around again. Thanks to my readers for your patience! -V

P4170102


After a week of picking songs, the stress of trying to make a band, a few small arguments, and a few outbursts by yours truly, we performed at the Catholic Underground event in Pittsburgh last Saturday. It was a blast!

The event was mostly college aged people with plenty of priests and religious also in attendence. I was downstairs setting up, but I could hear the wonderful music as the Eucharistic Adoration took place in the church above me. Afterwards everyone came downstairs for food, drinks, conversation, and a little friar music.

Most of the songs we ended up playing were Praise and Worship songs, however I don't think the song selection was the biggeset selling point for us. During each song, we each took some time to talk about our vocational journies and explain how God's worked differently in each of our lives. The opportunity to witness our experiences was wonderful, and we were thanked numerous times for our participation.

There were plenty of cheers and laughs, especially when we ended with The Climb by Miley Cyrus...an unusual selection with a rather positive message. Regardless, it was definitely a great experience.

If you've never attended a Catholic Underground event, check out their website to see when the next event takes place and check it out. We had a great time, and hopefully we'll be able to go back before Novitiate ends (87 days...not that I'm counting!)

cuparker

Catholic Underground in Pittsburgh


This Saturday at the St. Matthew's Parish in Lawerenceville, PA we'll be playing music for the Catholic Underground here in Pittsburgh.

Fr. Kim Schreck from the Pittsburgh Cathedral and I spoke last Friday in a chance meeting, and asked if we had a band at Novitiate. There are several of us that play instruments, but we never put together any group before. However Fr. Kim thought it would be a great opportunity and a great witness for us as Capuchin Novices to interact with those who attend the Catholic Underground.

For those who are unfamiliar with Catholic Underground, it was started in New York City by the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. It's an opportunity for young adults to participate in Eucharistic Adoration, Evening Prayer, and a social enviroment with music, art, drama, and anything else that speaks to spreading the Gospel in a way that reaches out to today's generation.

This week has been a little stressful for us guys here as we've worked hard to provide a good set of music as well as a great witness of what it means to be religious, young, and to love God.

If you're interested in attending, check out the website for Catholic Underground Pittsburgh for times and directions.

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Sorry I haven't written more. I've been spending a lot of time in prayer and really trying to figure out where I am right now. There have been times this past week I've felt stretched: between being a novice in Pittsburgh and being a friar in Chicago; between being a "Father" at a church and being a "Father" as a parental role; between defining myself by what I do and defining myself by the journey I'm taking.

All of this is deep, and perhaps someday when they ask me to write my memoirs of Religious Life I'll write it. But as of late, I've been keeping a lot of thoughts between me and my directors who can help me sort through things.

However I'm starting to fall back into the swing of Novitiate. St. Catherine of Sweden here in Pittsburgh is having a Garage Sale to drive money, and I'm trying to finish a Wall Rosary for them to sell. I'm still studying up on my math to prepare for the placement test I'll have to take in the fall. And a few of us were asked to play music at a Catholic Underground event here in Pittsburgh...an event that's had me practicing (and sometimes stressed) until we play on Saturday.

I still need to get pictures up from Triduum in Milwaukee. Give me some time as I get back into the swing of blogging, especially after taking the long break for Lent.

Losing Focus?

99 days left of Novitiate. It seems so close, yet so far.

I should explain up fron that there's a difference between my vocation and my focus. In my prayer and my thoughts I am happy at the thought of taking first vows this summer. I enjoy Morning Prayer & Mass with the commmunity (even if I'm not a morning person), and when people ask me where I see myself in 5 or 10 years, I answer: "As a Capuchin." I have no fear of losing my calling to be a friar, priest, and whatever else God has in store for me.

But I wonder about my focus. I'm having trouble being present to the Novitiate Program lately. The chance to go home (I already talk about Chicago & Milwaukee as home) for Easter has a huge effect on me. It reminded me of the ministries and encounters that got me initially fired up about being a Capuchin. I got to see friars from my province, friars who pray for my success and perseverence. It is a warm feeling to have so many people rooting for you; it's like having your own cheering section.

The drive back from Chicago to Pittsburgh was tough. I felt like an inmate who got 4 days leave. The days were wonderful, but I had to deal with the hurt of going back to Pittsburgh and leave everyone behind. I don't know that I've mentally returned here to Novitiate. I dont know that I completely ever will.

Another big factor in my life has been reconnectiong with my daughter. There are a lot of emotions here, and despite my usually habit of "diving in," we've been taking things slow. This time around I have the support of other fathers (with their own adult daughters), spiritual advisors, and plenty of psychologists (there are plenty in the Order). I feel better equipped to talk to this 19 year old woman who still calls me Dad. By talking openly about our thoughts and establishing good boundaries, I feel I can be a positive influence in her life.

There are those who worry, and I acknowledge their concerns. Some know the story of my break-up with my ex, others experienced it. But I think there's a part of me, maybe the part that never knew my own father or had anyone willing to take up the job, that considers it a gift from God to hear: "You are and always will be my Dad." Is that me being responsible? Idealistic? Am I trying to prove that I'm better than the man that fathered me? These are the things I talk to God about.

I think these events are both positives and can help me be a better friar. I just need to get my head back in the game.

Back With 102 Days to Go!

Sorry there's not more to tell. I just got back from Milwaukee and Chicago for the Easter weekend. Quite honestly, after experiencing the warmth and the comfortability of my home province, I found it very hard to come back to Pittsburgh.

But there's about 3 months left of Novitiate and then I go back to Chicago. I'm excited about the possibilities in ministry and the future that I have with the Capuchin Franciscans of the St. Joseph Province. I just need a little perseverence to get through the time.

Peace and a Joyous Easter to everyone. I'll post more about the trip soon!

After the Cheering

I've watched the movie Rudy more times than I can count, but I always cry at the end of the movie...without fail. And in all honesty, who wouldn't? Rudy's lifted up on the shoulders of his fellow players after years of hard work, struggle, negative feedback, roadblocks, nay-sayers, and even a father who wasn't willing to appreciate his son's dream...it all comes together at the end of the movie.

It's a moment of achievement for everyone. We should all be inspired.

I find it easy to parallel this image of awe-inspiring inspiration with Jesus as he's helped onto the colt's back...preparing to enter into Jerusalem as a king. The multitudes are singing; cloaks cover the road. The words of the Pharisees are drowned out by the elation of the disciples.

It's a great day to be one of the faithful, but it lasts only for a few days.

For many who are searching to connect with God, or those doing their best to follow a religious vocation like me, our faith can be just as elating. There are moments in life when we know we have spoken with the Divine, we know why we are here, and we are positive on how we will live the rest of our lives. The grace of God allows that, and anyone who's had a "God moment" will tell you how the immensity of such an encounter can barely be put into words.

Yet our lives are not full of these moments. The "Rudy Moments" are rare (at least in my experience), and they are the strongholds that provide us refuge in times of great desolation. Yet in these moments of desolation, the times when we call out for God and we wonder if anyone is really listening...these are the times when we learn to grow our faith the most.

In reading and reflecting on the Gospel for Palm Sunday, I thought about the challenges I face as a novice and what the Scripture is saying to me. And one of those challenges is to be able to perservere even when I feel that I'm not as close to God as I should be, or I'm not being good enough to wear the habit and cord. I still remember the moment I felt called to a religious vocation, but it resides in my mind with numerous concerns for schooling, dealing with celibacy, living in community, and even living with my own doubts.

My challenge is to be one of the multitude that continues to praise my faith, even after the cheers, crowds, and other festivies have gone. When Jesus was crucified, only a few of his disciples were there. And when sky darkened...those disciples came back - beating their breasts in guilt. Even when it's hard to be a Catholic, a man, a friar, or even a Mexican-American...the challenge is to keep the faith and remember the presence of God.

Picture from 1SkyWalker

4th Sunday of Lent: The Prodigal Friar

For a guy like me with an interesting conversion story, it's hard not to see myself in the eyes of a wasteful kid, telling his father: "I am not worthy to be called your son." But there are times when I remember what it was like to waste money on things like the newest clothes, the best phone, a $30 pre-flop bet with 9♦10♦, or just wasting time and energy on needless things.

...and in spite of my conversion, I sometimes miss those spending sprees.

Perhaps that doesn't make me as saintly as some of the other friars here in Novitiate. Not that I need anyone else to tell me where I stand, but I sometimes feel like the odd friar out. There are smart guys here, holy guys, and guys who will one day go on and become Provincials of their provinces. And while I trust the plans of whatever God wishes for me, there are times I just want to ask: "What am I doing here?"

Dealing with college this week has brought out a lot of feelings of waste. As I talked with a Student Advisor at St. Xavier's University in Chicago, I realized how much grant money and time I threw away the first time at college. One is able to see such things in the passage of time, and all the staff at St. Xavier's were quite familiar with returning students regretting ill-used time. Yet as we talked about fulfilling requirements that most students my age have accomplished, I still felt guilty about my previous college experience.

In my provincial's weekly homily, he writes how he wishes we could see the 2nd part of that story - how the Prodigal Son works hard, provides for the family, and counts himself as equal to "the good son."

The problem with that ending is that the Son, or me (as I'm obviously reading into the story), gets to a place where they feel worthy. Will I ever be worthy of this vocation, regardless of how I live? Do I want to be at a place where I feel worthy, or will I just be self-righteous at that point?

For a competitive guy like me, the story of the Prodigal Son (or the Prodigal Father, depending on your interpretation of the parable) presents a challenge to be happy with my imperfections and my history. My background is vastly different from the other Novices here...does that make me any better or worse? Often these ideas of being "better than the others" is self-induced - a carry-over from the days of selling cars.

Perhaps the Epilogue to the Parable of the Prodigal Son is his ability to accept who he is, and know that his father loves him.

Third Sunday of Lent: Rejection, Worries, and Cultivation

Week three into my Internet fast, and I'm still struggling to stay away from being online. Like I mentioned last week, there are many needs that are met through email and research online. Yet it seems that staying away altogether would be a better option than trying accessing the internet and actively trying to stay off Facebook or Twitter.
And, of course, this seems to be the time when I need to be online the most.

This week I got my first ever college rejection letter. Even in high school, I was accepted to each school I applied to (granted I only applied to schools I knew I'd get into last time). It shouldn't be surprising: I was a huge slacker in college, and I'm amazed I they didn't laugh at my transcripts! But when I got the letter last week, my ego still took a hit as I read the words: "we regret to say that your application has been declined."

My future isn't completely bleak: I was accepted to St. Xavier University in Chicago before receiving the rejection letter from another college. And because I goofed off/dropped so many classes my first time around, I will have to complete core classes all over again: creative writing, math, history, etc. Part of my problem when I was 18 is that I thought those classes, classes I'd taken in high school, were a waste of my time. Now as I look at my future and entering college again, I'm thankful to take classes I will already have knowledge in...as it will make my transition a lot easier.

I've also worried about how this blog is doing. While I try not to worry about blog hits, links, bounce rates, and the other statistics that Google Analytics tracks, I've noticed a decline in readership that troubles me. I know there are more important things than what my rank is or how many people I'm reaching, but as a task-oriented person, anything that shows "decline" can feel the same as "failure."

On the plus side of all of this, I recognize that I have a lot more time for other things. I've been asked to make another side rosary for a friar, I finished a prayer project I've been working on, I'm trying to write a book (as if writing this blog isn't enough!), and since the weather's getting nice again, I've ready to get the soccer ball out again. I'm playing my guitar a lot more, and realize that I'm actually getting good at it!

Perhaps that is one of God's gifts that I've received from all of this: while I'd love to be connected and working online a lot more, the ability to disconnect and tap into my other gifts and desires is a treasure worth enjoying...especially here in Novitiate.

So many that's what Lent is about. Rather than just giving up something for 40 days that we will continue doing right after Easter, but (like today's Gospel) an opportunity to cultivate and nurture ourselves that will allow us to share our gifts and bear fruit for others long after these forty days are done.

I'll blog again next Saturday; next Sunday we leave for our silent retreat in Wheeling, WV.

As for my rejection letter from college, I decided to save it. Thanks to an idea from my Novice Master, I decided to save it for a later project: my Wall of Humility. In the future, whenever I get too full of myself, I'll have a few things on my Wall of Humility to bring me back down to earth.

Peace,

Week 2 of Lent: Understanding the Internet and "Separation from God"

It feels like no matter what situation I try to put myself into, the simplicity and of the internet has made this week extremely hard. I feel there have been times when not using the internet would have separated me from God, an ironic twist for a Capuchin who's trying to understand "joyful simplicity" and "dependence on God" in a digital world.

First and foremost, I'm still awaiting a response from last week. I feel bad: my response came after an away auto-response from my email account. It's possible she won't try to contact me until after Easter...or maybe even later. All I can do is pray and not let this near-miss bring me down.
However there have been other issues. In preparation for Post-Novitiate (this fall), I found out I got accepted to St. Xavier University in Chicago. I'm still awaiting word from DePaul University as well. The thought of returning to college is exciting; I feel like I have the chance to make up for the time I wasted my time at college. I'm also excited because with the ever-growing digital world and it's effects on the world, my Order has encouraged my desire to work in either Interactive Media (web development,design) or Computer Science in conjunction with my schooling for Ordination. There are infinite possibilities for a priest who's also at the forefront of technology, and I'll talk about it more as Novitiate comes to an end in July. Needless to say, with that kind of focus, staying away from the internet has been tough.

Another "task" I picked up was making an homily blog for my provincial minister: Fr. John Celichowski. For the past few months, I've been getting his homilies in my email. John's an excellent preacher, and reading his homilies is great for my own reflection on the Sunday readings. Hoping to share his homilies with a broader audience, I set him up on blogger with John, Capuchin as his blog. Of course, one cannot set up a blog without internet, but I feel that it was for a good reason.

The biggest even this week was dealing with the death of a resident from my ministry. In the short time that I was here in Pittsburgh, I got to know her and her family quite well. When she died, we (the Novices) were asked to speak at the funeral. I was elected from the guys to speak at the eulogy, so I spent a lot of time thinking of what to write. However the day of the funeral, the Snowpocylpse returned in full-force, and our Novice Directed canceled all activities. Not able to deliver the eulogy, I decided to email a copy to the family, and one of them would read it. In spite of the weather, they were very grateful for the words.

From these experiences, I'm trying to discern a course of action with the internet. This morning, I listened to a Benedictian priest talk about how Facebook, Twitter, iPods, and technology can "block out" God, yet as I remove more and more of these things from my life, I see that, just maybe, God can be found in all this new technology. This week has been full of opportunities to see God in others - with the internet as a facilitator. Where does that leave me with regards to giving up the internet for Lent?

Perhaps the question isn't "Does technology block out God?" but "Do we use technology to block out God?" It's a reflection I sit with at meditation...wishing I had my iPod to hear something relaxing.

Until next week...

1st Sunday of Lent: The Right Time to give up the Internet?

So the first 5 days of giving up the internet haven't been that bad. The first thing I noticed is all the extra time! I've taken that time to do plenty of reading, some homework, and other fun things that don't involve me being in front of the computer by myself. Quite honestly, being here in Novitiate seems like the one time in my life when it is feasible to actually give up the internet.

Although I've learned through experience that there's never a "right time" to give something up. Whether it's smoking, dieting, or any other change one is making, it's easy to rationalize why it's not "the right time" to give something up. And even here, when I think nothing could be so important that I wouldn't need the internet, it's funny how life surprises you.

Those of you who've followed my story for a long time will remember me writing about my daughter. While not of my blood, I tried as best I could to treat her as my own. It can be hard for any child to allow someone new to be a parental figure at the age of 15, but she welcomed the opportunity to call someone "Dad" and to have a father figure in her life. Looking back, I am amazed at the amount of openness and love to be as forthcoming as she was.

After the break-up with my ex, I knew I'd have to "break up" with her daughter as well. Anyone's who's been in a relationship with a parent knows that they build a relationship to their child as well. It's a heavy guilt to bear, and it took a long time for me to deal with it.

My readers will also remember that last year, I sent her an email. She was no longer a teenager, rather a woman at 18. I wanted to tell her, as an adult, how moving and wonderful it was to experience life as a father...if only for a little while. And my heart broke again from never getting a response.

So on Fat Tuesday, when I'm checking my email for the last time, I'm dumb-founded by what I see in my Inbox...the response.

It was wonderful to hear from her, and she apologized for taking so long to get back to me. Without saying too much, she wrote the words any estranged father dreams of hearing: "You are still and always will be my dad. Please email me soon. I love you, Daddy."

With this and with the emotions of everything, it was hard to think why I should stay away from the internet. Surely Jesus didn't expect his disciples to fast during a time of joy. So it has been a struggle to stick with staying away from the computer. Quite honestly, I want to check my email ever 15 minutes!

So I have to ask myself: "Is this the right time to give up the internet?" The timing appears to be horrible, but prayer and reflection is helping me find God at work in all of this. Even working with my spiritual director, perhaps there's a way to continue to be present to my fast while being present to my Capuchin charism of being loving and compassionate. Which is the greater pennance: giving up something, or opening my heart to a floodgate of emotions that scare me? Again...things I have to take to prayer.

So for now, I await her response. I won't go into the contents of what I wrote, but I told her it requires a lot of love to allow someone back into your life as easily as she has.

Until next week...

Giving Up The Internet for Lent

After spending time discerning what would be best for me to give up this Lent, I and a few brothers here in Novitiate have decided to give up the Internet for Lent. Not just Facebook, or YouTube, or checking email...the entire internet!

So what would move perfectly normal guys to give up the internet?

First, we as Capuchins are called to live a "Joyful Simplicity." While much of the world is now on the internet, at work, play, or even prayer, our charism is to strive to live a simple life. Secondly we are striving for a greater reliance on God. While God won't answer some questions as simply (or biasly) as Wikipedia might, the goal is for an overall submission to the Will of God - a mindset not often praised in an individualistic and too often greedy culture.

But we as Capuchins are also called to be a Gospel Witness, an example of Christ through the life and Rule of St. Francis of Assisi. While our lives of vows are one witness, our poverty and desire to disengage from social norms and excessive goods is who we are. Even in our Constitutions:

The Church recognizes voluntary poverty, especially in religious, as a sign of the following of Christ and proposes Saint Francis as a prophetic image of evangelical poverty. 59:3

With these focal points for our Lenten fast, I and two other Novices (including Matthew Janeczko, author of the blog New Sandals) have decided to give up the internet completely. This is how it will work:

1. The task is to go without the internet until Easter. That means no emails, no chat, no research, no Hulu.

2. Recognizing that we as Capuchins are a Gospel Witness and that our call is not only to a life of Penance but a life of Spreading the Gospel, I will continue to write one blog a week to chronicle this time. Matt has agreed to write as well, however he wishes not to blog; out of courtesy I will include his blogs here along with mine.

3. The task isn't just to not use the internet, rather to find more prayerful ways of spending the time that might ordinarily be spent here. There are plenty of books I need to finish, a few prayers that I haven't finished, and a Chaplet that I'm continuing my work with.

Quitting the internet did require a little planning.

For the first time, I used the Auto-Response feature on my email to let people know I wouldn't be answering until after Easter, along with information on where to mail or call me. I will also have moderation on for my comments here. Without any oversight, I wouldn't want anything "unseemly" posted without my knowledge.

I also realized that the internet is something I do unconsciously. I walk past the breakfast nook, grab some cereal, and think: "I should check my email." The guys here know of my intention to stay away from the internet; the use of force has been authorized should I try to break the fast!

Obviously there are times when I may have to log in. I'm waiting for a response from two colleges that I've applied to for the Fall. There are notices from my Province that need to be filled out, and just recently, I got an email that I never thought I'd ever get a response to. So I realize it will be hard to give up the internet, even with everything that's going on right now.

But we can't do it without your help!

We need your prayers. Not just us, but there are plenty of people in this world who have internet-related addictions: whether they are related to gambling, video games, pornography, or shopping. Along with these people, there are those who are victims of sexual exploitation, as well as those for whom the internet is a boundary (as opposed to a bridge) to God. I will be keeping these people in prayer. I hope that this fast will raise awareness towards these concerns.

So keep an eye out on Sunday, and may your Lent be a time of clensing as well as spiritual growth.

Peace and all good,

Bro. Vito Martinez, OFM Cap.
Capuchin Franciscans of the St. Joseph Province

Listening to Daughters by John Mayer as I have an important email to write on Sunday. Stay tuned!

The Web and Lent

I've decided that for Lent this year, I will give up the web. Not just Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube, or the amount of time...my intent is not to use the internet during Lent.

Sound crazy? Let me tell you how I decided on giving up the web for my Lenten fast:

Being in Novitiate allows for a prayerful and a reclusive feel, allowing us to focus solely on our vocations without the influences of the outside world. Because we are a Franciscan order, we are defined by how we exist in that outside world, making Novitiate a balancing act between the external and the internal.

The internet provides that external interaction for me. But more importantly, the web provides a limitless field of possibilities for ministry, catachesis, parochial services, and so forth. Not to mention, I feel it's incumbant on us to develop a sense of ethics and morality based upon scripture, the Magisterium, and the Capuchin Constitutions.

With those things being said, I think it's fair to say that this idea kind of scares me. I am old enough to remember life without computers, car rides with no cellular phone or MapQuest directions, doing homework on a typewriter, and keeping contact either with a phone or a letter (that's snail mail for the younger readers.)

However I am young enough to see the many possibilities available to the Order and to the Church by taking advantage of today's technology. I see it in the many other Catholic blogs that I read, the information that is shared for everyone to use, the mobilization and organization that is capable by gathering people around an issue. My little corner of the web here in this blog opens into a vast sea of ideas and opportunities.

Recognizing the opportunities as well as the dangers involved with the Web and internet usage, I've decided to take my time this Lenten Season to reflect on my attachment to the Web by giving it up for Lent. My goal is to give it all up: email, wikipedia, blogs, music, news, etc. For a tech-savvy person as myself, it won't be easy. In fact, I don't think I'll be able to do this by myself...which is kind of the point for Lent.

What will happen is that on Ash Wednesday I will put up a blog for the season. Each Sunday I will add a reflection on how I'm doing, what struggles I'm facing, and what graces I've received in such a task. I recognize that the Web is as much a means of witness as it is a waste of time, and I wouldn't want to abandon a ministry completely for this. So I decided that while there is importance for me to give up the internet, it is just as important that I document and share the experience the best way I can...here.

So keep me in your prayers, and be sure to check out the last article I write for beginning of Lent on Wednesday. God knows I'll need em!

Peace,
Bro. Vito Martinez, OFM Cap

In My Thoughts And In My Words...

With so much time spent in prayer, there's a danger of prayer becoming dull. Some days it feels like the words in the Breviary run together, or sometimes I can sit through the Office of Readings and not really "hear" anything said. There are times when I think I can recite the Benedictus in my sleep.


The danger I worry about is letting prayer become something other than communication towards God. If I don't actively take charge of my prayer life, prayer becomes a chore rather than a gift.

One of the prayers I've worked hard to keep is the Confiteor. With a Penitential Act each morning and Examination of Conscience each evening, there are plenty of opportunities to recite the Confiteor. For those of you unfamiliar with the Roman Catholic liturgy, it often goes like this:

I confess, to Almighty God
and you, my brothers and sisters*
that I have sinned through my own fault.
In my thoughts and in my words
in what I have done
and what I have failed to do.
And I ask the Blessed Mary ever Virgin
All the Angels and Saints
and you, my brothers and sisters
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

*(since we're a men's community, we only say "brothers.")

Living in such a small and intentional community as the Novitiate House here in Allison Park, I soon realized that there were few occassions of sin that didn't in some way involve one of the other guys I lived with. Whether it was getting upset, forgetting a commitment, etc., being here meant that we were the Recipient as well as the Donor of less-than-brotherly interaction (a nice way of saying what I really mean). Nevertheless, in the beginning or the end of the day, our plea to God to forgive our sins was said in unison with those whom we sinned against. It was a stark difference from being in a church, where I felt it was just me talking to God about my faults.

Recognizing this, I didn't want the Confiteor to be lip service. If I wanted to honestly confess to my brothers that I had sinned, I realized I'd have to do a lot more than just recite the prayer. I found it almost hypocritical to stand across the chapel and see someone whom I was having issues with, asking for their prayers.

Not wanting to think my prayers as hypocritical, I did something the next night that changed my entire prayer experience of the Examination of Conscience...

...I looked the other guys in the eyes as I talked about my faults.

Ordinarily one wouldn't think that reciting a prayer while looking at another would be a huge issue. In prayers of thanksgiving, petition, and blessing, we often look at the focus of our prayer - whether it's the meal we're about to eat, the person in the hospital bead, or the couple that's been married for 50+ years. Looking and praying isn't beyond our capabilities.

But I looked at my brothers as I told them how I had sinned by my own fault. I realize that God is the one who forgives, yet there is a humbling sense to admit fault and wrongdoing to another person. And when the prayer had finished, I wondered why I felt more embarassed to express my shortcomings to my brothers than to my Creator..."whom I should love above all things."

Understanding how I present my sins to God soon became a topic for contemplative meditation. Recognizing God's over-abundant love and grace, I wanted to understand how I could better open myself, in a sense of humility and love, to that love and grace. I realized that this question arose out of a desire 1. to connect at a deeper level with my prayer and 2. to build a better relationship with my brothers, even when I wanted to put bleach in their laundry! (just kidding guys...I know you read this too!)

With those thoughts, I continued this practice of looking at the other friars during the Confiteor -acknowledging my failings and asking for their prayers for me. It was (and still is) a humbling experience, but I soon realized I wasn't alone in this slightly unnerving practice. As I exchanged glances with the other friars, they would look away, look down, or close their eyes - probably experiencing some of those same anxieties as I was.


Yet as time has progressed, I can see that others have picked up on what I'm doing, and are mindful to look back at me. I see it as a testimony of how willfully entering into the experience of prayer can effect others. I don't know that it's cause me less occassions to sin, but I realize that I'm willing to be open and honest to my brothers and to my God about what errors I've made - an important task in a Religious Order that looks so much for transparency.

Thanks to the other guys for posing for me!

Please Scholastica...Make it Stop!

From today's 2nd Reading in the Office of Readings for the Memorial of St. Scholastica, virgin and sister of St. Benedict, according to the Dialogues by St. Gregory the Great:

Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, had been consecrated to God from her earliest years. She was accustomed to visiting her brother once a year. He would come down to meet her at a place on the monastery property, not far outside the gate.

One day she came as usual and her saintly brother went with some of his disciples; they spent the whole day praising God and talking of sacred things. As night fell they had supper together.

Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother: “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life.” “Sister,” he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell.”

When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly he began to complain: “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well,” she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”

I don't know who's praying for all this snow, but please...make it stop!

Franciscan Prayer: The Word Made Flesh

This is the 5th installment of Fr. William Hugo OFM Cap.'s articles about Franciscan Prayer. To view all the articles, you can start here.

In the last Update on Franciscan prayer, I examined Francis and Clare’s gaze at the self-emptying life of God visible in the enormous act of creation. We saw the four steps of prayer outlined by Clare (gaze, consider or meditate, contemplate, and imitate) as they are visible in the actions and prayers of Francis.

Francis and Clare also gazed a lot at Jesus. A lot! Perhaps the important word to consider in understanding this focus is Incarnation. This is the theological word we use to refer to the Word of God (the 2nd person in the Trinity) becoming human. Many people mistakenly think Incarnation refers specifically to Jesus’ birth, i.e., Christmas.

Incarnation includes Jesus’ birth, but properly refers to Jesus’ entire human and historical existence, in other words, from conception (Annunciation) to death. No one moment is more important than another, though some moments are more dramatic for Francis, powerfully disclosing what God is like. How does this fit into Franciscan prayer?

The Incarnation as a whole and in each of its moments becomes the event at which Francis and Clare most commonly gaze. When they move from gazing to considering, again they experience a selfless God. To be precise, they are overcome by considering that a God they imagine to be powerful, great, glorious, and able to do everything and anything in the superlative, actually takes on our human nature that seems so utterly constrained by littleness and limits.

I am accustomed to describing this insight as God jumping off the tallest pedestal to live on the floor with his creatures. However, if one stays with the gazing and considering of Francis and Clare, one sees God in Jesus
leaping off time after time after time, until one realizes that the eternal God is eternally leaping to the floor. Then, perhaps the best metaphor for God is someone standing on the floor next to the pedestal that we humans put there, but which God never climbs. He’s too busy emptying himself on the floor.

The baby Jesus and the crucified Christ are but moments on this continuum of salvation. However, for Franciscans, these two moments most dramatically disclose God’s selfless vulnerability, littleness, humility, poverty, and minority. This is why we see so many works of art depicting Francis with the crucified or the baby Jesus.

Well, I’ve run out of space to discuss how this gaze-consideration-contemplation led Francis and Clare to the desire of imitation. Remember, Franciscan prayer by Clare’s definition changes our lives. That’s for the
next installment.

My Testament of the Snowpocalypse

Friday afternoon was the preparing for the storm. People left work early. Notices on the television continued to run about future closings. Weather announcers exchanged predictions about exactly how much snow would fall.


While the exact amount is still being debated, one account says that Pittsburgh only got 5 inches of snow. But as you can see from the pictures, it was a lot more than that.

So rather than write a long, boring post about how much snow actually fell, I just took pictures as a way of getting out of shoveling snow. Enjoy.


Here, brothers Matthew Anselmi, Nathaniel Santos, Brian Stacy, and Ken Cole stop and pose for a group shot. I tried to get more of the novices in the picture, but they were inside being lazy fulfilling other roles this morning!




Anthony stops from his effort to get through the 12" of snow on the driveway to get to the road.


Matthew Janescko, author of the blog New Sandals, poses after losing a snow fight and ending up face first in a snow bank.


Not to be thought of as a "slouch," I got evidence of me actually working before going off and taking everyone's picture.

Capuchin Habit Rosary Information

Edit: I've created a separate blog to display my habit rosaries. The address is: http://habitrosary.wordpress.com/


This is my display page for my habit rosaries. These rosaries are not for sale (at least not until the Provincial tells me otherwise), rather they are for friars of my order: the Capuchin Franciscans. Instead of sending out a huge email everytime someone needs one, this page is so that friars can look and choose what they want for their own habit rosary.

In the Franciscan tradition, these rosaries aren't made with precious beads and/or metals. As friars, we need a habit rosary to be durable, simple, comfortable, and functional. I use wood for the beads and the crosses and a tough Rhodium plated chain to prevent rusting or easy breakage. These rosaries hang from the cord to about the knee, allowing the friar to pray while standing or walking.

 (By clicking on each picture, you can view a larger image and see the rosaries better.)


Here we have the "Franciscan Crown" or "Seraphic Rosary." This is a seven-decade rosary which is used to pray the Seven Joys of Mary. It uses a San Damiano Crucifix instead of the normal beveled cross. It can also be used to pray the traditional Mysteries of the Rosary. Many thanks to Br. Anthony for modeling this rosary!



The traditional 5-decade rosary can come in two types. The first is to use cord, such as this rosary Br. Nathaniel has. While rope does appear more "rustic," these rosaries are usually smaller and cannot be fixed if they break. Walking around with our rosaries on our hips can cause accidents - any religious will tell you of an experience of getting their side rosary stuck on a chair, on a pew, etc. I make a "break-away" to ensure that the rosaries don't snap, however accidents and wear & tear still happen.


This rosary that Br. Quan is wearing is the standard rosary I make. The crucifix (which Br. Nathaniel is inspecting) is special and was sent to me by a women's religious community in Peru. The actual cross is a 5" medium cherry stained & beveled cross. The dark reddish color is what most friars prefer, and like this rosary, I try to use beads of that color exclusively.




These are some of the things I use in the rosaries I make. I hand make the Break-Away  as well as the front Cord-Over (soft yet tough wire that secures the rosary without digging into your stomach). I include a small medal to represent the specific province of the friar (for example, I am from the St. Joseph Province), as well as offering an optional St. Benedict Medal that is worn near the belt. Many of the old habit rosaries were kept on the cord/belt by hoops similar to a keychain. Belt key holders are cheap and provide and make the task of putting on/taking off a habit rosary very simple. And in the tradition of momento mori, I include a Skull of Adam on to the rosary...a tradition that one can find on old habit rosaries.

If a friar has need of a new or replacement rosary, contact me at St. Conrad Friary in Allison Park, Pa with your preferences and I will get started on it right away.

I'll add more pictures as I take them.

Peace,
-Vito Martinez, Capuchin