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

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


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 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!)


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 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!