Yesterday, a Novice; for the AbbeyFest, a Master …. of Ceremonies

Last week with Abbey Fest I found myself in the position of master of ceremonies. It was my responsibility to get the confessors, show them their place for confession.  I needed to have confessions announced from the stage throughout the day.  For Mass I I had practiced with the teen servers and the three readers and all the teens who would lead the priests to their places for the distribution of Holy Communion.  I sat with those involved in the sound and gave them notes as to who would be speaking, when and from what microphone.  I also gave directions to the priest concelebrants and to Fr. Abbot Richard who was presiding.  For the closing ceremony I needed to work out the details of the period of transition from concert mode to prayer mode.  The distribution of candles to the concert goers, the route of the procession, the seminarians to carry the canopy and helping Fr. Carl get up the steps while carrying the monstrance and wearing habit, cope and humeral veil.  All this was part of Abbey Fest.  God was present!  God was very much alive!

 

This past Sunday I found my self celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism.  As a parish priest this was an ordinary experience of my life.  Since entering Daylesford Abbey in June 2013 I have not celebrated this Sacrament at all. My nephew Dan and his wife, Jess, are the proud parents of twin boys.  They were born on 13 May.  I witnessed Dan and Jess’s marriage in Trenton.  I also baptized Dan .  Here I was baptizing Christian David and Cole Edward.  What a great joy for our family.  Two new members of the Family of God!  Dan chose the day because it was also the fortieth anniversary of his parent’s wedding day.  That wedding of my sister and her husband I too celebrated.  Family is a gift!!

In the kitchen

As a young man growing up in the row houses in the river wards along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, I always remember that the kitchen was the heart of all family activity.  The “living room” was more of a display room or kept for “special company”, but the kitchen was always full of people and activity.  It was the real center of the family…..as soon an anyone walked into the house, the first place everyone settled in was the kitchen. The coffee pot was put on the stove and in a few minutes, relatives, friends, and neighbors were chatting about what was going on “in the block” and in the parish.  Stories were shared and laughter as well as tears were always a part of the gathering.  The coffee pot itself became sort of a sacramental, holding the fluid that would flow the bodies of all present and make us one family…..

I thought of this last Sunday when the community was having dinner.  One of the novices cooked dinner and then all who were present for the dinner began the clean-up IN THE KITCHEN. As the dishes were washed and the leftovers were put away for the next day, stories were shared and we all worked together as a family would, taking the time to share with our other family members a joke, or a special story from the past, or even an encouraging “hurry up” so all could get back to the football game.  It was “communio” being realized and lived and not just being read and talked about.  It was a special time when we all felt close to each other and had a strong sense of that fraternal bond that held all of us, novices and professed, in a family.  It was a special evening for me because it brought back good memories to me which I shared, but it was also a great example for me of the future of our community, working together, having fun, and sharing that fraternal road of community living in a real and practical sense….the Rule and the Constitutions of our Order made alive….as we all gathered and shared our lives IN THE KITCHEN.   Did you ever experience this in your kitchen?

The Spirituality of Cooking…

Peace be with you…Sometimes the best way to share the love of Christ with someone is to share a simple meal together with them. It’s even more spiritual when you get to do the cooking! I get the opportunity about once a month to cook for my fellow confreres, though they might not think it can be called cooking after tasting their meals (just kidding), but hey, I do my best. Not only am I a Novice in the Norbertine order, but I’m also a Novice in the kitchen…but this does not stop me from joyfully chopping up vegetables, baking meats, and setting the tables up properly for meal time. What’s really important is the fact that we spend time together, living out our “communio” with one another during the dinner hour. This is a special time when we Norbertines get to catch up on all the happenings of the day, discussing everything from world events, to how our individual days went out on our assignments. Some of us like to recite puns, which always gets a laugh or two from the others sitting around us.

Now for something theological about sharing a meal together…What would Jesus do? It is well documented throughout the Gospels that Christ enjoyed spending His time at the dinner table, whether it was dining with His disciples during the last supper, the wedding feast at Cana, or with sinners who were in need of spiritual healing. Whatever the situation happens to be, Jesus is present with the ones he loves. In fact, Christ is present to us every time we attend Mass, as we participate in the eating of His body and the drinking of His blood. How fortunate and blessed are we! I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better dinner partner than Christ Jesus at my table for all eternity…hopefully He will like my cooking. God Bless

Looking Back at Only one Week…Wow

Looking back on my week….well…..first the Pentateuch and its traditions, including the primeval narratives, ancestral history, exodus, Sinai and wilderness traditions; an I only studied them this week in the context of their literary origins and development and in the light of their importance for ancient Israelite religion and theology and contemporary theological significance.  I enjoy that my professor has an emphasis on the biblical material itself….the reading is intense.

Then I am off to my next class …a very catholic course taught by a catholic priest….one of the most respected liturgists and authors in the country…..I will give you one guess and one hint…..Just know that the course is a practicum designed for priesthood candidates to develop competency in leadership of sacramental rites, including initiation, weddings, wakes, and funerals. Special emphasis is given to Eucharist. The pastoral care part is covered in all areas but is stressed in the areas that cover anointing of the sick and in the ministry of reconciliation. The practical work is harder that I thought.

I end up my week with a very Jewish course taught by a very Jewish Rabbi….it opens up the Torah and really explores ethics, Sabbath and festival observance, life cycles, family, prayer, community, conflict and change in diverse Jewish contexts….the re-reading of the first five books of the bible from the lenses of a Jewish perspective….words cannot explain who grateful I am to be in a learning environment with this level of academic excellence and respect for my faith and willingness to share the Jewish faith with me.

The even more fun part ….Sunday is a day of rest….I then I get to do it all over again next week…..I love religious life!

Hospital Ministry

This week I’m away from the abbey for several days working as a chaplain at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Philadelphia. One of our Norbertine priests is on vacation this week and he usually spends some days at the hospital as the chaplain. And so this week I’m taking his place at the hospital.

Already being a priest before I entered the community has made my formation period somewhat different from most men in simple vows. Usually, men in formation are still in school, preparing for ordination and/or working on a graduate degree. I’m able to spend this period of my formation actually being involved in priestly ministry. Although I have spend most of my priestly ministry in a parish, I do enjoy hospital ministry. It is a type of ministry where I find people are very thankful for ministry I can provide during their time of need.

Fr. Dave

Settling in

The “new” Formation year is beginning to “settle in” for all of us involved in the Formation program.  The Theology students are all settled in their classes in Chicago at CTU, the simply professed are in their ministry assignments, the second year novice is pursuing philosophy and theology classes in preparation for his M.Div. program at CTU in Chicago and the novice is settling into the rhythm of the novitiate program here at the Abbey and with the INSEARCH program (that I explained in my last entry).

Last Saturday, the Formation community was actively involved in the ABBEY FAITH AND MUSIC FEST that was hosted here at the Abbey along with St. Norbert’s parish.  It was a truly great day, the highpoint for me was when the Abbot, right before the final blessing at Mass, asked for all those in Formation – seminarians and those Sisters in Formation – to come forward and receive a blessing.  That was a grand experience, but after that blessing, the Abbot asked for all the young adults attending the Mass who are thinking or discerning a vocation to the religious life or priesthood to come forward for a blessing and over FIFTY young women and men came forward to be blessed.  It was a most inspirational moment for me and a moment that signaled to me the vitality of religious life among our young adults in our Faith Tradition.  To come forward amidst the couple of thousand people attending Mass and declare publicly that the idea of serving God’s people in this unique way was ruminating in their souls was a profound sign of hope for me.   It stopped me in my tracks, so to speak, and I think it had a great impact, not only on all those present, but also supported those already in Formation, knowing that there were others “backing them up from behind”.

Perhaps the thought has crossed your mind that God is calling you to serve the People of God in this unique way as a priest or religious…..I would ask you to let those thoughts germinate in your mind and pray with them to understand the will of God in your regard.

The Abbey Fest was a great day and impacted all present.  If you get a chance, check out the pictures on our website or on You Tube.  It was a God-blessed experience.

Abbey Fest 2014 & The Body of Christ…

Peace be with you…What do you get when you combine 2,000 attendees, top-of-the-line music entertainment, wonderful food and craft vendors, and more importantly, the presence of Christ Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? Well let me tell you…You get the 2014 Abbey Fest extravaganza! I cannot tell you how blessed we were to have had such an event on our grounds at Daylesford. This was a vision that was put together almost a year ago from some very talented people on our Abbey Fest committee, and all the hard work of planning and executing this blessed event paid off. Not only did we have renowned Catholic artists such as Matt Maher and Audrey Assad perform their inspiring music, we also had an incredible Mass celebration as the headline event. My favorite moment came around 8:00pm, when we had a procession of the blessed sacrament through the crowd and onto the main concert stage with 2000 people on their knees in silence, while holding onto candles that miraculously burned throughout the entire adoration period…While I cannot speak for everyone, I have to believe that at this moment, with Christ truly present, it had to have touched everyone deep down into their heart of hearts.

To pull off an event of this magnitude flawlessly, the talents and the efforts of many are needed to make sure the innumerable amount of coordination of tasks get seen to fruition. It’s times like these when the Body Of Christ comes together, united under the watchful guide of the Holy Spirit, to give us all the strength and wisdom we truly need when undertaking a challenge such as Abbey Fest 2014. I have never been a part of such an overwhelming outpouring of love and selfless giving, like what I witnessed over this weekend from over 100 lay volunteers and religious, all working tirelessly to bring Christ to all the souls that were here at Daylesford on Saturday. God as surely blessed us through all of you!

Who needs a liturgist at an Abbey Fest?

The Abbey Fest has been being talked about for months. The community had been asked to be available all day to be present for  and to the attendees.  Little did I know that I would be serving as the chair of the Liturgy for the Fest.  Abbot Richard asked me back in April if I could suggest some diocesan priest for confessions for the day of the Fest.  After a meeting he ask me to attend a meeting with the directors of the Fest.  I was named the chairman of worship and the next few months it was planning and meetings and more of the same.  I knew I wasn’t a Novice any longer.  I was back into the stuff I thought I had left behind when I entered the Norbertines.

 

The work and the details for Mass with perhaps two thousand in attendance, time for Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration and a procession.  These are the things that I was charged with, timing, environment, servers, readers etc.  For all of my forty years of priesthood the Liturgy has been primary for me.  I have a deep love for the Liturgy.  The history, the celebration and the participation of all.

 

God was celebrated at the Abbey Fest.  God was present at the Abbey Fest.  God was shared, adored and very much alive in our Liturgies on Saturday.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation was celebrated from noon until early into the evening  with so many hearing go in peace your sins are forgiven.  The eucharistic celebration of the Holy Mass had almost forty priest concelebrating with Abbot Richard and Prior Steven.  We made a joyful noise for our God with music that reached the heavens.  More than 1500 folks said Amen and shared the Body and Blood of Christ.  The IHM Postulant,and Novices, joined the Formation Community of Daylesford and seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo.  The Abbot then invited any young person considering a vocation.  There were more than sixty men and women who came forward.  I can still hear the applause of the congregation in my ears.  It was so very inspiring!  The day concluded with Matt Maher performing and leading us into prayerful song and personal reflection on the Eucharist. The Eucharist was processed through the crowd of over 1500 holding lit candles and kneeling in adoration.  There was a period of silent adoration and I looked out on the lights and it was so still you could here the crickets.  There we were – us looking at Jesus and He looking at us.

The Divine Praises were sung in echo style with Matt Maher leading the prayer.

 

As we processed the Eucharist back into the Abbey I was so grateful for the day.  It certainly am grateful to the Council Fathers of Vatican II. This was how Liturgy is to be celebrated by ALL.

Pictures of Abbey Fest 2014

Here are some pictures of yesterday’s Abbey Faith and Music Fest that was held here on the abbey grounds.  I was very impressed with all the people who came to our first Abbey Fest.  So I decided to climb up to the roof of the abbey and take a few pictures.  Click on the picture to see a larger view.

Fr. Dave

 

Roof1Roof2

Praxis as a Premonstratensian

My graduate studies as a priesthood-candidate during the week are designed to prepare me to be a minister that can serve in settings with a diversity of cultural groups interfacing with and impacting one another. This includes a knowledge and experience of the inter-generational and the male / female dynamic as well, along with other wonderful experiences of ministry. I am a Masters of Divinity (with a concentration in Intercultural Ministries) student and I am so grateful for my religious community’s prophetic vision to see the need for me to study in this discipline.  If I had my way, I would have studied liturgy and I am glad they made me aware that my gifts did not point to a good fit in that area of ministry.  Although I am a liturgical being ….anything I would have planned would have been a liturgical nightmare. (smile)

This weekend, I was blessed to experience ministry in a very specific cultural and religious context with forty-eight (48) catholic administrators and leaders this weekend, to include representatives from Catholic Charities, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) and various other key organization in the Church. My weekend allowed me to participate in a lot of fun and gave me the ability to engage in personal and communal spiritual formation toward transformation and growth as a Norbertine and a student.  Learning from the lay ecclesial leaders, priests, sisters, deacons and bishops present, it gave me a better understanding of the theological dynamics of social reconciliation. I was a grace-filled time as a Norbertine to do theological reflection on the times of healing and reconciliation while experiencing intercultural ministries that I have been involved in during my studies my three short years at Catholic Theological Union and my at Daylesford Abbey since I arrived in 2006.

Many of the leaders in I met for the first time this weekend knew of a Norbertine Brother who is a key professional for the National Catholic Charities office in Washington, DC. The USCCB know rep mentioned my house superior and immediate formator in the house of studies because of his work with vocations around the country and the fact that he is a canon lawyer and a Norbertine. I met a young man from Jackson State University that has a Norbertine for his assistant pastor and another Norbertine for a department Chair. I was even more proud to be a Norbertine today, knowing that so many of us do ministry in diverse settings with gifted and faithful Christians from around the country……and that was just this Friday and Saturday….boy I cannot wait to see what Sunday brings.

Oh I know…..my Norbertine brothers/classmates and I are going to pay a visit to our Priestly Presiding Professor at one of the local churches where he will be the main presider of the Eucharist….the fun and learning continues.

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