Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Movin' on Up: Summer 2010

A family Fourth of July photo

Greetings once again from across the pond! My apologies for the long silence over the past few months. I had planned to take a break after the close of Lent, but that break was also much longer than originally intended. The Easter season begins our busiest time of the year, and I was occupied with multiple projects, papers, exams, and the like. While I had hoped to get online and write a few times, the posts never materialized. My summer assignments, in their own way, kept me even busier perhaps than did the school year, and so while I was home for nearly twelve weeks, it certainly felt much shorter. Here we are now already in September, so I best do a little catch-up.

In August, the diocese hosted a fundraiser in Little Rock for the Diocesan Seminarian Fund called "A Taste of Faith". It was a great success! Many thanks to those who helped make it so.

I'm now in my third year at the NAC and the Gregorian University, far removed now from my days as a "New Man". Since the Fourth Year Men serve as deacons and generally are wrapping up their time at the College, it's the Third Year class that more or less runs the show. We are in charge of nearly all of the organizations for life and many of the College's institutions. For example, I am privileged to serve as the editor-in-chief for the College's magazine, a quarterly publication that seeks to keep our friends and donors abreast of what's happening at the NAC and how they might be able to help. It's a fun but demanding job, so much of my year will likely be wrapped up in its challenges.

Academically, I'm starting my final year in what's known as "first cycle," the comprehensive theology education needed to obtain an S.T.B., or Bachelor's in Sacred Theology. The S.T.B. is the basic ecclesiastical degree offered by pontifical universities around the world and is the degree necessary for ordination. It's roughly equivalent to an MDiv, given by most of the seminaries in the U.S., though the latter has a more pastoral concentration while the S.T.B. is more academically focused. Next year, I'll at least begin the "second cycle" studies toward a licentiate (or "license") which offers a more in-depth specialization in a particular area of theology. The exact plans for that are still to-be-determined, but I hope to know more soon.

The high altar at St. Edward Catholic Church in Little Rock

My favorite of the many beautiful stained glass windows at St. Edward

This summer I got an insight into what might lie in my future when I did some work at the diocesan Tribunal Office. The Tribunal handles the questions related to Canon Law in the diocese, most of which are in regard to the annulment process. It was interesting if often difficult and painful work. If it does await me in the future, I'll need some extra schooling to be academically and psychologically prepared for it. My main assignment for the summer was at St. Edward Church in Little Rock. It's an inner-city and historically important parish with a school and a healthy diversity of cultures at its service. I lived at the rectory and spent a lot of my time following and learning from the pastor. I learned a lot from him, as well as from the folks in the Tribunal Office, and I'm very grateful to both.

I was able to travel the U.S. a little this summer, a nice change from Europe. Here, with my parents, in Chicago.

We were there to visit my cousin after coming back from a conference in Wisconsin. We were able to see the great Chicago Air & Water Show.

That about wraps it up for me for now. I leave tomorrow for a retreat at Santa Marinella, a town northwest of Rome on the coast. In ancient times, it was the location of the Aquae Caeratanae, a bathing resort and community of villas along the coastal Via Aurelia. In more recent years, it was known as the favorite beach spot of Ingrid Bergman and her husband. There's a retreat house there on the beach which the Third Year men traditionally spend a week in silence and prayer. It should be a nice chance to reflect and give thanks for all that I've received over the past two years, as well as all that I have to look forward to in the years ahead.

Check back soon for more!

Update: I finally got around to uploading some pictures from the summer and from my retreat. The latter was great -- very prayerful and restful. Thanks for all of your prayers.

The view from my room. Of the three different places we've been for retreats during my time here, this was by far the favorite of our class!

The view of the Tyrrhenian Sea from the patio at the retreat center in Santa Marinella. A lot of prayer and reflection time was spent here.

I'm swamped with some classes and other obligations right now, but I hope to get on here soon and write some more. For any interested, my course load for the semester is as follows:

- Specialized Moral Theology: Bioethics, Sexual Ethics & Family Ethics
- Protology & Theological Anthropology (Human Origins as Related to the Divine)
- Christian Eschatology (Human Destiny as Related to the Divine)
- Pastoral Theology
- The Psalms & Wisdom Literature
- Themes in 20th Century Thomism (Neo-Scholastic, Existential & Transcendental Thomism)