Faith in Action Blog
Lost in the ongoing political debate over marriage is a more fundamental question, namely, where does marriage come from? Does the state have the power to define what marriage is, or does the definition precede and transcend the state — something government cannot alter?
Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), a regular guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, takes on this question and others in a recent episode titled, The Nature of Marriage.
Marriage, Fr. Sebastian says, “comes about as a result of nature,” and as such is not subject to human redefinition. “The state doesn’t have the right to define triangles. The state doesn’t have the right to define dogs and cats. They are what they are. So the state doesn’t have the right to define marriage,” he explains. Moreover, for government to claim authority in this instance is to assert for itself “absolute power” over marriage “and, as a consequence, family life, because the foundational relationship in any family is the relationship of marriage.”
The show is available both in streaming and downloadable form on the Catholic Answers website, as are these other episodes featuring Fr. Sebastian:
- Open Forum for Non-Catholics (December 9, 2011)
- How Biblical Inspiration Works (October 21)
- The Role of Logic in Apologetics (May 7)
- Are You Predestined? (February 10)
- The Nature of Prophecy (December 6, 2010)
- Can Doctrine Develop? (April 26, 2010)
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, greeting Rev. John Higgins (’90) last year with a popsicle and a soda at the completion of Fr. Higgins’ 50-mile walk to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
One year ago, Rev. John Higgins (’90), pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Peekskill, N.Y., walked 50 miles from his church to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan to raise money for his parish elementary school. This weekend, he will undertake that same journey.
Fr. Higgins’ 2011 pilgrimage raised $77,000 for the 225 students of Assumption School, many of whom live under the poverty level. This year he hopes to top that total. “It’s about 110,000 steps to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and we hope to get a dollar for every step that we walk, making our goal $110,000,” he writes. “I think we can do it!”
Help sponsor Fr. Higgins’ walk for Assumption School either online via PayPal, or by sending a check to:
920 First Street
Peekskill, NY 10566
ATTN: Walk 2012
Godspeed, Fr. Higgins!
Starting tomorrow (Saturday, September 29), EWTN is sponsoring a Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, seeking Our Lady’s intercession and Our Lord’s blessing on the country as we approach the upcoming elections. The novena has the nihil obstat of one of the College's graduates, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
The inspiration for the Novena, says Fr. Selin, came from its author, Rev. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D., of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, who spent last year in sabbatical at St. John Vianney. During that time, the two priests discussed the state of the Church in America, the elections, and what Catholics could do for their country.
“I was concerned, as the year was going on, that we Catholics in the U.S. — starting with us clergy, but also the lay faithful — were not looking at the election enough from the spiritual perspective,” Fr. Selin recalls. From there, he and Fr. Miller thought of the Novena, which, in keeping with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom this summer, would “continue that spirit of prayer and fasting for our country.”
It was important to both priests, says Fr. Selin, that the Novena call upon the aid of the Blessed Mother. “I know from history and my own personal experience,” he notes, citing events from the Battle of Lepanto to the fall of Communism, “that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of great need — when we go to Jesus through Mary — Jesus has come through with very special graces.”
Thus the timing of the Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, which begins on the Feast of the Holy Archangels (September 29), and concludes on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), just prior to the start of the Year of Faith (October 11). “Coming into an election, where so much is on the line for the Catholic Church and for our country with regards to attacks against religious liberty, the attack against the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and even the marital act,” Fr. Selin explains, “we’re callings upon God through the intercession of Mary for very special graces on our country.”
Fr. Selin adds, however, that the act of transforming a nation must begin with our own, interior conversions. “First and foremost in this whole issue of the election, we have to start with ourselves, asking: How have we been faithful to God’s commands? How have we lived a deep prayer life, avoiding sin, growing in holiness and in our dedication to the Holy Eucharist? Then our public acts will be a beautiful overflowing of that commitment of faith.”
Fr. Selin has long had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. His senior thesis at the College was titled, “Mary: Archetype of the Church.” The Mother of God, he says, “has always been close to me in my vocational discernment and leading me here.” Likewise, she must play a role in the future of the nation: “Work has to be done in the public sphere — and that’s the work of the lay faithful to get out there, and we priests have to preach and encourage — but we cannot forget Our Lady.”
Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Tulsa, recently ran a story (PDF) about the life, prayer, and work of the Benedictine Monks at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey. Ten of the 40 brothers in this rapidly growing community are Thomas Aquinas College alumni, including the Abbey’s subprior, Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82).
The Eastern Oklahoma Catholic story reports on the progress of the monks’ ambitious, long-term building project, and also offers an insight into the leaven that these cloistered religious can be for the surrounding community:
“The balanced life of prayer and work provides an example to the modern person of how to praise God, respect His creation, to love one’s neighbor, and practice the reasonable use of material goods. While our vocation does not allow us the time to live as Benedictine monks, their piety reminds us of our own call to pray in our work and, when our work is finished, to take the time to pray.
“The ministry of Clear Creek is certainly a blessing to the Diocese of Tulsa. In just over a decade, they have had a formative influence on the faithful, providing a window into a world where men are engaged in a constant search after God.”
May God continue to bless Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey!
The Very Rev. John M. Berg, F.S.S.P. (’93), with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in 2009During a plenary session at the International Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Denton, Neb., the General Chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) re-elected the Very Rev. John M. Berg, F.S.S.P. (’93), to a six-year term as Superior General. Fr. Berg is the Fraternity’s third Superior General, having been first elected to the position in 2006 at the age of 36.
The Fraternity includes 228 priests and 154 seminarians serving 117 dioceses in 16 countries. Its members represent 35 nationalities, with an average age of 36. A society of pontifical right founded by Bl. John Paul II in 1988, it has three pillars: fidelity to the See of Peter, dedication to the extraordinary form of the Mass and all the sacraments, and emphasis on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas as a clear basis for presenting the Faith.
When he graduated from Thomas Aquinas College in 1993, Fr. Berg’s classmates elected him to be their class speaker at Commencement. In that address he remarked, “We have a duty to bring to the world the Catholic faith just as we have received it, in part, here. We must show others that knowledge of the Divine does illumine all other knowledge, and that the tenets of the Faith are reasonable.… We must also live a moral, Catholic life in all of our dealings with society, and pass on the beautiful traditions of the Church to others in the community in which we live, whether that community be small, as a family, or large, as a town.”
Providence has so disposed it that Fr. Berg now has the opportunity to heed his own admonition in an eminent way. In his role as Superior General, he once explained, “My main duty is to the priests and seminarians of the Fraternity. I am responsible that they have the means set out by our constitutions — and, therefore, the Church — to achieve holiness. I must ensure that our seminaries are well staffed and well ordered, and I must place our priests in work that will provide them appropriate formation. Then it is my task to contact them frequently, in a fatherly manner. In addition, I make the financial and material decisions for the order with the aid of a general council.”
It is a tremendous responsibility, but one for which he has proven himself well equipped. Please keep Fr. Berg and the Fraternity in your prayers as he begins his second term.
Marianna Bartholomew has published an article with the Catholic News Agency about a sign of springtime in the Church — the return of hand-stitched altar linens at Blessed Sacrament Church in Lincoln, Neb. The linens are the handiwork of faithful parishioners in a newly established “Order of Martha,” an organization which boasted as many as 6,000 members in the 1960s, but by 2005 had dwindled to only five known groups nationwide. At the heart of this story is the priest who recognized two needs — one material, one spiritual — and by bringing them together inspired a group of committed laywomen who make beautiful vestments and altar cloths to be used in the Mass.
That priest is Rev. Brendan Kelly (’85), the pastor of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Bee, Neb., and a teacher at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Lincoln.
The story begins in 2008 when Fr. Kelly, who was then assigned to Blessed Sacrament, discovered that the girls in his church took a keen interest in its tattered and aging altar linens. Remembering his grandmother’s participation in the Order of Martha, and mindful of the great joy its members took in offering themselves at the altar in this way, Fr. Kelly established a new chapter. The chapter has since sewn linens for Blessed Sacrament as well as for the College’s Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
This new Order of Martha has also borne great spiritual fruit — which you can read all about in Mrs. Bartholomew’s wonderful story.
By God’s grace there are now 58 priests among the alumni of Thomas Aquinas College!
Rev. Joseph Bolin (’01)
On June 15, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, laid hands on Rev. Joseph Bolin (’01), ordaining him to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ. “In high school I studied mathematics and computer science and received several awards and fellowships for further study in these areas,” reflects Fr. Bolin on an Austrian website (see electronic translation). “But I decided instead to go to Thomas Aquinas College in California, so as to become well-equipped for life — no matter what profession I should choose — by studying the liberal arts and philosophy.” It was during his time on campus, Fr. Bolin adds, that “I heard the call to follow Christ in a special priestly ministry.”
Numerous photos of the ordination, which took place in Vienna’s Cathedral of St. Stephan, are available online. Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean attended the ordination, where he saw several alumni, including Ginger Mortensen (’96), director of development for the International Theological Institute in Trumau.
Rev. Francis Marotti (’07)
Eight days later, on June 23, His Excellency Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo (Mich.), ordained Rev. Francis Marotti (’07) at St. Augustine Cathedral. The chairman of the College’s Board of Governors, R. James Wensley, was there to witness the ordination, joined by Vice president for Development Paul J. O’Reilly and tutor Brian Dragoo. A recent graduate of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Fr. Marotti twice had the honor of chanting the Gospel at papal Masses while he was still a deacon. He now will serve as a diocesan priest in his hometown of Kalamazoo.
Rev. Maximilian Okapal, O.Praem. (’02)
That same day, some 4,500 miles away, the Most Rev. Cirilo B. Flores, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego (center), conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon Rev. Maximilian Okapal, O.Praem. (’02, right) at Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. His Excellency also ordained one of Fr. Okapal’s fellow alumni Nortbertines, Frater Nathaniel Drogin, O. Praem. (’01, left), to the transitional diaconate. College Governor Andrew Zepeda was in attendance, as were three members of the faculty: Director of Admissions Jon Daly and tutors David Arias and Tom Kaiser. The following morning Fr. Okapal offered his first Mass at St. Michael’s Abbey Church in Orange, Calif., with Deacon Drogin assisting.
Over the weekend two alumni of Thomas Aquinas College were ordained to the sacred priesthood, bringing to 55 the total number of alumni priests!
First, on Friday, May 25, the Most Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, ordained Rev. Jerome Augustine Zeiler, O.P. (’00) at St. Dominic Church in Washington. D.C. The following day, the Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon Rev. Fadi Auro (’03) at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
Fr. Zeiler is the fifth alumnus of the College to become a Dominican priest. After graduating from the College in 2000, he pursued graduate studies at the University of Dallas, then entered the Order of Preachers in August, 2005. He earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity at the Dominican House of Studies and a Licentiate in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. His first priestly assignment will be as a parochial vicar at St. Gertrude Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Born in the United Arab Emirates, Fr. Auro is the child of Iraqi Chaldean Christians who moved to the United States at the start of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. While studying at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Fr. Auro first met Raymond Cardinal Burke, then the Archbishop of St. Louis, who invited him to become a seminarian in the archdiocese. Fluent in several languages, Fr. Auro is a “bi-ritual priest,” able to offer the Mass in both Eastern and the Latin Rites.
Fr. Zeiler and Fr. Auro are the first of five alumni who are set to be ordained to the priesthood this summer. The others are: Rev. Mr. Joseph Bolin, Class of 2001 (Diocese of Vienna, June 15); Rev. Mr. Francis Marotti, Class of 2007 (Diocese of Kalamazoo, June 23); and Frater Maximilian Okapal, O.Praem., Class of 2002 (Norbertines, June 23).
Last weekend St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., was the setting for Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the first time since adopting the vernacular shortly after Vatican II. Serving as celebrant was Rev. John Paul Erickson (’02), Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship for St. Paul and Minneapolis. More photos from the Mass are available at the New Liturgical Movement website.
After graduating from the College in 2002, Fr. Erickson returned to his native Minnesota as a seminarian. In 2006, he was ordained to the holy priesthood at the hands of the Most Rev. Harry Flynn, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He then went on to serve as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the Church of Saint Vincent de Paul, and the Church of Saint Agnes. Since 2008 he has served in his current position as the Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship while still assisting at Saint Agnes.
Fr. MoriartyNotably Fr. Erickson will soon be working with a new pastor at Saint Agnes — his fellow graduate, Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95). Ordained to the priesthood in 1999, and currently the pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace in Rogers, Minn., Fr. Moriarty has been named the new pastor of Saint Agnes effective July 1. He will be replacing Rev. John Ubel, the newly appointed rector of the Cathedral of Saint Paul and pastor of the Cathedral parish .
A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey Seminary in Orange County, Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), recently appeared on Catholic Answers Live, where he discussed The Power and Purpose of Celibacy. As a regular guest on the nation’s top-rated Catholic radio program, Fr. Sebastian has covered a wide range of topics, both philosophical and theological. Past episodes are available for streaming/download via the Catholic Answers website:
- Open Forum for Non-Catholics (December 12, 2011)
- How Biblical Inspiration Works (October 21, 2011)
- The Role of Logic in Apologetics (May 7, 2011)
- Are You Predestined? (February 10, 2011)
- The Nature of Prophecy (December 6, 2010)
- Can Doctrine Develop? (April 26, 210)