31 May 2010

All generations shall call be blessed.

Happy Anniversary
Father Harries

A Hymn of Praise

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise,
In all his words more wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways.

John Henry Newman, Dream of Gerontius

30 May 2010

A Prayer for a Happy Death

May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

John Henry Newman

29 May 2010

A Prayer for Consolation

My God, let me never forget that seasons of consolations are refreshments here, and nothing more. Here they are only intended to prepare us for doing and suffering. I pray you, my God, to give them to me from time to time, lest I go about my daily work in a dry spirit; but let me not rest in them. Let me use them for the purpose for which you give them. Let them carry me forward to the thought and the desire of heaven.

John Henry Newman

28 May 2010

A Prayer of Surrender

My Lord and Saviour, in your arms I am safe; keep me and I have nothing to fear; give me up and I have nothing to hope for. I pray you not to make me rich, I pray you not to make me very poor; but I leave it all to you, because you know and I do not. If you bring pain or sorrow on me, give me grace to bear it well. If you give me health and strength and success in this world, keep me ever on my guard lest these great gifts carry me away from you. Give me ever to aim at setting forth your glory; to live to and for you; to set a good example to all around me; give me to die just at that time and in that way which is most for your glory, and best for my salvation.

John Henry Newman

27 May 2010

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Fount of Love

My God, I adore you, as the Third Person of the Ever-Blessed Trinity. You are that Living Love, wherewith the Father and the Son love each other. And you are the Author of supernatural love in our hearts. Increase in me this grace of love, in spite of all my unworthiness. It is more precious than anything else in the world. I accept it in place of all the world can give me. It is my life.

John Henry Newman

Augustine of Canterbury

One of our patronal solemnities in the parish. Please pray for one of our primary schools, under his holy protection, for our staff and students and all those who contribute to the welfare of our children. St Augustine of Canterbury, Pray for Us.

Also known as St. Augustine the Less to distinguish him from his illustrious namesake from Hippo. Augustine was chosen by Pope Gregory the Great as leader of the mission sent from Rome for the evangelisation of the English. He landed in the Isle of Thanet in the Spring of AD 597 and, within a year, Aethelbert, King of Kent, was baptised with several thousand of his subjects.

The foundation of Canterbury Cathedral was laid five years later, supposedly, on the site of an old Roman Church. Augustine was consecrated by Vergilius, Archbishop of Arles and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The alienation between the British Church and the Italian missionaries might have been averted had Augustine recognised the consideration that was due to the Church which had existed in Britain for three centuries, and had been more tolerant of the diversity between British and Roman usage.

He had laid the foundation stone of the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul outside Canterbury, later known as St. Augustine's, in the year of his arrival and here he was buried. He died on 26th May, traditionally in AD 604, but possibly as late as 609.

Edited from G.M. Bevan's "Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury" (1908).

H/T Early British Kingdoms

26 May 2010

St Philip Neri

Today, of course, we recall the great life of St Philip Neri and ask him to intercede for us. ICN are carrying some details on the founder of the Oratorians here. This paragraph struck me:

Often described as the 'Second Apostle of Rome' Philip however did not escape criticism. Some were shocked by his friendliness and informality. He said that the path of perfection was for laypeople as much as for the clergy and religious. He preached more about love and spiritual integrity than physical austerity. He was very fond of cats.
A wonderful thought - this kindly and funny bastion of orthodoxy, bringer of love and stroker of cats!

Benedict XVI's UK Visit: 114 Days to Go

This update from zenit, here and below, got me to thinking about countdowns. Does anyone know of a blogspot countdown available to upload? It's a technical issue which some may know about. When this blog started there was a countdown until ordination - it would be nice to have a countdown until HH Benedict comes to town.
Benedict XVI's UK Visit: 114 Days to Go
Pope Will Address Entire British Society
LONDON, MAY 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The United Kingdom is counting down the days until Benedict XVI's September 16-19 visit.

Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, a Papal visit coordinator, noted some of the most recent preparations in a press release publicized today by the bishops' conference of England and Wales.

"This week," he said, "my thoughts centered on what the Pope's going to do in Westminster Hall."

The Pontiff's address will be "quite a splendid occasion [...] as it will be a gathering of people from across Britain representing all the different strands of British society who will be brought together in order to listen to what Pope Benedict has to say to contemporary society," the priest stated.

He continued, "So although it's in Westminster Hall, it's not addressed solely and exclusively to parliamentarians -- in fact, properly, it's not -- it's the whole of British society coming together."

Monsignor Summersgill noted that although the exact itinerary of the Holy Father's visit has not been released, it is expected sometime "between six to eight weeks" of his arrival.

He explained, "The Holy See's normal way of doing these things is to publish, on its own Web site, the line-by-line itinerary."

The priest encouraged people to go to the Vatican's Web site and look at previous apostolic journey schedules that show "where the Pope has been and the itineraries he has followed."

"They talk about his arrival times at places, how he moves around, the time he spends at places and they're quite interesting," Monsignor Summersgill said. "We would expect to have that detail available somewhere between six and eight weeks before Pope Benedict gets here."

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Apostolic journeys: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/travels/index_outside-italy_en.htm

Papal U.K. visit: http://thepapalvisit.org.uk/

A Holy Communion Prayer

My God, teach me so to live, as one who does believe the great dignity, the great sanctity of that material frame in which you have lodged me. And therefore, O my dear Saviour! do I come so often and so earnestly to be partaker of your Body and Blood, that by means of your own ineffable holiness I may be made holy. Crucify my soul and body in all that is sinful in them, and make me pure as you are pure.

John Henry Newman

25 May 2010


There you have it. 25,000 Visitors in a little over a year. Who would have thought it? Thanks to one and all for your support, prayers, kindness and encouragement.

STB, ah, them were the days....

I am uniting myself in pain with all those who are undertaking the STB, especially my brothers at Oscott. It is but a distant memory now, but how we laughed afterwards!

Fascinated to read on wiki the following:

STB is an acronym that can mean:

There you go, guys, there must be at least half an hour to be wasted checking out all these sites!

Prayers for you!

A Prayer to the Unchangeable God

I know, my God, I must change; if I am to see your face. I must undergo the change of death. Body and soul must die to this world. My real self, my soul, must change by a true regeneration.

Support me, as I proceed in this great, happy change, with the grace of your unchangeableness. Whatever fortune I have, be I rich or poor, healthy or sick, with friends or without, all will turn to evil if I am not sustained by the Unchangeable; all will turn to good if I have Jesus with me, yesterday and today the same, and for ever.

John Henry Newman

24 May 2010

A Prayer to the Sacred Heart

My God, my Saviour, I adore your Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all your tenderest human affections for us sinners, all your Divine Charity towards us. When you condescend to suffer me to receive you, make my heart beat with your Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel. So fill it with you, that in your love and your fear it may have peace.

John Henry Newman

23 May 2010

It wouldn't be Pentecost without...

Reminds me of my ordination to the Priesthood. I seem to recall we sang a little better than King's, but that may be my memory playing tricks!

An Offertory Prayer

My God, I know well, you could have saved us at your word, without yourself suffering; but you did choose to purchase us at the price of your Blood. I look on you, the Victim lifted up on Calvary, and I know that your death was an expiation for the sins of the whole world.

My Lord, I offer you myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. You have died for me, and I in turn make myself over to you. My wish is to be separated from everything of this world; to cleanse myself simply from sin. Enable me to carry out what I profess.

John Henry Newman

22 May 2010


Acts 2:1-11; Ps 103; Rom 8:8-17; Jn 14:15-16.23-26

The great Feast of Pentecost heralds two great truths of our Faith. First, it is the birth of the Church. Second, the Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us. Let me explain.

The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost did not inaugurate the Church. It already existed but Pentecost was the moment when the Church was born with power form on high. It is a little like when a child is born. The child already exists in the womb long before its birth, well, normally nine months. This is a fundamental aspect to the whole debate about Abortion. We can talk of woman’s right to decide but what exactly is she deciding about? Clearly life begins at conception, not at birth, and it is never right to take life from another: whether that is a child in the womb or a pensioner dying in a hospital we none of us has the right to decide when life begins or ends.

Not that life is ever as black and white as this. On no. Life is complicated, partly through our own meddling, but partly because we decide that we know better than God. We can easily lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is Christ’s first gift to the Church. The Holy Spirit is, for each and every one of us, the guiding light who shows us the way to our salvation. How often do we rely upon His guidance? Let me give you one simple expression of what I mean. Just before I preach, well, just before I ever address people as a priest I am humbled to recognise that it is not me who brings the wisdom of God. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. Before ever I preach, therefore, I always mutter under my breath: “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Now you will notice that I almost always have my homily written out and whilst I try not to bore you by reading it, I have yet to gain the courage that the Spirit will fill me with His words and, therefore, I rely on myself. I am not perfect. So, still I ask for His assistance. Come, Holy Spirit. Today, I hope you will join me in saying Happy Birthday to the Church and to helping her to open her first birthday present: The Holy Spirit. Let Him rule in your heart and you will be ever so pleased with the result.

When we let the Spirit course through our lives, more dependent upon him do we become than the air which we breathe. We come to know that all is gift and it is all from Him. We become what we are: temples of the Holy Spirit. As the Church is guided by the Spirit, and, therefore, we can say she is infallible, in the same way the Spirit cannot be fallible, so we can rely upon the Church to guide us in our need. When we face difficult situations, difficult decisions and do not know how we are to live our lives, let the Church be our guide.

Again, it’s not easy. Lord knows that we find it difficult to give up control of our lives and to trust that the Church will not err. If, like me, you’re thinking this: the Church is surely just men who tell us what to do, then we have missed the point. The Church is not men in Rome, it is you and I. It is we, the children of God; the heirs of the Father and co-heirs with Christ. We are the Church.

Let us stand united in the Spirit and let him rule in our lives.

Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

A Prayer to Persevere in the Love of God

What mind of man can imagine the love which the Eternal Father bears towards the Only Begotten Son? It has been from everlasting - and it is infinite. And now what does He ask of me, but that, as He has loved me with an everlasting love, so I should love Him in such measures as I can show. Complete your work, Lord, and as you have loved me from the beginning, so make me to love you unto the end.

John Henry Newman

21 May 2010

Footprints by Hans Kung

(Click to enlarge)

For those who know just how unfunny this is!

H/T Catholic Cartoon Blog

I love being a priest

Whilst this forum is not one for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I have to confess to you that not only do I love being a priest but I wantonly indulge, from time to time, in reading material that makes me feel good about being a priest. It's probably fair to say that a little more sacrifice from time to time would not go amiss.

This morning caught me reading a great article from Fr James Farfaglia, entitled "I love being a Catholic Priest." The title alone would, of course, catch my attention. He recounts a few anecdotes along the route of the piece but one which gave me that warm glowing sensation included:

One morning, I was pouring myself a hot cup of coffee in the kitchen and a priest friend came through the kitchen, his face beaming with his characteristic joviality. "Come here," he said, "I need to show you something." Father had just celebrated his birthday and he had bought himself a little present. As he carefully opened the box he looked at me with the anticipation of a small boy with a new toy and cheerfully said, "Look at this!" What he was showing me was a beautifully stitched corporal and matching altar cloth that he had ordered from a liturgical supply company for his celebration of the Mass. "This new corporal and new altar cloth will remind me to say Mass better and better," he exclaimed. I was profoundly moved by his words.
September is the month for birthday presents but it's got me to thinking...

A Prayer for the Faithful Departed

O Jesu, Lover of souls, we recommend unto you the souls of all your servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace. We beseech you, Lord and Saviour, that, as in your mercy to them you became man, so now you would admit them to your presence above.

Gracious Lord, we beseech you, remember not against them the sins of their youth and their ignorances; but be mindful of them in your heavenly glory. May the Archangel St Michael conduct them to you. May your holy Angels come forth to meet them, and carry them to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May they rest in peace.

John Henry Newman

20 May 2010

Vote 'no' for abortion ads

Well, what goes around comes around, they say. After my post on here regarding the Daily Mail this evening I opened a 'round robin' email inviting me to vote 'no' in regard to the planned abortion advert by Marie Stopes. It's all over Facebook and the blogosphere, but you can read the Mail's version of it here. For your convenience, and to enable a one-click link to vote, the email is shown below:

Please click on the link and vote ‘No’ to abortion ads on TV.

Channel 4 are showing the first TV advert for abortions next Monday. Clinics which make a profit from carrying out abortions are not allowed to advertise their services on TV but a legal loophole has been exploited by Marie Stopes which is a ‘not for profit’ organisation.

80% of the 65,000 abortions carried out by Marie Stopes every year are for the NHS at a cost to the taxpayer of £30 million.


God bless


Please do vote on this issue. It will not take much time and could save lives. If you had asked me 24 hours ago would I vote in a Daily Mail survey, I suspect I might have said 'no'. Now I have voted no!

A Prayer for Fervour

In asking for fervour, I ask for all that I can need, and all that you can give. In asking for fervour, and perseverance; I am asking for faith, hope and charity in their most heavenly exercise. In asking for fervour I am asking to be rid of the fear of man, and the desire of his praise; I am asking for the gift of prayer; I am asking for that loyal perception of duty, which follows on yearning affection; I am asking for sanctity, peace, and joy all at once.

John Henry Newman

Where in the bible is...

How often have you found yourself searching online for a quote from Scripture and just cannot find it because the only versions available were not Catholic? Well now this is a thing of the past. This exciting story from zenit leads to a new resource part funded by the American Bishops.

A new online Catholic Bible search engine, which enables people to find specific Scripture passages using keywords, was launched last week.

The program was officially released to the public on May 13 by Catholic.net.

The press release noted that this is the first complete Catholic Bible made available for keyword search.

It added that an English and Spanish Bible, both translations approved by the Vatican, are being offered for searching through the program.

The search engine allows users to share Bible passages with their blogs, with Facebook and Twitter, and with other social media Web sites.

It also allows people to add a search widget to their own personal Web page.

The project was undertaken with partial funding from the U.S. bishops' conference, and with the help of volunteers from a Catholic.net social aid program in Mexico.

Rosalia Tenorio, director of Catholic.net, expressed the hope that this tool will "help the faithful in their Biblical studies and to facilitate Scripture sharing."

Bible search engine: http://www.bible.catholic.net/
It says you can put it on your website. This is a little beyond my capabilities at the moment - but given time all things are possible. Watch this space!

You know who you are...

Thanks to a good friend who sent this in the email box. Clearly Jesus remains the source of all truth, not as the Daily Mail reader might have us believe! I suspect you'll enjoy this, A.

19 May 2010

Prayers Needed

Please pray for Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz who has suffered a mild stroke. ICN report:
The Pope's ambassador to Britain, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, suffered a mild stroke yesterday. Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster said today: “I am very sorry to inform you that the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency the Most Reverend Faustino Sainz Muñoz, has suffered a stroke and is at present receiving medical care in hospital. Please do keep him in your prayers.”

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has sent his best wishes to Archbishop Sainz Muñoz. Cardinal O’Brien said: "I have advised the members of our Conference letting them know of the Nuncio's illness and also asking for their prayers."

The Cardinal added: "The Nuncio has been a great friend to us all here in Scotland, we have always welcomed his presence among us, most recently at the Mass in Glasgow on 21 March 2010 to mark the 5th anniversary of the Election of Pope Benedict XVI. On behalf of the Catholics of Scotland, I offer him the promise of our prayers for a steady recovery."John Paul II appointed Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, 67, as apostolic nuncio to Great Britain.

Archbishop Faustino, 72, was born in Almaden, Spain. He was ordained a priest in December 1964 and has held a number of posts in the diplomatic service of the Holy See since 1970. He was appointed Papal Nuncio to Britian in 2004, replacing Archbishop Pablo Puente, who retired in October, 2003.

Source: Scottish Catholic Media Office/ICN

Let's get ready for something completely different: unique!

Archbishop Vincent, speaking on the 4th May, tells of how Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK will be different to that of the late Pope John Paul II. He tells of how, on the Friday, the Pope will not celebrate a public Mass. He then talks of the speech scheduled for Westminster Hall when St Thomas More was condemned to death. Powerful stuff. You can listen to the prelate here. He says:
He’ll [Pope Benedict] speak from Westminster Hall in possibly the most important address of the whole visit. In that historic setting which captures so much of the history of this country, which poignantly is the place where Thomas More was condemned to death. He will address civic society, and I’m quite sure will start at the point at which everybody can enter. And he will encourage, he’ll invite, he will as you were try to cast a bit of light - but it will not be a proselytising act at all.
Don't forget you can stay abreast of developments and plans for the visit by checking on to the official website: www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Life of the Soul

My God, I adore you, Eternal Paraclete, the light and the life of my soul. You might have been content with merely giving me good suggestions, inspiring grace and helping from without. But in your infinite compassion you have from the first entered into my soul, and taken possession of it. You will go from me, if I sin; and I shall be left to my own miserable self. God forbid; I will use what you have given me; I will call on you when tried and tempted. Through you I will never forsake you.

John Henry Newman

18 May 2010

A Prayer for Church Unity

Lord Jesus Christ, who, when you were about to suffer, did pray for your disciples to the end of time that they might all be one, as you are in the Father, and the Father in you, break down the walls of separation which divide one party and denomination of Christians from another. Teach all men that the see of St Peter, the Holy Church of Rome, is the foundation, centre, and instrument of unity. Open their hearts to the long-forgotten truth that our Holy Father, the Pope, is your Vicar and Representative; so that as there is but one holy company in heaven above, so likewise there may be one communion, confessing and glorifying your holy name here below.

John Henry Newman

ACN and Prayers for Pope Benedict XVI

Just a reminder to check out the Aid to the Church in Need website for prayers for HH Papa Benedict's visit to the UK. You can access it here. Zenit are also carrying the story, which was the reminder for me today! You can read their story here. They remind us:

The agency is inviting people to have Masses said for the intentions of the Pope. Those who request these Mass intentions will have their names written in a commemorative book, which will be presented to the Pontiff on his visit.

Stipends for these Masses will be used by the aid agency to help priests in countries experiencing persecution or other forms of suffering.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, the national director of the U.K. branch of Aid to the Church in Need, said, "At this moment, more than ever, our Holy Father and all priests need our prayers and support."
Quite right, Mr Kyrke-Smith. Quite right.

17 May 2010

A Prayer to Mary, the Mother of Jesus

O Holy Mother, stand by me now at Mass time, when Christ comes to me, as you did minister to your infant Lord. Stand by me, Holy Mother, that I may gain somewhat of your purity, your innocence, your faith, and He may be the one object of my love and my adoration, as He was of yours.

Obtain for me this grace, O Virgin Mother, that I, when I suffer, may associate my sufferings with Him and with you, and that through His passion, and your merits, and those of all Saints, they may be a satisfaction for my sins and procure for me eternal life.

John Henry Newman

CTS and Newman

The Catholic Truth Society have much improved their production in recent years according to some of my colleagues. Being new to this game, I cannot really comment save to say that I'm so impressed that I have been a member of their 'readers club' for some years now. It began in seminary. It works like this - you get 50% discount on all their booklets and pamphlets which they produce. The down side, if there is one, is that you have to receive ALL of the booklets - there's no choice as such. This is not bad since it is rather like doing Catholic lottery. You pays your money and you takes your chances. Mostly the material is very helpful and useful and there is always the CTS stand at the back of Church. One man's meat is another man's poison or is it the other way around? It all comes wrapped as a nice little brown parcel.

This time, and the little brown package usually comes about every quarter, includes an excellent little booklet on Newman. It contains both some of his thoughts for use in a Novena and also a daily reflection for each day of the month. It might be fun to offer this reflection on a daily basis, though if you're like me you would much prefer to have the written material to hand. The Internet is great, but it's never better than the book. You'll be able to get the booklet in most catholic bookstores or, if your parish has a CTS stand, at the back of Church. The Newman Prayer Book costs just £1.95 and has been written by the Oratory Fathers of Birmingham with an introduction from Fr Richard Duffield. The CTS write:

Pray for the canonisation of Cardinal Newman with this new prayer book.

The forthcoming beatification of John Henry Newman has led, perhaps more than ever, to a need for a simple Newman Prayer Book.

This selection of brief extracts from Cardinal Newman’s Meditations and Devotions will introduce people to the mind and spirit of Newman, and enable many to prepare and participate in the Church’s joy.

The selection of extracts has been arranged so that there is a prayer for each day of the month. Two morning and evening prayers, taken from his unpublished writings, are also included.

A Novena, composed from Newman’s writings, allowing people to pray through Newman’s intercession completes the Prayer Book.

It you want to support the CTS then you can get more information here.

An excellent article on the subject of the newly ordained.

Budding priests in a time of crisis: Seminarians enter scandal-scarred vocation

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 14, 2010

From behind his desk and wire-rimmed glasses, Monsignor Steven Rohlfs surveyed the class of 24 men. For almost six years, he had led them on the long, difficult path to priesthood, and now, as they stood on the cusp of reaching that goal, he worried.

He knew his seminarians would be entering an institution under fire over clergy sex abuse cases around the world. And he had seen the devastation a single bad priest could cause.

He had often told them about the job he'd held before becoming the seminary's rector -- the one that sent him to bed many nights a broken man. For seven years, he had investigated priests accused of sex abuse in Illinois.

And it was a darkness he was determined to keep out of their lives.

So, as Rohlfs began his last class with them at his rural seminary in Western Maryland, the 59-year-old monsignor raced through his notes, cramming in a long list of last-minute advice. In quick succession, he reviewed everything from the nitty-gritty of administering the holy sacraments to the common pitfalls of first-year priests.

At the end of the hour-long lecture, he paused and looked up from his notes.

He had come to know and love each of the students graduating from his class: the aspiring park ranger, the former Starbucks manager, the Air Force veteran, the newcomer from Nigeria. Many of them had confided their deepest doubts to him.

And in return, Rohlfs had shared the lessons he'd learned from 34 years as a priest. From the outside world, he warned them, they would encounter suspicion and, at times, outright disdain. From within, they would encounter something even more sinister: temptation.

"If you remember nothing else from today, I would boil down all this advice to one thing," he said as the class came to an end. "Fall in love with the Lord, and it will change everything. Fall out of love with Him, and it will change everything."

Sacrifices and suspicion

This year, 440 men will be ordained in the United States. They will enter the Catholic Church at a time of need, amid a decades-long shortage of priests. Two dozen of them will come from Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, a town so rural it only recently acquired a second stoplight.

Six years ago, when most of this year's class arrived, the church was reeling from hundreds of abuse cases emerging across the United States. Now, just as they were preparing to leave for ordination, the church was once again mired in scandal.

They'd already experienced some of the far-reaching consequences of the sex abuse crisis. Getting into seminary had required a battery of psychological tests, long interviews and background checks.

"In the last six years alone, I've been fingerprinted four times," said Mick Kelly, a 32-year-old former philosophy student who will be ordained next month in the Arlington Diocese. "That's more than some criminals out there get."

After he entered the seminary, one of Kelly's friends asked him: "How can you join an institution as corrupt as the Catholic Church?"

When he began wearing a clerical black robe and white collar four years ago, he noticed the stares he'd get from people. Some would look away.

"You try not to be defensive, to explain as best you can," he said. "It hurts. The world sees these abuse cases and judges the church as a whole, all its priests and all its work by the action of these few people. But it's not the priesthood I grew up with. The one I know and love."

For some seminarians, the abuse crisis only made them want to be priests more.

"It invoked that almost boyhood drive to be a hero," said Matt Rolling, 27, a soft-spoken student from Nebraska. "You want to help the church restore its name. You want to be an example of what the priesthood really represents."

To be a priest, Rolling said, means sacrifice. For him, answering God's call meant abandoning all his careful plans -- a career as a forest ranger, the girlfriend he'd been dating for three years at the University of Nebraska, the prospect of marriage and children.

Even now, he said, there are times when he feels a desire for a wife and family. And, of course, there is the issue of sex.

"It's not like when you become a deacon or priest, the hormones somehow shut off," he said. "There are temptations. There are doubts. How do you deal with that? You try to realize that temptation comes from the devil and salvation comes from God. You pray for that salvation. You build up the spiritual strength to look past the distraction. . . . When I see a girl, I try to think, 'If this were my daughter, how would I feel if someone looked at her that way, if someone mistreated her?' You try to move into that role of a father, which is what you're supposed to be, in a sense, as a priest."

Embracing celibacy at Mount St. Mary's is complicated by the fact that the seminary is housed on the same campus as a college, with a student body that includes plenty of young women.

Strolling through a lush garden dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Dave Wells, one of Rolling's close friends, put it this way: "I don't want to sound like it's the only thing we think about, but, yes, it can be tough."

Midway through the conversation, two girls in tight running clothes jogged by. Wells's eyes, however, remained fixed on a statue of Mary.

"It's good practice for us," he said later, "because in the parishes, we'll be surrounded and ministering to women, too. You may as well get used to it now."

Not everyone, however, can. About 15 percent of the seminarians leave without finishing. In the past year alone, Wells has attended two weddings for former seminarians in his class.

"Some of us are called to be fathers in the natural sense," he said. "Some are called in the spiritual sense."

Loving God

Such open talk of sex and the official dissection of temptations are things that have changed in the wake of the abuse scandals. Since Rohlfs arrived at Mount St. Mary's five years ago, he has made extensive teaching on celibacy a priority. Seminarians spend an entire year examining its history, theological roots and practical challenges. And they pore over reports on the abuse scandals, looking for clues.

It is a deliberately open approach for a man who, when asked to talk about the problem of abusive priests, takes off his glasses and rubs his face. A weariness creeps into Rohlfs' voice.

From 1998 to 2005, he was responsible for investigating accused priests as vicar general of the Peoria diocese. He was the one who had to hear the heart-wrenching accounts from abuse victims, who had to delve into the private lives of more than a dozen accused priests and confront them with his findings.

"It was the most painful time of my life," he said. "I had known a lot of these same priests growing up. But even worse was meeting the victims. You don't know what to say to them. The pain they've felt. There's nothing you can say that will change that."

He likened himself to a garbage man and woke up depressed every morning. It got so bad that he eventually made a new vow -- to watch a half-hour sitcom every night before he fell asleep just to make himself laugh. "I Love Lucy." "Everybody Loves Raymond." "Frasier."

Most of the priests he investigated had come from an era when celibacy was not taught at seminaries in a pragmatic, thorough way. Another thing the fallen priests had in common, he said, was that not one had kept up his daily prayers.

So at Mount St. Mary's, he has urged seminarians to pray at least one hour every day. If they don't, he demands to know what they could possibly be doing that's more important than talking to God?

But not even prayer can substitute for love. That's what stuck out most to Rohlfs in the wreckage of the fallen priests' lives. "We can teach them everything we know, but, in the end, duty cannot do it," he said. "It must be love -- loving God more than you love sin."

The crucial lesson

In his last class with them, Rohlfs watched as his seminarians dutifully wrote down this last piece of advice on love. But did they understand how crucial it was, he wondered. Would they remember?

The Class of 2010 is the first he has overseen from start to finish, and he confessed that he felt at times like a nervous parent on the first day of kindergarten -- eager to see his children succeed but, having seen the dangers in this world, scared of what they will encounter.

Sitting in his office last week -- with the year officially over and his seminarians packing up -- Rohlfs couldn't help picking through all the lessons he had given during the past six years. He asked himself whether he should have done anything different, whether he had missed something important.

He had taught them everything he knew, he said at last with a sigh. Now it was up to God.

H/T Fr James Farfaglia


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