Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everything was Grace: The Papal Visit

Reflection and photos by Zani Pacanza, Archdiocese of Portland

Editor's note: Seminarian Phillip Shifflet is also offering reflections and photos on his blog about the papal visit.

Everything was grace. From the first moment we stepped inside the Immaculate Conception Basilica of Washington D.C., to meeting priests, bishops, cardinals, seminarians and religious from all over the country, to finally seeing His Holiness Pope Francis and attending the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, everything was a grace-filled moment from God.

Zani Pacanza outside the Basilica decorated
with the banners for the canonization Mass.

Mount Angel seminarians Ethan Alano, Randy Hoang,
Dustin Busse, and Zani Pacanza

Sept. 23, 2015: We started the day by praying and thanking our Lord for bringing us here and allowing us to experience the Pope's first visit to the United States. The night before, we stayed at the Theological College right across the Basilica, the venue of the canonization Mass, so we had a good panoramic view of everything that was happening, from the rehearsals to the preparations.

At 12:30 p.m. we were escorted by security officials from the college to the basilica. We were ecstatic when we got seats at the front area by the center aisle. We were told that Pope Francis will be passing by our side, and we couldn't wait. We had a couple of hours before the start of the Mass, so we went around and enjoyed the grandeur of the Immaculate Conception Basilica. This church was definitely amazing! At the crypt was almost a hundred images of our Blessed Mother from all over the world: Europe, Latin America, USA, Africa, and Asia! We were just in awe.

We also made friends with a lot of priests, seminarians, and religious from all over the country. Some of them drove from nearby states, and some, just like us, flew from far-away cities just to be one with His Holiness.

At 4:00 p.m., everyone was silent. Then, the two main doors opened, and the Vatican entourage entered. Everyone stood immediately and erupted in cheers. At the end of the entourage, finally, Pope Francis walked in, waving at the people. The whole venue let out a rousing applause, shouting "Viva il Papa!" repeatedly. So there we were, seeing him parade from the vestibule, walking closer and closer to us. Finally, he was right in front of us, smiling, waving, then smiling some more. I couldn't describe how I was feeling at that very moment. I was in a daze. Everything was surreal! The Pope was right in front of us, I could almost touch his face!

Pope Francis and members of the faithful standing
opposite of the Mount Angel seminarians.

He continued walking up to the altar of the basilica, then stopped in front and prayed for us. Then he gave us his blessing, then prayed some more, and then processed to start the canonization Mass for Junipero Serra, the great missionary priest of California. As the Mass started, everyone was praying reverently and singing with the choir joyfully.

In a brief moment of silence during the Mass, I closed my eyes and uttered a fervent prayer of thanks. First, a huge thank you to Mount Angel Seminary for bringing us here. We felt very humbled to represent our beloved institution in this historic and momentous occasion.  We also felt, of course, deep gratitude to our Lord for allowing us to celebrate with his people, his community of faithful, his Holy Mother Church.

Everything was grace. Truly, the fire of the Holy Spirit was with everyone during the event and throughout the day! When we come back to Oregon on Friday, we hope to be able to spread out the grace we have received to the entire hilltop community,and wherever else we may go.  Like the Papal visit's theme, indeed, our call as Christians is to "share the joy of the Gospel because love is our message!"

MAS Soccer Looks Forward to a New Season

by Garrett McGowan

It is the start of a new school year, and that means the start of a new soccer season.  Last year Andres Guerra of the Diocese of Orange led the Mount Angel Guardians as their head coach and captain. Now in his third year of college, he is back to lead the team once again.

There is no experience required; all Guerra asks is that the members be committed to God and the church, and then to the team.  "Sports play a vital role in spiritual life,” Guerra stated. He looks for hard working players who have an eagerness to learn and to do well in all that they do.  He sees this in a way that many other sports coaches may not: as part of a ministry.  Guerra wants to see his players make a shift from the field into their spiritual lives with soccer.

The Guardians have a limit of twenty-two players. This limit has never been reached before; however, this year the team is expecting to reach that limit. More seminarians are coming out to the field to try out and be part of the team.  Professors and formation directors are welcome to come out also and be part of the team. Dr. Andrew Cummings has been playing soccer for the Guardians longer than anyone else on the team. Michael Hoolihan is the assistant coach, and Phillip Shiffliet is the team’s manager; both are diocesan brothers to Coach Guerra and fellow player Felipe Villalobos.

Andres Guerra (red shirt) leads the Guardians through drills and exercises.

Brotherhood is what being on a team is all about. It’s something bigger than yourself that you can give yourself to. Andres said that is one of the main reasons people become involved in sports.  Over time a team can become more like a family.  Guerra said that in coaching the players, they also have something that they can give him in return. The team is able to help him see his flaws more clearly. When the team tells him that he is doing something wrong it gives him a chance to step back and think about what he did. Andres said that moments like this show him that being a leader is hard no matter how long you have been doing it. He takes it as a lesson in leadership skills.

The Guardians gather at the end of practice for a final cheer and prayer.

The Guardians have yet to play their first game, but practice has started.  Practice is from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. According to Guerra, on average a college soccer team practices for two hours five times a week. Because the Guardians do not have much time, they only want those players with the highest level of commitment. Nothing can be said as of yet for their plan on how they will bring a winning season to Mount Angel.  Assistant Coach Hoolihan said, “There are lots of new players, so lots of new hopes for a new season.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Helena Seminarians Document Trip to See Pope Francis

Several seminarians of Mount Angel Seminary are joining with their diocesan brothers of the Diocese of Helena on their trip to the World Meeting of Families and to see Pope Francis.

They are keeping a blog, The Helena Boys, to share their adventures and insights with friends and supporters back home.  The seminarians include Aidan Toombs, Joe Paddock, and Dcn. Cody Williams, current students of Mount Angel Seminary, as well as Dcn. Bryce Lungren, an alum of Mount Angel Seminary and MAS Journalism.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seminary Community Celebrates Fall Community Day

by Dean Marshall

Mount Angel, Ore. - In a spirit of brotherhood and friendly competition, Mount Angel Seminary celebrated its annual Community Day on September 7, 2015. The yearly event, which usually occurs on or near Labor Day, sees the student body participate in various games in a contest between teams in both physical and mental activities.

When the activities got underway, Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, led the community with an opening prayer. The five competing teams, comprised of combined seminary classes, then demonstrated their rousing cheers, ranging from a Maori-inspired haka chant demonstrated by the Theology II/College III team to a beach-themed song and dance performed by the Theology III/College II team.

Throughout the afternoon, the teams participated in both indoor and outdoor events. Starting with a fast-paced game of dodge ball in the Damian Center gym, the seminarians then moved to the soccer field, continuing the games with a lively tug-of-war contest. The outdoor activities were rounded out with a multi-round game of Ultimate Frisbee, which saw everyone enjoying the Oregon sunshine while taking turns in the energizing and fraternity-building competition. Following Vespers, the seminarians enjoyed dinner together while taking part in a Family Feud-style question and answer game, with queries such as, “What are the 5 most likely saints’ names for a parish?” and “What are five phrases you would hear your philosophy professor say?” In the end, the Theology I/College IV team outperformed the other groups and won the day.

Many of the seminarians see Community Day as a time to bond with their brothers while taking a break from classes. Deacon Derek Twilliger (Diocese of San Diego) said that Community Day gives everyone time to “step away from our studies and obligations and come together as brothers to build community through friendly competition.” Dustin Busse (Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon), one of the organizers, said that events such as Community Day “foster friendships that last” for the seminarians, who are “in this journey together” as they prepare for the priesthood.

In addition to Mr. Busse mentioned above, this year’s Community Day was also organized by seminarian Val Park (Archdiocese of Seattle). They were assisted by seminarians Stephen Kenyon (Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon), Benjamin Bray (Archdiocese of Seattle), Isidore Slade (Diocese of Samoa-Pago Pago), and David Panduro (Diocese of Sacramento).

Mount Angel Seminary is the largest seminary in the western United States. In its 127th year of operation, its roots trail back to 1889 when it was established by the recently-immigrated Swiss monks of Mount Angel Abbey at the behest of Archbishop William Gross, CSsR, of the Archdiocese of Oregon City, what would become the Archdiocese of Portland. Mount Angel Seminary serves both graduate and undergraduate students, and consists of seminarians from the United States, Canada, the Pacific Islands, and as far away as Hungary, as well as seminarians from various religious communities and many lay students.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

MAS Opens its 127th Academic Year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit and Inaugural Address

Story by Dean Marshall - Photos by Jose Morales

St. Benedict, Ore. – This past week, Mount Angel Seminary began its 127th academic year, continuing its mission of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of men for the Roman Catholic priesthood. The year opened with the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit and Inaugural Address on Monday, August 24, 2015, with classes beginning the following day.

Mount Angel Seminary welcomed back faculty, students, and friends with the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated to institute the new academic year and to seek an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the work that will be completed over the coming months. The Most Reverend Liam Cary, Bishop of the Diocese of Baker, served as the main celebrant and also delivered the homily. Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of the seminary, delivered opening remarks, and various priests from the abbey and seminary communities concelebrated. Phillip Shifflet, a seminarian for the Diocese of Orange in California, and Ethan Alano, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, served as cantors.

Bishop Cary during Mass with priests from the abbey and seminary

In his homily, Bishop Cary encouraged the students to remember that the time they spend in seminary is one of preparation. Each person needs to “prepare for a life in the Spirit” and to cultivate and maintain a “Eucharistic heart.” He exhorted the seminarians to enter into “the silence of the Holy Spirit,” seeking to prepare their “hands, heart, and mind to give to the Spirit of the Lord.” Bishop Cary reminded those gathered to remember the “hope and promise of the Father,” as each person pursues his studies and journeys toward the priesthood.

Following the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Right Reverend Peter Eberle, O.S.B., Vice-Rector for the Graduate School, Director of Human Formation, and Professor of Moral Theology, delivered the annual Inaugural Address, entitled, “Pastores Dederunt Nobis: Three Novelists, Three Priests, and an Icon.” Recalling the memory of Fr. Paschal Cheline, O.S.B., who would exhort men to read novels, Abbot Peter expressed the importance of novels in the task of human formation, citing that a seminarian or priest who reads novels better “understands the human journey,” a key aspect of pastoral work. Using Edwin O’Connor’s The Edge of Sadness, Jon Hassler’s North of Hope, and J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green, Abbot Peter painted a picture of three priests and the difficulties and pitfalls that they encounter in ministry.

Abbot Peter giving the Inaugural Address

Detailing the three shepherds and comparing them to the portrait of an ideal priest illustrated through the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, Abbot Peter demonstrated that the main characters in these works were “hardly heroes … living quite ordinary lives,” but who, nonetheless, could teach us about priestly formation. Through these novels, a seminarian could learn about the importance of “his own need of ongoing formation.” Detailing the redemption of the novels’ priests, Abbot Peter demonstrated “that redemption has to touch [all seminarians’ and priests’] own ordinary lives as well.” He stated, “Ongoing formation can facilitate in the priest’s own life the redemption that the three priests the novelists have given us experienced in theirs.” Abbot Peter closed by reminding everyone of the need for this formation and that in the end, “all is grace.”

Following the Mass of the Holy Spirit and Inaugural Address, the day continued with a presentation to the gathered seminarians by Monsignor Betschart and a barbecue with the monastic community, administration, faculty, and seminarians of Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.

Mount Angel Seminary offers undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, with possible double majors in Literature or Religious Studies, with the goal of preparing men for graduate formation for the priesthood. At the graduate level, the seminary offers a Master of Divinity degree and Master of Arts degrees in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Theology, and Philosophy, as well as a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology degree offered in concert with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy. Mount Angel Seminary is the oldest and largest seminary in the West and serves seminarians, religious and lay students from around the United States, Canada, the Pacific Islands, and as far away as Hungary.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Introducing the Fall 2015 Journalists

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

This semester, five seminarians are taking part in the the journalism class that is part of MAS Journalism for the first time.  Brother William Petry, Brother Jorge Moreno,  and Luis Trullijo, will be writing profiles and news briefs that will be published by MAS Journalism.

Brother William Petry

Brother Jorge Haro

Luis Trujillo

These three students will also be pursuing the Unfamiliar Genre Project.  Through this work they will will explore and try their hand with a genre with which they have no previous experience.  MAS Journalism alumni Daniel Miller and Carl Sisolak have also completed the Unfamiliar Genre Project.

Garrett McGowan will be building on his previous work in journalism last year, which included news stories and a photo essay, to expand the coverage of MAS Journalism through a profile and several news briefs this semester.

Garrett McGowan

Phillip Shifflet and Dean Marshall will also be providing press releases for major seminary events throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

Readers with suggestions for news stories this semester may contact Sister Hilda Kleiman with their ideas.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mount Angel Alum Serves in Uganda

Alex Woelkers, who graduated last May from Mount Angel Seminary, is now serving as a missionary in the St. Muggaga Boys Home in Jinja, Uganda.

The home is run by the Brothers of St. Charles Luwanga, and it currently serves 36 boys from age 7 through high school.  Alex is writing a blog,, about his work at the home, which includes but is not limited to helping to fix broken arms, teaching prayers and reading, and helping to harvest and plant crops.

Alex welcomes prayers for the boys, and donations for the home are welcome as well.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Members of Seminary Community Honored at Annunciation Dinner

News Brief by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Tuesday, March 24th, students, faculty, staff, and guests of Mount Angel Seminary gathered in the Aquinas Dining Hall to celebrate its annual Annunciation Dinner, to share fellowship and to honor particular members of the community for their contributions and achievement. The awards and their winners are listed below.

The Saint Benedict Award for outstanding progress in both graduate and undergraduate Human Formation, was presented to Deacon Pio Afu (Theology 4) of the Diocese of Samoa-Pago Pago, a graduate student in the theologate, and undergraduate, Jesus Sanchez (College 4) of Mount Angel Abbey. The award is given to those seminarians who best exemplify the highest formational ideals of the seminary, who model the Benedictine charism, who live the values of the Kingdom and actively proclaim the Good News, who love the Church, and who manifest servant-leadership in the seminary community.

Conor Baer (College 1) from the Archdiocese of Seattle, was presented the Saint Michael the Archangel Award for his special contributions to the seminary and its programs. This award is given to a student who has contributed significantly to the life of the seminary by establishing something new and beneficial or, through exceptional fidelity, commitment, creativity, and good will, has furthered something already established.

The St. Anselm Award, was presented jointly to Phillip Shifflet (College 4) of the Diocese of Orange and Paul Grandi (College 4) of the Diocese of Tucson, in recognition of the undergraduate seminarian whose love of learning, excellent academic record, appreciation of philosophy and the liberal arts, rigorous self-discipline, active classroom participation, and outstanding leadership ability have gained them the respect of the faculty and the admiration of his peers.

The Saint Thomas Aquinas Award for outstanding academic achievement from a graduate student was presented to Deacon Teodosio Brea (Theology 4) of the Saint John Society. This award is given in recognition of those students whose love of learning, excellent academic records, outstanding ability to articulate Catholic theology or appreciation of philosophy and the liberal arts, active classroom participation, and strong leadership ability have won the respect of the faculty and the admiration of students.

The Saint Bonaventure Award for outstanding contribution from a faculty member was presented to Kathy Akiyama, an Associate Professor of English Communications at the Seminary. Kathy received the award in recognition of her ability to teach effectively and her generosity with time and talent by which she has inspired students and won the praise of colleagues.

Deacon Bernardo Lara (Theology 4) of the Diocese of San Diego received the Saint Paul Award for outstanding progress in developing preaching skills. The award is based on the ability to proclaim the Word of God, call to conversion those who hear the Word and a demonstrated comfortable presence at the ambo.

Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mount Angel Seminary Celebrates 126th Commencement Exercises

Story by Phillip J. Shifflet

“The fields are ripe! O bless the Lord, our God!” echoed through the Abbey Church as Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) celebrated its annual Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises at the end of its 126th year of forming men for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

On Friday, May 8th at 4pm, students, faculty, staff, and family and friends of the seminary gathered to celebrate the Baccalaureate Mass in the Abbey Church. The Most Reverend Joseph Tyson, Bishop of Yakima, served as the main celebrant and Reverend Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of MAS, delivered the homily. Myrna Keough and the Seminary Liturgical Choir provided music for the Mass, which included a rendition of “He, Watching Over Israel” from Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah.

Msgr. Betschart reflected in his homily on the call to be a witness, from Acts 1:8 – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” He quoted Pope Francis, who said in a Regina Caeli address that “a witness is a person who has seen, who recalls and who tells.” These three dimensions of the witness then formed the basis for Msgr. Betschart’s reflections.

In his homily, Msgr. Betschart reminded the graduates that their time in the seminary was really all about being formed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to be and to become the Lord’s witnesses to the world, and that only in witnessing to Jesus Christ and the power and the joy of his life and love present and active in the world do our lives acquire their full meaning. And so, as he said, “Jesus Christ cannot be just one more thing or even one more person in our lives. He must be everything in our lives. If we have him, we have everything – and if we don’t have him, no matter what else we may have, we have nothing.”

The Commencement Exercises were held the next day, Saturday, May 9th at 10am. Bishop Tyson delivered the commencement address. He said, “Today is not so much about taking ‘leave’ of seminary as much as it is about being ‘sent’ on a mission.” In his commencement address, he reflected on a quotation from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, writing that he dreams of “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” At the end of his address, Bishop Tyson reminded the graduates “that discernment starts with listening to the desire God has planted in our hearts, recalling how those around us have confirmed this desire and shaped this desire and then the discernment continues in testing that desire through the vocational experiences that come in regular formation in the seminary and in our pastoral assignments.”

Maurice Duruflé’s composition of “Ubi Caritas” was performed as a musical interlude by Voces Fidei, an a capella group comprised of seminarians Frankie Villanueva, John Hesla, Phillip Shifflet, Stephen Cieslak, and Gregory Snyder, all of whom graduated MAS with undergraduate degrees this year. The Reverend Mister Pio Afu, a graduate of the seminary Theology program for the Diocese of Samoa Pago Pago, delivered the annual senior farewell. Msgr. Betschart gave the final remarks, and the Right Reverend Gregory Duerr, OSB, the Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, imparted the final blessing upon the graduates and congregants.

Mount Angel Seminary offers undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, with possible double majors in Literature or Religious Studies. At the graduate level, the seminary offers the Master of Divinity degree and Master of Arts degrees in Philosophy, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Theology, as well as the Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology degree offered in affiliation with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy. This year, the seminary granted 13 undergraduate degrees and 37 graduate degrees to seminarians, religious and lay students from around the United States and the Pacific Islands. Additionally, two seminarians received certificates of completion for the pre-theology program.

Mount Angel Seminary, established by pioneer monks, began forming men for the priesthood in 1889. MAS is the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Mount Angel Seminary – 2015 Graduates

Bachelor of Arts:   
Stephen Theodore Cieslak – Portland in Oregon
Zachary Andrew Ferell – Tucson   
Paul Steven Grandi – Tucson   
John Marsdon Hesla – Portland in Oregon   
Br .Jesús Maria Leija, O.S.B. – Mount Angel Abbey   
Antonio Miguel López – Yakima   
Juan Carlos Orozco – Seattle
Dario Luca Rinaldi – Honolulu   
Jesús Humberto Sanchez – Mount Angel Abbey   
Blake Andrew Sheely – Portland in Oregon
Phillip Jeffrey Shifflet – Orange   
Gregory Alan Snyder – Seattle   
Frank Nicholas Villanueva – Honolulu   
Pre-Theology Certificate of Completion:   
Tyler Young Johnson – Seattle   
John Andrew Mosier – Boise   
Baccalaureate In Sacred Theology:   
Scott Christian Baier – Portland in Oregon   
Teodosio Brea – Saint John Society   
Bernardo Lara – San Diego   
Rodrigo Paredes Cardona – Portland in Oregon   
Jorge Alberto Robles Cuevas – Fresno   
Br. Manuel Rosiles, M.Sp.S. – Missionaries of the Holy Spirit   
Edgar Sánchez Garcia – Santa Fe   
Juan Ignacio Soria – Saint John Society   
Br. Peter Mary Vecellio, O.C.D. – Order of Discalced Carmelites   
Master of Divinity:
Pio Gamig Afu – Samoa-Pago Pago
Scott Christian Baier – Portland in Oregon
Fredy Bonilla Moreno – Portland in Oregon
Teodosio Brea – Saint John Society
José Victor Gutiérrez – Sacramento
Br. Armando Hernández Martinez, M.Sp.S. – Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Bernardo Lara – San Diego
Br. John Paul Le, O.S.B. – Mount Angel Abbey
Márton Magyar – Hajdudorog, Hungary
Br. Charles Nolan Nawodylo, O.C.D – Order of Discalced Carmelites
Rodrigo Paredes Cardona – Portland in Oregon
Edgar Eloy Rivera Torres – Portland in Oregon
Jorge Alberto Robles Cuevas – Fresno
Br. Manuel Rosiles, M.Sp.S. – Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Edgar Sánchez Garcia – Santa Fe
Juan Ignacio Soria – Saint John Society
Angelo David Trujillo – Salt Lake City
Br. Peter Mary Vecellio, O.C.D. – Order of Discalced Carmelites

Master of Arts:
Teodosio Brea – Saint John Society
Sara L. Creel
Margaret Echeveste
Fr. Vincent Hau Dinh Nguyen, O.C.S.O. – Cistercian
Rodrigo Paredes Cardona – Portland in Oregon
Jorge Alberto Robles Cuevas – Fresno
Edgar Sánchez Garcia – Santa Fe
Juan Ignacio Soria – Saint John Society
Br. Peter Mary Vecellio, O.C.D. – Order of Discalced Carmelites
Alex Woelkers

Friday, May 1, 2015

Exploring Book Reviews - Carl Sisolak's Unfamiliar Genre Project

As part of the journalism practicum this semester, Carl Sisolak, a Theology One seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Seattle, worked with book reviews through the Unfamiliar Genre Project.  He reviewed Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Father James Martin, SJ, and also shares his final reflection on his work.

The Unfamiliar Genre Project is an opportunity for a student to learn about the characteristics of a genre with which he has never worked.  The project includes researching samples of the chosen genre, writing an annotated bibliography, and keeping a research journal.  It concludes with the student writing their own piece in their genre, as well as a final reflection on the project.

Carl Sisolak with Jesus: A Pilgrimage
Credit: Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

A Walk in the Footsteps of Jesus Becomes Our Journey Too: A Review of Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin

"Getting to know Jesus, like getting to know anyone, has been a pilgrimage" explains James Martin, SJ.

Martin offers this beginning to a deeply reflective view of the Gospels as seen from one who is walking in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land.  In his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, James Martin takes us along with him on a journey not only to present day Holy Land sites but also on an introspective journey into the Gospels themselves.  This is a journey all are invited to take, whether one is a faithful believer or a non-believer.

James Martin, prior to becoming a Jesuit priest, was a graduate from the Wharton School of Business and had been working at General Electric.  Martin has experience writing and editing on various aspects of his faith for different kinds of media.  He had written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  He has been interviewed for TV and radio.  His accomplishments include his books The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, Between Heaven and Mirth, and Together on Retreat.  He is currently editor-at-large for America Magazine, where he has published articles such as "Life's Second Half."

Martin mentioned a number of sources that were beneficial to him in his writing of this book.  He mentions the Sacra Pagina series edited by Daniel J. Harrington as a line-by-line analysis of the New Testament.  He also mentions A Marginal Jew by the Rev. John P. Meier as having been helpful during his travels.

In beginning this journey, Martin reminds us that Jesus was a real person and not just an imagined person conjured up to make a good story.  The element of knowing the reality of Jesus provides a deeper dimension to go along with the experience of exploring the world that Jesus knew and participated in.  Martin reminisced, "Overall, the pilgrimage made the Gospels more vivid, deepened my understanding of specific stories, and afforded me an enormous amount of fascinating information about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.  This is why the Holy Land is often called the Fifth Gospel."

The book also provides personal insights of the author's reactions to what he learned about himself.  Martin realizes in his reflections of Jesus' rejection by those from his own hometown that when others reject or disagree with what he has written or done, that he could escape from an overwhelming desire to be liked by others.

Martin says it felt like God was asking him on that retreat, "Must everyone like you?  Mustn't the desire to be liked by everyone die?  Doesn't it need to die if you are to have any sort of freedom?"  Even though Martin acknowledges that he can truly need correcting, like Jesus who also was rejected, he does not have to always be worrying about being liked either.

Martin designed Jesus: A Pilgrimage to read as an itinerary of travel and spiritual reflection.  Each section describes a new location related to biblical locations found in the New Testament.  Martin also includes biblical references so that, in his own words, "I hope to bring you [the reader] into that trip as I experienced it."

I found this book really made me feel as if I could go to these places that Martin visited, find the person of Jesus there, and have a conversation with Him as though I were visiting a friend.  I also felt as if I could see the news headlines describing the events in Jesus' life taking place as current events that just happened yesterday and today.

I do believe this book would be an excellent spiritual experience for other seminarians and readers who wish to learn about Jesus' ministry and come closer to encountering the real person of Jesus that we proclaim through our Scriptures.

Journalism With A Purpose: Final Reflection

I began this journalism class Unfamiliar Genre Project with a feeling of excitement.  When I read a good book or piece of literature, I often want to share it with others in hopes that they might experience the same enthusiasm I had with the book.  I hope that other readers find the book useful to their spiritual growth as well.

I appreciated the idea of taking a piecemeal approach to building up this project.  First, in starting with attaining examples from other reviewers, I was able to see what techniques they employed to make their reviews more effective.  I could tell after reading their reviews that I could decide which books they were reviewing that I would want to read or not read.  I begin to think of the book review as an advertisement for the book.  In many cases this is one of the goals of these reviews.

I had not been aware of the amount of time and work it takes to be a skilled journalist until I began taking journalism classes at Mount Angel.  At the same time, though, I found that I can express myself and be creative in my writing without losing the main message the subject matter is supposed to convey.  I have learned how writing respects and engages the audience who would read what I have written.

This creativity and honesty is just as important in doing a book review project like the one I did.  There is definitely a commitment on the part of the reviewer to present an accurate understanding of the book and subject being covered.  I thought at first that book reviewers just quickly made a review up of their opinion in the few minutes they had after reading the book they were covering.  I am realizing this is not the case at all.

What I could not allow myself to do with this book review was to make it all just one subjective rundown of my opinion, even though that is an important part of it.  I had to remind myself that I had to do my review based on the author's perspective as well as my own.  I could see the need for this balanced approach in the impact that quotations from the author have in both the sample book reviews and in the project I was doing.