Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brother Robin and the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit

The final story assignment for our two journalism students this semester was a profile of Brother Robin Bernabe.  The profile by Peter Lawongkerd may also be found on the MAS journalism blog.

Honoring the Memory of Brother Robin
by Raul Barriga

You may be aware of the recent passing of Brother Robert (Robin) del Rosario Bernabe on November 2, 2012.  According to his fellow Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, Br. Robin was a self-giving man and student who incorporated his spirituality into his humanity.  This article is drawn from interviews with three of his brother Missionaries so as to honor his memory by relating how they best knew Brother Robin.  The people interviewed were Fr. Joel Quezada (formation director), Br. Miguel Marquez (Theology IV), and Br. Josue Salgado (College I).

The devotions that Br. Robin had were a particular similarity from all three interviews.  These included the Eucharist, Mary, and the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit, which is ideal for the charism of the congregation.  Fr. Joel said that when he would go to the small chapel of the Felix Rougier House of Studies in Mount Angel to pray night prayer in front of the tabernacle, he would see Br. Robin there also praying close to the tabernacle.  Br. Miguel also noted that these spiritual devotions marked the life of Br. Robin by taking the Gospel to practice.

Brother Robin

Br. Robin's second novitiate or pastoral year at St. Martha's Parish in Huntington, California, provided an opportunity for Br. Robin to practice charity.  This notion of charity was also brought up frequently in the three interviews.  Fr. Joel said that Br. Robin came out very enthusiastic from his second novitiate.  His enthusiasm may be due, among other things, to his experience in coming to know Dolores Mission Church in east Los Angeles.

Br. Robin came to know about this parish by serving in confirmations there at one point.  This parish also functions as a homeless shelter by night.  Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin would practice solidarity with the homeless.  According to Br. Miguel, Br. Robin would tell him that in every person there is a story, a why.  Thus, Br. Miguel also said that Br. Robin would see the dignity of the human being, going beyond the poverty, the exterior, so as to help them feel that someone would listen and be with them.  To illustrate this description of Br. Robin, Br. Miguel shared an anecdote.

One time during the pastoral year of Br. Robin, he invited Br. Miguel to meet a friend of Br. Robin.  During the interview, Br. Miguel said that he felt the friend would be someone of the culture of Br. Robin.  (Br. Robin was Filipino, in contrast with most of the Hispanic members of the community).  Br. Miguel said Br. Robin picked him up, and they went through the suburbs of Los Angeles.  Br. Miguel said that he asked Br. Robin if he knew where he was going.  Br. Miguel said Br. Robin told him not to worry since he did know.  According to Br. Miguel, they arrived at a place where there were homeless people.

Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin called someone there, and those people knew who he was.  Br. Miguel said Br. Robin presented his homeless friend so as to invite him to dine with them.  Br. Miguel continued, saying that this experience impacted him a lot because when he asked Br. Robin why he did this since he knew that their community and their superiors asked them to ask permission before doing such things, Br. Robin courteously responded that "the classes that they give us in Mount Angel always tell us the Gospel has to be incarnated in the practice.  Thus, we have to put the Gospel into practice, not preach only."

Br. Josue shared an account of Br. Robin that ties into the last anecdote.  Br. Josue said that he was in charge of the kitchen during his novitiate.  He said they would get a lot of donations.  According to Br. Josue, Br. Robin would see a food item and ask Br. Josue if he could have it to take to Dolores Mission Parish.  Br. Josue would agree.

Br. Josue said that Br. Robin continued this practice of reserving food items from their kitchen to take to the homeless shelter at Dolores Mission Parish.  What relates to the account that Br. Miguel gave is that Br. Robin would listen to the stories of these homeless people.  In fact, Br. Josue said that when Br. Robin would return from the homeless shelter, he would share with him what he had learned when listening to the story of a homeless person.

Culture was a struggle that appeared in all three interviews.  Fr. Joel mentioned it as a difficulty for Br. Robin.  Br. Josue elaborated on this difficulty since he said that Br. Robin had to balance three cultures: Filipino, American, and Mexican.  Br. Josue said that there were times when Br. Robin would share that he did not know where he was from due to the various cultures he interacted with.

Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin had the grace to be able to acculturate himself with others.  For example, in their religious community, Br. Miguel said that they are Hispanic, but Br. Robin related with all kinds of persons: Anglos, German, Irish.  Br. Miguel said that with the Hispanics, Br. Robin would become Hispanic.  This was a charism of Br. Robin and, according to Br. Miguel, it was evident at the funeral in California through all the people he touched.

Another difficulty Brother Robin faced that came up twice was his hard work in his studies.  Br. Miguel said that Br. Robin did not want anything, besides prayer, to disturb him since he was very dedicated to his studies.  Fr. Joel had said that one of the things they recommended to him was to be more practical since the evaluators in his community saw that he was very intellectual.  According to Fr. Joel, Br. Robin persevered in this recommendation since he would work on things that needed to get better in his life.

In conclusion, It may be fitting to see what we can learn from the life of Br. Robin.  Br. Miguel said that he learned that he should share everything in life, both interiorly and exteriorly.  Br. Miguel also said that he learned not to focus only on the exterior look of a person.

In doing this story on Br. Robin, I was motivated to give myself to whatever I do.  This motivation came from a description from Br. Miguel about Br. Robin when he said that Br. Robin would live and give himself to ordinary things.  Br. Miguel shared a prayer that the Missionaries recite in which they offer their lives to God in all moments of their lives.  This can be a prayer we pray in good and painful times so as to live it out.

The Offering of the Incarnate Word

Heavenly Father, through the hands of Mary, we offer You, Jesus the Incarnate Word, the Victim in whom You are well pleased.  Moved by the love of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we offer ourselves completely with Him as living hosts.  May we be a living sacrifice out of love for You, in all the events of our lives, obtaining graces for the world, the Church, and especially Your Priests.


Editor's Note: As of 7 p.m. on December 21, 2012, this story was corrected to indicate that Br. Robin and Br. Miguel's superiors require permission for rather than prohibit the actions Br. Miguel describes during his visit with Br. Robin and his friends among the homeless.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brother Robin and the Filipino Community

After the death of Brother Robert (Robin) Bernabe, our two journalism students this semester wrote profiles of Brother Robin's relationship with two different communities within the seminary.  Our first profile focuses on Brother Robin as a member of the Filipino community.

Brother Robin and the MAS Filipino Community
by Peter Lawongkerd

Brother Robin Barnabe, M.Sp.S., also known as Brother Robin, was one of the seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary.  He was also a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and a member of the Filipino community.  On the afternoon of November 2, 2012, he was involved in a car accident and died on the scene.  His loss brought sadness to all of us and especially the Filipino community.  All of the Filipino seminarians were impressed by Brother Robin.

Zani Pacanza is one of the theology students who studies for the Archdiocese of Portland, and he is also the vice president of the Filipino community.  He shared how Brother Robin touched his life and what impressed him the most about Brother Robin.  He said, "When we first met at the beginning of the school year, Brother Robin was the first to approach me and introduce himself.  He didn't wait for me to approach him."

Brother Robin
He also explained that Brother Robin was a good person, especially every time there was a meeting of the Filipino community, particularly in the two weeks leading up to a special concert.  The Filipino community of the Archdiocese of Portland tried to raise money for the Filipino seminarians, and one way that they could raise the money was by having a concert. 

Brother Robin was always present for the meetings and participated in the rehearsals for the concert.  Many times Brother Robin would ask if there was anything he could do to help, such as helping with decorations, performing, and selling the tickets for the concert.  This showed how generous he was.  Sadly, Brother Robin died shortly before the concert was held.

The particular story that impressed Zani Pacanza was the moment when Brother Robin approached him and invited him for dinner at his religious house.  Brother Robin also told Zani that he would introduce him to his community so that they would get to know him.  He could always come back again to visit; the door would always be open. 

This happened three days before Brother Robin died.  Zani said, "In the short time of knowing him here in this school year, it has been a great blessing to have him in the community."  He explained that Brother Robin had a big heart because he wanted to reach him and to bond with him.

Ryan Francisco is a student who studies for the Diocese of Sacramento; he is also the president of the Filipino community.  He has been involved with all of the activities for the community and with the members of the community as well.  He knew Brother Robin from two years ago, and this year Ryan really got to know Brother Robin because Brother Robin was always present in the Filipino community. 

Ryan said, "Brother Robin is one of those guys who people encounter and say this person is a good person."  He explained that when he got to know Brother Robin, it was true he was a good person because he was humble.  Ryan said, "He always asked me if I needed help or if there was anything that he could do for the community."

He explained that Brother Robin was very active in the community and that during his absence in the previous year he was missed because of the pastoral year he had to do.  However, when he came back this year, he was always a huge supporter of the community.

Ryan also said that whenever he is walking down the hallways, he hears Brother Robin in the hallway.  He said "I am always hearing his voice greeting me" even though he knows he has passed away.

May the soul of Brother Robin rest in peace, and may he intercede for us.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Surrender in the Annunciation Mosaic

Our third and final paper on the mosaic of the Annunication is from Brother Rudy Martinez, a member of the Missionairies of the Holy Spirit and a college-one seminarian at Mount Angel Seminary.

Two previous papers by Brother Marinus Kim and Randy Hoang have also been published on the MAS journalism blog.

Your Will Be Done: The Majestic Act in the Annunciation Mosaic of Mount Angel Seminary
by Brother Rudy Martinez

As one enters the Annunciation building of Mount Angel Seminary, one can see the Annunciation mosaic.  The mosaic can also be seen as the act of the Incarnation.  The mosaic's size and its outstanding colors attract the attention of the ones entering the building.  As I meditate on the Annunciation mosaic one phrase that describes more fully what I see in the mosaic is simply: surrender to the Father.

For us Catholics the Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinction of our faith.  I would say that Mount Angel Seminary is the perfect place for this mosaic to be because it represents the distinction of our faith as Christian Catholics.  I also think that the mosaic being in the seminary is a powerful invitation for those wanting to do God's will in their lives, especially the seminarians, just as Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the Archangel did.

Brother Rudy with the mosaic of the Annunciation

Meditating on the different characters in the mosaic I was able to find complete surrender to the will of God the Father from each one of them.  Mary humbles herself in many ways but mainly by saying yes to the archangel.  In the mosaic we can see Mary holding a spindle, but she is holding the spindle down as a symbol of denying herself, setting aside her work at the moment.  By Mary holding down the spindle she is representing how she is leaving what she knows in life in order to give her whole attention to God. 

The way Mary is dressed is representing royalty, for she is wearing a purple dress and red shoes, and both stand for royalty.  Mary is wearing a red mantle and it represents sacrifice.  Something that called my attention when I first saw the mosaic was to see how even if Mary seems to be in conversation with the archangel she is not looking at him; instead she is looking up to heaven.

The archangel seems to be explaining to Mary what the will of God is for her; he is describing the way the Incarnation will occur.  The Archangel Gabriel is also representing humility by obeying God in taking his message to Mary.  The archangel is holding a scroll in his hand as a sign that he is to deliver a message.  His is also wearing a blue ribbon on his head symbolizing someone from heaven.  Combining both the scroll and the ribbon I can say that the archangel is a messenger from heaven.  Something that comes to my mind by seeing the archangel is that we as Christians are supposed to be like the archangel, messengers from heaven; especially as seminarians we must be conscious of that as our first duty.

In the mosaic one can find the Holy Spirit represented in a dove.  We can find the dove holding a book on top of an altar; the book represents Jesus.  In the Holy Spirit one can see the act of humbleness by coming upon Mary and being part of the sacrifice of the Son in the Incarnation.  I was able to find great humiliation in God in the mosaic by just imagining the sacrifice the Holy Trinity passed through in the Incarnation of God.  The mosaic represents the enormous love from God towards his children.

In the Son of God, represented as the Word in the mosaic, I was able to find the greatest act of love from the Son towards the Father, the great docility from the Son to the Holy Spirit in order to do the will of the Father.  In the mosaic one finds the Word placed, by the Holy Spirit, on top of an altar.  The altar is covered with a red cloth. 

The altar reminds me of two things, Mary and the sacrifice of the Lord.  Something that calls my attention from the altar is that the altar is covered with the same red mantle as Mary; this helped me realize that Mary is where the sacrifice takes place.  As I was assimilating the similitude between Mary and the altar of sacrifice I was wondering if Mary did know of the pain and sacrifices she would go through in union with the Holy Trinity.

In the mosaic God the Father is represented in the form of clouds.  I was fascinated to see that the clouds in the mosaic seem to be moving clouds, like in a storm.  These clouds are not just clouds behind the scene but they are moving to embrace the whole picture.  At first glance it seems like the clouds are a very small part of the mosaic, but in reality they are surrounding the whole act of the Annunciation and Incarnation.

The half-circle part, where the whole Trinity is represented, seems to me like an icon inside the mosaic; that part explains the whole sacrifice of the Incarnation.  In God the Father one can find a great act of humility when considering that He is sacrificing his only Son for the salvation of his children.  I am also very attracted to see that in the mosaic the Trinity is humbled in order to have Mary as the central character of the Annunciation; it seems as if Mary is the hope of the whole Trinity.

The Annunciation mosaic helps me realize how the greatest act of love implied much humiliation from Mary, the angel, and even more admiringly from the Holy Trinity.  The mosaic tells of the complete obedience and surrender to the will of God the Father from the Son, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the Archangel.  Something I perceived was how this mosaic is in the perfect place by being in the seminary.  We as seminarians should be in constant discernment trying to do God's will, just as each of the characters in the mosaic. 

The mosaic is an invitation for the seminarians of Mount Angel Seminary and for anyone to be docile to the will of God the Father and to surrender to His will, just as Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the Archangel are.  Something that arouses in me as I mediate on this beautiful mosaic is the need to promote the meditation of this mosaic among the seminarians.  I find much light in this mosaic in the discernment of my vocation, and I think anyone who comes to it can find a personal message as long as one is open to it.  Hopefully by mediating on the mosaic we can answer to God, as Mary and Jesus, "your will be done."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Obedience in the Annunciation Mosaic

Randy Hoang, a college-one seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, offers the second of three papers on the mosaic of the Annunciation being published on the MAS journalism blog.  The first paper was written by Brother Marinus Kim.

Obedience, A Sign of Discipleship: The Annunciation Mosaic at Mount Angel Seminary
by Randy Hoang

Standing nine feet at the entrance on the left wall of the Annunciation building at Mount Angel Seminary is the majestic mosaic of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel.  Meditating on the mosaic, I found myself breathless at its beauty and started reflecting on what the meaning of it was for me.  The Annunciation mosaic for me is a representation of obedience.  We take Mary's acceptance as a learned attitude of obedience as a servant of God.

Detail of the Moasic of the Annunciation
What captivates me immediately after seeing the mosaic is its feeling of grandeur in the entry.  The mosaic gives me a glimpse of the glory and divinity of that moment when it occurred.  What also strikes me is the craftsmanship of the piece and the story behind how it was pieced together. 

Being the color many of us associate with wealth and dignity, gold is used in numerous areas.  The usage of gold is dominant, from the background of the mosaic to the hints of it on the trimmings of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary; giving light to them as holy subjects, it pulls the whole piece together.  The gold facade of the backdrop really amplifies the power of the mosaic and also give life to the figures of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving both the Archangel and Mary a divine presence.

Without hesitation I can say that color plays a huge role in how I perceive this mosaic.  Variegated colors are extremely common in this depiction.  Green is the representational color of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit in this case works through Gabriel, a messenger of God.  Through the Holy Spirit, I hope that he will guide me to become an obedient messenger of God in spreading His truth.  The tranquility of the passive blue and dominant orange is suppressed by the lighter tone of the royal purple on the wings of the Archangel.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is presented with a dark tone of red on her garment followed with the variegated tones of orange and neutral lavender on the bottom portion of her garment.  Red is the dominant color that pulls my eyes to Mary.  The Blessed Virgin Mary is the main focus of this mosaic; therefore, the majestic, royal and powerful red is the main palette for her.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I can see that she is a representation of the perfect role model of Christianity.  Through all struggles, she prevailed to listen to the Lord without hesitation.  According to the Gospel of Luke, after receiving the news she stated, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:26-28).  Through this Mary conveys her obedience that through God everything is possible.  I take this as an example of what we should mirror in our daily lives, to "do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

The subjects of this specific mosaic are the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I can tell that the Archangel is depicted on the left-hand side of the mosaic because he is holding a scroll and has majestic wings.  The scroll is a symbol of his obedience of delivering God's message.  The Archangel Gabriel is depicted as a messenger of God.  He was summoned to give the news to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would be carrying the Son of God; Mary would conceive Him through the power and grace of God and call Him Jesus.  Even with the risk of being labeled with an adulterous act, Mary did not once hesitate to deny, but she accepted.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is positioned on the right side of the mosaic, holding a red spindle with her more feminine garment.  Because Mary is putting her spindle down, I can tell that she is giving her full attention to the message; therefore, it is an act of obedience of listening to God.  I can take this simple example as a theme for my everyday life because when I put things down and listen to God, I become obedient to his call.

Composition is an important factor when trying to understand the story behind a piece of art.  The expressions on both the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary are very solemn, yet that solemnity plays well with how they are positioned.  The posture of the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary is very relaxed, yet alert.  The posture of the Archangel is bent at the knees, and the hands are pointed directly towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, showing the excitement of the good news.

While the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing vertically straight, I can tell her sense of shock and caution at receiving the news.  Because Mary is holding her spindle, I could conclude that she was doing her daily work.  I can conclude they are staring at heaven because of the presence of the dove standing on the Bible, the clouds, and the open space.  Heaven is a representation of authority; therefore, the Archangel Gabriel and Mary being under the Bible, dove, and clouds is a sign of obedience.

As Catholics, we are very familiar with the story of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  With seeing the mosaic in its majestic and glorious event in person and understanding the values of color, composition, and subjects, I am more equipped to take the event and make it more personal and sentimental.  The message of the Annunciation mosaic brings me the learned attitude of complete obedience to God because through His saving grace we will become like the Archangel Gabriel and the Blessed Virgin Mary, true disciples of obedience.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Describing the Mosaic of the Annunciation

This semester in Writing in the Humanities, a writing course for college-one seminarians, the students wrote two essays about the mosaic of the Annunciation, which is located in the building of Annunciation at Mount Angel Seminary.  In the first essay, the students described the mosaic, and in the second essay they drew a larger theme from their descriptions.

Several of these essays will be shared on the MAS journalism blog, beginning with the essay below by Brother Marinus Kim, OSB.  His essay is from the first assignment, a description of the mosaic of the Annunciation.

The Annunciation Moasic
by Brother Marinus Kim, OSB

When I entered Mount Angel Seminary as a seminarian, I found there are seven buildings.  The buildings are arranged on four sides like rectangle with the grass plot in the center.  Among them, Annunciation is located in the northwest.  As I enter the main entrance, I can see the Annunciation mosaic on the left side wall.  There will be a surprise because it is big, bright, colorful and is made of tile material.  As every painting needs a norm to understand it, I cannot separate well-formed composition, bright and intensive color, and identification in the story of this mosaic.


First, a composition holds the ideas together.  The mosaic features have three main components.  The Archangel Gabriel stands on the left, Mary stands in the gate of the red roof building on the right, and a half circle is located at the top of the center that includes the sky with clouds, a dove, and the scripture on the chair.  The basic construct of the mosaic looks like two pillars to support the kingdom of heaven.

The messenger holds a scroll in his left hand, and Mary is holding a thread with a spool hanging down her arms.  The right hand of Gabriel is pointing to Mary's face with two fingers.  The two pillars have the same size to express the same values.  Their faces lift up to the half circle of the top, especially the dove that is the Holy Spirit.  The dove stands on the Bible that is located on the red chair.  The structure of the Annunciation mosaic expresses to create a visual pleasure.  With all these components, there are many impressive colors, too.

Second, I will mention the color decisions for the mosaic: they are bright, intense, and pure.  Mary wears deep red and light purple, and the angel's robe is a light green and white.  These two images give a very strong impression when I look for the first time because most of the colors used are primary colors.  Red is used in several places as the majority color: the frame mark on the rectangle, Mary's robe and the building's roof, and the chair in the heavens.

According to the meaning of color in iconography, red is know as the color of the earth, of blood and sacrifice, and also the color of royalty.  Unlike red, blue has the color of the heavens and of divinity and purity, the state of being without sin and of being the chosen one.  So this mosaic uses it in two places: the sky that is in the center of the half circle and the angel's wings.

The third color is a white that means the color of transfiguration and the color of the robes of those who do justice.  I can see it in the clouds, in the angel's robe and the dove.  Another major color is a gold.  It symbolizes divine light.  Most of iconography uses it on the background or applies it to persons or objects like this mosaic.  With these impressions, we can imagine a story.

Third, we can easily acknowledge the story from the Bible about Mary and the angel as soon as we see the mosaic.  According to the Gospel of Luke, the Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to tell Mary, who lives in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, this message: the Virgin will conceive the Son of God.  When she heard the birth news, she was engaged to Joseph already.  However, she doesn't have fear and obeys God's will.  Her face is calm and there is no surprise in it.  She is silently following what the angel tells her.  Mary's hands are open and pull down to hold the spool to respect the angel.

On the other hand, the angel's left hand holds a scroll to show the divine origin of his visit and the authority that he was sent by God.  A forefinger on the right hand is directed at Mary, as he is probably telling here that she is blessed and will give birth to the child.  It looks as if the scene might not use words for speaking but is addressing Mary's heart.  Furthermore, the half circle of the top includes a dove that represents the Holy Spirit, the blue sky that represents heaven, and the Bible on the red chair that shows this event achieved by the prophecy.

In conclusion, as we can see above, I cannot separate composition, color, and identification when I enjoy the mosaic.  They are distinct from one another but not disparate from one another.  So, the good harmony of these elements will give more inspiration to us because we can easily imagine the story.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

MAS Basketball Victory!

Last night the Mount Angel Seminary Guardians basketball team beat Reed College in a home game 66 to 45.  Go Guardians!

The Guardians gather their forces as the game begins.

Brother Matthias Lambrecht, OCD (20) attempts to score.

Stephen Cieslak (33) of the Archdiocese of Portland and Daniel Miller (55) of the Diocese of Boise work against Reed.

Patrick Klekas of the Diocese of Reno attempts a free throw.

Ryan Francisco of the Diocese of Sacramento up against a Reed player.

A thumbs up from Emilio Gonzalez of the Diocese of Fresno as the Guardians consult during a time out in the second half of the game.

The Guardians celebrate their victory with Father Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary.

Photos by Raul Barriga and Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB