Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Letter to President Obama about his speech to the United Nations

I wrote this letter to President Obama after he gave his United Nations Address about the attack on the American Embassy in Libya. I wrote this not because I am endorsing either party or candidate, but that I wanted to let President Obama know that we, as the American people know when a candidate sways his opinions, but continues to speak of their support for things they do not believe in or are trying to undo. I wanted to point out that we have a voice and a vote and that we can make a difference. We just need to pay attention to things that are being said. I have posted this letter and I have mailed it to the White House. I pray for the conversion of President Obama and all congressional leaders, that they may lead us with integrity and courage.

Dear Mr. President,

My name is John Bender and I am a college seminarian studying to be a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I recently saw in my local newspaper that you had given an address to the United Nations about the attacks on the United States Embassy in Libya. I just wanted to write you a letter about a few things that I, as a young voter picked up on about your speech.

You spoke about the topic of freedom. You spoke about the freedom of religion that America has, and how you believe that everyone should have this right. I find this ironic because in our America today, you are pushing the Catholic Church and other religious denominations to put aside our religious beliefs and instead support things that go against the very things that we believe in. I found it ironic that you could be telling the United Nations that in America, we have the freedom to believe what we want to believe, yet you are trying to take that away from us.

Mr. President, you stated that there is “no excuse for the killing of innocents.” You were talking about the innocent lives that were killed during the attack on the American Embassy. I could not help but notice however that despite your statement, you still continue to support and are an advocate for the very acts of abortion, which destroy so many innocent lives each and every day. I find it ironic that you speak of ending violence, but you still stand to support the malicious and unspeakable acts of aborting human life. I am not saying that the attacks on the American Embassy were not violent or malicious, but I wonder why you speak 
on certain topics when you clearly are supportive of un-Christian acts.

This November will be the first Presidential election that I get the chance to vote in. I have been paying very close attention to you and to Governor Romney, the speeches you give and the beliefs that you both have. I understand that everybody has different beliefs and feelings about everything. I ask you however, to please refrain from changing your opinions on things as the election draws closer. It is not helpful to the voters when you continue to support things that go against the very essence of life, happiness and the belief of God. Mr. President, I feel that you are constantly changing your words around and are misleading the voters of our country. I wonder why if you support something, why do you lie to the United Nations and to our country. Please stay with your opinions, and do not try to express anything that you yourself do not believe. Our country needs good men, who do not change their views just to obtain votes and who do not lie to the American public about the current state of our country. Please know that I pray for your conversion each and every day.


John Bender

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Town rallies around Bullied Teen as She Prepares for Homecoming

This article really hit home with me. As a high school student, I had witnessed a lot of bullying and had felt bullied as well. This article which highlights Whitney Kropp, a young high school girl, shows the importance of standing up for those who are bullied or made fun of. It is the story of a town, rallying around this young girl and encouraging her to continue to live life to the fullest, to follow her dreams and to never be afraid to be herself. Please read this article and pass it along to others. Become a friend to those who are friendless! Show love to those who do not feel loved! Be Christ for those who do not know him. Whitney my prayers and support are with you:)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Family Day and the New York Public School District

As I was looking at Cardinal Dolan's blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, I found out that today is Family Day! In his blog post Cardinal Dolan states,

There’s now more than a decade’s worth of research, all of it supporting the idea that the more a family gathers around the dinner table, the less likely a child is to engage in any kind of substance abuse, whether it be smoking, drinking or drugs.  What you eat for dinner isn’t really important – no fancy gourmet meals, or elaborate menus are required.  What is important is spending that time talking – and listening – with your kids. 

Here at St. Joseph's College Seminary, I feel that I have found a second family. My brother seminarians eat together, work and play together. Spending time with my seminarian family helps me to continue to be focused on why I am here. Being with each other in community; praying, eating, studying and playing, we get to know each other better and we are able to help each other to gain a greater knowledge of our Lord and His holy will. The more time I spend with my family, the less likely I will be distracted by anything that is not of good nature.

Yesterday was Seminary-Appeal Sunday. All of us seminarians were sent out to parishes to talk about vocations and St. Joseph's College Seminary. One of the main things we were asked to include in our talks was the importance of a family's involvement in their sons vocation. We urged the importance of daily prayer, of regular attendance at Mass and of good moral teaching. Teaching them good morals and right judgement is particularly important since today, New York public school's have issued "emergency contraception! This means that they will be distributing contraceptives and injections to students as young as 14 years old. Since when do they get the idea to do this without parent's permission? The school system is so misguided! We ask that parents lead their children by example and not let them be open to this tragic idea. If you, as parents, strive to follow Christ, your sons will follow them. Not only are you as parents called to help your children become successful human beings, but you are also called to teach them how to become good disciples of Christ, in a world that wants nothing to do with that.

As Family Day continues, I hope that you not only eat and spend time together with your families, but I also hope that you also pray with and for each other. I hope that as you pray, that each and everyone of you comes to know Christ better each and every day, as a  beloved member of His family.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Adoring and Returning His Sacrament of Love

Every Thursday, we have Adoration and Benediction at St. Joseph's from 5:30 until 8:30pm. It is easily one of my favorite things that we do. Not only is it a great way to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but it is also an amazing way in which to pour out our hearts to Him, filled with the events of our day.

This past Thursday, as I was in Adoration, I looked at the book that I brought for spiritual reading. The book was entitled, "I Believe in Love," by Pere Jean D'Elbee, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. I turned to a page dedicated to the Eucharist. In this chapter, D'Elbee relates the conversations of Our Lord Jesus and St. Margaret Mary-

  As He was sweating blood on Holy Thursday,- His greatest suffering- He confided in her, was the ingratitude of men, especially toward the Sacrament of His love. He saw in advance the long days, the long nights in which He would be alone, forgotten, in thousands of tabernacles in solitary churches, the thousands of indifferent people that would pass each day without even thinking that he is there. He saw those who would enter churches, only to admire the windows or architecture, not even acknowledging him with a little genuflection before the tabernacle. He saw the multitude of the baptized, whom He was supposed to adopted as his children in His blood, who would neglect even Sunday mass, who would fail to receive Easter Communion. After delivering himself up in the Host, as he did, what does he ask of us? He gives without a cost, and he is refused love. He foresaw everything in Gethsemane, and he accepted it all, that he might descend into a single soul who loves him. "For you alone I would have instituted the Sacrament of my love."

As I read this and gazed at the Eucharist, I realized how guilty I am of these very acts of irreverence. There were times where I did not genuflect and adore Christ. There were horrible times where I felt like praying in front of Jesus was a burden. I couldn't even sit in front of my Lord for a half and hour without feeling bored. How ashamed I am to say this. I was so ignorant and so immature, to not adore the very person in whom my life is indebted to.

I overheard a conversation the other day in which a Muslim man and a Catholic man were conversing about the differences between their religions. The Muslim man brought up a profound point. " If I really believed God was right in front of me," he said," I would be trembling in fear and would not be able to leave my knees in adoration, but you Catholics simply look at the host, consume it and then you carry on with your day." This man made a very great point. If we truly believe that the host that we consume is Christ, why are our lives not dramatically changed? Why do we constantly eat His Precious Body and Blood, and then go back to leading our sinful lives, no longer adoring Christ until next week Sunday? As we continue to live our lives, my prayer is that all of us adore Christ with our whole hearts and that we no longer leave him in the dark, alone and forgotten.This is not the way that we should be treating our King. As we come to Christ in the Holy Eucharist, may we truly be motivated to change our lives and never cease praising and adoring Him, who is so worthy of all of our love.

*May the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised and adored and loved in all the tabernacles until the end of time.*

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mary Lead Us

We are almost one month into our seminary career! It's hard to believe how fast the time has gone by. I have really enjoyed everything so far. I have met so many great people and made some new friends. I got to all of my classes on time and have passed my first five Latin tests with A's. Overall, it has been a wonderful first month in the seminary!

One thing that I found that I have found while I have been here at St. Joseph's, is the importance of prayer. I can't remember a time that I have been so busy! As seminarians, we have many more obligations than most of the regular students on the Loyola University campus. Besides Morning prayer, Mass and Evening prayer everyday, we also have Formation meetings on Mondays, Compline (Night prayer) on our floors in the building on Tuesdays, confessions and rosary on Wednesday, Adoration and Benediction on Thursdays. All of these obligations and requirements, plus time for study and homework keep us pretty busy.

It is important during these busy moments, that we never lose sight of prayer, specifically individual prayer. After busy days, we can get grumpy or stressed out, but we must never become anxious or bored with prayer. This is exactly what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to draw away from our contact with God so that we become weak and no longer focused on His will. It is for this reason why it is so important to pray as we continue our discernment.

A wonderful model of for us to focus on is our Blessed Mother Mary. She continually intercedes for us to her son. If we want to get closer to Christ, than we must go to His mother. She knew him best and will lead us right to His heart. Why wouldn't we entrust her with our prayers? She is our help and protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. If we pray to her, she will bring our prayers to the Father and then will cover us with her mantle. So I ask for prayers, for myself and my brother seminarians, that we may never lose the urge to pray and will to run to Mary our Mother no matter how tired or stressed we may be. Please know of my prayers for all of you, that she will cover you with her mantle each and everyday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One Nation Under God: A Response to an Article Written by the Huffington Post about Cardinal Dolan

We are fast approaching the Presidential Election and without really diving too deeply into politics I wanted to reflect upon one thing that really struck me as we are preparing to vote this November. This past week, both the Republican and Democratic parties held their conventions, continuing to jockey for the people's support, often bringing on celebrities and comedians. It seems like a vain approach to get voters. In my opinion, just because a candidate brings out a comedian or celebrity doesn't always mean you should vote for that candidate. The celebrity does not make the candidate anymore valid then he is. This did not really impress me.

What did impress me was the action of an outside source. This outside source was of course, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who accepted an invitation to pray at the Republican Convention and as a result offered to close the Democratic Convention with a prayer as well. Some people see this as the Cardinal telling Catholics that its okay to vote for Obama or Romney. This is not the case. The Cardinal is not telling you who to vote for or giving his stamp of approval to either candidate. Some people might have gotten confused about that, specifically Michele Somerville, a journalist from the Huffinton Post who published a snarky article today claiming that because of the Cardinal's gracious offer to pray at both conventions, people will assume that it's ok to vote for President Obama and that his anti-life, anti-marriage platform is truly the most respectful pro-life stance! It is hilarious to think that the author believes that the Democratic party actually respects life and believes that they will receive the Catholic vote thanks to the Cardinal. Obviously she has an axe to grind against the Cardinal and is missing the point of his offer to lead the prayer at both of the conventions.

In my opinion, the whole point of Cardinal Dolan offering to pray with both conventions is not to swing the people's vote to either candidate, but to show how important it is to work with one another. It is time to put aside our differences and work toward becoming a country striving to do the Lord's will. It is truly appalling that the author of this article assumes that this beautiful act of love, kindness and acceptance is just a way for men and women to justify their vote for either candidate. Although the prayer occurs at each convention, its purpose is not to sway votes for either candidate, but rather to pray for our nation as a whole. Regardless of which man takes office, the Cardinal's prayer is that he will respect the human dignity of every person, will help those less fortunate and will work to sustain the very freedoms that this country was built upon. I applaud Cardinal Dolan for his gracious prayer and for striving to make sure God's will is done not only in each of us as individuals, but as a whole country. I join Cardinal Dolan in his prayer and hope that we truly become one nation under God without division.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Please Pray for Archbishop Francis Cardinal George

Last week was St. Joseph's College Seminary's Dedication of the Chapel, celebrated by Archbishop Francis Cardinal George. I was honored to have the opportunity to serve for him and then meet him for the first time during the reception afterward. I was so happy to have his blessing for a successful first year of college as well. It was an amazing feeling to know that he is praying for me and my brother seminarians.

Although he has all of us in his prayers, it is he who needs prayers the most. Cardinal George will be undergoing chemotherapy tomorrow. It was announced last month that cancer had been detected in his liver and right kidney. This is his second bout with cancer, but the first time he will need to undergo chemotherapy.

As the shepherd of this Archdiocese of Chicago, it is our duty to pray for him as he has so often done for us, and support him as he enters into this difficult time.

Please feel free to write to him and let him know of your support and prayers.


Mailing Address:  Francis Cardinal George, OMI,
                               Archbishop of Chicago,
              835 North Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60611.

The Cardinal will receive each message that is sent.

May God continue to bless and protect him.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Joy of Christ

With the first week of classes under my new college belt, it was nice to sit back, relax and have some fun. Together with some of my fellow seminarians, we threw a frisbee in the front courtyard of St. Joseph's, played basketball over at Loyola's student gym, jumped in Lake Michigan and buried one of our brothers in the sand. It was a lot of fun! Because our building is right across the street from one of the freshman dorms called Mertz Hall, we do get a lot of people passing by looking at us. Sometimes its fun to wave at them as they stare, occasionally inviting them to come over and play some frisbee and get to know us.

 Last night as we were leaving the gym, we decided to go and sing Salve Regina in front of a statue of Mary on campus, and asked a couple of girls who were walking behind us if they wanted to join. We told them that we were seminarians. The girls obviously didn't know what a seminarian was because one of them said, "Oh cool, my dad is one of the those." Needless to say, they didn't join us.
After praying, we all walked over to the lake and we plunged in together with our clothes still on. Some of the people on the beach probably thought we were crazy! I hope they do. I hope that they saw we are filled with the joy of Christ. I hope that they see that we are regular guys, that happen to be studying for one of the most extraordinary vocations  in the world. I pray that people will remain curious as to what St. Joseph's College Seminary is and will want to talk with us, come over for Mass and have dinner with us. We're not crazy, we just love God and want to glorify him by our lives.