Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

Every Sunday at Mass we pray these words of the Creed. These days in Philly were an opportunity not only to say them, but to see them! Although each of these four marks of the Church were easy to see in the events of the World Meeting of Families, the one that stood out most was the second.

The Church is Holy.   The Church is Holy because she, the Bride of Christ, has been redeemed and washed of every stain of sin through His own blood. Holiness is a magnet. What drew millions of people to Philadelphia and caused the entire city to shut down was the arrival not of the President of the United States, nor of a famous actor or musician. It was not the presence of Aretha Franklin or Mark Wahlberg. What drew millions to Philadelphia was the arrival of the Holy Father, who is called holy not because of his own goodness, but because of the holiness of the office he has received. But in Pope Francis, like his recent predecessors,  we see the beautiful witness of holiness of office combined with holiness of life, and the force is almost irresistible. With tangible humility he relentlessly redirects the attention of the whole world to God who is Love. This is our mission, too! “Be holy, as your Father in Heaven is Holy,”Jesus said to us, and  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your god works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.”

The Holy Church has never stopped raising up for us examples of holiness, to inspire us and to guide us. When asked how she felt that she was often referred to as a living Saint, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta replied, “Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is the simple duty of you and me.” None of us is excused from the duty of becoming a great Saint: of drawing so near to God in our daily lives that every person we come in contact with can feel His presence in our souls. Through Jesus Christ, by means of the ministry of the Holy Church, especially in the Sacraments, the Father is working in our lives to make us great Saints, and through us to draw all people to Himself.

Dcn. Andy Morrow

First Things First

This weekend millions of people traveled from across the world to see one man in the city of brotherly love. The once cobbled streets of Philadelphia revealed the bottom of the American melting pot as languages and flags congealed around street side barricades hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he passed from one event to another at the World Meeting of Families. Anybody who was downtown could feel from the joy and anticipation of the crowds that something stronger than pork and sweet pepper sandwiches was brewing in the streets that weekend that could rouse even the stomachs of our forefathers.
            Pope Francis offered Americans the freedom of faith. Faith, a relationship between God and man, sets a person free because it gives him power over suffering. The founding fathers sought such freedom centuries ago by founding a republic that would uphold laws to defend their people from any sort of political, economic, or religious oppression. Whether or not the American republic has done justice to its fathers’ intentions, Pope Francis revealed to the American people that a greater freedom exists than that which our republic can promise us. The Christian faith does not abolish suffering as a law would slavery, but it destroys the power suffering can have over a person because it asserts that an unconditionally loving God has created and calls that person to eternal life in love with Him. When a person pledges allegiance to this faith, that faith in turn protects him because no suffering regardless of its magnitude can destroy the love of man for God and more importantly God’s love for man.
            The World Meeting of Families could not have come at a more providential time for Americans. Political tensions run high as candidates prepare for upcoming elections and discuss the future of America. Pope Francis’s presence did not serve to answer the numerous questions of political responsibility in this country, but the Vicar of Christ who represents a 2,000 year old tradition of faith and who offered the sacrifice of the Mass in the city of Philadelphia where the nation’s Declaration of Independence was signed juxtaposed the heavenly and worldly kingdoms clearly and definitively. And such a juxtaposition demands a choice, but not that a person accept one kingdom and reject the other. Rather, it insists that he give to each what each is due. Freedom and dignity will always be given to people by God alone through the relationship of faith, and to demand such a gift from government is nothing short of idolatry that bears with it its own consequences. Last Sunday, as Americans gathered around the heavenly table of Thanksgiving and professed one faith, the American soul received much grace. The Pope has since parted for Rome and Washington has reclaimed the media’s attention but the choice of faith remains for all Americans and with it the promise of freedom. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Home at Last

Well, back safe and sound.   Especially sound as we took a victory lap around the seminary while laying on the air horn to make sure everyone knew we where back.  Safe as well.  No one lost any limbs.  There was a small bloody nose incident but nothing major.  It's like my dad always says "alls well that ends well."  Sure there where bumps in the road along the way, but we're all still friends.  In fact, our brotherhood is stronger now than it was before.  How great it was to spend time with the men from other seminaries who we see very intermittently.

The trip today was quick.  We weren't sure how long it was going to take us to get the boys to the airport in time so we didn't mess around.  We arrived back at the seminary about 7:30 or so.  Just in enough time to get our marching orders for tomorrow.  Back to the grind.  Praise God.  We hope over the next couple of days to give you some reflections on each of our experiences from the past week.  We'll see how that goes, then decide what to do with the blog.  May all of you be richly blessed for the varied ways you helped support our mission.  Peace.

Our Lady

We have owed so many graces to the intercession of our Blessed Mother.  Here we are standing outside the grotto of Notre Dame (Our Lady).  Its a dark picture, but the radiance of the our Mother's love for her sons is quite evident.  It was a blessed tour around the iconic Catholic University where we met one of Mike's friends Christina.  We then drove through the night and are now in Omaha Nebraska.  We're on schedule, but I'm sure we'll cut it close getting the boys to the airport on time.  Stay tuned for more reflections. Peace

Monday, September 28, 2015

It was fun while it lasted

When you've got a bus full of 20 somethings you've got to give them run to room.  Basketball, with some modified rules, has been the game of choice.  That is until this afternoon when a wild shot went out the open window and landed somewhere on I-80

Back on the Bus

Here we are, a third of the way back on our return trip home.  All is going well.  We departed at 5am, stopped for coffee and fuel then hit the open road.  Our first major stop was Pittsburg where we went to noon Mass at Duquesne University.  Afterwards, Joe met up with an old buddy of his and we restocked on food for the alight journey that lies ahead of us.  Right now we in Wood County Ohio, near Toledo.  The plan, roll through to South Bend, Indiana, offer up a few Hail Mary's at the grotto of Notre Dame then continue trucking.  We need to be back at the Denver Airport by 7pm Tuesday night when the Mount Angel boys fly back.  Our brother Adain had planned all along to fly back from Philly so he stayed behind. This pic is of the remaining Helena Boys: Kirby driving; Joe and Tyler playing Cribbage; Andy, Cody, Mike, and Ollie playing Rummy; Me, just hanging out. Peace

Pilgrimage to the Relics

All of our gang together

As Joe and I were rendezvousing after the conferences we met up with this neat couple from Kansas and a religious sister from France. Although she is from France, she is actually a US native who is now with the Jerusalem sisters who are in France. Since Joe and I were hungry, and so were the others, we joined forces and all went out to eat. They took the helm and led us to the craziest market-eating place I had ever seen. Shop after shop lined the inside of this place and people swarmed from place to place. As we wandered through the sea of people the thought came to me, if I get separated from these people, I will never find them again. And, if I get lost, I might not find my way back out. Nevertheless we found “the spot”, which, to me, looked like every other restaurant, and ordered our sandwiches. Although Philly is known for its Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, the Philadelphians come for a different kind of sandwich. This restaurant is known for its roast beef sandwiches with sharp white cheddar cheese on which they add either sautéed onions or a broccoli sauce. Hungrily awaiting our Philadelphian treat, we left the restaurant zoo and headed for a place to sit and eat.

Eventually we settled on a slight ledge on the side of a closed street. The five of us sat and devoured our sandwiches as onlookers took pictures of the strange sight. Frankly, I don’t blame them; we seemed like something that would begin a bad joke. A sister, a couple, a seminarian, and a deacon were eating by the road . . .  or a sister, two people, and two seminarians . . . You can pick your joke. We chatted for a while about the conferences and were having a lot of fun. This couple was amazing! They really cared about family issues and desired to start programs to assist married couples. They mentioned that in their diocese they are implementing a new program, which has been received well, focused on preparing couples for marriage and providing good principles to begin a strong marriage. They said that many non=Catholics have attended these programs including atheists and other Christians. The program is called Living in Love.

Sadly this wonderful couple had to depart, but this didn’t end our adventure. Instead Sr. Susannah was planning on going to the sights that we were planning and hoping to visit. So she became our new tour guide. We headed down the street a few blocks to the viewing of the body of St. Maria Goretti. Yes, her body. Much to my disappointment the caretakers of her body (relics) had covered her bones with clothes and her face with a mask so that she looks like she is incorrupt – that her body has not suffered the effects of decay. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this great saint. Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Ancona, Italy. When she was 12, Alexander Serenelli, a man who helped at her parent’s house, attempted to rape her. She said to her rapist that she would rather die than be raped. At which point he began to stab her. A neighbor grabbed her body off the front steps of her parent’s house and took her to the hospital. While in the hospital she forgave her rapist just before she died. Alexander was later caught and sentenced to 30 years in prison. While in prison, Maria Goretti appeared to him in a dream and began to hand him roses symbolizing her forgiveness to him. Maria handed him 12 roses, one for each of the stab wounds he inflicted upon her. Alexander later repented and became a Capuchin friar and dedicated his life to prayer. Some people have opened his cause for canonization. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint.

The shrine they had set-up for the viewing of the body of Maria Goretti was in the basement chapel of a local church. The line to get to view the relics stretched a quarter of a block. The inside of the crypt chapel was lined with posters explaining her life and booths to purchase souvenirs. Once we got up to the glass casket that holds her body, we were allowed to spend 15 seconds with the body and couldn’t take pictures.

Our next stop after seeing Maria Goretti was to walk across town to view the body of St. John Newman, the first canonized saint from the United States. In order to get to this church we needed to walk around 2-3 miles to the parish. The streets were rather barren. We saw a handful of people and most of them were army reserve agents who were keeping the area safe. Sr. Susannah was happy to have companions especially since some of these streets could be rather dangerous. As we walked we would greet people, we prayed the Rosary, and chatted.

The church was beautiful. Unfortunately they were celebrating Mass in both the upper and lower chapels. So we prayed a little bit. Outside the lower chapel was a foyer with a water fountain and a few benches. As I sat praying, Joe came over and saw behind me a small reliquary with a relic of St. John Newman. As Mass continued, Joe was downstairs during the Consecration. He noticed as the host was held up for the elevation that the body of John Newman was underneath the altar in a glass case. While they finished celebrating Mass, we went upstairs and viewed the upper church. It was beautiful! Deep maroon and gold colors lined the walls and give it a royal color. The great pillars and columns gave it a grand and expansive feeling. The décor reminded me of a king’s courtroom. Below this chapel was the body of John Newman. As we came downstairs to venerate his body, a Redemptorist priest, the order that staffs this church, was telling stories about the saint.  We missed the majority of the stories, but we were able to see the body. The body looked so life like that we thought it might be incorrupt. After asking one of the priests he told us that this was not the case. We stayed and prayed a little, then left the chapel.

St. John Newman was born in Bohemia in 1811. Since his bishop had too many priests, Newman looked for another place to be accepted and ordained a priest. Thus he came to America. Desiring community life he joined the Redemptorist priest. He was appointed the bishop of Philadelphia and began to organize Catholic education. He is the founder of Catholic education in the United States.  

After walking all day and the excitement of everything, we were rather exhausted. Therefore we decided to take a cab back to the train station. As we were trying to figure out how to call a cab or which bus lines would take us where we needed to go, a taxi cab pulled up and agreed to take us. Upon leaving the taxi, we parted ways with Sr. Susannah and departed for the train station.

Joe and I both remarked that, in this one day, we started at the convention on the family where they encouraged us to stand as strong witnesses to the joy and beauty of family life. Then we journeyed to visit two saints who stand as strong witness who stood strong and defended truth and justice. We went from being empowered to seeing those who were empowered. It was truly an incredible day!

The Papal Mass

Thus an amazing opportunity begun with a test of faith. Already out of the monastery we were staying by 9, we headed down the road. Several weeks prior Joe had mentioned to us about the open invitation to all clergy to be ministers of communion at the Papal Mass on Sunday. Of course we jumped on this opportunity and got all the permissions and paper work we needed. Confounding our very exciting opportunity we didn’t realize that we needed to register, again, and get tickets for the Mass. Fortunately Fr. Mike, our extremely helpful host, told us that the first to register get to sit up near the altar, instead of in the Cathedral. Of course we wanted this so some of us tried to register early. Unfortunately this was not the case; only priests could receive that special privilege.  Nevertheless we got our tickets.

Rolling out at 9 in the morning, we had two-and=a-half hours before our required check-in time of 11:30. Our goal was to take a bus down to the train and then the train into Philadelphia. As we approached the bus station, the bus we needed had just pulled out. A little disappointed we went to a diner about two blocks away for some food. The diner, described in greater depth in Dcn. Andy’s blog post, was filled with super friendly and amazing staff who gave us a wonderful breakfast. Then we headed back to the bus station.

Due to the papal event there was no way to gain access to bus schedules or find out which busses are running. Fortunately we knew from the night before that this bus takes us to the train and is running. As we were waiting, a Franciscan sister approached us. In her train was a Hispanic family. After a short conversation we figured out that the family was from Georgia and were trying to get to the Mass. We tried to explain to them how to get the Mass and back home, and allowed them to follow us along the way. After waiting over half-an-hour for the bus to arrive, we were getting rather anxious. Bryce decided to pray a Memorare to implore the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Half way through the prayer the bus arrived and we all headed to the train.

The trip on the bus and the train were simple, they both led to basically the same place. As we followed the instructions of the volunteers and officers we made our way down the  busy streets along with the huge crowd of people. We arrived at the security check-point at 10:40, and soon discovered that the line into the Mass areas was a 2-hour wait, which meant that we would not make it by the expected check=in time. We were bummed. After talking with several volunteers and trying to think of other options, we sadly joined the herd. Now, ten minutes later, the line had increased by a half hour. Dcn. Bryce decided to go search out other option and see if any other lines were shorter. Shortly after he left, the crowd head a second line had opened for security check. Summoned by Dcn. Bryce we headed over to the other line, but so did everyone else. The line continued to grow. Again, saddened by our defeat, we went and asked an officer who standing by the fence. We explained our situation and he said he would go see what he could. After he left Dcn. Bryce led us in prayer the Memorare. Three prayers later the officer returned and ushered us through the gate and through security. We were finally in the restricted area. Now we need to make it to the Art Museum by 11:30.

The Art Museum was about a twenty minute walk from the security check-point, but, as it turns out, we really didn’t need to be there on time. Entering through the back of the Museum, we were escorted to a special room for deacons. Then we were given the freedom to tour the Museum. Basically we got a free pass to the Philadelphia Art Museum. On the first and second floors they had set up tables full of very nice food. Walking amongst the tables were many cardinals. archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons. As we walked through the exhibits, a cardinal would walk by in his red regalia or a bishop is his magenta. It was an amazing moment and such a surprise to see so many of the leaders of the Church walking around, eating, chatting, viewing the exhibits, relaxing. One of the exhibits we were able to see was a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the prized exhibit of the Museum. The detail of this painting was so tiny that the painter used the under hairs of a mouse to paint that fine. The painting itself was about 8 inches by 6. Yet we needed the magnification of an iPad so that we could see such fine details such as h lines of dirt in his feet and the people in the boat on the lake in the background. The painting is called St. Francis by Emter. We toured a few exhibits but then had to return for instructions.

Let the chaos begin. The next few hours seemed disorganized and chaotic. At  one point we were supposed to meet in the assigned rooms. Then a staff told us to go to another room. Then we were told that only some of us. Then we were told all of us. Then we were told to vest. One instruction followed by many clarifications over and over again for nearly half-an-hour. Then we all laded the busses and drove through the parade route to the Cathedral. This part was rather comical. As we drove through the streets, the people waved and cheered almost like we are celebrities. One we stopped and got off, our tour of fame continued. People in the crowds gave us high fives and shook our hands. Then we were ushered into the Cathedral and given further instructions.

Most of us were hoping to be able to have a close view of the Mass, but this was not the case. Instead, we were to watch the Mass from close circuit TVs set-up in the Cathedral. We deacons prayed a little together, we could watch the broadcast or tour the Cathedral. Then one of the volunteers told us that the Pope might pass by the front of the Cathedral, so we all left and stood out front. All of the sudden we heard sirens and the security vehicles began to move. Sure enough here came the Pope right along the street in front of the Cathedral. I was about 10 feet away.  As he passed where I was standing, the car suddenly stopped. Pope Francis got out of the vehicle and came over to the “shrine” of our Lady Undoer of Knots, which was a series of knotted cords made by the Cathedral. He prayed for a few minutes as the crowd rushed to see him. Many people had their camera in the air and were shouting Papa, Papa. But the secret service would not let anyone approach. I stood amidst the swarm of people blocked by the ten feet of bodies that stood between me and the Pope. Then he got back in the car and continued down the route.

As the Mass begun, the MC of the deacons decided to give his instructions, which prevented us from participating in the Mass. By the Gloria he was through with his instructions. After the Sanctus (aka the Holy Holy), we all went up to the altar in the Cathedral where each deacon was handed a ciborium (a vessel that is used for storing or transporting the Blessed Sacrament) full of pre-consecrated hosts. Then we all left the Cathedral and joined with an escort who walked with each deacon down the road to a spot for distributing communion. Each escort was holding a gold and white umbrella, which looked like a parade of gold and white flowing down the street. Once we were given the okay, we approached the fence and gave communion to whomever came forward. Rather quickly the people formed two lines and distribution went rather smoothly. Much to my surprise most of us had remaining hosts in our ciboria. Then we all went back to the Cathedral, gave our ciboria back to the MC, purified the ciboria, and watched the end of the Mass. Although we couldn’t see the altar and the Mass as we would normally in a Cathedral, I still felt rather present and connected with the Pope during this Mass.

The Mass concluded, we went to join the others and head back. I am glad I was given this opportunity. It was an amazing way to be of service at such an extraordinary event.

The Final Countdown!

Praised be Jesus Christ! We are on our way back to Denver after the great Philadelphian triduum. Kirby and I will do our best to fill you in on yesterdays closing events.

We were finally able to sleep in yesterday as the papal mass wasn’t until 4 pm. However, our three holy deacons had to hit the road early to register as Eucharistic Ministers after hearing security would be horrendous. We hit Molly Malloy’s in the Reading Terminal for breakfast (if you ever go to Philly, go here. One of the best places in the city). Joe Paddock had to go on a journey for his coveted cheese steak sandwich, earning him the nickname “Cheesesteak” from our waitress, Claire, a true Philadelphian. A very generous couple covered our meal, one of God’s many blessings on this trip. I haven’t experienced such incredible generosity in a single place in my life.

 We met Mike downtown selling peaches out of a trench coat. He suspiciously told us he was taking his mother and sister to the train station, but who knows what he was up to.  Further on we were met with resistance from some folks with different views. Ollie was told that, “the wrath of God” was upon him. However, the Lord sent us a wonderful woman named Tanya, a police officer working the event. She asked to take a photo with us and then we were able to pray over her and with her. What a wonderful joy it is to be with our Christian brothers and sisters.

2 Million estimated by Dcn. Andy Marrow
We finally made it through security and into the mass ground. God was providing, as many people spent hours in the security line for the mass while we spent 5 minutes getting through. We posted up in front of a big screen and waited for mass to start. While doing this, we met Theresa, a volunteer for the event, who next week will be visiting Whitefish! We chatted for awhile and then prayed daytime prayer with her.

The mass began, it was a beautiful witness to the power of Christ. In our area alone, there were an estimated 20, 000 people. Most powerful was kneeling before the consecration with millions of others. At that moment- Dignum et justum est- Christ was the center of the world.

The Pub of Penn Valley. Boom.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to receive communion due to the crowds, however spiritual communion bears fruit in these circumstances. After this, we all headed down to the Penn Valley Pub for one last hurrah. Patrick served us again as we relaxed and praised God for the graces of our trip. After that we headed back to the monastery and packed up. We got a few hours of shuteye and here we are! There will be a few more posts coming today after digesting some of the graces we received these past days so keep your eyes peeled. Thank you for your continued intercession and please keep up the prayers as we head back to share our grace with you all!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sorry for the late Posts.  It's getting tough to find the time to keep up.  This photo is from last night's Festival of the Families where Pope Francis spoke to us all.  Currently, the three deacons in our crew are vesting and getting ready to help distribute Holy Communion in the Papal Mass which is coming up.

These are some pics of the Art Museum where we all met to vest.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Football in the Streets of Philly

What a day, the Holy Spirit is at work in Philly. It is midnight here on the east coast and I am exhausted, having in a single day prayed over more folks and taken more photos with strangers than I ever have before. I will try and give a quick recap of The Helena Boys 1st day in Philly.

A few of the boys woke up at some absurd hour and went into town early for the festivities; they have their own story to tell. For the rest of us, the day began with Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish-our generous host- at 8:30am. Here we encountered the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, who brought a group out from Marin Catholic in Cali. They jumped on the bus and we went out for coffee together. We gave 'em the hard sell on MT so who knows, we might have a group of these sisters in our diocese someday; keep this in your prayers!

Next, we loaded the train into town where we met Linda, a mom dragging her four kids into the festivities- this lady was stoked for her faith, and also stoked about us having dinner that night at the Pub of Penn Valley (more on this later).
We finally made it to downtown Philly- currently under the peaceful rule of martial law. It turns our this is by far the largest Secret Service operation in history, all of downtown Philly is on lockdown. This makes for empty streets and a great place to throw the football around. And as it turns out, playing catch in the streets of downtown Philadelphia is a great tool for evangelization. It's wild how many people were fascinated and excited about a group of young dudes in collars running around having fun. It showed me first the love people have for the priesthood and their deep desire for priests to be happy. It also revealed to me how people imagine priests: a bit of stodgy, cold, distant and usually incapable of any normal human activity or interaction. I have rarely had that experience with priests in my own life, but the stereotype does exist and Pope Francis rails on this often in his homilies.

Shortly after this pic, this kid fired a cannon at my face, almost took my head off; just managed to get my hands on it in time.

T-Fro and Ollie loving the Dinic's sandwiches.
Aside: we were hungry and walked up to a local Philly Cop who initially shrugged us off and gave absolute garbage advice. As we were walking away, he called us back in his great east-coast accent, "Alright boys, le me give ya 'da scoop, go down to the courthouse and cut right into this real skinny street, no one walks there, no one'l be dare, you'll pop on at the Reading Terminal Market. Everything you'll need right there, I guarantee it." We proceeded on this route thinking we have the insider info, turns out Reading is the most popular place in Philly- we still loved it though.

We went out after lunch to see the sites, only to find the Liberty Bell and Maria Goretti relic lines were too long. We heard about Old St. Joseph's Parish, the 1st Catholic Church in Philly, c. 1734. We figured we might actually be able to pray there so we headed that way.

Old St. Joseph's was beautiful, full of rich history, and relatively empty, however the organist playing upstairs didn't quite have his repertoire aced and the archivist greeting visitors at the door was rather excitable; this didn't quite make for an atmosphere of prayer. Further complicating things, they were shutting the doors in 20 minutes. Thankfully, Our Lord provided for his sons again; the good Jesuit Father who was telling us to leave saw the exhaustion on our faces and invited us to do our holy hour in their private rectory chapel upstairs, what a gift!
       Quick fact: Old St. Joe's was the first public celebration of the Mass in the English Empire since the time of Elizabeth, thanks to the protection of William Penn and the Quakers who told the English to shove it, providing safe haven for the Catholic population in Philapelphia.

In our final approach, the Bismarck men joined us for a bite at the aggressively recommended Penn Valley Pub where we found out Linda had already made reservations for us- though we had not told her we would be going that night. Patrick our waiter comped us our first round of drinks and hooked us up with a free cab ride home, saving us an hour long walk.

If I were to try and spell out the many ways Jesus worked today, this blog post would be too long- it already is- and I wouldn't get any sleep. All I can conclude is: If this is a taste of the priesthood, my introvert-self is going to be exhausted all-day-'er-day, but I can imagine no greater joy in this world than to exhaust myself for Christ and his Church in hope of bringing souls to heaven.

In Christ,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

We have arrived! Thanks be to God!  39 hrs on a bus, we're going to bed.

Mickey Ds and the Holy Rosary!

     We have arrived in the great state of Pennsylvania! And look what we found at the McDonalds at our first pit stop! Just kidding, but there is a story to this whole thing. Our Bishop, George Leo Thomas, told us this summer at a gathering about a habit he started as a priest in Seattle. Every time he would see the golden arches of McDonalds he would say a Hail Mary so that he would stay close to our Blessed Mother while being in the world. What a way to turn the symbol of capitalist America into a prayer! We have been taking after our bishop on this trip and every time we see the golden arches, the bus becomes silent and together we say a Hail Mary. So far we are up to 60 sightings and consequent prayers. This has been a beautiful way to receive the love and protection of Our Lady and to grow closer together as brothers under her mantle.

     As we entered the town of Belle Vernon, PA there happened to be a McDonalds across the street. Our very own "slick willy" Mike Dirkson convinced the ladies inside to allow us to change their sign for a photo op. However, much more happened there. We went in as a group and asked if we could pray for and with the ladies working at McDonalds. The nice young lady at the counter, Mackenzie gathered her crew and we were able to pray for and with them as we asked. It was a moment of unity that we long for as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    We are continuing on and should arrive in Philly tonight. Joe Paddock is the reigning cribbage champ, Ollie Santin was dominant on the back-of-the-bus basketball court, and Dcn. Andy Marrow is as joyful as ever. We love all of you and are praying intentionally for the trip and all of you! 

    P.S. - Our 5 SY seminarians and some others gave us a shout out as they hold down the fort in Denver through prayer! Thanks boys! Thank you Fr. Thermos for you prayers and letting them use the internet on our behalf!

- In Christ, Tyler

Sunset over truckstop

Three hours from Philadelphia and we stopped at a truck stop. This picture is of the sunset we saw as we ventured across Pennsylvania.

Final night on the road before reaching our destination. Spirits and still high and enthusiasm for the events to come is building. More to follow.

Cool Hand Luke

Ole Mike Dirkson at the wheel keeping her cool.  We're now in Ohio getting close to the state line.  Looking forward to singing a little John Denver "Country Roads" as we pass through West Virginia.  All's going well.  Beautiful country.  We figure another 6 or 7 hrs.  There have been no fist fights yet.  Philly here we come!

Thursday, Sept. 24 -- The Helena Boys with Fr. Francis at St. Thomas More Church in Mooresville, Indiana.

This morning we pulled over in Mooresville, Indiana for 8:30 am Mass with Fr. Francis and the folks at St. Thomas More parish. We received an incredibly warm welcome. What a blessing for us to be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with them. And on their part, the excitement of the parishioners for our pilgrimage was apparent. We were invited to breakfast, a Bundt cake miraculously appeared and was given to us, and a dear lady gave us a donation to help us on our way. And of course we received many blessings from Fr. Francis for our journey. Montana worshiping with Indiana -- a great sign of the universality of our Church. And I was deeply moved by the welcome we received and the generosity of these people. Thank you Jesus for the gift of the Eucharist, which gives rise to all of these blessings and so many more. Pax.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

We're not in Kansas anymore

We've just crossed over into Missouri.  What a day.  Mike is now at the wheel.  Think we'll push through the night. We're not making as good as time as thought, but taking the extra time to stop, stretch, and throw the pig skin around has been well worth it.  The Lord has been good, a very joyful trip so far.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

Stopping in Quinter

   We took a quick pit stop in Quinter, KS at a local hardware store where we met the father of our fellow seminarian, Dcn. Luke Thielen, of the diocese of Salina, KS. (That is Mr. Thielen on the far left.) The quaint town had a soda fountain, where we could order drinks obscure to anyone in our era. Among the beverages ordered were chocolate Cokes, peach sodas, vanilla Dr. Peppers, Cherry Phosphates (look it up), and dill pickle-hot sauce milkshakes (drank by none other that Joe Paddock himself. Just kidding no one ordered that. Gross.) The employees in the store were very hospitable and kind, especially Kay (2nd on the left), the maker of our drinks! The wooden facade you see in the background was made in New York in 1904. It was a beautiful work, but even more beautiful were the encounters with those the Lord had placed before us, ordinary as they may have seemed.

   After we gassed up and headed east, the bus settled down for a holy hour and a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Right as the prayer hour ended we saw a sign promoting Divine Mercy on the road side. We took this as providence to pray our chaplet, and wouldn't ya know it, as we ended the chaplet we saw another Divine Mercy sign on the roadside.

    The Lord continues to guide us through Kansas. The destination is not the only part of this pilgrimage, but everything in between as well. God is showing us His providence and presence moment to moment, never leaving our side. Right now, Ollie, Andy, and Mike are playing trick-shot basketball on the mini-hoop in the back of the bus. Everything is moving along and shaping up well. Till next time!

No longer a greenhorn

This is Ollie's first time driving a stick shift since high school and first time ever a school bus.  He's a natural.

Now Kirby is at the helm.  We're in mid-Kansas.  Beautiful.  We better keep trucking.

We're cookin on the bus!

Have you ever wondered how anyone is supposed to eat while journeying on a school bus? Well we found a solution that might surprise you.

Meet the kitchen crew of Totus Tuus to Philadelphia or bust. We've got a stove, cupboards, and an ice chest. Complete for anyone's culinary needs.

On the road again...

We're off and running.  After celebrating Mass at 5:30 in the seminary chapel of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the Universal Church and families, we hit the road.  This pic has our entire crew.  The Mount Angel boys pulled into town about midnight last night.  From left to right we have Michel Dirkson, Kirby Long, Dcn. Bryce Lungren, Joe Paddock, Tyler Frohlic, Ollie Santin (hanging out the window) Dcn Andy Morrow, Aidan Toombs.  We're heading east on 1-70 almost to Kansas.  More to come...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Fulfillment of Our Desire

Here's a clip showcasing our bus and the beginnings of this pilgrimage which started last spring.

The men from Mount Angel will be flying in tonight and we will be heading out bright and early tomorrow morning.  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 18, 2015

From the Family of God for the Family of God

This mission is not our own.  We nine men are representing a broader whole, the Family of God.  That is you, the readers of this blog and those who support us in so many ways.  In a certain way, we are taking you with us.  With our posts and pictures you will be able to see the World Meeting of Families from our vantage point.  But we also take you with us through our prayers.  All of your needs and prayer intentions will be carried with us as we journey to see Peter and the Apostles.  That is, Pope Francis and the bishops of the Catholic Church.

This is also a unique opportunity for the two seminaries to come together.  This picture sums it up.  On the left you see St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver Colorado where 12 of our men study.  On the right is Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict Oregon where three more men study for a total of 15 Diocese of Helena seminarians.  In the middle lies the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source an summit of our priestly formation.  Flanking the Cross is our vocation slogan: "From the family of God for the family of God."

We are not self made men.  Without the support of the Church in Helena and the universal Church, we could not carry on nor would we have a reason to.  Therefore, in the days that lie ahead we would like to give you a glimpse into the lives of those you invest so much of your prayers and money into, the Helena Boys.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pregame photo

The pregame photo with the Helena Boys, who are studying at Saint John Vianney Seminary in Denver, CO, standing with the new Totus Tuus Mariam bus. In this picture are (from left to right) Oliver Santin, Michael Dirkson, Dcn. Andy Morrow, Tyler Frohlich, Kirby Longo, and Dcn, Bryce Lungren.

Soon to be added to the crew from Mt Angel Seminary in Oregon are Aidan Toombs, Joe Paddock, and Dcn. Cody Williams.

Soon the adjustments to our road vehicle will be complete and we can begin our journey to the East. May God grant us a safe journey.

For those who are reading this blog, please pray for us on our journey and feel free to comment if you wish for more details.