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Dear Friends of SJV:

Happy Easter! After a long and busy March, we are grateful to have arrived at the Easter Season. Midterm exams are finished, as guys headed home to their parishes and dioceses for Holy Week. They are now enjoying a few days with family and friends before the final stretch of the semester begins next week. A special congratulations to Kade Megaffin, Jesse Ochs, Adam Urban and Aaron Alford who will be ordained this weekend as deacons for the dioceses of Salina and Gallup!

This last St. Patrick’s Day, the seminary celebrated the 25th anniversary of its canonical foundation. We had a mass and gala that was a huge success; and I am simply astonished by the financial support of those present who are making our new recreation center possible. The next day we broke ground – and hopefully in a year, will be inside the new Msgr. Michael Glenn Recreation Center. We are having an additional celebration this September 6th for the 25th anniversary of the inauguration, and I hope you can join us!

This month you will hear from two deacons – Zach Michalczyk on the Mexico trip and Jacob Machado, on the hut trip – both of which took place over spring break. Wishing you all a blessed Easter season, with gratitude for your continued prayers and support.

Fr. John

Mexico Pilgrimage

In mid-February a group of seven seminarians, three deacons, and two priests embarked on a pilgrimage to a small town in Mexico called Capilla de Guadalupe. The reason for the pilgrimage was two-fold. First and foremost was to grow in our love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Second, to visit and get to know better the family of one of the formators here at the seminary, Father Geronimo Gonzalez.

Like all Denver seminarians, I had previously done a Spanish language immersion in Puebla, Mexico. This was a very different experience. Last time I was in Mexico, I visited large cities filled with hundreds of thousands of people. This time we visited a small city with a population of around 15,000 people. The life of the people in the towns we visited was quite different from the life of those in the big cities.

The city we stayed in was entirely centered on the Catholic Church, so much so that the town’s name literally translates to Church of Guadalupe. We served every day at a Mass for the parish and the number of people who would show up and fill the Church for daily Mass was astounding. We visited lesser-known Marian shires like Our Lady of Zapopan. Also, we visited the very small village where St. Toribio de Romo lived and served before he was eventually martyred in the Cristero wars.

In the end, the most striking thing for me to experience was the immense generosity we experienced from everyone we met, but most especially from Fr. Geronimo’s family. It was a time of great joy, relaxation, and spiritual encounter with a lesser-known part of Hispanic Catholic culture.

-Deacon Zachary Michalczyk
Seminarian, Archdiocese of Denver

Heading to the Hills

Why did 15 seminarians, two deacons, and two priests trek through the snow four miles from any road, up a mountain, under packs weighed down by food and gear, to spend three days in a rustic mountain hut? Further, why should we even care, or support this venture?

My answer in two words is: Silence, Contemplation.

O what a silence is this wilderness!
Might we not think the sweet and daring rises
Of the flown skylark, and his traverse flight
At highest when he seems to brush the clouds,
Had been more fertile and had sown with notes
The unenduring fallows of the heaven?
Or take it thus – that the concording stars
Had let such music down, without impediment
Falling along the breakless pool of air,
As struck with rings of sound the close-shut palms
Of the wood-sorrel and all things sensitive?
-Gerard Manly Hopkins, from a sketch for an unpublished poem.

Gerard Manly Hopkins, a Jesuit Priest and poet, was a lover of creation. He had the eyes to see the iconography of creation and allow created beauty to draw him upwards to contemplation of the creator. I dare say we all know that our world has become polluted with noise and images which distract us, draw us downward and away from ourselves and away from God. In this cacophonous anti-symphony we lose touch with who we are, and who we are to be. In place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we are left with the anxieties of a fractured being, and are drawn to immorality, idolatry, jealousy, strife and selfishness (Galatians 5:16-26).

To retreat to silence and beauty is not a flight from our proper work given to us, it is a flight toward contemplation of God. We flee the dissonant noise of the world around us so that in the silence of God’s creation we can hear the notes sown in the open fields of heaven by the song birds, and witness the symphony of creation through the dance of the stars clearly seen above. These voices from the silence echo the voice of the creator who is behind them, we hear the song of a lover drawing us to his open heart. When we have experienced this song of the heavens, we can’t help but share the sentiment of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, “Every day, my love for the mountains grows more and more. If my studies permitted, I’d spend whole days in the mountains contemplating the Creator’s greatness in that pure air.”

Yet we are seminarians, deacons, and priests. To study and to teach is our duty, our daily path to sanctity, and when engaged properly – our joy. We study in justice and in preparation for service to God’s people. Yet, in the day-to-day battle to conform our minds to Christ through study, we can grow tired and discouraged. We are sadly not immune from growing enamored with the world where the grass of no-study and the undisciplined pursuit of all our whims looks greener than the rich pasture of our life of study and prayer. Concupiscence remains. It is precisely in these moments of temptation to flee from our life, that we must flee to God.

Our yearly journey into the mountains for the seminary hut trip is not a flight from our life as seminarians, deacons, or priests. Our flight to the silence of the mountains, is a flight to the contemplation of God. Through the, still, silent, pure air, God’s still small voice can whisper to our hearts. It is the song circling down from God through the breakless pool of air. When we hear this symphony of creative love, we bow our heads and close shut our palms in prayer like the wood-sorrel because in this silence we have been made sensitive to receive the song, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46).

-Dcn Jacob Machado
Seminarian, Archdiocese of Denver

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