The Birthday Update
November 15th marked my 40th birthday. I didn't actually celebrate it on that specific day. However, my beloved staff did. They got up early that day and proceeded to TP my entire office! It was a sight to behold. In a strange way, I must admit that I found it hilarious. More than that, I felt loved by them. Thank you staff! You are super. I couldn't do what I do without you. The weekend that followed, we had a birthday party after each of the Masses. The parishioners were so kind and loving. It turned out just as I had hoped, that is an opportunity to celebrate us, our community. I was just the excuse for the party. I received several gifts. Two of note were a monetary gift and a beautiful chasuble purchased in Croatia with the image of Our Lady of Medjugorje on it. I'll try to post images from the celebrations as I get them from parishioners. The timing was great as we have two big celebrations coming: Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. After our Spanish Mass, the Hispanic community really knocked themselves out to celebrate. There was cake, presents, a piñata, and good natured teasing. Unbeknownst to me, the community wanted me to take a bite out of the cake, so I proceeded to cut a piece out and eat it. They all told me that I was supposed to put my face into the cake to eat it. Hesitantly, I did that and then without any warning, some folks pushed the cake all the way into my face! I hake cake up my nose and all over my face. It was quite the surprise. So, I quickly then leaned over and made sure that the culprits shared in the cake by making them wear some of it too. Let's just say a food fight was on the brink of happening. Peace prevailed and all was well. Thank you all for your kindness and generosity. I will always remember my 40th birthday with joy.
One of the most wonderful ways to conclude my birthday celebrations was celebrating XLT (a.k.a. Exalt) with our community. XLT is a Life Teen-based approach to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After our Life Teen Mass on Sunday evening, we darkened the Church, put out a ton of candles around the altar, then proceeded to process in with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance accompanied by all our High School teens. From that point, we simply gathered around the front of the altar and sang praise and worship songs to Our Lord. At one point, I took the monstrance and processed through the community gathered in the Church and blessed each of them. I hope that such devotional moments will encourage and awaken a love for the Eucharist and the Mass. For me, I found it very moving to have all our young people giving praise and adoration to Christ who is our all in all (cf. Col. 3:11, 1 Cor. 15:28). Now that is what I call a climax and conclusion to a birthday!
Cardinal Levada and Mount Angel Seminary
Just yesterday I had the honor of concelebrating a pontifical Mass with Cardinal William Levada the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Mass and subsequent events happened at Mount Angel Seminary's Official blessing of their new Center for Theological Studies called Annunciation. Cardinal Levada recalled the numerous trips to the seminary as the Archbishop, a member of the Board of Directors for the Seminary, and as the Chair of the Board of Regents. It was a quite an honor to have him back now as one of the most influential persons at the Vatican next to Pope Benedict XVI.
After Mass, the new building was dedicated and blessed by both Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Vlazny, our current archbishop. After all that, both dignitaries received their guests. I met a seminarian, Ysrael Bien, who I noticed was taking photos. I asked if he could snap a few of me and the Cardinal. Ysrael was very kind and proceeded to capture the one on the right. Thanks Ysrael!
In a blog many months ago, I spoke about how kind Cardinal Levada really is. He is a soft spoken person who could never be labeled gregarious. Upon greeting him, he still remembered my name. That's pretty incredible since I am nobody of any significance other than one of his former seminarians for a time.
If you are ever in the Pacific Northwest or specifically near Portland, take the time to travel to Mount Angel Seminary. If you're ever wishing to just sit and pray with the monks, just come to the Abbey Church during the times when they chant the Liturgy of the Hours. It's a beautiful place of prayer with a wonderful Abbey Church, Retreat House, library, bookstore, Seminary, and now a center for theological studies. The landscaping on campus has been completely redone. There used to be parking on the top of the hill where the buildings are, but now it is more peaceful and full of walkways for pedestrians. The seminary is bursting at the seams with seminarians and lay students alike. My best wishes to Cardinal Levada and especially to the continuing development of Mount Angel Seminary.
Blessings in Christ,
Fr. William Holtzinger