Sunday, July 06, 2008


Jan Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1568-1625)
Harbor Scene with St. Paul's Departure from Caesarea, 1596

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul was my last weekend at St. Mary’s as I now depart for Belgium. For those of you who are simply tuning in from the blogosphere, I have received a new assignment and, as of this July, will serve as the Vice Rector of the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Belgium while completing my Licentiate in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of Louvain. It is certainly a change from the parish ministry that I have been engaged in since my ordination, but I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord now in the work of seminary formation and in my theological studies.

I found this picture (above), a gray and somewhat gloomy depiction of St. Paul’s departure from Caesarea Philippi. It is a stark painting, to be sure, but not one without light and hope. The artist’s name is Jan Brueghel the Elder, and he is a Belgian artist from the late 16th and early 17th century. I think it goes well with St. Paul’s description in the second reading of last week’s feast:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
—2 Timothy 4:6

In that brief Scripture verse St. Paul is connecting departure with suffering. Those two usually go together, don’t they? Saying good-bye is never easy, as I have certainly learned over the course of this last month. But like Brueghel’s painting itself, there is always light, always hope. For St. Paul it was the light and hope of the resurrection. For me it will be waffles, chocolate and beer in the short term (with the resurrection always on the horizon)!

I have been posting my weekly homilies here on Living Sacrifice for over three years now, and it has only increased my devotion for Sacred Scripture and the gospel message, as well as my passion for proclaiming that message as a Roman Catholic priest. How I will miss that nearly everyday aspect of parish priesthood in these next few years!

Nonetheless, many people have asked if I plan on continuing the blog when I arrive in Belgium. To be honest, I had not planned on doing so. Living Sacrifice has been almost exclusively a homily blog and I will no longer be preaching as often as when I was in parish ministry. Still, the origin of the name for the blog—as you can see by the heading above—is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and it has truly been a “life verse” for me since the day of my ordination. Personally, I have tried to live my priestly ministry according to St. Paul’s challenging words, and have constantly tried to help others to also become “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” indeed our “spiritual worship.”

With that end in mind, I would like to continue to reflect here on what it means for us to offer ourselves to God as “a living sacrifice,” and perhaps provide a small window into life in Belgium and the great work of our Lord in the American College of the Immaculate Conception. I hope you will join me here.

On a final note, I do implore you to pray daily for our seminarians and staff persons, knowing in faith that one can never be outdone in generosity to Christ and His Church. May God bless you abundantly in the days ahead, and grant you His peace.