St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

St. Patrick, Pray for Us!
St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Number 3: New Adventures and Growth

It has been a while since my last post on this blog, and I hope to be able to keep up more with it now. My third year of college seminary was defiantly a bumpy ride. The Lord has to show me many things throughout the school year not only academically, but spiritually and personally. There was many a point throughout the school year where I thought I could not go on and that I just need to run. But God was there for me every step of the way and has led me to know more about myself and about my vocation.

But, the year was also full of awesome adventures and experiences. One of the biggest blessings of the year was being able to go to Italy for spring break in May, 2017. I went with two of my closest brothers from seminary on a 8 day adventure over seas to explore the heart of Roman Catholicism. This pilgrimage was something that not only allowed me to delve more into my vocation, but also a break from the business of seminary. Here are some photo highlights of that trip:

I then was able to go on and finish the school year very well considering the fact junior year is the hardest year for college seminary. From this point on, I have finished my philosophy classes and I only have to complete my senior thesis paper to complete my requirements for graduation in the spring of 2018. While the classes were overwhelming many times, God was able to get me through this year through all the struggles that I was having.

This summer, I have been blessed to be able to live and work with Fr. Shawn Landenwitch at St. Patrick Bellefontaine and St. Mary of the Woods in Russells Point. I moved in the 16th of May and I am so blessed to be able to get to know and serve the people of Logan County. I pray that I can do the work God is calling me to do here. This is all for now, but expect more updates to come!

In Christ,
Patrick Blenman.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The New Crusade: The Election, Spiritual Warfare, and You

One of the most heated and controversial elections in the United States is happening right now and a lot has been said about not only how we vote, but where are are going as a country. People have come to see that the mentality of our country from just 20 years ago has now changed drastically. Not only have the advances in technology changed our thinking, but also the rejection of religion and God as an integral part of our daily lives. This has caused much division and concern not only between the people of the country, but even among the people of faith. So many may ask "what are we to do?"

Many are pitted against a party hat has the most pro-choice, anti-religious liberty, and pro-gay marriage platform ever, and another party who nominated a man who has said horrible things about women and minorities, and whose beliefs have changed constantly in the past 20 years. This has caused many to "look the other way" on the issues with either candidate, or support them for something they will change. One of these central issues for people of faith in this election is that of religious liberty.

Many hope that religious liberty will be preserved if we vote for one particular party, and that we should look beyond what the candidates did or said because we need to "vote for the 4 supreme court justices." Now, this post is not about bashing why people vote or even about who to vote for, but to help people realize that no matter who gets elected this November, we will continue to lose religious liberty and experience more percussion. Electing one particular person or party is not going to fix our declining religious liberty in this country because religious liberty is not just about laws, but the mentality and disposition of people. Ideologies do not change by creating laws; it changes by people who live according to a certain ideology. This is why it is important for a new kind of Crusade: A Crusade for our spiritual lives.

As we have already seen, religious liberty not only in the United States but around the world is deteriorating. In fact, outside the United States it seems to be worse, causing us to become complaisant in how we live and do things. Our spiritual lives have become all too comfortable and lazy that we have become spiritual couch potatoes when it comes to working on our spiritual lives. Most people have been able to live how they want without challenge and a mentality of "You do what you want, I will do what I want." This has caused us to be unprepared for the coming battle of our faith and even our lives. We are approaching that day were we are no longer free to live our faith in our lives. Freedom of worship and beliefs will not only come under fire, but even be suppressed if we do not wake up and get off the couch.

We too often see today that despite having a majority Catholic Supreme Court and a major party that says they back religious liberty, that religious liberty is being eroded. Far too often we entrust our religious liberty and our freedoms in the hands of a few people so that I do not have to offend anyone, or do not have to put much effort in myself. This idea of others protecting us has lead us to this spiritual laziness that we don't need God in all aspects of our lives, nor do we need to grow in our spiritual lives. This election is more than just who we elect, but a wake up call to the battle that is to begin.

No matter the outcome of this election, let us be resolved to prepare for the battle; a New Crusade for our spiritual lives. Let us abandon our complacency about growing our spiritual lives. For if we do not prepare for this spiritual battle that is upon us, we will surly fall short and lose our lives in the coming persecution. Things will only change we we all coming together in the Church and remain grounded in Her and Her teachings. This is how ideologies change; by our example. By standing up for our faith, we must have an immense devotion to prayer and our steadfast foundation in Our Lady to withstand the tides of persecution. Let us pray for this grace and be ever mindful of our spiritual lives.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Discernment: The Heavenly Question

One of the many questions that a seminarian is asked is "how does one discern God's call?", especially to the priesthood. This is a question that for me is hard to answer. Many times people see seminarians as people who have discernment all figured out and mastered. While this would be great if true, seminarians have just as hard of a time figuring out how to discern. This is something that I have to think about and contemplate on a daily basis. It was not until last month that I finally think I can understand discernment better.

Last month, the seminary had their annual retreat down at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. The retreat was lead by international writer and speaker, Fr. Larry Richards. This retreat has changed my life in many ways, but one in particular is that of discernment. At this retreat Fr. Larry talked to us about Holiness, and one of the resounding themes is having a relationship with God. Not only just having a relationship with God, but understanding how much He loves us and how we should love Him. This relationship is more that that of two friends, it is so much more than that. This relationship is of a Father and Son. For we were made in God's image and likeness, and He loved us so much that he sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us.
Cross at Monte Cassino Shrine at St. Meinrad 
This relationship is almost indescribable. We are able to cry out to our God saying Abba, daddy, to the very God that created the whole universe and all that is contains. This is where discernment starts. It starts with God our Father. We have to start with crying out to our Father and knowing how much He loves us and desires a relationship with us. Forming a relationship with God is one of the most important steps into having a healthy discernment. No matter what vocation you are called to, one thing will always remain constant within every calling: A loving relationship with God our Father. Through this relationship and love we are able to know Him, walk with Him, know what He is calling us to, and most importantly, are not afraid to do the things that scare us in a particular vocation.

Now, this may seem like an impossible task; we sin, do bad things, say things we shouldn't, etc. and we make God angry. However, God is not calling us to only form a relationship with Him when we are perfect; quite the opposite actually. God wants us to come to Him in our broken state. God does not just leave us out to dry when we fall; hence why he sent His Son to redeem us and allows us access to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. He wants us to depend on Him and know that He can save us from our brokenness.

Many people do not think they can have a good relationship with God and His Son because of their sin. Many have a dictator-like persona of God. There is a very important lesson I learned this year on this very question. It is not that God is mad when we sin because He said not to do it. No, He is worried about us when we sin, and He hates to see us enslaved to sin. God is not someone who sits in heaven wagging His finger at you when you sin, but one who sits in Heaven who wants you not to sin because not sinning will make you happy and is good for you. Sin corrupts us and turns us into slaves of ourselves and evil. God is not out to get us; He is here to love us and help us one day spend eternity with Him. This is an important lesson in forming a relationship with God.

As stated before, this is a relationship with God, and with that means it is something we have to work on. I can tell you that many priests who have been ordained for years are still working on their relationship with God. This is not to scare us however; as a relationship takes time. It helps us to realize a very important point: Vocation is not about ourselves, but for He that calls us. Through this relationship with God we begin to realize what He is calling us to more and more.

To look at priesthood specifically, this call has as it's root a call from God the Father to a loving relationship with Him and to be an instrument of His love to His Church. This can seem like a hefty job that God calls a young man to do, but to echo the words of Pope St. John Paul II "Be not afraid!" God knows that a young man has to give up certain worldly pleasures for this call, but it is important to note that God calls a young man to the priesthood because He has made Him for that purpose and He knows the young man can do it. This is true for any vocation that God calls people to. God doesn't call us to something we cannot do; He calls us to what He knows we can do for His Greater Glory and Love.

Now, this may seem like a young man entering seminary must have it all worked out before entering, and that you must have this great relationship with Christ. This cannot be further from the truth. Seminary is a time of formation where you learn new and better ways of forming your relationship with God. These 9 years of seminary are not here because it takes 9 years to learn how to be a priest. These 9 years are here to help form men be rooted in a strong relationship with God and how that translates into priestly ministry. Seminarians work everyday to form their relationship with God, and that means there is no one easy way to do that. Each guy is different. A young men entering may have many doubts, fears, and uncertainty about what this life can lead to. That is normal and every guy goes through that. You are not alone. One may have many fears about God and His love, but through formation a young man is able to discover a healthy relationship with God, the root of any vocation. Let us pray daily that we may accept God's love and grow closer to Him.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Walk with Christ: One of Review, Learning and Thanksgiving

Hello dear readers! I apologize for my blog silence. I had an incredible summer, one of which was also very busy. I was so blessed by the people of Adams County, and I cannot even begin to unpack the many blessings I have from being with them. I got to learn so much about what a priest does this summer. I got to attend Catholic Heart Workcamp with the youth of Adams County, be blessed by parishioners welcoming me into their homes, and so much more. I cannot say enough of the amazing and blessed experience I had in Adams County. One of the most important aspects of ministry that I think I learned the most is this: to walk with and, God willing, help lead the people of God in their faith journey in Christ. 

This may seem like an obvious notion of the need for this in ministry, however one that I never registered and understood the importance of until this summer. I had some amazing people in my life down in Adams County, and I realized the need to be out and present with the people; to talk to them, and to hear their concerns, struggles, joys, and need of advice in their spiritual life. You learn so much about the people of God and what they need to help them learn. This is something that I have been thinking about so much lately and for good reason.

As many of you know, I am an outgoing person. I make it a point to talk to all the parishioners and get to know as many people as I can. With talking to many people at parishes, I have encountered many responses from people I encounter that are along these lines:"It is good to see our future priests care", or "Never lose your smile and love for God and being with His people." These comments are not bad or necessarily reflect any negative feelings or situations, but on several occasions when I got into personal, private conversations with those same people who made those statements, a sad and shocking story comes fourth: a bad experience with a priest or seminarians. We are not just talking about bad experiences back in the 60's, 70's, but even from today. I can also say that I, too, have seen this.

Now, this is not a bash priests and my fellow seminarians rant. I know many who do a good job with this, but we are by no means perfect. I am sure most priests and seminarians many not even be aware if they even do this. This is just an observation and an encouraging call for all of us, not just priests and seminarians. I now see the importance of going out and not only talking with and listening to questions, concerns, and possible needs of the people, but also to pray with them. I am not just talking about having mass for people, but going and praying the rosary with the parishioners after mass, inviting them to pray other prayers with you, etc. This is key to leading and walking with the people of God. I know in Adams County, I saw this with a lot of what Fr. Bedel would do. We always prayed the rosary with the people before almost every mass during the week, and invited anyone to come pray the prayers in the Divine Office. I appreciate this lesson from Fr. Bedel.

It is important for us to be out and available to people, even as seminarians. As seminarians, it is so important to be out with the youth to help encourage and ease concerns over seminary for those young men who struggle with the decision of seminary, and for all vocations. It is important that we help go and learn how to approach and help people, and show Christ's love to all of God's people.

I also want to stress that priests have a very busy job. I know there are so many items a priest has to do during the day and week, it can become overwhelming. Priests also need their personal time and some down time from the busyness of parish life. This is something that people also need to appreciate and understand about priests, they are human too. Sometimes finding this helpful balance between personal time and walking with the people takes some time, but we can never neglect helping the people of God in their faith journey.

I hope to keep up on the blog better this school year, as I hope you will be with me in my journey to the priesthood. Please always remember to pray for priests and seminarians; not only for their vocation, but that they may strive for holiness and be blessed with the gifts to Walk with Christ with the People of God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Over The Hills: Our Amazing God and His Blessings

It has now been just over two weeks since I arrived in Adams County, and I have had some of the most memorable and amazing experiences in my life. I have also been very busy, hence the lack of posting lately (sorry!). I have an amazing time with my duties at St. Vincent de Paul, and working with Margo to help these needy families has been a great blessing for me. Margo is like a grandma to me and is a lot of fun to be around! I have been able to help so many people and experience the struggles that families go through in their everyday lives. I even got to run the office for a day after only a week of training because Margo was gone! This has been an amazing experience I did not expect to have and God has blessed me tremendously.

Beside my work at St. Vincent's, I have been put in charge of the landscaping of the whole church here in West Union, and let me tell you it is a handful! The landscaping here has not been done in about 5 years or more. I will post more pictures of this, including before and after photos, after is is finished next week. We just finished spreading the mulch today, and finishing the new planting next week!

One of the more exciting and relaxing aspects being here is all the activities I am able to do with Fr. Bedel. One in particular was able to attend and help father prepare for his first Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Accession Thursday two weeks ago. This was an amazing experience. I even got to hang out with some of my brother seminarians before and after the mass which made for an amazing night. I am so blessed to be able to attend this mass and serve Fr. Bedel's EF Low Mass on Saturday mornings this summer. He did a great job and had great deacons and a great MC.

Yesterday for Memorial Day the other seminarian living down here Andrew Smith and I decided to go on a hiking trip over to Shawnee State Forest down the road here to go hiking, and all I can say is wow!

I never knew that this little gem existed! It is so beautiful and I was shocked that I was still in Ohio with all the hills and huge trees! The views and the wild life were amazing, and we could not have asked for better weather! I will defiantly be back and was blessed to be able to walk with Andrew talking about vocation, seminary, life, and proving the existence of God through nature. An amazing day to relax after a long week of working around the parish. 

I know this is a short post, but more exciting activities to come and please be assured of my prayers and please keep me in your prayers. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Over The Hills: Is This Still Ohio?

Please forgive my lack of posting, for it has been a hectic 2 weeks with finals, moving back home, and now moving again.

As many of you know, I disappeared from Shelby County this past weekend. No worries, I wasn't kidnapped (well, maybe I was, but just don't know it yet!), but moved to my parish assignment for this summer. As I posted earlier, I am at Holy Trinity and Mary Queen of Heaven parishes in Adams County, Ohio. I moved down on Monday and have been having a blast ever since. There has already been so much I have been able to do, I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of summer! Here is just an overview of what I have been able to do so far, and will be able to continue to do this summer.

This is where Adams County is. 

I should start with the drive down here, which explains the title of the post. In order to reach Adams County from Sidney the quickest, you have to take back roads about 75% of the trip, which is about 2 1/2 hours total. This was an experience, since this was my first time diving down here and it seemed every road my GPS took me on was closed due to construction. To confound the problem, severe storms followed and eventually caught up to me, even forcing me to stop in the middle of the road, as heavy rain made me lose sight of the hood of my car, and 90 mi/h winds had tree limbs, roofs, and other objects fly toward my car. At this point, I had lost all sense of direction and wondered if I was even still in Ohio with all the hills and sharp curves I was encountering.

At last, I arrived at the rectory in West Union, where I was greeted by Fr. Bedel and Adam, who is in charge of youth ministry and religious education here. It was a great evening of catching up with Fr. Bedel, getting to see the town, and moving into my room. The rectory is an old style farm house (in the middle of the city, I know sounds odd), which excited me because I like old buildings. The pillars and capitals of the front of the rectory are beautiful and the old staircase just as cool.

Holy Trinity Church, one of the only two Catholic churches in the county
My humble room 
The first night was a little rough, as I had to get used to the sound of all the traffic on the busy streets outside my windows. The first night in a new place is always bad for me, but it is all better now. Fr. Bedel has set up an very good schedule of prayer and meditation each day, as we pray most of the Divine Office together during the day. The best part of it is the 2 hours set up for Office of Readings, Lauds, and silent meditation in the morning, which fits in before the morning mass on days we have morning mass. This has been a great blessing for me, because this is something I wanted to expand on and work on this summer.

The first full day of being in Adams County was amazing. After getting up early to drive to Peebles for mass at Mary Queen of Heaven, Adam, father, and I went out to breakfast with the morning mass ladies and had a great time getting to know them. This was followed by a tour of some of the county, and a stop at Presentation Ministries outside of Peebles. This is a great lay Catholic association which runs retreats and prints the One Bread, One Body daily reading reflection booklet around the world. They also do so much more, and the people I met there are amazing and so generous. They are completing their new retreated center in June, and I was asked to serve for the dedication of the new chapel, after just meeting the good people that morning at mass. 

Me at Presentation Ministries with the new retreat center in the background 

After visiting the good people at Presentation Ministries, father took me to the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Adams County, were I will be working a lot during the week passing out bread to the needy, helping families and individuals fill out application for assistance, and so much more. This is going be an interesting and emotional ministry for me, as there are so many needy people, but not many resources to be able to help them. This will be an amazing experience and I will keep you up to date about this throughout the summer.

This has already been an amazing couple of days, and I cannot wait for what is in store! I will post more from Adams County soon! As a side note, I wanted to introduce you to my new niece, Audrey Jayne Blenman, who was born April 1, 2015. She is another joy in my life, as now I have 2 nieces to love and spoil! I was privileged to be able to be the godfather of Audrey at her baptism this past Saturday. She is such a joy in my life! 

Me holding Audrey 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Haunting Day: The Day I Gained the Ultimate Friend

Today, April 28, is a day that will forever haunt me for the rest of my life. This was the day I lost my best friend, Patrick Pudlewski, in a car accident in 2013. I never thought that my best friend I had just hugged and said "See you at school tomorrow!" after the 9:00 A.M mass would then be called to our Lord Jesus just 15 minutes later. I never thought I would drive by the accident on my way to work and not even realize he was gone. I wish my mom did not wake me up from my nap later that day and sit me down to tell me he was gone. I was in such shock, I jumped into action. Within the next hour, I had set up a candlelight vigil for Patrick and for our Lehman community in order for all of us to come together and pray. 

Candlelight Vigil and Prayer Service the night of the accident
The following week was the hardest time of my life. Having to help plan your best friend’s funeral is so hard, and processing everything that happened made for a long week. During this week, I was asked many a time "Why did God do this?" "Why does this happen?" 

That week I responded to these questions with the phrase of "This is not the end!", emphasizing that it was through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, whom Patrick loved and was growing in his relationship with, that allowed Patrick to attain salvation; the very Jesus he had just received before he died. I also told people that "This is not the end, for one day we will see him again." What many people didn't know, however, is that I had my own faith crisis that was going inside of myself during this time.

Everyone knew I was the "religious one" of my class, and however true that may have been, this was a great test for me. I didn't understand why God did this, and I sure as heck had doubts about what will happen. After talking to Fr. Hess a couple of weeks after the funeral I started to get better about the whole thing. Many people like to view it as God calling him away to save him from some horrific life event or trial, which is how I felt too, which is a valid thought and feeling. I believe it goes deeper than just that, however. 

Reflecting on death has been something I have been doing for the last couple of years, as not only did I lose Patrick, I lost a good friend from my childhood Austin, a family my family is friends with lost their father Steve, and the loss of my Great Aunt Betty. I have asked why God has done these things. I have come to this realization about death: people need a realization that this life is not all there is, that is why what Jesus Christ did is so important, and that we need people praying for us and examples to us of how we can change ourselves toward a life for God. I have prayed for Patrick and others here and there every day since that day, and I know he is praying for me, and has shown me how to love God more. I am not saying God took Puddles away for me, but because Patrick had a time on earth just like everyone else, and God felt his mission in life was fulfilled, and our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to give Patrick the chance to leave this world and join in that Eternal Reward that Christ won for us.

This can be true with any death we experience, that it is not the end, not only of the possibility of us seeing them, but for their eternal life. God gives all of us different missions; vocations in which we are to respond and glorify God in, and some are called away sooner than others, but death should not be feared. While it is sad to lose someone close to you, it is an opportunity from God to reflect on one's own life, and also pray for and look at the person who died, whom God created for a purpose.

Patrick has helped me keeping going in my life, and helped me know how to love our Lord even more. I knew this during Kairos, but I know it even better now. I was honored to be able to read his Kairos application essay yesterday, and I was going to quote out of it to show you how Puddles exemplifies Christ and helps me, but I think it is best if Puddles tells you about his relationship with our Lord:
"Quite honestly, Jesus tends to be the one person I turn to when I need help with something out of my control.  My faith is what helps me get through the tough days and just helps me in general.  Jesus is my role model; I want to be like him in just about every way.  I know I will never be exactly like him but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.  If I didn’t have Jesus in my life I have no idea where I would be right now.  He guides me on my way through life.  I know sometimes I fall but I always turn back to him and ask for his help.  I wish I could meet him in person, but then again I guess we all will at some point.  I want to get to know him more and more though.  I realize I will never fully understand him, but I can’t think of something more worthwhile to spend time studying.  I honestly can’t imagine not knowing Jesus and his awesomeness.  Life must be depressing for atheists; I mean they don’t know the joy of knowing God and they deny that He even exists.  That has to be a tough life; they essentially cut out hope of something more than themselves.  That is why Jesus is so important in my life; he gives me hope that there is something better after this life.  He inspires me to continue every day and try to be more and more like him.  I can honestly say I love him and would do anything for him.  That is essentially the role Christ plays in my life; he is my rock.
            I think I am called to be a Kairos leader because I think I can help others know the faith more fully, granted I only know so much.  I still believe I can be a good Kairos leader and help my peers know what I see when I see God.  I feel like God can use me to bring others more fully into the faith.  I am devoted, loving, and I rarely give up once I start something.  So, I guess you could say that I am a little stubborn, but I don’t believe anyone is a lost cause or that they can’t be saved.  I guess what I am trying to say is that, I know I can help others, I want to help others, and I believe I can help others.  That’s pretty much why I think I am called to be a Kairos leader." 
          - Patrick Michael Pudlewski (December 26, 1995 - April 28, 2013)

I believe that was his mission: To "help my peers know what I see when I see God". Although he did not get a chance to lead Kairos, he was able to do this with his life and example. I will never forget as our relationship developed, the more eager he was to learn about the faith and go on retreats, that we would go to confession together sometimes, and I even got him to come to church with me for some special events, such as Divine Mercy Sunday, which was just two weeks before he died. This is how I know he is praying for me and that he was doing the will of God in spreading his love for Christ with others. His death should not be seen as an end or loss of something great, but as a life that was lived and developing in the love of Jesus Christ. A life that reflects those very words he wrote on that page. I will never forget you Puddles, and I pray I am worthy to enter into God's Kingdom and experience that same joy you had when you saw Jesus for the first time. Requiescat in Pace.

Special thanks to the Pudlewski family for allowing me to write about Puddles and post his Kairos essay on my blog. Please be assured of my constant prayers.