Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 14 – Day Ten of Our Pilgrimage – Return to Canada – 27 April 2011

At 5:15 am, Grey Wolf/Akela was up to get the group up and surprisingly most of them were fairly okay getting up. It seems as if they were ready to go home. We all got dressed in our uniforms and made it to the chapel for our 6:15 am Mass. At this Mass we celebrate the success of our pilgrimage and thank Jesus for keeping us safe. We also prayed for a safe journey home. After Mass, we had our breakfast and boarded the bus at 7:45 am for a 30-minute ride to the airport.

Our ride to the airport was uneventful. Our bus driver was one of the seminarians and he was by far the most careful driver we have had on this trip. Brother Nicholas was kind enough to escort us to the check in line and stayed with us until we were completed. Unfortunately, Father Thomas could not join us as he had another group to meet for their pilgrimage. After checking in, we bid an emotional farewell to Harry Kim. Harry would be departing for Korea via Hong Kong, one hour after we flew out. Many of our boys hugged him and wished him well.

We navigated thorough the security screening fairly easily. We only had to remove our belts in order to walk through the security devices. After a long walk to the gate, we arrived with more than one hour before our scheduled departure. This allowed our boys time to relax before our flight. Some boys took the opportunity to purchase drinks from the vending machines and some delicious warm sandwiches; a few others decide to do some last minute shopping in the duty free stores.

Due to the late arrival of the inbound flight, our flight departed 24 minutes late. We had a fairly smooth 9 hours and 40 minutes flight back to Canada. Many of the boys and leaders watched movies, slept and played cards as with the previous. However, this flight was different in a subtle way. Our boys were excited to be going home. Even the air stewardess who had been on the other flight could sense it. We hope that this meant that they were going back better people.

Thank you to Baloo, Mang, Manatee, Father Thomas, Brother Nicholas, Brother Dennis, Brother Wang, Brother Nathan, Giovanni, and the many Italian leaders for guiding and looking out for out troop.

Map of trip to the airport:

Facebook stored photos:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 13 – Day Nine of Our Pilgrimage – Catacombs, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St Peter's Basilica – 26 April 2011

The last full day of our pilgrimage started out overcast and with a light drizzle. We woke our boys up as usual, but we could sense the excitement in most of them as they realised that this was their last full day in Rome. We could tell that they were looking forward to going home to be with their loved ones again. We went down to the cafeteria for the usual breakfast (especially since Easter Sunday) of cereal, milk, cake and picked up our afternoon lunch. We then boarded our bus for the 30-minute ride to the St. Callixtus Catacombs.

We arrived at what appeared to be a vast green farmer’s field. The area was lush with vegetation and had a few well placed spruce trees lining the walkways and well manicured hedging around the buildings. Upon arrival at the catacombs we moved into a small chapel for our morning Mass. The chapel which was just large enough for our group is located right above the spot where the church buried its early martyred Popes. Today our boys where wide awake and had more than enough energy to sing and play their little hearts out. It was quite a moving scene. There were quite a few other visitors who passed by and looked in the chapel with great interest.

After Mass we met up with our tour guide for a briefing prior to starting our tour. Our guide was a priest from the order responsible for maintaining the catacombs. After our briefing we descended to stairs of the catacomb to the second of four levels. The catacombs lie 7–19 metres (23–62 ft) below the surface in area of more than 2.4 square kilometres (590 acres). Narrow steps that descend as many as four stories join the levels. Passages are about 2.5 by 1 metres (8.2 × 3.3 ft). The temperature in the catacombs was cool, but the environment was slightly damp. Our boys had many questions on the purpose of the catacombs and how it was developed.

Before we knew it we were back in the bus and heading towards St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica. On our way out we passed Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis church. This pint-sized church marks the spot where St Peter, while fleeing Rome, met a vision of Jesus going the other way. When Peter asked, “Domine, quo vadis?” (or “Lord, where are you going?”), Jesus replied, “Venio Roman iterum crucifigi” (or “I am coming to Rome to be crucified again”). Reluctantly deciding to join him, Peter tramped back into town where he was immediately arrested and executed.

The church was a breathtaking sight. We had our picnic lunch in front of the church before heading in for our tour. Father Thomas is very familiar with this church. On December 14, 2009, he and 57 other men were ordained into the priesthood in this church. During our visit, we stop and prayed in front of the tour of St Paul. Many of us also took the opportunity to submit our prayer intentions cards for future Masses at the great Basilica. At this basilica the crowds were much more manageable. The church was located off the beaten path.

Many of our boys where so disappointed that we did not finish our tour of St. Peter’s that we decided to return. We waited in the long line to clear security in order to re-enter St. Peter’s Basilica. We then joined the line the go up to the highest point of the cupola. Unfortunately, there was a 5 Euro cash only charge person to climb up to the cupola. They refused to accept our Euro traveller’s cheques or credit cards. We simply did not have enough cash so we missed the opportunity..sign. Since we could not go up we decided to continue our tour of St. Peter’s and cover the right side of the church.

Our return to St. Peter’s was very challenging as we encountered the largest crowd yet. However, we persisted and managed to view the Pieta sculpture, the altar containing the totally uncorrupted remains of Pope John 23 (yet another minds), and a few other pieces of art. Upon our exit we noticed that our boys were fatigued so we elected to return to the seminary a little early to pack and rest.

At the seminary a number of boys wanted to go to confession so Father Thomas made himself available. A number of our boys sought the opportunity to seek the Lord’s forgiveness through the sacrament. Father remarked that the confessions were so beautiful, honest and sincere that it was truly inspiring. Father Thomas truly felt like the instrument of the Lord. After confessions, we had another great dinner and then headed to the main hall for our awards ceremony.  

Prior to the start of the awards ceremony we all sang happy birthday to Sinju Ha and much to his surprise and shock all 350 seminarians present in the dining room stopped eating, stood up and joined in the singing too. Brother Nicholas had established a point system for our boys to accumulate points based on their behaviour over the period that they were are the seminary. The results for the teams were as follows:
·                                 1st Green team
·                                 2nd Grey team
·                                 3rd Blue team
·                                 4th Yellow team
Father Thomas also took the time to hand out some special awards, including a 1st Communion give for Andy and some special wards for the most attentive boys. As leaders, we were pleased with how our boys reacted to winning or not, and how they celebrated their efforts and success. The congratulated their brothers in a very sincere way. There was not a single negative comment. This was awesome. Mantee’s team pooled their money and purchased a gift for him to express their appreciation for his care and leadership. This was a very thoughtful gesture from them. We ended the evening with deep prayers in the chapel before heading to bed. 

Map of trip 
Link to map of our trip for the day

Facebook stored photos:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 12 – Day Eight of Our Pilgrimage – St. Peter’s Basicalla – 25 April 2011

Monday morning arrived far too soon as we collectively struggled out of our beds to face yet another exciting day despite the light drizzle. What is a pilgrimage without some amount of sacrifice? We departed on time to catch our train to the Vatican for our private Mass by the tombs of the Popes. The theme of Father Thomas’ homily was the fidelity of Christ through his resurrection.

We arrived right on time and quickly made our way to the private entrance to the tombs of the Popes. Out of respect of this holy place, we struggled to limit the number of photographs taken, especially our budding team of photographers. We were all in great awe by what we saw. This was truly a fantastic location.

As we traversed downward through the narrow passageways, we could feel the slight change in air temperatures as we passed many chambers on either side of us. Some chambers were will with similar groups like ours celebrating Mass, singing hymns or deep in Eucharistic Adoration. Our Timber wolves and Explorers took it all in and you could feel a deeper reverence overcome the group.

Mass was truly beautiful in the most holy place containing mortal remains of great Pope and saints such as St. Peter being meters away. During Mass we sang from the depth of our hearts as our voices echoed from the low ceiling of the chamber, its unique artwork and the statue of a great Hungarian saint. The theme of Father Thomas’ homily centered around’ “The Fidelity of Christ through his resurrection”. When Jesus makes a promise he always delivers. If Jesus had not risen from the dead then our faith would be in vain. Jesus calls out to our boys and to all of us to do our best hear and then to follow his will. We each have a role to play in this world which is preordained by God. By doing God, we will be truly be happy.

This morning for the first time we noticed “fatigue in our boys. The pace of the pilgrimage had finally caught up with them. They had done well. Some barely slept in the plane coming over from Canada. They had caught naps on the train rides to and from camp. They slept in tents and bed at camp that were not their own, etc. Now we were observing them nodding off during Mass and we needed to encourage them to stay awake.

As Mass came to an end we made our way t o pray by the tomb of Poe John Paul II. Unfortunately, our timing was a bit off as the tombs had opened to the general public and hundreds of people where present. The guards had started hustling people along to prevent congestion in the passageways. We did not get the opportunity to stop and pray..sigh. However we did see the lower level of St. Peter’s tomb.

We ascended the stairs to the main level of St. Peter’s Basilica. The vastness and grandeur of the largest and greatest church in the world was truly a sight to behold. Using the headset system, Father Thomas explained the massive statues, paintings, columns, altars and much more. Father explained that the artwork, especially the lettering the ceilings were designed to ensure that it is easier to read by pilgrims like ourselves. Most of pour boys were interested and attentive to the tour while other were becoming restless and wanted to sit or lean against any available structure to rest. Unfortunately, there are not may places that you can sit or rest in St. Peter as they try to accommodate as many pilgrims as possible within the space. Therefore, the security guards approached us a few times requesting that we demonstrate greater respect for our surroundings.

As lunch hour approached we noted that a number of boys demonstrated signs of exhaustion. The crowd in the basilica had grown quite large and it became increasingly difficult for us to gather together and appreciate the beautiful works of art around us. Coincidentally, Father Thomas had completed his review of the left side of the church. We decide to remove ourselves from the massive crowd and save our boys by being bumped into be the other visitors. We exited St. Peter and found a spot near to basilica to have lunch.

Lunch was simple but delicious. We made sandwiches with bread, sliced meat and cheese, ice tea and had cookies and chocolate for dessert. We noted with interest that our group gained curious glances from a few passersby. After lunch we elected to leave St. Peters to return to the seminary so that we could give our exhausted group some well needed rest. Then we came across a small challenge. We soon realised that since it was Easter Monday, the train system operated at reduced capacity and our train was availably every other hour instead of hourly. This stretched our 45 minute wait into a 2 hours and 15 minute wait.

Instead of continuing to stand on the platform for the long wait, we decided to more our 46 boys to a nearby church to pray. Unfortunately, the church was closed. Not to be deterred, we sat on the steps under a large crucifix and recited the Rosary. Before we prayed we had a 20-minute discussion on our prayer intentions. We then went back to the train station just before our train arrived. This train ride was fairly easy as we did not have to deal with the regular rush hour crowd. Upon arrival at the seminary we immediately sent the boys off for a valuable 3-hour nap. Most boys took advantage of this opportunity, but a few did not.

At 6 pm, we entered the main chapel for a private one hour Eucharistic adoration, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and moments of silence for individual prayer. Before the end of Adoration we encouraged our boys to call out to Jesus in their own personal way to thank him. Many of them voiced their thanks with the following comments:
  • Dying on the cross for me
  • Rising from the dead
  • Confession
  • For my parents
  • For creating me and giving me life
  • Your love
  • My family
  • The Mass
  • Eucharistic Adoration
  • Our leaders
  • Friends and enemies
  • School
  • Canada
  • Our pilgrimage
  • Protecting us and our families
  • Holy Mass
  • Communion
  • Graces
  • Our Pope
  • The great weather
  • Father Thomas and Brother Nicholas
  • Forgiveness
  • Our Catholic faith
  • Joy
  • Happiness and even when we are sad
  • Our FNE Explorer movement

As we concluded Eucharistic Adoration we could see a sense of renewal, joy, laughter, peace and excitement fall over our boys. We then moved to the next aspect of the evening’s program – individual testimonies. Adoration appeared to put our boys at ease and we moved them into a large classroom on the campus. The classrooms were in the University side of the seminary’s campus. The individual testimonies were provided by pilgrims (Timber wolves, Explorers and Leaders), Brothers and Father Thomas.

Testimonies Shared at Special Night Prayers (cont’d)
The testimonies provided were sincere, forthright, and in some cases eye opening. It was great to see our boys encourage each other by providing a round of applause to thank and encourage each person who spoke. Surprisingly, this last round of testimonies where the deepest and most moving.
  1. Boy 1
    1. I was excited to see all the beautiful churches
    2. It made my faith more meaningful and I will focus more on my spiritually and how to become a better person at home
  2. Boy 2
    1. Before attending church did not mean anything for me
    2. Now I want to understand more about Mass and church
    3. I was struck by the movie Passion of Christ and how much Jesus suffered for us
    4. Mass means more to me now
  3. Boy 3
    1. St Francis of Assisi provide a good example of poverty and hard work
    2. In future I will complain less
  4. Boy 4
    1. With all the artefacts and relics for saint like St Clair, I can feel that my religion is real
    2. I will go to Mass more
  5. Boy 5
    1. I will go to Mass more
  6. Boy 6
    1. Before I came on the pilgrimage, material things were so important to me
    2. I have now gain more knowledge
    3. I was most struck by the cradle of Jesus an how simple it was. Simplicity means a lot
    4. I will go to mass more
  7. Boy7
    1. Before I did not appreciate that God provides us with lessons
    2. Now I find that there is a lot to learn
    3. One of the things a realised was how much pain Jesus went through to save us
    4. I will attend Mass more often and appreciate it more
  8. Boy 8
    1. Now Mass is more meaningful to me
    2. I will appreciate Mass and attend more often
  9. Boy 9
    1. I understand more about Jesus
    2. I will pray more often
  10. Boy 10
    1. I will learn to appreciate things more
  11. Boy 11
    1. I recognise that photos are not that important
    2. Prayer is more important
  12. Boy 12
    1. I asked Jesus if my soul was worth so much to be saved
    2. I will pray more often
  13. Boy 13
    1. I am more a believer in Jesus, especially when blessed by our Holy Father
    2. I will pray more, Go to confession more often and try to learn more
  14. Boy 14
    1. I feel stronger in my faith after seeing the blood stains or Jesus
    2. Every day of my life I should be thankful to God
  15. Boy 15
    1. Jesus suffered a lot for us
    2. I better understand how he spread the word of God
    3. When I go home, I will do the same
  16. Boy 16
    1. Before I thought Christianity was just going to Mass on Sundays
    2. Now, I understand the major point is that Jesus suffered and rose from the dead
    3. I cried at the tomb of St. Francis
    4. I will pray more often
  17. Boy 17
    1. Watching Passion of Christ made me realise that Jesus really suffered a lot for us
    2. I will try and stop sinning and behave a lot better
  18. Boy 18
    1. I swore a lot before
    2. After seeing the movie, I see how much Jesus suffered for us. I was really touched by the injuries to his body
    3. I will be try not to swear that much when I go home
  19. Boy 19
    1. St. Francis’ life was very significant to me
    2. At the Holy Stair struck me, I was upset that others were not that serious in their praying
    3. I will appreciate Jesus’ Passion much more than before. I will pray more whole heartedly and examine my conscience more
    4. I will look for ways to develop my spiritual life
  20. Boy 20
    1. This pilgrimage taught me to pray more whole heartedly
    2. I will pay more attention when I pray
  21. Boy 21
    1. Before I was excited on seeing all the cool stuff
    2. I was struck at St. Francis of Assisi that it is more than and attractive spot
    3. I will do more praying when I get home
  22. Boy 22
    1. Before Mass was not so meaningful
    2. Now I realise that this religion is the right one for me
    3. I will pray more and attend Mass more seriously
  23. Boy 23
    1. I have a better understanding of Jesus’ suffering
    2. I will pray more often
  24. Boy 24
    1. I know that Jesus suffered a lot in general, but after watching the movie I know better understood the extent of his suffering
    2. Each time we sin I understand that it is a burden to him
    3. The image of the blood stained stairs reminded me that Jesus loved us so much
    4. Each time I pray, I will pray the Rosary with the intension to take sin away
  25. Boy 25
    1. I realised how Jesus suffered
    2. When I am in Mass, I will be more serious and pray harder to change my heart
  26. Boy 26
    1. I cried for Jesus at the movie
    2. I will try and help my father and mother more
  27. Boy 27
    1. Every time I pray the Rosary in future my intensions will be more serious
    2. I will pray more at home
  28. Boy 28
    1. I saw how the Holy Spirit worked in St. Francis
    2. All the Popes toms confirmed that my faith is true
    3. Seeing Jesus’ pain in the movie touched me a lot
    4. My faith and courage has grow stronger
    5. I will say daily prayers
  29. Boy 29
    1. I cannot image how people cannot believe in God
    2. I will listen to the readings and gospel with more attentiveness
  30. `Boy 30
    1. Before the pilgrimage, confession had little meaning to me
    2. Now I have a better understanding of confession
    3. My family is important to my life, I will do more things at home and do more confession
  31. Boy 31,
    1. I was more like a tourist before, now I feel more touched spiritually
    2. Now I understand why my Mom reads the bible
    3. I will clean up after myself more often
  32. Boy 32
    1. Now adoration and Mass is more meaningful to me
    2. I liked all the places where we saw evidence of the saints
    3. I will pay more attention in Mass
  33. Boy 33
    1. I may want to be a priest but I have not got the calling
    2. The Holy Stairs struck me the most
    3. I will pray more seriously
  34. Boy 34
    1. I came looking for proof that God is real and I got it on this pilgrimage
    2. I will pray more and play video games less
  35. Boy 35
    1. I gained a better appreciation for the spiritual side of the Vatican
    2. I will try my best to be nicer to my sister and not fight with her
  36. Boy 36
    1. I will pray more often, attend mass more often and be nicer to my friends
  37. Boy 37
    1. Before I was curious about God
    2. Now I have a better appreciation for who God is and that he will always help us
    3. I understood a lot better after watching the movie
    4. I will pray every day and will tell others about the story of St. Francis and the Pope to others
  38. Boy 38
    1. I am trying to find my vocation, but I have not yet
    2. I will spend time in prayer and listen more to God
    3. I am sure God exists after seeing the evidence of all the miracles
  39. Boy 39
    1. I feel deeper in my faith
    2. I made more friends
    3. God gave me obstacles to help me grow
    4. I will try to be good and better to my parents
  40. Boy 40
    1. The love that God has is better that any other love
    2. At the holy Stairs, I dedicated the pain to God
    3. I have much greater love for God and will continue to love him more at home
  41. Boy 41
    1. I now understand how much Jesus suffered for us
    2. I will try not to swear as much
  42. Boy 42
    1. I did not care about Mass as much
    2. Now I realised how important Mass is and appreciate the need to be more holy
    3. I will pray more meaningfully and be more attentive at Mass
  43. Boy 43
    1. I realised that I always ask God for things but never say thank you in return
    2. I will ask my friends for forgiveness for what I have done to them
  44. Boy 44
    1. Before faith was only going to Mass on Sundays and it did not exist on the other days
    2. I am impressed by the history of the church
    3. I will pray more when I get home 

We concluded our evening by visiting the beautiful chapel for evening prayers and then sent everyone off to bed. 

Map of trip St. Peter Square:

Facebook stored photos:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 11 – Day Seven of Our Pilgrimage – Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope – 24 April 2011

The morning was overcast when we awoke. It had rained last night and threatened to continue into today. We got up early, dragged ourselves out of bed and into our uniforms. We ate a great breakfast of chocolate flavoured cereals (at least two kinds were available), soft boiled eggs, cake, nutella and shared a large chocolate to a Kinder surprise toy in it. The sugar fixed provided our boy with the energy they need to wake up. Then we received a minor setback, our bus was late. This made us arrive in St Peter’s Square 45 minutes behind schedule.

Upon our arrival at St. Peter’s Square at 8:20 am we made our way through security and thanks to the advance work of Father Thomas and Brother Nicholas we obtained fantastic seats close to the m ain altar. Our Timber wolves and Explorers quickly settled in to awaiting the start of the Easter Sunday Mass. Some of them took a nap, some read, some prayed and others played with their Rubix cubes. Some of the maintenance staff members were so impressed with their skill with the Rubix cubes that they took photos and videos with the iPhones.

At about 10:20 am with the square filled with approximately 200,000 people a band of police officers march in followed by a troop of Swiss Guards. The Swiss Guard wore their traditional polished silver armour. Some of our boys thought this was “so cool”. Then from our right side the mass procession began with the Pope in his open Pope mobile followed by a cross bearer, altar servers, a deacon and a priest. The procession went up to the main altar with the many thousands calling out, “We love you Papa”.

As if on cue the overcast sky cleared, the Sun came out and a warm breeze floated through the square. The Vatican choir sang like no other. The main altar looked beautiful and surround by gorgeous flowers imported from Holland. Father Thomas again performed a wonderful job of translating the non-English parts of the Mass for us so that we could fully participate. The Mass was especially moving as at least one of our leaders and several of our boys were moved to tears of joy and bliss as they came to realise the grace bestowed by this special Easter Mass.

As the wine and bread were elevated and transformed into the living body and blood of Jesus Christ, we all sunk to our knees in respect and awe. Together we celebrated the great joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – Thank You Lord! Grey Wolf/Akela had a feeling of extra ordinary peace, joy, thanksgiving, and love for our Lord and all those people that he placed in his life.

At Communion time hundreds of priest distributed themselves throughout the crowd with assistance holding a white and yellow umbrella over their heads. Our group has to join a few lines to converge on a priest in order to receive communion. Our group had to approach three separate priests before the whole group received communion. Almost each time we thought a priest would have enough host, they would run out before all our boys could get there. In desperation, Akela/Grey Wolf moved to the side railing we he worked hard to gain the attention of a passing priest. The first priest that passed responded to the desperate pleas for the Lord saying “Sorry, I have no more host”.

Members of the security team noticed our frantic efforts and gained the attention of a priest who came over to provide the Lord to us. Our guess is that our uniforms aided our request. In the end the all of our boys received Jesus on their tongues with the last host to the last boys who was eligible to receive Holy Communion. What a gift to receive Holy Communion at the Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by our Pope – Pope Benedict 16th. On our 2007 pilgrimage we were not as fortunate to be able to receive Holy Communion. We were more fortunate this time. As Mass ended our Holy Father entered St. Peter’s Basilica where he came to the large window to extend Easter greetings to the whole world.

Our Holy Father also extended a plenary indulgence for the remissions of all sins and all punished due to sin to all those who were eligible. To receive this indulgence you would have to attended confession, detached yourself from sin and prayed for the Pope. What an awesome gift! The was truly a Special Easter Sunday!

After Mass we waited for the crowd to thin out before moving our group. After most of the people left (it takes very little time the square to empty, especially with the encouragement of the maintenance staff) we took the opportunity to take a few groups pictures. On our return to the seminary via our coach line our first order of business was for a few our boys to use the washroom. It seems as if at a certain point in time the washroom in St Peter’s Square are closed as a few members of our group found out. Baloo volunteered to take a few boys to the washroom and had to battle through the crown to get out of St. Peter’s Square to us the public washroom just outside the square. However, by far the biggest challenge was getting back in the St. Peter’s Square. Apparently to police are under orders not to let anyone back in for at least 20 minutes after mass ends. Let us just say where there is a will there is a way and nobody got hurt.

We immediately had lunch. This was the first time we say all 350 plus seminarians and priest in the same room apart from at Masses. The lunch was great feast. We had a sliced meat and cheese platter for appetiser, tortellini pasta, chicken and salad. The adults had red wine and the boys were server coke to toast Easter, our pilgrimage and our Holy Father. To top it off we had a dessert which was a carrot cake with a lovely cream dressing on top. Indeed a lovely meal.

By 3 pm we were on the road to the resort on the Mediterranean Sea. Most of us took the opportunity to take a nap on the way to the resort. What a wonderful nap it was. The resort is owned and operated by Father Thomas’ brother Kevin Murphy and his wife. Our boys had an awesome time on the beach. This time around many more boys went into the water; some made great sandcastles and enjoyed themselves in other ways. After a fun few hours on the beach we returned to the resort to enjoy great meal of pasta, chicken and salad, and deserts. Again, we had to remind our boys that they were in Italy and pasta is served as the appetiser. We had an awesome time.

On the way back to the seminar, we encourage Brother Nicholas to share his talk with the Timber wolves with everyone else. Akela/Grey Wolf had heard from the Timber wolves how much the appreciated his talk. We were really impressed by what we heard. We got back to the seminary for a shower,
and changed into their PJs for another dynamic evening. We gathered into a large classroom for a group discussion, and question and answer period led by Brother Nicholas. During this session, Brother Nicholas discussed various facet of our Catholic faith. Brother Nicholas fielded a very wide range of deep and well thought out questions that enlightened, entertained and informed all involved. These questions included:
  1. What should you do if you don not know your vocation?
  2. What motivates Father Thomas to pray and be charitable?
  3. If someone does not believe can they be saved?
  4. Why should someone who does not become a priest not get married? Why just be single?
  5. Is it a sin to abandon ones vocation?
  6. Why are saints called saints?
  7. If you are called to become a priest and you decide to get married is this a sin?
  8. What do we do if we do not know what God’s will if for us?
  9. Why would God call someone to remain single?
  10. If Jesus was drowning and your father was drowning, who would you save?
  11. I know that God created me and he wants us to be generous, but I love my family more than anything is that bad?
  12. Brother Nicholas, how old were you when you decided to become a priest?

We had a set time for a future a follow-up session as many of our Explorers and Timber wolves did not have their questions answered. Our boys then moved to the main theatre for Brother Nathan’s magic show! Prior to becoming a seminarian, Brother Nathan was a professional magician and he entertained our boys to a number of card, money and rope tricks. His performance awed both youth and adults alike. We finished the evening by examining our conscience to see where we fell down and how we could do better in the future. We sent the boys to bed shortly afterwards as we need to be at St. Peter Basilica early for Mass in toms of the Popes.
Map of trip Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope:

Map of trip to Hotel Le Najadi, Santa Marinella, Italy

Facebook stored photos: 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 10 – Day Six of Our Pilgrimage – Sports Day and Easter Vigil Mass – 23 April 2011

Today is ‘sports’ day and a morning to sleep in until 8:30 am! Awesome! We needed the extra sleep to help us prepare for the upcoming events of the day. Grey Wolf/Akela being the first one up has the joy of waking up our ‘sleeping beauties’.. who after some prodding slowly rose up to shower, brush their teeth and pull on their sports clothes. After a hearty breakfast, we made our way to a set of beautiful sports fields. There were four artificial turf soccer fields and four awesome basketball courts.

We quickly formed teams with the youngest boys selected first and began our soccer tournament. Our boys played fairly, with a sense of determination and in some cases heroism as they battled on to do their best, If our boys were tired..they did not show it for the solid 2-hour long tournament. After we close our soccer and basketball tournament we trekked our sweaty bodies off to the pool for a swim. The cool water of the indoor pool was very refreshing. Some boys walked on water (well for a few moments or so), others displaced large amounts of water with cannon balls, and the others played cards at the side of the pool. We all had so much fun.

After expending a considerable amount of energy in the morning, our boys ate very well at lunch time. After lunch we split the boys into their teams and rotated them through confession, board games and the Seminary’s gift shop. At the gift shop our boys used the opportunity to purchase items for their loved ones, friends, and teachers. The two brothers operating the gift shop demonstrated great patience with our boys as they asked many questions and handles many items before deciding on their purchases. At any one time we had two groups playing board games, Chess, Battleship, dominoes, and cards. They used the dominoes to build forts and the cards to make castles. There was much howls of laughter and squeals of delight.

Each group had time to happily and eagerly attend chapel for confession. Brother Nathan provide great instructions to our boys to help them prepare their conscience. He ensured that there three priest available for the process. Some comments from our boys included:
  1. “I felt very happy after confession as my sins were forgiven”
  2. “Before I went to confession, I felt really bad for having sinned against God, but after confession I felt really good that Jesus was with me once again.”
  3. “Before confession, I wanted to be forgiven by God so that I can receive many graces. After I felt happy with the fact my sins would be forgiven and I felt very joyful and relieved.”
  4. “Before confession, I felt guilty because of my sins and after confession I flet refreshed.”

As the afternoon drew to a close we headed off to our beds for well needed sleep to help us prepare for the Easter Vigil Mass. Much to the surprise of the leaders, all but a few boys too advantage and slept for an hour. At 7:50 pm we woke up our boys so that we could have their dinner of pasta, chicken, cheese, ham, salad, bread and water.

After dinner our boys cleaned up and cleared away their dishes in record time before heading back to their dorms to change into their suits and ties for Mass. We noted that our boys are becoming more proficient with clearing their tables. Parents, your sons look so grown up and handsome in their suits.

Before the Vigil Mass began, we arrange two talks with each group of boys. We had one talk for the Timber wolves and another for the Explorers. Brother Nicholas shared his exciting life story with the Timber wolves (our boys listened very carefully to his every word), while Father Thomas spoke with our Explorers on personal holiness and purity. In this difficult and challenging world filled with many temptations, trends and peer pressure we still need to take a stand for the right things.

The Easter Vigil Mass started with the lighting of our Easter Candle. The ceremony took place in total darkness. As each of us lit our candles you could see how much brighter it go in the foyer. Similarly, we should let our light shine a make the world a brighter place. The singing at the Mass was breathtaking. Baloo read the one of the seven reading s and our own Dennis Less participated in the prayers of the faithful in Korean. Both of them did an awesome job.

During the Mass we renewed our baptismal vows and listened to an awesome homily. The FNE Explorer were included in the homily as example of waiting for victory. Father used the example of the Toronto Maple Leaf on their quest of another Stanley Cup. This example drew quite a response from all present. Mass lasted for more that 2-1/2 hours. We were proud of our boys and how well they listened attentively, prayed sincerely and received the body and blood of Jesus on their knees respectfully and with great joy and love. Only a few boys required prodding from our leaders in order to stay awake through the Mass. It was awesome!

We then dragged our tired bodies off to bed for 5 hour of sleep as we need to be up early for Easter Mass with our Pope.

Facebook stored photos:

Day 9 – Day Five of Our Pilgrimage – Holy Relics and Way of the Cross – 22 April 2011

The morning dawned bright and sunny as we rose for the most hold day of the year – Good Friday. We dressed into our uniforms and consumed a simple breakfast given the nature of the day. After breakfast we visited the Holy Shroud burial cloth exhibit located on the Seminar’s campus. Here we learned much about our Lord Jesus Christ and the suffered he endured. The exhibit included a life-sized model of Jesus. It was awesome to see and it gave us a better appreciation for Jesus the man. Many of our boys spent time looking at the replica of the body of Jesus. The spent time stroking his head and resting their heads on the chest of Jesus as St. John did at the last supper.

We then moved over to the seminary’s auditorium to watch the movie, ‘The Passion of Christ’.  During the movie many adults and a few of our boys shed tears as they watched the suffering that Jesus endured for our sins. This movie gave us a better appreciation for the love Jesus had for all of us. After a simple lunch of pasta, bread, salad and water we go it the coach line to take us the church the Holy Cross of Jerusalem for Good Friday Service. It was a beautiful service with great music and Father Thomas’ translated the prayers and the homily to heighten the experience for us. We received Holy Communion and after Mass we met another one of our Italian Explorer brother.

After Good Friday service and with the image of our Lord’s suffering fresh in our minds we entered the sacred chambers of the church were we pieces of our Lord’s cross; two nails driven through his hand; pieces of his crown of thorns; and the sign that was on top of the cross naming Jesus the King of the Jews. Some of our boys quickly fell to their knees and into deep prayer out of respect and gratitude. A few of our boys remained motionless for an extended period of time as we reflected further on our Lord’s suffering.

Since our stomachs growled for food, we left the church and enter a park nearby to consume a meal of tuna, cheese, bread, and ice tea. Our boys then played in the park for a little while. We took this opportunity to have one on chats with a few of our boys to provide them with some guidance which would assist them to make wiser choices in the near future. At dusk, with went to the Coliseum for the Way of the Cross with our Holy Father. At the Coliseum there were crowd of people everywhere. We needed to squeeze through a narrow security checkpoint in order to gain access to the ground of the Coliseum. We had the ‘cling’ to each in order to keep the group together. Grey Wolf/Akela lost two dinner knives that he had with him..sigh.

We found a spot where we could settle in as a group and awaited the arrival of our Holy Father. He arrived by helicopter and circled the grounds twice before landing. The Way of the Cross was beautiful. We benefited from hearing it in Italian and translated in English by Father Thomas. The event ended at 11:10 pm and our boys were very patient and attentive throughout the entire experience.

As we left the grounds, we met with a few of our brothers and sisters from Italy, Germany and France. We exchanged greeting with them before leaving to meet with our bus. During the walk to our bus, our boys assisted each other by carrying backpacks and offering piggyback rides for those who were very tired. Upon arrival at the Seminary we had a very brief night prayer around one of the statues of Mother Mary and were asleep within 15 minutes.

Map of trip to the Way of the Cross:

Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day9 photos

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 8 – Day Four of Our Pilgrimage – Holy Stair and St. Mary Major Basilica – 21 April 2011

 Our Lord blessed us with another beautiful day. Today we elected to ‘delay’ the start our day by 90 minutes and therefore missed the opportunity to have Mass at St John Lateran. However our boys and leaders needed the extra sleep. Our first stop of the day was at the Holy Stairs. These are the actual stairs that Jesus walked up to be judged by Pilate.

As we slowly made our way up the stairs on our knees (it was quite painful for some of us) we reflected on the Passion of Jesus. We recited a Hail Mary on each step. Many of our boys and leaders reported that this was a very special and spiritual moment. At the top of the stairs many of us went the chapel to thank the Lord for what he has done for us. Upon leaving the Holy Stairs we went to a downtown part for a relaxing picnic before heading to St Mary Major Basilica.

Rome is home to many religious relics. These relics help us as believers to better understand, appreciate and value the key facets and teachings of our faith. St Mary Major offered up yet another religious relic – the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ. Father Thomas led us through a tour of what is considered by many to me the most beautiful basilica outside of St. Peter’s and it lived up to the expectation.

As part of our visit, we stopped in front of a beautiful statue of Mother Mary where we knelt to pray one decade of the Rosary. As we entered into a deep sense of prayer we noted that all activity around us seemed to stop. Other people around us joined a prayed the Rosary with us. Other people seemed to be in awe. (Sorry parents – most churches do not allow photos and we as good Explorers respect the rules even if other do not.)

We moved to a beautiful chapel that was truly stunning and prayed silently the next decade of the Rosary in front of the tabernacle. While we prayed we reflected on the day’s event. Before departing from the church we entered a small crypt to view the manger of Christ enclosed in a golden glass case for the last two decades of the Rosary. This time we reflected on what we have was awesome. From there we quickly moved back to the train station for our return to the seminary for the Mass of the Last Supper.

The Timber wolves and Explores where so excited as they got into their suits and ties for the first time. Grey Wolf/Akela really enjoyed helping many of the boys put on the neck ties. Parents, your sons looked very sharp in their Sunday best!

We entered the chapel filled to capacity for the Mass of the Last Supper. The Seminarians sang so well that many of our Explorers and Timber wolves later remarked how beautiful and inspiring it was. Our boys received communion on this special night with an extra degree of reverence by kneeling. On this special occasion they received both the body and blood of Jesus on their tongues. Our boys participated in long moments of prayer when they returned to their seats.

After Mass, we changed and enjoyed a great meal together before heading off to the classroom to review the team procedures and share more testimonies (see summary below) which were good but not quite as dynamic or deep as those heard on Monday night. From there we went to bed. Our boys were especially restless and it took longer than usual for them to fall asleep.

Testimonies Shared at Special Night Prayers
Our boys have truly been blessed by our Lord throughout this pilgrimage. They shared that they were very appreciative of all the support they received through, fundraising, prayers, etc. Some boys have been touched with a new sense of peace; others expressed their growth in the appreciation of the Mass and yet others have found a new and deeper faith in God. All in all the pilgrimage has brought our boys into a new sense of community. Love and respect for each other, especially through the caring for each other and as they look after their younger brothers. Here are a few comments made by our boys:

  1. Boy 1
    1. Felt a lot stronger in Catholic faith, after I joined FNE. I was a ‘jerk’ in grades 1 to 3 and up to no good. I was introduced to FNE by friend. I stay on and realise God is real. I feel I would be lost if I had no joined the FNE. I can see the respect that between the teams and the leaders.
    2. At the museum, each painting has a meaning to it. I realised that people who made these paintings are strong in the Catholic Faith. There are so many Catholics in the world. You do not need to be afraid about practising your faith, You can be open and admit you are Catholic

  1. Boys 2
    1. So impressed by the painting in the museum, I want to be a saint someday.

  1. Boy3
    1. When I saw the Pope pass by I wondered if he is real. I never thought I would see the Pope so closely. Inside I felt like the Pope was blessing me.
    2. At the museum, I saw many pictures and sculptures of people kneeling down to pray. I felt that God was looking down on me from the ceiling.
  2. Boy 4
    1. At the church in Loreto, I cried during adoration. I felt that I needed to be nicer to people, to pray more, and to feel God. The pilgrimage has been very good for me.
  3. Boy 5
    1. I did not want to join the FNE because my impression was that they annoy people, sell bad apples, and did not obey others.
  4. Boy 6
    1. I would like to change and become a better person
    2. I like the Holy Stairs
    3. I appreciate all that Akela/Grey Wolf has done for us
  5. Boy 7
    1. I really appreciated the significance of walking the path that Jesus took before us
  6. Boy 8
    1. I really appreciated seeing the Jesus’ manger
    2. I felt really excited on seeing the Pope. I felt really good when he acknowledged me.
    3. My dream is to become an ordinary saint
  7. Boy 9
    1. All the holy placed has something that got me
  8. Boy 10
    1. My goal is to learn more about my faith and my Church
    2. I am getting a lot of valuable information
    3. Thank you all for making this possible
  9. Boy 11
    1. My goal for the pilgrimage is to fight off the sadness due to insulation
    2. I want to let people know that insulting people is insulting God. God takes the pain of those being insulted. If anyone insult others, they are insulting God and he feels the pain. The pilgrimage should help to heal
  10. Boy 12
    1. Before I became a Timber wolf, I thought going to church as torture. As a Timber wolf I am learning a lot more about church
    2. During the pilgrimage I feel blessed by the Pope
  11. Boy 13
    1. I lost my backpack. God is going me a chance to learn
    2. I used to blame on others. Now I am taking responsibility that I did not think enough
    3. Thank you Akela for opening up my eyes to the Catholic faith
    4. Jesus is so cool that he died and after three days he rose from the dead
  12. Boy 14
    1. Before coming to FNE, attending Mass meant nothing to me. Yesterday in Mass, I felt something changed. It meant something to me
    2. I hope and pray this feeling stays
  13. Boy 15
    1. I came on the pilgrimage because I wanted to become stronger
    2. Before I did not understand much about the church
    3. During this pilgrimage I am learning a lot
    4. I liked the adoration and I am amazed by St. Francis
    5. It is awesome

Map of trip Holy Stair and St. Mary Major Basilica:
Link to map of our travels on Thursday

Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day8 photos