Autumn in Ourselves


maple-in-autumn-1920x1080-wallpaper-3470-1024x576This year especially, I have found the autumn season beautiful.  The weather has been crisp and clean, and the colors of the trees have been exceptionally bright in my mind.  My German class took a trip a couple of weeks ago to a park here in downtown Indianapolis, and while there we walked a short way on a path through a woods that surrounds a water reservoir.  We stopped at a point on a hill to eat some traditional German cookies and cakes, and I could not help but gaze at the scene that unfolded around me.  I have also taken particular notice of the bright red leaves of the trees on campus and the beauty of contrast in the still-green trees with the fiery orange and soft yellows on the neighboring trees.

I think this increased sensation of beauty this year has also added to the sense of sorrow when I see that trees are beginning to become completely bare.  Leaves fall in the wind to the ground, almost as if they are foreshadowing the snow that will most likely be falling within a month.  And with that snow comes the lack of beauty in the dead-looking trees, with their hard, grey, angular branches bared for the whole world to see because they lack the cover of their leaves.  It is almost disheartening to see them in this unsightly phase of their cycle.

After reflecting on this aspect of the month of autumn, I began to reflect on its relevance to every day life.  And how relevant it is.

What do we fear in life? We fear vulnerability.  We fear weakness.  We fear death.  We fear being known to the fullest sense by everyone.  We fear having ourselves bared for the world to see, much like the winter tree bares its true form without the cover of leaves.  So we put up greenery around ourselves so as to keep this from being seen.  We blend in with the rest of humanity so that we will not be pointed at by people who wonder what made us vulnerable, weak, dead.  These secrets are ours and ours alone, ones that we can deal with if we keep them covered up so that everyone, including ourselves, can ignore that they are there.

But they are there.  So how do we deal with it? How do we accept these shortcomings? How do we view our self-observed ugliness?  By going through autumn in our own selves.  As we begin to break the barriers around our person, our fears begin to die and fall away.  And what a beautiful process this is.  We transform ourselves through this into unique, colorful, awesome creations.  As our fears fall away like leaves, we grow comfortable with the fact that others will see us for who we are, no matter how bared we are.  And once we have found ourselves, once we have discovered our true form underneath all of the cover, we can become transformed again.  Remember when I said that the leaves falling foreshadow the coming of snow in reality?  The shedding of our fearful, leafy barriers precede the falling of the grace and love of God, which gently falls and lands on our frail and bared selves.  Thus, we are cloaked with the whiteness that comes from Christ’s salvation, a creation that all of creation takes a moment and stares at in awe.


This makes everything sound all sweet and easy, which I know from experience is not in any way true.  But it is an endpoint that we must strive to achieve, even if it is one that we may struggle to reach.  We must go through this process of self knowledge so as to fully accept God’s love for us.  It is a challenge and a promise, a promise to realize how lovable we really are in the eyes of our eternal Creator; lovable not for keeping our outer selves looking like we have it together, but because we accept the truth of who we are.

” I love autumn, the one season of the year that God seems to have put there just for the beauty of it.”  –Lee Maynard

Our Lady of Sorrows

     Being co-music director for the seminary this year, one of my responsibilities is to put together the cantoring schedule for mass.  I will be quite honest, I made sure I manipulated the schedule so that I would have today, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, because I have a personal devotion to her.  To my disappointment, I realized later that September 15th fell on a Sunday this year, and therefore the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time overruled.  That doesn’t stop me from praying to her today!

     The devotion to the Dolores, or sorrows, of Mary is a relatively new practice for the Catholic Church as a whole.  As the patroness of the Servite Order, her devotion did not begin until the 12th century, and even then it was more of a regional devotion.  It was not until 1814 when Pope Pius VII made September 15th the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows for the Roman Catholic Church, the day after the Exultation of the Holy Cross.  

     The main part of the devotion focuses on either the suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary specifically during the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ or on the specific sorrows experienced throughout her life.  Traditionally, these seven sorrows are as follows:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against.  And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts of our many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

2. The Flight into Egypt: “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt. (Matthew 2: 13-14)

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.” (Luke 2:43-45)

4. Mary meets Jesus on His way to Calvary: no scriptural reference, but it is the fourth Station of the Cross

5. Jesus Dies on the Cross: “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)

6. The Piercing of the Side of Jesus and Mary Receiving the Body of Her Son: I could not find any scriptural reference to Mary specifically receiving the Body of Christ, but upon researching, I did come across this article that describes visions given to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich that speak of how moving this scene is. (It also has an article on each of the seven sorrows that I will be reading soon!)

7. The Burial of Jesus: “They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.  So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:40-42)

***All verses come from the Revised Standard Version- Catholic Edition Bible***

     My devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows began last year when I chose to give a presentation on this devotion for my theology class.  After learning more about it, I became intrigued for multiple reasons.  First, being close to both my parents and hearing many times from Mom how much she feels sorrow whenever we are struggling or hurt, I was able to relate in a very slight way to the motherly feelings Mary had for Jesus, and I can only guess as to how much more she must have experienced.  

     Secondly, what strength Mary showed in her sorrow!  No matter how strong of a woman I know my mom is, she would never be able to take a fraction of the suffering that Our Mother took seeing her Son tortured and mocked and killed.  Because of this, we can look at Mary as a model for when we struggle in our smallest day-to-day struggles.  If Mary, who was a mere human like me, was able to show such strength and hope in experiencing this much suffering, I surely can deal with this small struggle that I am going through.

     Finally, as Mary is the Mother of all humanity, she feels sorrow for all of our struggles as well.  When I crash my bike, when I get in an emotional argument with someone, when a loved one dies, Mary feels sorrow for us much like she did for the Fruit of Her Womb, Christ.  She sits beside us as we pray, holding us close to her and praying fervently to her Son, who cannot deny the tears of His Mother.  How wonderful an image it is that when we invoke the intercession of Mary, it is as if she is sitting by us praying with us like a close friend or relative would.

     The traditional Catholic Hymn “Stabat Mater,” which is sung inbetween Stations of the Cross, is the hymn that I leave you with today.  Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for us!

At the cross her station keeping, 
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last. 

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, 
All His bitter anguish bearing, 
Now at length the sword had pass’d. 

Oh, how sad and sore distress’d 
Was that Mother highly blest 
Of the sole-begotten One! 

Christ above in torment hangs; 
She beneath beholds the pangs 
Of her dying glorious Son. 

Is there one who would not weep, 
Whelm’d in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold? 

Can the human heart refrain 
From partaking in her pain, 
In that Mother’s pain untold? 

Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d, 
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent. 

For the sins of His own nation, 
Saw Him hang in desolation, 
Till His spirit forth He sent. 

O thou Mother! fount of love! 
Touch my spirit from above; 
Make my heart with thine accord. 

Make me feel as thou hast felt; 
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord. 

Holy Mother! pierce me through; 
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified. 

Let me share with thee His pain, 
Who for all my sins was slain, 
Who for me in torments died. 

Let me mingle tears with thee, 
Mourning Him who mourn’d for me, 
All the days that I may live. 

By the cross with thee to stay, 
There with thee to weep and pray, 
Is all I ask of thee to give. 

Virgin of all virgins best, 
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine. 

Let me, to my latest breath, 
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine. 

Wounded with His every wound, 
Steep my soul till it hath swoon’d 
In His very blood away. 

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh, 
Lest in flames I burn and die, 
In His awful Judgment day. 

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence, 
Be Thy cross my victory. 

While my body here decays, 
May my soul Thy goodness praise, 
Safe in Paradise with Thee.


John Hess

I also would like to briefly write an update on a prayer request that I asked on my first blog post about my grandpa.  On July 19th, my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, and due to grandpa’s slowly declining health, the family had decided months before to hold a get together of all of my grandparents’ siblings and relatives for a mass of thanksgiving followed by a lunch get together.  It would also celebrate my grandpa’s 89th birthday, which would have been on the 24th, that Monday.

Unfortunately, that Sunday, the day of the mass, my family was sitting in the living room almost ready to leave for mass when my mom took a call from my uncle saying that grandpa had been taken by squad to the emergency room.  Mom and Dad went to the hospital while I drove the rest of us kids to church with the intention of celebrating mass whether grandpa was able to be present or not.  When I parked my car, though, we received a phone call saying that, due to his heart giving out while getting ready for mass, grandpa died on his marriage bed and there was not much that the paramedics could do.  Always a character in life, grandpa really knew when and how to make an exit 🙂  At the mass that Sunday, Father James Dugal put it perfectly when he stated that John had received an invitation to his anniversary and birthday party; however, he had received a higher, better invitation, an invitation to join Christ.

I leave you with the Latin hymn “In Paradisum,” which is a beautiful hymn used traditionally as the body of the deceased processes out of the church towards its final resting place.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.
May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest

Update of school year 2013

After months of sitting stagnant here on the interwebs, I finally decided that it was time to update this blog on the going ons in life.  And this should be the beginning of a trend of more posts (well…here’s to hoping with my schedule!)

It has been exactly a month today since I moved back into Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary here in Indianapolis.  That Saturday, a good friend and I went to the Drum Corps International finals at Lucas Oil Field (for those of you who don’t know, it’s basically professional marching band).  Wow! I couldn’t believe the sound that some of those groups could pump out of mere pieces of metal! I then enjoyed a few days of settling in before the majority of people moved in on the 15th (all 43 of us!).  One thing that I have noticed this year already is the fact that I’ve transitioned much easier into the swing of things, and I have gotten to know some of the new seminarians much quicker than last year.  They are an interesting and fun group of guys that I look forward to spending possibly three more years with here!

The castle itself received an update with the addition of a new dining room and a new living hall.  The dining room, named after Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, who was the archbishop of Indianapolis during the founding of the seminary here.  It is MUCH larger than our former dining room with a new stone fireplace, new chairs, tables, sofas, and a nice breakfast area.  The new St. Bonaventure hall consists of a new larger laundry room, bathroom, two priest apartments, and ten double rooms for seminarians.  As far as my room goes, it isn’t quite as grand.  As i look at it right now, I can approximate it to be about an eight foot square: just enough room for a bed, desk, wardrobe, and bookshelf.  It also isn’t air conditioned, which has affected my sleeping and allergies due to the heat and humidity.  The second floor view though does provide a nice view of some of the grounds here, and (when it is clean) is a very cozy atmosphere.

Classes started on the 19th, and boy can I tell a difference in difficulty this year… My Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays consist of an Environmental science class that unfortunately is not very informative as of yet, Humanities (which requires learning of the history of art, music and literature such as The Iliad or Beowolf among many many others–lots of reading), and Oral Communications in German (for my minor, which has a lot of homework).  Then comes my overload of philosophy on Tuesdays and Thursdays: Augustine and Aquinas (which is basically a review of medieval philosophy) and Metaphysics (the study of being: what does it mean to exist? what is real? etc).  Needless to say, these provide plenty of challenging information that I  still have not quite wrapped my mind about….

Other than that, things go on as they always do.  As this academic year unfolds, I keep each and every one of you in my thoughts and prayers.


I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till traveling days are done.

—“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Family is Not Necessarily Biological


When I first entered seminary last fall, there was one thing that I could not stand, one thing that started getting on my very last nerves.  One phrase that was repeated over and over again.  It went further than any caribou, Alka-Seltzer, Cincinnati and K-Mart, or 296 comment that Justin and Adam tortured me with (and still do).

“Seminarian Brothers.”    “Diocesan Brothers.”

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love the role of older brother I have in my life.  I love talking to Shannon about some new song I heard on the radio and end up practically singing it word for word to her.  I love being able to compete with Justin for almost everything.  I love being able to tickle Adam and hear his giggle.  I love picking them up from a school event just to spend a little time with them.  I love being there to cheer them on and experience their successes.  Towards the end of high school, particularly when I gained a leadership role as field commander in band, I grew further in this role of older brother by being both the leader and the person that everyone felt comfortable talking to.  To cheer them on and support them in their struggles.  To stay up late nights texting or talking to them.  So I guess you could say that I would be used to the idea by now.

But the term “brother” thrown around what seemed like haphazardly, on the verge of carelessly, seemed out of place.  Wrong.  It didn’t feel right to walk into a new way of life with people I had never met before and instantly feel comfortable calling them family.  Family was important, sacred, to me, and that wasn’t something that I was willing to change, even if it was merely by acknowledging that the term brother could relate outside of family.

Things began to change towards the end of my first semester when I finally considered the idea of brotherhood as something possible for those not named Adam and Justin Hess.  It began to dawn on me that, on this discernment journey, there were difficulties that I was not going to be able to deal with on my own.  And there were people who cared for me that I could go to, much like many came to me in my high school years.  I began to have my own older brother for the first time in my life, someone who I felt comfortable going to, even if i didn’t reveal every deep and dark secret.

You see, I realize now that calling others “brother” is not a defilement of my personal, selfish definition of family.  My family is still there, loving and supporting and annoying me.  But my definition of family only included biological family, when as Christians we should rather be defining family as each and every one of our neighbors.  We should be there to help and support all those in need.  We are all part of the Body of Christ, giving aid to those crosses others carry while also accepting aid for our own crosses.

I found the end of the year difficult to come to grips with at times.  As excited as I was to see my biological family, I came to realize that I was saying goodbye to some of my dearest family members for an extended period of time with little or no contact.  I wouldn’t be able to go down the hall to pick on a red head.  I wouldn’t be able to go across the building to see what is going on in the Pope or Brute rooms.  I wouldn’t be able to make fun of how Kentucky people talk.  I wouldn’t be able to “study” and instead talk in the Chapter Room late into the next morning.  I wouldn’t be able to go up the stairs and just around the corner to throw a tennis ball at a wall while we talk about everything and anything.

I understand why people were so quick to use the term brother now.  They understood the need for this type of family before I did.  They realized the similar journey we are all on towards the Roman Catholic Priesthood and how difficult of a road it can be at times.  And they realized it a lot quicker than I did.

Thank you to each and every one of the seminarians I have been blessed to journey with this year; you have become more than what I could have ever hoped for:





“I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return”

———“For Good” from the musical Wicked