Saturday, October 3, 2015

I will help you

This is what we need to say and then do.

I heard this at the first Rachel's Vineyard retreat that I attended. One of the women in giving her testimony was asked if anything could have reached her as she entered the abortion facility. She said that only thing that she could have heard then and wished she had heard was: "I will help you." That's it.

Can we do this? Can we offer to help?

Can we put aside every agenda we have in order simply to offer help? Can we make the other person our agenda? It makes us terribly vulnerable. What if I cannot meet the need? We don't have to. We have to try, and we have to care. And this is not just about abortion. Far from it. "Can I help you?" is a common expression, used even in commercial settings. It's what store clerks often say. But can't we break it out and really mean it? How often do we see distress in faces? Why not say, "I will help you"?

I have the advantage of hearing confessions, and so I hear a lot of things. Every priest does. And I can't really help in that setting in the practical sense of the word. And yet how often the penitent will say, "Father, you have helped me''? -- and that's before absolution, which is the real help. What have I done? I have listened, and I have responded in gentleness and truth. That's it.

I know what I am saying is true to some extent because it is what I want. For some strange reason, this week has been a very difficult week for me. What I have wanted more than anything is someone to care. Not to fix "it" -- I don't even know what "it" is. I received that gift yesterday, just briefly, as I was trying to give the same gift.

I have a wonderful parishioner who will take the time to listen and to care about some of the people who come by the church for help. Right on the spot, it's hard to make a good judgment, and she let's me refer people to her. Often she does not help in the way that they ask, but I am sure that there is no one who takes more time for them or gives them more real attention. That's true help.

I am kind of bored of policy and policies, of programs and campaigns. Let's just help.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fr. Michael Fye, STL

Just wanted to share the good news that Fr. Michael Fye passed his exams at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the alma mater of St. John Paul II), aka the Angelicum. He is now a master of moral theology. It's official: he is more of a theologian than I will ever be!

Now, Fr. Fye -- get home and get to work!

Back to communio(n)

Good timing on the part of the lectionary! Go see what the Church has in store for those of us of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite this Sunday! And it's the opening day of the Synod. I hope that the Fathers are listening!

More pertinent to my world, this weekend is Nashville Awakening XVII! Although marriage is never a bad topic to preach to those rapidly approaching vocational decisions themselves, I think that I might go bigger at the closing Mass this weekend for Awakening: marriage as the ultimate natural form of communion that God has placed in His creation. Marriage is the communion that is an image of Himself as the Holy Trinity and the sign of the communion He desire with us. You see, one of the powerful affects of Awakening is an awakening to the communion of the Church, which sadly most young Catholics have never really experienced or only rarely. Their whole world is set up against communion, in favor of infinite variations of individualism. The contemporary debates on marriage and gender show have far this can go. Specifically this weekend the Lord tells us that we are not made for the alienation and individual expression of divorce but for the communion of marriage: marriage, which itself is the sacrament of the communion between Christ and His Church.

You go, Holy Mother Church!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I just have to...

because it's my school:

This silly video is about the rivalry between McCallie, my alma mater, and Baylor School, both in Chattanooga. The video was picked up by USA Today and some sports outlets so that is has gone mildly viral.

Ever wondered why this blog is so blue?

Roaming Catholics

At St. Mary's we have experienced a sudden influx of families from another parish. Of course, just about everyone at St. Mary's lives in another parish. The recent wave simply happened in a more concentrated way. We are a tiny parish geographically, with a small population of residents. I guess you could say that we are a "destination" parish, like it or not.

I realize that I have intentionally set out to make St. Mary's distinctive: you have read of my desire for St. Mary's to be a real Vatican II parish! Yet there are also too many parishes in the urban core of Nashville, in relation to the people that the diocese needs to serve. I can easily walk to more parishes from St. Mary's than there are in Rutherford, Montgomery, and Wilson Counties combined, with their already large and rapidly growing populations, not to mention sprawling geographic areas. I have perhaps done a disservice by trying to revive St. Mary's as a parish. Maybe it would be better for it to be a sort of shrine or chapel of ease, where Mass is offered and not much else. This was once the case for St. Mary's, many years ago. My other assignment, University Catholic, has such a limited mandate: as a chaplaincy to university students in Nashville, not as a (quasi)parish. But people come to St. Mary's, with children and all; and we are canonically a parish. What am I supposed to do? Tell them to go away? So we try to serve them as best we can.

The phenomenon of roaming Catholics is bigger than St. Mary's. It's really not the way things are supposed to be, but that's true of a lot of things in the Church these days. If someone higher up wants to take on the causes of the situation, I will cooperate. In the mean time, I will gladly try to serve the people who come in the door.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

We'll see...

Now that the Pope is back in Rome and I have been looking back on his visit to the United States, I would say that I am relieved and perplexed a bit. Relieved in that the Holy Father seemed to stay "on script" more during his visit here than he usually does. His press office doesn't seem to be explaining all kinds of things this time. Perplexed because he was so cautious about mentioning abortion, same-sex marriage, or really anything having to do with sexual morality, all of which I consider to be huge issues in our country. Those topics did come up but, shall we say, on the peripheries.

I have also been struck by comments from a number of more progressive people, either secular or within the Church, who have said that Pope Francis has made them reassess their views on a number of issues, even religion itself. Maybe the Holy Father is trying to influence those who agree with his positions on climate or immigration to reconsider their positions on marriage and abortion simply by the coherence and non-political rationale for his views. I know that this approach worked in the other direction with me. I was heartily in agreement with then-Popes John Paul and Benedict on issues of abortion and sexual morality, but they brought me around to agreeing with them on the death penalty and war. I am now firmly opposed to the death penalty and am very cautious about calls for armed conflict to solve international problems. I didn't use to be, and I was led indirectly to these conclusions by seeing how they fit with the positions I did agree with. Well, we'll see; and we can hope!

Now, pray for the Synod!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Holy Grandfather

After a day that had really worn me out, although I have certainly had longer ones, I watched some football and some Holy Father! I just loved the evening event with families in Philadelphia. It is hard to understand why in some ways. Its basic format was so boring, from a media point of view (except for the amazing music and the crazy light displays on the art museum in the background). But that's just it: it was not a media event. It was not so much a gathering of families but a family gathering with the Pope almost in a grandfatherly role. Families spoke to the Holy Father of their situations. He greeted them, even coming down to the older ones. Then it was his turn. He spoke mainly in platitudes, to be honest. Don't go looking for theology in that talk. But platitudes that are true. Hey, that's why they are platitudes! He spoke them like he believed them and like he enjoyed sharing them with his big family. It was the way he said them, with love and joy, that was so moving for me. It was lovely. Literally lovely because that is what it all came down to: the family as God's image of Himself as love to be seen in the world. This is what only families can be and what they must be. Everybody was eating it up. I was eating it up.

I mentioned to Fr. Fye, who was watching with me and was even more moved than I was, that the event reminded me of videos I had seen of another Father figure at such boring gatherings: St. Josemaria. During the event, the Pope consistently referred to himself as "father." There is joy and security when there is a father to listen to us and to guide us.