Tuesday, May 24, 2016

setting out

I am leaving on the Rome Experience again. I am not really sure how much posting I will be doing. I will be with the seminarians in Ars, the village of St. John Vianney, for their retreat for the first week. I am looking forward to this time and the experience of spiritual direction. Then it will be off to Rome for a week before I return to Nashville while the seminarians continue for the rest of the program, including a few days in Spain on the way back.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tu es sacerdos in aeternam

My sister, who is stationed in Birmingham, was telling me about where Bishop Foley, the retired Bishop of Birmingham, celebrated Mass on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He celebrated Mass in a federal prison and confirmed 30 women, awaiting deportation to their home countries in Latin America. Isn't that awesome and Providential? Even though these women are caught up in a geo-political battle that pretty much ignores them as people, this bishop of the Church comes to them with the bread of life and the sacramental seal of Confirmation. Who says that the Church does not care? And in this country from which they are about to be expelled, they are receiving a sacrament that they had not received in their home countries but which they we will carry with them all the way to their true home in Heaven! Omnia in bonum. And many, many happy years to Bishop Foley!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Oh no!

"McCallie dispatches St. Benedict"

This headline about my high school doing violence to the father of western monastism really worried me. Then I realized it was about a baseball game... Go Blue!

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Everything is grace, so said St. Therese of Lisieux. Some theologians would quibble with this Doctor of the Church, but she has it right. Everything that I am is given to me. Tonight I was at Oratory at St. Mary's, and we were reflecting on a meditation by St. Francis de Sales in which he asks: where were you before God called you out of nothingness? The truth of "giveness" gives the lie to the universal contemporary idea that I make myself what I choose to be. This idea is nothing but superstition. There is no empirical basis for it. What shred of evidence is there that I have anything at all to do with my being? There is no evidence. All the evidence points to the fact that I have nothing to do with my being. I cannot answer St. Francis de Sales question. I receive my being as a gift, and I do not even have to know the source of the gift. If I am sane, I accept the gift as it is given. But if I am not in reality, I pretend that I have control over my being and determine it as I feel. The response to a gift is to accept it. Yet we live in a world in which there is no gift and no mystery. I and all that I have is mine, and I do with it as I will. This attitude underlies just about all our political and social discourse. You hear it about abortion and gender theory but also about taxes and laws.

It's all grace, even me.


I am literally moved to tears as I write about the newly named Bishop of Tulsa, Fr. David Konderla. You see, up to now he has been the chaplain at St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M. As a college chaplain myself, I tell people that if I am good and say my prayers, when I die I will go to College Station! He will be a fantastic bishop -- just the sort of bishop that the Church needs. I came to know Fr. David in my first year at Vanderbilt. I inherited a chaplaincy in shambles, and I knew nothing of working with college students. In my first months, I arranged to visit College Station. I still remember a warm November afternoon sitting in the courtyard of St. Mary's and being completely overwhelmed. They had everything at A&M: staff, buildings, programs, and spirit! Whoop! Texas A&M is practically a religion itself, and when you add the intense Catholicism presented so boldly and attractively at St. Mary's, then you really have something to reckon with. Go look at the numbers for yourself: vocations, etc. I wanted something of this so badly for Vanderbilt, but I really didn't know where to begin.

I picked the Awakening retreat as the place to begin. I think that it has turned out to be a good choice for us. But even that one thing was going to be an uphill climb. I came back to College Station over spring break for Aggie Awakening 79 with about ten students and Mike LaLonde, my biggest helper and cheerleader at the time. I came back for the next Awakening over the summer with another group of students. I loved it, but there was no way we could do it even with our students being all in. We were only able to pull off our first Awakening because Fr. David sent, at St. Mary's expense (that's something else St. Mary's has: money!), a whole bus load of Aggie Catholics to help with the retreat. Why did he do it? What were we to him? He was a brother priest to me in a way that I have rarely experienced.

He is the quiet eye of the hurricane that is St. Mary's. He is prayerful and mature. He is the father of the place. His staff and students love him. I do too! I am not even sorry for St. Mary's. They have had such great leadership that they even manage the risky task of succession. Fr. David succeeded Fr. Mike Sis, now the Bishop of San Angelo. I have no doubt that a worthy successor with be found for him. They reproduce greatness at A&M! Oh, and congratulations to Tulsa!

Friday, May 13, 2016

why do the heathen rage?

When I was growing up and Nashville had two newspapers, there was always an ad in the Saturday afternoon Banner with the big headline: Why do the heathen rage? The rest of the ad was dense and tiny text that I never bothered to read, but I remember the consistency of that ad and its probing question.

Why do the heathen rage? That is the question that I am asking myself today as the president has tried to impose radical gender theory on the public schools of this country by edict. Let's pray that he fails. Even the existence of such as an edict is outrageous for many reasons. Take your pick. But the biggest question that I have is: why? What will be gained from destroying the traditional understanding of gender? Once the distinctiveness and complementarity of gender are eliminated, what has been gained? Much will have been lost. Why are the heathen raging for this destruction and chaos? For the sake of destruction and chaos, as far as I can tell.

The question from the old ad is actually a quotation from the second psalm in the King James Version. Here is the psalm in its entirety:
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's a decade

Congratulations to the graduates today! Ten school years, and ten graduations. That's how long I've been a university chaplain. It is the hardest thing that I have ever done. I won't go into the whys of that -- many are of my own doing. But "all is for good": omnia in bonum.

We finished today with a baccalaureate Mass and lunch following. It was delightful. It is so possible to pass on the faith in a lively and attractive way. But it does take hard work. It takes confidence and perseverance. It requires going deep. It depends on grace. The most exciting thing is seeing the love of Jesus come to life in these young people in generosity and sacrifice. There is so much joy and so much hope in them. Who knows what the fruits will be?

There are so many people to thank. It is a big team effort!

Finally, I would do a lot of things differently now that I know better. I would not have been so uptight so much. And I wish that the relationship with the diocese had been better. In any case, it's a wrap on ten years!