Thursday, May 5, 2016

It's Heaven, stupid!

Sorry for the insulting word in the title of this post. A priest friend adapted a line from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign to the spiritual life. No wonder it has some rough edges! In the Clinton "war room" there was reputedly a banner that said: "It's the economy, stupid!" The motto was to keep the campaign focused, and it worked. My friend suggested reworking of the slogan for the spiritual life. Boy, do we need it now!

I was at dinner recently with some very wealthy, very successful people in an elegant home having a delicious dinner and interesting conversation. Yet even here, the "tears of things" literally entered in. The preacher in me came out, and I basically rehashed my homily from Sunday containing the wisdom of Sr. Catherine de Ricci: "offer it up, honey, offer it up." To lighten the mood, I recounted the story of the election banner transformed into a gaze at Heaven.

If there were tears even at that table on that evening, then there is no hope of joy or peace in this world. And that is just the point. It really is Heaven, beloved!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Veritas vos liberabit -- the Truth will set you free

This morning I had my "2016 moment" that Peggy Noonan has written about. I feel that I have lost my country. More likely, I have lost the image of my country that I tried to keep alive in my head and heart. I am beginning to realize that this country of my imagination has not existed for a long time in reality. I have no one to support for president. Although I have been a supporter of the party that my state's two federal senators, governor, and the overwhelming majority of the legislature belong to, I don't feel represented by them at all. I am about to lose my vote -- by action of a federal judge -- for the one thing that I did care about, the pro-life amendment to the state constitution, because I really did not care enough to vote in the governor's election.

It is even worse when confronted by the other party. My only consolation there is that this party seems hardly enthused by its apparent nominee for president who went down to defeat once again last night. I was recently with people whom I like and who are closely tied in with the radical mayor of this city. In conversation, they expressed dismay about unisex bathrooms and sex education in kindergarten, but where do they think this is coming from? And do they think that they will escape enforced conformity to this new orthodoxy?

And it's not just politics. It's everything, everywhere.

But then, but then...Ah, yes. I am free to live the truth. I am actually freer when I am not tied to things of this world. Being free of Vanderbilt, for example, has helped the mission of University Catholic. So I'll have to figure out how to live in the new situation, but I already feel lighter and truer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

serve the people!

The practical mastermind of the Rome Experience, the summer program for seminarians that I have been working with for a number of years, is Fr. James Socias. Fr. Socias is a priest of Opus Dei and a Catalan. He is also the mastermind of the Midwest Theological Forum, the publisher of blockbuster classics such as the Daily Roman Missal and The Handbook of Prayers, the best and most beautiful editions of altar missals, the excellent Didache catechetical series, arcane canonical books available nowhere else in English, and much more. These publishing ventures allow him to subsidize substantially things like the Rome Experience which could never pay for themselves.

Fr. Socias is a genius at organization. When talking with Fr. Socias, one feels that one is engaged in a conspiracy! He is challenging, warm, and friendly. He has a three-point plan for getting things done:
1) make the plans
2) meet the people
3) do the things.
Of these, #2 is most important and most neglected because it is the hardest. He is a master at it.

We are having a planning retreat for next school year later in the week, especially planning for Roman Rush, the outreach to students at the beginning of the school year. I will quote Fr. Socias once again to the students: meet the people!

Perhaps even better for what these student leaders are trying to do is: serve the people! (which necessarily involves meeting them!) What are these leaders trying to do? They are trying to form a communion of disciples of the Lord Jesus, the one who came not to be served but to serve. What better way than to imitate Him. This is Christian leadership, and it nurtures Christian communion.

Monday, May 2, 2016

How romantic...not!

Yesterday, I was walking into Benton Chapel to start setting up for the last 9 p.m. Mass of the semester. Of course, I forgot something in my car and had to go back down to the parking area. As I came back down, I was following a couple who seemed at first glance to be swept up in young love and spring time. The young man had what seemed to be almost a death grip on the girl's hand, which he was holding at an awkward angle. Oh well, love at this stage can be awkward. But then just about all the romance went out of the picture when I realized that he was also on the phone. I must confess to overhearing part of the conversation as our paths diverged. He was talking about his participation in the marathon on the person on the phone. I can understand why he had such a grip on the girl: to prevent her from escaping, which is what she should have been doing if she had any self-respect.

At about this time of year several years ago, I came across a young man on campus. He, too, was on the phone. As I passed, he took the phone down and asked for prayers. It seems that he was breaking up with his girlfriend, who was also a student at Vanderbilt. (Well, at least he was not texting the break up.) I said quickly: "not on the phone, you don't." And as I kept walking, I did manage to hear him ask where she was.

Since when is a celibate priest an expert on romance? But at least I know this much.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hey, it IS the Catholic Church!

Last night cleaning up after our University Catholic reunion dinner, Courtney Barnes, our director of campus ministry, and I had gone back down the hall of the giant Catholic Pastoral Center -- the former Two Rivers Baptist Church, across from Opryland, to put away the trail of balloons attached to potted palms which led to the chapel we had used for Mass. As we entered the vestibule of the largest auditorium (we were using only the second largest space for the dinner) which is essentially the church for Sagrado Corazon Hispanic community, I could see that Adoration was going on. And then we realized that there were people sleeping in the vestibule, I suppose, awaiting their time of adoration. And then turning the last corner to the smaller chapel where we had Mass and where the Coptic Catholics had just celebrated their Easter Vigil, lots of little Coptic children were running around happily. We decided on the spot to give them the balloons which, of course, delighted them!

Is this the Catholic Church, or what?

P.S. Our event went so well. Kathleen Cordell is simply amazing. She can throw a party, getting lots of people involved and watching a budget -- and all really fun.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

St. Pius V, pray for us!

The tomb of St. Pius V in St. Mary Major in Rome.

Reformer -- Victor at Lepanto -- Dominican

Thursday, April 28, 2016

et ego in Arcadia

On Sunday night after Mass, I was handing out the "Summer Spiritual Growth Kit" that I cobbled together a few years ago. It is basically a formula for a spiritual plan of life. In it, I advocate the "heroic moment," that is, getting out of bed right off the bat without snoozing, etc. I recommend a prayer of St. Francis de Sales to help with this difficult task: "Sleep is the image of death, and rising that of the Resurrection." I was joking with some of the girls after Mass who found this reference to death a bit austere. I looked at one of those happy faces and said: "you are going to die -- and so am I!" It was all in good humor and true.

And then, it happened. Death came into the Vanderbilt community, not once but twice in a week, in this girl's very class. The cause of death was not specified, but the students all seem to assume a particular cause. Death is very close and for the very vulnerable might seem to be a friend, like sleep. To speak of death is offensive to some, but not to speak of death is deadly for all.

Death is not an answer. If you are tempted to think that death is an answer, as is so common in our society from abortion, to euthanasia, to suicide, to war, to capital punishment, to revenge, then you are on the wrong track. Remember this: death is not an answer. Yes, death will come. We need to be ready whenever that is. But never choose it. Even in the case of a hero's death, death is not the choice but rather life for those served or saved. Choose life always.