Sunday, September 29, 2019

Focus

I admit that one of my perennial struggles is staying focused. When I went to the Josephinum about three years ago now, one thing I resolved to do was to stay focused on my job at the seminary and not to get involved in anything else. Over the years in university work, I had become too involved in too many things in Nashville. It was a good decision, for me and for my role in the seminary. It was good that I was there at the seminary so much of the time. There was a pastor in Columbus who was used to having weekend help in his parish from the Josephinum priest faculty, and he would hardly take no for an answer. I did help out in parishes occasionally, but not as a regular commitment. After I had been in Columbus for more than a year, I did agree to the radio program I still collaborate on, but it was a clearly defined commitment that really could not grow. It turned out to be a good decision.

Now that I am back in the diocese, I find myself pulled back into many things. I am going to have to manage this better. Already, I have resolved only to celebrate marriages at St. Rose. I had a few weddings on the books from my university chaplain days when I got here, but I am not taking any more. There are also apostolates that I have been a part of that I am going to have to limit and/or pull back from. St. Rose is just too big and complicated, at least for now, for me to split my attention too much. Right now, I am very behind on ordinary things like emails, phone calls, and appointments. That is not right.

I am just returning from a visit to the Josephinum, my first since I left, to preside and preach at the Alumni Day Mass. I am glad that I did it, but I can't be doing that sort of thing much either. As soon as I got back, I had an obligation to one of the apostolates I was referring to above. The combination was too much, both for me and for my responsibilities in the parish. OK -- I am back in the parish for a full Sunday schedule plus a newcomers meet and greet for lunch and the San Miguel procession and festival for the Guatemalan community. See what I mean? Here goes!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

the bread of life

During this part of the Easter season, the Gospel at daily Mass is from John 6, the Bread of Life Discourse, and the first readings continue from the Acts of the Apostles. I see a common theme of dependence. I must rely on Jesus the way I rely on food: of necessity and without question. The early Christians did exactly this. Illusions of self-reliance are no more than illusions. And, speaking for myself, these illusions are the root of so much of my sinfulness. You see, the problem is always pride.

I am glad that right now I feel really stretched. I have more to do than I am able to do. Without negating the need to be more productive, what I really need is to be more dependent on Jesus for everything, especially the interior things like resilience, patience, and kindness.

Just who do I think that I am?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

pastor of a big parish

I used to joke that the best thing about a small parish is that everything is personal and that the worst thing about a small parish is that everything is personal. It is certainly a shift to being a pastor of a big parish where very little is personal and probably shouldn't be. I think that it is an invitation to become more personal with Jesus Christ. That is the experience I have found here at St. Rose. I find that I am connected to many, many people by being connected to Jesus. Back in the day, it was the practice in this diocese for a new priest to have a good bit of experience in a big parish or parishes and then to be pastor in a smaller one (or ones). A new priest needs to learn detachment. I think that this is one of the most important lessons for a priest to learn. (I don't think that I had learned it sufficiently before I was made a pastor.) On the other hand, a priest, new or otherwise, never needs to be bureaucratic, and that is what some big parishes and their pastors are like. New priests can then take these bureaucratic ways into small parishes where the result is alienation. That is why a personal relationship with Jesus is so important for balance. With each new assignment, the one thing that I have definitely grown in is healthy detachment. It has taken a long time to get where I am! Healthy detachment balanced with generous pastoral engagement should be goals of formation and mentorship for seminarians and young priests.

Monday, April 29, 2019

dependence

Here is my declaration of dependence. Like the Declaration of Independence, it is largely aspirational -- that is, I am not actually living this fully yet. It does, however, state my intention to be totally dependent on Jesus.

Any illusion of autonomy or control over my life is exactly that: an illusion. I am totally dependent on God for everything, and I am dependent on other people, past and present, for practically everything as well. The more that I can accept this blessed state dependence, the more I will live in reality and will escape the frustrations of unrealistic expectations of autonomy and control.

I am a creature of God by nature and a son of God by adoption. As both a creature and a son of God, I am free, and my freedom is fulfilled when I accept it to live out my dignity as a creature and a son. When I misuse it to live apart from my identity as a creature and a son, then I am enslaved by selfishness and sin. I am also oppressed by anxiety.

God does not want me to be an anxious slave but a free son. I want this as well. In every aspect of my life I choose to surrender to Him. I am very far from this surrender, so far, in fact, that I don't even realize what I am saying in regard to many areas of my life. I will take it as it comes. I do see quite a number of areas to work on now. That is enough.

God will do this in me, if I will let Him. The most important step is prayer, coming to the Father through the Son. I need to identify myself with Jesus: through Him, with Him, in Him. I begin.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

reasons to be Catholic

Yesterday, our Murfreesboro daily paper had a front page article with the headline: "Please give me a reason to be Catholic." It is the same article that has run in other papers of the chain that owns the paper here, including the Nashville daily paper. Since I had seen it already in that paper, it did not register with me very much.  A parishioner mentioned it to me before Mass last night and so I gave it a second thought.

Truth be told, there are lots of important and obvious reasons to be Catholic. There is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. There is the certitude of God's mercy in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. There is Truth itself. Those are all great reasons to be Catholic. I think what the headline ought to be is: "Please give me a feeling to be Catholic." I am not trying to minimize the point of the article. Although reasons to be Catholic are not lacking, feelings certainly are. How can something based on so many good reasons fail to produce good feelings? It is a reasonable question.

There is a disconnect between the truths of the Catholic faith and its practice. Of course, this is always the case to some extent, human nature being what it is. But if the disconnect is intentional, then we have hypocrisy. And if it is unchallenged and unreformed, then we have corruption. If it is both intentional and unreformed, then Heaven help us!

For me, this situation is a big part of the darkness that I have been talking about in other recent posts. I think that I am finding a way, but it is not a way that feels good superficially. It is a way that is bringing me more and more into total dependence on Jesus Christ. I come to Him through the channels of grace that He entrusted to the Church, but I am not so much interested in them as in Him. They are still working, and I don't know any other way. See above.

Yesterday, I said something that was perhaps beyond what I should have said. I encouraged the children preparing for first Holy Communion to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue. The reason I used was that this form of receiving Holy Communion demonstrates physically our dependence on Him. It is like a small child learning to eat solid food being fed by his mother. Or to use another image of the Church, it is like a pelican feeding her young by piercing her own breast.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

lightening up

The lightning of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, has appeared. Let's follow that light! (That image of Jesus as lightning is from the Exsultet.)

Yesterday was a really fun day in the Magic City of Birmingham, Alabama. I came down to visit my sister. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. We made a pilgrimage on foot to the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon at St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church, with a few stops on the way. I also had a picnic with the sisters (my sister is a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia). Very pleasant Easter Monday!

Now back to Middle Tennessee.

Focus

I admit that one of my perennial struggles is staying focused. When I went to the Josephinum about three years ago now, one thing I resolved...

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