Saturday, February 6, 2016


One of the unfinished projects of this blog has been to acknowledge people in my life. I want to get back to that. I think that I will add another category: places. I have already done this to some extent, writing about my hometown of Ashland City. I was thinking about it while I have been here with some young men visiting the Pontifical College Josephinum, my seminary alma mater. There are practically no people left from when I was here, with the exception of staff in the refectory and the library, which were always two of my favorite parts of the place anyhow. But there is a feel to the place that I still connect to.

It was unusual for me to have come to the Josephinum as a seminarian. I was exceptionally cantankerous as a prospective seminarian so much so that it is a wonder that I ever became an actual seminarian. There were some of the seminaries that the diocese sent seminarians to that I simply would not go to. I asked the diocese to consider three other seminaries, and they agreed to send me to the Josephinum, largely I suspect because we had a priest of the diocese finishing a term on the faculty: none other than then-Fr. David Choby.

Anyhow, up I came to Columbus in the fall of 1989. Don't get me wrong, the Josephinum of those days was no traditionalist stronghold. As a matter of fact the main chapel's wreckovation was just being completed, and we were obliged to play the Emperor's New Clothes as seminarians in talking about it openly. Here are side-by-side images of the chapel before and after:
The "after" shot is actually after a number of improvements had been made along the way: tabernacle and crucifix in the middle, statues at the sides. None of these were there initially. All this to say that I am not uncritically nostalgic in my memories of the Josephinum.

Nevertheless, I received many things for which I am very grateful from the Josephinum. The academic formation was excellent with the exception of canon law. Fr. Leonard Glavin did manage to get more than a bit of philosophy into my bones as well as my head. He would be proud to know that I can hold my own at cocktail parties! Particularly fine was the theology I learned at the feet of Fr. Francesco Turvasi and Fr. William Lynn. This intellectual formation has served me incredibly well during my priesthood. Although we complained about it a lot a the time, my pastoral formation both at the seminary and in the diocese in the summers was also excellent.

When it comes to human formation, I think that the program was pretty lacking: literally lacking. There just was not much to it. But there was an element of human formation in the place itself. The rector when I arrived at the Josephinum quipped that: "it wasn't home, but it was much." He was referring to the undeniable stateliness of the place. (That's the Josephinum in the picture above the previous post.) However, "home" is just what the Josephinum became. This unreconstructed Southerner surprisingly became quite at home in the land of Sherman, Sheridan, and Grant!

I think the "homeyness" of the Josephinum came from the fact that it was a home, initially an orphanage that turned into a seminary. In my days, there were still some of the "lifers" at the Josephinum: old men who had come as boys to enter high school seminary and then had stayed to be formed into professors and had served their entire priestly careers in the service of the Josephinum. They had wonderful German names. They were all old priests by my time. In fact, I served at a number of their funerals. (Go read about the history of the Josephinum to get the full story.) Anyhow, this meant that in the halls of the Josephinum, there were these old priests who lived there all the time. There was never a time that the Josephinum completely closed down. 

Although those days are now long past, the place still has something of that feel. I was treated well here humanly speaking, especially in my last year as my mother was dying and my ordination was moved up. On that very human level, both the seminary and the diocese treated me as a son. This includes the rector at the time, Msgr. Blase Cupich. It was a good lesson in human formation. Anyhow, I am always glad to come back to this place. It has been a while since I was here. I still feel at home.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Prayers for a trip

I ask your prayers for a trip with some young men to visit the seminary. These are not easy days for discerning the priesthood. Let it go at that. Supporting these young men and the ones already in the seminary is an important duty for a priest, as was pointed out on the retreat last week. So I am glad to be going. Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dry the tears

This is the name of an event of the Jubilee of Mercy scheduled in Rome. I am not sure what it will be in Rome, but the name a spurred my imagination for an event here. I think in conjunction with a time for Lenten confessions, I would like to gather resources and people to be able to respond to needs and hurts that people frequently carry silently within them. To let tears flow openly about grief; about addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.; about eating disorders; about same sex attraction; about divorce; about abortion; about abuse; about cutting; about gender dysphoria; about unfulfilled desire for marriage; about family dysfunction; about depression; about pregnancy; about just about anything touching the human heart and condition. And then to dry the tears. This would be to offer ways to hope and healing. This would be to express the Church's maternal concern for what troubles her children. This would be to acknowledge all of these conditions and more as ones that beset the children of God and that do not separate them from the body but unite them more intensely when united to the sufferings of Christ.

Knowing my organizational challenge, I ask you to pray that we do get this off the ground.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

little donkey

Oh blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the water-wheel! Always the same pace. Always the same circles. One day after another: everyday the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden. Carry this thought to your interior life.
The Way, 998

At the end of our retreat last week, the preacher made reference to this quotation from St. Josemaria about the donkey that turns the water wheel. It is pretty tedious work in itself, but see from the picture above how everything around the well springs to life by the plodding of the donkey, even though he does not experience it for himself. This is a good image for much of the struggle of the spiritual life as we all experience it.

It seems to me that this is also a good image of how the sacraments of vocation work, not only Holy Orders but maybe even more so Holy Matrimony. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, bring up and pour out life-giving graces in their fidelity to their vocations. The whole world depends on their fidelity. I made this point in my talk at the 3 to Stay Married evening. I had couples come up to tell me that they had never seen their marriages in this way: as necessary for the life of the world. I made much the same point to a priest about his vocation. His fidelity is necessary for the world to flourish. Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony are sacraments because they cause grace to come into the world. 

Whatever our vocation or state of life, we are like the little donkey going round and round, maybe even with blinders on in order to stay focused, who brings up the water by which the flowers bloom and the crops come to fruit. For the donkey it is just going round and round, again and again. But for the world, it is life!

Out at the retreat center in Texas where we were, there are donkeys in some of the fields with the cattle. They are there for another purpose: to protect the cattle from coyotes. Donkeys hate them and will kick them to death if they can get to them. Got to love the little donkeys!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Christian Family Prayer -- Pope Pius XII

O Sacred Family -- trinity of the earth, O Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, sublime models and tutors of Christian families -- we appeal to you not only to comfort ourselves with sweet contemplation of your lovely examples, but also to implore your protection and to promise fidelity to you on the path which you have pointed out for us.

Your peace, your unalterable serenity refresh our spirits struggling amid the anxieties of an increasingly complicated and difficult life. They show us eloquently that our hearts can find the rest and happiness to which they aspire so greatly only in a home adorned and enriched with the domestic virtues that you teach us.

But how can the tender plant of the family defend itself against the fire of unchecked passions and the treacherous tendencies toward rebellion that creep in almost everywhere?

How can it defend itself against the hurricane of daily life that seems to strive to upset everything?

How, if not:
by seeing to it ourselves that the roots of the family penetrate more deeply into the generous soil of Christian piety;
by imploring for it an abundant flow of divine grace, especially through common participation in the sacraments;
by animating it with a true spirit of faith that helps us overcome a materialistic concept of life;
by uniting all its parts with the strong bond of love that, were it not also supernatural, would pass away as all things of this world;
by strengthening in its own being through the firm intention of each one of us as we fulfill all our duties which the just order of the family imposes on us;
by supporting it in the bitterness of this earthly exile in which at times there is lacking an honest home or sufficient sustenance?

In the disorder of the ideas that often trouble souls, we strongly proclaim the holiness, the unity, and the divine mission of the Christian family, the cell of society and of the Church, and each one in his place -- parents and children -- we humbly but firmly pledge ourselves to do everything in our power so that these holy ideals may become a reality in the world.

Help us, O Joseph, mirror of the most admirable fatherhood in devoted care of the Savior and of the Virgin, faithfully following the divine inspirations.

Come to our aid, O Mary, most loving, most faithful and purest of all wives and mothers.

Help us, O Jesus who, in order to become a shining example for us in all things, willed to become the most submissive of all children.

May all three of you always be close to us, in happy hours and sorrowful, in our work and in our rest, in our anxieties and in our hopes, close to those who are born and close to those who die.

And may it be that all homes, made holy like yours, will be for all their members schools of virtue, shelters of holiness, on a safe road to that eternal happiness which we trustingly hope to gain through your intercession. Amen.

I found this prayer in my mother's Queen of Apostles Prayerbook from the Daughters of St. Paul. The prayerbook is still stuffed full of her holy cards and photographs. I prayed the prayer at the opening of the 3 to Stay Married event last night. Some of those attending asked for the text of the prayer so here it is!

I love the opening invocation of the Holy Family as the earthly trinity. At the retreat house where we were this past week, there is a lovely shrine to the Holy Family with this same invocation.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower

In San Antonio.

Not far from the interstate, in an ordinary Hispanic neighborhood rises a magnificent mission-styled basilica dedicated to the Little Flower. Like the neighborhood, it is a little worn around the edges but all the more appealing for that. I think that it dates from the years just after her canonization. It is a Carmelite parish. That is how I came to know about it. Fr. Neely, who had been in formation with the Carmelite friars before coming to the diocese, had been stationed there one summer. When we were passing through San Antonio on the way to the same retreat center a few years ago, he surprised me with a visit to the Shrine. I am glad that he did.

I returned the favor for Frs. Butler and Fye, and we made a visit there. I was deeply moved by our visit yesterday. In the first place, thanks to Fr. Paul Hostettler's direction, I have come to appreciate the Little Way so much more deeply. On this visit, I was inwardly aware of St. Therese's loving intercession. I was given love and confidence. I wanted to stay, to tell you the truth. It was a warm day in San Antonio yesterday. The church was standing open. There were people coming and going for prayer. There are all kinds of devotional and artistic details to instruct and to delight, as well as to lead into prayer.

Truth be told, I always find "re-entry" after a retreat a bit scary. I don't want the fruits of the retreat to be passing. The visit to this shrine gave me confidence to go on back into my ordinary life. Thank you, Little Flower!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


That's the word from my retreat so far: trust in God, of course, but trust in others as well. When I trust God and others, I can find peace. When I trust, I can find love. When I trust, I will suffer. When I trust, I am vulnerable. But when I trust, I can love and be loved. The first point of this retreat that I remember (I confess that I dozed the first night) is the amazing reality of creation: why there is anything at all. Only the love of God can account for this. And God's love is so trusting. It is so vulnerable and involves so much suffering, but there it is on the Cross. There is the answer and the peace we crave. God does not isolate Himself or impose Himself but rather offers Himself. The only way to accept the love of God is to follow Him in trust which leads us to trust others. In this way, the divine civilization of love can find expression in marriages, in families, and in friendships, but also in business, in politics, and in diplomacy. Getting back to the practicalities of my retreat, I am looking for resolutions that will help me to trust in the love of God. Pray for me.