Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Here is the answer!

From the readings for today:

"Brothers and sisters, be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Human formation "issue"

I need to address an "issue" at University Catholic that falls under our pillar of human formation.  Actually, it is not an issue.  It is a problem.  We are taking the Frassati House for granted and taking the goodness of other people for granted.

By virtue of the fact that I wake up really early, I am usually the first person at the Frassati House in the morning.  I am also there pretty late as well.  I see things that I do not like to see way too frequently.  Last night, for example, after coming back from a fantastic event that Belmont Catholic had sponsored, I found the kitchen in pretty bad shape.  I also found Caroline cleaning it up.  She was doing this out of the goodness of her heart, but I am sure that cleaning the kitchen of Frassati House was not in her job description when I hired her as director of campus ministry.  The reason that the kitchen needed to be cleaned up was that we had offered wonderful left overs for supper after Mass last night.  (I hope that it can become a tradition, but it won't if there is not better cooperation.)  Many people had partaken of this offer but few made any effort to help clean up.  It seems to me that jumping in to clean up is as natural as accepting the invitation to eat.  It is just what a thoughtful person does.  And yet, almost every morning I find the trash can full, the dishwasher full but either not turned on or not unloaded, strange things left in the refrigerator, foods from the cabinets opened, etc.

This morning, I went over to get my computer.  Every light in the house downstairs, except for the kitchen, was on.  The living room, where I had seen a number of people before I left for the night last night, had paper plates and cups on the table, as well as papers on the floor and table.  It looked as if everyone in the room had simply stood up and left at some point.  This is true almost every morning.

Even the chapel was a bit of a mess, with kneelers left down and pews crooked.

Those of you who know me, know that I am not a neat freak.  I also understand that from time to time things get a little out of control.  All you have to do is to look at my office.  But I also know when there is a problem, and we have a problem at Frassati House.  Too frequently, too many things are simply left for "somebody else" to do.  This is not good human formation.  This is not communion.

OK -- what are we going to do about it?  How can we form habits of thoughtfulness in taking care of our home?  I would like for Frassati to remain home-like so I don't want to post signs or to restrict access.  How do we act like a responsible and caring family?  I need your help.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday morning

Well, here I sit at the kitchen table, waiting for laundry to finish, and wondering why I have gotten myself into something this morning that I perhaps should have said "no" to.  Just a regular Monday!

Mondays are interesting days for me.  We have Sunday Mass on campus at 9 p.m., and that really is the high point of my Sunday.  I love that Mass and find it a challenge.  Last night I was back here by about 11 -- relatively early for a Sunday night.  But I am never ready for bed then.  I am still too pumped up.  So I read the newspapers for a good while and then went to bed.

Even though Sunday is a late night, I still wake up early on Mondays usually.  Today, I have tried to keep it calm.  Drinking coffee, putting some laundry in, when nobody else is around, and going back and forth between getting a little work done on my email and browsing the Catholic interwebs!

I looked at my calendar for the day and remembered that I do have a commitment this morning.  Why would I do such a thing?  Well, it's those Dominican Sisters.  Can you say "no" to them?  I didn't think so.  But it will be great.  I also have candles -- lots of candles -- coming to St. Mary's today.  With my luck, they will come at the worst moment when I am across town talking to 7th and 8th graders about love.

All in a day's work.  This evening we have one of our first big Catholic events at Belmont -- a vocations panel, with Dominican Sisters among others.  It is a rather late evening commitment for them so turn about is fair play!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Stuff

I ran across the first chapter of a book about a modern spiritual awakening that happened in the context of an almost contemporary college party scene.  The author understands what is going on in the depths of the souls of the university students.  Go read for yourself!

Stories like this are always a conundrum for me because what I do seems to have so little to do with it.  The only mentions of the campus ministry at the author's (Catholic) university are not very flattering and incidental to her conversion.  Oh well!

Stories like this make me wonder what we are doing at University Catholic and how we can do it better.  Obviously something needs to be done.  Just what is it?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Can We Live Jesus?

"Whoever would be first among you will be the slave of all."

Jesus did this.  Can we?  Will we?  Certainly in personal matters, we should and can serve others.  That is what marriage is all about: serving one's spouse.  Can we do it at work, in politics -- everywhere and all the time?  Can we do it at University Catholic?

Is the civilization of love possible?  Yes, it is.  But it is counter-cultural.  We cannot get there by going with the flow.

The civilization of love is not compatible with the self-absorbed culture of ours.  I was reading an article this morning that spoke of the "single nation."  This is a culture based on the kinds of things that only those who are single can think are important: dogs not children, to sum it up crudely.  The civilization of love is likewise not compatible with corporatism and consumerism in economics, imperialism in foreign policy, or private interest in politics.  It is not compatible with letting others serve us rather than serving.

We can talk about the theoretical problems of each of these rivals to love, but it is easiest to see that they don't work.  The personal ethics of the "single nation" will die out in a generation -- by definition.  Who will take care of you if you have no children who have themselves been loved sacrificially -- and the government is broke?  Fido?  Maybe I am wrong about the practicality of corporatism and consumerism -- ain't money what makes the world go 'round?  But it is the selfish love of money that makes the world come to an economic halt, as in the Great Recession.  We can keep pushing our cultural imperialism of Hollywood and condoms on the rest of the world, but they hate us for it.  And politics -- who would argue that's not broken?

So instead, let's love.  What does that look like?  Well, in large measure it looks like something old:  family, community, simplicity, humility, the common good.  But it also has to be radically new -- literally going back to the roots.  Jesus looked familiar is some ways, but he was also unsettling.  We have to begin on a new basis: the human person, not abstractions.  Why don't we want to do this?  Because human beings make demands on us.  This is why we prefer puppy to baby.  Why we prefer corporate policies to relationships.  Why we prefer a huge resume to personal commitment.  Abstractions are easier than people.

Just do it.  We do not need another cause or campaign.  We need love, right where we are, among the people we are with.  We need it, for example, in University Catholic.  Vanderbilt promotes a sense of entitlement, preparing its graduates to join the entitled elites of this world.  It cannot be so among us.  We need to care about being a part of the liturgy in communion, not merely a liturgical consumer -- a "roaming" Catholic.  We need to pray for one another.  We need to cherish our home at the Frassati House with one another and do our "chores" there, not use it merely as a supplement to the meal plan or a place to go when all else fails.  We need to share our love on the campus and beyond.  We need to grow in our knowledge of this Catholic communion of ours.  It is wise.

The civilization of love is among you.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Delightful Discovery

I think that I have mentioned in a previous post that I have begun reading again.  Last weekend, I was having dinner at the home of some parishioners.  They live near Lipscomb University, and a local used book shop was mentioned favorably: Rhino Books.  I was intrigued.  There is another location of the same shop on Charlotte Avenue that I had noticed on my frequent trips along Charlotte.  For me, Charlotte Avenue has become the axis mundi, the "pole of the world."  Traffic is so much lighter on Charlotte than Broadway/West End/Harding Road that I use it in one direction to go to St. Mary's (located at 5th Ave, N. and Charlotte) and in the other direction to go to my father's at Mary, Queen of Angels.  So yesterday on my way to MQA, I stopped at the Charlotte Avenue location of Rhino Books.  It was delightful.  Quirky -- but not nearly as quirky as Elders -- and organized -- but not nearly as organized as McKay's.  Just right.  Of course, I still like the other stores, especially McKay's for real bargain shopping.  But Rhino had so many books to my taste.

After a short bit of browsing, here is what I came away with, in order of discovery:

Deliver Us From Evil, The Edge of Tomorrow, and The Night They Burned the Mountain by Dr. Tom Dooley -- in one volume.  Dooley is a figure that was still lurking in the Catholic imagination when I began going to school at St. Pius, although he has totally faded out now.  I don't know much about him other than his involvement as a Navy doctor in Vietnam.  He seems to me to embody that great effort to be American and Catholic.  I ran across a memorial to him at the grotto at Notre Dame.  I just dipped into the first book before I fell asleep last night.

The Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor.  For $6.  Need I say more?  For the Frassati House library.

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorn.  For someone who loves Rome as much as I do, I can't believe that I haven't read it before.  It was the budget buster because it was a pretty, old edition.

The second volume of The Tennessee by Donald Davidson, a literary history of the river.  I finished the first volume that I picked up to read about the journey of the good boat Adventure to Nashville.  Now I am hooked and need to finish it!

And at the check out desk, The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde.  I had seen in my browsing a beautiful edition of his stories -- for $100.  I have been meaning to read some of his stories for a long time so I convinced myself that I was getting a bargain in this paperback edition.

I will be going back.

 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reasons to Leave

Go read this post at the Aggie Catholic blog.  It is about why young Christians leave the practice of Christianity.  I want to look at the six reasons cited to see how they apply to University Catholic.

1. Churches seem overprotective.  University Catholic: Guilty -- I hope!  No seriously, we do not want to appear fearful and reactive to everything in the world around us.  We are not prudes and puritanical.  We can enjoy the goods of this world.  On the other hand, there is so much bad stuff out there that nobody ever points out as bad.  Co-ed housing for students is so tolerated and supported that my criticisms of it are met with incredulity, even by some well-formed students.  Another example is the annual drag show being held this weekend on campus.  It's bad, and Christians should not go.

Solution: real Christian community.  Human formation!

2. Teens' and twentysomethings' experience of Christianity is shallow.  University Catholic: Not guilty!  As a matter of fact, the one thing that I have been criticized for more than anything else (especially by older people) is that University Catholic is too deep and demanding.  Come to the deep end of the pool!

Solution: authentic Catholic liturgy and spirituality.  Spiritual formation!

3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science.  University Catholic: Not guilty.  We may offer a moral critique to certain scientific practices, but that's in our field of morality.  Science is science.  Bring it on!

Solution: Propose the harmony of faith and reason.  Intellectual formation!

4. Young people's church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.  University Catholic: Guilty, I guess.  The Church's teaching on sexuality is beautifully simple.  It is what the world does to sex that is complicated and artificial.

Solution: Theology of the Body, joined to prayer, mortification, and penance.  Intellectual and spiritual formation!

5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.  University Catholic: Guilty. That's why we got booted off campus.  Jesus invites us to follow Him and nobody else.  Need I say more?  But we Catholics are better at spotting His many disguises in the most unlikely people and places!

Solution:  Discipleship.  Spiritual formation!

6.  The Church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.  University Catholic: Not guilty.  We are not unfriendly to those who doubt.  We even have some empirical evidence of that.  But we will challenge the doubt!  As Newman says, "regarding Christianity ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."

Solution: Virtue and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Human formation!

Well, that was fun!  I really think that we have in place -- did you notice the four pillars?-- what we need to flourish and to bring others to Jesus.  We simply need to be more faithful in living our plan.




Friday, October 19, 2012

North American Martyrs, Pray for Us!

Or Canadian Martyrs?  Oh well!

What ever you call them, they are amazing to me.  Go read about them in their own reports back to their superiors in France.

Even better, let's imitate them!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

First things first...and last

I have promised to start blogging on the documents of Vatican II.  I am going to begin with Sancrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy.  In the first place, it is the first document of the Council.  It is also the one that deals with the most obvious changes that came out of the Council.  And believe it or not, it deals with the most important things.

I do so rather unenthusiastically.  I have come to love the liturgy so much that I am embarrassed at all the fussing over it.  I have come to see that when we celebrate the liturgy the way the Church directs us, it does what it is supposed to do.  We really do not need to try to "make it more meaningful."  It already has more meaning than I can ever appreciate.  I need to let it change me, rather than the other way around.

To celebrate the liturgy according to the mind of the Church, however, now seems to be doing something revolutionary.  In most places it seems unusual to give pride of place to things like chant, Latin, and organ; to use minsters and vessels according to the Church's direction; to preach the texts given to us in the lectionary; etc. 

Obedience to the liturgy is powerful.  It molds us.  We have to leave some of our preferences behind to enter into the liturgy.  When we do, we see that the liturgy is strong.  It is direct.  It is sacrificial.  It saves us.

OK -- having said all that, I think that I am ready to begin!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

This statement is heresy to our world, even to many within the Church.  Go to a funeral today, and you would think that you were at a canonization.  Everybody goes to Heaven automatically!

Who could make such an insensitive statement?  Well, actually, Jesus -- in the Gospel for Sunday.  He says something even worse: "how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  Yikes!  That is definitely heresy to this world.  We had better not listen to what Jesus actually says.  Let's make up a different Jesus instead who makes us feel more comfortable!

Let's be thinking about this!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Year of Faith

From Pope Benedict on Vatican II:

"Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change."

Hence, our series on the four constitutions of Vatican II, beginning a week from today!  Actually, I also intend to make the Year of Faith and the Vatican II documents the focus of my blogging.  I want to begin with the first constitution of the Council: Sacrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy.

Some of you have probably noticed a bit more serious tone to our Sunday Masses this school year.  That shift has been intentional, and I do not apologize for it.  The liturgy is serious business!  It has taken 50 years, but the resources needed to offer the liturgy of the Church according to the mind of the Church, as expressed at Vatican II, are just now becoming available, at least in English.  I hope to explain and to teach about the Vatican II liturgy and to embody it in our Masses, as best we can.  This is very exciting for me.  I understand that it might pose challenges to what we are accustomed to at Mass.  It does for me.  But I hope that we can come to a deeper encounter with the Lord Jesus at Mass by being willing to follow the mind of the Church as it is shown in the Vatican II documents.  Shall we give it a try?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Two of my favorites!

The Little Sisters of the Poor and Frannie Boyle!

Does life get any better than this?!

Ask and you shall receive...

Yesterday, I was posting about my need for spiritual guidance to find my balance between my two assignments, and it came -- in a number of ways.  Everything from from being the topic of my spiritual reading to healthy and helpful conversations with friends and collaborators really helped a lot yesterday.  What also helped was my willingness to be open to the need for help and to be open to the help offered.

Now, I think that I will ask for sleep!  If I do, I will probably end up like Rip Van Winkle ;-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Blog, Old Blog

OK -- I have decided to put the Vandy+Catholic blog to bed, just to play nice with the university.  I had started this blog in an effort to separate my chaplain musings from my more personal musings, but since I am now at St. Mary's as well -- well, I will type, and you can sort it out!

The link on the website says "Chaplain's Blog" anyway so be warned this blog is not an official statement of University Catholic but only of the chaplain.

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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