Monday, January 28, 2013

GTT

Gone To Texas, that is.  I will be on retreat deep in the heart of Texas -- half way between Houston and San Antonio.  I am excited about going to Texas.  I love it there!

I am going to be good on my retreat and not blog!  So you won't be hearing from me at least until Friday evening.

Pray for me.  I will be praying for y'all!

A picture is worth...


Sunday, January 27, 2013

The bus is arriving!

Thanks for the prayers!  My flight went well, and I understand that the bus is this side of Knoxville!

So I think that we can place an exclamation point at the end of this March for Life.  With a little bit of perspective, I can confidently say that this has been our biggest and best pro-life effort at University Catholic.  Huge credit to Caroline Duffy.  In my experience, this March for Life was also most impressive.

I can't wait to unpack it all with the students who went.  Want to sign up for next year?

The bus has left the station

The bus has just left the hotel, and I am still here.  I am flying home to make sure I am there for Mass tonight.  I hope that those on the bus and I both have uneventful travel days.  I really do wish that I were on the bus to hear the reflections of the students.  The past days cannot have failed to have made a big impression.  The truth is the truth no matter how it is perceived or portrayed.  These days were days of truth in charity, for once powerfully portrayed and perceived.

I really liked the Cardinal O'Connor Conference at Georgetown.  I have always wanted to go, but the logistics have not worked out before.  Because the March this year backed up to a weekend we were able to go.  It is actually put on by Georgetown students.  Very impressive.  They did a great job this year of highlighting women leaders in the pro-life movement.  Helen Alvare, Lila Rose, etc.

I hope that the students are trying to figure out how to take all this back to Vanderbilt.  I am too!  What, for example, can I say tonight at Mass to the student who may never have even heard of the March for Life?  How do I connect them with the powerful passion of so many of their peers?  I will ask the Holy Spirit!

Plese pray that all goes well today for those on the bus and for me flying home!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reporting from Washington

We make it to the huge Mass at the National Shrine and to the March yesterday.  All has gone well.  Today we go to Georgetown for the Cardinal O'Connor Conference for college students.

At the end of the March yesterday, it started to snow.  It was really beautiful.  A few of us went to Arlington to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Caroline really wanted to do this, and I am glad we did.

But by the time we got back to the hotel, just by the Pentagon, I was catatonic!  I pulled myself together, or as together as I could manage, for a short bus tour of the monuments at night.  Beautiful.  When we got back to the hotel, we spontaneously sat down in the lobby for a little talk and it became a Fr. Baker gab fest -- sort of like the "fireside chats" that we have had from time to time at Vanderbilt.  It began with the students making the perennial complaint that the media does not cover the March.  So I launched into the need to live counter culturally.  Certainly we need to do things like support the March, but even more fundamentally, we need to live our lives as if eternal things matter.  I went all over the place.  And they sat there and listened.  I guess they were too tired to move.

Anyhow a tremdous day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the road

Reporting from the road on the way to the largest annual Catholic youth event in the country, also known as the March for Life. Don't get me wrong, the March is much more than Catholic young people, but it is overwhelmingly a young, Catholic crowd. It is good for them because it's not about them. Youth events tend to be too much about the young people themselves. The March gets them out of themselves. That's good for all of us, come to think about it.

Anyhow, I am on a bus in southwestern Virginia, the only one awake, I believe. That's a gift of age. Anyhow, it is cold and beautiful with light just coming into the sky outlining the mountains. There is bit of snow on the ground.

Best of all, I am not worrying about anything on this trip. I have left that to Caroline!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lessons from the martyrs

Today we observe a day of penance to mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.  We must redouble our prayers and efforts to bring justice to our country.  We need to be realistic about the opposition we face, including that of the president who is beginning his second term.

But we do not want to lose sight of eternity.  That is the lesson of the martyrs.  Yesterday, we observed the feast of a 12 year old martyr, St. Agnes.  We remember her and her suffering and most especially her victory.  But what about those who martyred her?  Forgotten.

I was in a conversation yesterday it which it was suggested that it would have been better for St. Margaret Clitherow, an English martyr of York, to have lied about her intentions to hide priests in her house than to have told the truth and to have been publicly pressed to death.  Think how much more good work she could have done if she have sworn that false oath.  But that is just what martyrs won't do: sacrifice eternal truth for temporal advantage.  That is exactly what we must not do either.  We must not compromise our consciences in order to fit in, to stay on our career track, to have others think well of us, to be able to accomplish some passing good at the price of eternal truth.

I am not only talking about hypothetical situations that might arise, for example, from the implementation of the HHS mandate: the need to close our Catholic schools or hospitals rather than to subsidize evil.  If such a situation should arise, there will be voices that will say that we should think of the good that we can do by going along.  I am talking about things that exist right now.  For me as a priest, am I censoring myself in proclaiming the truth; as a Catholic organization, are we willing to make false statements in order to stay approved; as a student, am I willing to promote immorality in order to be part of an organization; as a researcher or one being trained in medicine, am I silent in the face of offenses against human life?  All of these are questions being faced today. The list goes on and on.  If we speak up, we will lose out.

Today is a day of penance.  Penance trains us to accept suffering willingly.  Let's be prepared to suffer:  to lose our reputations, our careers, our wealth, our rights, our lives.  From the point of view of eternity, this is not loss but gain!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Culture Servant

It has been a while since I have tried to think anything big.  With two assignments, the day-to-day is consuming, but I think that even the exhausting routine is part of something big.  Really big.

We had more people at Mass at St. Mary's today than I have ever seen on a regular Sunday.  We are holding our own at University Catholic as well.  I think that the dike is about to break -- the dike of the secular hegemony of culture.  I think that we might be on the cusp of a new Catholic moment, even as we are attacked more fiercely.  This Catholic moment will need to be expressed in humility and service.  It will need to listen to the misery and dysfunction that is out there.  It will need to speak clearly and simply about the truth of Jesus Christ. 

I want to be a culture servant rather than a culture warrior.  How can we appreciate and serve the culture we belong to?  If we are there in the culture,  we will be noticed and heard because we have something to offer.  There is nothing else.  Literally nothing.

I am reading a book that the Vanderbilt chaplains are reading.  It is about religion in the university.  It speaks about the meaningful life that universities claim to offer.  At the end of the day, however, all that most universities, including Vanderbilt, offer is a way to excel, with no meaning attached.  It is a life of simple conformity to the standards of the moment: whatever moves us up the rankings.  That is not good enough.

Now, I am not a radical just for the sake of it.  I do, however, expect my life to mean something.  I think that we all do.  But what meaning can there be in a culture that cares about nothing?  Catholics care about everything.  It all matters.  Our director, Caroline, was talking about the difference in how one is treated when visiting Belmont or Trevecca, as compared to Vanderbilt.  At the Christian schools, the people are kind.  They care.  They are not simply competent and professional as at Vanderbilt.

The world is not saved by competence.  The Nazis were highly competent, after all.  The world is saved by the sacrificial love and obedience of Jesus Christ.  He dined with tax collectors and sinners.  He came to save sinners, not the righteous.  He was a servant, and he spoke with authority.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wowza!

What a day yesterday was!  What was I thinking when I lined up such a day?  Well, actually I didn't line it up on purpose.  It just sort of happened that way.  Pro-life Mass and Rally beginning at 1, Confessions and Mass beginning at 4,  3 To Stay Married event and talk beginning at 6:30.  But it was great.  And it gave me an inspiration for something more -- but something that won't involve me much, I think ;-)

Also, here is a great post from one of my favorite places!  One guess -- a prize for the first correct answer -- no peeking ahead to the post!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I will help you

Today there will be a Mass at St. Mary's before an anti-abortion rally in front of the Tennessee Capital.  I have been thinking some about the homily.

Although I firmly believe that the laws of our country should protect innocent life, a political victory, even if possible, will not solve the situation of fallen humanity.  Only the love of God can do that.  So how do we bring the love of God into practical force?

I am reminded of what one of the women said on the first Rachel's Vineyard retreat that I attended.  Asked if anything could have changed her mind to go through with her abortion, she said that the only words she could have heard at that time and the words that she was longing to hear were: "I will help you."

Let's start saying this so much more, at every opportunity. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Looking ahead to Sunday

This Sunday, we have the final part of the Epiphany trifecta: the wedding feast at Cana.  Yes, this is a part of the Epiphany mystery, along with the coming of the Magi and the Baptism of the Lord.  You see, it is the first of the "signs" of Jesus.  I don't want to make too much out of the word "sign," which St. John actually uses, in contrast to the more familiar word "miracle."  I simply think that sign is the more evocative word.

You see, this sign happens at a wedding banquet in trouble, in which scarcity is about to ruin things.  And all of a sudden there is plenty and quality.  Isn't this what the Messiah is supposed to do?  Is this not what Heaven is supposed to be?  But it is also real here and now -- just ask the couple.  A memorial, a present reality, a pledge of the future: sound familiar?

  O Sacred Banquet,
 in which Christ is received,   
the memory of His Passion is recalled,   
the soul is filled with grace,   
and the pledge of future glory is given to us.

Do you see why Jesus starts here?  Why this sign is such a good indication of Who He is?  Do you see why His mother plays such a key role?  Why her words, "do whatever He tells you," are so important?  Why he uses the water that is available to be changed into the wine that is lacking?  Why he associates the waiters in His work?  This event is so evocative of so many things!  Enjoy the mystery.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Here we go again

Well, it was a quiet semester on the non-discrimination policy front, but I was quoted in the Tennessean today for the first time in a long time.  From my point of view, here is where we stand.

Vanderbilt's policy is unchanged and so is our inability to comply with it.  We remain an unregistered student organization.  That's all official.

Practically speaking little has changed, except our name and some restrictions placed on our activities.  But our mission is the same which are carrying out with gratifying results.  I am afraid that for some of the other groups the effects have been more severe.

The matter I was asked about for the newspaper involves action in the state legislature, which is really beyond the scope of my work here.  I am, of course, very grateful for the support of members of the legislature.

I believe that Vanderbilt's policy as applied is discriminatory to religious groups.  I believe that Vanderbilt, as a private institution, has the right to be discriminatory, even though I think it is very bad policy on their part.  I also believe that the state can conduct its financial affairs as it sees fit, in accordance with the law.  But I do not think that this is my fight.

Last year we were faced with a decision of principle, a matter of conscience, for the members of the student board.  We could not say that religious factors do not matter for selecting the leadership of our student organization.  That would be a lie, and we cannot tell a lie.  This principle involved us in controversy last year.  We will not shy away from controversy over such a matter of principle.

Lobbying in the legislature over its regulation of institutions, however, is not my responsibility, in the way that the formation of the student leadership is.  If students want to lobby the legislature, they are free to do so.  If the Catholic Diocese of Nashville wants to do so, they are free as well -- they even have a staff for such things.  But my mission is to propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples on campus.

As you all know, my parish of St. Mary's is in the shadow of the State Capital.  I hope that I can serve the spiritual needs of any of the legislators while they are in Nashville.  They need well formed consciences to carry out their work, just like the students do. 

Happy Thursday!

I am doing something that I have not done in a long time.  I am taking a regular day off, which is Thursday.  I am going to say the 7 a.m. Mass at Cathedral on Thursdays and then be off the rest of the day, including the evening.

I decided that I needed to do this in the middle of last semester.  Up to then, it had been pretty easy to take some down time or some recharge time as it came up in the schedule.  Depending on the week, Mondays and/or Saturdays offered opportunities.  There were also many Sunday mornings, given my funny, for a priest, Sunday schedule (everything in the p.m.).  But then St. Mary's came along!

That, of course, was not a bad thing.  Actually, it is a very good thing.  But it meant that none of those times were left as down time.  I realized that my schedule last semester was like drowning in honey -- it was sweet, but I still could not breathe!  Something would have to give.

So thanks to the generosity of the priests I live with, and the understanding of the weekday Mass crowd at St. Mary's, I carved out Thursday as a day off.  Last week was the first one.  It wasn't perfect, but it more or less happened, at least for the afternoon and evening.  This week will be the monthly priests' day of recollection that I attend -- part of the reason for choosing Thursdays.  That has been another lesson: the need to be with other priests regularly.

Actually it is hard to make this happen -- so much easier just to keep going as usual.  Thank you for understanding that I need to.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thanks to my predecessor

This blog post on bringing back the altar rail reminds me how much I have to be thankful for to my predecessor at St. Mary's, Fr. James Norman Miller.  You see, the altar rail is still in use at St. Mary's, as is incense at every Sunday Mass, etc.  So many things that are simply taken for granted at St. Mary's.  Along with the beauty of the church, it all makes for a wonderful parish to be pastor!  Oh yes -- and the parishioners ;-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Singing the Mass

I have to give credit to the new translation of the Missal into English for reviving my confidence in the renewal of the liturgy.  By now, it is pretty clear that following Vatican II the implementation of the liturgical reforms went off the track.  One example of this used to be the English translations of the Missale Romanum.  The old translations embodied a philosophy that resulted in the liturgy in English being far from its Latin sources.  The new translation has corrected this.  This has shown me that the reform can be reformed.

I am actually a believer in the reform of the liturgy, according to the mind of the Council.  What we ended up with frequently departed from the the mind of the Council, in favor of it's "spirit."  It is beautiful to see the reformed liturgy working the way that the Council had in mind.  That is what excited be so much about the Masses at the SEEK Conference.  It can be done.  And it is not surprising that it happened there, among the young and faithful.  You let them read and understand what the Church wants, and they'll do it!

But it will not happen without effort.  It will involve change from the status quo of typical parish liturgy in the United States.  I am pushing pretty hard right now to try to bring some of this renewal into the Masses at University Catholic and at St. Mary's.  These are both pretty good candidates for the reform of the reform because they cater to the young on one hand and the traditional on the other.  The ceremonial is pretty easy to get to work on, although I do need more altar boys at St. Mary's -- but I think that is coming, as we have more everybody at St. Mary's.

Music is the tricky part.  It is probably where the worst mischief was done after the Council, and once it is done it is hard to undo since music, especially the music of most post-Conciliar composition, is so tied to emotions.  It is easier to change our minds than our emotions.  The traditional music of the Church, in particular Gregorian Chant -- the Church's music par excellence, is a hard sell exactly because it has such purified and detached emotional expression.  The word dictates chant, not rhythm or melody.  It springs from the intellect and feeds it.  It is not "feel good" music.  It's not easy.  But it is great.

I can see where we can go with this renewal at both places.  I need great patience and generosity to get us there.  I also need the musicians to do it, as I am no musician.  I remember when the light bulb went on for me about singing the Mass, rather than singing at Mass.  It was in, of all appropriate places, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  The canons were processing into the Cathedral for Mass, chanting the introit as they came.  I realized at that moment that this was the mind of the Church for the liturgy, not musical pieces, even magnificent ones, stuck into Mass but rather the Mass itself sung.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Words on what I do, from the bishop I admire most, next to my bishop ;-)

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia gave a speech at the Catholic Campus Ministers Association conference in Florida last week.  Please click and read it.  He spoke humbly and honestly about campus ministry.  It is not doing its job.  He is right.  For all of the praise and publicity that we at University Catholic have received in the past year, the truth is that we are not doing our job with as much fruit as we need to be producing for the Kingdom.  Let's do more and better!

Here is an example of Archbishop Chaput's radical frankness: "We only fool ourselves if we think that a mere gathering of young people is a sign of good ministry.  Religious groups, like any other group, can be cliquish, self-indulgent, lazy and fruitless, heavy on talk and light on real conversion and mission.  Healthy Catholic life demands excellence, self-denial, love for the Church and her teachings, a disciplined focus on the needs of others, and an ongoing hunger for knowing and doing God’s will.  Our Newman Centers and campus ministries need to be, in effect, boot camps for this kind of vigorous Christianity."

In other words: Repent!

And now: Believe the Gospel!

Here is the Archbishop's remedy: "Campus ministry needs to lead young adults not just to good religious activities that keep them busy, but also to the beauty of interior silence that enables a person to hear the will of God and entrust his or her life to Jesus Christ."

There are two practical points of renewal that Archbishop Chaput recommends.  The first is Eucharistic Adoration, and the second is FOCUS.  We have both here so we are in a good place to start.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

The discipline of blogging

As you may have noticed, I have been trying to be more disciplined about blogging: doing it more regularly and staying more focused on spiritual matters prompted by my pastoral experiences both at University Catholic and at St. Mary's.  It has been good for me and, I think, good for the blog.  I have a tendency to shoot off in a million directions and so some focus and limitation helps.

So today, I am wondering what is holding us back.  How could we sprint forward into a new year and a new semester?  I think that we need to take our cue from the Gospel itself, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The first word of the Gospel is: "Repent!"  Jesus will begin His public ministry by ratifying John the Baptist's call to repentance.  The Father will reveal Him among those who have responded to John's baptism of repentance.  That is really the only way to recognize Him.

I cannot prove Jesus to you.  Maybe someone else can.  I will not even try.  But I will propose to you the way of the Lord Jesus.  That way starts with repentance.  If you will repent, you can recognize Him better.  If you pray to Him, you will know Him better.  Why don't we just try it -- just try the Gospel?

I am trying to change this year.  It is going slowly.  My resolutions are getting in place only fitfully.  Every now and then, I even deliberately abandon them.  I must begin again.  I must repent.

On the other hand, the general direction is here.  I am changing.  Jesus is becoming more real to me, really with me, more apparent in the sacraments, more fully encountered in the least of His brethren, etc.  I am sure that you are having much the same experience.  Why stop now?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Enough of that!

It is all well and good to get the house in order, actually even necessary, but what about the mission "to the nations?"  What do I mean by this?  My last post, for example, was about the inner workings of the Church.  Now I am asking about our mission outside.  Love always thrusts us outward.

If the house is a mess, then we need to get it cleaned up before we have company, but we don't want to clean the house just to have a museum!  The beauty and warmth of the house, however, is very helpful for inviting outsiders in.  A building or an organization can be impressive but not very warm or welcoming.  We need to work on the appeal of beauty, warmth, and welcome.   I have noticed this at St. Mary's, a church both beautiful and warm.  People just like to come in.  I have noticed it at University Catholic as well.  If we offer beauty and warmth, people will come.  I see this in very different settings.  At St. Mary's, a number of people just walk into the confessional -- not for confession but just to talk about the misery of their lives, to be heard, and to receive a bit of encouragement.  The same thing happens at Vanderbilt from time to time.  The setting of the misery is different, but it is actually much the same.  The rarest beauty is that of truth.  So whether it is the ugliness of life on Dickerson Road or on fraternity row, let's put the Church's best foot forward: the beauty of truth and love.

Let us show warmth, beauty, and interest in each other and in the others.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The times, they are a changin'

As you can tell, if you have been reading this blog, I cannot get away from the realization that times are changing in the Church in the United States.  The FOCUS SEEK Conference reminded me of this most recently and most dramatically, but the signs of the changes to come are everywhere.  One place that I have noticed and talked with other priests about the changes is among seminarians and among the seminarians of our diocese in particular.  Last year at just this time, I was giving the retreat at the Pontifical College Josephinum for the college and pre-theology seminarians.  I saw it then.

This year, the first harvest of the "Choby" seminarians will come in with two ordinations for the Diocese of Nashville.  Next year, the number is bigger, and, God Willing, such numbers will continue into the future.  This is good news!  Just like it is good news to see the young faithful emerging out of FOCUS and other excellent campus ministry programs and taking their places in the Church.  I had dinner with one of our first FOCUS missionaries at the conference who was there representing the excellent Catholic Studies program of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.  Even the University Catholic web site host company, eCatholic, is one of these fruits -- from Texas A&M, where else?

We must prepare for these changes with love and patience.  The Church is not a field for playing politics, with our side picking up a lot of seats in this election cycle!  In the first place, these new leaders need to be formed more fully.  They need time to come to greater spiritual maturity.  Let's not expect too much from them too soon or thrust them into situations for which they are not prepared.  For example, even though a bishop needs priests as pastors and in other leadership roles now, he needs to let his newly ordained gain some experience before being placed in positions for which they may not be ready.

The faithful of the Church also need to be considered.  As C. S. Lewis said of an earlier period of change in the Church, the Lord commanded us to feed His sheep not to teach His old dogs new tricks!  Many of those earlier changes were implemented heavy-handedly.  Let's learn from those mistakes and be more gentle and patient.  This is where older folks like me might come in handy.  Having endured the end of the winter, we might be able to help foster the new springtime and avoid frosts!

Finally, the champions of the old changes, who are for the most part pretty old themselves now, need to be shown love and understanding.  We must engage those who have gone before us and not merely brush them out of the way.  This will take love and patience because many of this generation feel threatened by the changes that the young are bringing in with them.  We must "live Jesus" to them, and that might mean enduring some suffering.  I think that we have a good example for that!

Even though the changes are coming, many do not yet perceive that they are coming.  That is the privilege of working with the young faithful: I get to see the future.  We need to be praying and preparing for dealing with the faithful of God whom we are to serve.  Young adults have the tendency to think through their decisions and then announce them to their parents and other elders in their lives.  They are often surprised when these older folks are not as initially enthusiastic about their plans.  That is because it is news to them, and the news takes time to assimilate.  I know.  I did it in my time.  So let's be patient, one of the hardest things for the young to be, and generous in laying out the course of change.  If the changes are of God, then they will win over those of good will, including the old folks (like me)!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Best Part of SEEK?

The Epiphany Mass on the last day of the conference, from what my students tell me.  It was Mass in the living Tradition of the Church, especially the music.  I have looked for videos on YouTube, but I don't see anything posted.  I am not too good at finding that sort of thing.  Let me know if you can help me out.  I would love to see and hear for myself.  As I said in an earlier post on SEEK, the liturgies were the really telling thing for me.  They were not silly or have silly things stuck into them, just because the congregation was young.  The Masses were simply the liturgy of the Church.  Period.  No need to get creative.  Just be faithful, and that is what happened at SEEK.

For example, at the Mass on Epiphany (and other days), the actually texts of the Mass were used, what are called the Propers.  It has become the unwavering norm in the Church in the United States for the Propers -- actual Biblical texts for each Mass -- to be replaced by hymns or songs.  Organ, chant, and polyphony were all given pride of place at that Mass, as the Church ask for them to be.  It is amazing what happens when we do what the Church asks!

I wish I had been there.  This is my vision for the music at Vanderbilt and at St. Mary's: simply the Mass of Vatican II.  Please help us to get there!

This encourages me SO much!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Epiphany

“This is my day,” she thought, “and these are my kind.”

Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of ουτοπια or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.

“Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

“How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

“You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

“Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.
“Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

The Epiphany prayer to the Magi of St. Helena in Waugh's Helena.

My Big Fear...

is that St. Mary's is growing.  While I was at the FOCUS Conference, I had communication with some young parishioners at St. Mary's who have organized the first official Catholic Underground in Nashville -- at St. Mary's, with none other than Audrey Assad giving the concert, who is a parishioner.

At the 12:10 Mass today at St. Mary's a young lawyer whose family attends another parish said that he hears that the Sunday Mass at St. Mary's is the hipster Mass, not liturgically, of course, but in attendance.  I don't know what to think.

Well, if we are growing, God will have to provide.  And He will.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Long March Through the Institutions

That was a rallying cry for the radicals of the sixties.  It worked.  They became the establishment.  In the Church in this country, there is a force gathering to march back through the institutions and reclaim them.

Here it comes!  And the tipping point is coming fast.  This is the lesson I learned at the FOCUS Conference that just finished in Orlando.

The Catholic Church in the United States is going to be run by the "New Faithful:"  young, orthodox Catholics.  In some cases, it already is.  This is going to be fun!

I particularly enjoy this change, as one formed during the end of the winter rather than during the new springtime of the Church.  The chapel at the Josephinum had just been wreckovated the semester I arrived.  Now there is talk of restoration...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

One thing I dislike about campus ministry...

Sleep deprivation!  I am sitting in the Orlando airport, which blessedly has free wifi, at about 5 a.m. to fly back to Nashville for my weekend parish duties.  I literally have not been to bed!  You see, I am coming from the FOCUS Conference and basic human needs like sleep and food are not well factored into the schedule ;-)

The big adoration and confession time was last night beginning at 9 p.m., and even though there were more priests than I remember being at a conference, we still had something like 7,000 students at the conference.  So we finished confessions about 1 a.m.  At that point, I decided that the wiser course of action would be not to go to sleep because my airport shuttle would be leaving in only about 3 hours.  So instead I went to the adoration chapel, where I was not completely conscious but was in a calm, prayerful place.

All for good!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I am looking at the future

The future of the Church in the United States is going to be very different from its recent past.  I am looking at it here at the FOCUS conference.  What is left of the Church is going to be evangelical: focused on Jesus Christ.  There will still be institutions lumbering along on inertia, like the Jesuit universities; but the life of the Church will be elsewhere.

Here at the FOCUS Conference, there is a concentration of what is working in the Church.  It is usually so diluted that it is hard to perceive how it is developing.  It is getting more poised and confident year by year.  I am happy for those here at the conference to be able to be with each other.  Usually, there is not a sense that Catholic culture exists: only the Catholic counter culture.  It is refreshing for a little while to breath freely.  It is nice not to be the opposition for a while.

Soon enough we will be heading back to campus and to the margins.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

SEEK

Well, it's time for another FOCUS conference, and so I am in Orlando. The chaos and hoopla of such events get on my nerves a little bit, to be honest, but it is great to see old friends and most especially to see the reverence and devotion of all these college students. The opening Mass really was amazing in how ordinary it was. Nobody felt any need to condescend to these young people by adding silly things to the Mass. It was a simple but reverent and dignified Mass. Simple music but not childish. The students know what the Mass is. This is how these students like their religion: undiluted.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Interesting Parish

Last night as I was locking up St. Mary's after the vigil Mass for Mary, Mother of God, I was confronted by a prophetess or a mystic or a crank -- or perhaps some mixture of all three.

She walked into the church just as I was turning the last lights off and going on to the porch to lock the gates.  She launched into an indictment of the failures of the Church personified in me.  She kept repeating: "you do nothing."  She was concerned mainly about the quality of the help provided for the homeless: the sheets are not clean at the women's shelter, etc.  I could fix this if I cared enough to make even one phone call.  I have that power but do nothing.  She went on like this at some length.  She was angry and insulting.

I decided to say nothing but also not to interrupt her.  It would be easy to dismiss her completely, but that would not be right.  At least to a small extent, she was right.  But she had become obsessed with it.  It is sort of like the way the Occupiers or Tea Partiers get.  There is nothing to say because they have an immediate and insulting answer for everything.  But there does remain some truth.

I finally thought to ask her to pray for me.  She finally came around to saying that she would.  And I have prayed for her and thought about her words.

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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