Friday, June 28, 2013

Probably unplugged for now

After this morning, I will probably not be able to post much anymore. We are on the move today, after the Pope's Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at which he gives the pallium to the new archbishops from all over the world, including my friend Archbishop Sample.

Late in the afternoon, we go to Norcia, the hometown of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. I will see my friend, Fr. Benedict, there. I have known him since he was an undergraduate at Sewanee.

Thank you all for your prayers, and please keep them up! Also, count on mine. Things are coming together well on the trip and at home!

We will in Assisi on Monday and then fly home Tuesday!


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Location:Rome

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Secularity

I gave a meditation to the seminarians last night on a few points from the witness and teaching of St. Josemaria, since we had just celebrated his feast the day before. (I confess that I had given basically the same meditation at the men's and women's recollections back in Nashville last week.)

One of the points I mentioned was his "secularity." Maybe that's not the clearest choice of words, but I think it is accurate. St. Josemaria teaches us to love the world. That sounds pretty shocking to those who see themselves at odds with the powers of this world, among whom being "secular" is an insult! And in a sense, they are right. (But remember that the correct answer is usually "and.") We also love the world since God does. See John 3:16! We cannot turn up our noses at the world. I think that this is pretty much what Pope Francis means about the shepherds needing to smell like the sheep. It is also what the pope means about the Church not being "self-referential." (Talk about another awkward term!) I think that he means that the Church cannot be about ourselves but about others. He wants to get us "out there." Instead so often we stay "in here." This does not mean that prayer, worship, and contemplation are bad things. They are actually the least "self-referential" things that we in the Church ever do! But church politics and gossip are things that turn us inward. That is why the Holy Father hates them so much!

One of the bad things of being in Rome is just how much the world (in the bad sense!) is with you here. It is an especially gossipy place, for example. I hope that some of the rumors that we are hearing here are not true, but even if they are, we must not turn inward. That is not the direction of love. Sin is the ultimate way to turn away from God and from neighbor. And repentance is turning outward once again.


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Location:Rome

Archbishop Good Example

The classes for the Rome Experience take place at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, or Santa Croce for short. This week there is a big liturgical conference going on there as well. My friend Archbishop Sample of Portland, who is in Rome to receive the pallium from the Holy Father on Saturday, gave one of the talks today. It fit into our schedule so I paid the (very high!) registration fee to hear his talk. I am glad that I did!

The title of the talk was: "The Bishop: governor, promoter, and guardian of liturgical life of the diocese." It was an excellent talk -- the talk of a pastor, not an expert or scholar. It was nonetheless substantive. Archbishop Sample was clear and organized in his thought and presentation. The talk deserves a wide audience. He began with a summary of the documents on his topic. He then moved into practical application, saying that a diocesan bishop needs to use his sanctifying, teaching, and governing roles in overseeing the liturgy in his diocese. He ended with a tribute to "Summorum Pontificum" as providing the starting point for authentic renewal of the liturgy.

This is only a brief sketch of his talk, but there was one part that I will particularly remember! Archbishop Sample kept saying that a bishop's own liturgical practice should provide a good example for his people and diocese. This reminded me of a story about the archbishop from when he was a young priest in the Diocese of Marquette. My sister, Sr. Margaret Andrew of the St Cecilia Dominicans, once was on a summer assignment in the Diocese of Marquette. She told the pastor of the parish that her brother (that's me) had a friend who was a priest of the diocese. When the pastor asked who the priest was, she told him: "Fr. Alex Sample." The pastor replied: "You mean, Fr. Good Example!" So you see, the archbishop has a track record of being a good example!

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Location:Rome

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Perspective

It is Providential that I am in Rome when the Supreme Court's first same sex marriage decisions came down. Otherwise, I think that I might be even more apocalyptic than I am. These decisions are truly shocking. Period. Our legal system is unhinged from reality. Of course, we have known this for a long time. Roe v. Wade has long shown us that. But we go further into the abyss. This time the Supreme Court seems to be tentative about it but goes there anyway. In a short time, I am sure they will be going with a full imposition of same sex marriage. I guess they want to look thoughtful or moderate. But I predict that it will come to the same end.

Well, in Rome one gets a little perspective. Somehow things will go on, until the Lord Jesus comes in His glory. You can see it here. Talk about a place of ups and downs! It might not be pretty or easy, but it will go on. And therefore we go on...proposing Jesus Christ!

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

P.S. Yesterday was awesome on the Rome Experience -- a beautiful audience and then a beautiful Mass for St. Josemaria. And too much good food!


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Busy day

Today we will be going to the Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square. It will be a mob scene. But it will also be exciting. It will be my first time to see Pope Francis in person! Even though a general audience is frankly long and boring, if you don't speak Italian, you are with people really excited to see the Holy Father. And you do see him.

In the evening, we will be going to the Mass for the feast of St. Josemaria celebrated by the prelate of Opus Dei at a big parish church near the Opus Dei headquarters in the north of Rome. The Mass will be beautiful -- and packed with people.

There are always big events going on in Rome!

Today is the anniversary of one of the priests on the Rome Experience so I am going to concelebrate Mass with him early. It is also the anniversary of my Mother's death so that much of my heart will be back in Tennessee. That's a lot for one day.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Rome Experience

Well, I'm here. I am delighted to see how much the Rome Experience, the summer program for seminarians, has matured since I was involved with it in its first two years. Just being able to have a stable Internet connection to make this post is a big improvement. I am also happy to be able to help out again.

It is a beautiful, cool evening in Rome. I am going to bed soon, but I can see the dome of St. Peter's out of my window right now!

OK -- I should be able to post regularly. Please say some prayers about a couple of things I had to leave unfinished back in Nashville! Some things never change ;-)


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

OK -- no more about the transcendentals!

Instead, I am off to Rome.  It's not exactly a Roman holiday but close enough!  I will be herding seminarians to a papal audience, to the papal Mass on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, to Mass with the prelate of Opus Dei on the feast of St. Josemaria, and on a short trip to Assisi and Norcia.  Not bad for just over a week actually on the ground in Italy.  Of all these things, I am personally most excited about Norcia because I will see my monk friends there.  (If I ever go missing, Norcia would be one of the first places to look -- there or Marbury, AL or College Station, TX!)  I will also see one of our seminarians just about to come home for the summer from the North American College, and I will be with one of our seminarians who is actually on the Rome Experience.  The seminarian at the NAC was a boy in St. Patrick's School back when I was there!  Yes, I am old.

Speaking of St. Patrick's, go look at page 15 of the Tennessee Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.  My old parish had a Corpus Christi Procession on Highway 70!  Awesome.  Way to go, Fr. Baltrus!

Well, I had better pack soon!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

...and beauty is vain

Once again, I bow to Msgr. Pope for this post on physical charm and beauty.

My thoughts were drawn back to my post on the transcendental attributes of God which was also inspired by Msgr. Pope.  In it, I indicated some hesitation about "Beauty" as a transcendental.  As Msgr. Pope's post linked above indicates, beauty can be complicated.  The Book of Proverbs agrees!

There are those who are committed to evangelizing by Beauty: no less than Fr. Barron and Jimmy Mitchell!  You know the sort of thing: "beauty will save the world."  But I am a little hesitant.  There are charming and deceptive elements to Beauty.  Often the Good and the True are not very pretty.  The poverty, for example, that Pope Francis is calling us to.  And the pretty can be wicked.  OK -- I know that I am in danger of falling into puritanism, but I do think that Beauty is in a different category from the Good, the True, and the One.  I think that we need a little more nuance before embracing it for evangelism.

Roman Holiday

No, not my trip yet -- that's so tomorrow!

The movie.

Caroline has instituted movie nights on Thursdays at Frassati House.  (We have a pretty nifty home theater system donated by a benefactor who was moving to a smaller house.)  Anyhow, the movies chosen have so far been classic films that have some pretty clear Catholic themes: On the Waterfront, Life is Beautiful, Babette's Feast.  You get the idea.

Well, this week since I was in charge rather than Caroline, we had a more light-weight movie, chosen because of my upcoming trip: Roman Holiday.  It is indeed a classic, although a light one, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck!  But it actually turned out to be more serious than I had thought.

To me, it is a delightful romantic comedy with great shots of Rome!  That is what I had in mind -- but I am 50 years old.  I was surprised by the reactions of the younger viewers.  They kept saying what a different world it represented.  And you know, they are right.  (I hope that my comments won't be a spoiler for anyone who has not seen the movie, but it has been around for sixty years!)  The movie is about accepting duty, rather than shirking it.  It is about adhering to social order, rather than upsetting it.  It is about respecting persons, rather than using them.  It makes a princess and especially a reporter look noble.  That is a different world!

Not to get too deep here.  That would spoil it!  But I was reminded once again of the need to foster counter-cultural communities where such human nobility of life can be encountered in reality and not only on the big screen!  It can be lived.  Human formation!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Look at this!

The parish boundaries of St. Mary of the Seven Sorrow's Church!  Or as well as Google Maps can do them.  The diocesean archivist found them in a document of Bishop Adrian dated 1943.  Few people, but just about every big building in downtown Nashville.  This has got to be the smallest geographical parish in the Diocese of Nashville.

For fun, click the map over to "Satellite" and zoom around downtown!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One of my favorite places!

Our Lady of Alabama
Caroline, Kathleen, and I have been working on the University Catholic calendar for next year.  Since we have the calendars out, I have been looking at some personal things to go ahead and schedule like my retreat.  I just sent an email asking if I can go back to the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, AL.  I was there for my retreat year before last.  It was an incredibly powerful experience.  I am thinking that maybe alternating between a preached retreat with other priests and a totally silent retreat on my own might be a good plan.  This past year I went on retreat with some brother priests, and that is very good too -- in a different way.  It is also somewhere I like very much -- Featherock Conference Center in Schullenburg, Texas -- they have great retreats for lay men and women as well.

I want to give the sisters a plug for their vocation retreat.  If you know anyone (including yourself, if you are a young woman!) who might be called to the contemplative life, let them know about these good Dominican nuns! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Penance...It's more than a sacrament!

Last night at Frassati House, we began Oratory again -- a gathering of young men to pray, reflect on the Bible, and sing together, following the inspiration of St. Philip Neri.  It was fun and inspiring for me.  Our Bible text was Matthew 6:1-18 on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.  These are the three penitential practices that the Church sets before us in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday -- and today:

Teaching about Almsgiving. 1“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 2When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Teaching about Prayer. 5“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 7 In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him"

The Lord’s Prayer. 9 “This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread;
12and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
13and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
14 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
Teaching about Fasting. 16“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

Among the young men, there was eagerness for guidance from the Church in these penitential practices.  I have become convinced that a renewal of these three practices would help to renew the Church -- and me -- radically.  Ready, set, go!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Follow up to "Will the Church Help Me?"

The answer turned out to be "yes!"

The man requesting help called back very happy to say thank you after two parishioners reached out to him.

We are now working on beginning a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary's.  I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The One

Thanks to Msgr. Pope for once again being able to say clearly and rationally what I think in a much more muddled way!  "All things are one and connected because the one God, who is simple and one, produced them all."  Here his a post of his on God, and therefore being, as one.  He uses the fascinating connection between music and math to demonstrate the oneness of being.  Another analogy I thought of in reading his post is the digital world, in which the only real distinction is between 0 and 1, between not being and being.  The 1 contains all of being.

I think of the transcendental attribute of unity in more psychological terms and experience, rather than in the more refined and precise philosophical terms of Msgr. Pope.  Fr. Benedict Groeschel has written here about the transcendentals in this psychological way, connecting each of them with a saint.  He suggests that each of us relates to God primarily under one of the transcendental attributes: One, True, Good, or Beautiful.  More people at all times seem to relate to God as Beauty than any of the others, and St. Augustine is the example: "O Beauty, ever ancient..."  (Personally, I think of Beauty as a complicated, composite attribute, kind of like St. Augustine himself!)  Few connect to God as the Good.  It's just too hard to be that good!  St. Francis is an example -- and I would propose his namesake, Pope Francis, is too.  That is why it is hard really to "get" St. or Pope Francis.  St. Thomas Aquinas is the model for seeing God as Truth. That's pretty obvious.  And finally, there is God as One.  I think that this is a fairly obscure way to see God, and the saint proposed is fairly obscure, too!  St. Catherine...of Genoa.  Who's she, you ask?  Well, among other things she wrote one of the best treatments about Purgatory!  She was a mystic and a married woman, who was full of good works and lived in very chaotic times.  She simply hung on to God for dear life.  I get that, but I know that it's not normal.  I think that Peter's answer to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" is an example of this sort of thinking.  It's all or nothing, you or nobody.

I think that one of the challenges of the spiritual life is to be able to see God in the transcendental aspects that don't come naturally to us and to understand the people who are attracted to God in those other ways.  I have always said, for example, that I think that I would have found St. Francis impossible to deal with!  It is why even saints can at times sort of bump into each other, like St. Pius V almost sending St. Philip Neri to the Inquisition.  Anyhow, I am grateful to Msgr. Pope for speaking well of the One!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Did Jesus really say that?

Here's the Gospel -- the Good News -- for the day:

"Jesus said to his disciples:
'You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

'It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'"

In our sexually "liberated" world, the only thing that one could say about sex and marriage that would be considered offensive is that we can and should live in sexual purity and marital fidelity.  Jesus is downright offensive!

Men -- Jesus thinks that you are man enough not to play around with porn.  You can and must do the tough things that are necessary to get it out of your life, like restricting your access to the internet.

Unmarried men and women -- you can be pure in your relationships.  You can set limits and boundaries and not follow the example of those around you who live without prudence about sex.  Don't fall for the rationalizations about things that are obviously foolish and dangerous like staying overnight together for any reason or getting one another sexually stimulated.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that these are bad ideas.

Married couples -- you can remain faithful and loving to one another, even when it hurts and even when you are upset with each other.

Divorced men and women -- you, too, can be expected to keep your commitments.  Seek the spiritual help that you will need.  Realize that being separated from your spouse is not a normal or natural state.  You will need spiritual help to live this way.  Do not date, unless and until you are free to do so by having your marital situation regularized in the Church -- there is an exception in the passage.  It is unfaithful to God and to your spouse to do so, and it is misleading to the person you are dating.

We can choose the way of the Lord Jesus in our bodies.  We must choose it, and then back up the choices with concrete precautions.  This is what the Lord says today.

Sexual purity and marital fidelity are big deals, even though our world thinks not.  It is because the Lord knows our frailty that He is so tough on these matters.  We can't do it on our own.  Take the practical and common sense steps that are needed.  And do not neglect the spiritual support you need.  Go to confession.  Pray!  Make Jesus a part of your daily life.

But there is hope!  Here is the first reading for today:

"Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,”
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God."

Do I hear, "Amen" and "Thanks be to God"?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Patronage

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!

These are our patrons at St. Mary's and at University Catholic.  I hope that we can become more devoted to our heavenly patrons.  They do a lot for us.  They are our friends in high places!  That is what patronage means.

Patronage is a word that has some baggage here in Tennessee.  We had a governor who went to prison because of corrupt practices of patronage.  Even in the Church, we seem to be de-emphasizing patronage.  That is what is behind the dropping of " 's" off the titles of churches: St. Henry Church rather than St. Henry's.  Nevertheless, patronage is an idea that has a rich spiritual heritage.  Just what is so important about patron saints?

Like so many other things in the Church, one needs an understanding of Roman culture to understand what the Church means by patron saints.  Here is a good book on the topic.  Roman culture was not individualistic or egalitarian.  Everyone had his place and role in society.  Common folk had their aristocratic patrons, and the patrons had their clients.  Clients would go to their patrons for help in the larger world, and patrons grew in influence by what they accomplished for their clients.  This is more or less the cultural framework that informed the development of patron saints.

Like Roman society, the kingdom of Heaven is not individualistic or egalitarian!  Heaven is a hierarchical communion.  Go read Dante!  Whether you like it or not, the saints in Heaven are spending their eternity praying for you!  Shouldn't we be paying a little attention to them?  It is really fun and enriching to have friends in Heaven.  For example, one of the things I will do as soon as possible when I get to Rome is to go visit St. Philip Neri at the Chiesa Nuova -- his church.  It would feel odd to go to a friend's home town without stopping by to say hello.

Patronage is just this down-to-earth -- and as high as Heaven!  Back here in Nashville, I hope that we can come to know, honor, and rely on our patrons.  They have a lot of time on their hands to be looking out for us!

Our Lady of Sorrow, pray for us!
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Will the Church help me?

In the homily last Sunday, I told the congregation about a phone message that was on the answering machine when I got to St. Mary's on Saturday.  It was a man who was asking for help.  But this was different.  He said that as a child he had lived at St. Mary's Orphanage.  I suppose that was why he was calling St. Mary's Church --  There actually is a connection.  Here is a link (click on St. Mary's Orphanage) that tells of the connection to the parish and to the Dominican Sisters.  Now he is 74 and has no one to take care of him.  He asked: "Will the Church help me?"

I told that story at Mass, and after Mass one of the parishioners agreed to call him.  It took several tries, partly because we were not sure of the number he left.  It turned out that he needed a mattress.  The parishioner arranged for a mattress to be delivered to him since he lived out of town.  The store gave him a set of sheets, and the owners even went back later to take him a box of food.  He called back to thank the parishioner and the church.  He was so happy.

We are definitely starting a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary's!  Want to join?

Monday, June 10, 2013

About St. Mary's

My time as pastor of St. Mary's, about 10 months now, has been an interesting experience for me.  There has been growth at St. Mary's, but it is still a quite small place.  Since the parish is so small and has long since shed many of the institutional trappings of typical American parish life, we can try some new things.  Since we are downtown, a lot of people come our way but few are permanent.  What are we supposed to be doing at St. Mary's, and how am I to serve as pastor of this place?  These are fun questions.  I am noticing some things.  The Saturday evening Mass is a Mass of visitors.  This Saturday, we even had guests from the Yukon!  What is the best way to "do" that kind of Mass?  Sunday morning Mass has many more local people at it, but for one reason or another it is not a stable community -- yet.  For better or worse, I think that this is part of being an urban Catholic parish.  Just about everyone who comes to St. Mary's is passing other parishes on the way so it is not surprising that many don't make it all the time.  Also, many of our regulars are young adults who have not put down their roots yet.  I was standing outside of Cathedral as the Sunday 5 p.m. Mass let out last evening, and I saw a number of my parishioners or at least people who come to St. Mary's sometimes.  (I hope that they didn't feel "busted" -- I just happen to live at Cathedral!)  Also, we don't offer many things that other parishes do.  Rather than focusing on why they don't come all the time, what causes them to come to St. Mary's at all?  They don't have to.  On weekdays, there is mainly a different set of regulars at the 12:10 p.m. Mass: downtown workers.  I don't see most of these people on the weekend at all.  And then there are the downtown residents, my "real" parishioners.  And of course, there are all the people who are downtown for one reason or another: catching the bus across Charlotte at the Music City Central or heading to a show at TPAC.  What to do with all of this interesting information?

Here are some ideas.  I think that music and liturgy should be priorities.  That is one thing that is true of everybody who comes to St. Mary's: a desire to pray.  I think that many people make the effort to come to St. Mary's because it is a place of prayer.  The beauty of the building is conducive to prayer, the "noble simplicity" of the liturgy is as well.  St. Mary's is a church, and Mass at St. Mary's is Mass.  Our size and resources limit what we can do right now, but I think that we are making progress and can do more as well.  I would like to have the doors open more.  It is amazing how many people will wonder in when the doors are open.  I would like to continue to build our music program.  We are committing considerable resources to restore our pipe organ because it is the primary instrument of the Church's liturgy.  I would like to offer more opportunities for prayer, perhaps the Liturgy of the Hours or novenas.  I will be offering a course in prayer.

I announced this weekend more specific plans for catechesis in the parish.  Since we have more families, we need to help them catechize their children: first by helping the parents deepen their faith and by giving them help in bringing the faith into their family life.  I think that we have identified some good programs and materials that are already available -- no need to reinvent the wheel!  Next weekend, I hope to announce ideas for meeting the needs of those who come to us for help, both materially and spiritually.  I think that what we have to offer is the Christian charity of our people.  Movements such as the Legion of Mary and the St. Vincent de Paul Society are centered on prayer and people.  I think that they will be a good fit at St. Mary's.

I will need to be a better leader, not doing more myself but taking the time to "meet the people" who are the right ones to get things going.  So pray for me since I am organizationally challenged! 

That is certainly enough for now!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Loss and Gain

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am going to Rome two weeks from today!  Over the years, I have collected a number of travel books about Rome -- the usual tourist sort, as well as more specifically religious and literary ones.  In my spare time, I have been reading up a bit, deciding a few things I would like to see this time.  Of course, I will have responsibilities to the seminarians, but I figure I can propose one or two little explorations of my own!

Anyhow, reading the history of Christian Rome gives some perspective.  There are a lot of ugly things in that history.  It is really hard to maintain triumphalistic Catholicism in the face of that history.  But the hard truth of history is really liberating.  If I don't have to pretend that everything that has been done in the name of the Church over the centuries has been ideal, then I don't have to maintain it today either.  And yet the Church is still the Church, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Let me get more specific.  I am coming more and more of the opinion that we should not fret so much about our relationship to the civil authorities and about the fate of the institutions that the Church runs.  If we look at history, those things have come and gone, time and again; and the Church remains.  They are not central to the mission of the Church.  Sometimes they have even become a big distraction to the mission.  I do not recommend that we be foolish or imprudent.  As a matter of fact, if we become more mission focused perhaps we could ask questions, such as how big, profitable hospitals or elite schools foster the Church's mission or how doing governmental contract work is really Catholic charity.  Maybe selling hospitals and investing in primary care to underserved populations would serve the Church's mission just as well or better.  Maybe focusing on faith formation and prayer in families would be a better priority than schools that are sometimes more private than religious.  In any case, institutions are not what the Church is about.  Calling people into discipleship of the Lord Jesus is.  And then forming them into saints.  That can be done with or without institutions or civil recognition.

Some of my favorite sites in Rome are those that show the wear and tear of history and yet are still there proclaiming the glory of God.  The Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura is one example.  In this dark, ancient church lie the remains of St. Lawrence the deacon, who gave away the treasure of the Church and then brought with him to the Roman tribunal demanding it from him some of the poor of Rome.  He said that here is the treasure of the Church.  St. Justin Martyr is also buried there, who did battle in the intellectual circles of Rome and died for his refusal to deny Jesus Christ.  There, too, is buried Bl. Pius IX, who made himself a prisoner in the Vatican after losing the temporal authority of the Papal States.  His body was almost thrown into the Tiber as it was being brought from the Vatican to San Lorenzo for burial.  There is an image of Pius XII with his cassock stained with the blood of a young girl whom he has just embraced.  He is standing in front of San Lorenzo with his arms raised to heaven in prayerful anguish for his city, the portico of the basilica blown off by an Allied bomb.  Buried in the restored portico is the body of Alcide de Gasperi, a layman who rebuilt Italy after the war and resisted the Communists.  San Lorenzo also stands at the entrance to the Campo Verano, a huge cemetery.  In the crypt of the North American College is buried a young American seminarian, Frank Parater, who offered his suffering and death far from home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the conversion of his native Virginia.

So much history.  So much loss...or gain?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My he rest in peace

I have been trying to keep up with the search for Joseph Kane, without bothering his family.  I just found his obituary online.  I ask your prayers for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family.  His funeral is today.

Bits of news

There is a funny twist to the situation of University Catholic at Vanderbilt.  Even thought UCat is not a registered student organization, the university still wants a Catholic chaplain around.  I have some sort of undefined status as an affiliated chaplain but with no student group.  I am sort of there and not there at the same time, depending on who asks.  It is yet another legal fiction.  I don't know if I should play along with it or not, but I figure that I am here to serve the students so I will take what I can get.  All this to say that I -- but not University Catholic -- will have an office on campus in the new Office of Religious Life building, which is right in the middle of campus.  I was over there yesterday to see it.  Go figure!

St. Mary's is showing many happy signs of life: a wedding today and a baptism tomorrow!  I am going to begin in earnest trying to organize catechesis and evangelization in the parish.  I went to a meeting about bringing the Alpha course to St. Mary's and maybe to UCat.  I am going to be looking for volunteers to help explore things like Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Dead Theologians Society as tools to help families catechize their children.  We are also going to finish the restorations in the crypt and begin the restoration of the organ.  This summer, we have a seminarian, Dillon Barker, who is helping me a lot.  He has special talents in liturgy and music.

I will be heading out to Rome in two weeks to help with the Rome Experience.  Bishop Choby was the inspiration for this program for diocesean seminarians to have a summer experience in Rome of study, exploration, and formation.  I helped with the program in its first two years.  This summer I was asked back for the final week, which is about all I can handle since I now have a parish.  But I will be in Rome for my friend, Archbishop Sample's reception of the pallium on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  I will also have a short visit to Norcia to see my friends the monks there.  I will be able to sample their new beer: Birra Nursia!

In the mean time, I need to get some work done!   Especially fundraising for UCat.  If you can, hit the Donate button on the website or send a check!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

About last year

I had a comment on the next to last post asking about the "trauma" of last school year for University Catholic.  In a nutshell, the Vanderbilt administration changed its non-discrimination policy for student organizations to require an "all comers" policy not only for membership but also for leadership in all student organizations.  Of course, they never really meant this.  Just look at the fraternities and sororities.  They certainly don't accept everyone who seeks membership.  But the administration used the policy to target religious groups, forcing them either into abandoning any religious criteria for leadership in the organizations or into accepting second class status on campus.  University Catholic chose to stick to our religious convictions for determining leadership in the organization.  About a dozen other Christian groups did as well.

Here is a much longer description and analysis of the events.

This year, despite our unofficial status, was actually a fruitful one for the ministry.  The controversy died down, and we got back to work.  It is still simmering, however, coming up at other schools from time to time.  Here is an article about those developments.  It is interesting that the article notes that although other schools such as Harvard and Tufts have backed down from similar policies, Vanderbilt has stuck to it!

Sister, Scholar, Athlete!

Sr. Margaret Andrew, O.P. is my sister -- the one playing mini golf a few posts back!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interesting Coincidence

I am at Fall Creek Falls State Park for the annual priests' convocation for the Dioceses of Nashville and Knoxville.  We come here every year.  Usually there are not many other people here, but this year the Southern Baptist campus ministers from across Tennessee are here at the same time.  It's a full house!  I realized this when I ran into the BCM chaplain from Vanderbilt yesterday.  I find this an interesting coincidence.  Our presenter is talking on St. Paul so we have lots of priests in lay clothes walking around with Bibles.  It is hard to tell the groups apart!

I think that we could learn something for the New Evangelization from these old-time evangelicals.  I continue to think that we Catholics don't talk about Jesus enough.  We don't pray together enough.  We don't live in a distinctively Christian way.  We blend in too much.

Interestingly the group at Vanderbilt most similarly situated to University Catholic is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.  They are officially unofficial but still very active and present on campus just like we are.  Their chaplain and I shared with one another that we had experienced a very similar year basically recuperating from the trauma of the previous year.  The Catholic student leaders seem most closely connected to the Baptist leaders.  Maybe evangelism is the New Evangelization!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Happy Holy Hour!

Well, thanks to our talented summer seminarian, Dillon Barker, we pulled off a beautiful holy hour at St. Mary's united with Pope Francis and the universal Church.  It was a very moving time of prayer for me personally as well.  I had a deep sense of the presence of the Lord Jesus and therefore a deep sense of well being.  Sure, I have a messy backlog of things to clear up, but relying on the Lord Jesus, I can do what He asks me to do.

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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