Saturday, August 17, 2013

So long...for now!

A new year is beginning, and I need to make some changes.  Taking on a parish along with the chaplaincy of University Catholic did not seem such a big thing when the assignments began last year about this time.  By the end of the school year, however, I realized that I was not keeping up.  Ah, but summer was here, I thought to myself, and I so could catch up.  Well, it has not happened that way.

So I am going to make some changes, very practical ones --like what I do when I get up in the morning.  I am afraid that Finer than a frog's hair is not going to fit into the new schedule.  Who knows, it might be back.  I kind of think so, but for now it's "goodbye" to virtual Fr. Baker.  I will still be "live" at St. Mary's and at University Catholic ;-)

Please continue to pray for the parish, the chaplaincy, and, in your kindness, for me!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here we go again :-)

Well, little as I am ready for it -- here we go again: a new year at University Catholic!

As overwhelmed and unprepared as I feel, we have come a long way since 2006.  I wasn't even on campus until August 16 that first year.

What is really making the difference this year is Caroline Duffy, the director of campus ministry.  She is awesome!  And just in time.  Of necessity and definitely a positive development, I will be chaplain, not chaplain + a lot of other things.  That is the way it ought to be -- and has to be.  She and Kathleen Cordell are a dynamic duo!  I don't know how they put up with me.  Really.  And there is the new FOCUS team.  I think that I scared them to death yesterday, dragging them around Nashville.  You see, three out of the four are new to town.  I was trying to be hospitable, but I am not so sure it that is the way it turned out.

It will be a joy to be with the students again beginning this afternoon for our leadership retreat at Marymount.  I am looking forward to it -- but just a few things to do to get there ;-)

On other fronts, seminarians are leaving town.  St. Mary's needs a lot of attention to get things started for the fall.  Here we go -- so please pray!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

and what about continence?

I have been reading and hearing more about the vocation to celibacy, which I have posted about before.  Here is my take in a nutshell.  It is a vocation and not a default.  It positively frees one to love in a remarkably generous way.  This is the vocation that single people are called to, perhaps for a time or perhaps permanently, perhaps in conjunction with ordination or with religious consecration or perhaps not.  It is established by the Lord Himself and strongly endorsed by St. Paul and has existed from the beginning of Christianity.  I think that it is the vocation of those with firmly established same sex attraction.

Well, if that is not enough to get me burned at the stake, try this!  Continence within marriage is a good idea.  About the only time we hear this suggested is in relation to NFP.  Couples are taught how to avoid pregnancy by use of voluntary continence during fertile periods.  But what about continence at other times and for other reasons?  Of course I am celibate so what do I know, but it seems to me that for those who are married the practice of voluntary continence would be an obvious ascetical practice, right up there with prayer, fasting, and alms giving.  If voluntary continence were a more ordinary part of Catholic married life, then NFP would actually make more sense.  It would be just one more reason for applying this healthy practice.  I think that it would strengthen marriages.  Don't we value more what we abstain from periodically?  I think that it would be a good antidote and perhaps even a preventative measure against the effects of pornography within marriage, including fascination with non-conjugal sexual practices.

This has dawned on me partly from my reading, partly from the experience of the Love and Responsibility series this summer (which has been totally awesome), and it crystallized during a conversation with Fr. John O'Neill on Sunday.  (He has a unique perspective as a priest and gynecologist.)  In any case, why not look to the ancient wisdom of the Church when we are faced with a terrible assault on chastity both inside and outside of marriage?  The beauty and power of celibacy and continence are part of the Church's arsenal of spiritual warfare.  Let's bring them back!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

a small detail

I guess that I should have added that the seven churches pilgrimage was on foot: 12.3 miles, to be exact!  (I thought that it went without saying ;-)

Everybody start thinking about Eucharistic Adoration.  Hard.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Whose Transfiguration?

I have an early morning habit (probably bad) of drinking coffee and browsing New Advent to read up on Catholic stuff on the interwebs.  This morning I read an article by Bishop Conley of Lincoln on pornography.  It got me thinking, or rather set my stomach churning, about what is wrong in the world.  It is not that everything is bad.  On the contrary, we have created a world of remarkable superficial order.  On the outside, we are all very bureaucratic and competent.  We follow procedures.  We are even superficially nice!  Those who are not competent and nice are basically outliers in our culture.  They are the ones who do not make it.  They are our service projects.  We don't allow things like blatant racism or cruelty to animals.  We are actually very judgmental.  We also cure diseases and promote public transportation.  But all is not well.  There is the interior life, or rather, the lack thereof. 

We live in a world that is very sick in the private and interior areas of life.  It is basically a desert and a wasteland.  Demons prowl around in it, like the demons of pornography that Bishop Conley talks about; the demons of anger; the demons of self-pity; the demons of avarice; the demons of ambition; the demons of boredom and loneliness; the demons of addictions.  They grow to horrific proportions.  They are generally kept well out of sight.  And they are unchecked, except by the necessity of keeping them private.  And there in private, they breed shame.

I do not think that ours is a world that has lost the sense of sin but that has totally privatized it.  One of the students made the point that when his friends are drunk, they express their shame at themselves, just as when they are drunk some of the other private demons come out.  This interior desert needs to be cultivated rather than left to the demons!  St. Peter Chrysologous asks: "Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made?"  Yes, WHY!

The problem is that our world cannot answer the question of why.  Indeed, we are very good at the question of how.  Somebody can tell you all about the neurotransmitters of addiction to pornography -- or whatever they are!  But why? -- not so much.  Why do I want more than this wonderfully efficient world has to offer?  Is there an answer?  Yes, and it is found by cultivating the interior life.  Can my interior life be developed in a way similar to the way that I develop my intellectual and social abilities?  YES!

But not in private.  We are made for communion with God and with one another, i.e. for religion.  The interior glory of humanity is what is transfigured in Jesus.  The Transfiguration "wonderfully prefigured our full adoption to sonship."


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Seven Churches Pilgrimage

On Saturday, the first ever seven churches pilgrimage happened!  Yes, it happened!

We arrived at St. Mary's to find 5th Avenue closed off and huge cranes in the parking lot.  The devil was throwing everything at us!  But we persevered.  We began a bit late, fell further behind in the middle, but ended up just about on time, finishing strong from Holy Name.

Anyhow, here is how it went.  First up and over Capitol Hill, through the Bicentennial Mall, into Germantown, and arriving at Assumption.  From Assumption to the Motherhouse, where we were greeted warmly by my sister, Sr. Margaret Andrew, and refreshed by the offerings of water, gatorade, and cool wash cloths prepared by Sr. Jane Dominic.

Thence to St. Vincent's and a little rain.  We passed from there between Fisk and Meharry, past Planned Parenthood, and on to Cathedral.  Then a rest and refreshment at Frassati House.  Next was the longest leg to St. Patrick's.  The pastor, Fr. David Perkin, who is also the vicar general of the diocese, and Bill Whalen, the CFO of the diocese, whose wife is the parish secretary, were power washing the entrance of the parish!

Finally to Holy Name in East Nashville.  We did it!  Seven churches!  And then the "victory lap" across the Woodland Street Bridge, through the Public Square, up Deaderick Street, and back to St. Mary's.

So what is up with this crazy idea?  Well, it is an import from Rome.  At the time the Jubilee Years began in Rome in 1300 (it is amazing that the reading for the day on Saturday was about the Jubilee!), pilgrims had seven "must see" churches to visit for the indulgences, etc.  Much later, St. Philip Neri popularized the pilgrimage to the seven churches among the Romans themselves.  And now we bring it to Nashville -- during the Year of Faith.  It was truly a joyous and holy pilgrimage.  We hit the streets, just as Pope Francis ordered!

Let's do it again!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Finer than a frog's hair. Really!

I sort of regret sounding sort of defensive about Pope Francis in the last couple of posts, mainly because I really do trust him to do what is best for the Church.  That's his job and not mine, and he needs no defense from me!  He seems to know what he is doing and to enjoy doing it.  I certainly need to get on about my business in the same spirit -- with which I am way behind.  When I am doing my work as well as he is doing his...And my work really is exciting, too. On Monday, I was back in my old parish of St. Patrick's in McEwen for a little while with my friend, Fr. Mark Sappenfield.  It was good to see some of the things that were accomplished while I was there and to remember so many good people.  It got me thinking about places I have served in the diocese.  I have to say that I really can't imagine an assignment in the Diocese of Nashville that I would not be excited about.  There are certainly some that I would probably not be very good at and some that would probably be more of a challenge than others, but at this point in my life and priesthood I think that I could find the good in all of them.  And I certainly see the good in what I need to be doing for UCat and for St. Mary's.  So back to work!

P.S. Come on the Seven Churches Walk on Saturday!

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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