Monday, April 28, 2014

Divine Mercy, indeed!

What a day, and what an end to the semester in essence.  The day started with the Canonization party organized by the ever-resourceful Caroline Duffy.  There must have been 40 students there.  Can you believe that?  At 2:30 a.m. during exams?  And a wonderful breakfast to top it off.  I am very grateful to Caroline. She really gets the vision I mentioned in the post above: encounter, communion, culture, mission.  You know that those young people will never forget the night they stayed up all night to see the canonization of St. John Paul II. Never. That was an encounter in itself that fostered communion, culture, and mission.  Some of those same students went to the Fathers of Mercy later in the day and then were at Mass tonight as well.

Today was the last Sunday night Mass of the semester.  I think we went out on a bang.  Again, encounter with Jesus which resulted in communion, culture, and mission.  We sent them off with as much sacramental and spiritual help as we could!  And beautiful music and liturgy, if I do say so myself.  Why not the best?

OK -- time for bed!

Oh yeah, and we took care of all the baptismal water at St. Mary's today with the assistance of our fun seminarians.  Life is good.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Best Retreat, Ever

Well, in the sense that my young charges at UCat use "ever."  But pretty close to the literal meaning. I have come back from this retreat not especially "fired up" but rather cleared up in my heart and mind.  I know what I am supposed to do, and more importantly I know who I am and whose I am. As a Christian, I have the identity of a son. This is first. As a priest, I also have the identity and the mission of a father. I am a son in communion with others, and as a father I foster communion for others.  A father molds the identity of a community not only by serving it, which is absolutely necessary if he is to have genuine authority, but also by forming its culture: the father determines who we are and the way we do things. This retreat has taught me as a father to look at the circumstances of my assignments with the gaze of Christ.

It is funny how good a retreat this was considering how bad I was on the retreat!  I played hooky at times and slept a lot.  I was not "part of the program."  But it worked. And I was in Texas!  Ah, Texas. Here is some of what I did: I made a visit to the parish of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was a very tender visit.  I was welcomed by a lovely lady who is the parish secretary.  She gave me the grand tour. I don't know if she sensed that I was being overwhelmed by emotion when we ended up in the church, but she left me there to pray on my own.  I wept so hard that I shook.  For those of you who know me well, you will understand why.  It is too hard to explain otherwise.  The church brought to light too much of my past, especially people who are no longer with us in this world: of course, my parents but others as well.  Then I was able to slip into the small chapel where Adoration was going on and pray my rosary.

I went to College Station on another day.  Don't worry: these side trips actually fit into the retreat schedule and did indeed turn out to be pilgrimages with a spiritual purpose.  For some reason, I knew that I had to go to College Station, and it was good that I went.  If you are regular readers, you know my admiration for St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M.  I am not only impressed by the outstanding campus ministry that goes on there, but I am deeply grateful for the generous help I received when I was just starting out in campus ministry and didn't know what I was doing.  Once again, I was blown away by the vast scale of things there, exponentially larger than when I was there before.  They are going and growing, for sure.

Happily I was able to enjoy these visits with a great deal of detachment.  What I mean is that I admire these places, but I do not want to be what they are.  I want to be what God wants me and my assignments to be.  The one thing that I do want to imitate from these places is their confidence in their missions.  They are distinctly and confidently who they are supposed to be.  It helps being Texan to pull this off! But even more, it is evident that both Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Mary's at College Station are communities with fathers.  Each has a clear identity and culture. They therefore have joy and love!  There is a communion there.  From the joy of communion springs the fruitfulness of mission!  These are missionary communities.  They have an identity to offer.  They embody in a real way the event and experience of Jesus Christ.  Isn't that exactly what I experienced at both places?

I also had fun with some old friends and stayed overnight at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.  All in all a great week.

So here are my resolutions: live my sonship concretely, especially in relation to the Bishop.  I am going to stay more focused on exactly what he has assigned to me.  This leads directly into my fatherhood of UCat and St. Mary's of the Seven Sorrows.  Each needs to be a place of encounter with the event of Jesus Christ that forms a communion with a distinctive culture and mission.  That's the order: encounter, communion, culture, mission -- all in Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 21, 2014

More of the same

Anniversaries lately: newly ordained Deacon Ben Butler reminded me of my diaconate ordination anniversary on the 18th.  Yesterday was Sr. Margaret Andrew's birthday.  Today is my baptismal day!

Speaking of baptism, there is still a lot of water at St. Mary's.  Come by and get as much as you can use! We had two infant baptisms yesterday in the same water.  It is getting stronger and stronger! (We have a supply at Frassati House too.)

Today, I leave for my retreat.  Please pray for me.  You won't be hearing from me until I get back, and then it is almost time for the canonization of John Paul II.  Frassati House is hosting a canonization party beginning at 2:30 A.M. next Sunday morning.  Breakfast will be served!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Odds and Ends

All the baptismal holy water is from a baptism by total immersion, requested in sensitivity to the practice of the ecclesial communion of the catechumen's family. (This is actually the second time for me for this for the same reason!)  I could never have pulled it off without the joyful help of some of our seminarians!  That actually goes for all of Holy Week!

I am leaving tomorrow for a retreat, postponed from the time of my father's death.  It is very needed, believe me, and I ask for your prayers.  I hope that I can come back able to serve better.  You see, I am just way too cranky these days.  As much as I show it, it is worse on the inside.  I hope to hear the Gospel again as good news for me and then be able to share it in joy.  Surely this desire is not unrealistic or too much to ask.  In any case, I ask for your prayers.

Update -- Looks like Pope Francis is leading the way for my retreat.  I just saw his homily from last night.  I need to find my Galilee on this retreat.

Christ is Risen!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Something strange is happening!

Happy Holy Saturday.  What an awesome day:

From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday 
(PG 43, 439, 451, 462-463)

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Lots to get ready for today.  I mainly take the Triduum as it comes.

We have several wonderful UCat catechumens and candidates being received into the Church by the Bishop tonight at the Cathedral.  But we have one baptism at St. Mary's, and it's a special one.  All I will say is to bring big containers to take home baptismal holy water.  There's going to be A LOT of it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pope Francis to the rescue!

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of defending children's right "to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity," which includes "maturing in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother."

I could not help thinking of Sr. Jane Dominic's talk that caused so much furor when I came across this quotation in this talk given by the Holy Father.

It seems like they are on the same page in their sociology!

Ready for the Triduum

I think that UCat is especially ready for the Triduum, the observance of the Paschal Mystery, after the 72 straight hours of Adoration that ended last night.  The final Holy Hour was overflowing into the hallway.  In all honesty, this has to be one of the high points of my priesthood because it had so little to do with me.  The students and Jesus pretty much did it all!

Of course, there was the weekly 24 hour Adoration at St. Mary's this week as well.  And that is put together by some of the young adults in the city.

Happy Holy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nunc dimittis

Wow!  If the Lord called me now, I would die a happy man.  This morning from 6 to 7 AM, the Frassati House chapel was full of freshmen making a Holy Hour and singing!  Just wanted you to know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week 2014

The best thing happening at UCat right now is this!  Since Sunday night after Mass until Wednesday night after Praise and Worship -- 3 full days! -- there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament going on in the Frassati House chapel.  All of this has been organized by the students.  This picture was at about 6 a.m. this morning when I had finished the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer with Jeff Swaney (whose head is in the picture) -- chanted, of course!

I am going to begin this Holy Week a series of pictures from around Vanderbilt.  Yes, there are some good and pious things in these parts!  Sometimes surprisingly so.  Anyhow, I am going to try to comment on the good a lot more.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Got to get that picture down the page!

I am posting again because I hate that picture in the last post.

A couple of further thoughts.  If we do surrender in the culture wars because we have simply been engulfed and overrun, then we are left with the role that Pope Francis spoke of: the field hospital to the culture.  That is what so many things that I really admire in the Church are doing: Courage and Rachel's Vineyard, for example.  They come in mainly after the damage has been done and try to help people put themselves back together -- this time with grace.  If that is not the Gospel, I don't know what is.  We can also create communities that are safe havens in the cultural wasteland.  This is my goal both for UCat and for St.Mary's. This formation of Christian communion is sometimes called the Benedict Option, referring to what St. Benedict did in his time.  These approaches are beautiful, but they presume tremendous loss:  So many lives left to the depravity of the predominant culture.  This, however, seems to be the way of the Lord Jesus.  He did not establish a mass movement.  He did not take on the world, the flesh, and the devil on their own terms but on His.  There was a huge price to pay, and He paid it. And He won.  We will win too when we follow His way: the way of meekness and sacrificial love.  So let us ask how we can serve and save the culture rather than how we can control it.  That is the way to persuade by ethos.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Different Mode of Persuasion

Here is the cover story of the Vanderbilt Hustler for this week:

Breaking the Bathroom Binary

Go read it if you dare.

Where do you even start to deal with something like this?  I mean if I tried to answer all the nonsense and worse at Vanderbilt my life would end up like this:

There has got to be another way to convey goodness, truth, and beauty rather than having to argue with every crazy idea that comes down the road.  It makes you cranky! 

Ethos.  Live goodness, truth, and beauty.  Enjoy goodness, truth, and beauty.  Glorify goodness, truth, and beauty.  Show goodness, truth, and beauty.  And then they seem desirable.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is supposed to be Good News, after all.

I think that I am willing to wave the white flag and surrender the culture wars.  We're getting whipped anyhow.  I would much rather be enjoying the culture of goodness, truth, and beauty.  Let them envy me, if they like. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rich Gift of Love

Thanks to the Newman Connection you can still see Sr. Jane Dominic in action here.  The great folks at the Newman Connection produced high quality videos of a whole series of Sr. Jane Dominic's talks on the Theology of the Body available free online.  The series is called: Rich Gift of Love.  (The talk entitled Masculinity & Femininity: Difference and Gift is the one that sparked the controversy in Charlotte.  Go judge for yourself!) They are also available on DVD.  Be sure to thank the Newman Connection and to put any college students you know in touch with them.

I am very grateful to the Newman Connection personally and want to support them in any way that I can!  You might notice a familiar face or two here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


I cannot speak to the facts about Sr. Jane Dominic's talk at Charlotte Catholic High School and the aftermath.  Essential elements of the facts are not in public view.  I can talk about the perception that has been left now that Sister's voice is silent.

The message has been sent that one must not stand up for the Church's teaching about same sex attraction because if you get into any trouble you will not be supported.  A clarification was probably in order from Sister, the school, the Diocese of Charlotte, and/or Aquinas College.  I think that this is the case simply because there was such confusion -- such perceptions of all kinds of things.  This is not what happened, and what did happen leaves the impression that Sister was wrong, not about some aspects of prudential judgment or about supporting materials, but about the substance of her presentation.  That's the perception, and in our culture perception is reality.

This is an unfortunate impression to leave, not only in this particular case but also because of the effect it will have on others who, like Sister, are trying to engage our lost culture with the Gospel of Life.  It will have a "chilling effect" on those efforts.  We must pray for Sr. Jane Dominic and for those who are engaged in similar apostolic work.  The enemies of the Gospel of Life will be emboldened by what has happened in this case.  Those who propose the Gospel of Life will need more fortitude knowing that they will not be supported, even by those of their religious family.

That's the perception.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bullying Sr. Jane Dominic

I have a soft spot for Catholics held up to media scrutiny simply for being Catholic.  I know.  I've been there.  So naturally, I am sympathetic to Sr. Jane Dominic, O.P., whose talk at Charlotte Catholic High School has erupted into a media frenzy.  What did Sr. Jane Dominic do?  She presented the Church's teaching on same sex attraction and provided some arguments to explain it.  I have no doubts about the authenticity of Sister's presentation of the Church's teaching.  There would be no way to argue with that.  Her explanatory material is not infallible, and I don't know what it was.  But I am sure it was generally on target, even if some of it might be debatable.

The ruckus that ensued included the routine charges of bullying.  Indeed, there is bullying going on: bullying of Sr. Jane Dominic and anyone else who dares to demure from the secular orthodoxy that same sex attraction is inborn and has no developmental factors.  This orthodoxy is not proven by research.  It is accepted and enforced blindly by the predominant culture and their media henchmen.  They are going after Sr. Jane Dominic.

So, in your charity, please pray for Sister.  I can tell you that she is in a painful position.  I will be offering Mass for Sister's intentions at St. Mary's at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.  You are welcome to come!

All that being said, let me offer some advice to anyone speaking on this topic as a Catholic.  First, you cannot assume that anyone is "with" you on this topic -- not even a Catholic audience.  (Perhaps Sister assumed too much of her audience.)  You also cannot be too careful about what you say -- or really better -- you cannot be too loving in what you say.  It is true that in the past we too often relied on cultural taboos rather than Gospel charity to carry the argument on same sex attraction.  We did not stand up enough for those who were bullied (or worse) because of their same sex attraction.  We need to show the tenderness and understanding that we always should have shown.  For those with this condition, living the Church's teaching on same sex attraction is not easy, and it is not really comparable to any other situation.   It is indeed a difficult balance to speak the truth in love!

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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