Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

truth incarnate

Pope Francis is certainly the master of the evocative gesture: So many on this Holy Land trip!

Some people are concerned about these gestures thinking, for example, that they imply a unity that does not exist among different groups of Christians or among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. True enough, that unity does not exist, and it will take a lot more than gestures to accomplish actual unity. But I don't that is what the Holy Father is meaning by these gestures. He is not denying the reality of the divisions that exist but emphasizing the truth of a deeper unity that does exist. When the Holy Father kisses the hand of a Holocaust survivor, he is kissing the hand of mystery.

I admit a bit of frustration with the ambiguity of some the Holy Fathers gestures and even words, but I also admit that I have been forced into rethinking and hopefully redoing some things. This is different from Pope Benedict whose words were so clear, and I thank God for that. But this is not an either/or situation. And is the most important word in Catholic theology, as Fr. Hardon said. So now let's do with Pope Francis the way we thought with Pope Benedict. And don't forget that the most amazing thing about Pope Benedict is something he did.

Monday, May 26, 2014

humility: a key to Pope Francis

I was talking with my sister last week about Pope Francis.  I had become agitated by some the spin put on his words and actions. (See my comment about reading too many Catholic blogs that analyze him to death!) She wisely made the suggestion that when Pope Francis, for example, lets Cardinal Kasper voice his musings about divorce and remarriage, it is actually another -- and much more significant -- example of his humility that we have seen when he paid his hotel bill, etc. He lets Cardinal Kasper speak to see what will happen. What will the Spirit do with these words? What is happening, it seems, is that Cardinal Kasper is not persuading many people. But not because the Pope closed him down: rather because his ideas although generous are not persuasive. This is wise and humble of the Holy Father. He is doing much the same thing in a different way in the Holy Land. He is letting his presence call attention to other people and things. He points away from himself. This is the way to lead.

Humility is also the key to Pope Benedict, who is even less understood than Pope Francis. Who has ever done such a thing as Pope Benedict is doing? No wonder the two of them get along so well. I pray that I can lead as they do in humility.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

a long day on the road

I received two phone calls yesterday morning that altered plans for the day.  One was pretty routine and easy to accommodate.  We stopped in Cullman, AL to celebrate Mass with the Totus Tuus teams of Nashville, Birmingham, and Knoxville. The monks had altered their schedule so Mass had been earlier than expected at the Abbey Church at St. Bernard's where the teams are training. We were planning to stop anyway, and I will be going back this afternoon.  Fr. David Carter of the Diocese of Knoxville will be serving as chaplain for the week, but I am going for part of the time just to help out a bit.

The other call was from my old friend, Michael Tinkler, aka: the Cranky Professor.  His father had died during the night.  So we made a detour to Chattanooga, after leaving Cullman, to see his mother and his sister; and we were there when he arrived home from upstate New York. Everything about the visit was blessed. Then it was time to hit the road to Nashville. Thanks to the kindness of Sr. Helen Marie, my sister's prudent companion on this trip, for her generosity in gong with us on the longer journey with a cheerful spirit. This trip to Chattanooga is hard for me to put into words at the moment. I am sure that I will reflect on it more. In any case, I ask your prayers for the repose the soul of John Tinkler and for the consolation of his family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I read too many Catholic blogs...

I really need to do something about my reading of Catholic blogs.  I don't spend all that much time on the internet, and I read only a few and pretty mainstream Catholic blogs, but even so it can really get me down! All the fuss going on about divorce and remarriage, same sex marriage, etc, when the Church's teaching is so simple and clear.

I have boiled it down to this: sex is good between a man and a woman married for life and open to life.

That is simple and clear enough for anyone.  And hard enough.

Monday, May 19, 2014

a good Sunday

so many people whom I love and respect were deeply disturbed and hurt by the spectacle of a priest on local television denying a number of teachings of the Catholic faith -- and maybe even more dismayed that there was no rebuttal or correction from Church authorities

what I have decided to do is to be as good a Catholic as I can be. and yesterday was a good day to start

so I heard confessions, celebrated Mass and baptized a baby, had a meeting about developing the music at St. Mary's with a very dedicated volunteer, had lunch with two seminarians, visited a couple in the hospital just blessed with twins, visited another young lady in a rehab hospital -- please pray for her as she courageously struggles back from a debilitating disease that was misdiagnosed for crucial months -- attended a parish concert, had time for some quiet prayer time in the chapel of Frassati House, visited with and encouraged (and was encouraged by) a brother priest and then had dinner with him and another seminarian topped off by a walk, and did my laundry in the middle of all that

now it's time for a vacation with my sister

I can do all of these things.  I won't worry so much about what I can't do.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

a new beginning

Well here in the Nashville television market, we were treated with a well-edited summary of a long-long-time dissenter priest's complaints against the Church -- at 6 & 10! Surely this particular drama is coming the the end of its run.

As Providence arranged it, I happened to see this clip with a young man just about to enter seminary for our diocese in the fall.  At the end of the clip, he voiced wonder that anyone purporting to be Catholic could say these things, much less a priest.  His comment replaced my frustration with hope.

Better days are coming!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Nothing bad ever happens"

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has it right about the knot that "elite" universities have tied themselves into regarding sexual violence on campus.  Go read it here.  It's all about the money.

He cites an article by Megan McArdle, who makes a point almost verbatim to one that I have made about this topic: "On the one hand, colleges are supposed to treat their students as full-fledged adults who cannot be told where and when to drink, or with whom they can have sex … but we also want to say that colleges have the responsibility for ensuring that nothing bad ever happens."

The problem of sexual violence on campuses like Vanderbilt is terrible. But the Vanderbilts of this world don't have what it takes to provide a solution. The solution is virtue. UCat is getting ready to propose the virtues for love and responsibility in the fall. Watch out!

Monday, May 12, 2014

St. Mary's: a Pope Francis parish!


In case you don't recognize him from the back -- and maybe that's just the point -- this is a picture of Pope Francis celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. John Paul II.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Isn't this what you would expect from the devil?

Catholics are the ones with the problem in objecting to a black mass being offered at Harvard.  Yes, read it here. It's straight out of Screwtape.  And Harvard, for one, seem to be buying it. They have not stopped the black mass from happening so far.

Pray.  It's later than we think!

Friday, May 9, 2014

clericalism rears its ugly head

"heroism is not for the average Christian"

wow -- what ever happened to Vatican II and the universal call to holiness?

and who said this?  Cardinal Kasper, in explaining why those who are divorced and remarried should be readmitted to Holy Communion

It's a wrap!

The school year for University Catholic, that is.  We had our baccalaureate Mass yesterday and the family picnic following, a little time with Kathleen and Caroline literally with feet up, and it's done!   Thanks be to God for such wonderful blessings.

It feels good.  I don't ever remember having so definitive a feeling of being done.  I even remembered to say goodbyes yesterday at the picnic because I have learned how iffy it is to see people on graduation day itself. I don't know if I am going to graduation proper today at all or rather just sneak around to the after events for the different schools -- another lesson learned!

But, wow, do I need to get some work done about other things!  It's really bad -- almost out of control bad. So here goes.  Say a prayer for me in your charity.  Thanks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

About Jesus Christ and the Church...

I love this quotation from St. Joan of Arc: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I know that they are simply one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter."  If I want to stay with Him, I stay with the Church. Period.

And I do want to stay with Him. Desperately! I don't want anything in this world as much as that.

I realize that other people do not feel this way...at least not yet. I do not hold myself up as any sort of model of virtue. But I do aspire to loyalty to Him and His Church.  This is why I think that whatever the Church asks of me is fine. Celibacy -- OK!  And it even makes sense.

When we are proposing the Gospel, we need to be patient.  It is not going to be taken up all at once by everybody.  It takes time.  But put it out there!  I was talking to some priest friends last night and actually came on too strong, I'm afraid.  One of the priests was offering some feed back from a couple he is preparing for marriage who had attended the 3 To Get Married Retreat. Their comment is one that I have heard before: it would help if the NFP presenting couples did not have eight children. I did not take this well. For one thing, it's not true. But even if it were, what's the problem?  What's the problem with eight children?

To me, it's all about Jesus in the end. Whatever He wants is fine with me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remember: It's Good News!

Let's be evangelical!

Fr. Check of Courage said when he was here that a large part of the problem the Church encounters in teaching about sex, marriage, family life, etc. is that the world does not see these teachings as Gospel, as Good News. Sometimes I wonder if we don't either.

Look at the way we propose the Church's teaching, even from the highest levels -- all the fussing about divorce and remarriage, for example. There are those who will admit the Church's teaching but do so glumly. That's really going to win them over!  Or there are those who champion the Church's teachings but do so with some sort of grim logic, as if that is going to persuade many people.  I really think that the best argument I can make for clerical celibacy, for example, is by the joy of my priesthood.

Young Catholics will come to sessions on Theology of the Body, but they won't date or give up pornography. Married Catholics won't sacrifice jobs or comforts for children and really making a home. Priests and religious are comfy bachelors and spinsters, rather than icons of Christ the Bridegroom and joyful Brides of Christ. And being single isn't the worst thing in the world, either. I am deeply thankful for the generosity of so many single people who have lived generously for others. We all have to put ourselves out there and do it!  Now I am really going out on a limb -- how about embracing continence for those in a union after divorce, if Holy Communion really means so much? Or staying in a difficult marriage? Or embracing celibacy in the face of same sex attraction? Isn't it better, even more joyful, to live the Gospel with sacrifice than to turn away from Jesus?  That's just the point. Communion with Him is worth everything, and sometimes that's what we have to pay.  And it only costs us, not the rest of the world.

Communion does close off our choices. Communion with Jesus is on His terms, which are remarkably generous!  He doesn't even care too much if we mess up.  Just get up and try again. Marriage, sex, and family life are the nitty-gritty of living communion with Jesus and with others in Him. Let's stop worrying about it and coming up with arguments and just do it!  It's supposed to be Good News, after all. What is the worst that could happen?  We could go to Heaven!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Anamnesis: the Art of Remembering

Well, it happened Saturday night. A gathering for artists to reflect on what they do. Believe it or not, I was the first speaker, by accident. I had a couple of hours to prepare, maybe. And a great tip of a poem to use: On a Replica of the Parthenon by Donald Davidson. Local setting and local author -- good start. Anamnesis is going to be a feature of the Art Crawl at St. Mary's each quarter.

Anyhow, I thought it was great! I learned something from myself. That happens with extroverts, who need to say things to make them real. All of a sudden, I realized what was art and what wasn't. I dare to say that most of the stuff displayed for the Art Crawl on 5th Ave and in the Arcade was not art. Proficient artifacts, perhaps, but not art. Art is an expression of culture, and culture (from some of my reading from my CL retreat) is a fusion of reason and faith or, to say it another way, of rationality and transcendence. Culture has to mean something and has to point beyond itself.

Most of what is called art today certainly does not fit this definition. In the first place, meaning is off the table because of relativism. There can be no meaning without truth. All the more so transcendence. There isn't really anything to transcend. Art and culture today are simply more products for consumption: products that come from the "creative industry." These products are really more technology than art. See the comparison in the poem between the original Parthenon and the replica in Nashville.

It was fun!

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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