Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

I have spent the last few nights since I have been back in Nashville at the house for priests at St. Cecilia Motherhouse. There is an older priest giving the sisters talks on religious life for the beginning of year of consecrated life that Pope Francis has called. Since there were no other priests in the house because of Thanksgiving, the prioress asked if I would stay here with Fr. Henchey. It has been delightful, like a quasi-retreat. It is a good thing that I don't live in this house all the time -- I would be so spoiled! I have been able to join in with prayers and meals as my schedule has permitted, and I have been able to visit with Father as well. He is a wonderful priest -- for 69 years! And funny.

I frankly stole his homily from Mass yesterday for Mass at the parish last night. The end of ordinary time and the beginning of Advent actually focus on the same things: the end times and the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It was about supernatural faith and hope as exemplified in the Blessed Virgin. How we are to wait and watch well, as she did. We have something amazing to watch for, as she did and does. We forget the supernatural so often: the fact that God has greater things in store for us than we can imagine.

So we can have peace and joy as we watch and wait. Everything wrong will be made right. We don't merely hope to survive but rather we hope to see the establishment of the Kingdom of God in which all is made right and just. Secular hope is survivalist. Christian hope is righteous: all will be made right. We are one year closer!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I'm thankful for...

I am thankful for the love of God and for that love expressed through other people. I have been spending time with my sister the last few days. What I beautiful fountain of love for me particularly and more generally for just about everyone she encounters. I have learned so much about loving and therefore about really living from her. I am going home today, mainly refreshed by the love of God expressed through her love.

Love simply takes the edge off things because it comes from God. It doesn't really change how hard anything is. I hope that I give some of that love back to her and to everyone -- to take the edge off.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Catholic enclaves

I have come to Washington, DC to spend a few days visiting my sister. She lives at the St. Cecilia Dominican's new house of studies near Catholic University. I am staying at the Dominican friars' house of studies just around the corner. We have been to the National Shrine for Mass the last two days. We went to the new Shrine of St. John Paul II, which has a great museum. We have wandered around the campus of Catholic University a good bit. It is interesting to be in this Catholic enclave.

The gospel reading for today from Luke chapter 21 speaks of persecution providing the opportunity for giving testimony -- for martyrdom, to use the word from Greek. We certainly have that opportunity outside of Catholic enclaves, and we need to see it positively.

Whether in an enclave or in the wider world, we need to seek the way of vulnerability. We had a bit of an "enclave moment" even in Tennessee with the Amendment 1 campaign, which we won. Even though we won the Yes on 1 campaign in Tennessee, I am really much more drawn to crisis pregnancy work and post-abortion work. These services, I am afraid, we will always need in this hurting world. I would like for the Church to be known for these things first when it comes to abortion, rather than for the political struggles, even victories.

Let's enjoy a win every now and then, as well as being in a friendly enclave. But let's long for martyrdom -- for the opportunity to give testimony in a hostile environment!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A return to New Orleans

I made a quick trip at the end of the week to New Orleans to do a little pro-life research. I was with a New Orleans native and so I was immediately immersed in the wonderfully complicated culture of that city. I had not been there in over 25 years: my last visit was to see St. John Paul II! As soon as we arrived, we went to the dinner of the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese. Among those at the table were: my hostess and her mother and brother, a priest of the Archdiocese; next to me on one side was the superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family, an order native to New Orleans and founded by a free woman of color in 1842; Mary Matalin, who is a parishioner of my hostess's bother; and an older gentleman along with his wife who is descended from James Robertson, founder of Nashville. The speaker was the LSU baseball coach, and the honoree a federal judge heavily involved in Catholic charities.

On Friday, we had a meeting with the director of Louisiana Right to Life and the Respect Life Coordinator of the Archdiocese: the one a young man with good political instincts, the other a woman who has been in the trenches for decades. Awesome. Then we visited a crisis pregnancy center operated by Catholic Charities that has a mobile unit and -- something that I have never heard of before -- an OB/GYN, who comes in to see patients there. He has been doing this for 25+ years. Heroic.

Later we had dinner at a restaurant just down the street from the rectory of my priest host. We were with another federal judge, also a parishioner. This judge upheld Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban. Wouldn't you love to be in that parish? Sounds great so far. Indeed.

But all along the way, there were the odd incongruities, many of which had to do with politics. Is it possible to be as culturally dominant and politically influential as the Church is in New Orleans and not be tainted or co-opted in some way? It is interesting that the judge who made the heroic decision is an outsider to the culture of New Orleans-- a St. Louis native (who came to Tulane and never left) and a Jewish convert to Catholicism.

Such a beautiful city...and so complicated.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How this ever made the front page...

I was amazed to see this feature article on the front page of the Tennessean last week.

I really don't know how it happened. Chris Wohar is so authentic about her faith and so courageous about her defense of human life that it is hard to believe that such a secular media outlet as our daily paper would let her tell her story. But they did. Please read and thank God for virtuous women like Chris.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Better now

OK -- I think that I am over my politics obsession, even if it was just for Amendment 1. Yikes, how easily I get sucked into that stuff! Earlier in my life, I really was saved from going to Washington and becoming involved in politics on more than one occasion. I would surely have lost my soul if I had gone.

Even though generally on this same topic, I believe this post to be on a more pastoral level. What must pro-lifers do now that we have won? Well, more than we ever have, that's what. We must help people out of this part of the culture of death, and passing laws is the least and last of it.

Who are the abortion vulnerable? The babies and the mothers first of all. We save the babies, if we serve and save the mothers. We need to go looking for them. Planned Parenthood goes after the vulnerable. See where their facilities are. We do not have the zeal to serve and to save that we should. How about a mobile crisis pregnancy center? Here is an example from New Orleans.

More to come...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A little analysis

Nashville/Davidson County is the worst place in Tennessee. It had the largest percentage of "no" votes in the state on Amendment 1. Second worst place is Shelby County. It gave the greatest number of "no" votes, at a slightly lower percentage than Davidson County. But both over 60% (The only ones in the state). Yikes. The next two biggest counties, Knox and Hamilton went no but split almost 50/50. You have to get down to Williamson and Rutherford to find "yes" wins in big counties, both at 56%, but Rutherford's turn out was very low. The only rural county in Middle Tennessee to vote no was tiny Houston. That breaks my heart, as I was pastor there, along with Humphreys County, which voted fine.

On the "yes" side, 55 counties voted over 60% yes. Of course, many of them are tiny, but Bradley and Madison Counties were among them, and they are sizable counties. Seven counties voted over 70% yes. The really strong counties are mainly in rural East and West Tennessee, and on the fringes of Middle -- the Nashville effect, I fear. In Middle Tennessee, basically the Diocese of Nashville, the best counties are Lincoln and Lawrence, the very best of all! The lesson is: get away from big cities! How many times do I have to tell you? It is more virtuous in the country! Sacred Heart sounds like a good name for a parish assignment ;-) -- both parishes in Lawrence County are named that.

On a more serious note, I fear that it is only because of low turn out that we managed to win. And pro-lifers have to reach African Americans about the targeting of the black community by the eugenicists of Planned Parenthood.

I will want to ponder some more about these votes. What is affecting them? Urban/rural is the most obvious factor. Party is another, and race. But what about other cultural factors, like religion? It will take more time and expertise than I have, at least at the moment.

We winned!

I am very conservative when it comes to elections, but I am confident that Amendment 1 has won the referendum! Wow. A true grass roots victory over big money. This was the last and best chance to get this into the Tennessee Constitution. Of course, the victory is probably short lived, as the federal courts have taken to nullifying state constitutions. I am especially reassured in keeping my domicile in Cheatham County, which voted solidly "yes" on 1. Davidson County was by far the worst county in the state. O tempora, O mores!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Follow the money

Fertility is not a disease

This post somehow follows from the last one on final cause. I mentioned the young man who had an enlightening moment when the connection between sex and babies became clear philosophically. Babies are the obvious end of sex. Why else all that stuff that we will not go into here? There are neater and easier ways to say "I love you" but only one way to make a baby.

So fertility is something good. It means that things are working right, doing what they are supposed to do. And so often we treat fertility like a disease, both physically and emotionally. Fertility is not a problem. The fact that a young man and a young woman can conceive a child is a good thing, and it is the natural end of their engaging in sex. Oh, but we don't want to have a baby. Then back it up a few steps and change the behavior that leads to babies, but don't mess up something perfectly healthy like your fertility. Messing with fertility changes not only the biological end of sex but also the relational ends as well. If I have sex more or less just for fun -- that is, without the openness to a baby -- then I am not intending very much in the relationship. The possibility of a baby ups the relational value of sex. It makes it long term and not a quickie.

But I must have sex! Well, actually you don't. You won't die. In fact, you will be healthier if you have sex the way the Church tells you to, respecting its natural end of making babies within marriage. What you mean to say is that you will have to control yourself to act within reason. Very true. And if you do that, you will also have a happier and healthier life.

Unfortunately, we live in a time that has rejected right reason in favor of sentimentality. See the post above. We decide that we must have our desires no matter how disordered they are, like having sex outside of marriage or even within marriage using contraception. How sad for a husband and wife to use each other as if they were not committed to each other. In order to get what we want, we have to resort to so many terrible things, ultimately abortion. Abortion is the final "birth control." Killing is indeed an extreme from of control.

Human weakness in this area is so understandable, and we must have understanding for those who live disordered sexual lives -- because that probably includes all of us at some time. But we cannot abandon the high standard and liberation of self mastery through the virtue of chastity.

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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