Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So many things going right

Something about me makes it more likely that I will notice the few things going wrong rather than the many things going right. I want to begin to change that in the year of grace 2015. A review of this past year will serve me well as a platform for this resolution: many, many good things during the past year and a few painful or difficult ones.

Even things going wrong are opportunities: for a new beginning; for humility; for understanding; etc.

I am going to try something tonight that I suspect will not go right: Midnight Mass at St. Mary's. You see, one of the hip things about Nashville is a hip New Years Eve celebration downtown. Even though St. Mary's is north and west of the hip part of downtown, it is downtown nonetheless. But anyhow, we are going to give it a go. Somebody needs to be praying then, right? We will begin with a holy hour of Adoration at 11 p.m. and then move into Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

I am going to get there early to see what I can do to save some parking spaces and use the time for recollection. Join me if you like or dare!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

I am very happy about Christmas. I am not, however, very sociable this year -- see the post-before-last. I am bowing out of more and more pleasant social things to rest more and to pray more. For me, it is what I have to do right now. I am not in a "humbug" mood. I just prefer to be with Him. And for once in my life, being sociable is a strain for me.

Love comes down to us -- that is the message of Christmas for me this year. I don't have to reach up to Him. He comes into whatever He finds. He finds joy -- so many couples with a baby for the first time at Christmas. He finds suffering -- so many who are sick, even terminally. He finds loneliness -- so many in institutions. He finds exhaustion -- so many tired by cares and work. He finds it all! And He is just as present in one as in any other.

Let Him find you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Killing sins

OK folks -- time is ticking away for Christmas confessions! Keep me busy today at St. Mary's. I have promised to stay until the last sinner is served from after Mass 'til?

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Melancholic in Advent

I suspect one of the reasons that I am so fond of Advent and of trying to keep it in the old-fashioned, somber way is temperamental on my part. You see, I am a melancholic (I think), and I need a somber prelude to the joy of Christmas. Maybe other people are joyful all the time, but I have this somber stuff to deal with in my life. If it is joy all the time, what are we melancholics supposed to do with all that stuff?

On Tuesday evening, I spoke at Theology on Tap at a brew pub literally across the street from where I live. I talked about "My First Christmas as a Priest." Let me give you a hint: it was somber. I won't go into the details of the talk here. (After the response to the talk, I think that I might write it up at some point.) But let me say that I cannot separate this time of year from times like that in my life. I am not morbid about it; it actually gives me hope. But that hope comes about in time, not all at once.

This year, to be honest, my melancholy is not all from memory. It is a present reality too. I am trying to skip out on some of the celebrating this year. I am just not there...yet.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Roll Tide!


My sister, Sr. Margaret Andrew, O.P., just received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama in secondary education. If you want to see for yourself go here at page 13 or here at about the 59 minute and at the 2 hour 20 minute marks.

I am so proud of her! And I was so happy to see her big smile as she was processing out! I wish that I could have been there, but duty called. But I did watch :-)

Meet me in St. Louis

Well, I'm doing something that I don't do much of anymore and really shouldn't, but...

I am in St. Louis for the wedding of two former Vanderbilt students. I am very happy for them, and I certainly enjoy getting to see and be with so many former students. St. Louis is one of the "feeder" cities for University Catholic.

The wedding is at the old cathedral right under the arch -- it's even older and certainly grander than St. Mary's (although I do have to give Bishop Miles credit for what he built in Nashville at the time). We are staying at a hotel right downtown. This morning I walked to a real diner a few blocks away. It was the real deal. Check out the White Knight, if you are ever in St. Louis! And then I walked back down what was a grand boulevard, lined mainly by impressive civic buildings and little parks. Wow. St. Louis was a city, in a way that cities aren't anymore. The train station, court houses, war memorials, the opera house -- all on a monumental scale and  set in very inviting public spaces. Unfortunately, you can see the decline of the city, but these monuments remain and still inspire. When St. Louis was a great city, its private wealth and power to some extent was extended to the public life of the city. There are even grander public areas around Forest Park, and then there is the new cathedral. The arch would be about the last gasp of grand St. Louis. I don't think that cities see themselves this way anymore.

Nashville, for example, never was and still isn't the city that St. Louis was, but Nashville is in ascendancy right now. The sort of things that are being built in Nashville now are mainly about private consumption rather than public aggrandizement: the condos and swanky bars of the Gulch, for example. There is a bright spot here and there: the downtown library, for example, but even that is modest in comparison to these buildings in St. Louis.

Anyhow, it is fun to be in a city that once had a vision of itself as a public thing, a res publica.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

a small Catholic moment

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of a dear friend, Ruth Benson. The Bensons have been friends of my family for many, many years in Nashville, later in Sewanee, and at the beach at Gulf Shores. The Bensons have touched my family at many points over the years. Ruth had fought an heroic and graceful battle with cancer for more than a year. She approached her death as she had lived her life, with deeper and deeper trust in the Lord Jesus.

Bob and Ruth Benson converted to Catholicism over 20 years ago and had made Our Lady of Lourdes in South Pittsburg, TN their parish. It is down the mountain from Sewanee on the Chattanooga side. The church is very small and humble but quite lovely and traditionally devotional. The pastor is a shepherd of souls. The funeral was simply what the Church has in mind for funerals. We prayed for the dead. The homily was a pastoral reflection on death, with personal reference to Ruth by her pastor. The music was the unadorned chant of the ages. The small church was filled to overflowing.

The burial was at the cemetery at Sewanee, and the procession took the back road up the mountain. It was foggy and rainy at Sewanee. The carillon played, muffled by the fog. Finally, there was a reception in Convocation Hall, one of the prettiest and oldest buildings on the campus. There I saw many, many faces whom I have known over the years, especially at Sewanee.

This funeral was characteristic of Ruth: simple, dignified, beautiful, and full of faith. In all of those respects it reflected her perfectly. It was also a gentle Catholic witness in that most respectable enclave of the old Protestant establishment -- also very like Ruth's personal witness. I had a brief exchange (and slightly uncivil on my part), standing in the dripping rain outside the church. One member of the congregation was teasing about standing in the back of the church. He said that the Protestants didn't get a seat, to which I replied, I hope in good jest, that we Catholics had been kicked off the mountain for our part. We all laughed, but it did seem to strike a chord: the Catholic witness enduring on the periphery. I hope that Ruth will forgive me!

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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