Saturday, February 28, 2015

I feel pulled -- but I'm in the right place

Yikes! My ability to fall just this side of outright lying has been severely tested the last few days. Some of you who know my plans well are probably wondering how I can be posting while on a mission trip to Nicaragua. Well, I'm not. I am in Nashville. I didn't miss the plane but had decided to stay behind mainly because of lingering bronchitis. But I wanted to tell the students in person and all together, which meant that I had to wait for that opportunity and face awkward questions in the mean time. Sorry if I mislead anyone.

In a way, I was sad to pull off from the airport at 3:30 a.m. this morning after dropping off the travelers. It is the first time that there has been a big UCat trip or event that I have not been in the thick of it. (My very first trip was at this time my first year, leaving with a group of students for the Awakening retreat at Texas A&M. That had hilarious moments, including arriving at the airport with a student who had no form of identification whatsoever! Of course, all eventually ended well.) But I was also relieved. First, because the trip could go on without me. Caroline was the main organizer of this trip in any case, and the students are in great hands with her. I have to say that on that first trip I was also generously assisted by Mike LaLonde. Those were the days!

It has turned out that, as a pastor, I need to be here so I am thankful for the bronchitis and the support. I would have felt terribly guilty getting on a plane to leave town if I hadn't already decided to back out of the trip. God is so good.

Why do I worry about things? God had it all lined up the way it needed to be.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Prayers, please

Here are a number of intercession to add to your list:

Bishop David Choby undergoing surgery tomorrow on a broken arm that he suffered in a fall on Wednesday.

Teresa Pearson diagnosed with advanced cancer and in Vanderbilt Hospital. Theresa is known to many at St. Mary's for selling the Contributor paper after Mass. She is our newest parishioner!

Gary Cordell, my assistant at UCat Kathleen's husband, recovering from surgery.

The readings at Mass this week have urged us to prayer with perseverance. Let's do it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

more care

We really need to care a whole lot more about people and so much less about practically everything else, especially money.

In these days of bad weather here in Nashville, the basic needs of people become more evident. And wonderfully, people step up and care. But what about all the time? I am seeing people being put into such stressful situations about all kinds of things because nobody cares. Or cares only about far less significant things like money.

And I am not just talking about the needs of the homeless, for example. But the needs of just about everybody for some TLC.

People are what matter. Part with some cash, part with some time, part with some stuff for people.

It is a complement to the priesthood that, in my experience, people generally think that priests care. And there is a certain sort of caring that priests are good at. If priests are to care, however, we need a lot more priests! We really do. Part of why we need more priests is so that we can care for each other as we care for the faithful.

Caring costs, and it is messy. Caring is not curing. Caring is being a human being.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I never thought that I would say this...

Could there be a down-side to duty? Well, maybe that is part of the problem I have with trust. My sister and I have been talking about this connection between trust and duty in our experience.  Of course, it is a misunderstood concept of duty (with some pride thrown in), but I do think that my having a high sense of duty has resulted in lack of trust.

I was brought up to value certain qualities very highly: duty, loyalty, honor. I was also brought up to be suspicious of other things: emotions, disruptions of routine. Last week was a good example: I had to get over a reticence to cancel things because of the weather. It literally took a knock on the head to set me straight!

Don't get me wrong. I still think that it is wise to be wary of emotional extremes and not to give in to trivial excuses. But I think that ignoring emotions has actually made me more emotional and in a less healthy way. I am delighted to be able finally to acknowledge emotion and then let it go play in the corner rather than to deny it and let it grow unmanageable. I need to get better at this.

I also still highly value duty. I respect it in others and want to cultivate it in myself. And yet everything does not depend on me. It depends on Him. I need to let my sense of duty, for which I am grateful, be at His service and not at mine. I am, of course, no more that a useless servant!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

more trust

From a certain point of view, I have had a no good, awful, terrible week. In reality, I have had a week that has disclosed in me a profound lack of trust in God and way too much pride in relying on myself. What a great way to start Lent!

It has not been a pretty week. The weather has been terrible. I have been getting sicker. I have gotten little work done. Odd things have popped up that needed to be taken care of. I have been miserable about it all -- mainly worrying. Yikes! Is that anyway for a Christian to live? 

God is still God. He loves the whole world and loves me. I have everything that I need and way more than that. I have great work to be doing and great people to do it with. And yet I am cranky and filled with self-pity! 

Repent! But not is some wildly dramatic (and prideful) way but simply and effectively. I need to do a continuous reality check with the fruits of the Holy Spirit as a guide. There is a lot that needs changing! Fortunately, I think that I still have some spiritual momentum from my retreat to carry me forward with a few simple, humble efforts on my part but mainly with trust in God for the heavy lifting.

I want to go so much deeper in trust that I have before. I am grateful for several humiliations this week and for friends who have kindly pointed out my pride to me. It has been really good. And so I will begin again. Pride is a habit, and I keep falling back into my prideful default position. Maybe Lent will be long enough for God to shift my default a bit from pride to trust in Him. I will try to get out of the way -- to be attentive to any backsliding on my part. Please help me with this, and call me out when you see I need it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ordinary Holiness

I am a bit embarrassed about blogging when I am getting so little else done. The "almost cold" that I mentioned during my retreat has lingered and in the last day or so intensified so that I am just plain sick now. Sorry if you are one of the many people waiting on me to get things done. I will as soon as I can.

Wednesday, I was entertaining for a few hours in the afternoon a priest visiting the Bishop, while he was doing other things . Even when you are sick and busy, you don't say no to the Bishop! We had an interesting conversation about how to be holy these days. It seems that extraordinary holiness is generally not allowed to flourish. It is hard to imagine saints like Teresa of Avila or Ignatius of Loyola, much less Philip Neri, getting much traction these days. How and where would they ever get off the ground? Instead, this priest suggested, we are called to more ordinary holiness. His observation made me think of a standard of holiness that I have long aspired to: the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. If I understand that idea of spiritual fruits, then these qualities and virtues are what a Christian ought to look like. Boy, do I have a long way to go!

Here they are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. I was joking with a couple of priests in the rectory last night that we could start a new religious order, but we would have to come up with a new name. Fruits of the Holy Spirit might give the wrong impression in a number of ways ;-)

I fail to demonstrate these fruits so regularly. How I would love to possess them all on a consistent basis! Then I think that I would be a fruitful Christian. Wouldn't these qualities attract, just the way a juicy apple does hanging on a tree? -- except for good!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Being the grown up

On Saturday, I attended a talk by Pres. John Garvey of Catholic University at the Aquinas Forum. It was an excellent talk on the state of the family in our society. During the question period, an Aquinas student asked what could be done to promote a culture to prepare young people for marriage and family. Among other things, Pres. Garvey mentioned the reversion to single-sex dorms at Catholic University that he had instituted. (Funny he should mention that, as reversion to single-sex dorms is one of the examples that I offered if Vanderbilt were really interested in protecting its students from sexual assault -- see a few posts ago.)

The facts and statistics are all there to show what a good idea this is, and so when the students demanded a town hall meeting for him to explain himself, he was more than happy to oblige. Pres. Garvey said that as he was finishing with the lengthy question period he realized that he needed to say more. He needed to be a father and a grown up. He bluntly said that this was all about sex, right? There was stunned silence. He told the students that as they come for the first time to the age of serious commitment and relationship they needed some help and protection in order not to make disastrous errors. This was his role: to give them the space to get it right rather than to give them enough rope to hang themselves. He received a standing ovation even from this unsympathetic crowd. I wanted to give him one too!

The difference between what Pres. Garvey and Catholic University are doing and what places like Vanderbilt are doing is that Garvey is acting like a father and not a bureaucrat.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On St. Valentine's Day

Where's the romance?

One of the roles that I was initially surprised by as a college chaplain is young lovers' confidant. What on earth do I know about that? Of course, it does make sense. Why wouldn't you talk to the same person about your love life that you tell all kinds of other awkward things to?

So I have learned how incredibly boring this supposedly thrilling part of life is these days for most people. If there is any sort of relationship, it generally centers around a drunken prelude to a regrettable sexual encounter that either leads to nothing or to a routine of sex devoid of much else. That, or pretty much nothing: hanging out in groups with no clear interest in anyone in particular that anyone can tell.

Boring! That's what sexualizing all relationships does. Where can they go but down after that? And that's why everyone else is so afraid of getting into a relationship -- because they don't want that.

Here's an idea: good old fashioned romance. Like in old movies or even older stories.

A young man putting his best self forward for a young lady. Her being slightly interested and amused. Enough to encourage him -- but not too much, too soon! His stepping it up -- see, she knows what she wants. Soon, he is going from washing his face and combing his hair to flowers, poetry, song, great adventures, etc. How fun is that? Especially for the girl! But really for the boy too. He wants to be a hero. Of course, this requires conversion, even virtue: guts for the guys and kindness for the girls.

It also takes imagination. This is one of the main reasons we have one! It is so much trouble otherwise. But, of course, we live in a time of little imagination. We live off of other people's. So here's to a little (or a lot of) romance!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My retreat: The Love of Jesus

Well, I'm back from retreat, and it was a wonderful one. Nothing really spectacular to report, except the love of Jesus. That is about the only affection that I felt on this retreat. As a matter of fact, I didn't really feel very good because I half-way had a cold the whole time. But I felt Him. Not anything spectacular, as I said, just Him. And I still do.

I was guided to pick up a book for spiritual reading during the retreat: The Friendship of Christ by Robert Hugh Benson. It was a good choice. In the conferences, there was so much good encouragement and inspiration, as usual. I began to look at the crucifix in the chapel during the talks. This crucifix conveyed not only the bloodiness of the crucifixion but also its weight: Jesus' body hanging on the cross. This view added to the weight of the conferences. Msgr. Benson's book further amplified this affective side of the retreat for me.

I was inspired by the love of Jesus Christ revealed practically everywhere: where I expect it and where I don't. Anyhow, this book helped me to feel Him in a more realistic way in my life day to day. The most powerful section of the book, I think, is Benson's treatment of the seven last words. At one point, I was reminded of the lament, I think of St. Francis, that "love is not loved," except the point here was even simpler: "love isn't." How can it be that after all the love of God accomplished in the Passion that love is not paramount in Christian daily living in a practical way? It seems that the world should have been revolutionized, or at least the Church, by the radical love that Christians would practice after the model of the Lord Jesus. But love just hasn't caught on that way. Well, I want it to catch on that way with me. The love spilling from the cross is more than enough to change my life. It is what "everyone is looking for" in Jesus in the Gospel for today so I need to share it too as a Christian. Pray that I do.

As an aside, Msgr. Benson has been in the news a bit lately because Pope Francis referred to his apocalyptic novel The Lord of the World again in another interview. It seems that Pope Benedict also referred to this book.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Going on retreat

I am leaving on retreat tomorrow morning with two priest friends. I really want to make a good retreat so I ask for your prayers. I want to be with the Lord.

I won't be posting for the week. I am sure that I will have something good to say when I get back from Texas!

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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