Sunday, August 30, 2015

a good shepherd

Please do not consider me to be a quietist, after my post yesterday. We do have to speak and to do, as well as to pray and to be, in order to be good Christians. We must do so according to our state in life, for example, as parents and pastors where that duty is greater. A bishop, in particular, needs to teach the faith clearly, especially in areas where it is widely misunderstood. I was proud to see my friend Archbishop Sample of Portland teaching in such a way in this article on same-sex marriage. With patience and clarity he takes on the confusion that has followed the Holy Father's "who am I to judge" comment. The article is just so typical of him but more importantly it is a great example of a bishop doing what a bishop ought to do, even on a hot topic in a less than friendly environment. 

It helps, of course, that Archbishop Sample is, and is known, to be a man of prayer and of charity. His teaching is of a piece with his praying and doing. I know he prays -- I went to seminary with him. And things come out about his charity. When he confirmed a prisoner last spring, it came out that he has regularly visited prisons throughout this priesthood. His care for his mother and his simplicity of life are easy to observe: he lives with her in the cathedral rectory. And it's not a Cathedral rectory like the one I live in!

It is this integrity -- a wholeness of life -- that we should strive for as disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Grace abounds

and all the more so as sin abounds, according to St. Paul (see Romans ch. 5), so down deep although I mourn many things happening in the world and in souls, including my own, I am confident and at peace that God will provide for us in His mercy.

I have refrained from dwelling on the many radical disorders increasingly ravaging our world and have been trying instead to focus on the grace and mercy of God. Only He can save us. There is no hope in this world. We do need to do what we can in our own lives and in the world to bring about reform, but these efforts are doomed to failure apart from total dependence on God's grace.

More than anything, we need to pray and to love. Our first response to everything, in particular to anything that disturbs our peace, must be to pray: to sustain a loving conversation with our Father God, through His Son Jesus Christ. And then if we can do anything, it should be to love, especially in all the little things: being thoughtful and sacrificial about everything. Never complain. Always love. Always pray. Offer everything to the Crucified for the salvation of the world. And be at peace.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Pray for priests

Once again, I turn to Msgr. Pope for a great post. He is asking for prayers for priests because the Devil hates us. (Don't forget -- he hates you too!)

Msgr. Pope cites his mother as having a sense of his need for prayers, more keenly than he did. That's why he wrote this post for the feast of St. Monica. The Devil very much wants to destroy priests. I am blessed to have people who have sensed my need for prayer for this reason. And they are right. I do feel attacked often. And even worse are the attacks that I am not aware of. My sister, my special prayer warrior, provides me with a whole huge family of sisters, many of whom I know are praying for me. I am blessed by the prayers of those who work with me, especially in the last couple of years. I count especially valuable the daily prayers of a living saint, who has taken up a mother's role in her prayers for me as a priest. I would have been lost long ago without all of these prayers.

Msgr. Pope is surely much holier than I am. He cites one time in his priesthood when he experienced a particular need for prayers to hold the Devil at bay. For me, it is a daily battle, although I certainly have experienced one particularly difficult struggle, years ago and lasting over years. I am so grateful when people recognize my need, and the need of all priests, for prayer cover. I much prefer to receive assurances of prayer, which I desperately need, to compliments, which I do not deserve!

Please hold your priests to high standards. Do not pamper them or make excuses for them. But do pray for them in the face of the Devil's particular hatred. And be ready to help them up, if they falter under the barrage.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The day Thou gavest...

I went to bed with this hymn in my head. A sweet sound to have in mind! Here are the words, if you can't make them out:

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.


So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

It's a veddy, veddy Victorian English hymn but beautiful nonetheless! The British had the grace to play this hymn during the ceremony turning over Hong Kong to the Communist Chinese. A bit of humility on their part and perhaps a warning to their successors?

I like the idea so much of each day primarily being an opportunity for praise, whatever else may come. As stock markets totter and terror grows in the world and as personal struggles and sorrows come our way, let's refocus on the kingdom of praise.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

what a rich life!

Well, I am pretty exhausted, and I have a big day in front of me that won't end until 11 p.m. or later tonight. And that's just great!

In a college chaplain's life, no day is bigger than move-in day for new students. That was yesterday. In a parish, no day is bigger than Sunday. That's today -- with the "last-chance," late-night Mass on campus starting again today as an added bonus.

Sometimes I wonder: "what am I thinking?" with a schedule like that. Obviously, I'm not thinking much! My new priest associate is a great joy, and he enjoys the craziness of it all as well. We were unwinding together last night after it was all over. But he has the added pressure right now of finishing thesis revisions and preparing for comprehensive exams so I am trying to find him some quality time for that sort of work. I am proud of him because I would never finish, but I am good as a cheerleader!

So today will be long and wonderful: Mass and baptism at St. Mary's, visit to a couple with their first child just born yesterday, church fair at Belmont, adoration and Mass at Vanderbilt. Take this as a plug for the priesthood!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Move-in day

Maybe I am getting old -- of course, I am getting old! I actually do feel older in ways that I have not before. This is my tenth time through move-in day!

But I also think that things are changing so fast that the only way to keep up is to slow down. I am saying this in the context of move-in day for new students at Vanderbilt and Belmont. I used to try to meet this day head-on. Fortunately, I can let the students and FOCUS missionaries do that now. I am not sure what my hyperactivity (or theirs) can accomplish. Yes, we all very much need to be in the present moment with the new students but the present moment in its connection to eternity rather than in its proximity to the next moment.

So today, I will try to support the students who come my way -- new and old. I will try to pray and live as I should any day and every day. I will try to make myself visible and available. I will try to live in peace.

In the midst of so much change, the changeless anchors us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Campus Vision

So much for St. Mary's. What about UCat?

Frankly, I am glad that we are not all that "official." It gives us freedom to be faithful!

I see UCat not as a specific organization but as an umbrella for a number of groups. "University Catholic" is not about this university or that university but all the universities! So wearing a UCat T-shirt doesn't say where you go to school but that you are a Catholic wherever you go to school. It began with the Catholic students of Vanderbilt but now extends to the Catholic students of Belmont, to medical students, to graduate students in various fields, and on and on. I hope that we continue to shoot out branches and roots all over the place.

We are not about turf. We are just about Jesus. Some of the programs are more developed and are more specific to one group or another. There are structures for different groups, but I hope that none of this is exclusive.

We are a chaplaincy. That means that we have the pastoral care of a specific group of people: in this case, the university students of Nashville. It is sort of like a parish made up of people all about the same age, who are involved in about the same thing. But just as in a single parish, there are those who attend different Masses and therefore don't know one another well, we interact with each other to varying degrees. But if you are looking for resources and support in a university setting to grow in love with Jesus, UCat is the place to come. We are here for you.

Let us know how to serve you better.

A Parish Vision

Some people think I'm joking when I say that I want to advertise St. Mary's as: "a Vatican II parish." But I'm not joking. That is what I want it to be. I want St. Mary's to be what the Church wants it to be, and Vatican II is the most recent iteration of that direction from the Church.

I want fidelity to Vatican II for the parish liturgy. Sometimes people coming out of Mass at St. Mary's say to me: "I have never been to the Latin Mass before." I want to answer: "Well, you still haven't been!" The way the liturgy is celebrated at St. Mary's is pretty close to what the Council called for, although we can still do better! Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has recently commented on a number of the more outstanding elements of worship in the parish -- the priest facing ad orientem and the use of Latin -- as being completely in accord with the reformed liturgy.

But it is far more than a matter of liturgy. I am often asked how many parishioners we have at St. Mary's. I really can't tell you. And I don't really care. We will have as many as the Holy Spirit sends to us. We will try to let the light of Jesus Christ shine and reach out and welcome as many as we can. I do want people to find a spiritual home and to be stable and regular in it. I think that is happening at St. Mary's, but we don't have a built in constituency or institutional loyalty. And I am glad of that. We are not there to keep something going or to keep people in the pews. All we have is a lovely old building to keep up, and that is a joy. Otherwise, we are free to be what we need to be.

When we started to need catechesis in the parish, I did not think that we needed to offer a pale imitation of a school setting. Among other things, we just don't have the room for it. I want for the parish to help families to evangelize and catechize themselves, to help form disciples of the Lord Jesus of the young and old individuals who find a home at St. Mary's. It takes some creativity.

I want our parish to be able to respond to the environment that we are in: to respond to those who work downtown, to those who live downtown, to those who need help downtown. But not as an agency -- rather as a family and a home. Again, the lack of institutional structure is an advantage not a detriment.

I want to spell this out more for the people of the parish and for you all to help me. It is not the usual approach for a parish, but we are not the usual parish. I think we need to be what we can be. It continues to be a joy to discover what this is.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Well, maybe I'm back

That was a good long break! And school is about to begin again.

I have finally started on something that I mentioned here a while a go: a re-reading of the Vatican II documents. I am being greatly edified. I have made it through the document on the liturgy, and now I am going through Gaudium et Spes. I am loving it!

Here is a little something for you:

"The remedy which must be applied to atheism, however, is to be sought in a proper presentation of the Church's teaching as well as in the integral life of the Church and her members. For it is the function of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit Who renews and purifies her ceaselessly, to make God the Father and His Incarnate Son present and in a sense visible. This result is achieved chiefly by the witness of a living and mature faith, namely, one trained to see difficulties clearly and to master them. Many martyrs have given luminous witness to this faith and continue to do so. This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer's entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy. What does the most to reveal God's presence, however, is the brotherly charity of the faithful who are united in spirit as they work together for the faith of the Gospel and who prove themselves a sign of unity."

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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