Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last and first day of the year indulgences

Today, pray the Te Deum for a plenary indulgence.

And tomorrow, the Veni Creator.

The Te Deum is a great prayer of thanksgiving, and the Veni Creator a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Makes sense!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Manger references

Yesterday in my Christmas homily, I mentioned a number of references to the manger from various sources. In case anyone is interested, here they are:

The Christmas card. But please look at the sisters' other cards. They are some of the most beautiful I know. This one is really an exception to their style!

The reliquary of the manger at St. Mary Major.

Straw in the manger devotion.

The manger, Christ their equal made;
That upper room, their souls' repast;
The cross, their ransom dearly paid,
And heaven, their high reward at last.

Away in a Manger.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What a Wonderful Advent

I am so grateful for Advent this year. It has been a time of grace, in the most literal sense of the word: gift. God has done wonderful things in my life this Advent. All kinds of things, and I am so grateful. I have not been on an emotional high. If anything, it has been pretty dark emotionally. But quieter. Everything getting quieter -- inside.

Yesterday morning, I took some time early in the day to go for a walk in the woods at Beaman Park. Nobody was there. It was damp and grey. And quiet. It was just what I needed. It was also a good image of the quietness of my soul, which is usually anything but quiet.

I don't really understand what is going on, but I am so grateful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Downtown is so wierd

Yesterday afternoon, I had the help of some parishioners getting St. Mary's ready for Christmas. Truthfully, I was helping them. This included decorating the front gates of the Church. As one of the young men helping noted afterward, just about every condition of man walks by the front of that church. Downtown Nashville is such a contradiction. There is no there there. It is not a real place at all. People work there and go away. People entertain themselves there and go away. Even the few people who live there have to go away to get any of the normal necessities of living. In the case of St. Mary's, people go to church there and go away. People with no where to work or live hang around there. There is lots of coming and going, much of it right in front of St. Mary's.

Right now, I am upset with myself for getting upset with a man asking for help after being asked so many times by so many others. I could and should have been more patient with him. We try to help many in little ways, and we are always on the lookout for ways we can connect to make a bigger difference in the rare case when that is possible. Fr. Fye is working on one case like this now.

I am glad that we are there. We add something. I am especially excited about our mission to offer confession. This anonymous downtown setting is a big advantage for confession. I have an interesting feeling about this Christmas at St. Mary's.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pray -- and thank God -- for Bishop Choby

It was announced last night at the Serra Club's Vocations In Progress (VIP) Mass and dinner that Bishop Choby is in the hospital. It is not a critical situation thankfully, and he will be undergoing tests today so keep him in your prayers.That is about the only thing that could have kept him away from this event, in particular. The robust vocation situation in the Diocese of Nashville is the crowning glory of Bishop Choby's episcopacy. It is due entirely to his fatherly concern to provide for his flock in the most important way by ensuring the sacramental and pastoral life of the parishes and to care for and support his seminarians.

Even those of us who know and love Bishop Choby well can be frustrated at times by his organizational and administrative challenges -- even someone like me who is challenged in the same ways. Yet, we know that we are blessed with a father-in-God. Fathers can be plenty frustrating, especially when they are vulnerable enough to share their struggles with us, but a father filled with sacrificial love for his family is more precious than any administrative genius. That is what we have in Bishop Choby.

Bishop Choby will not stop. He will not stop loving us, even when he has double booked himself or let his voice mailbox fill up. He pushes on, just as he pushes his walker, even when it costs him so much to do so. And the seminarians keep coming. I wonder why? Perhaps they are inspired by his love of God, of His people, and of them. Maybe they see the model of a pastor's life that is worth living and dying for.

There was something that stood out to me last night at the Serra Dinner. Bishop Choby has joked with the vocation directors of the Nashville Dominicans over the years about a contest of numbers of vocations. Of course, just about always in just about every category, the sisters win. But Bishop Choby is the hands-down winner in one way: native vocations. As the sisters were introduced, the national and even international scope of the vocations was impressive. But there was not one sister introduced from Tennessee. Even though fewer in number, the seminarians were largely identified geographically by parish. Even a couple of out-lying East Tennesseans had gone to college and encountered the Catholic faith and their vocations here. By his fruits shall you know him.

Pray for Bishop Choby to have a blessed and healthy Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jubilee underway

What a fun day at St. Mary's yesterday! It was our first day of Jubilee-inspired "extended hours," and it was a success! The Holy Door was open all day, and there were people buzzing around all day. One last family came in to go through the Holy Door after the evening Mass from Lawrenceburg on their way to the Nutcracker at TPAC. I also had a lot more confessions than usual on a Saturday, but that might be because of the proximity to Christmas. It's a win, in any case!


Friday, December 18, 2015

Nuns in East Tennessee

Yes, there are cloistered nuns in Tennessee, and like so many other dynamic Catholic things in Tennessee, they can be found in the youngest and smallest of our dioceses: the Diocese of Knoxville. They are the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. You have heard of the pink sisters, perhaps? Well, these could be called the burgundy sisters because of their deep red habits.

I am also very grateful for their charism: to pray for priests. Here is their link:  That's really making it clear! I visited the community once and celebrated Mass with them. They have moved since then, and I have not been to their new monastery.

They have a graphic on their site that really moved me. I have asked in your charity to pray for priests, not so much for what we do for you but for what we carry of our own. That is where we are at our most vulnerable. As I get a little wiser with years, I realize how fundamental is human formation in Christian discipleship. It has come to the forefront of what I try to do with the students in UCat. I am convinced it is the most basic need in seminary formation. It frankly is what was most lacking in my formation and in priestly formation generally in my era in the seminary. It still could use work, I believe. You can tell by the sort of problems that priests have, not only the flashy, obvious ones but things like being cranky or lazy that really do the most damage day-in and day-out. Here is the graphic:

I thank God for the Handmaids of the Precious Blood: for their witness to comtemplative life in my beloved state and for their prayers for priests. We priests rely on their prayers and yours far more than you may think.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Deep Advent

Today, we enter into what I call "deep Advent," the last full week of preparation. The most notable thing about deep Advent is the antiphon at vespers each day which begins with "O" followed by a title of Jesus from the prophecies. They are called the O Antiphons, appropriately enough!

Today we begin with O Sapientia -- O Wisdom. Jesus is identified as our way to the transcendent wisdom of God in person.

Here is a link, that includes the antiphon chanted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pray the black, do the red

A tip of the biretta once again to Msgr. Pope for this one. He offers a seemingly small but important clarification, gathered in his turn from Pope Benedict. In celebrating Mass, the priest needs not merely to say the black, that is, to say the prayers of the Church as they are given to us, but far more importantly, to pray those prayers as he says them.

One of the most dangerous liturgical errors is for a priest to give the impression of going through a formula. I won't even mention the possibility that he might actually be going through a formula. There is always balance in the Church. The priest is not to call attention to himself by personalizing everything or to ad lib the Mass, but he must pray it and not just say it. It is a prayer, after all! Actually this goes for the ritual actions of the Mass: the red. They are not stage directions. They are fundamentally prayers too. I will go one step beyond Msgr. Pope. Maybe the saying should be: pray the black, pray the red.

If priest and people are praying in common, then the focus stays where it should: on God.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Careful what you say...


It's the Jubilee!

The idea of the Jubilee from Leviticus is not merely clearing the tables and starting again. The Jubilee actually puts one back where one started. It is a pretty radical idea. God does not seem to have sufficient trust in the "invisible hand" of the market. He seems to be violating private property. But, hey, it's all His property, isn't it, to do with as He wishes? Or are we envious because He is generous? Seems like I have heard that question somewhere...

Let's enjoy the Jubilee like those who were in the bondage of slavery...because we are in slavery to sin!

Here is info about the Jubilee in L.A. -- Lower Alabama, that is ;-)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Incarnation or alienation?

It is so odd to spend any time on the Vanderbilt campus this time of year. It is like being in Whoville after the Grinch has struck. There are no signs of any sort of decoration -- except for the menorah in front of Kirkland Hall, for the first time ever. Good for the Jews! I should be happy about this restraint, since I am always urging people to keep Advent in a somber way. But this is not Advent. There is no celebration to come; there is no Christmas; there is no preparation: and there is no fulfillment. This gloom is indeed the envy of the Grinch, not the austerity of John the Baptist. Odd to say, there are decorations on the Medical Center side of campus. I guess because real people, looking for real hope come over there.

The reason for festivity and decoration at this time of the year is Christmas. We throw other things into the mix to broaden the base a bit, but except for Christmas this time of year would not be a big deal. One Vanderbilt administrator invited students to come celebrate the "wonder of winter." Winter is not wonderful here. It's just wet. Like it or not, these festivities are about Christmas.

I do not think that I have ever encountered opposition to observance of Christmas from a Jew or Muslim -- only from secular people. And all they have to offer in return is alienation: the idea that things only mean what we want them to mean. Christmas is just the opposite of alienation. God becomes one of us and comes to live with us. There is fulfillment. Things do make sense.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The birth of God is coming

God was born of the Virgin Mary.

She was conceived without sin for this purpose.

The dragon/serpent seeks to destroy her and her offspring.

Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, was victorious by dying on the cross and rising again.

Meekness and gentleness crush the head of the serpent.

Jesus will come again.

His kingdom will raise up the poor and lowly.

Shout this from the housetops!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

St. Nick's Day!

St. Nicholas is a great figure for Advent. His reputation as a gift-giver is rooted in his commitment to justice, fighting what today we would call human trafficking. He was also passionate about the truth, giving Arius a good punch in the nose for heresy.

Truth and justice prepare the way of the Lord a lot more than lights and shopping.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Being a missionary

On the feast of St. Francis Xavier, it seems appropriate to listen to the Holy Father's call to the missions. He made this appeal while he was in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. I remember one of my best friends from high school visiting Bangui while on a crazy trip in Africa way back in our college days. His descriptions of the poverty there still haunt my imagination.

From the Office of Readings for today, St. Francis Xavier puts it more bluntly in his characteristic way:

"Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: 'What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!'"

St. Mary's and the Jubilee of Mercy

It is official. We will have an official Holy Door at St. Mary's for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning on December 13 -- Gaudete Sunday. That is something to rejoice about! Bishop Choby will come to the 9 a.m. Mass to open the Holy Door.

I have been prompted by this development to increase our times for confessions and to regularize the times that we keep the church open. The church will be open mainly on the weekends, since that is when there is parking available, and at midday during the week. Maybe we will be able to do more. Confession times will simply extend the times that we already have. Thanks to Fr. Fye for being so willing to extend these hours. I could not do it without him.

I will post the exact schedule as soon as we get logistics worked out a little more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The best idea ever, continued

I wrote to some of my brother priests about the mobile confessional idea from this post. A few were enthusiastic about the idea of going in search of sinners. One of them found this used ambulance available on ebay. The last sale ran out without a bid meeting the reserve. The high bid that time was $5,100. It is back on auction again. I wonder how much it would take to get it?

It is a lovely story

Yesterday, the Prophet Isaiah presented us with the peaceable kingdom and today with the messianic banquet. Too good to be true? Or just good enough to be true? The childlike keep alive belief in the way things are supposed to be, while the wise of this world compromise with the reign of evil as it is.

Who is more realistic?

What happens when one encounters the Lord Jesus? The blind see, the mute speak, the lame walk, the hungry are fed. Peace, justice, righteousness, reconciliation, love. Yes, it is lovely. Just lovely enough to be true.

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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