Saturday, December 31, 2016

Commemoration of St. Sylvester, pope Lectionary: 204


It's the last day of the year. The first reading speaks of the last hour. The Gospel is what we used to call the Last Gospel because it was read at the end of every Mass. It was there to remind us of who Jesus really is: God made man. I need to remember Him at every moment of every day. I need to be looking for Him, loving Him, serving Him, listening to Him, imitating Him always.

We are out of time today, at least for 2016. For 2017 and forever, let's live with a focus on eternity rather on time. 2016 has been a year in which many of us have been distracted by temporal things: our national election, for example. Our saint for today shows us how to focus on eternity. His papacy straddles a time of huge transition: from the end of Christianity being on the margins of the Roman world to being accepted into it by Constantine. And yet St. Sylvester, the pope, does not seem to have been altered much by this alteration. The Christian life remains the same. It remains the same in all circumstances of this world. For the children of God, Heaven is home.

In the time that we have, let us do good for our brothers and sisters. I had an experience yesterday that is helping me to put many things into perspective. It was on the simple level of loving and serving people in need. I will leave it at that. Those are the deeds that matter for eternity.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Lectionary: 17

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/123016.cfm

"Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another...And be thankful."

These simple but oh, so difficult virtues the Church puts before us on the Feast of the Holy Family. Let's begin here as children in the family of God. And let's not move on until these virtues really are habitual with us.

I was at the home of a family I love and have known for a long time on Christmas evening. One of the sons is in college. He has a big personality and would barge into a very relaxed family conversation around the dinner table. And he would use slightly crude expressions trying to be funny. I found myself saying to him, "this is your family. Don't talk that way." Of course, it wasn't my place to say that, but I couldn't stop myself. It was so out of place in a setting of love and respect.

That has got to be the way it is among us in the Church, God's family. The Church has to be a place where people feel love and respect, that is, where they can feel at home. There is not much of that in our world, even in our homes. From these true safe spaces, the Christian life can flourish. This is true human formation.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Commeoration of St. Thomas Becket, martyr Lectionary: 202

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122916.cfm

The days following Christmas are surprisingly full of saints. Usually the Church clears the calendar around a major celebration, but for Christmas these feasts and commemorations of saints have become part of the Christmas celebration itself, even a relatively minor one like that of St. Thomas Becket. This actually makes sense, if we take the Incarnation seriously. Jesus' humanity exalts our humanity and makes human sanctity possible. Of course, it works!

Once again we see how swords and violence pursue the followers of Christ. St. Thomas Becket was martyred by fellow Christians in a Christian kingdom. This should give us pause about having too much confidence in the powers of this world. The Church is always on pilgrimage in this world. We do not belong here. I realize that I am way too at home here and that I need to become more detached. It is a lesson that I am learning in a small way by my new assignment in Ohio. Having come home to Tennessee for the Christmas break, I have immediately become re-immersed in so many things. I see the wisdom of Bishop Choby in sending me to the seminary, not that it is anything like an exile! But it is a place on the move. We come together for a purpose, in this case, priestly discernment and formation; and then we move on. It is a good lesson.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs Lectionary: 698

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122816.cfm

In what sense can the Holy Innocents be called martyrs? They did not do anything or say anything to profess faith in Jesus. I think technically they are martyrs because they were killed out of hatred of the faith embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, whom they resembled so closely that His enemy could not tell them apart from Him. They were killed because they were so like Jesus, in this case, in their physical form. So again today we have saints who resemble Jesus in one facet of his humanity.

Do you see what the Incarnation has done to humanity? He has become so like us that it is impossible to distinguish us from Him. Remember this today with everyone you meet. The vulnerable, including the unborn and the unwanted, are especially identified with Him, just like the Innocents. Hatred or indifference of them is hatred and indifference of Him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist Lectionary: 697


Yesterday, we saw St. Stephen as the icon of the suffering Christ. Today St. John can been seen as the virginal Christ. The term "virgin" is applied to John in the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a way that St. John is particularly configured to the Lord Jesus. When people ask me about the reason for priestly celibacy, I reply that Jesus was celibate and so the priest, who is supposed to be configured to Christ the head of the Mystical Body, shares in his celibacy. For St. John, it is even more explicitly a sharing in His virginity. This is part of the secret of the power of St. John's love.

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr Lectionary: 696

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122616.cfm

Sorry for the sporadic posting. I am just a lot less connected over the break. It's great!

If you listen to the story of St. Stephen's martyrdom, it sounds so much like the Passion of Our Lord: the same accusation of blasphemy, the asking of forgiveness for the tormentors, etc. St. Stephen has become another Christ, especially in this respect. We will be seeing this conformity to Christ as the source of holiness in the saints of this awesome week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Mass During the Day Lectionary: 16

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122516-day.cfm

"Suddenly you were somebody." This is a quotation from the French poet Paul Claudel. I encountered it in a small book, The Presence of God, by Anselm Moynihan, O.P. I believe this experience happened at Christmas Vespers in Notre Dame in Paris, which Claudel had attended for an aesthetic experience. Instead, he had a personal one.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone who comes to Mass this Christmas would have the same experience because Christmas is one of those times where the Catholic Church really does exclaim: "here comes everybody!"

For some reason, I often turn to poetry in my reflection for a Christmas homily, and by now it is often the same poems. This year I went back to a favorite, Ex Ore Infantium by Francis Thompson, who also wrote The Hound of Heaven. (Being trained in the New Criticism, I should say that this does not really matter, except it does!) Thompson was a opium addict and had a mess of a life. And yet...and yet. In this poem, he speaks with the voice of a child talking to the child Jesus. The child narrator of the poem really is speaking to somebody.

In our sad, dark world, in Thompson's addicted and chaotic life, in whatever you are dealing with, Jesus is somebody. Talk to Him. He will show you how to suffer (or rejoice) through it redemptively with Him. This is the Good News of the Incarnation. We do not need to wait for an ideal world. God comes into this world, making it more than ideal. This is the secret of Christian (and Christmas) joy: God is with us. And according to St. Thomas Aquinas -- see I can use theology and not just mushy poetry! -- joy is found in being united to the beloved. And we don't have to do it. He does it. He unites us to Himself. Take it from St. Luke in the Gospel for the night or from St. John in the Gospel for the day. It is all the same..

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Advent - Mass in the Morning Lectionary: 200

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122416.cfm

God will do it. Be at peace.

Friday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 199

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122316.cfm

Finally, O Emmanuel! God is with us!

This is the answer. This is the desire fulfilled. God with us. God one of us.

This is the newness for our tired, old world. The virgin conceives. This is something new. God tells us to be still: "I am with you." The Blessed Virgin shows us how to do this: from the Annunciation to foot of the Cross. Let us imitate her stillness and her faith.

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 198

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122216.cfm

for the O Antiphons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons
(Sorry for falling behind. Just what I warned the seminarians about has happened to me since returning home for the Christmas break. My routine has been upset. For a break it has been busy so far, but I am getting in the swing of it now!)

I think that the O Antiphon for today speaks for our world today. Here is the whole text:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, 
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: 
veni, et salva hominem, 
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire, 
the cornerstone making both one: 
Come and save the human race, 
which you fashioned from clay.

Again the reality of salvation appears in this antiphon. Jesus is the king we desire, all of us; but we resist His kingship. We desire Jesus because He is the prince of peace and all those other wonderful things that Isaiah has prophesied all Advent. But we in the West turn to comfort and license instead of Him. Many within Islam turn to violence. Others in the world seek power. None of it satisfies our desire.

In reality, our desire is already fulfilled. Gratitude and thanksgiving open us to this joy of fulfilled desire. Stop worrying about the "not yet" and enjoy the "already."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 197

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122116.cfm

for the O Antiphons, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons

O Oriens -- O Morning Star

Jesus will be light: the light, as the morning star is actually the sun just as it is rising.

I am struck so much by the darkness of fallen humanity. Wake up everybody! We don't have to look to Aleppo to find darkness. On the sports page this week, I found incredible darkness that nobody seemed to be concerned about. It was contained in the flap about the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and the two-bit bowl they are going to. Ten of the players on the team are accused in a sexual assault. I will not describe the accusation, but nobody seems to be denying the basic facts of the situation. These facts portray a depraved scene that should never occur among human beings. With this as the backdrop, the actors are quibbling about a bowl game as if that were the important matter.

I won't go on about the darkness, except to say that it is far darker than anyone seems to be ready to admit. When barbarities are unleashed, there is nothing to check them. That is the point of Aleppo: destroy everything in order to win.

Jesus is the light. We Christians must be light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 196

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122016.cfm

"O Clavis David" -- "O Key of David" identifies Jesus as our savior from death and damnation. The gates of heaven have been shut since the fall. Jesus in His suffering, death, and resurrection will open them and bring up the souls of the just to heaven. This is the same key entrusted to Peter. God continues the plan of salvation through the agency of Peter and his successors. This is why we need to be in communion with the successor of Peter. It's a matter of salvation. I am reminded of a parishioner at the little Irish parish I served in the country. The non-Catholics in the town used to call the Catholics "Irishmen." This lady ran the dry cleaning business in the town. One of her customers came in one day and asked her: "Irishman, what would you do if you weren't a Catholic?" She shot right back: "I'd become one as soon as I could." Well, that's not ecumenically correct, I guess, but it's the right answer. We can leave it to God how He will save those outside the Church, but we know how He does it in the Church. I'll stick with that!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday of the Fourth Week in Advent Lectionary: 195

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121916.cfm

Jesus is God. This is the point of yesterday's antiphon. Jesus is also man. His humanity is empahsized in the title today: "O Radix Jesse" -- "O Root of Jesse." God will continue and fulfill the method of His plan of salvation by working through the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not something that God does to humanity but with humanity. Jesus has ancestors. Jesus is a man. He will save us and glorify the Father in the sufferings of His sacred humanity. This is something we can all share as members of His Mystical Body. So today and everyday remember the words of Sr. Catherine di Ricci (and many other pious and wise souls): "Offer it up." Then you too are a branch of the Jesse Tree, living the story of salvation.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 10

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121816.cfm

I am going to hold off on the readings for today until later because they really are goods texts for "O Emmanuel." We don't hear the "O Antiphon" at Mass today because it is Sunday, but it will appear at Evening Prayer tonight: "O Adonai."

This title literally means "O Lord" or even more generically "O Leader." But that is not much of a claim for Jesus, and this title actually makes the claim that Jesus is God. "Jesus is Lord" is equivalent to saying "Jesus is God." How is that?

When God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush, He used a four-letter (in Hebrew) word. It is a form of the verb "to be." We don't know exactly what it is because we don't have the vowels, which are the jots and squiggles around Hebrew letters. They were never supplied for this word because it was never pronounced, except by the High Priest within the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement where nobody else could hear him. Instead, when reading the text where the "tetragrammaton" (four letters) appear, Jews would substitute "adonai" when pronouncing the text. So "Lord" stands for "God," and not just generically but as His name.

This is why the title "O Adonai" is so important. It tells us that Jesus is God. He is the Wisdom of God come in the flesh.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 193

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121716.cfm
see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Antiphons
http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/the-o-antiphons-of-advent.cfm

Today we enter what I call "deep Advent." Among the liturgical characteristics of these days are the "O Antiphons." These are the antiphons for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They begin with the exclamation "O," followed by a title of Jesus from the Old Testament. They all also contain an imperative "veni," that is, "come." (The familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is a metrical version of these antiphons -- and is therefore most appropriate only now, in deep Advent.) For those of you who do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours, these antiphons are imported into the Mass in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel during these days.

The first of these antiphons, the one for today, is "O Sapientia" -- O Wisdom. This first title is an interesting choice, as it is a late one. We find the personification of the Wisdom of God fully portrayed for us in the Book of Wisdom, one of the latest books of the Old Testament. God is gently pushing His people to prepare for the concept of the Holy Trinity. From the early days of His call of Abraham and the establishment of His people, God had emphasized that God is one. Not only do his people have only one God, but they come eventually to see that there is only one God of the whole universe. That is one of the benefits of the exile in Babylon. In these latter days, God begins to reveal the communion of love that exist within Himself in the personification of His Wisdom. This will be fulfilled in the prologue of John's Gospel, with "Word" substituting for "Wisdom" and ultimately becoming flesh.

Any sort of wisdom will come in the person of Jesus Christ. Knowing comes first.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 191

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121616.cfm

We have come to the end of preparation and prophecy. The forerunners have run their course. From here on in to Christmas it is all about Jesus and the immediate revelation of His coming. It is the fullness of time.

I think that we come to points like this in our lives. The seminarians have just finished exams. It's like that. The semester ends. The exams come. It is the time to perform. Or not. God prepared everything for the coming of Emmanuel. It is a crisis. A decision.

I think that I had one of those this week. I took a mini pilgrimage on Tuesday morning. A lot of prayer and some spiritual direction in a holy place. I think that God brought me to a point of decision to be more faithful in my humanity, in my discipleship, in my priesthood. He showed me a better way. I am trying to accept. It is good.

We don't like the test, but it proves us. Now is the time.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday of the Third Week in Advent Lectionary: 190

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121516.cfm

Jesus gives St. John the Baptist the greatest compliment that anyone ever received: John is the greatest man who ever lived. And yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he. I don't think that Jesus is taking back His compliment to John, rather he is clarifying it. He did the same thing about His mother. When the woman cried out in the crowd saying, "blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed," He replied, "rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." This does not diminish the Blessed Virgin's blessedness but clarifies it. John's true greatness lies not here but in the world to come.

In the first reading, Isaiah calls blessed those who are among the most destitute: women who never had children or who were cast off by their husbands. This blessedness is based on the faithfulness of God. "For a brief moment, I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back." John is in this position in prison. Jesus Himself will say, "My God, my God, why have to abandoned me?" And yet there is blessedness.

Those who were baptized by John go on to follow Jesus, even tax collectors. John will not be the least in the Kingdom of God!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 189

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121416.cfm

St. John of the Cross is actually "my" John. In the old calendar, his feast was the day after my birthday. That is about the only connection that I can plausibly come up with. I don't have much of a Carmelite approach to the spiritual life. I don't even understand it very well. Way over my head and way too deep for the likes of me. Nevertheless, St. John of the Cross is my patron saint. It would take a master of prayer and asceticism to know what to do with a mess like me so I am glad that he's got me to pray for!

There is one quotation from St. John of the Cross that I do have some understanding of: "Adonde no hay amor, ponga amor, y sacara amor." (Sorry, I don't know how to do accents!) It's better in Spanish, but here goes in English: "where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love." The quotation makes a very clear point about love. Love is a choice that can be commanded: put love! And love is fertile.

Do it. Just do it. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 188

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121316.cfm

The parable of the two sons in today's Gospel is one that I have always cherished. I find so much comfort in the fact that God does not judge by first impressions. The son who finally gets around to going out into the vineyard after first refusing is the one who has done the father's will, not the one who said yes but never went. Great first impression, but...

Today, however, in reading the parable I see myself more like the son who said yes but failed to follow through. I am a priest sort of like the ones to whom the parable is addressed. Even though tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom before them -- and me, I am going to change my mind and believe! There is this chance that the Lord gives.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Lectionary: 690A

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121216.cfm

What more can be said of the Virgin of Guadalupe that has not already been said? Well, nothing from me anyhow. A strange silence has fallen on me. She had so little to say, other than to pray. I need to listen to her more. Pray more. Be more silent.

Third Sunday of Advent "Gaudete" Lectionary: 7

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121116.cfm

Sorry about the delay in posting. Yesterday was one of those days!

Usually, I reflect on Christian joy on Gaudete, but this time I am going to stick more closely to the readings. We look at St. John the Baptist again, this time in prison. I believe that in sending his disciples to Jesus to ask who He is, John is trying to connect his disciples to Jesus and to detach them from himself. He continues to decrease so that Jesus will increase. John well knows that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. This is the fulfillment of the type of Jonathon and David.

I think that Jesus pays John a very quiet compliment, much like the way He draws attention to the true blessedness of His mother as the one who hears the Word and keeps it perfectly. John is so deeply in the kingdom of heaven as to be completely oblivious to his human greatness as he sits in Herod's prison. He has come to eternal greatness in temporal humiliation. He completes it himself, stripping away his disciples and transferring them to Jesus.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday of the Second Week in Advent Lectionary: 186

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121016.cfm

We are getting a diptych of St. John the Baptist today and tomorrow in the scripture readings. We see the passion of St. John the Baptist: "they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased." In his suffering John resembles Jesus: "so also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands." The external differences between John and Jesus we heard about yesterday are superficial whereas the true comparison is in suffering. 

The cross is what Christianity has to say to the world. Nobody ever wants to hear it so we had better live it instead. Rejoice in suffering. It makes you like Jesus more than anything else. It contains within itself the power to save. That is true of no other human reality.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Juan Diego Lectionary: 185

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120916.cfm

I believe that the readings today follow a standard pattern for Advent: prophecy in the first reading, followed by fulfillment in the Gospel. The prophecy today is of a leader to lead God's people. The tragedy in the Gospel is that when the leader arrives, the people do not follow.

As with all of these prophecies, what God promises to those who believe is so great. The saint we celebrate today shows God's faithfulness to His promises. St. Juan Diego, the son of a conquered people, has indeed been vindicated because he was willing to follow. He showed docility not only to the Blessed Virgin but also to the bishop who was skeptical of his message. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Lectionary: 689

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120816.cfm

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma that proves often to be a final stumbling block for separated Christian brethren who might otherwise consider entering the Catholic Church. I know that it was, for example, in my case. I wish that I could share with you a profound theological reason for my coming to believe in the Immaculate Conception, but I don't have one. In my case, I simply came to accept the Church's authority. I got to the point of asking about the Immaculate Conception: who is more likely to be right, me or the Church? That pretty much settled it for me. Over time, I became familiar with the standard apologetic arguments for the Immaculate Conception and even some theological ones, but I didn't really wrestle with the matter. It is a tough one because it is so relatively recent historically and because it seems to deny Jesus as the universal redeemer of mankind. There are probably plenty of other theological objections that I am simply to simple to grasp.

I did have an opportunity to engage with a group of very sincere evangelicals who were studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church in great detail. This study was not in preparation for entering the Catholic Church but was an effort on their part systematically to study orthodox Christian teaching. They thought the Catechism was the best they could do for a text. I was not attending regularly, but I did happen to be there for the presentation of the Marian dogmas. That was Providential. I did not say much. The pastor who was leading the study was doing a very good job of presenting the Catechism. At the end, he asked what everyone thought. He was asking if could they see the argument not whether they accepted the argument.

One young man spoke up. I had been at the study often enough to know that he was one of the more critical voices in the group to the Catholic line of thought -- critical in the true sense of the word, not merely argumentative. I was ready to hear his critiques. This is what I heard instead. He said that to him it seemed to come down to this question: could God preserve a human being from sin? It seemed to him that the answer was that God certainly could do this. Therefore all that remained were the details of why and how.

I was absolutely astonished. Indeed, "blessed are you who believed."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 183

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120716.cfm

OK -- I have to eat my words or at least balance them. In today's readings, God goes all soft on us. After what I said yesterday! I believe it was Fr. John Hardon who said that one of the most important words in Catholic theology is "and."

Talk about paradoxes: "they will run and not grow weary." "My yoke is easy, and my burden light." It is sort of like the Red Queen (I think) in Alice Through the Looking Glass who says things like you have to run just as fast as you can to stay where you are. But these are blessed and merciful paradoxes.

It is not all tough love. There is also tenderness and compassion. Thank God!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop Lectionary: 182

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120616.cfm

"Comfort, give comfort to my people."

It its origin, "comfort" is a strong word. It is now something weak. Those of you who know me, know how much I dislike the complaint, "I'm not comfortable with that." I think it is just about the wimpiest thing that can be said. I don't like a comforter on a bed either. It's too poofy. Give me a nice heavy quilt instead.

The comfort in the scriptures today is identified with the Good Shepherd. The shepherd who seeks out the lost, lifts him on his shoulder and brings him home. It is precisely the strength of the shepherd which gives comfort. No body wants a wimpy shepherd. God doesn't want to make you feel better. He wants to save you. "Here is your God. He comes with power."

St. Nicholas was such a tough shepherd. Just ask Arius.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday of the Second Week in Advent Lectionary: 181

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120516.cfm

One of the great blessings of my childhood was the love of my maternal grandmother. She moved to live next door to us and eventually we added on to her house so that we lived in the same house with her. She was a fascinating woman. Born in 1901 in the Purchase of western Kentucky, she went on the receive a master's degree from the University of Michigan. That is just one of the improbable things about her. She seemed very old to me in my childhood, and she was sickly. But she had a great imagination, and she captivated me with stories and plans. We both were early risers. She would tell me stories, and we would plan trips that we both knew we would never take. I could go on and on about her.

I am reminded of her today by the power of imagination for good. I have already mentioned this Advent the role of prophecy to keep imagination alive in the spiritual life. "Realistic" pastoral vision is so deadly. We must always be dissatisfied, in one sense, by the way that things are in favor or the way that they should be. Look at the friends of the paralyzed man in the Gospel today. They don't take "no" for an answer. Since they can't get in by the door, they decide, "let's try the roof!" And you know, it works.

I have to admit that imagination must to submitted to intellect and will to keep things in order, but the imagination can fire the intellect and will to greatness and boldness. "That's the way things are" is not an adequate answer. It might be one that in prudence one settles for -- for a while. But things are going to change very much for the better. Go ask Isaiah.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 4

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120416.cfm

St. John the Baptist appears in the Gospel today. He exhibits self mastery, bravery, and honesty. These are virtues that were especially associated with authentic masculinity. They are not much in evidence today. If these virtues do appear, they are usually feared and reviled. But we need them.

Before St. John the Baptist ever uttered a public word, he devoted himself to years of formation in asceticism. I think that it is likely that he had lived in the desert since he was a young man in his teens: in the desert in silence with God, praying, fasting, and struggling to grow in virtue.

His public mission is in preparation for the manifestation of Jesus. Repentance must come first which consists not in sweet words but in hard deeds. I think that we could do with more of the spirit of St. John the Baptist in the Church and in particular in the seminary. Young men from our culture are not ready to announce the coming of the Lamb of God to others until they have turned a honest eye on themselves and repented.

Advent needs to regain this spirit of St. John the Baptist. We rush to celebrate Christmas in excessive partying without any vigilant watching and waiting for Him. What would St. John the Baptist have to say of our presumption? We need to say it to ourselves first: "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest Lectionary: 180

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120316.cfm

Today we celebrate St. Francis Xavier. He was St. Ignatius of Loyola's friend and companion in the founding of the Society of Jesus. He sets the model for the great line of Jesuit missionaries. He was absolutely convicted of the need to proclaim Jesus Christ everywhere. He's right. Let's leave aside the question of whether it is possible to be saved without Baptism. That brings up a sort of minimalism that runs something like this: "well, since people can theoretically be saved without Baptism, then I am off the hook as far as evangelizing goes." But what about the fullness of the life of grace found in the sacraments and the other channels of grace offered to us through the Church? "Oh, well, that's just too bad for them. I certainly can't be troubled to do anything about it. It would be uncomfortable for me actually to talk about my faith with conviction." St. Francis Xavier wanted everyone to share in everything the Church has to offer.

While in India, he was overcome by the sheer number of people who could be reached, if there were but missionaries to reach them. He went on a rant about wanting to go to the universities of Europe, especially his alma mater, the University of Paris, and shouting out: "You have more learning than charity!" It is a matter of charity, the highest virtue, to evangelize. He wanted the students of Europe to get their noses out of books and get to the mission field! He would not have bought the line, dubiously attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, to preach always and to use words only when necessary.

I think we could use a good dose of St. Francis Xavier's zeal!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 179

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120216.cfm

"Do you believe that I can do this?"

Jesus asks this question of the two blind men who have asked to be healed. What does their belief have to do with it? Is Jesus suggesting the power of positive thinking? Not at all. He is the one who will heal: Jesus Christ. Do they know who He is?

There is a pattern in the readings that continues in the first weeks of Advent: a prophecy in the first reading followed by its fulfillment in the Gospel. In the first reading today, for example,  Isaiah says, "out of the gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see." In the Gospel, Jesus heals two blind men. These wonders will not be accomplished for their own sake but for a renewal of faith: "When his children shall see the work of my hands in his midst, they shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the holy one of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel."

When Jesus asks the blind men if they believe that He can heal their blindness, He is asking more than it seems. He is asking if they believe that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in Him and that the Holy One of Jacob is before them. It is His identity that He does not want them to spread about. The fact that they are no longer blind would be hard to hide.

Do we have this faith? Not faith that some wonder can be performed but rather faith that Jesus is God with us.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 178

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120116.cfm

"Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven."

Wait just a minute here. Didn't St. Paul say yesterday that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?

So which is it? Both! There is no salvation without calling on the name of the Lord and then doing the will of the Father in the Lord's name. It would be taking the Lord's name in vain to fail to act on His words.

This is what the Church does with Sacred Scripture and Tradition. She interprets revelation authentically for her children so that we are not confused or led astray. Build your house solidly on that rock!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle Lectionary: 684

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/113016.cfm

Why does the Church still rely on preaching? There are so many cooler, hipper ways to communicate: YouTube, Twitter, etc. Preaching, however, is not merely a tool in communications plan. It is rather at the heart of the Christian mission. In the first reading today, St. Paul puts it in terms of salvation:
"For everyone who calls on the Lord's name will be saved. But how can they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?"
The Apostles are those who have been sent to preach salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Church is in the salvation business. That's life or death. Salvation from death comes from Jesus Christ alone. That is why we must know His name and call upon Him. We call upon Him in prayer. In order to pray, we must believe. In order to believe, we must have heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Good News must be preached, and the Church sends out her preachers to proclaim the Good News.

That's how it works. That is why preaching is so fundamental.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 176

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112916.cfm

Please be reading the Prophet Isaiah this Advent. The Church puts this mighty and beautiful voice before us almost every day of this season. We should take the hint. We live in an age not much moved by prophecy. For the most part, we are too complacent and too lacking in imagination. To the extent that we do awake from the slumber of complacency, we tend to become radicalized and politicized because we have no hope.

Let's listen to Isaiah instead. Today we hear of a just king who will rule a peaceable kingdom drawing all the world to himself. The descriptions seem too good to be true; "the wolf will be the guest of the lamb." These prophecies are childlike in this way. They are full of imagination! Remember that the imagination is a power of your soul so feed it with soul food such as these images found in Isaiah and not the trash of popular culture or worse.  Let your heart be moved with longing and desire for this kingdom and your head be convicted with the certainty of its coming. This is what prophecy can do for us.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday of the First Week in Advent Lectionary: 175

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112816.cfm

It's Monday morning after Thanksgiving break: "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord." Right?

If you are having trouble with this sentiment, then perhaps the Roman centurion of today's Gospel can help. When Jesus offers to come to his house to heal his servant, the centurion replies: "Lord, I am not worthy." You and I will say the same words just before Holy Communion. The centurion was right, but Jesus healed his servant anyway and praised his faith -- extravagantly.

We have a chance to exhibit even greater faith and to merit and even greater reward. You see, the centurion saw Jesus and believed. Blessed are we who do not see and yet believe. For such faith, Jesus gives Himself as the food of everlasting life. Not bad.

So this morning, count yourself blessed to be here. Mean it when you say that you are not worthy. And the Lord will come under your roof, the very roof of your mouth!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent Lectionary: 1

Now it begins: Advent.

I used to get really worked up about Christmas decorations and celebrations during Advent -- and now even before Advent. I still wish that we could keep Advent as a season. But I have given up. What I want to do this year is to keep a good Advent privately. I hope that I will be given the discipline to do so. I mentioned some resolutions that I have in mind for Advent. They are not only interior things. To keep them, I will need more strength than I have now. I see that my spiritual life has grown misshapen. It is flourishing is some areas but is barely alive in others. Pruning and fertilizing is in order. I hope that I have identified the right things to work on. I should see my spiritual director about this -- mainly because that is one of my resolutions: to be docile to my spiritual director, now that I have found one.

Let us pray for each other. Maybe Advent will catch on in this way!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 508

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112616.cfm

Sorry that I missed yesterday. Technical difficulties, which I think I have cleared up for good.

Well, this really is the last day of the year, and what fantastic readings for that! Come, Lord Jesus, indeed!  I have some good resolutions as we begin Advent tomorrow. I seem to grow spiritually only by falling on my face. I am ready to get up with the grace of God and begin again.

I have just about finished a semester in my new assignment. It has taken me a while, but I think that I can now use more of the human resources available to me at the seminary. I have tried to put the spiritual resources to work immediately. They were so obvious: the regular schedule for prayer to start with. One spiritual need that I finally settled is spiritual direction. That is such a relief. Now I need to take care of getting more and better exercise, watching my diet -- that in particular has been a challenge for me since I now have three meals a day prepared and set out for me. Stuff like that. I am encouraged and hopeful.

Take some time today to get yourself ready. He is coming soon!


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs Lectionary: 506

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112416-memorial.cfm

"Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great."

We are just about reaching the crescendo of apocalyptic horror in our readings today. Again as we have all week, we celebrate the witness of martyrs, in this case those of Vietnam from the 19th century. When my sister was stationed Washington a couple of years ago, she lived with a sister who was a descendant of one of these martyrs. This sister pointed him out to me in the mosaic in the Chapel of Our Lady of La Vang in the National Shrine! This feast, however, also makes me think of the witness of Vietnamese Catholics in my own life time. (Having turned 54 yesterday, I realize that my experiences are not those of the mostly younger people I work with, although our administrative assistant here in the College of Liberal Arts is a Vietnam War veteran.)

Speaking of fallen cities reminds me of the fall of Saigon in 1975. I was only 11 at that time, and I have to say that the Vietnam War did not break into my world very much, except as images on television. But the image of the helicopter hovering over the American Embassy almost weighted down with those trying to flee from the wrath to come and obviously inadequate to save those waiting in line is etched into my memory. Fallen, fallen: not only the South Vietnamese state but also American invincibility.

As Providence directed, my home parish in Ashland City, Tennessee is blessed with a pastor from the Vietnamese Catholic diaspora. Fr. Peter do Quang Chau was a priest of Saigon, and his godfather had just been name archbishop before the fall: Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan. Following the orders of the archbishop,  Fr. Peter was among the many "boat people" who escaped. He eventually ended up in the Diocese of Nashville and ultimately in Ashland City. Fr. Peter became my parents' beloved pastor and led them deeper into holiness. My father accompanied Fr. Peter when he went to Rome for the consistory at which his godfather became a cardinal. But that was only after many years of imprisonment and exile. You can read about it in Testimony of Hope and other books. Sorry for the digression.

In any case, the sort of cataclysm described in both readings today is quite possible, even short of the end of the world. Our own death is our own personal cataclysm. We must be ready. It will come upon us. I thank Fr. Peter for his ministry to my parents to prepare them for the cataclysm of death. They were ready, thanks to him. And so the cataclysm of the fall on Saigon has had happy fruit for me.

Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Optional Memorial of Bl. Miguel Pro, Priest and Martyr Lectionary: 505

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112316.cfm

Viva Christo Rey!

This is the testimony that Bl. Miguel Pro gave as he faced a firing squad during the Mexican Revolution. In a truly modern twist, photographers clicked as Bl. Miguel raised his arms making his body a cross just as he was riddled with bullets. The photographers were there to show the humiliation of this hero-priest. It backfired. What a perfect illustration of today's Gospel.

Bl. Miguel shares his feast day with St. Clement, third successor to St. Peter as pope and likewise a martyr. At the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome where his relics rest almost every age of the Church gives testimony. The hymn of praise referred to in the first reading continues unceasingly to unite Heaven and earth in this temple.

The end is near. What sort of testimony are you giving?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 504

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112216.cfm

There are a number of different Romes that one can visit, all in the same city. St. Cecilia is from the early Christian Rome. This is a Rome in which the readings for today make some sense. It is the Rome of catacombs and persecutions. But that is the secular narrative. There is also the sacred narrative. According to this narrative, this is the Rome of triumphant faith and glorious martyrdom. A Christian Rome is emerging as a sign of hope and love. Pagan Rome is splendid but exhausted. The Christians are living in the midst of all this, but they are experiencing a different story. 

This can be our reality in our times. What a splendid world we live in but also how lost! There is a temptation for Christians to be impressed by the splendor or dismayed by the corruption. That is not our story. Our story is the same as St. Cecilia's. We must live the story of Paschal Mystery in our time. We must live hope and love. Jesus Christ: ever ancient and ever new.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Lectionary: 503

The wealthy put much into the Temple treasury. The poor widow put in all. This is the sense in which she "put in more than all the rest." She did not put in more in terms of quantity. But she did put in all, and all is more than much.

That is what God wants: all, all of you. So give yourself to Him. What do you have to lose? Look to the Blessed Virgin Mary as your model. This is what we celebrate about her today. From her childhood she gave all to God.

Be among the"ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe Lectionary: 162

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." So St. Dismas, the good thief, addresses Jesus on the Cross and thereby makes his last theft. He steals Heaven.

There are many interesting ways of looking at this text. Dorothy Sayers, the great mystery writer and not-too-shabby theologian, says that it is more an act of charity than of faith on the part of Dismas. It is also an interesting choice of text for the Solemnity of Christ the King, lest we be tempted to expect Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom.

Today I want to reflect on how this text embodies the last becoming first. At some point as a pastor visiting the sick, I came to see this text as proof of the power of the prayer of the suffering. How did such a man come to have Jesus' ear? It was because he was on the cross next to Jesus. He recognized the position that he was in: he was next to Jesus' ear. He knew that he was a wretched sinner, who deserved his punishment. He used his humiliation to lift Jesus up. -- Now that I think of it, there was a church I used to pass back when I was in high school in Chattanooga called the Church of Lift Jesus Up. It was in a "bad" part of town, and I thought it was a funny name. Now that I reflect on it, I bet Jesus was lifted up in that church much the way that Dismas lifted Him up: in shared misery and lowliness. I bet there were miracles there.

This turning upside down is what made me think of this passage when visiting the sick. The sick, too, are on the cross and therefore right next to Jesus. They have his ear. I would tell them that they were the most important people in the parish because no one was closer to Jesus and the source of His mercy than they were. In accepting their suffering, as Dismas did, they were choosing to stay by Jesus, and He would listen to them. Would they put in a word for me? I confess that I did not always live the truth of this insight then. I would revert back to my busy-ness. Especially, I would continue to see any sort of suffering as regrettable and to be gotten over with as soon as possible.

It was charity that helped me to see the truth then, as now. Was there anything that I could say to lift up those who were suffering? Well, yes: that they are close to Jesus, closer than I am.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 502

If you are having a deja vu experience, it's not your imagination. The Gospel today is the same as it was two Sundays ago. The Church is trying to get us to think about the last things. We don't want to. That says a lot about us. In the spirituality class, each week a seminarian gives a report to the rest of the class on a book of spirituality that only he has been assigned to read. That way we get exposed to a lot more material than the books that I can reasonably expect all the seminarians to read in the course of a semester. The description of the course focuses on priestly spirituality, and so I have picked out books that fit the course description. The book reported on this week was He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Cisek. We are getting to the end of the class, and so we are using more modern material. This book is about Fr. Cisek's experience in the Soviet gulag. One of the ways that he found to reach out not only to Christian believers in the gulag but to atheists and agnostics as well was at the time of a death. Even though the Soviet authorities regulated burials to keep them as much as possible out of sight and inconveniently scheduled, the observances at the time of death always stirred up interest and openness to transcendence. Those in mourning were more open to considering the limitations of life in this world and the possibilities of eternal life.

It is not surprising in our less militant but nonetheless materialistic culture that death is likewise kept out of sight. People who take eternal life seriously make bad consumers. That is because they see that something, not only better, but much better is coming. Jesus makes this point emphatically with the Sadducees who question Him about the resurrection of the dead in the Gospel today. The come up with a ridiculous hypothetical situation of a woman married to seven brothers in sequence. They ask whose wife will she be in the resurrection. By doing so, they are trying to show that the idea of resurrections itself is ridiculous. Jesus shows them otherwise. He tells them that marriage as we understand it is only of this world. It does not exist in Heaven in this way. This goes for natural marriage as well as for sacramental marriage. He goes on to say that God is the God of the living and not of the dead. The fullness of life that God promises is not less than the reality of life experienced in this world but more. Marriage will exist in Heaven. The whole thing is nuptial: the wedding feast of the Lamb. The sort of unity that exists only between husband and wife in this life will be extended to all the faithful in their relationship to Christ the Bridegroom as members of His Bride, the Church. The sign is fulfilled in the reality. The sacrament makes way for the "thing." Husbands and wives will rejoice to see that their vocation has been fulfilled not abolished in Heaven, just as the priest will rejoice in no longer offering the Mass as the reality to which it points is fulfilled in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Eternal life is better than this life. Trust Him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin Lectionary: 501

Sorry for posting late today. Technical difficulties.

"My house shall be a house of prayer." Even Jesus had a hard time getting people to be quiet and to pray, even in the Temple. Why? Because it is the last thing the Devil wants you to do: to be silent and to pray. Individuals have a hard time praying. Families have a hard time praying. Parishes have a hard time praying. Seminaries have a hard time praying. That is why we have to have supports to prayer. We have to have quiet. We have to have discipline. We have to have a schedule and a plan. Without these supports it is just too easy to be distracted.

If you only get one thing done today, let it be prayer. You will eventually get what you need from prayer to take care of everything else. There are times when I live off of prayer almost exclusively. But it is enough, and nothing else is enough.

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was known by the Indians whom she served as "the woman who prays always." There are worse things that one could be called!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious Lectionary: 500

Where I grew up, there is an ecclesial community called the Church of Christ. It grew out of the Restoration Movement of the mid-nineteenth century American frontier: Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, more or less. The leaders of this movement were concerned by the emotionalism that was prevalent in the religious revivals of the time. They rather cried out: "Come let us reason together." They decided to be strictly Biblical in everything that they did: "to call Bible things by Bible names, to do Bible things in Bible ways, to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent." It was an effort to restore primitive Christianity. And they actually did to an amazing degree, given their isolation historically and geographically. They insisted, for example, on the celebration of Lord's Supper every Sunday, as well as on the efficacy of Baptism for the remission of sins -- because the Bible says so. These were very sacramental ideas in that religious setting.

I want to recommend the approach of the Restoration Movement to our understanding of what is happening in the liturgy. Let's understand it in a Biblical way. I am, however, going to look to a different part of the Bible to understand the early Church's practice of worship: Revelation rather than Acts.

I believe that John in the first reading is pealing back the veil of sacramental signs to reveal the actual "thing" of Christian liturgy: the eternal worship of the Lamb in Heaven. It seems to me that we have landed in the reality of which the Liturgy of the Word at Mass is the sign. Presented to us today is worship that even the most splendid human liturgy is but a pale shadow: ritual words and actions, defined hierarchical roles, incense -- lots of incense, and blood: all in honor of the "Lamb that seemed to have been slain" about to break open the scroll. This is the Lamb who has made "every tribe and tongue, people and nation...priests for our God."

Here is what the Paschal Mystery of the Suffering, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord Jesus is all about. By His Blood, the mysteries of Heaven are opened to us. And this is not something in the future or the past but is actually present for us in this Mass. This is the time of our visitation that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel today. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem for not recognizing the day of her visitation. We cannot be so blind. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, our saint for today, is in that Heavenly throng, casting aside her earthly crown in the worship of the Lamb. And so are we at this Mass.

no more blogging

I will no longer be blogging at this site. That is, I will no longer be posting very informal short essays on various topics. I will instead post only homilies. I am look forward to the change.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Why most young men should enter seminary"

You can bet that headline caught my eye! Here is the article, written by a man who spent three years in college seminary and is now married with five children.  

Working in a college seminary myself, I understand what the author is saying; and I agree -- for the most part. My only proviso would be that the young men should at least want to be in seminary, that is, should want to undertake the discipline necessary to run a program of priestly formation. This article is about what the young man receives from being in seminary, but this is only part of the question. Entitlement is a problem for this era of seminarians, as it is for the "millennial" generation generally. Another (more) important question is: What does the Church receive?

With the right dispositions on the part of these young men, the Church receives well formed young Catholic men to choose the priesthood freely and generously or, if they leave the seminary, to start families and to embrace the challenge of passionately loving the world for Jesus Christ. In my brief time working in a college seminary, I have been surprised by the number of former college seminarians who keep haunting the place. They obviously are not resentful of their time here. Nor do they seem to pity those who remain. Actually, they seem to admire them.

I had to tell some of the seminarians this week, that although I love them (and I really do), I love the Church more. That is why I am not particularly moved by their feelings about the curfew or other rules in the seminary. From my perspective, they should be excited about what they get to do for the Church, rather than worry about what the Church is asking of them. I don't like to play this card too much. It could easily be used in a manipulative way. But seminarian whining does not impress me much. Life is good here. Just read the article!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Providence

I have been reflecting on the Providential coincidence that today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. It gives us some perspective on the election results of early this morning.

I had gone to bed early, sensing a Trump victory. He was doing too well in places where he should not have been, if the polls had been accurate. But I went to bed. That is how disengaged from this election I have been. At about 2:30 a.m. or so, I think, I woke up and heard noise from the hallway. Being the dean that I am, I got up to investigate and found a crowd in the TV room listening to Trump giving his victory speech. I asked them to be a little quieter and went back to bed.

Later in the morning, I was up and having a cup of coffee in my office before going to the chapel to pray. It was just about the time that we usually begin Morning Prayer, except today Morning Prayer is being celebrated privately and Mass moved to the evening. This shift in the schedule was made to accommodate those up late to watch the returns. One of the seminarians came down the hall bewildered that nobody was in the chapel. I reminded him of the schedule change and then went with him to the chapel to pray. On the way, he asked who had won the election. When I said Trump, he was a bit surprised and then said, "I am glad that she didn't win."

I reflected that his response pretty well summed up what I feel this morning. I am glad that she didn't win. That's it.

In the liturgical calendar, we celebrate today the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, given by the Emperor Constantine to Pope Sylvester to be the cathedral of the Church of Rome. It still is the pope's cathedral: "the head and mother of all the churches of the world." Its central doors are those from the Roman Senate House. This church embodies the entanglement of the Church with politics, for good and ill.

Of course, it was a blessing for Constantine to end the persecution that the Church had known sporadically, and sometimes quite intensely, over her first 300 years. It was a blessing for the Church publicly to be able to dedicate temples for the worthy worship of God. But that is not where the entanglement ended but where it started. Constantine himself was only baptized on his deathbed. Even the donation of the Lateran contained a good bit of political calculation on Constantine's part. It is on the very edge of the ancient city, right up against the city walls. It was not a prime location so as not to disturb pagan sensibilities too much. The Orthodox Churches, or some of them at least, recognize Constantine as a saint. But not the Catholic Church. St. Helen, his mother, yes; but not him.

I see in this day a bit of caution of embracing any political strong man too closely or even any political reality. Political realities change. The Church goes on. The Roman Empire is long gone, but the Lateran Basilica is still the Cathedral of Rome. It has seen its ups and downs, many of them driven by politics. But its witness is not political or should not be. As another inscription puts it, this church is the "Domus Dei and Porta Caeli." The House of God and Threshold of Heaven.

In any case, let us pray for President-elect Trump that he does good and avoids evil, but let's not place our hope in him. It belongs elsewhere.

Friday, November 4, 2016

the weight of seminary

I need to find a way to lighten up a bit as I live and work in a seminary. When you are in the business of forming priests, everything seems so important: prayer, studies, community life -- everything. The consequences are just so severe when the formation goes wrong. It is easy for me to get weighed down by what I see that is wrong or lacking. The lightness has got to come from my own struggle for holiness. I feel that I am back in formation myself because I see how far I fall from the ideal of the priest, to borrow a phase from the title of Blessed Columba Marmion's book that I am using in the spirituality class that I am teaching. I have a lot of flaws. I also see in some of the seminarians attitudes similar to ones that I had when I was in seminary that made it hard for me to be formed. It is making it hard for them to be formed. There is a spirit of entitlement rather than of humble service. That is a big weight.

In the spirituality class yesterday, we were talking about purity of intention. Everything has to begin on the inside and reach out to God. And yet, so often in seminary we have to go with what is on the outside, especially in external formation. What disappoints me the most are my own failures. My witness and example have to be better. They need to be more purely focused on God alone and not self. There has to be more light and less criticism. That is one of the rector's best qualities that I want to imitate.

I will have a short break this weekend and some time away. I want to refocus on the light: His light. I want it to shine more clearly in me so that I lighten up!

St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

the ruins of Norcia

Other than the floods in Nashville a few years ago and various hurricanes in Gulf Shores, the earthquakes in Norcia are the only natural disasters for which I have any personal reference. Frankly the architectural losses in Norcia are incomparably worse because of the historic, artistic, and religious significance of the place. I saw yesterday the ruins of the Church of the Addolarata. It was at one time an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, with lots of paintings and inscriptions about him, and it was dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. It was a small church near the monastery which was quiet for prayer at times when the basilica was full of tourists. I liked to go there to pray that summer when I spent a few weeks in Norcia. Now it is essentially a pile of rubble. All of the churches of Norcia are. This is a loss that cannot be repaired. Frankly, there really would not be a reason to rebuild all the churches in Norcia. Some of them were practically ruins already. Three is no need for them any more. Their physical collapse in the earthquake is the external manifestation of the collapse of faith that had already occurred long since.

I am sad for Norcia. It was a beautiful place. I am happy that no one was killed there. What will the re-birth be like? Well, I am sure that the food and vacation aspects of Norcia will recover. I am sure that the community of monks dedicated to Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom will also survive, but who knows in what manner and in what place? There were also communities of Benedictine and Poor Clare nuns in Norcia. What about them? Will they remain and rebuild in Norcia? Somehow things will go on, but I doubt that it will be the same.

The rubble and disruption of Norcia represents for me the collapse of our culture. Things have been emptied out for some time. There have been some good things going on in the midst of the decline, but not enough to stem it. All of a sudden, institutions are collapsing and will collapse under the shock of the cultural earthquake that we are experiencing. There will be no way and no need to rebuild all that is lost. We have to look for some new way that draws on the old but does not re-create it.

These earthquakes are not the first and probably not the worst catastrophes to strike Norcia over its long history. It has been there since Roman times, after all. One of the peaceful jewels of Norcia is the marchite, the drained marshes just outside the walls that once provided lush agricultural plots for the town. There are still little ditches that channel the water and produce a peaceful place to walk. I imagine that they survived the earthquake so perhaps not all is lost. We need to find our own cultural springs that survive and continue to live, to pray, to love, and to serve in the ruins.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Help Norcia

There are many reports in the news of another earthquake in Italy, this one centered practically on Norcia, the small city where Sts. Benedict and Scholastica were born and where a community of mostly American monks had re-founded the monastery there. The good news is that the monks are all safe, but the basilica has been destroyed. Furthermore, there is fear of injuries and perhaps even deaths in Norcia. Pray. To help financially, donate here.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

insight, not escape

If I pick up the right book and am in the right frame of mind, I find fiction a pleasant diversion, and then sometimes I actually learn from it. I started looking at a novel in the library here basically as a distraction, but it has been strangely consoling in a time that I am finding pretty bleak as I look at the world. It was published in 1981, and it is very concerned with the possibility of nuclear war. I remember those days. Wasn't there a TV movie that caused a great sensation, called something like The Morning After? This novel is written from a point of view of faith, and yet (at least so far) it does not see the possibility of the Cold War coming to an end in any way but disaster. The particular concerns expressed in this book are now history. It is the historical blindness displayed in this novel that has been a strange consolation to me in the crisis (or crises) we find ourselves in today. There is always eschatological hope, of course, but there might just be some unforeseen twist of history that will give our culture and country another 30 or more years to muddle through. This seems to be the real lesson of Church History. And so I choose not to fear, not because I expect the second coming -- although I do -- but because I expect some way of muddling through. And the best way to muddle through is to do the right thing always and not to fear. That, and to pray a lot!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

for freedom Christ set us free

This line came up twice in the first reading this past week: at the end of the reading on Monday and at the beginning on Tuesday. St. Paul is demanding the Galatian Christians not to rely on observance of the Law for salvation which he describes as slavery. Instead, we are to serve God in freedom.

I can understand the attraction of the Law. As the dean of a college seminary, I get to enforce the rules, and sometimes I just want to say, "because that's the rule." But that won't do. I am thankful to the deacon who was preaching on Tuesday for showing how to follow the college Rule of Life not slavishly because it's the rule but rather in freedom in order to foster the goods community living and obedience. It is a fine distinction but a real one -- and an interior one.

There is also an attraction to the Law when things are breaking down, as they are in the world and culture around us, because chaos is ugly and scary. Law and order is brought to bear in response to chaos, often with a heavy hand. That very heaviness is its undoing. Even in the Church, I think that nostalgia for more definitive rules has to do with the uncertainty and lack of clarity that has been introduced, for example, about marriage as a reaction to perceived rigidity in applying the rules. It's a unproductive cycle.

We need, as St. Paul recommends, to focus on freedom, not the Law: "for freedom Christ set us free." This cycle of freedom should be our aspiration. Freedom lies in the will, and the will needs to be attracted by truth and goodness and beauty. That's why saying, "it's the rule" won't do. There is nothing attractive about that. But it is also why chaos won't do. The instruction to "go make a mess" is not attractive either.

When you look at Jesus Christ from the point of view of truth or goodness or beauty, He can not be beaten! That is why His invitation to "come and see" is so important. When one really looks at His face of mercy, all one sees is truth and goodness and beauty; and these attract. As St. Teresa of Avila whose feast we celebrate today tells us, Jesus has no face today but ours. His attractive qualities are to be found in your face as the fruits of living in His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul says a few verses later: "In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."

To be a good dean, I need to apply the rules of community life but more importantly I need to be a Christian in spirit and in truth. I have just finished reading a book about a great figure in the history of my high school, Arthur Lee Burns -- Major Burns or just "Maj." He taught French at McCallie but was mainly known for being the dean of discipline for generations. He was a stickler for the rules, having boys, for example, walk laps on the morning of graduation to work off demerits. But he was good. Very good. He was a living icon of the fruits of the Spirit. And so everyone had respect for him and the rules he enforced. I am happy that I had the opportunity to know Major Burns slightly. He died in my first term at McCallie but was still around campus practically every day. My father experienced Major Burns in his heyday and revered him for the goodness and beauty of order that he put into my father's life that had been absent before.

Just before his death when his Methodist minister visited him for the last time and asked Maj if he wanted to pray, Maj suggested first that they recite the Creed. Yes, the Creed. The beauty of truth had set him free to follow Jesus; and, by the way, that includes the rules: "if you love me, keep my commandments."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Prayer AND then work

We were singing this hymn at Evening Prayer earlier in the week:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
This is a good hymn for the Liturgy of the Hours, emphasizing as it does the unceasing quality of the Church's prayer. It also has a lovely tune. In the spirituality class that I am teaching we have been emphasizing the priority of the interior life over exterior works. We must be praying. The regularity of prayer is one thing about seminary life that is an unmixed blessing for me, coming in from many years in the apostolate.

It was the final verse, however, that caused me to tear up. I was thinking of the political and cultural situation we find ourselves in. Our proud American empire is passing away. Maybe because I am looking, I see it everywhere I turn. When I see Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, I am convinced that neither of them is praying or has any sort of interior life. Their guidance and plans for practical action do not come from above. I don't think that America will ever be great again. We might get richer or more powerful, although I doubt it. The super-elite might but not our country. Our leaders have turned too sharply away from the reality embedded in this hymn: the reality of God's sovereignty.

I teared up not because I want the American empire to continue forever but because I realized suddenly that it has already passed. We have nothing to offer anymore except decadence. I am having to grow up as an American and learn a truer patriotism: the kind of thing that Flannery O'Connor meant about the South when she wrote to Walker Percy and said, "I'm glad we lost the War and you won the National Book Award." It was a terrible thing for the South to lose the War, but it would have more terrible if the South had won. Does O'Connor even imply that losing the War in some way caused Walker Percy to be able to win the award?

Lots of these jumbled thoughts have been coming to me lately. I have also been reflecting on Walker Percy's insight about the South having been more Stoic than Christian. Similar insights, I think, could be made about the "good old days" in the Church and in the world that people like me pine for. I had been, for example, preparing to celebrate Mass on Saturday morning in the Extraordinary Form, trying to relearn the rubrics! I have learned a lot about the liturgy from learning the older form of the Mass, but I do think that the Fathers of Vatican II were right about the need for reform in the liturgy, just as I think Cardinal Sarah is right about the need for a reform of the reform now.

As much as I desire the immutability of Heaven (and I do), I have to admit that in this world things must change.  And yet change unleashes forces that elude our control. This is why we must pray and then we must act as a fruit of our prayer. This sounds a little Dominican, doesn't it? We have to take responsibility for what God has given to us by praying for grace and guidance and then by not being afraid to act on the truth revealed to us. I think that we need a lot of work of both sides: praying and acting.

We have to get serious about prayer. No more excuses! We are not too busy to pray. Our work is not our prayer. And we are not praying all the time. Prayer means giving God the love, the time, and the attention for Him to talk to us in His first language of silence. Nothing else will do. Prayer has to be habitual, and it requires sacrifice and struggle. There is lots of good advice on how to do it. Just do it.

When we begin to pray in this way, we learn that we see things differently, more the way that God sees them. The smallest things matter. Actually everything matters. Start with the smallest  and nearest acts of love and service and work out from there. It is a prideful delusion to think that we can change the world if we cannot change our own hearts. Serve God, and then serve where he has placed you. Do so zealously. I was given a bit of a correction by one of the priest who has been here a long time. He said that the vice rector and I need to "tag team" in the college as fathers of the place, one having the early shift and the other the late. I had the chance to put it into practice immediately last night. (After my experience with UCat, I think I should take the late shift!) If love is not in this sort of detail, then it really isn't love but rather pride. My sister is so good at this! She digs right into the very heart of wherever she is and seeks to serve the needs there in the details. It is in the details that we see what is really needed: how we are to serve. This is the secret to all kinds of things: to happy families, to fulfilling work, to vibrant parishes, to effective politics. But it is hard, and it is not glamorous.

In this light, the passing of empires is not so significant. It is the passing of each day in God's service of prayer and work that matters.




Monday, October 3, 2016

Restart

After a weekend away, I feel like I am getting the chance to hit the restart button not on my computer but in my life. As readers of this blog, you could probably tell that I was feeling distressed the last couple of weeks. I was coming to terms with just how different this assignment is from any I have had before, and I was missing some of the beautiful things I had left back at St. Mary's and UCat. I was letting my emotions, for example, loneliness, get the best of me. Some "driving therapy" and being in different settings helped me to get my perspective back. I realized that things were not as bad as they felt and that I really could manage much better. I began to look forward to coming back, and when I arrived here yesterday afternoon, I felt at home. God is so good. There has been a lot of Providence along the way, even before I left. It is now time to return the favor and get to work!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Michaelmas

We are in a mini season of angels: the Holy Archangels today and the Holy Guardian Angels on Sunday -- well, not on Sunday but on October 2 when it is not a Sunday.

I love thinking about angels. It makes my head explode! They are so awesome. From our perspective they might as well be infinite. Notice how angels are confused with God in the Old Testament. It is completely understandable. It would be practically impossible for us to tell the difference. That is how awesome they are. The names of the three angels that we know all include the word for God: "El." Michael's name proclaims him to be like God; Gabriel to be God's power; Raphael to be God's healing. Each perfection of God is itself infinite. We tend to minimalize angels. What at mistake. They can do practically everything for you. Ask your guardian angel for almost anything and see what happens.

Even more wonderful is how good the angels are. They are entirely good. And how beautiful they are. I think that we catch a glimpse of their beauty every time we encounter beauty.

Your angel loves you so much! He loves you so much as to leave the court of Heaven to come to you. I just can't go on. It is too much and too good! Love them.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This makes me happy!

I have a confession to make. I have a guilty pleasure. Here it is.

I think that I have written before of enjoying Fixer Upper. Well, here is this magazine article that explains why I do.

It is funny, but I think that I am undergoing a bit of a fixing up myself these days. Right now, it's still in the demolition phase. It hurts, and it's messy. It is sort of odd to be 53 years old and having to start over again, but that is what I am doing. So many of the things that I did so much and thought were so important are no longer a part of my life: I mean, I am not even allowed to hear confessions here because of my role in external formation and I rarely preach, although I am teaching preaching -- which is something I am not even sure is possible. And then there's the fact that I am a bureaucrat. There is so much documentation and so many meetings. I am not good at these things and never will be. I have decided that I am not supposed to be. I still need to do the documenting and go to the meetings, but my role is something else. It is to stay grounded in the midst of it all. And that is a challenge. I am never going to be and never want to be the great bureaucrat. I will never shine at meetings or in producing documents. But I can and must be the man and the priest here in these responsibilities that God wants me to be. I am to be the "little donkey" that St. Josemaria talks about who walks round and round, bringing up the water from the deep well that makes everything live. I am liking the transition, but it's going to take a while!

Sorry about the long digression! But really I do like this show. I mean, what is not to love about Waco? That is just what this article shows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's not about me...or you either ;-)

It's about Jesus. And Jesus is about the Father.

So simple. And I am way too complicated.

This new assignment challenges me every day to focus on Jesus rather than to allow myself to become distracted, usually by myself. I have to say that I am struggling in some ways here, but struggle is not bad. The struggle mainly comes from pride in expecting too much of myself and of others. All is for good, I have to keep reminding myself. Seminary is an intense place, and I can be intense. So I need to lighten up in the only way possible: in His light. In my role as dean, I need a light touch, His light touch. In my classes, the light needs to shine on Jesus so that from Him, light shines on us.

This is not about me. Nothing is about me. So "get over yourself" as the vice rector says, in his Jersey way!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's in a title?

Dean of Community Life and Director of Human Formation in the College of Liberal Arts.

That's my job title. It's a lot to live up to. Oh yeah, that and Associate Professor in the School of Theology.

I am trying to take these titles seriously. I seem, for example, to be becoming a terrifying dean since I take the Rule of Life literally. But also a dean who is predictable.

Hum..."Community Life" and "Human Formation." Living these titles is going to take time. Will I give it? Or will I hold back? Better give it, I think. I have been a bit scared to give too much, but I think that I had better jump in.

I have some funny ideas. I bet a bunch of them won't work. But I have learned a few things on my way to this place. We'll see.

Here some of the ideas:
Oratory -- This is an old one for me. Just a time to pray together mainly. It is sort of group mental prayer, if that is possible, with some intercession thrown in. Thank St. Philip Neri.

Compline -- Something to do at night. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Thank HMC, that's Holy Mother Church.

Get Together -- set a time to get together and talk. Simple. Thank St. Josemaria, via Fr. Eric Nielsen on the Rome Experience.

Food -- bring it into any and everything. Thank Caroline Duffy from UCat days.

Sunday Sabbath Re-Creation; Cool Catholic Movie Nights...

We'll see. Pray.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Impressed

Maybe this post is self serving, but I have to say that I am very impressed by the formation that is offered to the seminarians in the College of Liberal Arts of the Josephinum. I don't think it's too self serving to make this observation, as I have just arrived. This place offers the seminarians so much help in so many ways. And the seminarians avail themselves of it. One little example: I was out to dinner with the Nashville seminarians last night -- they kindly let me barge in on their "Nashville Night." One of the college seminarians mentioned a history class that he was enjoying: Carolingian Europe! Wow. Just wow. That is getting to the heart of things. But less obviously, there are all kinds of spiritual, academic, psychological, and physical supports offered here. The faculty and staff are so supportive. I even think we do a pretty good job of discipline. The goal really is to form.

Pray for God's gifts of wisdom, strength, and protection. I have never been more aware of the supernatural forces at work in any assignment I have had before.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

living in a bubble

A seminary is an artificial place to live. But it is supposed to be. It is the place for priestly vocations to be tended in some seclusion to be able to strong and healthy enough to face transplantation into the "real world." On the other hand, it should not become disconnected from the end of that preparation. The end is not a perfect seminary "bubble" but rather a place to foster the virtues needed as a priest. Seminaries can become about very small things whereas in reality seminary life is about very big things. Big things, of course, are made up of small things. Love is in the details. But let's not get obsessive about it!

I am trying not to get sucked into sweating the details in an unhealthy way but rather to fit the details into the big picture. Part of my job here as dean in the college is to give permissions. I was stuck on one request. I really couldn't decide what I should do. But it was not a huge deal. I decided, guided by grace -- I hope, to let the seminarian decide after talking with him. I would not have shirked an important decision this way, but in this case it seemed to be a chance for him to start deciding such things on his own, with some direction and limitation.

Now I am faced with the discovery of a provision in the seminarians' Rule of Life that is not enforced. Hum...what to do about that? On one hand, I would have no problem if the rule were modified. On the other, it is a rule that might have consequences for the seminarians and for the seminary by being ignored. I think that I need to bring this up to my superiors. I will gladly enforce the rule, even though the seminarians won't be happy about it, or I will gladly consent to a change in the rule and follow that instead. We could get along here, for a while anyhow, with the unenforced rule, but isn't that approach exactly what has gotten the Church into big problems about big things? So let's deal with it!

I hope all this doesn't seem too unrealistic to those of you facing the hurly burly of life on the outside! But it's what we do.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hating

In a time when disagreement is frequently labeled "hate," what are we to do with the Lord's words yesterday about hating mother and father, brother and sister? Hate is not disagreement. Hate is much deeper than that. I think that I have some small insight into what the Lord means in my experience of coming here. In doing so, I have had to "hate" so many people and so much of what I was back in Nashville. Abandonment is not a pretty word, and yet it is accurate for what I have done. Coming to the Josephinum was not my idea, and I did not promote it. Of course, I did not oppose it, and I can also see that good will come from it. But not at first. Pain comes first.

Of course, there will come a day when I will leave everything of this world, as I have been left by ones whom I love very much. In talking with my mother before she died, the closest she ever got to a complaint was expressing the reality that she would miss being with my family and others whom she loved and regretting the pain that her death would cause us. She knew that she was leaving us. And yet she went willingly, and I did not begrudge her even though I still miss her terribly.

Saying "no" to going back to old assignments is very hard, but if I am ever going to say "yes" fully to God, then I have to. This is hating -- and I hate it. But I am trying to accept it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

a new way of being a priest

Sorry for the light posting. I just have not known what to say! I know you are having a hard time believing that, but it's true.

I am basically having to figure out a new way of being a priest. It has happened before, especially when I first went Vanderbilt. Wow, that was different. This is too. That time, I was alone as a priest, in very secular circumstances. This time, it's with many priests, too many actually for the normal priestly things that need to get done. At St. Mary's, for example, it was all I could do to get the confessions heard. Here, I can't even hear the confessions of the college seminarians since I am in the "external forum" of their formation process. This time, it's about learning my place. For one thing, I am learning to listen and to watch more and to speak and act less, at least initially.

Even the role with the young men here is different from the relationship with those in the university, although they are the same age. The role here is deeper and more focused. I and they have more accountability to the process. I need to be both more careful and more intentional. I am serving them, but I am also serving the Church as they prepare to serve the Lord in His Church. And finally, there is the temptation to take too much responsibility for the outcomes, even while accepting the responsibility that is mine. The Holy Spirit is running this seminary. Jesus is the focus. And it's all to the glory of the Father.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

At PCJ

That's short for Pontifical College Josephinum. I arrived tonight. I'm in my rooms. And I am about half unpacked. But tomorrow is another day!

It was harder than I expected to wrap things up enough to get away from Nashville, but now I am here and need to get ready for what is coming.

I was later getting here tonight because I stopped in Cincinnati to see a priest friend who is just beginning at the seminary there. For the past 10 years, he has been the chaplain at the University of Kansas. That is one of the premier chaplaincies in the country. He will be teaching moral theology -- a real theologian, in other words. We had a great visit, wondering about what God has in store for us in our strangely parallel paths.

Let's see!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Savoring the upper South!

I am spending a few days -- that I really should be using packing, etc. -- savoring the upper South for a bit before heading off to central Ohio. Don't get me wrong: I like Ohio. I really do. But it ain't my place. Yesterday, I went by Murfreesboro, the center of the universe, to visit my parents' (and grandparents' and great-grandparents' and great-great-grandparents') graves. And then I proceeded to Sewanee, where I had lunch -- at a Singaporean restaurant! -- with two professors from my time there. Then I was off to Chattanooga, the Dynamo of Dixie and the Scenic Center of the South! I am staying with some of my dearest, oldest friends here in Chattanooga. I will head down to Birmingham tomorrow to visit my sister and the Sisters and then come back to Tennessee, stopping to see some of the very few relatives I have. They live in Wheel, TN! On Monday, I meet with the Bishop, and Tuesday I intend to head off to the lands north of the River Ohio.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

30 years a Catholic!

As of today, I have been a Catholic for 30 years! August 4, 1986. A lot has happened in 30 years.

The feast of St. John Vianney has turned out to be a Providential day for my reception into the Church. Now that I am going to work in a seminary, I especially want to ask the intercession of the Cure of Ars that I do not make the mistakes that so many of his formators made!

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

starting anew

Almost immediately I have had the occasion to defer and to refer to Fr. Fye and to Fr. Neely as the new chaplain of University Catholic and as the new pastor of St. Mary's respectively, although I might be meddling a little bit at UCat since I have been around Frassati packing while Fr. Fye is finishing his vacation. Forgive me, Fr. Fye. Ten years dies hard! I have even had to shift my prayer intentions, giving the seminarians and the seminary the places once held by the students and the parishioners. Don't worry, I am still praying for UCat and St. Mary's but in a different way.

There are things that I did not finish. I was pushing right up to the end, but not everything got done -- not by a long shot. But strange to say, I have let it go. It is not my responsibility. It never really was, in the strict sense, and I would have done better actually to have lived that detachment all these years. I was God's steward in these places. In any case, someone else is now. I am sorry that Fr. Fye and Fr. Neely will have to deal with things that I have left undone, but that will covered by part of the grace that God is giving to them: to make up for Fr. Baker! What a chance for them to grow in holiness and for me to grow in humility ;-)

I was reading a blog by one of my favorite people in campus ministry: Marcel Lejeune of -- guess where? -- Texas A&M! Marcel has the humility and technical accuracy to carry the title "Associate Director of Campus Ministry" in deference to the chaplain, who canonically directs the campus ministry. Anyhow, Marcel was writing about "burn out" in lay ministry, but much of what he had to say was true of clerical ministry as well. He talked about the importance of setting boundaries in ministry: a necessary practice that I should have followed more carefully. Good boundaries improve every responsibility and relationship. Neglecting boundaries leads to a mess or worse. So I am also happy to be handing off a bunch of other things beyond my official assignments that I have become involved in, sometimes too involved in. All of these are good things, but not all of them are things that I had any clear indication that God intened for me to do. I am stepping back from these by the necessity of leaving Nashville. All is for good. I don't regret these works. I do regret the pride and stress that have resulted at times. Going to Columbus has meant that I need to hand many of these responsibilities off to others or to limit my role for the future. And that is for good. I hope that I remember this lesson!

God has been good to me (always!) in the last few days in putting people in my way whom I want and need to see. I was able, for example, to squeeze in a visit to McEwen for the Irish Picnic. There I recalled just how much He has done for me in the past 10 years since I left St. Patrick's and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I can see mistakes that I made in those places back then but also how overall I was in the right places in the right time.

And now I have a partial stewardship in the formation of young men, who are discerning God's call to them to the priesthood. I hope to do that faithfully, with the points picked up along the way!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

light posting

Sorry for the light posting. There is both too little and too much to say these days: in the world, in the Church, in my life.

The readings for my last Sunday Mass at the parish are appropriate: reminders of death and the vanity of all earthly things. Get ready!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

too much of too many good things!

I guess that I should not complain, but the next few weeks are just packed with one good thing after another. Right now I am back at the Josephinum after an overnight trip to New England for the funeral of a Nashville seminarian's father. I was almost caught in the Southwest Airlines meltdown today, but United was able to get me from Manchester, NH to Columbus. Thanks also to the Delta folks at the Manchester airport who, after they realized they could not help me, shouted down the counter to United, who could. I would still be in Manchester, I'm sure...

Anyhow, I feel so at home here at the Josephinum. I am wondering what God and Bishop Choby have gotten me into, but I am sure it is where I am supposed to be. I have a much better idea of what I am going to be doing after the couple of days here, and I already feel a part of the place. Now I have to go home to Nashville and say goodbye to so many people and leave UCat and St. Mary's, which I love very much. It is going to be tough. Then there are about a million loose ends to tie up. The strange thing is that it is getting done somehow. I have no more dinners to have with people in Nashville before I leave so I am already booking up Christmastime. See what I mean?

It is so strange to feel picked up and carried along to something new.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

turning to the Lord

Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently advocated once again that priest and people should turn together to face the Lord during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This time, he made specific a recommendation to begin, suggesting the first Sunday of Advent which is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year.

We made this turn a few years ago at St. Mary's with little fanfare and no controversy. Like kneeling at the altar rail to receive Holy Communion, once it is experienced it just makes sense. It also makes sense in a building that was built for it. And it's is easy to do: just follow the rubrics in the missal.

Once he got back to Rome, Cardinal Sarah was called in, and a clarification was issued. OK, but I don't remember such quick response -- or really any response -- to the suggestions of other cardinals that the Church needs to change her teaching on marriage and on homosexuality.

Go make a mess, just not one rooted in the Church's tradition and current legislation!

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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