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!

1st UCat priest

Fr. Josh Altonji and some UCat friends in Birmingham!

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