Thursday, September 29, 2016


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


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


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.

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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