29 December 2008

Murder in the Cathedral

The image “http://www.traditioninaction.org/SOD/SODimages3/108_BecketMurder.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr. There can hardly be a saint more intertwined with English history and culture, especially literature.

By the way, I think that the antibiotics are kicking in and that I am on the road to recovery. Sorry for the gloominess of the last couple of posts!

28 December 2008

Thoughts on being sick

It is a little bit frustrating that I seem always to get sick sometime after Christmas and after Easter -- but especially after Christmas. Being sick is somehow part of my vacation. This morning I have decided that it is now necessary to see the doctor.

When I am sick, I have a greater than usual temptation to self-pity and to see the difficulties in the unusual way of living out a priestly vocation that goes with my current assignment as a university chaplain. At Christmas, there is so little evidence of what I do. Students are gone. The illusion of the community we try to create is evident. Vandy+Catholic is just a short stopping point on the pilgrimage to Heaven. On the other hand, I am inspired to seek the heroic instead. I watched a short video this morning from the New York Times about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the South Bronx. I am inspired to try to be as faithful in my vocation as they are in theirs, even though the external circumstances are so different. How am I to be holy as a university chaplain and to try to show the way to holiness for the students who are here for so short a time? Lord, show me the way, and let me be faithful to it.

27 December 2008

John: "a virgin chosen by the Lord"

The image “http://www.truthbook.com/images/site_images/Simon_Vouet_Saint_John_400.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
A Meditation on St. John as virgin
In the office for the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, there are numerous references to his virginity. This is unusual for a male saint, but John is no ordinary saint -- if there can be such a thing. Jesus' love for John and John's for Jesus is extraordinary. He is the "beloved disciple." Here are a few random thoughts of mine on this love.
I think that John probably was much younger than the other apostles. Rather than being the age of a brother or peer as the other apostles probably were, I think that John was more the age of a son or much younger brother. His entrusting Mary to John would make sense again on the natural level in this light: John would be more likely to outlive Mary than the others. Thus perhaps Jesus' distinctive love for John could be based partially in the fact that His natural relationship to John was different. He would have loved John even on the natural level with a more protective love, and John would have loved Him with the more expressive love of the young.
I often think of John's love of Jesus as I see love for Jesus in the young men that I work with as a university chaplain. There is a desire to love Jesus, but there is also the great obstacle of the hyper-sexualized world they live in. They become discouraged by their failures in pure love. To them, I offer John as an intercessor and model to purify their love.
Some of these young men also hear a call to love Jesus exclusively -- to be virgins by embracing a life of celibacy. Some are afraid of this call, I think, precisely because of the call to give this particular aspect of themselves to the Lord. To them, I point out that the adventure of virginal love made John the most manly of the apostles as he stood by the cross and rushed to the tomb. He had the particular relationship to Mary as her son. Do not be afraid to be "a virgin chosen by the Lord."
The image “http://www.the-reel-mccoy.com/movies/2004/images/passion3.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

26 December 2008

Standing Watch

As you continue celebrating Christmas with your families, let's not forget to pray for all of those men and women who are away from their families at this moment, standing watch and protecting the beautiful freedoms we have.

Saint Stephen, pray for us!

"You can only love me"

More from Pope Benedict's homily at Midnight Mass:
"Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me."
Wowza (my comment) :-)

"... on the feast of Stephen"


24 December 2008

Christmas at Midnight

For some reason, Christmas Eve is always somewhat of a struggle for me. I am never "ready." I am always emotionally drained. It is one time of the year that I long to be part of a religious community. A secular priest is part of many people's Christmas but always sort of "outside." Anyhow by this time on Christmas Eve, I usually have some sort of melancholy, and it is the same this year. I already know that this silly mood will evaporate in the reality of the Mass of Christmas. It is always good to get a preview from Rome of the joy of Christmas. Here is a little bit of what Pope Benedict said at Midnight Mass:
"The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment – the Fathers say – the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation’s silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands – he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God’s new and further way of making himself known – say the Fathers – a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: 'Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth'."

21 December 2008

Told you!

Yes, there is such a thing: frog's hair

For more information, try here.

Yes, my break has begun!

20 December 2008

"We wish to start Heaven here on earth..."

Salt+Light TV, the Catholic TV network of Canada, has spent the past year and a half working on a documentary of the life of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, our beloved Nashville Dominicans.  They wrapped up filming this fall, and the final 55-min piece is scheduled to air in January.  They have a beautiful trailer posted on their website... 


And here are some of my favorite quotes...

"They're looking at leaving behind good things; the good and beauty of married life and parenthood, and to see, can I be a spouse to Christ; and yet, to say, I'll leave those behind for the greater good of Christ alone, where He becomes my everything."

"If you think about it, all people are called, ultimately, to live totally united to Christ; and most people will do so in Heaven.  We wish to start Heaven here on earth."

"The vocation to the religious life if a call to love Christ as our Spouse, and our neighbor as He loves them.  It's magnificent.  He gives us the grace to love, and we have to remain faithful to that grace."

Saint Cecilia, wise, prudent, and faithful virgin, pray for us!

St. Basil on Prayer

Saint Basil (c.330-379), monk and Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, Doctor of the Church
Homily 5

"Jesus told them... to pray always"

Don't restrict your prayer simply to asking in words. To be sure, God has no need of discussion; even were we to ask him nothing, he knows what is needful for us. What is there to say? Prayer does not consist in formulae; it encompasses the whole of life. «Whatever you eat or drink,» the apostle Paul says, «or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God» (1Cor 10,31). Are you at table? Pray. In taking bread, give thanks to him who bestowed it; in drinking wine, remember him who gave you this gift to rejoice your heart and solace your ills. Once the meal is finished, do not fail, come what may, in the remembrance of your benefactor. When you put on your tunic, thank him who gave it you; when you put on your cloak, bear witness to your regard for the God who provides us with clothing suitable for winter and summer and so as to protect our life.

When day is done thank him who has given you sun for the day's work and fire to give light at night and supply for our needs. Nighttime provides you with cause for thanksgiving: when looking at the sky and contemplating the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the universe who has made all things with such wisdom. When you see all nature lying asleep, adore again him who relieves all our weariness with sleep and restores the vigor of our strength with a little rest.

In this way you will pray without ceasing if your prayer does not satisfy itself with formulae but, to the contrary, you remain united to God throughout your existence in such a way as to make of your life an unceasing prayer.

16 December 2008

Back to Praying

Here is a good book that says so much of what I am trying to say about prayer -- only better, of course! Time for God by Jacques Philippe (who has other great books). Add it to your Christmas wish list!

14 December 2008

Advent Conspiracy Video

Keep Praying!

Changes in schedule like exams and vacations can throw our life of prayer into confusion. Don't let it happen to you! Keep your time for God no matter what. Believe it or not, exams and vacations pass, but God remains. If things get out of whack, be at peace and start again. All is for good!

Know of my prayers for you during exams and travels!

07 December 2008

Back to Praying

Have you found your times for praying? If so, let's consider what to do. Prayer needs to be connection with a person -- so connect first. I have been having trouble with my wireless connection the last few days. If I'm not connected, nothing is happening. So too with prayer. Are you connected? This is where time comes in. I don't think that I can connect without committing at least a few minutes to it. Not that God doesn't hear my "text prayers," but I'm not really hearing him. That is the more difficult connection to establish -- mine to Him. He's always connected to me. Don't be content with a single bar (like the one I am operating on as I write this). Find the spot and take the time that allows a full connection. Put yourself in the presence of God by taking yourself out of the presence of you. Detach yourself from self and all the concerns you have. Be concerned for Him alone. Stay in that place -- don't move. You might lose the connection. Let the bars start coming up one by one. Now you can pray.

03 December 2008

Pope Benedict nails it again!

"I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will."

02 December 2008

Thoughts on Prayer

Although we do not think about it as much, Advent is every bit as good a time for resolutions as Lent is. Advent is, after all, the beginning of the Church's new year.

It has been placed on my heart this year to make a resolution about prayer. Before we go running off in a million directions trying to serve God, let's make sure we know what He wants! We have to pray to know God. Without regular and personal prayer, we cannot advance in our relationship with God. Prayer takes time. First, find the time -- actually the times. In the morning and in the evening. And at least 15 minutes each, working up to 30. If you do nothing other than sit and struggle to keep your mind from wandering during that time, it is useful; but we will work on that later. Right now, find the time.

28 November 2008

Prepare the Way

When we return to school, Advent will be here. I have been thinking about Advent and the coming of the Lord Jesus. This old world is broken. I am broken. Sin is the problem with the world and with me. The best way for me to change the world is to repent of my sins. In a strange way, I am thankful for my sins because they keep getting me to go back to God. The times that I am furthest from God are not when I struggle with sin (remember the struggle part -- sinning does not get us closer to God) but when I think that I do not need God. Unhappiness with sin is one of the best reminders of how desperately I need God. I wish that I could love God more just for who He is, but in reality I mainly come to God as savior. Dear Lord, please never grow weary of my weakness.

22 November 2008


This is the best break ever. I think we all need it! Let's beat UT, eat well, rest well, and come back refreshed. It will be Advent when we do.

19 November 2008

Pray for Unity

I just saw my good friend, Fr. Parthenios Turner, the chaplain to the Orthodox students at Vanderbilt. He is actually my strongest support among my colleagues here. We look forward to the day of unity when the Church will breathe again with both lungs. Until then, we pray!

Go to his wonderful cafe and bookstore.

Morning Offering

Some days it is harder than others to make a good morning offering. It is especially hard if all I have to offer is failure and infidelity. And yet, believe it or not, God wants whatever we have to offer. Omnia in bonum ... all for good. This is faith. This is the goodness of God. Make the offering:

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.

09 November 2008

A Temple of the Holy Ghost

Today we celebrate what some might consider an anomalous feast in the Church's calendar: the dedication of the Pope's cathedral in Rome. Actually in the Church's mind such observances should not be so anomalous: the dedication day of every church building can be observed as a solemnity proper to that church. A solemnity is the highest kind of celebration in the calendar. This is so because the Church sees the celebration of the dedication of a church as a commemoration of Jesus Christ, symbolized in the altar and enshrined in the tabernacle. Every Catholic church is a domus Dei et porta caeli -- the house of God and gate of heaven. It is the axis mundi -- the axis of the world.

We can take this a step further, if you like. Because every Christian in a state of grace is a temple of the Holy Spirit and experiences the indwelling of the Holy Trinity, our own baptismal days should be solemnities for each of us. (Do you know your baptismal day?) Everywhere you go, God goes. What does your temple look like? Is the presence of God within you evident in your words and actions? Or perhaps has God's temple within been neglected, or has He been driven out by mortal sin? To go more deeply into this reality, I recommend a small book: The Presence of God by Anslem Moynihan, O.P. You can get it from the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Birmingham, AL.

03 November 2008

November Papal Intention

That the testimony of love offered by the saints may fortify Christians in their devotion to God and neighbor, imitating Christ who came to serve and not to be served.

(The Pope is calling us to charity lived in real life, as real as the saints! Live Jesus!)

01 November 2008

Purgatory is a mountain, not a pit

according to Dante, that is. It is also a place of hope as opposed to the despair of hell. "Where there is aught of green, there is hope" says the gate of Purgatory as opposed to Hell's "Abandon hope all who enter here." It makes me hopeful!

30 October 2008

You are free ... to be a saint

Express your freedom radically. Be a saint. That is the way to cause change -- by being changed by the love of Jesus Christ. As Cardinal Newman says: "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."

24 October 2008


This is alumni weekend at Vanderbilt. Because of the history of the Catholic chaplaincy, we have almost no records of alumni. We would love to be more in touch with you. We would love for you to know what we are doing these days (a lot!). We would love for you to be more involved. If you are out there, let us know who you are and how to contact you. You can register online at the www.vanderbiltcatholic.org web site. Let us know when you were at Vanderbilt and how we can serve you! Go 'Dores!

15 October 2008

Pope Benedict, Doctor of the Church

There is a synod of bishops going on in Rome right now considering the written Word of God in the life of the Church. This is an important topic because for a long time now the professional, academic study of scripture has been divorced from the liturgical and devotional life of the Church and of the faithful. I remember being in seminary and hearing the complaint about reading modern Biblical scholarship that it was so boring and so uninspiring to the life of faith in Jesus Christ. Many seminarians therefore did not relish the study of sacred scripture. This is a problem. In the patristic and medieval periods, most scripture commentary was directly rooted in the liturgical life of the Church and of believers. Its starting point was faith, not criticism or doubt. Scholars and ordinary faithful were looking at the Bible from the same perspective and therefore could speak to each other and understand each other. That has not been the case for a long time. The Bible more and more became an object to use in theological debates, especially since the Reformation. It eventually became an object to dissect apart from a community of faith altogether. Pope Benedict wants to do something about this great divorce of the study of scripture from the life of faith.

Yesterday at the synod, the Pope made an unexpected talk about this problem, reading from his own hand-written notes. This is like one of the Fathers, whose integration of faith in Jesus Christ and study of the Bible Benedict XVI is recommending. The Holy Father is acting like a doctor of the Church -- a teacher. Let's listen and learn.

13 October 2008


Thanks for the prayers for Vandy Awakening III. It was a time of grace and blessings. It sort of surprises me how a retreat that I have been on five times and is designed for college students continues to bear such fruit for me, the old chaplain. Frankly, there is the joy of seeing younger people, whom I respect, admire, and love, growing in their love for God in so many ways. Awakening is not, however, only a vicarious experience for me. I am inspired, prompted to make resolutions, and touched by the love of God just like a first time retreater. This is what a retreat should do. I pray that all on the retreat will be given the grace to put these inspirations, resolutions, and affections into effect in our lives.

07 October 2008

VA#3 -- Pray it up!

Please be praying to St. Michael to protect the resolution of all of our Vandy Awakening III retreaters to make it to the retreat. The Evil One hates Awakening and wants to keep the retreaters away. They develop all sorts of cold feet and conflicts. Pray that they might have peace to surrender to God's love! Whoop!

05 October 2008

How 'bout them 'Dores!

Since I am a life-long Vanderbilt fan, please allow me to celebrate the victory over Auburn last night. I can even add a bit of [dubious] theological reflection. Although I don't think that I have mentioned her in the blog, those who are subjected to my preaching know about Sr. Catherine de Ricci, O.P. She was the principal of St. Pius X School here in Nashville when I began there in the 3rd grade. She is a wise and holy woman. At St. Pius, we usually lost in sports because we were such a small school -- sound familiar Vanderbilt fans? My sister, who is now Sr. Margaret Andrew, O.P., was upset about a lost basketball game and was told by Sr. Catherine de Ricci: "God didn't want you to win, honey." She was right about that. But we have to take the other side as well. God must have wanted Vanderbilt to win last night!

16 September 2008

St. Cornelius, Pray for us!

Today is the feast of the patron saint of our university's founder -- Cornelius Vanderbilt. Although the good Commodore would not have made much of it, that doesn't mean that we can't! Pray for Vanderbilt -- and maybe the founder, too!

14 September 2008

St. Helena, Pray for us!

On this feast of the Holy Cross we should remember St. Helena, who found the true Cross. The story of her faithfulness to a very unusual vocation is remarkable. I like best the fictionalized version of her life by Evelyn Waugh simply titled Helena. On the whole, relics are good things.

Here she is in St. Peter's Baslica:

08 September 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday to our dear Blessed Mother!

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy
our life, our sweetness, and our hope
to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve
to thee do we send up our sighs
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate
thine eyes of mercy towards us
and after this, our exile, show unto us
the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary
pray for us, O holy mother of God
that we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ.

28 August 2008

"I am so normal..."

"I finished high school, went to college, and I came up against relativism: the idea that we can't--people said that we couldn't know what was good, what was bad, what was true. So I really began questioning where truth comes from. Where does goodness come from? I know I have values. Who gives them to me? And so between that moment and here, it was a process of 'This is scary, I don't understand this. I don't see why I would be called. How can I be called? I am so normal."

Sister Amelia, O.P. (she just made vows this July!)
Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Nashville, Tennessee

One woman's "yes" changed the world.

Will yours?

Answer the call.

24 August 2008

Being Grown Up

It feels like the time for another chat! After realizing that "you are free" and what that means, we come to the next step. If freedom is not the same thing as license, then it makes a difference how you use your freedom. If you have license, then you can do whatever you want. If you are free, you are free to choose the good. It's not the same thing because freedom pays you the compliment of making you responsible for your choices. It makes you a grown up!

Children are generally told what to do. They are also often let "off the hook" for not being responsible for their actions. They are not free. It is the same thing with the criminal defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. That defense rests on this understanding of freedom and responsibility. If you are not free in the choice, then you are also not responsible. Although responsibility is a burden, it is one that grown ups willingly carry. To refuse responsibility is to refuse freedom. That is what happens, for example, to convicts.

Responsibility works both ways. We are not only responsible for our misuse of freedom but also for the proper use of freedom. We get the credit for our free choices! The more we use our freedom for the good, the freer we become. We become moral agents for good. We grow up. And what exactly are we growing up into? We are growing up into being another Christ, who exercised the greatest use of freedom in losing all freedom on the Cross out of love for the Father and for us! Jesus "grew up" -- He was lifted up on the Cross. And so for us, the most important uses of freedom involve obedience, love, and sacrifice. These responsibilities are the fruits of freedom and grow us up!

18 August 2008

Father's Chats

As I get older, paternal instincts are coming out in me. I see the joy in students here, and I often see it robbed by decisions made under the influence of a culture that has departed from the truth about the dignity of the human person. I would like to re-propose the truth in some on-line chats.

I do so with some fear and trembling because I do not want to appear to be judging anyone. I have made enough mistakes in this area to understand how easy it is to be fooled. I want to look at some common behaviors and propose perhaps a better way -- a way that protects joy.

These chats are sort of "folk" Theology of the Body, really more common sense than anything else. Let me know what you think.

For the new freshmen, one of the biggest changes for most will be the new degree freedom and responsibility for their lives. An understanding of freedom is thus necessary. Freedom is not being able to do what ever one wants to do. That is called "license." Rather, freedom is the ability to choose the good. Of all of earthly creation only humans can choose good. Plants and animals do good all the time -- like plants turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. But they just do it; they don't choose the good. Only human beings can choose to do good. This is freedom. Ultimately, God made us this way so that we could choose the highest good, which is to love Him!

The more we choose good, the freer we become. When, however, we choose "not the good", we become less free. Here is a little example: if we develop the habit of getting out of bed when our alarm clock first goes off, it becomes easier to get up. We might even begin to think about the need to get to bed at a reasonable time so that we can get up! But if we continually hit the "snooze" or turn the alarm off and roll over, then we are less free to get up when we want and need to. We sleep through things. We have to rush around like crazy people. We are out of control from the very beginning of the day. That is not very joyful. Misuse of freedom = loss of joy.

So remember that "you are free!" (You will hear me say this a lot, quoting a favorite seminary professor and mentor of mine, Fr. Francesco Turvasi.) But remember what freedom is and what it is not!

17 August 2008

I Have My Mission

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have my mission--I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  I am a link in the chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore, my God, I will put myself without reserve into Your hands.  What have I in heaven, and apart from you what do I want upon earth?  My flesh and my heart fail, God is the God of my heart, and my portion forever.  Amen.

~John Henry Cardinal Newman

13 August 2008

To the top!


(from the teachers at St. Pius):

Standing tall and menacing against the horizon,
It posed both threat and challenge to all who drew near. 
Who would dare to climb the mountain?
It seemed, to many, insurmountable, and thus inspired fear.

Many would walk away, seeing only what could not be done,
But some cast eyes to the height, 
Vowing not by this mountain to be overcome.

The climbers approached the base,
No longer seeing its imposing height,
Instead it is a dream radiating their face,
Of the view from the top of a glorious sight.

Now the ascent begins, following the path,
With jovial grins, they joke and they laugh.

As they proceed, the path rises sharply,
They pick their way through roots and stones,
As one finds a way, the others follow shortly,
At the end of this stretch, they feel it in their bones.

Now the way becomes dark as they enter the forest,
Light is hidden as shadows fall,
Doubt and fear pull at the hearts of the strongest,
And some question "Is it really worth it at all?"

But even in darkness, the dreamer dreams,
And the dreamer sees what others fail to see,
So on they go, following running streams,
As they go, they wonder, "What does the dreamer see?"

Through the forest, a light breaks through,
A ray of hope, bringing strength renewed.
Yet a brambly wood, a way still rough,
But with machetes in hand, a way is cut.

Clearing the thorns was quite a feat,
But the greatest obstacles were yet to come.

A fog descended, thick and gray,
The air became a bitter chill,
A narrow ledge proved the only way,
To continue ascending the imposing hill.

Hearts shrank and shivered once more,
"Is it worth the risk?" they ask.
Again the dreamer's words come to the fore,
"Once begun, how can we desert this task?"

The dreamer called the strongest climber,
Facing the fog and narrow cliff,
"Your feet are sure and vision clear,
You can lead us through this mist."

The climber's heart swelled with hope,
He turned to the climber most unsure,
"Stay close to me and grab this rope,
It is only together we will pierce this blur."

This is only one obstacle along the way,
Yet what has the dreamer done today?
The ascent continues, the summit waits, 
But another dreamer is born today.

11 August 2008

Angelic Warfare Confraternity

As a university chaplain contemplating the beginning of the school year, I am looking for help to help my students live lives of chastity. So many want this virtue, but there is a lot to deal with: wireless internet access all over campus, cable television in every dorm room, open visitation, not to mention the normal human struggles and weaknesses of the flesh and a toxic sexual culture. These are temptations, that is, invitations to sin. It takes a lot of virtue not to get tangled up some how some way in all this.

Violations of chastity are certainly not the worst sins one can commit (especially at this age), but they do give a heaviness and sadness to the soul that is seeking God. They make one less free. This year I think that I am going to rely more on an old help that the Dominicans came up with centuries ago: the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. The Dominicans have been dealing with university students since there have been universities. Another good resource from the same source is a booklet called "Achieving Chastity." It's inspiring, realistic, and practical.

05 August 2008

Theology of the Body, Yeah

I am afflicted by crankiness, like my friend "The Cranky Professor." One of the things that makes me cranky and shouldn't is the rapture over the "Theology of the Body." I was just reading a post at "The Curt Jester" on yet another book by Christopher West. Don't get me wrong, I certainly believe the theology of the body and am delighted that so many of the young people I deal with are inspired by it. I am grateful to JPII for resurrecting this aspect of Catholic teaching. What makes me cranky is that it seems so obvious to me. The theology of the body is nothing new. Apparently the new West book studies talks of JPII based on the Song of Songs, Tobit, etc. But the Song of Songs is certainly one of the most commented on books of the Bible, if we look beyond yesterday! All the Fathers and medieval doctors commented on it. All of them affirmed its affirmation of human sexual love and took it well beyond that. Oh well, ever ancient -- ever new.

03 August 2008

Zesty Australia!

Since I have been home, I have been thinking more about Australia. People keep asking me what I thought of Australia. Of course, I was only in Sydney and was very involved in WYD activities most of the time. Yet I did take some impressions of Australia itself. Mainly these came from my early morning walks on the beach. You may remember that our group was staying at a surfers' hostel on Bondi Beach. I was determined to get some beach time each day, even if the sun wasn't quite up and the air was chilly. I wasn't the only one! Even before dawn, there would be quite a number of runners and walkers, with and without dogs, groups of people working out with a trainer, even with weights, swimmers in a neat pool that was right on the edge of the surf, and surfers. It was very energizing. I was particularly interested in the surfers. They were in wet suits and would come trotting down to the beach carrying their boards. This was uniform behavior. They did not walk; they trotted. Maybe it was because their feet were cold, but I think it is part of the surfer ethos at Bondi.

When I returned home, one of my questioners about Australia is a native of Southern California and a surfer himself. I asked him about the trotting surfers. Do California surfers also trot? He said that they certainly do not. Trotting is not cool. But the Australians to a man trotted. They were eager and not cool. This became a symbol of Australia for me. It is a zesty place. I could not help but like it. I saw the same behavior my last day doing a little shopping in downtown Sydney. It is zesty. I think that Australians are fun and excited.

This insight made me reflect on the parable of the unjust steward, whom the Lord praises for being so ingenious about taking care of himself in a worldly way. Would that the children of light were so ingenious about eternal things! The trotting surfers became a rebuke and an inspiration for me. If theses fellows could be so happy and zesty about a few cold minutes in the surf before going to work, where is my zest for the Kingdom! This Australian zest turned to Jesus Christ could be awesome. Cardinal Pell is a good example of that. It all brought back to me the motto of my high school: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Enjoy Him!

I think that Americans generally would do well to look to Australia and perhaps see a younger version of themselves. As for the Church, I was inspired by the zest of Australia! Let's get trotting!

01 August 2008

Heart of Jesus

Today is First Friday. I am talking to some teachers today about the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the symbol of the love of Jesus. It's not merely a metaphor -- for you literary types!

It is so necessary to begin with the love of God. It is the only way to make sense of Christianity. Thanks to Pope Benedict for starting us out this way again! So don't forget your Morning Offering!

30 July 2008

New Adventure!

It is good to be back in the saddle after getting away from it for a while in the only way that I have found really to get away: by being so far away and so consumed by something else that I can't worry about it.

It is really a matter of days now until new students arrive, and we have to be ready! The first days of college are extremely important to connect with the freshmen. Patterns are generally set early. So we have a lot of work to do but even more praying!

29 July 2008

WYD in a bit more perspective

I have a confession to make. I am not one of those people who find being in a gigantic crowd for any reason particularly thrilling or impressive. I am frankly relieved and happy when I have survived the whole thing. These sentiments are true for World Youth Day. So take what I have to say with that in mind.

World Youth Day is worth it. It is worth the $155 million dollars that the Australian government spent. It is worth the efforts of Cardinal Pell and all his minions to get it off the ground. It is worth bringing Bl. Pier Giorgio's relics from Italy. It is worth the intercession of John Paul the Great, who inspired the whole thing. It is worth the sacrifices of each pilgrim to be there.

For a brief and shining moment, a small bit of the reality of the kingdom of heaven was experienced in Sydney. I know that sounds really hokey, but it is true. (Sure, there was also a good showing of the human weaknesses within the Church.) I have never experienced anything like a World Youth Day for demonstrating a living witness of the Church's usually hidden mission.

About the best I can say is that I was able to live more as a child of God during WYD.

I doubt that I will have more to say on this topic. Now it is back to preparing for a new year at Vanderbilt. I am very encouraged and excited by what God is doing here. My prayer continues to be not to mess up His work. We have started Masses again. I was surprised by the new faces at the "last chance Mass" Sunday night. Part of the hidden kingdom of God is right here at Vanderbilt.

26 July 2008

Home to Tennessee

As soon as I arrived home and had a little sleep, it was time for the Final Profession Mass for the Nashville Dominicans. I am a stand-by MC for the sisters' ceremonies. It's a hazard of being a priest with a sister in the community and right here in Nashville! Of course, it is really a delight. How many other places are there with a dozen+ young women making final vows in religious life? Archbishop Burke, formerly of St. Louis, was the celebrant along with Bishop David Choby of Nashville. Monday will be the first profession Mass.

Also this weekend, I have the wedding of a couple in my Vanderbilt flock. At the rehearsal dinner, I am seated not with grandmothers but with university students -- and they don't seem to mind or have the grace not to show it!

Jetlag from Australia is having a wonderful effect on me: I'm sleeping later! For those who know me, this is a miracle.

Oh, and do not forget the Irish Picnic in McEwen, TN -- the world's largest barbecue. 20,000 pounds of the best pork shoulders you've ever tasted. All the money for St. Patrick's School there in McEwen. I used to be pastor there and so will be heading west this afternoon after the wedding festivities.

22 July 2008

Last Day in Australia

Well, tomorrow we return to the "more austere but happier life" of home. At least, it will be tomorrow here. Crossing the date line is really odd.

I think that it is obvious that World Youth Days are being used as vehicles to revive the Church in particular places. I think this was Cardinal Pell's goal for hosting WYD in Sydney. I think the choice of Madrid for the next one is for the same reason. Denver's World Youth Day certainly worked that way for the Church in the United States, with Denver itself becoming a national center of authentic renewal. I believe it will turn out that way for Australia.

I met a young priest this afternoon who is also in campus work who has just been ordained for two months. He was a breath of fresh air for me!

Here are some of my "resolutions, inspirations, and affections" from the pilgrimage:
1) More order in my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule -- set times and stick to them
2) Dare great things for God
3) Accept the responsibility for putting them into effect with serenity -- a father's role
4) Guide my students with detached love
5) Let my students push me to greater fidelity
6) Find some way for more priestly fraternity

20 July 2008

There and Back Again

I am so proud of the group I am with. There has been so much charity and patience, and we needed it especially getting to and from Randwick, the site of the Pope's Mass. I don't know which is better -- to plan and take what I needed, which is what I did this time or to take as little as possible, which is what I did at Denver. I guess there is no easy way!

Anyhow, pretty much everything went well -- Praise God! I asked for prayers for confessions and for good weather, and both came through. I think that the Church in Australia should get a "bounce" just from the confessions heard.

World Youth Day is such a JPII event. Pope Benedict has blessed it, as Cardinal Pell said yesterday, and it is now an institution -- but it has the marks of JPII all over it. It's a "big picture" event, painted with broad strokes. And it works. The confessions are the proof of this for me. I'm not sure why getting a whole bunch of young people together from all over the world with a bunch of priests available translates into confessions, but it does. I give credit to the Legionaires of Christ for training some of their boys to be "confession husksters," rounding up penitents. There was one boy from Washington, D.C. in my area who was doing a great job.

Frankly for me, it is a test of endurance because I can't help noticing the "little things," the "fine strokes," that sometimes are a bit rough. For example, the difference between the way the newly confirmed received Holy Communion from the Pope kneeling reverently and on the tongue with a paten held under the chin and the way most of the pilgrims had to receive pushing up to a fence struck me as somehow inconsistent, however understandable the logistical difficulties are in such a large venue. Both images were shown back and forth on the big screens during Commuion. It is the same Lord, regardless of who is distributing Him!

Enough of my crankiness! I have not had time yet to figure out what all of this has meant for me. I'll keep you posted.

P.S. I thought the Holy Father saved his best message for the Angelus at the end of Mass. Go read it!

18 July 2008

The Final Push!

Yesterday was not as exciting, and exhausion set in a big way last night. We did see the end of the Stations of the Cross, which was moving. There is some nervousness among the pilgrims about the hike and overnight before the Papal Mass on Sunday. When the sun goes down it is pretty chilly here! I'm not sure how it is all going to work, but it will. I ask your prayers that the weather contuinues to be clear and dry! And pray for good confessions -- not necessarily in that order!

I won't be blogging again until Monday, I imagine.

17 July 2008

Pope Benedict and Bl. Pier Giorgio in One Day

Well, it just gets better and better. Catechisis with an Australian bishop from the outback. He is an astronomer, and he again engaged the questions of faith and reason. Lots of questions from the young people. This is a hot topic, as seen at Cardinal Schonborn's lecture.

The Pope arrived. We were sent to an American ghetto on Farm Cove. A floating Jumbo-tron wan in front of us. At the beginning it was possessed by evil sprits and was not working well but after some prayers to St. Michael, we did get to hear the Pope's address. He came right by us in the motorcade looking very happy. His talk was classic Benedict.

Then supper on the ground with what sounded like a Jamaican band playing over and over: "God is not dead!" We then made our way to St. Mary's Cathedral, where besides the Blessed Sacrament the main attractions were an indulgenced picture of "Our Lady of the Southern Cross" and the body of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. I had another meltdown at that point but of a good kind. I thought of so many ways in my priesthood that Bl. Pier Giorgio has been a powerful patron: of the many young souls that I have come to know under his patronage and the struggles and blessings of their lives. It was great!

16 July 2008

American Influences Down Under

I knew it was coming ... my pilgrimage meltdown. Fatigue and frustration just get the best of me sometimes. I hope I wasn't too unpleasant to those with me at the time! Pardon, please.

Otherwise, an amazing day yesterday. Catechesis yesterday morning with the Bishop of Lexington, KY. We happen to be traveling with him and the large group from the Bluegrass all the way from New Zealand. Then the vocations expo. American priests and religious all over the place. The Nashville Dominicans practically seem to be running the show here. Their booth was right across the aisle from the American Bishops Vocation Office booth. "Fishers of Men" was showing on huge screens on a barge in Darling Harbor at the entrance to the Convention Center. Then we went to the Sister of Life/Knights of Columbus event at St. Benedict's Church. Adoration on the inside, Matt Maher on the outside, confessions inside and outside! Very Catholic, very American, very fun.

It gets better! On to the Dominican event at the University of Sydney. The building kind of looks like Oxford done by a Texan. I guess that's sort of what Australians are to the Empire! Anyhow, the main event was Cardinal Schonborn on Evolution. The house was packed. No, PACKED! (Note to self as a college chaplain -- teach about evolution). Then Solemn Vespers and Benediction followed.

There was so much more. Including packed houses for the Theology of the Body (note to self -- teach about sex. Am I starting to see a pattern?) and a concert at our beach, hosted by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with the ubiquitous Matt Maher.

How can it get better. Oh yeah, the Pope comes today!

15 July 2008

Cardinal Pell loves US (us)!

Last night at the opening Mass, Cardinal Pell welcomed the pilgrims from the United States, "our closest and most important ally" (or something like that)! And the Prime Minister of Australia keep saying how important faith is in the public life of the nation, including the contributions of the Catholic Church. It's nice to feel welcome!

I ran into many people I knew last night at the Mass -- priests, sisters, former students, etc. The American Catholics are very "loud" here. That's a good thing!

14 July 2008

Bondi Beach

Greetings from Noah's Backpackers, a surfer hostel on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Pilgrimage, love it! I think that we are little different clientele from the usual here. So we will begin to see Sydney today. I have a real sense that we are coming to evangelize here, even if only by our presence. I hope that I am learning more abandonment!

13 July 2008

Leaving NZ

We are off from New Zealand to Australia today. The trip is going well. A lot of grace! We have received so much kindness and generosity. Praise God!

08 July 2008

Greetings from New Zealand!

Well, we have made it this far! Praise God! Trying to keep a pilgrimage a pilgrimage is hard. It is hard to keep Jesus the focus in such a secularized world. So I keep trying to do all for Jesus, even the things that seem to be distractions. Probably a good sleep will make a big difference! The charity of every one has really been remarkable. That's Jesus, for sure. I thank Him.

07 July 2008

Blast Off!

If I can just get everything in my backpack, I'm ready to go ... I guess. Pray.

06 July 2008

One Day to Go!

Well, sorry to scare everybody with the last post, but that's how it is. Packing and trying to leave things in order today. I'm not crazy or too depressed yet. Pray! Here's a novena to help you out:

This novena will start on Sunday 6th July and ends on Monday 14th July:

A Litany for World Youth Day 2008

(Adapted from a traditional Litany of the Holy Spirit)

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

God the Father Almighty - have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world - save us.

God the Holy Spirit, boundless love of the Father and the Son - sanctify us.

Holy Trinity, one God - hear us.

Most loving Father - we consecrate the World Youth Day to You.

Most loving Father - direct Pope Benedict and all the leaders of Your Church.

Most loving Father - inspire all those organising the World Youth Day.

Most loving Father - unite and protect them by Your fatherly care.

Most loving Father - send us the Holy Spirit.

Lord Jesus Christ - make us Your witnesses.

Lord Jesus Christ - multiply the efforts of those working for World Youth Day.

Lord Jesus Christ - help us to take up our cross and follow You.

Lord Jesus Christ - lead us under the heavenly sign of the Southern Cross.

Lord Jesus Christ - send us the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son - have mercy on us.

Holy Spirit, co-equal with the Father and the Son - have mercy on us.

Promise of the Father - have mercy on us.

Comforter and Sanctifier - have mercy on us.

Ray of heavenly light - have mercy on us.

Author of all good - have mercy on us.

Source of heavenly water - have mercy on us.

Consuming fire - have mercy on us.

Ardent charity - have mercy on us.

Spiritual unction - have mercy on us.

Ruler of the Church and of the universe - have mercy on us.

Seven-fold Gift of God - have mercy on us.

Spirit of wisdom and understanding - enter our hearts.

Spirit of counsel and fortitude - enter our hearts.

Spirit of knowledge and piety - enter our hearts.

Spirit of awe and wonder - enter our hearts.

Sprit of grace and prayer - enter our hearts.

Spirit of peace and meekness - enter our hearts.

Spirit of modesty and innocence - enter our hearts.

Spirit of love and mercy - enter our hearts.

Spirit of truth, beauty and goodness – enter our hearts.

Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians - pray for us

Saint Peter Chanel, Pacific witness to the faith unto death - pray for us

Saint Therese of Lisieux, witness to trust and simplicity - pray for us

Saint Maria Goretti, witness to chastity and forgiveness - pray for us

Saint Faustina, witness to God’s mercy and compassion - pray for us

Blessed Mary MacKillop, witness to the young and the distant - pray for us

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, witness to justice and charity - pray for us

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, witness to the poor and the dying - pray for us

Blessed Peter To Rot, witness to family and faith - pray for us

Servant of God, John Paul II, father of World Youth Day - pray for us

All Holy Men and Women - pray for us

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful - and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created - and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray: Holy Spirit, pour out Your grace

on the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit

and grant to us a new Pentecost.

Make of this land a true place of welcome

for the young people of the world.

Grant to those young people who come

conversion of life, a deeper faith, and love for all.

Enable them to build a new civilization of life, love and truth.

Make them true witnesses to Your power and grace. Amen

04 July 2008

Happy Feast of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati!

Well, I am going to take the plunge into more personal blogging. I am going to try to blog from World Youth Day in Australia and the travels to and from. To tell you the truth, I am nervous about the whole thing, which I think is good for me but not exactly comforting. By "good for me," I mean that my discomfort makes the experience more of a pilgrimage and adventure and not so much of a vacation. Traveling as a priest is not exactly easy, even to a "churchy" event like World Youth Day. Praying is harder. Saying Mass is harder. Privacy and discretion are harder. I think that priests are basically supposed to stay put and tend the "shop," but there are times when we are needed on the road. Basically being a university chaplain has pushed me out of my "comfort zone," and this pilgrimage is another example. Besides the obvious energy and flexibility required as a chaplain, there is also the balance needed to share in the lives of my young "parishioners" while not "going native" -- in more traditional terminology: the need to be accessible while maintaining boundaries and detachment. So pray for me! I want to come back holier than I am. I want to have greater trust and charity.

03 July 2008


"When you are totally consumed by the Eucharistic fire, then you will be able more consciously to thank God, who has called you to become part of His family. Then you will enjoy the peace that those who are happy in this world have never experienced, because true happiness, oh young people, does not consist in the pleasures of this world, or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we only have if we are pure of heart and mind." - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

01 July 2008

Holy Father's Intention for July!

The Holy Father also chooses a missionary intention for each month. In July he will pray, "That the World Youth Day held in Sydney, Australia, may awaken the fire of divine love in young people and make them sowers of hope for a new humanity."

24 June 2008

So Run!

"As long as we are pilgrim travelers in this life we have only desire and hunger: desire to follow the right path, and hunger to reach our final destination.  This desire makes us run along the way, the road cemented by Christ crucified.  For if we had no love for God as our destination, we would have no concern for wanting to know the way...So run!"

~Saint Catherine of Siena

14 June 2008

Evangelical Catholics on Campus

Evangelical Catholic Summer Camp 2008

August 11-15

Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center

Madison, Wisconsin

Long runs, endless drills and wind sprints sound appealing to you? What about five days of intense training in Catholic evangelization? This is exactly what students from Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois Universities signed up for when they came to Madison in May for EC Summer Training Camp. From the most basic skills in faith sharing to the big picture campus ministry strategies for intentional discipleship, students pushed themselves not for gold medals or individual glory, but to reach others on their campuses with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to previous training camps, the EC is running two such camps this summer, the next to be held in Madison, August 11-15. The goal: Equipping college campus ministries for the New Evangelization. Students and staff learn 1) how to nurture their own spiritual lives for ministry, 2) skills needed for fruitful ministry, and 3) how to form an effective strategy for evangelization. As we lean into summer, let us all heed the exhortation of St. Paul to “Run in such a way as to receive the prize” of Christ Jesus (1 Cor 9:24). For more information about the Summer Training Camp, please visit www.evangelicalcatholic.com.

10 June 2008


I am excited that we have come to the time of the year when the daily Mass gospel readings take us through the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5-7. This is the best "examination of conscience" that I know for seeing if we are really living the Christian life. Yesterday we started with the Beatitudes. These tell us what makes life blessed. To me, they don't really make much sense as a rational ethical system. They seem kind of random to me. I don't see a structure, plan, or pattern. But what finally struck me about the Beatitudes is that they describe Jesus and what we hope for in imitating Jesus. It's all about Jesus. How easily I forget, and somehow make it about me instead. So let's take begin a journey through the Sermon on the Mount, and see what God is calling us to.

08 June 2008

Morning Offering

Pope Benedict is pulling out all the treasures of the Church's warehouses! Just look at his liturgies -- love 'em! Even more deeply, he is pointing us to the spiritual tradition often expressed so simply. To deepen our friendship with Jesus, the Holy Father is encouraging us to unite our hearts to His Sacred Heart each morning through the traditional practice of the morning offering. In case you have never learned or have forgotten a formula for the Morning Offering, here's one:

O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.

06 June 2008

The Pope Nails It!

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for June is:

"That all Christians may cultivate a deep and personal friendship with Christ, in order to be able to communicate the strength of His love to every person they meet."

05 June 2008

The First Commandment

"Love the Lord your God with all you heart ..." First things first! Is God first for me? Oh, that must be the problem. Thanks.

01 June 2008


The gospel today calls us to do the will of the Father. The Father! That's the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And He is our Father by adoption in baptism. Wowza! Start there, and you will have a house built on solid rock.

31 May 2008


I attended an ordination yesterday and a wedding last weekend. These events were beautiful and happy, but they were also dreadful! The ordinands and the couple gave themselves away for the rest of their lives. They will never be the same again. That is dreadful, in the literal sense of the word. How did they do it? By the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and love poured into their souls by God. Faith gives a knowledge beyond the senses, hope gives an assurance beyond reason, and love gives a communion beyond even death. Every day has its share of beauty, happiness and dread. This is the Christian life. It is beautiful and happy but also dreadful. I noticed that at neither the ordination nor the wedding did we look the dread in the face. The beauty and the happiness carried us over it. But still the tears would come. So it is with the Christian life. Ask for more faith so that you know the love of God, for more hope so that you trust it, and for more love that you have union with it. The dread will still be in our lives, but faith, hope, and love cause beauty and joy to prevail.

28 May 2008

two vocations

The saints of the last two days are great stories of vocation and the new evangelization: St. Philip Neri and St. Augustine of Canterbury. Both of the saints in their own times and in their own ways (interestingly one by staying in Rome and the other by leaving Rome) had the vocation to re-evangelize places that had once been Christian but no longer loved the Lord Jesus. Some of us need to be like St. Philip and live the joy of life in Jesus among our fellow Catholics who have somehow forgotten His lordship. Others of us need to live the same joy and truth among the increasingly pagan culture we inhabit like St. Augustine among the Angles. A lot of us need to do both. Here at Vanderbilt, we have a mission like St. Philip's to students who do not really know why they are Catholic and also a mission like St. Augustine's to the university community which generally does not know the Lord. It's an adventure!

25 May 2008

Become What You Eat

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, may we be reminded of the way He offered Himself, that we come to share in His nature. We must never lose sight of the inexplicable immensity of the Mass, where, as the Servant of God Mother Marie William MacGregor once said, "Divinity comes to nestle in your humanity."

Take to heart the words of St. Augustine:

Become what you eat; receive what you are.

22 May 2008

Advice for the New Evangelization

Be united but not closed off. Be humble, but not fearful. Be simple, but not naive. Be thoughtful, but not complicated. Enter into dialog with everyone, but remain yourselves.
Benedict XVI

11 May 2008

Empty nest

Life as a university chaplain has a unique rhythm. Graduation was Friday, and now the campus is as deserted as it ever is. I understand why people often ask me if my assignment at Vanderbilt is a full-time job. In a way of thinking, my job is only now reaching its critical point. We will now see if my work has paid off. Will the new graduates make Christ present in the world? Will the returning students use their summer occupations as vehicles for making the Good News of Jesus known? I am frankly delighted by the involvement and activities of the Vandy+Catholic students on campus and by their true witness to the fullness of faith in Jesus Christ that I see during the school terms. Yet another transition needs to be made out beyond the campus. I pray for the graduates and students that they will make the transition successfully. I see myself as running a pit stop in the race for souls. The pit stop needs to be as professional and well-equipped as possible, but the racers can only stop for so long. There is a race to be won. They will have to win it. Right now, another round of the racers has returned to the track. Now it is time for the pit crew to get ready for the next batch. Yes, it's a full-time job.

10 May 2008


Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth. Renew us. The campus is practically empty, but the dumpsters are overflowing. Begin again, and travel lighter.

05 May 2008

Servants of Joy

My dear friends, this is also your mission: bring the Gospel to all; so that all may experience the joy of Christ and that there may be great Joy in every city. What could be more beautiful than this? What could be greater, what could create greater enthusiasm, than cooperating to spread the Word of Life, to communicate the living water of the Holy Spirit? Announce and witness this joy: this is the very heart of your mission, my dear deacons who will soon be priests. The apostle Paul calls the ministers of the Gospel “servants of joy”. In his second letter he writes to the Christians of Corinth: “Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith”. These are words destined for every priest. In order to be collaborators in the joy of others, in a world that is often sad and negative, the fire of the Gospel must burn brightly within each of you, the joy of the Lord must live in you. Only then will you be messengers of this joy, only then will you bring it to all, especially those who are sad and disillusioned.

~Pope Benedict XVI

03 May 2008

Show us the Father

St. Philip voices the longing of every human heart: to see the Father. Jesus reveals the Father in Himself. We are members of His Mystical Body so we should be aware of making Jesus present everywhere we go and in everything we do. This is apostolate.

29 April 2008

St. Catherine of Siena

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena. St. Catherine was a woman of tremendous influence in her time not because of her wealth or power but because of her prayer. She lived in some of the darkest times in the history of the Church. She was critical of the abuse in the Church but saw the solution in building up the supernatural reality of the Church and its leaders rather than by tearing them down. We live in different times, but the emphasis on the supernatural is right for us as well. We must live as if we really do believe that we are children of God, that communion with God in the sacraments and prayer really is the "one thing necessary," that Heaven is our true home, etc. We will be so much more effective in this world if we do.

28 April 2008


These are the heroic days. Think about exams this way. An exam is your opportunity to prove yourself. I was so impressed by how many of you ran in the marathon. Can you imagine having trained and prepared for the race and then not running? What a let down! Your final exams and papers are your chance to "show your stuff"! Even more than the marathon, which is an optional choice, your school work is part of your vocation so you have another great motive for being pumped about exams -- another way of saying "yes" to God!

I am praying for you.

24 April 2008


As Pope Benedict reminds us so simply and startlingly, Jesus is God in the world. This is what it means to be a Christian -- one who believes that God is in the world in Jesus Christ. He came into the world in the Incarnation and remains bodily in the world by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the Eucharist. This is what we believe and what we offer the world. He still makes us holy when we worship His real presence and let Him live in us. Let's not depart from Him at any time or in any situation. Let the Lord Jesus live as we pray, as we work, even as we struggle with our sins. Let's not worry about the plans and programs we devise. They will succeed or fail. We will carry on. Plans and programs are easy to come by. God is not, except for the Christian.

22 April 2008

Thoughts on the last day of classes

I'm really not sure if anyone reads these posts, but this one will be different from the ones I have done in the past. If I were grading Vandy+Catholic (including myself), I'm not sure how I would do it. I am delighted by so much of what I see happening: Deeper and deeper love of the Lord Jesus Christ being manifested in so many ways. I can only be delighted. Much credit is due to the student leadership and the FOCUS team. I must in justice again point out the heroic generosity of the FOCUS missionaries in sharing their very lives with us. I must acknowledge the apostolic hearts of the student leaders. There are, of course, always more calls for us to worship, serve, and learn to which we need to respond. The only thing that clouds my reflection, however, is the large number of Catholics (and others) on campus that seem to be unperceiving of His love, despite the wonderful examples and the efforts to reach them. So we must set out into deeper waters, going where the catch seems doubtful -- deeper into the life of the university in academic work, dorm life, athletics, Greek involvement, organizational activities -- fortified by prayer, the sacraments, and service with confidence only in the love of Jesus to win hearts and minds.

21 April 2008

The Future of the Church in America

"The future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise." These are Pope Benedict's words to us here at Vanderbilt, as well as to the whole Church in America. We must rise, and we would do well to follow the example of the Pope himself during his visit to our country. He relentlessly proclaimed the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though the power to destroy remains in the world, "it never triumphs; it is defeated." Here is the formula for this victory: 1) personal prayer and silence, 2) Mass and confession, 3) charity in action, 4) vocation.

12 April 2008

The Pope is Coming!

The Pope is coming! I think that we feel excitement about Pope Benedict coming to the United States because we realize that we have a shepherd to teach us with the authority of Christ. We are not left to figure things out the best we can on our own. I noticed an article in the Hustler (don't worry -- it's the Vanderbilt newspaper!) this week about a discussion on love with a respected professor here at Vanderbilt. From the article there seemed to have been very little specific direction given about love, even though this professor is a noted scholar of philosophy and has a long and happy marriage. I am happy that our Church claims to teach with authority. The focus of our week of "Love and Responsibility" is the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the theology of the body. At another time of controversy in the Church, Pope Leo the Great wrote a treatise on a disputed point to guide the bishops gathered for an ecumenical council. The bishops were so grateful for this direction that they exclaimed: "Peter has spoken through Leo!" This week we will have the opportunity for Peter to speak through John Paul and Benedict! Thanks be to God!

06 April 2008

a week of love and responsibility

Beginning next Sunday, Vandy+Catholic will be observing "Love and Responsibility" Week. This week will explore the truth written into the human body and the way in which love is authentically embodied. Truth and authenticity, along with sacrifice, are the prerequisites for love. Pope John Paul II is the great teacher of this theology of the body, and the theme "Love and Responsibility" comes from his work. If you are searching for an understanding of yourself, especially in relationship to another, don't miss the events of "Love and Responsibility" Week. You won't hear it anywhere else!

02 April 2008

God loves the world

If you don't believe me, look it up (John 3:16). We need to love the world too so that the world can know the love of God. That's the vocation of us secular folks. Love your family. Love your work. Love your school. Love your friends. Love your enemies. Love them enough to bring the love of God to them.

27 March 2008


Body. Body of Christ. He in me and I in Him. Resurrected. Christ the Bridegroom. Anima Christi. Bridegroom of my soul. Spousal love. Holiness of the body. Resurrection of the dead. Behold the man. Touch the nail prints. Male and female He created them. The two shall become one. Lord, I am not worthy. Noli me tangere. The Word became flesh. Love and Responsibility. Theology of the Body.

23 March 2008

Christ is Risen!

I know someone who was dead -- really dead, like over two nights with his heart stabbed by a Roman lance and bled out. That dead -- and came back to life. And He is God. Just wanted you to know.

16 March 2008

The Center of All Time

Holy Week is here. A week of beauty and power. A week unnoticed by the world, but for a Christian the center of all time. Share in the life and death events of Holy Week. Love Jesus.

12 March 2008


"Let us adore Jesus in our hearts, who spent 30 years out of 33 in silence; who began His public life by spending 40 days in silence; who often retired alone to spend the night on a mountain in silence. He, who spoke with authority, now spends His earthly life in silence. Let us adore Jesus in the eucharistic silence." --Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

29 February 2008

Spring Break

Here is some advice for the break. Remember that we are refreshed more by doing anything different than by doing something extreme or by doing nothing. So don't worry if you plans for the break involve some work or routine. Make it different from your school time, and it will refresh you.

Also, be sure to give some forethought to Mass and prayer time. Don't let these get lost in the shuffle of travel or a different setting.

Have a good time!

26 February 2008

The Everyday Adventures of Heroic Love

One more snooze, and I'll get up ... No! The adventure of my day is beginning, a day given by God. I love you, alarm clock! BAM! A victory of extraordinary love in the ordinary.

A lot of us are looking for spiritual "highs" to prove that we are alive. In the first reading yesterday, Naaman was disappointed when Elisha didn't come out and "do some magic" to cure his leprosy. Instead, the prophet sent word for him to bathe in the Jordan River. That seemed too ordinary for Naaman. It was the ordinary, however, that cured him.

In the gospel yesterday, the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because He is so ordinary -- one of them. But the ordinary is the usual place for finding and loving Jesus. If we wait for the extraordinary, we will miss the real adventure of the ordinary and everyday.

Jesus, God made man, spent at least 90% of His time on earth doing ordinary things. If it's good enough for Him, why not for me? Let me embrace the ordinary with extraordinary love and so find You!

18 February 2008


"God has not placed perfection in the multiplicity of acts we perform to please Him, but only in the way we perform them, which is simply to do the little we do according to our vocation, in love, by love, and for love." -- St. Francis de Sales

17 February 2008


The gospel today of the Transfiguration records a true "mountain top" experience. Peter, James, and John are taken up a high mountain and see Jesus in His glory. It is an overwhelming experience and one that Peter wants to hold on to. They soon come out of the experience, however, and continue to Jerusalem.

These experiences are almost necessary in the spiritual life. God will give us an experience of his glory and love which will often be the occasion for a real transformation of our lives. Our temptation is like Peter's of wanting to hold on to the experience and to begrudge ordinary life. But this is not what God wants for us. Certainly, he wants us to remember the experience. That's one of the main things that memory is for: to hold on to the good things. He wants us to be changed by the experience. He also wants us to move back into the ordinary.

When Jesus came among us, he veiled His glory. He still does, for example, in the Blessed Sacrament. For us, for now, His glory is ordinarily not found in the extraordinary but veiled in the ordinary. When the Lord drops the veil for a moment, accept the gift. But the real miracle is that it was the same Jesus who had walked up the mountain with them and continued with them at the foot of the mountain.