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

Peace

"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."