29 December 2008

Murder in the Cathedral

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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"

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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."
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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.