31 December 2009

FOCUS Conference Post #1

Well, I'm in Orlando for the national FOCUS conference. We left Nashville at 2 a.m. yesterday morning. Was that yesterday? Wowza. I basically slept through Georgia. More or less. Waking up for good at Valdosta. (It is incredible to believe that I was in the Val d'Aosta back in the summer. Go figure. I didn't realize that I had become a priest to become a world traveler.)

Long bus trips are purgatorial, although they do have a certain charm. This one was good as they go! I understand the attraction of Florida, at least for a time. The weather is so pleasant.

The conference started last night, and just to make sure that we did not forget that we are in campus ministry the opening Mass was at 9:45 p.m.

The next part of the craziness of my schedule is my fault. I am in Orlando, although actually at the airport to fly to Tulsa, OK for a wedding. What am I thinking? I will return on Saturday for the rest of the FOCUS conference. But no bus trip home for me. I have another conference to attend here, and then I will fly back. Pray for me. I guess this is what God wants me to do!

26 December 2009

Bishop Olmsted on "Serving Truth in the University"

Here is an letter on the mission of the Church in higher education by Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix. I knew that Bishop Olmsted was becoming interested in campus ministry because I received a call from one of his priests inquiring about FOCUS just after Thanksgiving. I think very highly of the good Bishop of Phoenix since my days in seminary when he was on the faculty and later served as rector at the Pontifical College Josephinum.

I am gratified to hear what Bishop Olmsted has to say. The Church's mission to the University is not a matter of "Mass and pizza." His words are a nice shot in the arm as we head off to the FOCUS conference.

22 December 2009

A Vandy+Catholic Monk

Br. Cassian is a Vanderbilt graduate of 2002 and a monk of St. Louis Abbey. He has been generous in abandoning the refuge of his monastic enclosure for the good of souls at a number of Vandy Awakening retreats. I am not sure if I can think of a religious event less conducive to monastic recollection than an Awakening retreat, but Br. Cassian is "all in" when he comes! Pray for him on the day of his Solemn Profession.

The Abbey runs the Priory School in St. Louis. A number of our finest Vandy+Catholic gentlemen are alums, including Br. Cassian himself.

21 December 2009

Home to Tennessee

I did make it home, actually on time yesterday. My bag did not. I had not intended to check my bag because it would have cost extra -- I didn't realize that Southwest does fly to Boston. I checked it at the gate because the plane was so full. For good measure, I stuffed my overcoat in the bag too...my overcoat with my house and car keys in the pocket. Oops!

United basically said that the bag would be found in the first 24 hours...or not. I called after about 12 hours. The bag had made it to O'Hare, but there was no trace of it since. Not very consoling. They threw in a $150 travel voucher. Somewhat consoling. But I still did not have my car keys.

At 25 hours, I received a call saying that my bag was on the way to the Frassati House. I am eagerly waiting for it now! Happy ending, I hope. We'll see if the driver can find 2004 Terrace Place.

20 December 2009

Cultural Experience

I have been having a cultural experience this weekend! I have been in Boston (for the first time in my life) for a wedding. I should have realized that being a university chaplain would involve me in more weddings and that at a university like Vanderbilt weddings would involve travel. At New Years, for example, I have a wedding in Tulsa.

So I have been in the land of the bean and the cod for the weekend -- and this paricular weekend also the land of snow. Boston is having a nor'easter (?) It's a lot of snow for this Southern boy.

The occasion was the wedding of Kyle and Liz Ludvik (nee Ellis), one of the first FOCUS missionaries at Vanderbilt. That's Liz in the picture above in the foreground, with some friends! What a cultural experience it must have been for her to come to Nashville. For someone who had been so generous in giving of herself at Vanderbilt, I had to make the effort to come to her wedding.

I became emotional at the wedding thinking about the generosity of these young people. There were many FOCUS missionaries and former missionaries present. Colleen McCarron, the best musician ever, was singing. There were Liz's Catholic friends from Williams. And the wonderful and hearty Nebraska Catholics on the groom's side. The Catholic Church is alive and "alove." I kept thinking what good was being done for the love of God by all these lovely young people. I thank God for letting me be a part of it all.

We'll see if I can get back to Tennessee!

17 December 2009

The Dictatorship of Relativism

The Pope from the Wednesday Audience on John of Salisbury:

While other discussions taken up in this work are tied to the historical circumstances in which it was written, the theme of the relationship between natural law and a positive-juridical ordering, arbitrated by equity, is still today of great importance. In our times, in fact, above all in certain countries, we witness a worrying separation between reason, which has the task of discovering the ethical values linked to the dignity of the human person, and liberty, which has the responsibility of welcoming and promoting these values. Perhaps John of Salisbury would remind us today that only those laws are equitable that protect the sanctity of human life and reject the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and limitless genetic experimentation, those laws that respect the dignity of matrimony between a man and a woman, that are inspired in a correct secularity of state -- secularity that always includes the protection of religious liberty -- and that pursue subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level.

If not, what John of Salisbury calls the "tyranny of the sovereign" or, what we would call "the dictatorship of relativism," ends up taking over -- a relativism that, as I recalled some years ago, "recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires" (Misa pro eligendo Romano Pontifice, homily, April 19, 2005).

In my most recent encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," addressing men and women of good will, who endeavor to ensure that social and political action is never disconnected from the objective truth about man and his dignity, I wrote: "Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. This principle is extremely important for society and for development, since neither can be a purely human product; the vocation to development on the part of individuals and peoples is not based simply on human choice, but is an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us and constitutes for all of us a duty to be freely accepted" (No. 52).

This plan that is prior to us, this truth of being, we should seek and welcome, so that justice is born. But we can find it and welcome it only with a heart, a will and reason purified in the light of God.

13 December 2009


St. John the Baptist and St. Paul today seem to be giving a recipe for joy: repentance and prayer. Repent to get back into the presence of God, and pray in order to stay there. God is the only adequate source of joy for a person. It is really true.

I have been experiencing such profound joy since my move into the rectory of the Cathedral, which is across the alley from the Frassati House, where I used to live. The priests who live in the rectory have agreed to a time for Morning Prayer together, and I have set my holy hour around this common prayer. It has helped me to be more regular in my prayer, and I am literally so happy for it. My duties and pressures have not changed otherwise, but I have changed. There is more joy.

10 December 2009

Thanks for Mercy!

Last night, we had our first-ever penance service. I "push" confessions all the time, but usually before or after Mass or in conjunction with a retreat. I did not know what we were getting in for with this service -- would anybody come? I was happy we did it and will try it again in Lent.

The coming together to seek mercy together is a good experience and a great context for individual sacramental confession. Come, Lord Jesus!

09 December 2009

Read this!

Pope Benedict at the Piazza di Spagna.

Something like I wanted to say...

I just read an article on the Immaculate Conception that said something like what I wanted to say yesterday in my homily. So in case the homily did not make much sense, go here. I like the point that this doctrine is more understandable if one works back to it from the Incarnation.

Well, tomorrow is the last day of classes here. Then exam begin. This is a very stressful time for the students. I have been having lots of conversations as well about plans for the future with students preparing to graduate and move beyond the predictable path of academic life.

Also, I have been receiving more requests than usual for prayer from students about deaths and sicknesses in their families. I received a request for prayer from a new Navy Ensign, a graduate from last year, about the serious troubles of one of her sailors. Life gets more complicated, not less so. The darkness of this world seems pretty dark at times. It does not help that here it is literally dark at about 4:30 p.m. at this time of year and that it was deeply gloomy and rainy yesterday.

The Immaculate Conception is a sign pointing to the hope of this world, which is precisely the Incarnation -- the fact that God has come into this very world in human flesh to give human flesh a new beginning. The Immaculate Conception shows us what God can and will do for us: perfection not outside but in our humanity. He thought it was worth dying for. Let's say "fiat" to that: be it done unto me...

08 December 2009

Calm at Frassati House

Let me renew the invitation to Frassati House as a great study location, especially during exams. It is generally calm. The Blessed Sacrament is here -- Jesus! And a huge Christmas tree. Come decorate tonight, if you wish!

06 December 2009

Comments on Adderall

OK. The Vanderbilt Hustler website is still down. The conspiracy-theory side of me thinks that the university administration must have something to do with this. It cannot look good that a large percentage of your students resorts to drugs to deal with academic pressures.

So here are my thoughts. They are not exhaustive, just what seemed noteworthy to me. The first is the prevalence of the drug use, either legal or illegal. There has got to be a better way to cope. I think that I know one. No, not that Jesus is going to help you to to stay up later to finish a paper, but that the awareness of being a child of God should help the whole process either with encouraging behaviors that lead to a good outcome or with the ability to deal with a bad outcome. I was rather amazed at how the student health representative didn't seem to think that all this drug use is a big deal.

My other impression is one that makes me really sad. One of the students quoted in the article says that he does sell his prescription pills but only to "friends." That makes me really sad, not about the drug use but about the concept of friendship. Selling pills to friends. What kind of friendship is that? What does friendship mean to this young man? It doesn't sound like any kind of friendship that is worthy of the name. If anything, give your friends the pills. That act, however unwise, at least has some shred of humanity to it. With friends like this ...

I guess that my take on this issue is that there is a serious need to help these students find authentic support for the real pressures of life. Adderall is not it. And, I have to say, that the "grown ups" quoted in the articles didn't offer much inspiration for living the "good life." Their responses were muddled and really not very helpful to stressed out and isolated students. The source of the "good life" comes from the source of life itself.

05 December 2009

Lost Breviary and Adderall

Yesterday, I had lost my breviary. Or maybe it is better to say "misplaced." This is serious business. I have taken a vow to pray the Divine Office for the Church. It was a very unsettling experience. Not so much the misplacing: I do that all the time. One priest friend says that he can always tell when I have been to visit him because I always leave something behind. It was unsettling to be without my breviary. Fortunately, my brother priest at the Cathedral rectory, Fr. Zach, found it. I had left it in the ambo at the Cathedral where I had used it in my homily the night before, quoting from St. Francis Xavier about "more learning than charity." That's not a usual place for my breviary.

I think that my condition is probably diagnosable, especially if I were younger when I also used to jump off refrigerators, etc. I am very scattered and disorganized. I mess up numbers all the time: I practically cannot write down a phone number correctly much less remember one, for example. Yesterday, there was a very impressive piece of journalism in the Vanderbilt newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler. (I would provide a link, but their site seems to be down. I'm not surprised after this issue.) Practically the whole issue was on the drug "Adderall." I had never focused on this topic before. (This is one of the things that I love about my job: being introduced to totally new social realities.) Anyhow, it is a look at yet another strangeness of our culture, in this case the largely illegal use of a drug for performance enhancement in an intellectual setting. I think that you might hear more from me on this, when I have had a chance to digest more of the articles.

Thanks to St. Anthony and Fr. Zach for finding my breviary!

04 December 2009

Deeds, not sweet words

I don't want you to think that I have "gone soft." I have been reminded this week that love means "deeds, not sweet words," as the Lord reminded St. Josemaria. But love must be the source of the deeds, not pride, guilt, or ambition. Deeds springing from love. This is what is needed.

Yesterday in the Office of Readings, St. Francis Xavier spoke of those with more learning than charity. That is a real danger in the intellectual life. In the active apostolic life, there is a danger of more deeds than charity. But there is also the danger of few deeds because of little charity.

Lord, give me an increase in charity that I may do more for love of you!

03 December 2009


The Holy Father is talking about love again! This time in his Wednesday audience on William of Saint-Thierry, a theologian of the 11th century:
Striking is the fact that William, in speaking of the love of God, attributes notable importance to the emotional dimension. Indeed, dear friends, our heart is made of flesh, and when we love God, who is Love itself, how can we not express in this relationship with the Lord also our most human feelings, such as tenderness, sensitivity, delicacy? The Lord himself, becoming man, wished to love us with a heart of flesh!
Let us be tender, sensitive, and delicate in our relationship with God and our brothers and sisters.

01 December 2009


Here is what the Holy Father is saying about it:

The Holy Father reflected on the etymology of the word "advent" from the Latin adventus.

"With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone," he explained. "Although we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways."

The Pontiff added that the expression advent also includes "visitatio, which means simply and properly 'visit.'"

"In this case," he said, "it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me."

Taking time

Benedict XVI acknowledged that we all experience "having little time for the Lord and little time for ourselves."

"We end up by being absorbed in 'doing,'" he said. "Is it not true that often activity possesses us, that society with its many interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate much time to amusements and leisure of different kinds? Sometimes things 'trap' us."

In this scenario, the Holy Father said, Advent "invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence."

He continued: "It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an 'interior diary' of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a 'visit,' as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?"

Advent is furthermore a time of joy, the Pontiff said.

It is "the time of the presence and the expectation of the eternal. Precisely for this reason it is, in a particular way, the time of joy, of an internalized joy, that no suffering can erase. Joy because of the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to walk with confidence."

And this joy, he concluded, finds a model and support in the Virgin Mary, "through whom the Child Jesus has been given to us."

He prayed: "May she, faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace to live this liturgical time vigilant and diligent in waiting."

I have been wondering for some time what this blog is about. I think that I should make it a diary of the love of God, as the Holy Father suggests.

30 November 2009

Rambo priests! Yes!

A priest's soul should have "interior muscle" comparable to the physical strength of Rambo, which is nourished with "prayer, the interior life and true motivation," says the secretary for the Congregation for Clergy.

For the whole article, go here.

St. Andrew

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St. Andrew is a silent apostle, bringing people to Jesus. We do not hear his preaching, but we see his effective evangelizing. Jesus is more than adequate to speak for Himself. Andrew brought people to Jesus. How will you bring people to Jesus today?

29 November 2009

Beginning Again

Well, it hardly seems possible that the luxuriously lengthy Thanksgiving break is coming to an end, and the Church's year is beginning again! The Church year begins with Advent, and the academic term ends with exams. They come at the same time. We begin Advent much as we ended the liturgical year: by considering the second coming of Jesus. At the beginning we look to the end. The beginning determines the end.

I have a feeling that the students sense that the end is near. Just as Christians should look forward to the second coming of Jesus, I guess that students should look forward to exams. At least that is what my Latin teacher in high school thought. He was amused that I was excited to be exempt from my final Latin exam after four years of study of that "dead" language. He saw the final exam as my opportunity to "show my stuff." And I was passing it up. What a shame.

If truth be told, I have always kind of liked exam time. That is, of course, easy for me to say now that I don't take exams. I really liked the end of term better than the beginning. And so I like the Church's emphasis on the end times at the beginning of the year.

Exams are frightening. The end of the world is frightening. The end of life is frightening. Our times are frightening. When I was in college it was "Morning in America." There is no sense of that optimism now. And yet we begin again another year of Our Lord. I pray that it may really be that: a year of Our Lord. That would make it the best of times. Come, Lord Jesus!

23 November 2009

Many Things

Vanderbilt is on a long Thanksgiving Break.

I spent the weekend on our second Rachel's Vineyard retreat in Nashville. It was very powerful. There was tremendous healing. Spread the good news.

When I got back over to the Frassati House and reposed the Blessed Sacrament to end the Adoration that accompanied the retreat, I discovered that I was in time for Solemn Vespers and Benediction at the Cathedral for Christ the King. That is the kind of thing that a Cathedral should be doing. The choir was great.

It was strange to have a calm Sunday evening. They are usually (wonderfully) hectic and late, what with the 9 p.m. Mass and all. But last night was different (see the first line of the post). I was able to have supper with the two other priests at the Cathedral rectory and my father. We enjoyed a beautiful meal made and delivered by a good friend.

That's a recap. And it's my birthday.

18 November 2009


Here we are in the middle of things. I feel like catching a breath! I am enjoying myself more than I ever have, but I am also pulled in more directions than I can handle. The more that I am willing to lay it all down and really surrender to the will of God for me, the better it gets. I want to get on the roof of the Frassati House and shout to the young men I know: "BE A PRIEST! IT'S AWESOME." Whenever the topic of priesthood comes up, this wary look comes into the eyes of the most obvious young men. I think that the problem is not so much with themselves (although that's there) but with what they fear everyone else will think, especially their parents and other mentors. I would put my life up against anyone's for richness, meaning, relationships, and persecution (just a little bit for seasoning) to boot! Just like Jesus said. Go figure.

13 November 2009

Countdown to Thanksgiving Break!

I guess that I should be setting a better example than this, but I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving break. I am really tired! In a good way really, but I am. I guess it might have something to do with the fact that I will turn 47 over the break. When one is now more than twice as old (even of most of the graduate students!) as the people one is around most of the time, it could be a little tiring! But I am very content. The tiredness is well earned. There is so much more that I wish we had done at Vandy+Catholic so far this year, but I am amazed at what we have accomplished. I can't wait to see what God will let us do next!

10 November 2009

The Awakening Effect

I think that we are getting the hoped for fruits of Awakening: deeper conversion to the way of the Lord Jesus through the sacramental and devotional life of the Catholic Church. The devil did his best to undermine things. 11 people decided not to attend on the last day! We thought that we had been doing so well in keeping those who had signed up ready to go. The devil has to work on the front end because no one ever regrets going. So I ask you to begin praying now for Vandy Awakening VI, March 26-28. In particular, pray that those who need to go will get on the bus and go!

03 November 2009


Sorry about the extremely lame blogging lately, but here is some news:

The Vandy+Catholic Nun Run appeared in the Whitesville, Ky Passionist Nuns' Blog -- yes, there is such a blog!

Vandy Awakening V ( VAV for short) is this weekend. Pray.

New Bible studies for fraternity men and for athletes began last week.

How's that? There is so much more. I am too busy living life to write about it.

17 October 2009


This weekend is Vanderbilt's homecoming. It was fun yesterday on campus to see graduates coming back. I have just now been here long enough to have this experience. I am proud of what we are doing at Vandy+Catholic, not so much for what we are doing on campus but for what these graduates are doing off campus. That is where to look for the fruits of this program. We ought to change the world, not have the biggest club. The world is changed by those changed by a radical encounter with the love of God in Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church is full of these encounters: at Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament, in Confession, in prayer, during a retreat, in service to others, in the intellectual struggle for the Truth, etc. This is what we offer in Vandy+Catholic.

We have few alumni of the revitalized program of Vandy+Catholic so we lack the most obvious source of financial support: those who have gone on from the program. (If you do not believe me, you ought to see how Vanderbilt "puts on the dog" for Homecoming!) That alumni support will come in time, but we still have the bills to pay right now.

Change the world: support Vandy+Catholic. Go on -- hit the "Donate" button!

10 October 2009

Emerging from Email Bankruptcy

Sorry for the break in posting, but I've done it. I am emerging from my email bankruptcy reorganization. Pray that it lasts, but I am up-to-date finally. Now on to the other areas -- phone, mail, stuff on my desk! Perseverance!

04 October 2009

Matt Maher is "Alive Again"!!!!

Title track from Matt Maher's new album, "Alive Again."

Have a listen and you'll see why I can't stop singing it!

AND it's really LEGIT cause it's all inspired from the writings of Saint Augustine in his book, Confessions. LISTEN!

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

~Saint Augustine, from Confessions

29 September 2009

Listen to BXVI

Dear friends, it is not hard to see that in every young person there is an aspiration towards happiness, sometimes tinged with anxiety: an aspiration that is often exploited, however, by present-day consumerist society in false and alienating ways. Instead, that longing for happiness must be taken seriously, it demands a true and comprehensive response. At your age, the first major choices are made, choices that can set your lives on a particular course, for better or worse. Unfortunately, many of your contemporaries allow themselves to be led astray by illusory visions of spurious happiness, and then they find themselves sad and alone. Yet there are also many young men and women who seek to transform doctrine into action, as your representative said, so as to give the fullness of meaning to their lives. I invite you all to consider the experience of Saint Augustine, who said that the heart of every person is restless until it finds what it truly seeks. And he discovered that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person’s desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value (cf. Confessions, I.1.1).

As he did with Augustine, so the Lord comes to meet each one of you. He knocks at the door of your freedom and asks to be welcomed as a friend. He wants to make you happy, to fill you with humanity and dignity. The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction. And when the heart of a young person opens up to his divine plans, it is not difficult to recognize and follow his voice. The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society. Dear young people, be aware that by Baptism you have become children of God and members of his Body, the Church. Jesus constantly renews his invitation to you to be his disciples and his witnesses. Many of you he calls to marriage, and the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey. Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!

And if the Lord is calling you to follow him in the ministerial priesthood or in the consecrated life, do not hesitate to respond to his invitation. In particular, in this Year of Priests, I appeal to you, young men: be attentive and open to Jesus’s call to offer your lives in the service of God and his people. The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.

27 September 2009


No, I don't mean Girls Preparatory School (a.k.a. Greatest Place in the South), my high school's more or less "sister" school.

I mean the funny little machines that give you directions. I have recently received one as a gift. Using it has become a spiritual exercise. (So far, mine has not let me down, although I have been reliably informed that this does happen so take this as far as it goes!) When going to an unfamiliar location I used to rely on written directions and intuition. I would obsess. Now I turn on the GPS and do what it tells me. I get there. I relax. Sometimes, it is a bit of a test. I had the occasion to use it to go to, from, and back to a rural location over the weekend. Each route was different, even using three different exits off of the interstate. But all worked.

OK -- do you see where I am going with this as a spiritual experience? Regarding life: stop obsessing. Listen and obey. Relax, even when it is perplexing.

20 September 2009

Verso l'alto and duc in altum!

Higher and deeper, at the same time? Well, actually it is possible -- with Him and with one another. Last weekend, there was a silent retreat. That's deeper. This weekend, there is Vol Awakening. That's higher. So far, I have to say that the emphasis this year has been on deeper, which is funny because our motto is to go higher. Go figure. God has other plans.

Personally, I believe that I am called to go higher, while helping the students to go deeper. My goal for the year is to climb some mountains of development and organization myself, while guiding the students deeper in prayer and leadership.

That is always the Catholic way: not either/or but both/and -- with some variation in emphasis. Please continue to pray for us. I really see so many good things "incubating" here at Vandy Catholic. Pray that God will bring to fulfillment the good work He has begun!

17 September 2009

Various Things

Please pray for the Volunteer Awakening #1 this coming weekend. I am taking excessive delight that many of our Vandy Awakening alumni are helping our friends to the east get started ;-)

Also another plug for the Cranky Professor's blogging through Dante. Go there. While you are there, read his post on Tobit. Classic.

16 September 2009

Amazing Young 'Uns!

I am so spoiled because everyday I get to deal with some of the most generous and faithful young people I have ever known. In less than a month, I have welcomed a new FOCUS team to Vanderbilt. Tala, Tina, Luke, and Frank are simply filled with love for God and a generous desire to do His will and spread His love. I have also been working with the Vandy+Catholic student board. Cristina, Peter, Garrett, Caroline, and Travis are so extraordinary. One of them spent a month with Carmelite nuns in Brazil, one quietly soaks up everything he can about his faith, one is bearing with very serious injuries with fortitude, one has an intense zeal pleasingly cloaked in a joyful exterior, one seems almost a mystic is her sensitivity and wisdom. (OK, I'm sorry because it is probably pretty easy to figure out who is who!) About 20 other students came back to school a week early to prepare for the school year on a leadership retreat. They have done such good work and, I think, have had such fun. All kinds of groups are hard at work in Vandy+Catholic and on the campus. On Monday, the Vanderbilt newspaper had two columns by Vandy+Catholics defending the role of religion in campus life.

We have also had such amazing things to offer. The "Love and Responsibility" extravaganza has brought some of the greatest young talent in the Church today right here to Vanderbilt. Sr. Jane Dominic is unrivaled in the Theology of the Body. Colleen McCarron's Night of Mercy is an experience not to miss. The silent retreat over the weekend was entered into with such generosity. And Vol Awakening #1 is being served with that same generosity.

Thank you, God, for such blessings. I thank you for them!

15 September 2009

OK, God, I'm humble enough -- jk!

Re: the previous post. Now I really need to get to work. I have a lot of work to do. It's all good stuff, but I am way behind on it.

Can I make a simple observation? There need to be more priests to do priestly stuff like offering the sacraments, spiritual direction, etc. The more that lay people get turned on to their faith authentically, the greater the need for the kind of priest I am describing. Here is an example. This weekend we had a silent retreat for 20 students. Now practically all 20 want spiritual direction, and there is not a huge pool of potential spiritual directors out there. See what I mean? This is the best kind of problem to have, but it is a problem. Some people advance the notion that when lay people take up their rightful role in the Church, there will be a decrease in the need for priests. Not at all -- just the opposite actually!

Being a priest is not all that glamorous. You really do not get to do the "cutting edge" stuff. But you do get to sacrifice yourself in lots of little ways. For example, for me campus ministry requires sleep deprivation :-) There is just no other way for me to do it since I naturally wake up early but need to say up later. Although I realize that by responding to a vocation to the priesthood, some very talented young men will be taking themselves out of the cool New Evangelization talent pool. Yet by being willing to do some of the unglamorous grunt stuff like hearing confessions, they will be the hidden foundations of the beautiful new structures of the New Evangelization.

Now, back to humility ;-)

14 September 2009


As the old song goes, it is hard to be humble, yet humility is necessary for everything in the spiritual life.

The really big first step in a relationship with God is to acknowledge God as God and oneself as creature, "elevated" to the status of child. It is very hard for most of us to do this. Ironically, I find it hardest to be humble when I have the most to be humble about. When I feel comfortable and confident, I can (sometimes) be humble too. It is when I am insecure and have doubts about my ability for a certain task that I am most likely to get so caught up in myself that I also lose humility. Getting caught up in myself is the real problem. Sometimes I am so concerned that a particular project or event turn out well that I become too self-reliant. In such a case, it would really be better to do nothing at all than to do something so prideful.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to see this situation play itself out several times. I need to see that God takes care of things, even when I am anxious. When things turn out differently from I had hoped, I need to resist the temptation to turn inward and become discouraged and more insecure. Rather I need to have a good laugh at myself and fix things up by getting myself out of the way.

Humility, love it!

08 September 2009

Set out into the deep!

Now that the "hoopla" of Roman Rush is more or less over, ordinary life sets in. Now is the opportunity to practice love in the details. First, love God. The main detail of love for God is prayer. Let me propose a crazy idea to you: pray an hour every day. Hear the invitation of the Lord to stay with Him one hour every day. It is a challenge and an adventure...and not as hard as it sounds. Let's say you pray a rosary -- that's a third of it right there. If you go to Mass, there's half. Add in a brief ten minutes of Bible reading. Add it up: one hour. It could be fun to see how creative you can get. At the end of the day, you will have a real sense of accomplishment. The Lord will sneak up on you, and soon you will be more...like Him!

Now you are ready to be more for others, most especially in the witness of your ordinary life. You can be the one who wakes up your suitemate who is about to oversleep and miss class because you won the victory of the heroic moment with your alarm clock. You can be the one who steers a conversation away from an unkind or impure direction because you are aware of the presence of God. You can be the one who suggests getting outside for glow in the dark frisbee when a 21st birthday celebration is going a little over the limit. These are acts of real charity and witness. Then you will seem to be a reliable friend when you suggest to a friend going to Mass early to go to confession or when you invite that friend to a Bible study. See how it works out in the details?

Today look for the details -- that spare five minutes on the way to class for a quick decade of the rosary or that person that you don't know sitting alone in Rand. Set out into the deep!

06 September 2009

News about our friends!

Really quick -- here's a great article about the Nashville Dominicans.

Here is a great line that I hope and believe can be said about Vandy+Catholic as well: "The young nuns in Nashville don't seem driven by conservative theology or ideology. Instead, they seem driven by a love for God."

Pray for me today! It's a really busy one -- including a challenge that I love: Mass in Spanish!

04 September 2009

Prayers for Ball State

I just read via the AggieCatholic blog that the Tabernacle (and our Eucharistic Lord) has been stolen from the Ball State University Newman Center Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Please join me in praying for Our Lord's return, and for the souls of those who stole it.

You can offer, especially as we observe this First Friday, to make an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to beg forgiveness for the way our Lord was dishonored.

This is a frightening reminder of the evil we face all around us. And while we can and should build up our defenses with prayer and the Sacraments, we have the chance to combat this evil with the weapons of choice of all the great Saints: charity and self-denial!


Here's a good article about what education is supposed to be about: thinking!

Even better to my taste is the Cranky Professor's canto by canto journey through Dante. There is food for thought!

In any case, do some thinking yourself. For me, unlike the pure philosopher, I need something other than thinking to think about; and my leaning is toward the literary. Take a break from doing. Think.

31 August 2009

Jesus on campus

As a college chaplain, I have grown committed to the engagement of the Church in college life. I am convinced that college campuses are uniquely important places for Jesus Christ to be in His fullness. The Catholic Church offers that fullness of Jesus Christ in the world today, preeminently in the Blessed Sacrament. (My secret ambition is to help foster a diocesean campus ministry program -- shh! Don't tell the Bishop just yet!) I really like college campuses, not just ones like Vanderbilt, where I am now.

Anyhow, I recently spent a little free time on the campuses on Fisk University and Tennessee State University. Both are historically African American universities -- Fisk being one of the most historic African American universities in the country. Both are located within blocks of Vanderbilt. On the other side of campus is Belmont University. Throughout the city and around the diocese are many more campuses, with young people coming to form their lives. How can we fail to be there for them?

I am very blessed here at Vanderbilt with an amazing student organization and with FOCUS missionaries. They are the most effective apostles on campus -- much more so than I am. But I hope I say this without pride: I believe that I am necessary. There needs to be a priest in campus ministry for it to reach its full potential. This is one of the reasons we need more priests because not only Vanderbilt but Fisk, and TSU, and Belmont, and MTSU, and Tennessee Tech, and Sewanee, etc. need some degree of priestly presence on campus! I believe that it is no coincidence that Vanderbilt not only has a priest on campus but also the most vibrant student and lay campus ministry as well.

We actually need more priests for so many of our various Catholic apostolates to flourish as they should. Why? A faithful priest brings Jesus in a way that no one else can. With Jesus, especially in the sacraments, all other apostolic work can flourish. Without Him in that fullness, not so much.

So I look around at some of the brightest and best young men that there are today, and I cry out for you to ask the Lord if He is calling you to be one of His priests. St. Francis Xavier looked around in his day at some of the brightest and best at the University of Paris and ignited the hearts of many of them with apostolic zeal for souls. Not that I compare myself to St. Francis Xavier, but perhaps the voice of the Good Shepherd will speak to the souls of young men even through so weak a vessel! Maybe Jesus wants to make Himself present through you. It's not such a bad idea!

30 August 2009

From the inside out

In the gospel for today, the Lord reminds us that we live from the inside out. That is a hard lesson for us to accept. For good or bad, we tend to obsess on externals: what we say, what we do, and how we are perceived. We try to change and manage these externals. Sometimes we can pull it off. Some people are very effective at it. Basically in our society the ability to manage externals has a lot to do with success.

Many of us are not so good at managing externals. We become frustrated because we cannot manage them. The Lord is giving us other counsel. We should first be concerned with what is inside. Do I really love the truth? Do I really want the good? Am I willing to face the selfishness inside of me? Goodness will flow from a heart in love with the One who good. Reverence will flow from the heart that is in wonder of the creator. Truth will flow from the lips of one who knows the One who is true.

Externals are important as the overflow of a heart transformed on the inside. This is called integrity. This is why there really is no reasonable separation between public and private life. We may be able to do good things for a time as an external show, but we need to be more than good performers. Surely we want to be more.

29 August 2009

Order and Change

I am finding myself longing for the order of routine! It is great to make new beginnings, but it is disruptive to ordinary life. Here at Vandy+Catholic, there have been non-stop changes and new beginnings since the middle of the summer.

We essentially have a new home. The Frassati House, thanks to the generosity of Bishop Choby, is Vandy+Catholic's full-time and exclusive home. We a chapel, office space, meeting space, study space, a kitchen and dining areas, and even a small back yard! This has caused another change in that I now live at the Cathedral rectory. We still have a lot of settling in to do, but we are here.

There are also new people. Three of our four FOCUS missionaries are new. Our music team has new leadership. We have lots of new students leaders for more activities. And, of course, the new students!

There are new times, in particular the new Sunday Mass time of 5 p.m. in addition to 9 p.m. Mass. I am hopeful that this time will be better for more students than the old 11:30 a.m. time. I did not make this change lightly, but I am hopeful that we can serve the campus better this way. There are also a good many practical reasons why the change seemed advisable. We will also have a new time for confession on Wednesday nights. I hope that this will provide a more relaxed time for the celebration of this sacrament.

28 August 2009


Working in a place of amazing intellectual achievement, I certainly wonder at the accomplishments of the human intellect and will. These achievements are certainly proof for the validity of secularity. It is possible to know more things and to make things better.

I am even more amazed by the fact that we try to achieve. Why do we want to know more? Why do we want things to be better? This daring to upset the complacency of nature seems to me to be a proof of the validity of the transcendent.

We know there is more. We want to be more. How and why?

A woman's perogative ...

Amy Welborn is back -- never gone -- whatever: Charlotte Was Both

25 August 2009

Evangelical Catholics

Wowza! I cannot believe the explosion of Catholic life at Vanderbilt. Over 20 students returned to campus a week early for a leadership retreat last week. Of course, it helped that it was at a beautiful cabin on Tims Ford Lake! We were "praying up" and preparing for the new students to arrive on campus.

Then there was move-in day itself, with everyone promoting "Moonlit Mass" at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday. It was the only time for us to get Mass in for the freshmen their first weekend on campus so we did it! It was beautiful, reverent, and well-attended.

We have met new transfer students, new graduate students, new Belmont students, etc. Yesterday, there was "Sports Mania" on Wyatt Lawn which included Ultimate Frisbee playing Dominican Sisters! What else can be happening?

18 August 2009

Dante in the Blogsphere!

I have just encountered the greatest blog endeavor, ever. The Cranky Professor is blogging his way through Dante! Read it everyday. No matter what. He is the best read person I have ever met, as well as my best friend. I consider this inspiration practically a vocation for him and his greatest achievement -- until he writes his guide to Rome. You will learn a lot and have fun. Every educated person needs to read Dante. Most of us need help doing so. Here it is.

15 August 2009

Goodbye, Amy!

Although I am not much of a blogger, I do recognize a good one on matters Catholic when I see one. Add to the fact that this particular blogger is a Vanderbilt alumna, and thus I feel the need to acknowledge the loss of Amy Welborn's presence in the blogsphere under any of the different blog names and sites she has used.

Maybe this means she will be willing to consider a visit to her alma mater in Nashville ...

09 August 2009


Sorry for blogging and general "lameness." I am stuck in the middle of moves and the resulting chaos. But all is for the good!

Soon the Frassati House will be Vandy+Catholic's home, and mine will be in the Cathedral rectory across the alley. A bit of professionalism on the one hand and a bit of privacy on the other are not bad results!

Be looking for updates and announcements about the fall schedule on the web site. I'll preview one here today. "Fiat" and "Esto Vir" are being revamped as formation groups for women and for men. This will involve weekly morning gatherings for prayer and formation in a spiritual plan of life. Be ready to "set out into the deep!"

05 August 2009

Prayer and Love

In yesterday's Office of Readings, St. John Vianney recommended prayer and love. There is nothing very newsworthy in that: Guess what, a saint recommends prayer! And yet, I think that if more people would follow his recommendation we would not see a news report that 10% of Americans are on antidepressants. That is a lot of people who feel depressed.

Here is my prescription. Pray for at least 10 minutes in the morning. I will amplify that a bit. Pray with your thoughts -- "mental prayer" -- by allowing yourself to be in God's presence and staying there, beginning with 10 minutes a day. A good way to do this is to pray by thinking about a Gospel text, perhaps the Gospel of the day. Allow the time to increase as you get used to it, up to 30 minutes. Most importantly, do it every day! In the morning.

04 August 2009

August 4

Today is the feast of St. John Vianney. He is the patron saint of parish priests and the particular patron of this year of the priesthood. So today please pray for priests -- including for me!

One of the points from St. John Vianney's life that I believe it is important for priests to remember is how much the devil hated him. Of course, the devil hates everything that God has made. The devil particularly hates priests because they have the means of dispensing grace and mercy so widely, and the devil really hates grace and mercy. This particular hatred of the devil is one of the reasons, I believe, that we priests find ourselves in trouble so often -- not only big trouble, which is too often the case, but trouble with little sins and failures, which often do just as well to keep people away from the grace and mercy that we could be giving: the petty preference, the small indulgence, the unchecked word in anger or exasperation. These small sins of priests often drive others away. The devil loves to trip us up. That is one of the reasons he hated St. John Vianney so much: his normal method of tripping up a priest, temptation, didn't work very well with the Cure. So the devil resorted to much cruder methods to show his hatred openly as seen in the physical torments St. John Vianney endured from the devil. The devil usually prefers not to show himself, but he was so frustrated by the mercy flowing from the confessional of Ars that could not control himself!

I am not suggesting that I can use Flip Wilson's old excuse: "the devil made me do it." But I do think that we priests should recognize the devil's hand in the little exceptions we might be tempted to make for ourselves. See the ugly hand that offers them and turn away quickly! Unfortunately, the devil is not so frustrated by me. I pray that someday he will be.

03 August 2009

Jill and Kevin's wedding

I have seen the video from this wedding posted and commented on favorably on so many sites that I finally have to comment in the negative. (I'm not posting it here -- if you want to see it, you will have to find it for yourself.) I love the music and the dancing. It is fun and joyful. It would have been delightful at the reception. It does not belong in church.

At one of the most splendid ceremonies that I have seen recently, the final profession of the Dominican Sisters of Nashville, the homilist began by making a provocative point. He had the audacity to tell these beautiful and generous young women that this day and this ceremony were not about them! Can you believe it? He said that it was all about Jesus. Who does he think he is? Well, he is actually the Theologian to the Pontifical Household -- the Pope's theologian. And he is right. Someone needed to tell the same thing to this wedding party.

I suppose that it is possible for a dance to be directed to the glory of God, but it would be a rare thing. I think that this accounts for the Church's hesitation about liturgical dance. Certainly the dancing at this wedding was about self-expression, and that is why it is wrong in church. It's not about us. It's about Him.

30 July 2009

Father ...

I am grateful to God for this assignment among other reasons for the experience of spiritual fatherhood it has given to me. Yesterday, I did something that only makes sense in this context. Although I really need to be packing to move my living quarters out of the Frassati House and unpacking my office into the Frassati House, as well as answering a bunch of emails, etc., instead I drove to Tiger, GA and back in one day -- well, almost one day. We didn't arrive back here until a little after 1 a.m. CDT.

Why Tiger, GA? There are three Vanderbilt students working at Covecrest, a Catholic camp there. They have been "on" me to visit, and time was running out. So with two seminarians as traveling companions, I set out to extreme north east Georgia. As a bonus, there was also a parish group from the Diocese there, and I the leaders of that group are also very involved at Vanderbilt.

I thought of so many fathers, like my own, who spend a lot of time doing things to be with their children. I was happy of this example in my own life, and I know that this was the best use of my time. I hope that I can always remember these priorities.

24 July 2009

This is Huge!


Bl. Pier Giorgio's letters are now available in English! The book has just been published. Go here to get your very own copy. Be the coolest kid in town!

19 July 2009

Back to Work!

It feels so good to get back to work! Everybody fasten your seat belts because Vandy+Catholic is "sitting on ready and rocking on" go for the new school year.

Masses start back this week: 9 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Come pray with me in the mornings at 8 a.m. for a holy hour, if you can.

Keep posted for additions to the calendar!

10 July 2009

What Padre's been up to...

Check out this sweet video explaining the program Fr. Baker was working with in Rome! You can catch a quick glance of the Faj at 0:18 seconds in! As usual, totally legit!

Special plug to an awesome blog, RomanCatholicVocations

07 July 2009

Vandy+Catholics in the News

Since I have returned home, I have been catching up on the mail. I have been pleased but not surprised to see Vandy+Catholics turning up in the press: here
and here

I am always so pleased to see our students recognized for how totally awesome they are! It was another pleasure to be at graduation where so many of our Vandy+Catholic leaders were recognized as campus leaders.

05 July 2009

Home Again!

Yesterday we spent a long day traveling: Rome, Paris, Chicago, Nashville. Charles de Gaulle Airport, although prettier than most, has to be the worst ever; but I've got to give Air France credit for the food! Some things just work better in America, like arriving in Chicago and arranging with American Airlines to catch an earlier flight back to Nashville, no problem and no questions.

I also saw an engaging movie on the long flight (actually where I see most of the few movies I do see anymore!): In the Electric Mist. The full title of the book is In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Now that's a movie to intrigue me! 

One reflection I have gained from these six weeks with seminarians is the need to pray for those who work with seminarians. It must be tricky! These young men that I was with are very impressive, but I am not sure how one would go about working on the fine points effectively. Maybe I can say more about this area of formation when I have had some time to reflect on it more. Suffice it to say that I think at this point I am more cut out for college work!

Now back to work! There is so much to be done in the six weeks leading up to the beginning of the new school year, including moving our offices and moving my residence. I am ready to get ready to begin again!

01 July 2009

A Different Rome Experience

I am sitting on the roof terrace of our current residence in the middle of a late afternoon storm. It is dramatic and refreshing. Already Rome is beginning to empty of those who can leave for the hot summer months. This has been an interesting six weeks for me. I really know Rome better now and am more comfortable here than I have ever been before, but I am also really glad to have my work to go back to. As I mentioned before, I have a greater love and zeal for my campus ministry work, and I have a sense that God has me just where He wants me! Please pray for Vandy+Catholic. We have a lot of opportunities, challenges, and difficulties in the coming year -- all centered on trying to love and serve the Lord Jesus better. It's time to start preparing for the "Roman Rush" of the Vanderbilt campus!

29 June 2009

Sts. Peter and Paul

You might think that I would have a lot to report today, being in Rome on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, but I really don't. Heat and fatigue finally caught up with me, and I have had to take a "down" day.

One of the benefits that I have received from this trip has been an even greater appreciation for my "day job" back at Vanderbilt. I love it. (I just have to figure out a way to pay for it!) I feel that I am in one of those places where the New Springtime of the Ancient Faith in the Lord Jesus is budding out in really beautiful ways! I thank God and Bishop Choby for letting me be a part of it!

27 June 2009

Wifi, finally!

We are spending our last days at far and away the best residence we have been in. It even has wifi! Until this trip I didn't realize how addicted I had become to internet access. This place also has a full-size twin size bed. A bathroom not down the hall and with an almost normal sized shower. This is living!

Oh, and did I mention a terrace overlooking St. Peter's Square?

26 June 2009

Awesome, but tiring

I realize that to say that I am tired sounds very ungrateful. I am trying to soak up everything that I can -- and that's a lot! Today we are going to the Mass for the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva celebrated by the Prelate of Opus Dei, whom we may meet. On Saturday, we will be attending Vespers at S. Paolo celebrated by Pope Benedict that will close the Pauline Year. And on Monday, we will be going to the Pallium Mass at St. Peter's. In the midst of all that sweetness, however, I have to see to getting tickets, to keeping up with the seminarians (I think I am in the right place being in a university rather than in a seminary!), to getting us moved to another residence, etc. I am sure that come July 4, I will be ready to return to my more austere but happier life in Nashville!

23 June 2009

Catch up

This post will have to be the "travelogue" variety -- there is so much to say and so little time to say it. I will be catching a train this morning to go back to Rome to resume my time with the "Rome Experience" after my break to come to Pollone and Turin to see the sites associated with Bl. Pier Giorgio and to meet some of his family.

On Saturday, before leaving Rome, the seminarians and priests of the Rome Experience met with Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura -- basically the Church's Supreme Court. Archbishop Burke has just recently come back to Rome from St. Louis. He was very gracious as well as very informative. (I think that I learned more canon law in that brief time than I had in seminary!) He is a real champion of the faith, and it was an honor to be with him. He is also a very warm and gentle man.

In the afternoon, I got on a train to come to Pollone, the site of the Frassati summer home. Other than having a train cancelled in Milan, the trip was uneventful. I was picked up at the station in Biella by Wanda, Bl. Pier Giorgio's niece with whom I had had lunch in Rome the previous Saturday. She brought me to Pollone and the Frassati home, where I have been staying. It is a surreal experience in a way. I will go into more details when I can.

On Sunday morning, I went with the family and Chris Wohar, the director of Frassati USA, to the dedication of a Pier Giorgio trail in the mountains of the Val d'Aosta. These trails exist in almost every region of Italy. It was incredibly beautiful! Mass was celebrated on the mountain -- a true Frassati experience. Then there was a lunch for all involved back down the trail in a little village.

In the afternoon, Wanda, Chris, and I went to Turin. We first visited the Cathedral, where the Shroud is, to visit Bl. Pier Giorgio's tomb. We also visited a number of churches that have some role in his life. We also visited the church of St. John Bosco -- and had an interlude there when we thought that we had lost the car keys!

Monday was spent seeing Pollone and going to the sanctuary of Oropa, an ancient and beautiful Marian shrine in the mountains where Bl. Pier Giorgio often went when he was in Pollone. Last evening, there was the Mass I posted about earlier and then a long dinner and conversation with the family members here. Amazing.

22 June 2009


This is a very quick and incomplete post, but I just had an amazing experience. I just said Mass next to the bed in which Bl. Pier Giorgio died. I am visiting in the Frassati villa in Pollone. Present for the Mass were three of his nieces, a great nephew, and the great nephew's twin sons -- great great nephews of Bl. Pier Giorgio. I sort of wonder if it really happened! I will post again letting you know what I have been up to, including my experiences in Turin and Pollone, as well as Rome!

18 June 2009

Year of the Priesthood

The year of the priesthood begins tomorrow on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We are going to attend the vespers at St. Peter's that will kick off the year. I ask for your prayers for priests and for the young men preparing to be priests that we have the heart of the Lord Jesus -- pure and generous. I'll let you know how it goes.

16 June 2009

End of the Year

While I am in Rome, I am also trying to keep up with my "day job" back at Vanderbilt, part of which is raising all of the money for everything we do! We receive no diocesean or university funding for any of our activities, staff, or programs. So if you like what you see going on here, please hit the "DONATE" button at www.vanderbiltcatholic.org or send a check soon to: 2417 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37240! We are coming up on the end of our fiscal year, and we need your help to make it! It is that serious and important.

15 June 2009


On Saturday morning, I said Mass for the Nashville Dominican sisters who are studying here in Rome. About 10 of the seminarians went along, and the good sisters gave us breakfast -- including orange juice! We drank them out of house and home with orange juice!

Later in the morning we had an appointment with Cardinal Arinze. (He had just been to the Diocese Nashville for a conference held in a Tennessee Walking Horse arena in Shelbyville. I was the Master of Ceremonies for the Mass there. I guess that this visit in Rome was the God's pay back for that extraordinary event!) Cardinal Arinze received us in his apartment, which overlooks St. Peter's Square. He could not have been more gracious or generous. It was evident that the seminarians had a great time, and I believe that the Cardinal did too.

Then I went to have lunch with the niece of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati! That was also awesome. I am more convince than ever that Bl. Pier Giorgio is the patron for campus ministry.

I guess that's pretty good for one weekend! Ciao.

12 June 2009

Corpus Christi Procession

Last night I had an incredible experience at the Pope's Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini, as they call it here) procession. For the first time, I saw the Pope not as the head of the universal Church but as the Bishop of Rome. The procession for all its size is really very homey. All sorts of guilds and orders participate. The Pope is loaded up in the back of a pick up truck (a very nicely decorated pick up truck -- but a pick up truck none the less) and kneels there in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major. It is all in the open. People, including me, rush along to keep with Jesus and the Pope. I was really very childish pushing my way along! When the Pope gets to St. Mary Major, he gets down and offers Benediction. As the crowd repeated the Divine Praises after the Pope in Italian, I saw him as their Bishop whom they love as their own. It was an awesome experience.

11 June 2009

Catching Up

Wow. Time goes by fast. We are settling into more of a routine, and my social life is picking up! It is a small world. I just had lunch with Fr. David Carter of the Diocese of Knoxville and another Tennessean. It was my first long and leisurely Roman pranzo. The glories of the three Grand Divisions were extolled. (If you don't know what that means, you are not a Tennessean.)

Tomorrow, I am meeting up with a priest from Alabama. Saturday, it's Mass and breakfast with the Nashville Dominican sisters who are studying here in Rome and lunch with the niece of Bl. Pier Giorgio, etc. Despite the fun of all of this, I am actually eager to get back to work in Nashville!

I have had time to squeeze in seeing the Holy Father. We went to the general audience yesterday, and this evening we are going to the Corpus Christi procession. I'll keep you posted.

08 June 2009

Over the Weekend

Well, I actually have good internet access only during the week at the university where the seminarians' classes are held. It is not open on the weekend, and the place we are staying is not too high tech. Anyhow we are keeping pretty busy.

On Saturday, we visited St. Paul's Outside the Walls and celebrated Mass there. That was a first for me there. We continued the Pauline theme by visiting Tre Fontane, the site of St. Paul's martyrdom. I had also not been there before. Both places were very busy with pilgrims closing out the Pauline Year.

On Sunday, we went to see the Roman ruins at Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome. I usually don't get much out of ruins, but these were very pleasant. There is also the association with St. Monica, who died in Ostia. We said the rosary in the ruins of the Christian basilica where she likely attended Mass with St. Augustine.

This morning we visited the Lateran -- the cathedral of the Pope, including it's baptistry and the Scala Sancta. We also went to Santa Croce down the street to see the relics of the True Cross that St. Helena found and brought back from Jerusalem.

Sorry for the brief travelogue, but I am actually keeping busy on this trip and so time is pretty tight!

05 June 2009

In Rome for a Month

Well, we are here! And I think that I will have better internet connection and can post more. We are getting on a more regular schedule.

This morning we had Mass in St. Peter's, which is always a thrill for me, even though I have celebrated Mass there a number of times. Yesterday, the seminarians all had a tour of the Scavi underneath the Basilica and got to see the bones of St. Peter at the end. Our guide was a seminarian at the North American College from the Diocese of Tyler, TX. He did a great job.

I will fill you in more as I have time!

02 June 2009

On to Rome

Sorry for the light blogging. I have been helping to lead a retreat for the seminarians for the last several days in Norcia, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Today the seminarians and the other priest have gone to Assisi, and I have stayed behind to get some work done! The monks of Norcia have provided me with a room and an internet connection -- that's hospitality!

So we go on to Rome tomorrow. At first there is a good bit of touring, but classes also begin for the seminarians. I'll let you how it's going.

27 May 2009

A Day of Cultural Encounters

I have only a few minutes, but here is an overview of yesterday. A visit to San Marco to see the frescos by Fra. Angelico. Our guide was an Irish sculptor who lives here and runs an art school with the Dominicans at San Marco. The school is given spiritual depth by the Theology of the Body. Fascinating. In the evening we had an encounter at the seminary of Florence: Mass, dinner, and conversation. Another great event.

25 May 2009


Well, we are here! We had Mass and the best tour ever at the Duomo of Florence: A guide who really believed and was incredibly knowledgeable! It will have to be short tonight. Got to get some sleep.

23 May 2009

Blogging from Italy

Next time you hear from me will be from Italy -- I hope. That is if I can get myself together enough to leave. Well, actually I will leave even if I'm not ready because I won't be ready. It's impossible now. Slip slidin' ... Please pray!

Of course, the "Rome Experience" will be great. I'm not complaining!

Vandy+Catholics in the News


Who are these people? What do they have to do with Vandy+Catholic?
Here's the connection!

19 May 2009

Lacrimae Rerum

I was talking Sunday to a young man who goes to one of those rigorous boys' high schools that still encourages the study of Latin. (I know about such places because I went to another one.) We were discussing Virgil briefly, and I mentioned to him the perfectly characteristic expression "lacrimae rerum" (Aeneid, Book 1, line 462). It means "the tears of things." It is so characteristic of Latin because it is both succinct and evocative. It contains that "wonderful Latin ambiguity" that one of my Latin professors was so fond of. I remember being taught in English class at my rigorous high school not to use the word "thing" in composition. But in Latin class, "res" came up all the time. Indeed, "thing" can be vague and overused. But is there any doubt about Virgil's meaning when he speaks of the tears of "things"? Could his meaning be expressed any better with a more precise word?

It is the "lacrimae rerum" that I feel so often in the early mornings when I make most of these posts. On many days, the feeling passes like the shadows of dawn. On many others, the "lacrimae" remain through the noonday sun and to the vesper light. They are a part of the human condition, at least in its fallen state. Some of us are too prone to them (the melancholic) and others perhaps not prone enough (the sanguine). I am definitely too prone (so please pray for me). The trick is to claim this pearl of pagan wisdom and to baptize it with Christian hope. Without the tears of things, we lack compassion. Think of the Sorrowful Mother. But with too much, we lose joy. As Dante understood, Virgil makes a good guide, but only to the point where Christian hope begins in the person of Jesus Christ.

16 May 2009

The Pact of Bl. Pier Giorgio

I have been thinking more of our heavenly patron, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. For all the great things that can be said of him, the greatest is that he is a man of charity. He lived for the love of God and the love of neighbor for the love of God. Here is a simple way to begin to imitate his charity and to honor his example.

Anyone ready for the pact?

Bl. Pier Giorgio's niece will be in Nashville later this month. I'll post more information as I have it.

14 May 2009

Guess what? Love IS the answer!

From the Cardinal Archbishop of Tegucigalpa:

Our Lady of Fatima's Antidote to the CrisisCaritas President Reflects on Attitudes the Virgin Teaches

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Virgin Mary keeps alive attitudes that combat the economic crisis and the lack of values in the world, says the cardinal who directs Caritas Internationalis.

Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga spoke today about the ongoing importance of the Fatima message, as the Church marks 92 years since the first of Our Lady's apparitions there.

At a Mass he celebrated with some 20 bishops and 360 priests, as well as thousands of faithful, the cardinal said, "Our world finds itself immersed in deep crises of faith, ethics and humanity, and it seems to have lost its moral orientation. The financial crisis that we are living is just one sign of that."

According to the Portuguese news agency Ecclesia, the cardinal remarked that the "invisible hand that supposedly had to guide the market has become a dishonest hand, full of greed."

"We no longer know where the limit is between good and evil," he added.

But in this situation, the cardinal affirmed, "Mary helps to keep alive the attitudes of attention, service, gift and gratuitousness."

"With the example and the help of the Virgin, Christian communities continue the mission of bringing [people] to an encounter with Christ, and because of this, we invoke her again as the Star of the new evangelization," Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga said.

Some 200,000 people gathered in the chill Monday evening at the sanctuary of Fatima, for a candlelight procession and a Mass also celebrated by the cardinal. It was followed by a prayer vigil that lasted until 7 a.m. today.

Love "is the best medicine against egotism and self-sufficiency," the cardinal said in that homily.

Monday during a press conference he affirmed that "solidarity is a value that is especially necessary in these times."

Only when we "go out of ourselves and look around at the others can we think of solutions for the crisis," he contended, adding that bailouts are not the answer.

"We are aware that only with dialogue is it possible to avoid reducing globalization to its economic aspect," the Honduran prelate continued. "A globalization that excludes is an evil for society."

40 MORE things every Tennessean should do

09 May 2009

Vanderbilt for Life

Do you recognize this boy?

This is probably the last time you saw a picture of him:

This surgery happened right here at Vanderbilt.

Life: See the reality! Read more here: Ten Years Later, Boy's 'Hand of Hope' Continues to Spark Debate - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - FOXNews.com

08 May 2009


Yesterday at graduation, Chancellor Zeppos spoke of balance. His speech to the graduates was basically a tribute to the golden mean. It was a pleasingly and surprisingly Aristotelian theme. (I guess the chancellor takes just pride in his Greek cultural heritage!) Aristotle is the best philosophical starting point for a life of virtue. I would like to propose a Christian refinement.

The trick to the golden mean is having some basis for locating it. Not to fault the chancellor -- how precise can you get in a speech given in a sticky gym? -- but in his speech yesterday the golden mean seemed to be found by taking a little of this and not too much of that -- a "meal plan" approach to morality. Of course, he said, it is alright to have a "passion" for something, too. Just don't get carried away. This is all pretty good advice (except for the choice of the word "passion") but it doesn't really get down to the details. As my readers know, "love is in the details!"

I would propose that the method of finding the appropriate mean is not in some system like the food pyramid but rather is in loving according to right reason. How do I know how I should spend my time? Well, how am I called on to love at this point in my life? If I am a student, that means a priority for study. Since I am a child, I have duties to my parents. If I am married, my spouse comes first and then my children. As a child of God, I pray. If I am a military officer, responsibility for my comrades and country makes me courageous. Sometimes one of these loves is so pressing that the mean resembles an extreme, but it is actually still the mean for me at that time.

Love is a sliding scale not a system. To go far in love is not a violation of the golden mean as is giving way to passion. So I would propose not "passion" but love as the standard. Passion is about the self being carried away. Love is about giving the self away. And that is the meaning of life! The cross is the perfect balance!

Look at this!

What's not to love?

Lecture on Monday

I have received a number of questions about a lecture on Monday in Benton Chapel:


This lecture is sponsored by the University and is not related in any way to Vandy+Catholic or to the Diocese of Nashville.

Here is some more information on the speaker:


One thing I can say for sure is that he seems to like food and wine a lot :-)

05 May 2009

26 April 2009

You are Witnesses of These Things

In what sense am I a witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus? And why does it matter? First question first.

Let me begin subjectively because we are "all about" subjective experience these days. I am a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus every time that I let whatever is death-dealing in my life be overcome by love and mercy. This is especially true of my own failures. In this sense, literally anyone can be a witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus, even without knowing it. If anyone can receive these graces, then how do I know that they come from the pierced heart of Jesus? Because I am also an objective witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe that I am an actual objective witness of the death and resurrection of Jesus -- as much as the Apostles were -- through the Mass. Although present under sacramental signs, I believe that at Mass I actually become a witness to the saving events of the life of Jesus. I receive directly from Jesus His own flesh and blood. There is thus no doubt for me where the graces of salvation come from. I believe that the objective reality of the Mass is why people are drawn to the Mass, even without faith or with weak and faltering faith. It is what it is regardless of the response. All the better if I am ready to recognize the Mass for what it is.

It matters because love and mercy are the only way out of the misery of sin and death. Christians propose love and mercy in the flesh of Jesus. Catholics propose the flesh of Jesus in the Mass.

23 April 2009

The Father Loves the Son

"The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to Him." (John 3:35)

"The Father loves the Son." Notes that children pass in school (or used to!) sound like this. How appropriate that our first tries at love are modeled on the love of God! What other model is there? At this time of year especially, I see a lot of human loves budding out all around me among the students.

The adventure of Trinitarian love is the story of the Christian life. I can hear you now: "What is he talking about?" Because the Holy Trinity is a loving communion of persons, our life is love. This is the Christian message. It is therefore of the first importance to know how to love.

We really are not very good at it, left on our own. Jeremiah says that: "More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
Fortunately, God has revealed love to us; and that revelation is perfected in Jesus Christ. All of God's love for us is mediated through the person of Jesus Christ. If we want to love well -- and who doesn't? -- then we must submit our love to Jesus and let it pass through the purification of His heart. Love goes awry when we try to "use" it on our own. Loves become selfish in this way. This is true for friendships, for boy- and girl-friendships, for love of parents or children, even for lesser loves like the love of things. The love that Jesus shows us is always sacrificial. Jesus gives everything to the Father, and the Father "has given everything over to Him."

What does this mean in reality? It means, for example, that you offer your love for your friend to the Lord for the glory of God and for the good of the friend. That means that the friend might be blessed in a way that changes your friendship. You rejoice in that rather than feeling hurt by it.

It means, for example, that you offer your love for your girl-friend to Jesus -- you see her through His eyes. This will keep your relationship pure. You won't be tempted to ask: "Since we love each other, it must be alright to ..." You will see that such "love" cannot be real because it does not accord with the love of God, the source of all love.

Like the "Last Duchess" of Browning's poem, who "liked whate'er/ She looked on, and her looks when everywhere," our loves are unruly. Focus them all on the heart of Jesus, and He will purify them. If you have a love that cannot pass through the heart of Jesus, then it is a counterfeit of love.

22 April 2009

Saint days, again!

We are back to having saints days again after the long fast of Lent and the solemnities of Easter Week! This week we have Sts Anselm, George, and Mark. A saint is a friend of the Risen Lord. Friendship is that wonderful, detached, and self-less love. Friendship is loyal but not exclusive or possessive. Friends are united by a common love. For Christians, that common love is Jesus Christ. The circle of Christian friends grows ever larger. Here is an image for you of how Christian friendship works. (Thanks for this insight goes to my friend, Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, who gave me this print.)

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This is an image of the disciples on the road to Emmaus painted by Bl. John of Fiesole -- Fra Angelico. (I bet you didn't know that they were Dominicans!) Look what unites them: Eyes on Jesus. bff, indeed!

21 April 2009

College Days

It's scary what you can find on the internet ... After coming home from the senior send-off party, which was the first ever Vandy+Catholic semi-formal -- because these seniors love to dance -- I was looking for an image of my college days at the University of the South in the '80s. And this picture came up. Yikes! It's a much younger me, holding the mace of the university before an academic procession.


I know that I am weird, but I always liked exam time, especially in the spring -- especially when the weather was beautiful as it is now. I know that sounds crazy. For a procrastinator like me, there is some relief in the final reckoning! The misery cannot go on any longer. There is a huge rush of adrenaline. How can I get all of this done?! And then it is done.

I remember getting a card from a friend at about this time of year. On the outside, it showed a head sawed open with lots of books crammed in it. On the inside, it said: "It is not what you know, but when you know it." How true that is!

Not that I recommend procrastination. I am merely recounting history and explaining my strange associations with these circumstances. So if you find yourself in the position I ALWAYS found myself in at exam time, don't begrudge the good weather or load yourself with recriminations. Enjoy the ride! To quote Vergil: "forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit." I have lived long enough to know that it's true.

19 April 2009

"Absolute liberty of personal volition"

I follow my own moral standards. I would never do something or not do something because of the Honor Code. I would just do it because it seemed right or wrong to me.
This quotation is from Friday's Vanderbilt Hustler in the lead article on the Honor Code. If this statement indicates the way the Vanderbilt Honor Code is accepted, then it indicates the end of the Honor Code as a code. If one's own opinion is the ultimate arbiter of morality, there can be no imposition of a code. If there is no authority outside of the self, then there is no authority.

If you would like to think about this dilemma, here is a link to an article for you. The title of this post is a quotation from the article. The article make the claim that the philosophy behind such a statement as appeared in the Hustler is nihilism.

What is the Christian answer to such an nihilistic outlook?
Fortunately, this was not the only understanding of the Honor Code offered in the article. Another student disagreed:
The Honor Code is kind of the foundation for learning. If you go to all your lectures and classes with the attitude of I want to learn this, that's what I am here for and I don't want to take the easy way out to get an A in this class, then yeah, it becomes a part of your everyday experience.
This student recognizes standards outside of himself that form the self.

Any thoughts?

17 April 2009

"It is the Lord"

The apostles have gone ahead to Galilee, and not knowing what to do with themselves have gone back to fishing. Jesus appears there as they are fishing and even gives some good fishing advice. John exclaims: "It is the Lord."

Where will the Lord find you today?

16 April 2009

"Look at my hands and my feet"

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What do we see in His hands and feet? Living flesh that has been pierced and yet lives. Look at that. What does it tell you about Him?

This is where our prayer should begin: looking at Jesus. When we look at Him, what is not possible? What doubt, fear, suffering, or struggle cannot be faced? If He is the center, then even real "issues" shift in perspective, much less the ones that are imaginary. We can get over and out of ourselves to experience the glory of God. Jesus really died but really rose.

So practically speaking, begin praying by encountering the Lord. Scripture is probably the best place for the encounter. Join Him in His primary mission of offering glory to the Father. Be drawn into His goodness, beauty, and truth. Only much later ever give a thought to yourself, and when you do let be with His eyes of mercy for yourself and others and mainly to serve as His hands and feet -- pierced and living.

15 April 2009


These are the days of mercy. As Christians, we are to live Jesus in a radical way in the world. What the Lord Jesus brought to the world and therefore what Christianity has to offer the world more than anything else is mercy: love and forgiveness without condition or limit. Fortunately for us, we live in a time that is rich in the need for mercy. Christians just about everywhere are singled out for ridicule, persecution, or worse. Rather than sharpening our apologetics or defending our rights, let's first of all show mercy! We have no more fear. We know how the story ends. Christ is risen! And Jesus Christ is coming again to wipe away every tear and to right every wrong.

Only mercy can touch the frenzied and broken hearts of this world. They do have fear! The fear of loneliness, the fear of isolation, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of love. Yes, especially of love because it costs so much. What if I love and then am hurt? What if I love and then am left? Don't rely on love.

Coming back from Honduras after spring break, we were talking in the Miami airport about the poverty of our country: the poverty of love. We want to fix and control every situation, but we do not want to love. We have so much power and money but so little love. We throw money and expertise at situations that really need love. It does not work. We need to be really generous in the way that really costs: generous in love. That's mercy!