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