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.