29 October 2010

Resolutions

Believe it or not, this fall has been the best organized period of my life. Ever. That, however, is not a high bar. I only half in jest say that I am unable to organize a two-car funeral procession.

I knew that things would begin to be strained once school began, and it is true. The things that were not planned in detail before school started are unraveling. So please pray for me to pull it back together.

By the grace of God, I have accomplished some resolutions that have needed tending to for a long time. For me, the hard things are the routine things of life. I am so undisciplined that I let the boredom of routine get the best of me. I have made a lot of progress with the ordinary things. And I now see the next resolution rising: getting back to people promptly and consistently. I think that I am figuring out some specific ways that will work for me. Next is regular and planned exercise. Third is sleep. I really have not figured out how to do that well!

Oh, and one other private one -- pray for that one especially.

I am very grateful to God for granting me order! What a relief.

27 October 2010

Many Thanks!

Thank you all for your prayers yesterday. It was a time that I was relying on prayer the way that I always should! I was not falling for the illusion that I had anything else to rely on like I do so much of the time. What a better way to live! I should try it more often! Really.

The whole matter came down to a huge misunderstanding -- for once not on my part, except for not realizing what the other people did not understand. I was prepared with all kinds of arguments, but what turned out to be the major difficulty was so fundamental a misunderstanding that I never would have anticipated it. Live and learn.

But thanks for your prayers. I was literally living on them. And still am!

25 October 2010

Prayer Warriors!

All you prayer warriors out there, I really need you at 2 p.m. CST Tuesday! If you need something to pray about, let it be that truth prevails. Thanks!

24 October 2010

Politics

Here is a quotation on the upcoming elections from the Communion and Liberation movement:
"We understand that there can be no better relationship among people than love. And clearly love costs sacrifice for the other's true good. But, if we surrender to the fear of sacrifice, we become trapped in ourselves, alone, numb to the needs, desires, and sufferings of others. Moreover the social structures we build tend to alienate and manipulate others. Above all we recognize the risk of constantly betting on human freedom and its ability to seek what is good, beautiful, and true. Yet, without betting on human freedom, we entrust ourselves to policies, procedures, rules, and regulations, pretending that -- in the words of T. S. Eliot -- we can dream up 'a system so perfect that no one will have to be good.'"

23 October 2010

About Last Night ...

About the only thing that I have to complain about is too much! Too many good things. Last night is just an example: confessions, Mass, alumni reception, Frassati House blessing, and an event at Dismas House that I did not even make it to (about which I feel regret), and an impromptu dinner at McDougal's that I also did not make. This morning, we are starting early with 40 Days for Life, Mass, and off we go!

I actually had an official at the Diocese say that we are understaffed and underfunded! Music to my ears! At the same time, I dealing with issues at the chancery; but it's worth it. One of the alumni after Mass last night, which packed the small chapel on campus, asked if we ran a seminary program. This alumnus could not figure out the reverence of the students.

There is a lot of joy here. The joy of knowing the Lord Jesus in communion with other disciples. Pray for us!

20 October 2010

Echo?

From Archbishop Chaput:

“The central issue is whether we ourselves really do believe. Catechesis is not a profession. It’s a dimension of discipleship. If we’re Christians, we’re each of us called to be teachers and missionaries.”

However, the Denver prelate noted, “we can’t share what we don’t have.”

Whither Vandy Catholic?

Where is Vandy Catholic going?

I have been proposing the Church's ancient method of praying with the Bible. A friend has suggested the acronym "LAMA" for short.

L is for literal -- What does the passage actually say?
A is for allegorical -- What does the passage say about Jesus?
M is for moral -- What does the passage say about my life?
A is for anagogical -- What does the passage say about heaven?

These are all pretty important questions. It has dawned on me that these are good questions for more than praying with the Bible. They are good questions for life.

Why don't we apply them to Vandy Catholic?
Literally there is more going on with Vandy Catholic than I know where to begin to describe it all. Masses, daily and Sunday with confessions. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, holy hours daily and all day Wednesday. Spiritual direction offered many times a week. FOCUS Bible studies all over the place, all sorts of times. iFacts -- knowing Him to love Him better! Graduate groups, retreats, Music ministry, formation groups, service offerings, outreach events. Got the picture?

All for Jesus. We are doing all these things because "in Him it is always YES!" Our mission is to propose Jesus Christ at Vanderbilt. Period.

Made for more. The response to the love of Jesus is love -- in the details. Excellence in living -- good work, good prayer, good friendships, good order, good service.

All aboard for Heaven! Let Jesus save souls -- mine and everyone I can bring to Him. I want to be with Him and them forever.

Considering where we are, our LAMA needs to have some intellectual firepower. We are developing a curriculum to engage our understanding with His Truth and to propose the Truth who is Jesus Christ to the University.

What do you think about this vision?

18 October 2010

The Harvest is Rich, but ...

All young men reading this, go read the Holy Father's letter to seminarians. I think that the timing of the letter for St. Luke's Day has something to do with the Gospel for the day.

Thank you, Holy Father for saying so well what has been in my heart. I really do not want to clobber young men into considering the priesthood, but really how can the need for priests to bring Jesus Christ into our world be denied? Here is how the Pope says it:
God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does makes sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time.

Communio

I was talking to a friend last night who just got back from visiting Notre Dame, including going to a football game there. He talked about the great spirit of community there, so visibly manifested in the spirit at the game, but a reality deeper than that. I have experienced it at Notre Dame as well and at other places, in particular with my friends at Texas A&M. Such an experience is extremely attractive to me. I also find it to be rare in our atomized society.

It is one of the things, frankly, that I like best about Vanderbilt Catholic. There is community here. There are certainly dangers of the "tribe" mentality, but we really all need a tribe. The tribe of Vandy Catholic is one that is striving for fulfillment in Christ Jesus; it is Christian. That helps to point out and knock off the rough edges. It keeps the tribe open.

Why do I say that we need a tribe? We need more people to love in relationship. The tribe is another layer of relationship that requires something of me. Sacrificial love is the spice of life.

Mystery

Vocation is about the mystery of sacrificial love. The question of vocation is the question of how God has made me to give myself away in imitation of His sacrificial love. I can give myself away for the one in marriage or for the many in priesthood or religious life. I have to choose. Some people might be equally capable of both, others maybe only for one. I think that is the case with me. Maybe I have just been a priest for so long that I can't imagine being a husband, but I really think God made me for priesthood and not for marriage. I know many fine men who are wonderful husbands but who, I don't think, would make good priests. (Warning -- the previous statements about "either/or-ness" of vocations are not the prevailing wisdom so I am likely wrong. Also, I am assuming priestly celibacy as the norm.)

How do I love best? That seems to be the way that God gives us the nudge in one direction or the other. Do I need to focus my love on one person so as to make it real? To experience its real demands that demand to be fulfilled? And which include the tenderness of unity and loss of self in the other? Or do I love the One in the many manifestations of His love and mercy? Does my heart want "to save a thousand souls"?

In either case, vocation is very much about mystery. The mystery of the other. The mystery of the self. The mystery of the Love, outside of both the other and the self, that unites and fulfills.

17 October 2010

And Back Again

I guess that I forgot to mention why I was at a seminary. Thursday and Friday were the fall break for Vanderbilt. It is becoming a part of my schedule for fall break to go with whatever young men are interested in visiting the seminary on a "sprint" to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH. It is where I went to seminary, and it is where most of our diocesean seminarians are studying now. We had a great visit. I have literally never seen things better at the Josephinum.

On the way home, I was discussing with the two young men who were with me about another vocational concern that I have. Healthy vocations to marriage. These are built on healthy relationships between young men and women. It has seemed to me that there are few relationship among the students that I serve that I would really call happy. In the first place, there are few relationships period, and the ones that do exist do so in a very toxic climate with little support for a happy outcome. I feel called to try to provide these sincere young people with about all I have to offer them: the fruit of a little more experience in life. One of my father's most brilliant sayings is: "good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment." Maybe some of my experience from poor judgment could help them come to good judgment.

DTR -- "define the relationship" This is the code for the rules of "the game" today. It makes perfect sense, in a way. Successful people "take charge" of their lives so it would seem reasonable to "take charge" of one's love life by DTR. I would like to suggest that it does not work, however, simply by pointing to the fruits of its application. Relationships are not happy or strong in our culture. This much I can see. I want to begin to research what is going on now. I have a hunch about a better way, but I don't want to jump to conclusions. Somehow, I think the answer will have something to do with recognizing and serving the mystery of the other, rather than packaging the other into defined categories. I will admit a predisposition to follow the wisdom drawn from a vast depository of good judgment, supported not only by experience but by revelation from the great Lover: the Church, especially as expressed in John Paul II's theology of the body. I would like to try to get there from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, if you know what I mean.

Wish me well!

15 October 2010

Vocations

Well, since I am at a seminary maybe I should post on vocations.

Proverbially, the ability to reproduce oneself is a sign of a healthy vocation: that is, to help young men to find and pursue priestly vocations. If that is the case, then I need to run a diagnosis on my priesthood because I have never yet had someone for whom I was directly pastorally responsible go to the seminary and stay. After 16 years, there ought to be some fruit. One might say that I am suffering from vocational sterility or infertility. It is a good examination of conscience. Of course, just as there are explanations for infertility in the natural order, there are complications that can arise in the order of grace as well. I want to see I can do anything about any of these, not go on a guilt trip.

The Church generally in our culture is not having a great track record with priestly vocations right now. OK, so there are cultural obstacles. But there are also counter-cultural signs out there of vocational success stories. I once told the priests of our diocese when we were in a particularly dry spell with vocations that perhaps we were not attracting vocations because we were not attractive. I can see how that is true for my priestly life. I love it and know the beauty of it, but I fear that too often I show the burden of it instead.

Resolution #1: show the joy of the priesthood and love its crosses

I think that I am not straightforward enough in talking about the glory of my priesthood. I am too afraid of seeming to "push" the priesthood that I fail in letting its glory shine to young men who really are looking for the call to glory. I work with very talented young men, a lot of whom are not particularly excited about their futures in the paths that they are on. What could be more exciting than the priesthood?

Resolution #2: let young men know the glory of the priesthood

I am not virtuous enough. Many sins mar my witness. Many virtues are lacking in my life.

Resolution #3: on-going conversion

I am not enough of a father. They call me that. Am I?

Resolution #4: love them! sacrificially

Well, that should do me for now. When I get these down, I will come back for more! To be honest, I also think that the young men are facing difficulties as well. Here are some of my thoughts in that area:

#1: Not seeking the truth in their lives. They don't ask God what is His Truth for their lives. They, perhaps even unconsciously, have been caught up into the "me-ology" of our culture which is fundamentally subjective rather than objective. They fear even the loving Truth of God because it appears as an imposition from outside of themselves.

#2: Relationship problems. No, not with girls. They simply do not form relationships well or easily so they don't form good relationships with God. They are afraid of relationships. I am no psychologist to analyze this phenomenon, but it is true.

#3: Programmed lives. The young men that I deal with mainly have never failed in their lives. They have never been allowed to. Again probably unconsciously they ask: "Why do I need a savior? If work the plan correctly, I will succeed." They probably know that this is not true, but they do not have the equipment to reach out to Jesus as savior and Lord. They furthermore fear stepping out of the "program" that their parents and their whole life experience have mapped out for them.

How to overcome these obstacles, these fears? The Truth in Love.

14 October 2010

New start

I have been meaning to do something about this blog for a while, but nothing has happened yet. Yesterday, I happened to have started a whole chain of emails going on the topic of hymns at Mass by responding to an article that a priest friend sent out to a large number of people.

The article was analyzing different kinds of songs used at Mass and urging the use of more traditional hymns. I have to say that I have a lot of personal sympathy for this position since I grew up in the Episcopal Church, which at least used to have some of the best of that sort of thing going. Episcopalians, even not particularly devout ones, can sit around singing hymns and enjoy it. I just assumed that church and hymns went together.

Then I learned something about liturgy, and even more, experienced something about liturgy. I had a revelation. The three or four "hymn sandwich," which has become the norm at Mass in our culture, has very little to do with the Roman liturgical tradition, whether these hymns are traditional, praise and worship, or ghastly "we-we" songs. The liturgy has an organic form, and sticking random songs into it is a mismatch. At all the points at which we insert a more or less appropriate song, the liturgy already has a text and music -- except at the end of Mass. These texts are as much a part of the Church's intention for the celebration of the Mass as are the readings. As a matter of fact these "proper" texts are scriptural themselves and echo and reinforce the other texts of the Mass. The Church wants us to use the propers but permits our songs, if we insist. Shouldn't we listen to the wisdom of the Church? It is not as if our liturgical experimentation over the last 50 years as been a rip-roaring success that we are going to threaten.

OK, for you hymn lovers out there, among whom I count myself, we can have our hymns, even at certain points in the Mass. We can also have them in the devotional practices of the Church, at holy hours, novenas, the Divine Office -- all of which should be restored to the life of the parish. But hymns of whatever quality are really not what the Church has in mind as the musical staple of the Mass. The propers are.

Any thoughts?

01 October 2010

Love Never Fails

Well, it is the feast of the Little Flower and the beginning of Vandy Awakening VII: Love Never Fails.

Please pray for the success of the retreat.