23 December 2011

"It is good that you exist..."

Who said this? Benedict XVI, of course (in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia)! Read more:

"Finally, I would like to speak of one last feature, not to be overlooked, of the spirituality of World Youth Days, namely joy. Where does it come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved. Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the others presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within. That is one of the wonderful experiences of World Youth Days."


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

22 December 2011

Something Lost

“namely, the innocence that accepts (the Mass) as something God-given, something that comes down to man as a gift from heaven.”

Maybe we are starting to rediscover this innocence in the new translation of the Mass? I would suggest that we need to accept so much more as God-given and coming down from heaven, beginning with our own lives! Obedience then becomes so much easier.

Thanks to CeeCee for the quotation!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

16 December 2011

To University Students From the Holy Father

"Be steadfast, brothers, until the coming of the Lord." (James 5:7)

With these words the Apostle James indicates the interior attitude necessary to prepare ourselves to hear and welcome again the proclamation of the birth of the Redeemer in the stable of Bethlehem -- ineffable mystery of light, of love and grace. To you, dear university students of Rome, I affectionately offer my greeting: I receive you with your desires, your expectations, your worries as Holy Christmas nears; and I also greet the academic communities that you represent. I thank the rector, Prof. Massimo Egidi, for the courteous words that he addressed to me in your name and with which he highlighted the delicate mission of the university professor. I greet with lively cordiality the minster for universities, Prof. Francesco Profumo, and the academic authorities of the various athenaeums.

Dear friends, St. James exhorts us to imitate the farmer, who "steadfastly waits for the precious fruit of the earth" (James 5:7). To you who live in the heart of the cultural and social world of our time, who experience the new and ever more refined technologies, you who are the protagonists of an historical dynamism that sometimes seems overwhelming, the Apostle's invitation might seem anachronistic, almost an invitation to leave history behind, to fail to see the fruits of your labor, of your research. But is this really how it is? Does the invitation to wait upon God draw us outside of time? And we might ask ourselves, even more radically: what does Christmas mean to me? Is it really important for my life, for the building up of society? There are many persons in our time, especially in the halls of the universities, who ask whether we are to expect something or someone; whether we must look for another messiah, another god; if it is worthwhile to entrust ourselves to that Child whom we find in the manger between Mary and Joseph on Christmas night.

The Apostle's exhortation to patient steadfastness, that might somewhat perplex the people of our time, is in fact the path toward a profound acceptance of the question of God, the meaning it has in life and history, because it is precisely in the patience, fidelity and steadfastness of the search for God, in the openness to him, that he reveals his face. We do not need a generic, indefinite god, but the living and true God, who opens the horizon of man's future to the prospect of a firm and sure hope, a hope that is rich with eternity and that permits us to face the present in all its aspects with courage. But we must ask ourselves then: where does my seeking find the true face of this God? Or better still: where does God himself come to show me his face, revealing his mystery, entering into my history?

Dear friends, St. James' invitation to us -- "Be steadfast, brothers, until the coming of the Lord" -- reminds us that the certainty of the great hope of the world is given to us and that we are not alone and that we are not the only architects of history. God is not far from man, but has descended and has become flesh (John 1:14), that man might understand where to find the solid foundation of all things, the fulfillment of his deepest longings: in Christ (cf. post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," 10). Patience is the virtue of those who entrust themselves to this presence in history, who do not let themselves be overcome by the temptation of placing all hope in the immediate, in the purely horizontal perspective, in technically perfect projects, but which are far from the deepest of realities, that which gives the human person the highest dignity: the transcendent dimension, being a creature in the image and likeness of God, carrying in the heart the desire of ascending to him.

There is, however, another aspect that I would like to underscore this evening. St. James said to us: "Look at the farmer: he steadfastly waits" (James 5:7). God, in the incarnation of the Word, in the incarnation of his Son, experienced human time, his growth, his immersion in history. That child is the sign of the patience of God, who is the first of the patient, the steadfast, faithful to his love for us; he is the true "farmer" of history, who knows how to wait. How many times have men tried to build the world without or against God! The result is marked by the tragedy of ideologies that, in the end, showed themselves to be against man and his profound dignity. Patient steadfastness in the construction of history, both at the personal and communal level, is not the same as the traditional virtue of prudence, which is certainly necessary, but is something greater and more complex. Being steadfast and patient means learning how to construct history together with God, because the edifice will stand only if it is built upon him and with him; only thus will it not be instrumentalized for ideological ends but be something truly worthy of man.

This evening let us rekindle more fervently, then, the hope of our hearts, because the Word of God reminds us that the coming of the Lord is near, indeed, the Lord is with us and it is possible to build together with him. In the stable of Bethlehem man's solitude is overcome, our existence is no longer at the mercy of impersonal natural and historical forces, our house can be built upon the rock: we can plan our history, the history of humanity, not as a utopia but in the certainty that the God of Jesus Christ is present and walks with us.

Dear friends, we run with joy to Bethlehem, we embrace the Child that Mary and Joseph present to us. Let us begin again from him and with him, facing every difficulty. The Lord asks each of you to collaborate in the construction of the city of man, uniting faith and culture in a serious and passionate way. To this end I invite you always to seek the true face of God, helped by the pastoral journey that has been proposed to you this academic year. Seeking the face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and it is also the answer to the fundamental question that always returns even in our contemporary society. You, dear friends, know that the Church of Rome, with the wise and solicitous guidance of the Cardinal Vicar and your chaplains, is near to you. Let us give thanks to the Lord because, as it was noted, 20 years ago Bl. John Paul II instituted the University Pastoral Care Office to serve the Roman academic community. The work undertaken promoted the creation and development of chaplaincies to connect with a well-organized network, where the formation programs of various public, private, Catholic and pontifical institutions can contribute to the elaboration of a culture that is at the service of man's integral growth.

At the conclusion of this liturgy, the image of the "Sedes Sapientiae" will be handed over by the Spanish university delegation to the delegation from La Sapienza University of Rome. A Marian pilgrimage will begin among the chaplaincies, which I will accompany with prayer. Know that the Pope is counting on you and your testimony of fidelity and apostolic initiative.

Dear friends, with confidence this evening hurry along our way to Bethlehem, bringing the expectations and hopes of our brothers with us, that all might encounter the Word of life and entrust themselves to him. This is my wish for the Roman academic community: that you proclaim that the true face of God is in the Child of Bethlehem, who is so near to each one of us that no one can feel excluded, no one must doubt the possibility of meeting him, because he is the patient and faithful God, who knows how to wait and respect our freedom. We want to confess with confidence to him the deepest desire of our heart: "I seek your face, O Lord. Come, do not delay!" Amen.

14 December 2011

All Over But the Shouting!

It is getting that time of the semester again when things wind down. To those of you who are still battling exams, count on my prayers! To those who are already wrapped up, have a merry, merry Christmas!

I am eager for a little break myself, including a silent retreat after Christmas. That is where I will be over New Years so I so don't look for me in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl. I am also sorry to say that I won't be here just when everyone gets back because I will be giving a retreat at the Josephinum, my seminary in Ohio. My holiday travels are thus to Ohio and Alabama!

I am not unhappy to say goodbye to this semester, and I am happy to be getting ready for the next one! It is going to be different, I am pretty sure. Could I ask you a favor? Please write to me about what you think that Vanderbilt Catholic does well and about what we could do better. Where should our priorities be, from your perspective? Please pray about the religious liberty issues here at Vanderbilt and about the future direction and staffing of Vanderbilt Catholic.

If all of that is not enough, I am also thinking that maybe we should change our name! I have to say that I do not really like giving Vanderbilt top billing in our name! I think that maybe we could use some "Catholic branding," as they say. I have an idea in mind that combines our past at Vanderbilt and links us to Catholic campus ministries at many universities throughout the English-speaking world. What would you recommend?

OK -- back to today!

11 December 2011

Rejoice!

Today is one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar: Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It's the Sunday with the pink candle! "Gaudete" is Latin for "Rejoice." We are to rejoice always, according to St. Paul in the second reading for Mass today.

The Gospel is about St. John the Baptist. What does he have to say about joy? That He is near! That is what I forget when I become sad, discouraged, or tempted. Jesus Christ is near. Hang on for the joy!

Hang on because joy is near! This is very much the message that I see for Vanderbilt Catholic today. This semester has been for me a difficult one -- but one in which the Lord Jesus is very near. I really am in expectation of better things, even though I do not see them yet. Students especially are rising up in amazing ways to bring joy! Yesterday, there were students all afternoon cooking goodies in the Frassati House kitchen to give away in front of the library this afternoon. JOY! What a great way to celebrate Gaudete Sunday!

07 December 2011

Moving Forward!

I learned yesterday that our proposed constitution for Vanderbilt Catholic has been sent to the Office of the General Counsel of the university. Well, if we make it through this scrutiny, we know we are in the clear! And if the constitution is rejected, we know that a student organization that upholds its religious mission is not welcome at Vanderbilt.

So please pray that it is approved. I do not fear losing university recognition, but I do think that retaining it is the better way.

Once approved or rejected, we can move forward -- which is what I have every intention of doing! Watch out Vanderbilt! The Catholics are going to be loud!

04 December 2011

Question?

I have one question for the Vanderbilt administration. Did the Board of Trustees endorse the application of the non-discrimination policy to mean that religious organizations cannot have religious qualifications for leadership? If they did, tell us. If they didn't, quit trying to enforce it!

27 November 2011

Update

I have sort of an update on the religious liberty issue here at Vanderbilt, at least as it pertains to Vanderbilt Catholic. Many of you have been asking and praying about the situation. I thank you very much for your concern. It is something to be concerned about.

I had a meeting with the Provost of the University on Tuesday afternoon. It was a good meeting. I am certain that the administration wants Vanderbilt Catholic to remain an active presence on campus. They are also insistent about applying their non-discrimination policy to religious organizations. (Of course, they are not applying the policy uniformly. The university actually administers the discriminatory recruitment procedures for Greek organizations. It is called "rush.") Religious organizations are going to have to deal with the non-discrimination policy as it stands. The Provost asked if we could accommodate ourselves to this policy. I replied that it all depends on what the words say.

For membership and leadership of Vanderbilt Catholic, I am sure that we could craft some statement that would result practically in only Catholic leaders for the organization. But we would be doing so hypocritically, saying that these factors of time or service are of utmost importance when our religious mission is what our leaders need to embrace. We are not willing to act hypocritically.

It came to me, I believe as an inspiration, to work with our student Board on a statement for our constitution on membership and leadership that is based on the mission of Vanderbilt Catholic. We are crafting a mission statement that is strongly Catholic. It really expresses why Vanderbilt Catholic exists on the campus. Vanderbilt Catholic will be open to "all comers" who support the mission. I think that I can live with this. We will see if the Bishop and the administration can.

It is basically analogous to the chess club saying that it exists to promote chess on campus. Someone coming to the chess club looking for fellowship in cigar smoking could be directed to the cigar smoking club (there is one!), but the chess club would remain for chess.

If this fails, I really do not see what else we can do to stay on campus with integrity. I believe, however, that our constitution defining membership and leadership in terms of mission will be acceptable. I also believe that it will give Vanderbilt Catholic a stronger identity. I believe that other religious organizations could follow this example to remain on campus while strengthening their mission and identity as well. So please pray in particular about this proposal because it all depends on what the words say!

P.S. How 'bout them 'Dores!

15 November 2011

Reality

I wanted to share with you the type of inquiry I receive all the time. This came in yesterday:

"I am a VU alum and college counselor; one of our seniors should be a viable applicant to VU--her academic record certainly outclasses the one I presented. She and her mother have inquired about the Catholic community at Vanderbilt and I told her I'd reach out to you. Is it all right for that family to contact you with their specific questions?"

I love Vanderbilt. I was born here -- literally! It actually goes beyond that. My parents met here. I went to law school here. I am even I life-long Vandy football fan, and I can't want for the 'Dores to take on UT in Knoxville this weekend. When inquiries like this come in, I am proud to say that we have a vibrant Catholic community which compares well with peer institutions, particularly because it is substantial and not merely social. And the university gets all of this for free!

12 November 2011

What Happened?

A number of people reasonably have asked what happened with the Board of Trustees' meeting. The honest answer is that I don't know. But I do have hope in the goodness of the Trustees and of the administration that a solution can be worked out that will allow religious groups, including Vanderbilt Catholic, to remain on campus with integrity. Keep praying!

08 November 2011

Replies to a Trustee

Here are my replies to thoughtful questions from a trustee:

1. I do not really fear a "take-over" of Vanderbilt Catholic, although that is a possibility under this change of policy. What I do fear is the inconsistency of the university in applying its policy. Having religious qualifications for leadership in religious groups had been an acceptable practice only a short while ago. Now it is declared discriminatory. I fear what the university will decide is discriminatory tomorrow. I do fear this inconsistent and arbitrary application of policy by the university.

2. Let me frame the issue differently. I believe that religious organizations should be allowed to be authentically religious and not have to "cloak" what are really religious qualifications in some of the ways you describe. Vanderbilt Catholic must act with integrity, not figure out a way to "get around" unjust policies. A religious organization should be able to establish qualifications for leadership based on its core beliefs and mission. Religious organizations should not be singled out and told that they cannot be what they are -- religious. The one sin that Jesus was harsh about was hypocrisy. I am not willing to take a hypocritical pose for the sake of this policy.

This is a matter of principle. I have only so much room, or I lose my integrity as a religious witness. To paraphrase St. Thomas More, I am a good servant of Vanderbilt...but God's first.

04 November 2011

Letter to Chancellor Zeppos

October 24, 2011

Mr. Nicholas Zeppos

Chancellor

Vanderbilt University

211 Kirkland Hall

Dear Chancellor Zeppos:

I hope that you had an enjoyable Homecoming weekend. The campus is certainly a vibrant place with the alumni back. Vanderbilt Catholic was delighted to have a part in welcoming alumni as well. It is gratifying to see that for many alumni admiration for the work of Vanderbilt Catholic is included in the pride that they have for their university. The same spirit of collaboration between the ministry and the university is evident at Move-In Day and Family Weekend as well as when prospective students and families are visiting campus for the first time or later when they are weighing their acceptances. I am likewise proud that Vanderbilt Catholic offers so much to the life of the university, from a tailgate before the game Saturday, to Mass last night, to a lecture on Thursday at noon, to staffing the first Room in the Inn of the year in a couple of weeks.

In light of such fruitful collaboration, it is all the more distressing to see the relationship between the university and Vanderbilt Catholic threatened by the application of the university’s non-discrimination policy to forbid religious qualification for leadership in religious student organizations. The proposed application will restrict freedom and diversity in student life by jeopardizing authentic religious expression. For the good of the university, I am writing to urge you to reconsider the application of the non-discrimination policy to allow for religious qualifications for leadership in religious student organizations.

The constitution of Vanderbilt Catholic has been found in compliance with the non-discrimination policy by the Dean of Students office, but I think the approval is based on an interpretation of the constitution that Vanderbilt Catholic does not share. Vanderbilt Catholic changed its constitution last year at the regular renewal time. At the time the student leaders simplified aspects of the constitution partially, in their words, "to get it on one page!" The submission of the new constitution was well before the current controversy, and no one at Vanderbilt Catholic considered the implications of the leadership requirements requested by the dean’s office. It was too far from experience to imagine someone other than a practicing Catholic qualifying for a leadership role. Vanderbilt Catholic reasonably interprets its constitution to recognize that only practicing Catholic students qualify for leadership. Such students have always comprised the leadership, and this requirement is implicit in the mission of Vanderbilt Catholic.

The university is proposing unilaterally to decide who is qualified to represent the Catholic faith on campus. According to the proposed interpretation of the non-discrimination policy, the university maintains that any student is qualified to lead Vanderbilt Catholic regardless of religious profession. Religious profession is, however, a rational basis for determining leadership in a religious organization. It is not invidious discrimination. Vanderbilt Catholic cannot bend on this principle. I have consulted Bishop Choby, and he is in agreement. The Catholic Church could not sponsor an organization at Vanderbilt under these conditions. I hope that you will decide to make it possible for the collaboration between faith and reason to continue in an authentically Catholic student organization at Vanderbilt by deciding to apply the non-discrimination policy in a manner that recognizes the reasonable requirement of religious profession for leadership in religious student organizations. Free religious expression is an integral part of the intellectual life.

I thank you for your consideration, and I am at your service for any discussion or clarification of the issues raised in this letter. Please be assured of my prayers for you as you carry out the responsibilities of leading the university.

Faithfully,

Fr. John Sims Baker

Affiliated Chaplain

Cc: The Most Reverend David Choby

Dr. Richard McCarty

Mr. David Williams, II

Dr. Mark Bandas

The Reverend Gretchen Person

02 November 2011

New Books!




Come by Frassati House to see some good and beautiful new books on saints and churches! That's what happens when the new bookstore opens with a bargain table the first day, and I have gift cards in my pocket!

01 November 2011

A Message From Our President:

Hello! My name is Grace Burnworth, and I am serving as the President of the Vanderbilt Catholic community. As many of you probably know, Vanderbilt University is currently making decisions that will affect the way religious organizations will exist on Vanderbilt’s campus. At this time, Vanderbilt is reviewing the religious organizations stating, “The groups under review face dissolution unless they allow students who don’t share the same religious beliefs as their organization the ability to obtain a leadership position within.” Although the Catholic community currently remains in compliance with Vanderbilt University, we will be unable to maintain this status unless we change our stance on leadership positions. In previous years, the Catholic community has selected their leadership by having students apply and the board elect from those who have applied. It has been assumed that all leadership positions in the Catholic community be filled by students actively practicing their Catholic faith. If the religious organizations maintain the requirements that those in leadership positions be practicing their faith, the University will no longer recognize them as “registered” student organizations. The consequences of this privilege involve losing University recognition, the ability to provide Mass and services on campus, as well as the ability to obtain funds from the interfaith council.

So, to all of you here, I have a request.

To the students, I ask you to pray about how God wants you to act on this situation. At the Frassati House and after Masses, there is a Student Petition to the Administration. It states, “We believe that in order to preserve robust, authentic religious pluralism on campus, student organizations that expect student leaders to share the beliefs, values, and mission of the organizations should be recognized by the University as “registered” organizations with all associated privileges.”

On behalf of the Vanderbilt Catholic board, I ask you to consider signing this petition. In addition, if you feel called, please write a short statement telling the administration how the presence of the Vanderbilt Catholic community on campus has affected your college lifestyle. These statements can be collected following Mass next week or can be dropped off at the Frassati House at any time.

To those of you who are not members of the Vanderbilt Catholic community but are our brothers and sisters in Christ, I earnestly ask for your prayers. I ask that you pray for those making this decision, especially the Board of Trustees who will be meeting on November 10 and 11th to discuss and make decisions regarding this issue.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

All Saints

Your being a saint should sneak up on people the way a Holy Day of Obligation during the week does. There it is in the middle of everything else! Nobody really notices (or cares) unless you are trying actually to do it.

Today, for example, I have a very ordinary family occasion -- it would be ordinary if I actually had much family! Of course, it falls on November 1, All Saints Day. What would ordinarily be something very simple and fun has actually become a strain because of what I have to do on All Saints Day, which nobody else knows about. So I try to work it out, with a little help from my friends. It gets done, but it is not like everybody else.

That is the story of holiness in the Christian life most of the time. We look like everybody else, but we are not. We are carrying out a supernatural mission in the midst of ordinary, natural life. Sometimes it works smoothly; frequently it is a strain. But our duty is to do it, whether anyone notices or cares.

Your friends will very likely not notice or care if you go to Mass today. It will not seem a big deal to them. For you, it will mean the strain of finding a Mass and all that entails in the midst of carrying out your other duties lovingly and well. It's our secret!

23 October 2011

About the non-discrimination policy

It is unreasonable for the university unilaterally to decide who is qualified to represent the Catholic faith on campus. According to the proposed interpretation of its non-discrimination policy, the university maintains that anyone is qualified, regardless of religious profession. Religious profession is a rational basis for determining leadership in a religious organization. It is not invidious discrimination. I cannot bend on this principle. I have talked with the Bishop, and he is in agreement. The Catholic Church could not sponsor an organization at Vanderbilt under these conditions. I hope that the university will decide to make it possible for there to continue to be a Catholic student organization at Vanderbilt by deciding not to apply its policy in an extreme and unreasonable manner.

18 October 2011

17 October 2011

Indeed!

Well, yesterday was a happy Sunday indeed. I had been very worried about the transition of the 5 p.m. Mass to Cathedral. There are still some things to work out, but I think we can manage it.

The 9 p.m. Mass also seemed alive and well. Those two Masses are the biggest things we do all week and so I want to reach out as best we can.

On a different level, we now have a "home theater" in the Frassati House, donated by a parent. That should bring even more activity around the house.

Greater things are yet to come!

16 October 2011

Happy Sunday!

I want to encourage this greeting for the first day of the week. There is a greeting for Sunday that I heard a good bit in Italy: "buona domenica." I think that is where I got the idea. It seems to me that "Happy Sunday" is a good English equivalent. Sunday really should have its own special greeting, as it is a special day.

For Christians, of course, Sunday is a special day. I am not so sure how special Sunday is in our culture anymore. At Vanderbilt, Sunday is study day par excellence. I often have students ask me about studying so much on Sunday: does it violate the sabbath rest? I don't think it does, and I kind of like Sunday being such a day of the intellect. Intellectual work was never considered to be servile labor, the kind that violated the sabbath; but I don't want to get into a discourse/dispute about the sabbath. I am mainly using this as an example of how Sunday is still different for some of us.

The main way that Sunday ought to be different is the happiness of the day. It is the day of the resurrection, of the new creation. It is the pre-eminent day of worship. So whatever we choose or have to do on Sundays, let's be happy and worship. For me, during the school year Sundays are kind of grueling. Starting one of the main events of the day at 9 p.m. makes for a long day, especially since I still begin pretty early. But I love Sundays. There is something to them that is different. I find a finality on Sunday night that can't be beaten.

So, whatever your day holds for you: Happy Sunday!

12 October 2011

"Captus ab Uno"

Here is a speech that the Holy Father gave on his recent visit to a Charterhouse (Carthusian monastery) in southern Italy. The Carthusians were founded by St. Bruno, whose feast we just celebrated in the Church's calendar. In this article, Pope Benedict talks about the pressing need for solitude in our world today. He talks about the need to escape from virtual reality. He talks about the need, quoting St. Bruno, of being "grasped by the One" -- the Latin title of this post. God as the One is my greatest consolation. Go read the article.

11 October 2011

Where things stand

Yesterday, there was a meeting of upper levels of the university administration with the affiliated chaplains about the application of the university's broad non-discrimination policy to religious groups. I am happy that the meeting happened. I believe that some real communication went on. I think that there is the possibility for a better and more authentic organization of religious expression at Vanderbilt to come from all of this. Of course, that might not happen also. Pray!

29 September 2011

Defend us in battle!

We'll take our stand

October 24, 2011

Mr. Nicholas Zeppos

Chancellor

Vanderbilt University

211 Kirkland Hall

Dear Chancellor Zeppos:

I hope that you had an enjoyable Homecoming weekend. The campus is certainly a vibrant place with the alumni back. Vanderbilt Catholic was delighted to have a part in welcoming alumni as well. It is gratifying to see that for many alumni admiration for the work of Vanderbilt Catholic is included in the pride that they have for their university. The same spirit of collaboration between the ministry and the university is evident at Move-In Day and Family Weekend as well as when prospective students and families are visiting campus for the first time or later when they are weighing their acceptances. I am likewise proud that Vanderbilt Catholic offers so much to the life of the university, from a tailgate before the game Saturday, to Mass last night, to a lecture on Thursday at noon, to staffing the first Room in the Inn of the year in a couple of weeks.

In light of such fruitful collaboration, it is all the more distressing to see the relationship between the university and Vanderbilt Catholic threatened by the application of the university’s non-discrimination policy to forbid religious qualification for leadership in religious student organizations. The proposed application will restrict freedom and diversity in student life by jeopardizing authentic religious expression. For the good of the university, I am writing to urge you to reconsider the application of the non-discrimination policy to allow for religious qualifications for leadership in religious student organizations.

The constitution of Vanderbilt Catholic has been found in compliance with the non-discrimination policy by the Dean of Students office, but I think the approval is based on an interpretation of the constitution that Vanderbilt Catholic does not share. Vanderbilt Catholic changed its constitution last year at the regular renewal time. At the time the student leaders simplified aspects of the constitution partially, in their words, "to get it on one page!" The submission of the new constitution was well before the current controversy, and no one at Vanderbilt Catholic considered the implications of the leadership requirements requested by the dean’s office. It was too far from experience to imagine someone other than a practicing Catholic qualifying for a leadership role. Vanderbilt Catholic reasonably interprets its constitution to recognize that only practicing Catholic students qualify for leadership. Such students have always comprised the leadership, and this requirement is implicit in the mission of Vanderbilt Catholic.

The university is proposing unilaterally to decide who is qualified to represent the Catholic faith on campus. According to the proposed interpretation of the non-discrimination policy, the university maintains that any student is qualified to lead Vanderbilt Catholic regardless of religious profession. Religious profession is, however, a rational basis for determining leadership in a religious organization. It is not invidious discrimination. Vanderbilt Catholic cannot bend on this principle. I have consulted Bishop Choby, and he is in agreement. The Catholic Church could not sponsor an organization at Vanderbilt under these conditions. I hope that you will decide to make it possible for the collaboration between faith and reason to continue in an authentically Catholic student organization at Vanderbilt by deciding to apply the non-discrimination policy in a manner that recognizes the reasonable requirement of religious profession for leadership in religious student organizations. Free religious expression is an integral part of the intellectual life.

I thank you for your consideration, and I am at your service for any discussion or clarification of the issues raised in this letter. Please be assured of my prayers for you as you carry out the responsibilities of leading the university.

Faithfully,

Fr. John Sims Baker

Affiliated Chaplain

Cc: The Most Reverend David Choby

Dr. Richard McCarty

Mr. David Williams, II

Dr. Mark Bandas

The Reverend Gretchen Person

28 September 2011

26 September 2011

Maybe Sewanee could be the 14th?

"Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors announced Sunday afternoon that Texas A&M University will join the league effective July 1, 2012, and that the Aggies will compete in all sports during the 2012-13 academic year. The addition gives the conference 13 members for the first time since 1940, when Georgia Tech, Sewanee and Tulane were in the league."

16 September 2011

DTR

"Define the Relationship:" I thought that I had posted about this acronym before, and I was right. I did not go as far with it as I had meant to at the time. So let me strike out again into dangerous territory.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I tend to believe that "to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom" -- from Brideshead Revisited, where else? I am glad to be supported in this view by Dante whose relationship with Beatrice is the exaltation of romantic love literally to the heights of heaven.

So now let's look at DTR. Define Dante's relationship to Beatrice. Ridiculous.

Even though a relationship should mature particularly by drawing on the love of friendship, what a relationship is, if it is anything, is indefinable. That is what makes it so scary. Jesus sets the model for the all the bridegrooms out there. Nothing can be held back or exempted from what sacrifice might be required: "My God, my God..."

If you are going to calculate the cost, then you have already defined the relationship...out of existence.

09 September 2011

Kindly (or Cranky) Fr. Baker's Observations on Friendship with the Opposite Sex

It may sound strange to you, but I want to offer some observations for dealing with the opposite sex. Chesterton did not think it strange that a priest should have good practical insights, even about romance. After all, we spend hours on end listening to the secrets of the hearts of countless individuals. This fact was the basis for the uncanny wisdom of his detective, Fr. Brown. I am not going to pretend to organize these points now. I am giving them to you as they come to me! So here goes:

For women:
+Set a man up for success and praise him for it; don't scold him for failure.
+Don't pursue men i.e. don't ask. Let (i.e. make) them pursue you.
+Do let a man know if you like him. We do not read minds well.
+Accept invitations from men, at least for a while. If you decline right off the bat, he will never ask. You might be missing Prince Charming.
+Expect good behavior.
+Do not tolerate bad behavior.
+Don't go to a man's cave, except when invited for an event. It is really gross! He will start to have you clean up, etc.
+Don't call and visit.
+When he calls or visits, say goodbye and mean it. Leave him wanting more of your time, not trying to get away from you! He can't talk that much!
+Never pay, or even offer to. Remember, he asked.

For men:
+Give women want they want: your attention. Seek them out. Pursue them. Remember the cavemen!
+Man up and do the right thing. Bad behavior is not cute.
+Talk to her. Say: "thank you" and "I'm sorry." Talk to her!
+Ask. Ask. Ask: to go for a walk, to go for coffee, to feed the ducks in Centennial Park, to say the rosary, whatever. Unrequited love remains unrequited if never offered. Ask.
+But don't ask too big, too soon. It scares them!
+Don't take up their time or hang out at their place. If you are interested, ask. If not, don't bother them.
+Call and visit, but reasonably.
+Always pay. Being fun and romantic does not have to be expensive. Use your imagination.

Well, that's a start. Do you want more? Or is that more that enough (too much) already!?

05 September 2011

Love and Responsibility -- Benedict XVI style!

Once again, I think that the community here would be better served if I could just get an advance copy of what the Pope is going to say about the Gospel on Sunday! This is what I wish that I had said last night:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The biblical readings for the Mass this Sunday center on the theme of fraternal charity in the community of believers, which has its source in the communion of the Trinity. The apostle Paul affirms that the whole Law of God has its fullness in love in such a way that in our relationships with others, the 10 Commandments and every precept are summed up thus: "You will love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Romans 13:8-10). The Gospel text, taken from Matthew 18, which treats of the life of the Christian community, tells us that brotherly love also includes reciprocal responsibility, on account of which, if my brother sins against me, I must be charitable to him and, first of all, speak with him personally, showing him that that what he said or did is not good. This way of behaving is called fraternal correction: it is not a reaction to the offense I have suffered but a being moved by love for my brother. St. Augustine comments: "He who has offended you, in offending you, he has caused himself a grave injury, and will you not care for the wound of your brother? […] You must forget that you have been offended but not your brother’s wound" (Sermon 82, 7).

And what if my brother does not listen to me? In today's Gospel, Jesus indicates a gradual approach: first go back and talk to him with two or three other persons so as to help him better grasp what he has done; if despite this he rejects the observation, the community must be told; and if he does not listen to the community either, it is necessary to make him see the rupture that he himself has provoked, separating himself from the Church. All of this shows that there is a co-responsibility in the journey of the Christian life: everyone, conscious of his own limits and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and to help others with this particular service.

Another fruit of charity in the community is unified prayer. Jesus says: "If two of you on earth agree to ask for something, my Father who is in heaven will grant it. Because wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst" (Matthew 18:19-20). Personal prayer is certainly important, indeed indispensable, but the Lord assures his presence in the community that -- even if it is very small -- is united and of one accord, because it reflects the reality itself of God One-and-Three, perfect communion of love. Origen says that "we must play in this symphony" (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 14:11), that is, within this concord of the Christian community. We must participate both in fraternal correction, which requires much humility and simplicity of heart, and in prayer, that it might rise up to God from a community truly united in Christ.

Let us plead for all of this through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, and of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor, whom we commemorated in yesterday’s liturgy.

04 September 2011

More Cool Monk Stuff!

Read here about the "mystical burial" of a monk on the day of his monastic profession. I know Br. Ignatius. He was the kindly, patient, and efficient guestmaster at Norcia during a visit there at a stressful time for me. He was the model of Benedictine hospitality.

02 September 2011

Excellent Article on Knowing God's Will

Here is great help for a question -- no, THE question -- I am asked all the time. Read here. It's by Peter Kreeft. Need I say more?

Here is a taste of the article: "we often get bent out of human shape by our desire—in itself a very good desire—to find God's perfect will for us. We give a terrible testimony to non-Christians; we seem unable to relax, to stop and smell God's roses, to enjoy life as God gives it to us. We often seem fearful, fretful, terribly serious, humorless, and brittle." Ouch! Go read the whole thing!

26 August 2011

iFACTS

A growing part of Vanderbilt Catholic is iFACTS, the Institute for Advancing Catholic Thought and Studies. Chad Cunningham is the director of the Institute. This year the curriculum moves into year two. The first course is called College Catholicism. It is basically a romp through the parts one and two of the Catechism: doctrine, liturgy, and sacraments. This course will be available for viewing on-line @ www.newmanconnection.com. The second year will deal with the Church's social teaching this semester and virtues next semester. The third year will roll out Theology of the Body and vocations.

But that is not all for iFACTS. Inaugurating a program of integrated studies this semester will be a course on Dante's Divine Comedy, simply the Commedia in Italian. This course will be taught by Professor Robert Benson, retired Professor of English at my alma mater, the University of the South. This course will be offered on Wednesday nights. This is a treasure!

We will also be offering a Catholic lecture series with speakers from many disciplines, including an exorcist! This should be an intellectually stimulating year at Vanderbilt Catholic.

25 August 2011

No Duplicity

On the feast of St. Bartholomew yesterday, I was preaching at Mass about the desire and need for integrity and wholeness of life as a remedy for the division caused by sin. One of the places that this integrity can be seen communally is among the monks of Norcia. Read here about this remarkable community.

21 August 2011

We are off!

Move-in Mass last night went very well. I am blessed with such tremendous student leaders (Grace, Alec, Madison, Josh, and Stephanie and all their collaborators) and FOCUS missionaries (Elizabeth, CeeCee, Frank, and Jerome), with a great director of campus ministry, Chad Cunningham, and newest to the team, my assistant Kathleen Cordell.

Please pray that our efforts to propose Jesus Christ are faithful and effective. It looks good so far. Thanks be to God!

Today, the first Masses for returning students!

20 August 2011

14 August 2011

...and Florida State?

The best football conference in the country might just end up being the best Catholic campus ministry conference in the country too, if Texas A&M and Florida State bolt the Big 12 and the ACC for the SEC. The campus ministries at these two schools have been models and inspirations for me since coming to Vanderbilt -- especially the Aggies! In this contest, Vanderbilt is keeping up better than in football!

13 August 2011

What V+C did this summer...

Contrary to popular belief, we don't just eat bon bons all summer around here.

Take a look!

Chad Michael Cunningham is the man!

12 August 2011

Aggie Catholics in the SEC? Sweet!

Could it be a matter of prayer for Texas A&M to join the SEC? Well, that's the rumor. Vanderbilt Catholic, for one, says welcome to the Aggies! Jesus, Whoop!

St. Clare, Pray for us!

For those of you who heard my rambly (like that narrows it down at all!) homily yesterday on the feast of St. Clare, here is an awesome quotation from her as well as pictures of her hair and habit that I was talking about. I think that she must have been a striking woman in just about every sense.

I really went off on a tangent in the homily (again, what's new). I had meant to focus in on virginity. St. Clare is no caricature of virginity. Look at the quote linked above or the one in the Office of Readings for her feast. There is no prudery in her! Her virginity, like everything else in her, is so powerful, strong. It makes her more human, not less. More attractive, not less. Why? Because it has united her with the Lord Jesus, the true Man and Beautiful one. This is true virginity.

06 August 2011

God is Good

Once again I realize that I am about the most blessed man in the world. The Courage Conference is such a sign of hope in the Church today. Joy, peace, and loyalty are such beautiful fruits of mercy. What if we believed what we believe? Well, in Courage they do...and FOCUS, and Rachel's Vineyard, and Totus Tuus, and, dare I say it, Vandy Catholic?

3 To Get Married, too...etc.!




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03 August 2011

Courage...Prayers

I will be out of town for a few days for a conference. I have just worked it out to be able to go. I have mentioned it to a few of you, mainly mentioning some of the awesome speakers: Cardinal Burke, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, etc. But I deliberately had not said what the conference is. It is the national Courage Conference. Courage is a Catholic apostolate working with those who experience same sex attraction to live lives of chastity. It is aptly named Courage. I have been in the process in collaboration with a few others of trying to introduce this apostolate to Nashville. So I ask for your prayers that this project that has been under consideration for a long time might come to a beginning here.

30 July 2011

Irish Picnic

I will be running out to St. Patrick's in McEwen, TN today to bring back a whole lot of barbecue and secret sauce. I have to squeeze it in with a wedding today. But I have to go!

If you are anywhere in the area -- I mean within 200 miles -- you should go too!

26 July 2011

A Docile Heart

Pope Benedict sheds some light and sweetness on a thorny topic. The text is the first reading from last Sunday's Mass.

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today in the Liturgy, the Old Testament reading presents to us the figure of King Solomon, son and successor of David. He is presented to us at the beginning of his reign, when he was still very young. Solomon inherited a demanding task and the responsibility that weighed on him was great for a young sovereign. The first thing that he did was offer a solemn sacrifice to God –- "1,000 holocausts," the Bible says. Then the Lord appeared to him in a vision at night and promised him to grant him what he asked for in prayer. And here we see the greatness of Solomon's soul: he did not ask for a long life, nor riches, nor the elimination of his enemies; instead he said to the Lord: "Grant a docile heart to your servant that he might know how to render justice to his people and know how to distinguish good from evil" (1 Kings 3:9). And the Lord heard him, so that Solomon became celebrated in all the world for his wisdom and his just judgments.

Solomon asked God for "a docile heart." What does this expression mean? We know that in the Bible the "heart" does not only mean a part of the body, but the center of the person, the seat of his intentions and his judgments. We might say that it is the conscience. "Docile heart" therefore means a conscience that knows how to listen, which is sensitive to the voice of truth, and because of this it is able to discern good from evil. In the case of Solomon, the request is guided by the responsibility of leading a nation, Israel, the people through whom God had chosen to manifest his plan of salvation to the world. For this reason the king of Israel must seek to be in harmony with God, listening to his Word, to lead his people in the ways of the Lord, the ways of justice and peace.

But Solomon's example is valid for every man. Each of us has a conscience to be in a certain sense "king," that is, to exercise the great human dignity of acting according to a properly formed conscience, doing good and avoiding evil. Moral conscience presupposes the capacity to hear the voice of truth, to be docile to its instructions. Persons who are called to the office of ruling of course have a further responsibility, and therefore -- as Solomon says -- have even more need of God. But each person has his own part to perform in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. An erroneous mentality suggests that we ask God for nice things and privileged situations; in fact, the true quality of our life and social existence depends on each person's properly formed conscience, on the capacity of each and every person to recognize the good, separating it from evil, and to attempt patiently to realize it.

So, let us ask for the help of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Her "heart" is perfectly "docile" to the Lord's will. Although she is a humble and simple person, Mary is a queen in the eyes of God, and as such we venerate her. May the Holy Virgin help us also to form, with God's grace, a conscience always open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God.

24 July 2011

My homily today

As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves."

This was the gist of my homily today.


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You knew it wouldn't last

I just had to share this one from Archbishop Gomez on St. Mary Magdalene. That is the kind of counter culture we need!

She is one of my favorites. I know that I am on very shaky ground (and also in good company), but I like to identify her with Mary of Bethany.

22 July 2011

Break

People -- it's time for me to take a break. I have work to do. And I seem to have less and less to say. Who know how long it will last?

20 July 2011

Quiet beofre the storm

Now that our filming is over, it is quiet around here. Yet one month from today is the arrival day for new students! That means that Roman Rush begins in just one month! Yikes! So much work...so little time! Pray!

17 July 2011

Lights, camera, action

That's what it has been at Frassati House this week, as those of you know who have tried to come by the house -- we were backdoor friends this week!

In our partnership with the Newman Connection, a sound and camera crew from New York (this Nashvillian's pride was a little bruised by that) were filming our very own Chad Michael Cunningham giving his iFacts "College Catholicism" course for on-line viewing this fall. Chad is sure to be the next Mother Angelica ;-)

Seriously, I am very happy that we can share the wealth we have in our pillar of intellectual formation. Just wait 'til you see what's next! A little Dante, anyone?

Go sign up to be united in prayer on the Vanderbilt page of the Newman Connection site.


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11 July 2011

The Necessity to Evangelize

"But as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called "blushing for the Gospel"[134] - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit."
Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80

I would love to hear your answer to Pope Paul VI's question: Can we be saved, if we fail to evangelize?


10 July 2011

Vandy Catholic Belles

Evangelize!

30, 60, and 100 fold! OK -- so when are you and your 30 new friends (to take the most conservative number) heading off to Mass this morning? Wow, I'm behind already!

So often I see the faces of people I encounter -- even at Mass, and I don't see joy or peace. And I fail to evangelize them -- to give them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Or I am discouraged when I try and my efforts seem to fall flat. But one who loves is not easily discouraged.

Lord, re-evangelize my heart this morning! Remind me of your goodness and every perfection. Protect me from the evil one, who delights to trip me up in sin and then accuses me to rob me of joy.

Now, let me bear fruit -- ABUNDANTLY!

04 July 2011

Feast of BPG!

Happy Feast of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati! Yes, the 4th of July is our heavenly patron's feast day. Come for Mass at 5:30 p.m. today at the Cathedral here in Nashville to celebrate the feast!

03 July 2011

Making Saints, in the process

It is said that the mission of the Church is to make saints. It is always good to see how we are doing! I hope that we are coming along here at Vanderbilt Catholic, and I think that there are signs that maybe we are.

I love Vandy Catholic weddings. There was one last night -- Betsy and David Donlon's. It makes me so happy (and maybe just a little bit proud) when I see the love and reverence for Jesus in these young Catholics shine out. It is best at Mass, as it was last night. In a church with lots of my generation (and older) Catholics and lots of non-Catholics, the critical mass of the younger generation of Catholics tipped the balance. It would be hard to use political terms to describe the sort of devotion displayed at the Mass. Such terms simply do not apply. It was just joyful and confident Catholicism. And not that it was meant to, but it made an impression on Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

It was so like the witness of Betsy and David. No show, all reality. I remember seeing Betsy sitting in the back of the Cathedral during daily Mass and slipping quickly and quietly out before she could be spoken to, literally for months. I had to ask who she was, and it was David who told me, long before they were dating. I let her be -- with God. It seems that it has turned out well!

29 June 2011

More of the Same!

“It is clear that we are faced [today] with a framework that is radically different from that which prevailed up to the 1980s, and it seems to me that the church, in this context, has to insist on the fact that the ‘I’ does not exist without relationships. This is the point. Because it is from the ‘I’ that the dynamism of the truth, the good and the beautiful is documented within the human family and, in my view, this fact is irrepressible....

It seems to me that, in this context, the mission of the church is more relevant than ever. Indeed, I believe that the Christian proposal is particularly relevant now, because if we read the Gospel we see it revolves around the theme of happiness and freedom. Jesus said that if you wish to be happy, come and follow me, and he who follows me will be truly free. It inserts the dynamic of truth, goodness and beauty within the horizon of happiness and freedom.

So when the Christian proposal is freed from the many things that weigh it down because of the contradictions and sins in the men and women of the church, and is re-proposed in its youthful simplicity as an encounter with a humanity made whole by Christ, then it is more relevant than ever....

An effective dialogue requires that I engage my faith in a dynamic way. It implies an identity, but a dynamic identity, and so we return to what we spoke about earlier: What is Christianity? The event of Christ, by which he gives himself as a gift to mankind to be the way, the truth and the life, is open to dialogue at 360 degrees. But if I reduce Christianity to a question of doctrine only, then I reduce it to a dialogue of a purely speculative kind.

Certainly, Christianity implies a doctrine and a moral teaching, but they are incarnated in the life of a person and in the life of a community. Therefore, if I practice the Christian life for what it is – ‘the good life’ which the Gospel documents and witnesses to, then I can go and dialogue with everyone....”
--Cardinal Angelo Scola
Archbishop-elect of Milan
Interview with
The Universe
26 June 2011

27 June 2011

Is the Pope reading my mind?

It is probably more correct to say that I am taking a lead in my thinking from the Holy Father :-) In any case, Pope Benedict answers my question from yesterday's post in his Sunday Angelus address by saying that authentic Christian communion can only exist in the Holy Eucharist. It seems to me that he is calling us to something more than what we are doing now.

Here is a key sentence: "In a culture that is ever more individualistic -- like that in which Western societies are immersed and which is spreading throughout the world -- the Eucharist constitutes a kind of "antidote," which operates in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, of service, of sharing, in a word, the logic of the Gospel."

How can we actually live this logic of communion? The Holy Father gives the example of the early Christians. What should we do? Here? Now? Can you all give any suggestions? Can we discuss this? I am really serious.

Here is the Holy Father's whole talk -- it's very short so read it!

26 June 2011

New Monastics

There was an article in the morning paper about a group of people here in Nashville living a communal life together. They have moved into a bad neighborhood and transformed a run down apartment building. The are part of a larger movement called "the New Monastics." What they are doing sounds very interesting and praiseworthy, but I would not call it even remotely monastic. It seems mainly to be drawn together by concerns for community, solidarity, ecology, etc. Not bad at all, but a far cry from charity!

Anyhow, I am not going to dissect what they are doing because it seems good to me, as far as it goes. But if they can do so much for these concerns, what should we be able to do for the love of God? These people are really living these beliefs. How can we really live our faith? Do we need to uproot ourselves more, literally and figuratively?

Let's pray about it and see where God leads us.

24 June 2011

Most Holy Trinity

Here is a fine homily on the Holy Trinity from my friend, Fr. Benedict of Norcia.

Pope Benedict called Trinity Sunday, "the Feast of God." Awesome!

19 June 2011

Vanderbilt Catholic goes viral!

This may take a little while so bear with me. Vanderbilt Catholic has formed a partnership with the Newman Connection to provide catechetical formation on the Internet via their web network. Filming begins tomorrow on Chad Cunningham's course, "College Catholicism." This is the introductory course of a three year curriculum to equip university Catholics to be able to live their faith first by knowing it. I am very excited about how this project has developed from an idea last summer at this time to offer intellectual formation at Vanderbilt Catholic to a project that will benefit students far beyond Vanderbilt. Chad is just the man for the job, and the Newman Connection is the instrument for spreading the word widely. I ask you pray for it's success. You can be united in prayer on the Newman Connection web site. Sorry my blogging skills are limited when I am mobile so I don't know how to provide the link, but I'm sure you can find it!

For some reason, the Newman Connection also wants me to participate in a project to open up YOUCAT so I will be filming too on Tuesday. Really pray for that one! I am even more encouraged about YOUCAT after seeing the reaction of the FOCUS missionaries to it. It's one thing for someone about 50 to like it, and quite another for the intended users to be enthusiastic.

Please pray also for our temporal needs at Vanderbilt Catholic. Feel free to hit the "donate" button before the end of the month, which is the end of our fiscal year! Beyond that, however, pray that our place in the organizational structure of the diocese will be clarified. I don't think that the diocese quite knows what to do with us. I know that I am a trial to them, and I know that they are trying to be helpful. The problem is that they expect us to act like an agency in the Chancery, but we are on a mission on campus and in the world. So I need patience and generosity in working through this to a fruitful resolution. All for good!


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Location:St. John's Catholic Newman Center, Champaign, IL

18 June 2011

FOCUS training

I am making a visit to summer training for new FOCUS missionaries. Somebody pinch me because I think that I have died and gone to Heaven. I was just this minute talking to three young ladies: our new team director at Vanderbilt, a missionary at NYU, and a missionary at the University of Vermont. Folks, those are the front lines! And they are well-manned -- well, well-womanned anyhow!

Last night I sat at the dinner table for at least three hours just chatting with our Vanderbilt team. If these young people have enough charity to sit with me that long, they will set the world on fire!


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Location:St. John's Catholic Newman Center, University of Illinois

15 June 2011

Not "Presupposed but Proposed"

The Pope on Evangelization. I could never have said it so well! Let's do it!!

Single Sex Dorms

Catholic University is reverting to single-sex dorms. Talk about a news story that ought never to have been needed! Anyhow, I am happy to see sanity return whenever and wherever possible.

I know that I am a cave man. I have had the single-sex dorm argument with some of the best students of Vandy Catholic, but this one is a no-brainer. I say so on the negative side because I know a little bit about human nature. Those are the arguments that Catholic University is using, and they are good arguments.

But I also say so on the positive side, for promoting communion. Ordinarily, friendships are gender specific. Men and women cannot be friends the way that men or women are friends with each other. When you are young and single is the time for such friendship to flourish. At Vanderbilt, for example, such friendships are relegated mainly to fraternities and sororities. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that the Greek system is so strong at Vanderbilt. It addresses this fundamental human desire for friendships of this kind. Nothing else at Vanderbilt does. We try to at Vandy Catholic and FOCUS. I think that we should try harder!

I think that Catholic University will experience greater community and campus spirit from this decision.

12 June 2011

YOUCAT

Up to now, I have been a CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) purist. But YOUCAT has won me over right from Pope Benedict's Foreward on. I am going to be using it next year. Get ready. Get a copy!

11 June 2011

Human Ecology

Pope Benedict has taken up an interesting expression to place the human person at the center of questions of the natural order: "human ecology." This concept defends the human subject as the criterion for moral decisions regarding the environment, technology, the economy, really any human endeavor. In a sense, the Holy Father is insisting that we use the active voice -- that there be subjects to our "sentences" about exercising dominion in this world. I have been noticing how frequently the media use the passive voice, essentially removing or hiding the subject of the sentence and thereby placing the emphasis on the act rather than the actor. This makes the subject irresponsible for the act. It is bad style, of course, but it is also bad philosophy. (True "style," that is, matters of taste, etiquette, etc. are also a part of this human ecology, I believe. They really embody it. Defense of bad manners, for example, usually centers on the act rather than on the actor.) What is going on inside the human subject determines what actions result externally and their moral value. The human subject is the standard and carries the responsibility.

07 June 2011

Hope: the cure

I was thinking more about Pope Benedict's message about openness to life and my conversation with Chad and Dillon on the way home from Henderson, KY. At first, I thought: "here is a good opportunity to teach what is wrong with contraception" because contraception is a violation of hope, among other things. I was tempted to teach in this way because rationally speaking contraception is the linchpin of all sexual morality. It seems to me, however true this is, it would amount to treating a symptom rather than the disease. You see, the disease is lack of hope. Contraception, however important, is a symptom. I am not much of a doctor, but it does seem to me that the cure has to be directed to the disease and not to a symptom.

I learned this lesson from an otherwise unfortunate encounter with the Neo-Catechecumenal Way. The Neo-Cats did not teach what was wrong with abortion directly, but everyone coming through the catechesis understood what was wrong with it. The point basically is this: it is a lot easier to come to acceptance of the moral law as a whole when it flows from the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, and not the other way around, because the truth comes in one big package that way rather than in discrete little bits, each one of which has to be argued on it's own. When I become convinced that the truth of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, then all manner of things fall into place, including a proper understanding of openness to life in the marital act. I have opened myself in that case to faith, hope, and charity. Rather than having to correct every deficiency of hope individually, I am filled up with hope across the board. My confidence that God can be trusted makes me open to children, certainly, and to so many other things too! It is really the answer, for example, to the very depressing meeting we had about the Priests' Benefit Foundation yesterday afternoon. It is reasonable for the diocese to make financial provision for the support and care of retired clergy. It is unreasonable for fear about the future to enter the discussion, and that is what happened. I wish that everyone at the meeting yesterday could have been at the cook-out at the Bishop's house on Saturday evening with the seminarians and prospective seminarians. They would have had hope. Money is not security. Fruitfulness is.

Of course, there are many lessons for me in all of this, lest I get on my high horse! I can just hear some of you thinking: "physician, heal thyself!" And you would be right. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill me with hope!

This post seems very convoluted. I hope that you are getting what I am proposing. It is dangerous to wake up very early with something that you just have to write down!


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Location:The Vortex of Despair

06 June 2011

BXVI on families & JSTB randomness!

Look at what Pope Benedict had to say about families during his visit to Croatia:

"[Dear families,] alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them. Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church. I would like to repeat something I have said in the past: “the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church which supports it and carries it with her ... And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a ‘small domestic church’” (Address of Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, 6 June 2005). Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!"

This line in particular impressed me: "Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them." I had a delightful trip yesterday afternoon with Chad Cunningham and Dillon Barker to the Mass of Thanksgiving of newly-ordained Fr. Austin Litke, O.P. in his hometown of Henderson, KY. (It was beautiful to see Fr. Richard Cash serving as Master of Ceremonies for this young priest whose vocation, eventually to priesthood in religious life, was nurtured by the older priest.) Our conversation on the way home was particularly rich. This point that openness to life is a sign of hope came up, as did the point of freedom -- liberality in its true sense -- much later in the evening. We must have been on the BXVI wavelength yesterday!

I also want to join in the Pope's prayer that "ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family" -- particularly the ecclesial community called "Vanderbilt Catholic"! This was another point that came up in our conversation: that members of these ecclesial families will look after each other -- parents and children, children and parents, priests and religious. To put is bluntly, I am not worried about who will look after me when I am old! That is why I have such a family! For example, I was talking to Chad this weekend on a very different matter dealing with Vanderbilt Catholic and said that I have a certain responsibility as "father." I really believe that. And I believe that faithful paternity, including the spiritual kind, is fruitful. It was fun Saturday night to be with Bishop Choby and a gathering of seminarians and prospective seminarians. It was nothing so much as a family cook out!

One final random comment on the Pope's words in this rambling post! While I was driving back from Cullman, AL on Saturday, I was briefly listening to a country music radio station -- these are plentiful in north Alabama! I am not good at remembering exact words or even titles or artists, but this not-particularly new song has lyrics of youthful impatience for love. At first hearing, one might have thought, as I did think, that the song was urging fornication, to put it bluntly, as so many more mainstream songs do. But listening more carefully I realized that what this young man was impatient for was marriage! And marriage as a permanent commitment. You've got to love country music! Maybe the Pope can use it to help teach the world not to "be afraid to make a commitment to another person"!

03 June 2011

Totus Tuus training

You may have figured out by now that I am not in Rome this summer! And actually I am happy about it. Not happy not to be in Rome. There is nothing to be unhappy about being in Rome. But happy to be here instead. Actually, I have been in Nashville very little the last two weeks. Last week was a vacation week with my family at the beach. This week, I have been at Totus Tuus training at St. Bernard's Abbey in Cullman, AL. (I seem to be spending a lot of time in the Heart of Dixie these days!)

I have to confess that we began Totus Tuus in the Diocese of Nashville "on a wing and a prayer" four summers ago. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that Totus Tuus is something very good; and that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. Not that the missionaries and directors of Totus Tuus have done poorly -- but the priest "in charge" has! It is kind of hard to run something when you are on another continent. So I am glad to be here and not in Rome.

Actually, now that I am involved in the way that I should be, I am even more convinced of the goodness of Totus Tuus -- especially for the team members. It is a great program of summer formation! One of the things that a university chaplain worries about is the effect of summer on the spiritual lives of the students. Usually it is not good or at least a struggle. Not for Totus Tuus missionaries! They are getting great formation and community, as well as pouring themselves out in the apostolate. And they love it!

It is sort of like a junior FOCUS...speaking of which, I received a text message at about 11 last night that our newest Vanderbilt FOCUS missionary, Laura Scharmer, will be serving at Columbia University in New York. It is about time that the Ivy League got some religion! I think that I like that :-)