24 February 2011

Clarity

One more thing to emphasize about where Vandy Catholic is right now: clarity of vision.

It is great to have figured out what we are doing:
proposing Jesus Christ and forming His disciples at Vanderbilt.

That is our mission statement. Here are the ways we are going to do it, our four pillars:
spiritual, intellectual, human, and apostolic formation.

23 February 2011

The Holy Women

Around Frassati House, people know that I rely on "the holy women." When I first got here, Kathleen Cordell, Sarah McLeod, and Marie Bellet warmed up the atmosphere of Frassati House with their consignment shop expertise. Kathleen, her sister Mary Pat, and Jeanne Robinson still keep us in shape around here. In that first year and later, Alice Bolster could be found in the kitchen, equipping it and feeding the multitudes. Frances Kolb is now keeping our kitchen very welcoming!

One of the most significant days in the history of Vandy Catholic is the day that Kristi Bentley came to work! I actually don't remember when that was because I cannot imagine life here without her, that is, until she was on maternity leave this fall and Laura Scharmer seamlessly filled in for her! Kristi has helped me in so many practical ways, especially is founding our 3 To Get Married Retreat for engaged couples. My entire priesthood I have wanted to have something like this to offer couples preparing for marriage, and she did it! Laura, too, organized our first trip to the March for Life. I have waned to take a group ever since I first came here, and Laura pulled it off! (One of my biggest flops since I have been here was a March for Life fiasco.) The biggest cross that Kristi and Laura have had to carry in working at Frassati House is me. They have been wise is using their "feminine genius" to steer and direct the chaplain around a good many mistakes he would otherwise have made. They also have one big frustration in common: their unsuccessful efforts to get the chaplain to be healthier!

Finally, I have my secret weapon and cheerleader: my big sister, Sr. Margaret Andrew! Her repeated, "you're my hero," both encourages and inspires me. I don't know what I would do without it. I love you.

22 February 2011

Rising Again

"Rise Again" was the theme for Vandy Awakening 8 this past weekend. At two Awakening per year, "8" means that we have been through the full cycle of an undergraduate career. Vandy Awakening is now older than undergraduate institutional memory! No undergraduates can remember a time before Awakening. That makes me happy.

The same is true for FOCUS at Vanderbilt: 4th year here. I believe that the FOCUS missionaries are essential allies for reaching and forming students. They work from the inside...of their own hearts, which have been radically committed to the Lord Jesus. They share His mission for souls, and they help me in my mission at Vanderbilt. I love them!

Our student board has just completed its third transfer of servant officers. This is another group that has developed impressively. The new chair pulled me aside last night to offer some great constructive criticism after she had led the weekly board meeting on how to reach out to more students both broadly and deeply. The student leaders have become the most enthusiastic promoters of our mission statement: to propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples at Vanderbilt. They have structured the student organization to promote our four pillars of formation: spiritual, intellectual, human, and apostolic. It's beautiful.

And there is even something new at Vanderbilt Catholic, actually someone new: Chad Michael Cunningham, officially Director of Campus Ministry and Development. Chad is a brilliant and zealous young man, who is the founder of iFacts (Institute for Advancing Catholic Thought and Studies). He will lead the students in intellectual formation as well as serve them as our development officer. Chad is a tremendous blessing to Vandy Catholic and to me.

And I am becoming more of a priest. I hear more confessions, work harder on my homilies, offer more spiritual direction, lead more retreats, etc. Vanderbilt Catholic is coming together well! Please pray for the next thing: Communio. We want to promote ways to live and pray together in community. Talk about a sign of contradiction to the culture of radical autonomy and to "cafeteria Catholicism"!

I remember five years ago in my first year here. We were planning our first group to visit Texas A&M for Aggie Awakening 79 (yes, 79) over spring break. We came back for a small retreat that we had already planned here. I call it Vandy Awakening .5! It was one of those transformative and memorable moments. We really have not turned back since. Verso l'alto!

13 February 2011

Proposing...Vocations

Pope Benedict is at it again: proposing. This time it's vocations to priesthood and religious life. (I will link the message as soon as it is translated into English.) I hope that I am taking a page from the Pope's book. I have been giving out To Save a Thousand Souls at a pretty good rate, accompanied by the invitation to consider the priesthood -- usually with some encouragement that I think the young man in question could be a good priest and with some advice about how to pray about a vocation without stressing about it. And my prayers!

I worry that I do not do enough about vocations for the young women. I really don't know enough about it to be very specifically helpful.

For the young men, I think that every devout Catholic young man should pray and question himself about a vocation to the priesthood when he is free to ask those questions i.e. not in a relationship with a young woman. I don't think that the two go very well together. Everything natural in a man pulls toward marriage whereas a vocation to priesthood cuts across just about every natural current. To get to an answer, one needs freedom from the natural pressures that romantic attraction exert. When there is an answer, feel free to move on. But get to the answer.

Maybe I will write more on my thoughts about "discernment" -- a word that gets blamed for a lot of navel gazing and procrastination.

08 February 2011

Brothers and Sisters

Tonight I am to give a fireside chat about being brothers and sisters in the family of God. I know that you call me "Father," and for you I am father. But with you I am brother. (Not an original idea -- it comes from St. Augustine.) I am certainly here for you, and thus I accept the responsibility of father. But I am also with you and so I accompany you as brother. And you accompany me.

07 February 2011

MIssion

I hope the board won't mind if I share this with you!

Dear Vandy Catholic Board,
For our meeting tonight, I would like to ask your thoughtful
consideration of how we can implement our mission statement better: to
propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples at Vanderbilt.

"To propose Jesus Christ" Jesus Christ is the savior of the world and
the incarnation of the love of God. Does our way of living manifest
this reality? Is there anything lacking in our witness to Him? We
need to remember to whom he came and with whom he associated. We
should remember the priority of prayer in His life - loving communion
with His Father - and that His mission flowed from it. What are our
challenges? What are we doing well?

"To form His disciples" What sort of formation am I seeking and
receiving? Am I bringing others to formation? Steps and levels of
formation: sacramental life, prayer, Awakening, FOCUS Bible study,
FOCUS discipleship, RCIA, iFacts, spiritual direction, Fiat, Esto Vir,
human formation by friendship. Invitation. Accountability. What are
ways to engage the first step? To follow up? Things right after Mass
or even during Mass - rethink announcements more as testimony?

"at Vanderbilt" What is the cultue that we are embracing and
engaging? What does it want? Need? Fear? How can we love it
better? How can we attract it to the Gospel?

I would appreciate your consideration along these lines. Please
propose these questions to teammates, those working in the pillars,
etc. There is still lots of time to reach souls! How could we pray
about it together? I thank God that we are "collaborators in the
Truth" (Pope Benedict's motto). With you in the Lord Jesus I am
confident!
Faithfully, Fr. Baker

--

01 February 2011

Too, too much

Sorry for the pause in posting. There just hasn't been any time for it. For someone who keeps talking about the interior life, I sure have been active lately! Fortunately, I can say that I am doing a better job at keeping order in my plan of life for prayer, sacraments, and spiritual direction than I am in my active endeavors. Well, I guess that I should begin again and hope that people understand why I am not on top of things. I am not sure that I understand :-)

In the midst of being busy and behind, my biggest consolations are saying Mass and hearing Confessions. I can set aside the temporal disorder for a while and do some eternal good.

I had better get back to work, and stop talking about it.

P.S. Wednesday morning -- Dear Lord, you are so good to me. Just when I am being a big whiner (see above), you call me out! Literally to the hospital this morning. I ask for prayers for Brian.