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!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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


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!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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 :-)

01 June 2011

New Springtime

I am helping to teach at Totus Tuus training for our diocese this week. It keeps pushing me back to the essentials, to the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the need for entering into communion with Him. Nothing else matters. Keep proclaiming Him, and keep praying. And all really shall be well. Everything else really is the self pushing itself forward. OK -- so I need to go pray right now!