29 September 2011

Defend us in battle!

We'll take our stand

October 24, 2011

Mr. Nicholas Zeppos


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.


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


"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!