Friday, September 30, 2011

In Honor of the Day

Why, yes, I think I will say Mass in Latin today!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Catholicism Series

So far, I have viewed the first three episodes of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Project, which joyously awaited my return from Detroit.  Since Monday was a brain-dead day for recovery after a week and a half of long days, I watched the first two episodes and caught the third last night, since nothing else was on.

I cannot express how much I enjoy these episodes.  They are well executed, planned, beautifully shot, etc. etc.  Fr. Barron is a master story-teller and covers some very intricate points in great detail, but without too much that he would scare away either the neophyte or non-Catholic.  (For example, his discussion on the Problem of Evil in ep. 3 is superb!)  He draws you into the story of Catholicism, our story, fully presenting it as ever ancient, ever new.  His underlying principal comes across that Beauty (as a Transcendental) teaches and forms and he draws liberally from the artistic patrimony of the Church.

This, I think, becomes key to why I am enjoying this series so much.  He does not re-enact the story, but he 'retells' the story in picture and voice.  He visits the places where some of our greatest mysteries originally ocurred: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mt. Sinai, Hagia Sophia, St. Peter's Basilica; but he resists that filmmakers urge to dress up in cheesy costume and have Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child.  Rather, in visiting Bethlehem, he presents the ancient roots of our faith, but in a modern way to convey the connection between the historical events in salvation history and the modern effects of those events.  Ever ancient, ever new; the faith spawned by the Jewish Carpenter inspires and informs the Chicago food pantry.

In a way, this series seems like the Catechism in picture.  He mentions Aquinas' Five Proofs for the Existence of God, but only delves into one.  He sketches the notion of the problem of evil as a deprivation of the Good, but points you in the direction for further study.  He draws imagery out of the Old Testament to illustrate the mission of the Messiah, but resists the temptation to get bogged down in the minutiae of the Torah.  In all of these, he sets the stage that there is much more to be discovered and unearthed, whetting the appetite for the intellectually curious to search more deeply.

Finally, a note has to be made about his use of artwork.  (I counted at least two different Caravaggio's.)  Fr. Barron uses art and architecture, the beauty of nature and the power of man's creativity to enhance his message.  In citing art from across the Christian spectrum, he often gives the interpretive key in how to read that particular piece, and hence then to also read other pieces of the same genre.  And, he uses the great masterpieces from across time to illustrate and reinforce his dialogue.  Therefore, while there is no actor portrayal of Mary and Joseph with the Christ Child, there are severak artistic representations of the Nativity event.  In my viewing, this greatly enhances the overall feel and texture of the presentation.

This series is a great evangelization and re-catechesis tool, either as a stand alone piece or with the accompaning study guide and leader guide.  I cannot wait to view the next seven episodes.

God Bless and thanks to Fr. Robert Barron and Word on Fire Ministries for such a fantastic contribution to the New Evangelization!

The 'Ten Best' vs. the 'Ten Worst' Jobs Surveys

I'm a little late to the party, (hey, Detroit was grand!), but wanted to comment on recent releases of the 'Ten Best' vs. the 'Ten Worst' jobs. sums up the lists here, but the common themes surface:

(For those who don't want to visit the link, Clergy 'The least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all' won again)

1) Those who give of themselves to others find greater fulfillment and happiness.

2) Among the 'Ten Happiest' jobs, many are focused on making the lives of others better, not our own.

3) Creativity and a certain level of autonomy seem to be consistent themes.

Among the 'Ten Worst', let's see:

1) So tech jobs are all the rage, huh?  (5 in this list are in the tech sector)

2) Comments here suggest 'imprisoned by hierarchical bureaucracies' as reasons for 'unhappiness.'  Obviously, I work in an 'hierarchical bureaucracy,' and often admit that I didn't get into the priesthood to work in an office building downtown, but on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives, at least for me.

3) Among the list, creativity seems stifled and, as described for law clerks, one is often subuject 'to the whims of a mercurial supervisor.'

Where are you in your position?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes from the Field

My latest runs in this week's Catholic Telegraph, reflecting on last week's Vocation Director's Conference in Detroit:

Every year, the national organization of Diocesan Vocation Directors holds an annual convention that brings my counterparts from across the country for formation, training (especially for new Vocation Directors), key note addresses and just plain fraternization among priests. It tends to be an exciting week of activity and sharing of stories as we all compare notes of how we are doing in the home diocese. Admittedly, we do some bragging if we are doing better than others, but always in a friendly.

As we have compared notes so far, there are two very positive things that I thought I would share here. First, vocation numbers are up across the country: the increase that we have seen here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (we now have 42 men, up from just 28 a few years ago) is being repeated elsewhere. Several seminaries have reported full enrollment, nearly every seminary reports positive increases, and the vocation directors have all been very aggressive in attracting new men to study for the priesthood.

Secondly, there is a wonderful positivity among my counterparts concerning the men who are entering formation, too. We, as vocation directors, are in awe of the men who are approaching us in their discernment of the priesthood. They are serious, yet fun; prayerful, yet engaged in the world; a sense of holy detachment while still being fully engaged in the modern culture. It is a wonderful and exciting time in the Church, with so many new movements and energies that are flowering in so many wonderful ways. As Vocation Director, I can see the fruits starting to ripen while still on the vine, and it brings great hope for the future.

But among the Vocation Directors gathered here in Detroit, there is also a determination. We recognize the current shortage that we are under, especially as many of my brother Vocation Director also serve in parishes. There is a drive to what we do because there is a strong recognition that in order for the Church to continue her God given mission of proclaiming the Gospel in the modern world, we must reach out to those men whom God is calling to the priesthood.

This last idea, that it truly is God who calls these men to the priesthood, is what focuses our attention. Jesus is truly the Vocation Director and our bishop sets the vision that each vocation director implements. Quite simply, we work for them, and it is an honor to do so. In order to stay in touch with Him who is our strength, we began each morning with an Eucharistic Holy Hour, we celebrated Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; we prayed the Rosary as a group. In all this, Christ remains the light guiding us in our work, for without Him; our efforts would be in vain.

In our efforts to build a Culture of Vocations within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, this centrality of Christ helps to foster an environment in which all Catholics work in the Vocation field, for we have all been called to some special purpose. It is in praying with and for one another that we find that true purpose, it is in our communion with Christ that we are given the grace to respond with that generous ‘yes’ that is demanded whenever Christ calls us forward.

May we all work for a greater awareness of the need to grow this culture, let us all continue to pray for those priests and religious we need, so that mission of the Church may continue to thrive and grow not only here in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, but throughout our nation and our world.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Admit it, you're jealous

You just didn't know it yet.

Wayne, my trusty sidekick in the Vocation Office, and I are heading to Detroit tomorrow (and will be there until next Friday) as the Ohio and Michigan region of Diocesan Vocation Directors meet in our annual Convention.  There will be well over 200 priests (and a few lay folk thrown in, too) present from most parts of the country, internationally too, representing their respective Diocesan Vocation Offices, seminaries, vocation promotion efforts, etc., to chat about how we can do this whole thing better.

Archbishop O'Brien was to give one of two key-note addresses, but the Pope had the gall to move him to Rome without consulting us.

Workshops are offered on relations w/ seminaries, international candidates and immigration issues, social media (your's truly is co-hosting that one), discernment retreats, etc.  We have 'cultural excursions' to the Henry Ford Museum and plant among a few other things; business to attend to (electing two 'at large' board members), training for new Vocation Directors, etc., etc. etc.

If you could, please offer a prayer or two (perhaps even daily) for us all while we gather.  I'll try to post some things here, but keep tabs also on the twitter feed to the right and maybe even a few Facebook updates along the way.

We are meeting right in the heart of downtown Detroit, at the Marriott in the RenCenter.  Our closing Mass is w/ Archbishop Vigneron at Sacred Heart Seminary next Thursday.  (Which allows Wayne and I just enough time to get back to Cinci for CREDO next weekend.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pope Benedict and the Regensburg Moment

An address I gave to the Cincinnati Serra Club:

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s somewhat infamous ‘Regensburg Address.’ Shortly after he was elected Pontiff, he returned to the school where he first began his academic career to give a lecture to representatives of the Science Colleges on the nature of the interplay between faith and reason, launching from there into a discourse into our understanding of the very nature of God.

It is this aspect that I would like to focus on today, because I think it hits to the core of who we are as Catholics, how we pray, how we worship, how we interact with both one another and with the world, especially as we stand in the shadow of the remembrances of September 11, 2001 and the atrocities committed that day.

Early in his address, Pope Benedict cites a medieval dialogue between the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, a dialogue which was likely written by the Christian Emperor shortly after this encounter. On a side note, it was the citation of this work that caused a bit of backlash in the Islamic world, but which has ultimately led to a greater and deeper dialogue between the two great cultures, which may be one of Pope Benedict’s lasting legacies, one which is only seen in hindsight.

As Pope Benedict launches from this discourse into the core of his lecture, he ponders the historical growth of Christianity and the intertwining of Christian thought with Hellenistic, Greek thought. For Pope Benedict, it was a marriage made in heaven, as the Revealed Word of God found new expression in the on-going logical reflection upon the mysteries of this world. In summary, the logical approach of the ancient Greek philosophers found their completion in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, the Divine LOGOS, as revealed in both the initial versus of the Book of Genesis and the prologue of the Gospel according to St. John. For the Christian, God is knowable, because God acts in a logical, consistent way, unfolding His divine plan of salvation in way that draws the believe deeper into relationship with the One True God, while still in the context of the corporate Body of the Church.

However, the approach taken towards God in both Islam and, frightenly, in some Protestant circles, is much different. Instead of highlighting the nature of God as LOGOS, rationality and logic; the focus is on God’s omnipotence, His power, His Will: Voluntas. This changes the nature of discipleship in a dramatic way. No longer is one to be drawn deeper and deeper into an ever unfolding manifestation of the mystery of God; now all one has to do is follow, obey.

The result of this shift in focus from the rationality to the power of God results, actually, in a split between faith and reason. No longer should reason be used to explore the mysteries of the faith, for to do so is to cheapen the faith into something man-made, or so it is thought. As a result, theology dies a slow and painful death, while the sciences take precedence and priority.

Pope Benedict, however, does not conclude with a call to return to an age prior to the Enlightenment. Rather, we must seek out a new wedding of faith and reason, one that sees these two great approaches to modern understanding wedded back together. For the believer, faith must necessarily take a leading role in guiding reason to the one foundation of Truth: Jesus Christ.

We must also examine our prayer life, seeking out a deeper understanding of to whom it is that we pray. Do we pray to have our will taken away? Or do we pray to come to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God so that we can then operate in this world as a more committed disciple of the Logos? It is this latter approach that we see the tide of a secular culture turned back and continued new flowering of Faith as the New Evangelization dawns as we still sit at the precipice of the Third Christian Millennium.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Are Catholic

Fr. JR sent in this video, had to be shared:

Some thoughts on yesterday's observences

As has been remarked in many places, yesterday saw the 10th anniversary of the horrendous attacks of 9.11.2001.

In the lead-up to the commemoration in NYC, news was made about the lack of clergy during the day; for it was argued that to include one, one had to include all and it was a violation of Church/state separation to include clergy members.

I have thought a great deal about this question in the ten years since 9/11; and have a few thoughts to share as to how we have arrived at this position where clergy are now devisive figures in the realm of the secular society.

In the eyes of the secular cutlure, what caused these attacks?   At the most basic level, it was a religious fundamentalism.  Sure, as Catholics, we recognize that it was an Islmacist, Jihaddist, Fundamentalism that was at the core of it all, but to the eyes of a secular cutlure, there is no difference between the terrorists who perpetrated this crime, the members of Westboro Baptist Church who shamefully protest at Military funerals, and Catholics who stand praying outside of abortion mills.  In the eyes of a completely secular culture, anyone who takes their faith seriously ultimately leads to flying planes into buildings.

We know it is not so, so how do we convince the world otherwise?

First, we must pray, for Christians are to be noted as a prayerful people.  We pray for the victims, first and foremost, that our ever-merciful Father will grant them rest in the life to come.  We pray for the responders who are a very visual embodiment of Jesus' statement: 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for a friend.'  We pray for our country, that she may be healed of the deep wounds that continue to bleed.  Perhaps the greatest challenge: we pray for those who perpetrated this crime that their hearts might be changed from anger and violence to peace and justice, cooperation instead of conflict.

We must also act, for our faith demands it of us.  We act in charity to those who have lost, we must not stop doing so.  We act in reparation to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice that all might know the love we have for God and He has for us.  We act in love, that we might draw others to the Truth.

Only in Christ will true peace and justice reign, and that only by members of His Body being willing witnesses of His Truth to the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ongoing Treasures of World Youth Day

My latest runs in the newly revamped Catholic Telegraph, now beginning her monthly, instead of weekly, circulation:

Every year, when the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate releases their survey of the men being ordained to the priesthood, the statistics, facts and figures get bantered about by those who work in the vocation business. The surveys show some consistency, however, in what leads a man to realize the potential of a call to the priesthood. While the direct invitation from a current priest remains the greatest influence in a future priest’s possible vocation; the second factor is usually attendance at one or more World Youth Day pilgrimages. Conveniently enough, as I type this article, hundreds of thousands of youth from around the world are gathered with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid, Spain, for World Youth Day.

As I reflect on my own time at World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, nine years ago, what is it about these ‘Catholic Woodstocks’ that elicit the call to the priesthood and/or religious life among the young? I have a few theories:

1) There are scores of young priests and religious among the pilgrims. It seems every group has a fairly newly ordained priest with them. Young, vibrant, joyous religious mingle among the scores of teens. The joy that is evident from those who are still growing into their chosen vocation is infectious, and the teens are drawn to them. During the meal breaks, walking around the common areas, the teens invite the priests and religious over to tell their story, how did they hear the call? In these stories, the teens hear their own story, that even though he or she is now a priest or religious, their childhood was no different from what that teen experienced, and the happiness that they have now can be found nowhere else but in Christ.

2) The international aspect of World Youth Day opens one’s eyes to the breadth and depth of Catholicism that is rarely experienced ‘back home.’ Growing up in a small town, I thought most Catholics were just like me. Heading off to college, I realized that this was not the case. Attending World Youth Day in Toronto, this notion was absolutely blown out of the water. We met Catholics from across Latin America, the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia. In listening to coverage from Madrid, in a two minute span, a reporter met pilgrims from Spain, South Africa, the United States, Iran, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy and Germany. This international flavor helps our young people see that the Church is much bigger than just my local parish. And while there is a sense of the immensity of the Church, there is still a strong sense of belonging. Even at Mass with over one million in attendance, it feels as if the Pope is still speaking to me, one on one.

3) While the joy and the fun get all the media attention, the backbone of World Youth Day are the daily catechetical sessions led by the bishops. There is a deep beauty in the intellectual tradition of our faith, that for us as Catholics, faith and reason go hand in hand as we explore the depths of what it means to be Catholic. For many attendees, this might be the first time that they get to explore these depths in a challenging way. (The fact that the new YOUcat was distributed to this year’s attendees is a real bonus.)

4) Last, but not least, the connection with the pope brings it all home. When I attended in Toronto as a chaperone, one of the boys that went was a fairly typical high school student: into sports, girls and not so much into school and religion. I think he attended because his friends were going, and hey, it was a trip out of the country, even if just to Toronto. He was the social butterfly of the trip and loved talking with new folks and peers from around the world. His comment at the end of the week was telling, however, as he reflected: “Before I came on this trip, my heroes were athletes: Michael Jordan, Sean Casey, etc., but now, after spending time in the pope’s presence, there is something different. I can really look up to him and hear that challenge he is giving me.”

As our young people return from Madrid, let us all pray that they continue to be open to Christ call to something more.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Data Dump

I would call this a '7 quick take' for a Friday, but I don't do those, so I won't.

Sorry for the radio silence over the last few weeks, been focused on a few projects we have coming due, and they've been taking all of my (admittedly) limited brain power.

First, we had 12 men enter formation this fall for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, assigned to the following locations: 4 to Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Cincinnati (three into Pre-Theo I, one into I Theology, with 2 men who transferred from College Seminary programs); 4 to Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis; 3 to the Pontifical College Josephinum; 1 to North American College, Rome (but he is studying for the Oratory in Formation that is part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati).  All told, we now sit at 42 seminarians, which is getting closer to our goal of 100.

Speaking of Mount St. Mary's Seminary, there have been some updates to the Chapel:
Looks nice, eh?

This weekend, I'm heading back to my home parish to celebrate the 10:30 Mass on Sunday with my grandmother on the occassion of her 90th Birthday!  I think all of my cousins and the next generation will be there, hmm.... rough tally, I know my math is wrong: Grandma and a few of her sisters who are still kicking; my mom and her five siblings and spouses; 23 grandchildren (and quite a few spouses); 25 (really, I have no idea, I think it is higher than that now, 17 are just my nieces and nephews, and there has to be maybe 15 from my cousins?) great-grandchildren.  It promises to be an excellent time.  If you could, say a prayer for Grandma as she continues to recover from hip replacement, because she didn't want to be confined to a wheel chair, at 90.  YOU GO GRANDMA!

Tonight, I have second of three weddings in a row; after the one next weekend, only one more this year.  I think that makes 8, total, this year.  All my brother priests in parishes are throwing stuff at me right now!  (My fee: first born son to the seminary!)

I was very happy to recieve a review copy of Brain Gail's latest, Childless, which is to be published and released on October 7th.  All I'll say now is that it is a good read, I'll publish my full review closer to publication date.

Our Vocation Awareness Week materials are taking the lion's share of my brain power.  We're focusing them around the Mass as a Well Spring of Vocations.  If you could spare another prayer for inspiration that I might finish my section!  (They were only due in rough draft form July 1st, and I have five sections yet to write.....)

Finally, point #7: the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors are meeting later this month in Detroit.  I am doing a workshop of use of new media in vocation promotion, teaming up with Sam Alzheimer of Vianney Vocations, he's hitting facebook and email marketing, I'm hitting blogging and twitter.  Should be fun!  Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore was supposed to do our keynote address, but something about the pope calling pre-empted him.  There BXVI goes again, pulling rank!  ;)

I think that's all the randomness floating around in my head right now, make sure to follow me on Twitter, like us at Facebook, and visit our main page, where the Vocation Prayer is now translated into Spanish!