Saturday, March 27, 2004

Discernment and a Mea Culpa

[First post deleted for containing both an apology and a meta-apology; it's really difficult to apologize for a condescending apology in a way that does not require a third apology, and so on. It's better I just started over entirely.]

OK, what I really wanted to say was this:

As some of you know, a few years ago I was seriously considering the priesthood. Now I believe my vocation is elsewhere. (Not just now; this realization took form over my second year.) I can't say that this was a rational judgment as much as a kind of discernment, and so I've been trying to analyze the process in retrospect for a while, how it is that I came to know I'm not meant to be a priest.

Something I've been considering recently is that what I took to be indications of a pastoral vocation at the time were really something else entirely. I would be listening to a homily, or watching the priest in other parts of the Mass, and I'd see myself doing the same. More accurately, though, I'd see myself doing the job better than the priest I was watching. I'd imagine homilies that would be totally orthodox, challenging, and which would offend nobody because of their calm reason and overflowing charity. Or I'd imagine myself going through the prayers of the Mass with a clear, reverent, but moving voice.

Basically, what I was really doing in my mind was criticizing the priests I saw and putting myself on a higher spiritual plane. What I took as a sign of a priestly vocation was, at least in part, an act of egotism.

It's taken me a while to realize just how difficult an office the priesthood is, how tiring it must be for a priest to focus his whole being on these thousands of people about him, how challenging it is to compose a good reflection or homily, how many duties are required and how many more expected of the priest. It is a high and exacting call; not more difficult than marriage and parenthood, or the consecrated single life, or religious life in community, but challenging in different ways, with much fear of failure. In my imagination, I can ignore the agonies and put an avatar, always patient and alert and humble, in the place of this flesh and blood human being. The grass is always so green on the other side of the Roman collar.

Of course, the fact that my "inclinations" were just expressions of selfishness didn't mean I had no priestly vocation. It just blinded me to other indications that I do belong out in the world, in the sense of the laity; indications that I was not called to offer the sacrifice as an alter Christus, but to bring forward the gifts and talents I can provide to the altar of the Church, and to receive with humility the unmerited Bread of Life in return.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Brother Anselm Would Be Proud.

You are the Cross of St. Benedict: This cross is
inscribed with several prayers for holiness and
peace including, -May the holy cross be my
light! May the dragon never be my guide- and -
Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your
vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the
poison yourself!-

What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Now, For Actual Content

OK, just kidding. Instead, I have a link to Peter Nixon, who makes the best point I've heard in a while about the most difficult part of being a Catholic.

Also, the Catholic Nerds at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping have been blogging up a storm about their adventures in Rome. In particular, check out the Julius Caesar Ides of March Extravaganza.

No way I'm "finger-quoting". Eve has gone off the deep end in an amusing way. And did I mention that if you use "meta" as a word unto itself, I'm smiting you upside the head?

Friday, March 19, 2004

Finals are all over now, and so it's time to do my last whining about them. I mean, not to do so would be positively un-Maroon!

The TA for my Commutative Algebra class, Mike, saved our skins a couple of times, not least by looking over the final and telling Dr. Murthy that we'd be able to do at most three of the problems (whereupon he said, "OK, choose three problems!") and telling him that problem 2(b) was impossible (because he'd written it incorrectly). The exam was a 2 and 1/2- hour exercise in pain.

After the final, he sent the entire class an e-mail with the following excerpts:

"Well, of the many predictions about the exam I made and passed unto you all, at best two of them came true: no transcendence bases, and it was pretty hard. Of course the biggest disaster is that I said he wouldn't ask for proofs of statements made in class... Please accept my humblest apologies."

"...and recall that at the end of last term, I explicitly advised everyone against taking this class at all! However, the Chicago student body, known the world 'round for its unimpeachable resolve, was all the more motivated for a challenge by my admonishment, and enrollment from Alperin to Murthy consequently increased."

"So even if the process by which society crudely translates the learning experience into permanent records proves inadequate to capture the extent to which you have all grown over the past ten weeks, rest assured during the holiday that you have been exposed to some serious mathematics."

All in all, though, my 30 hours of hell (time-span for a 10-page European Civ take-home final, in which I had both my math exams) turned out decently (modulo me guessing correctly at the perpendicular subspace questions in the Functional Analysis final), so I can't really complain.

Oh, and my sister and her friend are visiting today before we drive back to St. Louis. I'm taking them Northside where all the cool stuff is. More blogging when I'm home and have less to do...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Plan A: Get the heck outta Dodge this summer. And by "Dodge", I mean Hyde Park.
Plan B: Do something cool with math. Because, hey, that's what I do.
Best of Both Worlds: The REU this summer at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
And guess what? I just got accepted!

P.S. By the time summer comes, I hope to be able to pronounce "San Luis Obispo" without Anglicanizing it.

P.P.S. The first thing was, I learned to forgive myself. Then I told myself, "Go ahead and do whatever you want, it's okay by me." (From Deep Thoughts.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Judge not lest ye be judged

I really dislike the way Father X says Mass. It's all in a monotone, as fast as he can, except for the homily. Father X appears to believe that he, not God, is at the center of the Mass. The Eucharistic Prayer is done so disinterestedly, so gracelessly, that we all worry he'll carelessly knock over the chalice in his efforts to get through it all quickly. I can't avoid the feeling Father X thinks this is all a pageant.

And his homilies focus on all sorts of things: his grandfather was a great, unselfish man; he was a great baseball player as a kid until he developed myopia; war is bad and Frank Zappa can tell us why; the apostles were predominantly stupid and flawed. The subjects Father X never talks about? God, grace, miracles, the Eucharist, the Resurrection, faith, the Spirit, et cetera. His homilies are all along the lines of making ourselves nice people on our own strength. It's as if Father X thought he was called to be a great motivational speaker, and the prayers and Eucharist and all that stuff about some God just keep getting in his way.

So, why am I writing all this (besides my obvious joy in venting about bad liturgy)? Because, as much as this disturbs me, if I let it interfere with my experience of the Mass, then it is my sin and not that of Father X at stake. If I make the leap from "I wish he would say the Mass more reverently" to "what a failure of a priest" (as I may be guilty of doing), then I am setting myself up as judge and I am doing what I cannot. It may be right for me to ask Father Mike to find someone besides Father X to say Mass here. But it's a bad sign that I resent him as a priest and a person; this is not what Christ called me to do.

Saint Francis of Assisi was once asked what he would do if he knew that his parish priest was keeping three mistresses. He responded, "When it came time for Holy Communion I would go to receive the sacred body of my Lord from the priest's anointed hands." I aspire to his humility, but I have trouble with it. I know that the grievance I have against Father X is not much, not commensurate with some of the terrible things men in the Roman collar have committed. But I can't let it go when I see him saying Mass.

P.S. If you're wondering why I don't post more often about my personal life, go read my Disclaimer (from all the way back in June). I can only tell you that life is very good, and that Easter Vigil is a month from today.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Song Meme (a few days behind the times)

First 20 songs on random shuffle:
1. In The Mood, Glenn Miller
2. Electioneering, Radiohead
3. High and Dry, Radiohead
4. Just Like A Woman, Bob Dylan
5. Wrong 'Em Boyo, The Clash
6. The General, Dispatch
7. Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin
8. I Want You To Want Me, Letters to Cleo
9. London Calling, The Clash
10. Fool in the Rain, Led Zeppelin
11. Don't Leave Me, Blink 182
12. Se a Cabo, Santana
13. Revolution Rock, The Clash
14. Closing Time, Semisonic
15. Queen Jane Approximately, Bob Dylan
16. Bring It On Home, Led Zeppelin
17. Spanish Bombs, The Clash
18. Airbag, Radiohead
19. One Tree Hill, U2
20. Oye Como Va, Santana

Not bad, although some embarrassing ones came up, and some of the artists with a lot on my playlist (Counting Crows, Cream/Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band, the Beatles) don't appear at all.

Oh, I know that I haven't posted anything of legitimate content in quite a while. Just you wait: during spring break, I promise I'll be writing way too much.

Current Task: REU Application
Current Mood: Life is Good.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

You are... The Flag of Turkmenistan!!!
Green is special, too!
The bold red vertical stripe through the green background fits you to a tee.
It is representative, of course, of your independent streak,
which is always just dying to get out. That said, the "you" that the world
sees is the large, green-background "you." Your first priority is to let
the world see the red "you" and all of the little squiggly things inside.
While some might think that you are confined to the four corners
of your external self, you know better. Be confident in who you are.
PS - Chicks dig crescent moons.

Take the Personality Quiz, brought to you by Mr. Poon.

Current Task: Still not writing my Bio paper

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I haven't posted the prayer from this Monday night dinner because I can't find it again. It was a poem from the Latin Christian Prudentius, an Epilogue to a collection of his hymns. I'll try and put it up here soon.

Current Mood: peacefully elated
Current Mode: procrastination