The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Above all, through all, in all

Consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved.

Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things [c.f. Ephesians 4:6]. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone [c.f. 1Corinthians 12:4-6].

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him [cf. John 14:23]. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all [cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14]. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

--St. Athanasius

Monday, May 25, 2015

The truth of baseball

Sometimes you win.
Sometimes you lose.
And sometimes it rains.

That's a quote from the 1988 film Bull Durham, which in my book is the best (and funniest) baseball movie ever made. Although unnecessarily irreverent and risque at times, the films's baseball situations, characters, and dazzling dialogue ring true. These days, as I lament the misfortunes of my Cincinnati Reds (who have lost nine straight, are hampered by some significant injuries and under-achieving players, and possess a remarkably consistent inability to locate home plate), I might add a fourth line to the quote above:

Sometimes you wish
it WOULD HAVE rained.

( another great quote from Bull Durham goes: "This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. You got it?")

Easy for me to say, right? In any case, let's get it together, Reds! I'm sure they're listening, and that such an exhortation will provide just the boost they need, right?

As an aside, my brother Kevin actually lives in Cincinnati, sees Reds games in person much more often than I, and is in no way lacking in any kind of sports knowledge. Still, my chagrined mother (somewhat scandalized, I suspect) tells people, "If you want to know what's going on with the Reds, ask the one living in a monastery." One of my vices, I suppose. We all have them. 

But I tell you, these days it ain't easy being a Reds fan--especially when you're living in the same monastery with a monk who is an ardent St. Louis Cardinals fan (the Cardinals, for those lacking in knowledge of such matters, are in first place within the same division, and seem to find as many ways to win as the Reds do to lose. I hate them with a perfect hate, as the psalmist says). Since 1990, the last time the Reds won the World Series, the stupid Cardinals have been to four World Series, and won two of them. Have I mentioned how much I hate the Cardinals?

It's just a game, I know. The fate of the world is not at stake. The sun will come up tomorrow (unless it rains). But these days, especially, baseball is a counter-cultural icon of sorts, and I like that. Baseball is a grind--it's a long (six-month) season played out nearly every single day of the week, with plenty of ups and downs, batting slumps and winning streaks. You're never as bad as it sometimes appears, and you're never as good as it sometimes appears. The long haul is what counts--and you can't do it all alone. In that sense, baseball is an excellent metaphor for life in general. Like life, being successful means failing often enough to learn and adjust accordingly (a .300 batting average, the universal measure of offensive accomplishment, means that a hitter has failed to reach base safely 70 percent of the time). It means being patient and hanging in there, picking up the slack for a slumping teammate. And if things still don't go all that well, just wait until next year (after all, only one Major League team in 30 wins it all each season). 

Baseball is a game of hopeful, even stumbling, perseverance in a world that demands instant, even if fleeting, success and glory. Those who love the game realize that at its core, baseball is about seeking and striving for authenticity along a winding, arduous road. As such, it has many parallels with the spiritual life of any Christian. As John Sexton, the author of Baseball as a Road to God, says,"Conversion is not for the faint of heart. It is a difficult process, requiring effort and perseverance." Every day, win, lose, rain, or shine. Most of all, as with the Christian life, baseball is about hope amid this struggle. As the late Bart Giamatti, the short-lived commissioner of baseball in 1989, wrote, "Baseball is about going home, and how hard it is to get there, and how driven is our need."

And the Reds really need to find home right now. It's essential. It's a simple game...

First pitch tomorrow is 7:10 p.m. ET. Unless it rains (and I kind of hope it does).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

R.I.P. (again)

A week after Saint Meinrad Archabbey lost Fr. Aelred Cody, O.S.B. (see previous post), Fr. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., also passed on to his eternal reward. The death of Fr. Cyprian, 84, early Monday was a bit more of a surprise, though his health had been in steady decline in the last year or two. In the last couple of weeks, it had become increasingly more difficult for Fr. Cyprian to get around and to keep up with everything going on around him. However, he was determined to keep going to church and to other community functions right to the end. His will, I think, simply outlasted his body.

He fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith (cf. 2Timothy 4:7).

I think it is safe to say that Fr. Cyprian was one of the more beloved and respected members of the monastery--not only at Saint Meinrad, but across the country. His passion was history--both church and monastic. He was a professor in our school, and also served as Saint Meinrad Archabbey's archivist. For many years, he taught monastic history to novices in the monastery (including yours truly, back in 2007). So, many young seminarians and monks benefited from his wisdom. (You can read his obituary here.)

Fr. Cyprian was also well-known for his research and writing on the topic of African-American Catholics, especially his 1990 book The History of Black Catholics in the United States.

More than anything, however, Fr. Cyprian was a faithful monk--a quiet, prayerful, thoughtful, and humble man if I ever saw one. He was so well-respected around here that many monks (including yours truly) liked to tease him mercilessly about things like his teaching approach (footnotes!), politics, biases (Cluny, with no love lost for St. Bernard), and numerous awards. Actually, I think he enjoyed the attention. We will miss him.

A few years ago, while working at Abbey Press Publications, I helped put together the book Thirsting for God, a compilation of prayers, poems, and hymns written by monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey (also available as an audio book, and as an e-book). Fr. Cyprian submitted a couple items. Here is one of them:

Take what is broken, Lord,
And make us mended;
Take what is tired,
And make us renewed;
Take what is scattered,
And make us whole.
And that which is lost,
Make us truly found.

Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Last evening, the monk who has lived across the hall from me since I made solemn vows in 2011 passed over to his eternal reward. Fr. Aelred Cody, O.S.B., 83, had been in declining health for several years, but the decline became more precipitous in the last couple of weeks. You can read his obituary here.

The term "one of a kind" is cliché, but in Fr. Aelred's case, it applies. Fr. Aelred himself, on the other hand, was anything but cliché. Two words come to mind when I think of him: brilliant and unforgettable. Those who knew him, I'm sure, would agree with that assessment. 

The obituary link above provides only a passing glimpse into Fr. Aelred's brilliant nature. So, too, do the pages in any New American Bible crediting editors and translators (pick up your Bible, and flip to the credits, and there you will find his name). Known and consulted the world over for his ecclesial, historical, and linguistic acumen (he knew a couple dozen languages, including some of the most archaic), he couldn't have cared less about such status. He was a monk through and through.

And he was unforgettable--both enigmatic and eccentric--in ways I could not even begin to describe. At the little reception after I was invested as a novice in 2007, my sister and Fr. Aelred got caught up in a long conversation. After a while, she came over to me and asked, "Who is that?" Then she went back over to continue the conversation. Unforgettable.

Requiescat in pace.