It has been a while

It has been a while July 30, 2016

It has been a while since I posted, and I suspect some of you think that I had abandoned the blog.  This is true, but not in the way you think.  Something went awry back in March, and I have in fact been hiding from Vox Nova since then.

As you will recall, I was attempting to blog weekly, posting a homily on the Sunday readings.  It was touch and go for  while as I was falling behind, and then we came to the second Sunday in Lent.  The Gospel reading was the Transfiguration and I was, frankly, stumped.  And the harder I thought about it, the less that came to me.  Indeed, in the end, paraphrasing Peter, I realized that I did not know what to say.   About anything.   I froze up solid.  I could not write a sermon about the Transfiguration, and the next week and the week after I remained frozen.  I had some ideas about the parable of the Prodigal Son:  in light of the reaction to Pope Francis in many circles, I began to think that there was another, unmentioned brother whose reaction needed to be examined.   But I couldn’t get a word out.

Lent became Eastertide became Ordinary time, and even though I kept having ideas, I couldn’t write them down.  Indeed, when I couldn’t sleep I lay in bed and sketched out some fairly detailed outlines.  But when morning came they dissipated and the will to write them down got lost, or pushed aside, or something.  I felt so guilty that I started avoiding the blog entirely.  (I also started shirking some of my administrative duties, but I am getting a handle on those and am issuing some direct apologies—if you think I have overlooked or ignored you, send an email to Vox Nova and I will try to respond in a more timely fashion.)

But I am back.  Sitting here writing this is very hard, but I feel like I have to do this:  I cannot write, but I do not want to quit the blog, either.  Like the title of the Harlan Ellison story, I have no mouth, yet I must scream (link to PDF–I am not sure the story is really relevant, but the title resonates with me).

But here I am.  There have been some interesting events in the world and in my life.  Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and a vocal section of the Catholic/pro-life blogosphere is backing him.  In June the remaining members of my diaconate class from Hartford were ordained–while I was happy for them, it was a moment of both tristesse and introspection.  I completed my first year as Chair of the math department her at Alabama:  I can now say “Roll Tide!”  without a trace of irony.  The complexities of race and class play out around me in ways that are both similar and different than they were up north.  The local Catholic paper published a long essay by Alice von Hildebrand that, among other things, blamed the sexual abuse scandal on communist infiltrators.  (Seriously!)  And my parish has a new pastor whose first two homilies were so painful that my wife almost walked out.   (This poem, which was part of his homily and later reprinted in the bulletin, was part of it.)

If any of these interest you, say something in the comments—that might tip me over the edge and give me the push to actually write.  Or suggest something else you want to hear about.   In any event, be assured of my prayers, and I ask yours as the summer ends and the new school year starts.  Vox Nova is a great blog, and you have all been wonderful readers and interlocutors.

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  • James Stanley

    Dear David: As a former journalist, I know insightful writing can be a challenge even for the best of us. I am relatively new to your blog but have found your words thoughtful and your perspectives refreshing. May God guide you in your service to Him and to others.

  • James Stanley

    Thoughtful, insightful writing can be a challenge. May God inspire you to continue your blog. I find your posts well worth my time.

  • I am in Louisiana and face the same one dimensional thinking when it comes to the woman’s right to chose issue. They truly think that voting for Trump will somehow end abortions. For them there is no other social justice issue.

  • tawnyhorner

    I’m glad you are back, though I don’t often comment (love the blog!).

    The Alice von Hildebrand thing sounds interesting to me. I remember a talk of hers from when I was a teenager, something about the privilege of being a woman, but hold less and less of the views she expressed in it. I don’t know much about her other views.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      I will try to get to a short post about AvH in the near future.

  • Ronald King

    David I certainly missed your thoughts. I haven’t been attending Mass for a while. I was feeling an emptiness with the whole ritual and I certainly was not going to pretend to be something I wasn’t. Perhaps the time for transparency is here and it may be time to share our emptiness or whatever it is which may be preventing us from being united in love. I really appreciate every time you have been open. That is much better than ritualistic passivity for me at this point in my life.

  • Thales

    Welcome back, David. I’d like to hear more about the painful homilies. Yes, the poem is cheeeeezyyyy, but there’s got to be something more.

    (And if you want another topic to blog about, to go back to an old discussion of our before, I’d be curious if you’ve got additional thoughts on the police racism topic we’ve talked about before, in light of the sad and unfortunate violence this summer (and you still owe me that Trayvon Martin response 🙂 )……. but only if you’re inclined and have nothing better to do. 🙂 )

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      Racism has been on my mind a lot, and I keep circling back to Trayvon Martin. I have response in my head (sound familiar!) that will be an oblique answer. More precisely, I want to lay some groundwork about my views on race and racism.

      With regards to my parish: imagine a 45 minute, first homily to the parish, on the decline of America as a Christian nation, built around the themes and memes in that poem. The second homily was on “Catholic basics” which I swear reduced large parts of Church teaching to: “It is a mortal sin to miss mass on Sunday. If you missed mass last week, do not come to communion until you go to confession. Oh, by the way, confession requires you to follow the outline and say the prayers exactly as they are printed on the little cards at the back of church. And, if you call the rectory before Sunday and explain why you are missing mass, I will give you a dispensation.” I know this sounds like exaggeration, but while short, it is a pretty accurate summary of parts of this homily.

      • Agellius

        Re the homilies: Sounds like a drink of cold water to some of us. : )

        • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

          Well, I disagreed with some of what he said, and agreed with other parts. His presentation and timing were not, in my opinion, very good. I would say “non-pastoral” but that often gets mis-interpreted. Instead, I will say that he failed to convey the message I think he was trying to send.

          • Agellius

            On second thought, a 45-minute homily is excessive no matter the content.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

            Well, it is certainly something you would have to train American congregations up to. You shouldn’t start with it on your first Sunday. I am told that in sub-Saharan African, homilies are much longer than in the US. Of course, they also perform liturgical dance….

          • Agellius

            Two reasons to avoid sub-Saharan Africa. ; )

          • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

            Well, if you only judge liturgical dance by what you see in the US, you would be right. But the examples I have seen (I think from Nigeria), were awesome in a very low key, highly devout way. As for long homilies: most of the great saints with reputations as preachers preached for hours. Remember: we are not Catholics for a hobby! 🙂

          • Agellius

            I was being facetious. Obviously how tolerable a long homily is depends on the quality of the preaching. The pastor of the parish where I attend the TLM is a wonderful priest — but a terrible homilist! Not that I don’t like what he says, but that he rambles aimlessly. Once he told us about a parishioner who said to him, “You sure pass up a lot of stopping places!” And boy he does! You find yourself saying “There! That’s a good place to stop!” But then another thought will occur to him and he’s off for another 10 minutes. ::sigh::

          • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

            That is a good description of our pastor as well. I sort of zoned out on his most recent homily, but my wife paid attention and said it was three reasonable length homilies that flowed into one another. Well, Pope Francis has identified good preaching as a crying need in the Church, so maybe seminaries will do something to help correct this. But I am not holding my breath.

          • Agellius

            I’m not holding my breath either. I think preaching is a talent like musical or athletic ability. Not everyone is going to be good at it, no matter how much training they receive. A lot may also depend on the quality of the trainers. I think what the Church needs to focus on is making sure the content of preaching is orthodox. I realize orthodoxy alone won’t always “touch” people or “reach” them, but it’s the one thing the Church can control and insist on, whereas talent is not the Church’s to give.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

            I disagree in that, I think anyone can be taught to give a respectable homily. They might not be regarded as a gifted speaker, but the bar can be raised considerably without blocking the vast majority from getting over it. Pursuing your analogies of music or athletics: not everyone is a “gifted” athlete or musician, but almost everyone can be taught to sing on key, play a simple instrument, and take part in either an organized team sport or be engaged in some kind of “self-competitive” athletic activity (swimming, weight-lifting, etc.).

            Thinking back to my days in the diaconate program: they spent 4 years trying to insure that the candidates were orthodox, or at least properly grounded in basic scripture and theology. Their homiletic preparation, on the other hand, was crammed into a single year, and from what I saw, did not do very much for them. At the time I sketched out some ideas for incorporating more training early on by developing their skills as lectors and prayer leaders. I suggested these to my fellow blogger Brett when he was organizing a training program for his diocese—Brett, did you ever implement any of my ideas?

      • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

        Some interesting information on the length of homilies: how long are the Pope’s?

  • Mark VA

    Welcome back, C-U – I truly mean it!

    Well, let me muster up a “Wisconsin Style” ditty for the occasion:

    Il Professore had a writer’s block,
    His qwertian muse got stuck,
    But now he’s back,
    In the Vox Nova’s shack!

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      Thank you Mark! And thank you for your versification!

  • brian martin

    Welcome back David. I have been worried as of late, that my favorite blog seems to be…..a shadow of it’s former self. I realize that there is a lot of expectation loaded into that comment, which is not my intent. I simply mean that I have looked forward to your commentary and that of the other bloggers. I also realize that people’s lives are busy and other things come up. Vox Nova has been the one blog that I check daily. So thanks to all of you, and please keep it up

  • Agellius

    Welcome back, David.

  • Tausign

    Welcome back! So good to hear from you. Based on our past association I would take this post to indicate that there indeed is a ‘tide’ rolling over you…very likely the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to play the amateur spiritual director, but there were a couple salient remarks you made that drew my attention.

    The sadness over the diaconate outcome. I too gave some consideration to the diaconate program and backed off. I’m glad because I realized that it didn’t really fit in with what I came to understand as ‘my calling’. St. Francis did seriously consider the monastic and apostolic form of life, but decided that the evangelical form was what God asked of him.

    I have no mouth, but I have to scream. The exasperation of being tongue tied or knotted up is significant and needs to be discerned as to why. There is some reason that you and Gabrielle are immersed in this parish ‘backwater’. Presuming that this in not misfortune or happenstance, what do you think is God’s plan?

    Fraternally yours.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      Thanks, Tausign. My sadness over the diaconate program probably needs to be unpacked with a spiritual director. But I can say that I have felt a calling for 25 years, but have been thwarted at every turn. I have never been able to discern what is behind this difference between subjective and objective realities—God, as is His wont, is playing His cards close to His chest. As for God’s broader plan, I can say that I am happier and more fulfilled professionally than I have felt in many years. I am doing good work and making a difference for both students and faculty here at UA. My spiritual director many years ago suggested that my vocation was indeed to be a mathematician and it has taken many years to sort out what that means and I am not sure that I fully understand what the implications are. Everything I do is, of course, the “work of God” (to steal a phrase), but perhaps there is more going on. As for my writer’s block: I am trying to work through it as best I can, in small steps. Keep commenting, and I will try to keep writing!

      • Tausign

        But I can say that I have felt a calling for 25 years, but have been thwarted at every turn. I have never been able to discern what is behind this difference between subjective and objective realities—God, as is His wont, is playing His cards close to His chest.

        That’s an interesting way to describe your conundrum. I’ve had similar concerns that involve a strong sense of ‘mission’ (i.e. advocacy, apostolic activities, formation) only to have much of my efforts fall short or meet indifference. I’ve learned to set aside disappointment, frustration and complaining and push ahead, but it always seemed that things should have turned out better when we consider the fraternal company we keep. In your case, you have every indication that your mission involves the diaconate ordination, but the Church won’t validate your path.

        A major insight happened (for me) when I read the following article: Evangelical and Apostolic Tensions. ( (Sorry, I forget how to link on WP) It’s a long article, but its classic Franciscan spirituality and it involves the charism that we already possess as a gift from God (who’s holding all the cards ;-). My hunch is that it’s truly germane to your concerns.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

          Thank you. A very long article indeed: I will print it out and give it a read.

  • Ronald King

    God!!! Sometimes when I read what I have written I think “What the #%*$!” It just doesn’t come out like it is in my head. Writing what I am thinking at times is not what I am thinking, I think. David, I agree with your spiritual director about your vocation being a mathematician. What it suggests to me is that your abilities reside in the concrete and the abstract areas of life. I’ve seen you express a tremendous amount of empathy over the years and I am not sure if you identify how that influences all of your interactions.
    What am I getting at? I am not sure. I do know that Christ and His Mother lived and sacrificed their lives because of their empathy for the suffering of all of us. Then there are many saints within and outside the faith who have done the same. Empathy requires that I must let go of something I want or have. When that happens sometimes it feels like a death.
    Well, so much for clarity.

  • Katherine

    Do please say more about your ideas about the Prodigal Son passage. I think you are on to something.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, OFS

      Thank you. I will try to get it in writing.