Silver is Gold

Twenty-five years ago today Miss Mary Griffith stood with me at the altar at St. Joseph’s Church in Washington, DC to exchange vows in holy matrimony.  After Communion, she joined me in praying a prayer of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Through our public vows we became husband and wife that day.  We held tight to Our Lady’s hand and have never looked back.

But on a day like today we realize anew that neither of us could have imagined the abundant and tender mercies of God that were hidden in our promises that fine Saturday: among them, five spectacular children, three miscarriages at 13 weeks, seven different homes, nine different jobs (including two traumatic changes), and now, our home at Ave Maria University and the privilege we share to walk among the loveliness of our students, faculty, colleagues and friends.

Mary and I were reflecting on these many graces at noon Mass today (by the way, Irish tenor Mark Forrest – one of the greats of our time – sang, and will return to sing at 7:30pm tonight in the Oratory and trust me when I tell you that you will be making a big mistake if you don’t go and experience his gift as he sings and prays in the shadow of the Blessed Sacrament).  Our hearts overflow with gratitude.

I once contemplated becoming a priest and in 1989 spent a year with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Tijuana where their seminary was founded.  Mary actually entered the convent and lived the consecrated life with the Missionaries of Charity for one year before the superior in the Bronx discerned she wasn’t called to the religious life (O happy fault!).  The fact that neither of us was called to this exalted life left us disappointed, as if we had been consigned by God to a second-class vocation.  And then we found each other and discovered how utterly blind we had been!

The vocation to marriage is a high calling!  It is rich with opportunities to grow, sacrifice, and as Mother Teresa urged, “love and give until it hurt.”  The call to holiness the Lord placed before us is different from the lofty life of a priest or nun, but no less demanding and rewarding.

Thomas Merton, the celebrated 20th century Trappist contemplative, once wrote that “the spiritual life, first of all, is a life.”  He was challenging all of us to immerse ourselves in the world and all of its joys and imperfections, and not spiritualize ourselves or daily circumstances. Life is indeed beauty.  As the Little Flower said, paraphrasing Romans 4, “everything is grace.”  That is true for moments of effortless delight like today, and also true when things get difficult, both in marriage and in life.

Fortunately, the crosses the Lord places before us are weighed with wisdom by a loving Father who alone knows what each of us can handle.  What is important is our steadfast faithfulness and our conviction to never quit and give up on His mercy and grace.  If we get up when we fall beneath the burdens and disappointments life offers, if we carry on with conviction and embrace the words of Jesus, “Take heart, I have overcome the world!” we arrive at moments where there is a penetrating clarity that indeed we are in the will of God, for better or worse, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

If you see my beloved Mary congratulate her on surviving 25 years with me!  She has earned her “get out of purgatory free” card!

She and I are so very grateful to all of you for your encouragement and acceptance of us.  We have felt so welcomed by you from the day we arrived on campus (next week will be the 6th anniversary of the announcement of my appointment as Ave Maria University’s president).  May we all discover in our individual vocations our good fortune to be together as members of one Body in Christ, in the glow of Our Lady’s love.

Alumni Spotlight: Jerome Cole (’16)

Jerome Cole graduated with honors from Ave Maria University in 2016 with a double major in Physics and Music, and a minor in Mathematics. He was accepted into the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he began earning his Master of Music degree in organ performance this past fall.

While at AMU, Jerome was involved with the student club Life Runners, an on-campus division of the National LIFE Runners organization, which aims to fight for and celebrate life through running, sacrifice, community, and prayer. As a former Eagle Scout, Jerome loves any outdoor activity.

Now as a graduate student in one of the nation’s top music schools, Jerome spends much of his time inside, studying and practicing. But his heart is still set on community, service, and prayer. “My particular interest lies in the field of sacred music,” he shares. “One of my goals is to bring people closer to Christ in the Holy Eucharist through a beautiful presentation of the musical elements of the Liturgy.”

At IU Jacobs School of Music, Jerome’s favorite class is an organ literature class with Dr. Christopher Young. “We are exploring the repertoire of the Renaissance and early Baroque,” he explains, “and learning much about early organ composers and performance practices. The class is harder than history classes I have previously taken, which has pushed me to improve and take my game to the next level, so to speak.” He hopes to begin entering organ competitions soon.

Reflecting on his time at AMU, Jerome recognizes the value of having received a foundation in the liberal arts through the Core Curriculum. “The importance of the Core Curriculum at Ave cannot be overlooked,” he states. “It is hard to pinpoint exactly how it helps one, but this is not the point; the point is that it forms the individual as a human being and does not treat one as a robot… I could accurately say I would not be the person I am today without having taken Latin, Philosophy, Theology and Literature—the best that has been said and done.” In a more practical way, he goes on, the amount of writing practice received through the many paper assignments, and the quality of writing expected, has given him some of the tools necessary for professional and academic success. “Writing is a skill necessary in any field of study, and one for which both employers and professors look,” Jerome adds.

Jerome has some advice for current students looking to follow a path similar to his: set clear goals, and work hard to achieve them. “You can do just about anything if you set your mind to it; you can come from a small music program at a liberal arts college and go to graduate school at one of the best music schools in the nation. Dream big and work hard.”

Conference Plenary Speaker Spotlight: Fr. Vincent Meconi

Fr. Vincent Meconi will be one of the plenary speakers at the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal’s conference, Mother Teresa and the Mystics: Toward a Renewal of Spiritual Theology. 

In his lecture, “Touching Jesus Today: The Mystical Body & Mother Teresa,” Fr. Meconi will situate St. Teresa of Calcutta in the glorious line of Christians who prayed and worked so as to meet Christ in Christ’s people, especially the poor.  How she structured her prayer life, her hope for liturgy, and her entire desire to be with the marginalized was all in order to meet the thirsty Jesus.  How she did that, how she appropriated key theological elements of the Church Fathers and Medieval Doctors, and why this is a call for all of us will be the major themes of this paper.

Fr. Meconi will give the closing address at 5:00 pm on Saturday, February 11th, in the Bob Thomas Student Union Ballroom.

In celebration of the canonization of Teresa of Calcutta in September 2016, the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University will take an in-depth look at the legacy of her life and writings in the context of the great mystics of the Catholic tradition as well as of spiritual theology, also known as ascetical and mystical theology.  The conference will bring together scholars from the across the sub-disciplines of theology and related fields to explore Mother Teresa’s life and writings in conversation with the broader tradition of Catholic mysticism and theology.