January 30, 2021

Did you know that a shark can smell blood in the water up to a third of a mile away?  Perhaps you have seen these maritime beasts attack when they finally come to their wounded prey – it is not a pretty sight!  Nevertheless, this natural phenomenon does offer an excellent warning for us, as we should not be naïve about the sharks in our lives who smell the blood of our emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds.  There are those, who, plagued by insecurity, desperately seek the consolation of another’s inner room (Mt 6:6) and intimacy with the Father (Jn 10:30).  Wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Mt 7:15) looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), they will win our trust, get us to expose our vulnerabilities, then go for the kill.  You and I must both take ownership of our relationship with the Father by inviting the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11) to stand guard and protect that sacred place.  In an unexpected twist, his blood not only repels the sharks, but nourishes them and invites them into intimacy with the Father in the peace and security of their own inner rooms.  As such, no one’s vocation in life is to be a shark or a victim, but, through Christ, all are destined to, together, become children of the Father forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica

Brother Conrad Heiser, C.S.C. (1860-1936)

John Heiser was born in Sterling, Illinois and entered Holy Cross in 1876 when he was sixteen.  Young though he was, his intellectual ability was soon recognized.  He professed his final vows in Austin, Texas in 1887.  After teaching for five years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Indiana doctors declared that his case was hopeless and told him to prepare for death.   His superior was not about to let this young and enthusiastic religious die and sent him to Austin, Texas where, with hard work and plenty of exercise, he managed to teach for another forty years.  Brother Conrad had an old broken-down shot gun in his room at St. Edward’s College [now University] and told many students that “that gun helped me to regain and keep my health.” He became an avid hunter with a dead eye. He frequently regaled students with the story of bagging 250 doves on a single day’s hunt, which was enough food for 200 students and faculty for dinner.  He also never failed to mention “that slaughter” was done long before the state legislature began to have regulations for the protection of wildlife. 

There are no records of exactly what courses Brother Conrad taught at the college, yet he was esteemed as a teacher.  During his 34 years at St. Edward’s his name became intimately bound up with the beginnings of Catholic education in Texas. When he left the university to return to Notre Dame, the following appeared in the St. Edward’s Echo:  “The example set by Brother Conrad is one that any of us might follow.  His was a life of service, dedicated wholly and entirely to the education of youth.  Although he expected to live but a short time, he refused to remain idle.  Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him will not soon forget Brother Conrad.  The gentle religious, with his flowing white beard, with his kind manner and his friendly greeting, was sincerely loved by all who knew him.” 

January 23, 2021

I once heard of a man who struggled with drinking too much.  His alcoholic tendencies just kept bringing his lips back to that bottle again and again.  After trying twelve step recovery groups, therapy and “taking the pledge,” he was cured of this problem in an instant when he heard the opening line to the Song of Songs for the first time: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, more delightful than wine is his love” (1:2).  That man never drank again after hearing these words.  Truly, it was as if a light bulb went off in his head, and he finally understood that he did not need that bottle, that taking is a fear-based spiritual posture that leads to death, and that by making the turn to the Beloved, out of whose very side life-giving wine eternally flows (Jn 19:34), we learn to receive and enjoy a life of partnership, trust and love.  Where do we put our lips?  What will it take for us to make that same turn in our lives?  When will we finally come to rest in the Beloved?  O Crux Ave, Spes Unica.

Father Louis Putz, C.S.C. (1909-1998)

The Proponent of the New Theology

Louis Putz was born in Simbach, Bavaria and at the age of nine, he decided to become a priest.  His aunt, a Holy Cross sister stationed in America, arranged for him to enter the Holy Cross minor seminary at Notre Dame.  He was 14 and spoke only German and French when he arrived at Ellis Island displaying a clothing tag which read “Deliver me to South Bend, Indiana.”  He entered the novitiate in 1927 and after graduating from Notre Dame in 1932 was sent to study theology in Paris where he was ordained in 1936.  He remained teaching in France until the outbreak of World War II when he returned to Notre Dame.  From 1940-1961 he was a teacher, a prefect, the director of Catholic Action and the president of Fides Press. Over the remainder of his life he was Superior of Moreau Seminary, Diocesan Director of Family Life Service and Director of Harvest House. For a while he worked with senior citizens at Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix.  Father Louis retired in 1995 moving to Holy Cross House in 1997.  His list of assignments is typical of a Holy Cross priest, yet Father Putz profoundly influenced American Catholics of his generation.

Father Putz’s years spent in France were “crucially” formative for him.  It was there that “…he was trained in the theology called ‘new’ yet which was thoroughly patristic in character—a theology which would be promulgated to the entire church thirty years later in Vatican II, along with the corresponding practice which emphasized the priesthood of all the faithful.”  His work with Young Christian Students prodded Notre Dame to admit people of color, re-cycle books for student use, open avenues of communication and publicity, and revise the residence hall system—all with the over-riding purpose of forming young men and women as lay apostles, that is, people whose lives radiated the gospel. 

In the sixties this work blossomed into a translation project designed to bring the “new theology” then animating Vatican II into the English-speaking world: Fides Publishers.  Provincial Father Howard Kenna asked Father Putz to guide Moreau Seminary into the church which Vatican II envisaged.  While doing this, he published the ground-breaking Seminary Education in a Time of Change, which proved to be a beacon for many religious congregations and dioceses. 

Father Louis’s life “…was a vision of faith opened up in his family, articulated in the ‘new theology’ he so vividly absorbed, the church: male and female, lay and clerical.”  He envisioned a church in which lay women and lay men—of all ages and with many different gifts and abilities—pool their talents as they work for the coming of God’s kingdom.”  He brought this ecclesiology to all of his many initiatives for over sixty years.  (Adapted from his community obituary 1998)

January 16, 2021

The word resurrection literally means “made standing again.”  In an American society that tells us that we ought pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, the thought of resurrection should attract and excite us.  How is it possible to pull ourselves up when we are worn down and beaten up by the many challenges of life in this world?  What power do we have over the fact of gravity?  And, is the act of pulling oneself up by bootstraps even possible? The conventional American mindset of building up riches for ourselves so that we might have the autonomy and the resources to always help ourselves results in a closed-off system that simply does not lead to life. The pattern of resurrection, however, is the exact opposite:  being poured out completely – as our Lord upon the Cross – and then being brought into new life by another.  Let’s therefore be like the lost son who admits that his life is a mess (Lk 15:17).  Let’s pour out all of our ego-delusion and become prepared to receive the saving power of God in our lives (Lk 15:18).  And from that low place, of stooping down to eat with the swine (Lk 15:16), let’s entrust ourselves to our loving Father who stands at the edge of his property (cf. Lk 15:20) and invites us to be raised up and stand with him forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Brother Cajetan (Austin) Gallagher, C.S.C. (1855-1928)

Caj, as he was called, was a simple soul. He was born in Avon, New York, and it was in 1881 when he began to care for Father Sorin’s princes in St. Edward Hall. He had charge of the Minims and was the male counterpart of Sister Aloysius Mulcaire. Brother Caj worked with the minims for 46 years until the school was terminated in 1927.

He marched around the campus of the University of Notre Dame with a sawed-off broom-handle, which he called his wand, and he would gently tap the ankles of his charges to keep them in line when they were out on a walk. Caj was so gentle that he seemed like a shepherd guarding his lambs.  Sister Aloysius was the disciplinarian!

Brother Cajetan was a man of piety and wrestled with God in prayer. Once, when Father Cavanaugh received a letter from a parent of one of the minims complaining that Caj was a man of uncommon profanity, he thought the matter worth investigation. So, he interrogated the minim, who volunteered the information that “Brother Cajetan swears after we go to bed at night.” Father Cavanaugh stationed someone to listen. After the children had retired, sure enough, sighs and groans emanated from the Brother’s chamber in awesome waves through the walls of his tiny cell: “Lord, God! Lord, God! be merciful to me, a sinner! Oh, God Almighty! have pity on me!” Father Cavanaugh expressed himself satisfied with Brother Cajetan’s profanity. He made the remark: “If Brother Cajetan’s prayers are not heard in heaven, they certainly have been heard on earth!” (Adapted from Scholastic 1885; Religious Bulletin 1928; and the South Bend News-Time 1928)

January 9, 2021

What does Jesus mean when he says that he will make his disciples “fishers of men” (Mt 14:9)?  Think about how the world works.  English teachers train young writers to start with a “hook” to get their readers’ attention.  A girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse may refer to their significant other as a great “catch.”  Companies hire marketing departments to “reel in” potential customers. All of that is well and good, simply part of the rhythm of life in the world, but Jesus wants to elevate our vocation to some nobler and more enduring vision of the human person.  Thus, he will take the same image of fishing, but change the rules of the game.  Instead of bait, he will ask us to give our very flesh and blood. Instead of trying to get something, he will invite us to give of ourselves. Instead of pulling others to us, he asks us to take the risk of going out to where they already are. To be a “fisher of men,” indeed, means that no fish will ever be too small, that there will never be one that gets away, that our “big fish story” will always impress, and that we will spend eternity “gone fishing” in the communion of saints.  In this way, we will discover that our salvation is synonymous with the miraculous catch that is constantly unfolding in the cosmos (cf. Jn 21:1-14).  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Father Daniel Spillard, CSC (1839-1926)

He Responded to Whatever He Was Called to Do

During his time as Prefect, Notre Dame took a very firm stance on temperance, and Father Spillard expelled seven students for trying to smuggle whiskey onto the campus. Almost simultaneously, he was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in South Bend. In 1874 he was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Austin, Texas, and he also ran offense for Father Sorin as the two priests attempted to sever the congregation from St. Mary’s College in Galveston. 

He returned to Notre Dame to serve as Master of Novices in 1883. In 1886 he was appointed superior of Holy Cross Seminary at Notre Dame, and in 1890 he was reappointed pastor of St. Patrick’s in South Bend.  In 1893, he was named the superior of the Community House at Notre Dame, and he was also appointed as the Vice President of the University of Notre Dame, the Prefect of Religion and as a professor of Ecclesiastical History.

From 1896-1912, Father Spillard began his only long tenure of office as President of Holy Cross College and pastor of Sacred Heart Church both in New Orleans. He returned to Notre Dame in 1912 and acted as assistant chaplain at St. Mary’s through 1923. He then retired to the Community House where he died on February 12, 1926.  (Adapted from Hope, Father Arthur Notre Dame—One Hundred Years)

January 2, 2021

Rejoice!  It is the start of a new year!  How might we consecrate the next three hundred and sixty-five days to the Lord and thus grow as disciples of Jesus?  Here is an idea:  Carry a rosary in your pocket and literally grasp onto the Cross throughout the day.  When we are commuting to work and anxieties fill our mind, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are waiting in line at the grocery store or the bank, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are having a difficult phone conversation or are receiving bad news in an email, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  When we are driving around on a lazy Saturday morning doing errands, reach in and grasp onto the Cross.  We spend our days reaching out and grabbing onto all sorts of things – for good or for bad – as our first parents did (Gen 3:6), but if we learn to get into the habit of reaching for the Cross, there is a guaranteed outcome, namely, we will slowly become conformed to that crucified figure through the course of the year – open, trusting, loving, good.  Let’s therefore not be afraid; let’s not live with sleepy hearts; let’s make the effort; let’s take the risk; let’s make this the decisive year of the Cross.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica!