‘This man speaks with authority’

I attended a Communion and Liberation gathering tonight after work at Saint Matthew the Apostle. I read Fr. Luigi Guissani’s “Christ, God’s Companionship with Man” earlier this summer. Tonight we discussed this excerpt from Who Is This Man?” on authority:

The most important factor for a people as a people, for a companionship as a companionship, is what we call “authority.”

There is a deep need for us to tear down, down to the last stone, the image we have of a “robotic” authority or leadership, almost as if it were a person, [as if] it were people closed up in a tower, directing, sending down signals, directing how things go from above.

Authority, leadership, is the exact opposite of power; there is not even a
trace, not a hint, of the word “power.” Consequently, there is a total absence 10 regarding the concept of authority in the people of God, at any level. There is a complete absence of any glint of fear: because fear goes along with power, and to free oneself from fear, you have to defiantly disregard power. What is this authority? I will give a definition. [Authority] is the place–because you, too, are a place, right? A person is a place–it is the place where that battle to affirm, the battle of the prophecy and its verification, the place where that battle and the verification that our proposal, which is Christ’s proposal, is a response to what is perceived in the heart… authority is the place where the battle to affirm, and the verification to confirm that Christ’s proposal, is true, meaning it is a response to the perception, to the needs of one’s heart (to the religious sense, which is given by the needs of one’s heart, and assesses the response placed in front of it) is clearer and simpler–so it does not breed fear–it is more peaceful. Authority is the place where the verification that compares the perception, the needs of one’s heart, and the response given in the message of Christ, is clearer and simpler, and therefore is more peaceful.

A line from Pasolini, one that I have quoted often lately, says that men are not educated, that young people are not educated: if someone educates them, it is with his being, and not with lectures.

Authority is the place where the connection between the needs of the heart and the response Christ gives is clearer, simpler, and more peaceful. [This] would suggest that authority is a way of being, not a font of discourse. Lectures are part of what makes up one’s being, but only as a reflection. To summarize, authority is a person who, when you see them, you can see how what Christ says corresponds to your heart. This is what guides a people.

Now, the second idea: the problem is not following… The problem is following, but it is not described completely or best by the word “following:” it is better described by the world “sonship.” An authority has sons and daughters. A son receives his family tree from his father. He makes it his own; he is made up of that family tree his father gives him, he is made up of his father. Therefore, he is entirely absorbed. Authority absorbs all of me. It is not a word I fear or dread or that I follow. It absorbs me. The word, “authority,” then, … the word “authority” could have as its synonym the word “paternity,” meaning generativity, generation, the communication of a genus, communicating a living family tree. That living family tree is my “I” which is overtaken and made different by this relationship.

The word “authority,” which coincides with the word “paternity,” is followed by the word “freedom.” It generates freedom. Being a son or daughter is freedom. The Gospel, in fact, says this at various points. “Tell me,” Jesus says to Peter, “is it the king’s son who pays the tribute? No, it is the servants, because what belongs to a father belongs to his son.”

Therefore, authority is true, or truly experienced as such, when it ignites my freedom, when it ignites my personal awareness and personal responsibility, my personal awareness and responsibility.

This means, as someone rightly observed, that when Jesus turned and said, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Christ’s questions moved Pe- ter from a logic of friendship–before he was a friend, an acquaintance–to a responsibility of his personal awareness, to the order of personal responsibility. It was his responsibil- ity when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God;” in that moment, the friendship he had with Christ became…it was suddenly illuminated by personal awareness and responsibility, of awareness and responsibility that expressed that awareness.

There is no relationship with a place of authority, with the person who is an authority, if you do not feel your freedom bursting forth as personal awareness and personal responsibility.

Third: if authority, then, is such a source of freedom, it becomes a place of comfort and makes the entire companionship, the entire people a place of comfort. In what sense? A place of comfort because, if I see a person in whom Christ has conquered, conquers, claims and convinces, it shows how He corresponds to the needs of the heart. If someone shows me, is proof of this to me; if in seeing a person I understand that this is happening in him, then I begin to understand that this also happens for the companionship. So then–no matter how I feel, no matter what mood I am in, whether I have taken many steps or just a few–I am filled with comfort: “Your precepts bring joy to the heart,” bring comfort, because Christ conquers.

Authority is the place it is evident that Christ conquers. What does it mean that Christ conquers? That Christ demonstrates, even in appearances, even in the realm of appearances, He demonstrates that He corresponds, He corresponds to the needs of the heart in a persuasive, a prophetic way. The same will happen for me, too. It seems impossible. For that other per- son who is an authority, it was impossible, but now it is possible; it is a reality. Christ conquers.

Authority, then, is a place of paternity where new life–the life in which Christ responds to one’s heart, [to] that for which man is made, where Christ responds to man’s heart–is more transparent, clearer and more transparent. This is true authority. This means the old woman who puts the coins in the treasury of the Temple can be an authority, even more than the head of the Pharisees.

This paternal, generative authority makes itself visible in the experience of greater freedom, personal awareness and personal responsibility, so that even if everyone went away, if everyone was out of the picture, if everyone else betrayed–as one really beautiful quote that I read at the last day of the year, the first day of the year–if everyone else betrayed, I would still say to you, “Yes!” This is personal awareness and responsibility. And because of this, authority is a place of comfort, where you see that Christ conquers. And, in this way, authority completes its true mandate, because it exalts the people, it helps you understand that the entire people, the entire companionship is the place where Christ conquers.

Improving your career

Scott Young writes on obvious ways to improve your career:

I’m not a singer, and I don’t even work in the music industry.

So, lacking specifics, I gave the advice that was obvious to me: you need to locate people who are 2-3 steps ahead of you in the kind of career you want to have. You need to talk to these people, not just random people on the internet you admire, to map out how your career actually works.

This seems obvious in retrospect, but it actually happens a lot.

In early pilots for our course, Top Performer, Cal and I had students work through an exercise of interviewing someone in their field for career advice. One person decided he wanted to pick Tim Ferriss, even though he was working an engineering job.

The problem is that Tim Ferriss isn’t an engineer. He’s an author, podcaster and investor. If you’re not in one of those fields, the advice Tim could give (if he was gracious enough for an interview) would have to be restricted to the highly generic.

In fact, even if you are an author, podcaster or investor, it may not be the case that Tim Ferriss will offer super helpful advice. Why? Because Tim Ferriss is incredibly famous! For most people, Tim Ferriss isn’t 2 or 3 steps ahead, but instead more like a dozen or more. His advice for a new podcaster is going to be hampered by the fact that when he launched his podcast, he was already a minor celebrity. A lot of his personal experiences won’t translate to someone just getting started today.

His “strategy and map” concept and “three obvious career mistakes” are worth understanding.

Running the Key Bridge

I caught an early flight from South Bend this morning, passed through Chicago, and arrived back in Washington late morning. The snow flurries at Notre Dame motivated me to get out for a run before the weather turns definitively cold here, and in coming back across the Key Bridge I looked out on this scene.

Pairing this photo with something from John Gardner, where he writes on personal and organizational renewal. Excerpted from his 1990 remarks to McKinsey:

I’m going to talk about “Self-Renewal.” One of your most fundamental tasks is the renewal of the organizations you serve, and that usually includes persuading the top officers to accomplish a certain amount of self-renewal. But to help you think about others is not my primary mission this morning. I want to help you think about yourselves.

I take that mission very seriously, and I’ve written out what I have to say because I want every sentence to hit its target. I know a good deal about the kind of work you do and know how demanding it is. But I’m not going to talk about the special problems of your kind of career; I’m going to talk about some basic problems of the life cycle that will surely hit you if you’re not ready for them.

I once wrote a book called “Self-Renewal” that deals with the decay and renewal of societies, organizations and individuals. I explored the question of why civilizations die and how they sometimes renew themselves, and the puzzle of why some men and women go to seed while others remain vital all of their lives. It’s the latter question that I shall deal with at this time. I know that you as an individual are not going to seed. But the person seated on your right may be in fairly serious danger.

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.

Notre Dame 2019 Fall Conference concludes

Notre Dame’s 2019 Fall Conference came to a conclusion tonight after a full few days considering the theme, “I Have Called You Friends.” Archbishop Borys Gudziak’s talk was one of my favorites, alongside Stanley Hauerwas on, “To Be Befriended: A Meditation on Friendship and the Disabled”:

In between talks, conference calls, and meetings I made time to pray and walk the campus, which is beautiful in autumn:

‘I Have Called You Friends’

I’m settled in South Bend, Indiana for Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture’s “I Have Called You Friends” Fall Conference:

This year’s conference will explore the theme of friendship, from its ancient understanding as “the crown of life and the school of virtue” (C.S. Lewis) to the present day. What does it mean to make the good of another one’s own, and what might be the implications of losing such an understanding of friendship in the modern world? In the interdisciplinary spirit of the Fall Conference, the dCEC will engage these themes from a wide array of fields of inquiry, including theology, philosophy, political theory, law, history, economics, and the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, literature, and the arts.

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture is committed to sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition through teaching, research, and dialogue, at the highest level and across a range of disciplines. Our Fall Conference is the most important academic forum for fruitful discourse and exchange among the world’s leading Catholic thinkers and those from other traditions, and is the largest annual interdisciplinary event at Notre Dame. Recent past speakers include Nobel Laureate James Heckman, Alasdair MacIntyre, John Finnis, Mary Ann Glendon, Rémi Brague, Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel, and Jean Bethke Elshtain.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has boo man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”

Looking forward to the next few days and connecting or reconnecting with many good people.

Seven keys to a happy marriage

Since coming to Washington, I’ve become closer to Opus Dei and its focus on the sanctification of daily life, the universal call to holiness. This feature from Opus Dei on “seven keys” to a the happy marriage, written from the perspective of a son, is beautiful:

Tomás and Paquita Alvira, two of the earliest married members of Opus Dei, strove to attain sanctity as a married couple and in their role as parents.

Tomás Alvira was one of a group of young men who crossed the Pyrenees Mountains on foot with Saint Josemaría Escrivá during the Spanish Civil War, fleeing anti-Catholic persecution to escape to a zone where they could practice their faith. In 1939, Tomás married Paquita Dominguez, and together the couple sought to live their vocation to marriage to the full. They had nine children and were held in high esteem by those who knew them for their example of love and generosity. Their cause of canonization was opened in 2009.

In what follows, their son Rafael Alvira describes seven ways his parents cared for their marriage and educated their children through their example. …

1. Eagerness to love. My parents preserved their eagerness to love one another right to the end of their lives. A friend of one of my sisters told her that she was envious of my parents, because she would see them walking in the street and could tell that they still loved each other like when they were dating. As the years went by, my parents had the same eagerness that they had the day they got married, and their love was always increasing.

2. Attentiveness to others. They had a great capacity to be attentive to others. For example, both of them would open the door for me when I arrived. My mother gave each of her children a kiss when we got home. We saw it as a normal thing.

3. Teaching by example. My parents were convinced that the decisive factor in education is the atmosphere in which it takes place, and that the best pedagogy is indirect. The good example they gave us was very influential. This is how they passed on the faith to us. For example, they went to Mass and we saw them taking part with a devotion that left a mark on us. They showed us what God’s love means by winning us over with affection; they sacrificed themselves without saying anything in order to help us. And their spirit was contagious.

4. Teaching the kids to love each other. Both of them encouraged us to love each other a lot as brothers and sisters. This is something that continues being true today. I have one brother and six sisters (my oldest brother died when he was 5 years old).

5. Having a big heart. Both of my parents had a very big heart. Having a heart is not so easy. My father had a hard time correcting any of his children, but he realized that if he didn’t do it, it would cause us harm. He corrected us without offending us. To really love, you have to have a heart. And the same happened with my father’s students. They realized that he loved them; they felt loved and were grateful.

6. Fostering friendship. My parents had many family friends, and we became very much a part of these families. They also invited our friends to our house a lot. They knew all our friends. They brought them into our home and let them experience our family atmosphere. It is not enough for parents to raise their children well: they also need to get to know their children’s friends. Otherwise, the good education they give can be ruined by bad friendships the children make.

7. Respect for freedom. My parents always had a great respect for our freedom. They never pushed us to make a specific decision. For example, at home my parents prayed the rosary every day. But they never forced us to pray it with them. They prayed it attentively, and although they invited us to join them, they never imposed it on us or insisted that we take part.

‘The more their individuality becomes pronounced’

Fr. George Rutler writes on the source of creativity:

It is surprising that Michelangelo carved what he claimed was an ancient Roman sculpture of “Eros Sleeping,” which he aged by rubbing it with acidic soil. He did this when he was 21, possibly as a joke, around the same time that he made the Pietà, so he certainly was not lacking talent.

A friend asked me why forgeries are less valuable than originals, if it is hard to tell them apart. The question can be annoying, but it has a certain logic. The answer, of course, is that the value of a work consists not only in its artistry, but in its originality. In that sense, what we call creativity is a gift of God who alone is the Source of all things, including life itself. Only God is the primary Creator, and humans are his pro-creators. We cannot produce something out of nothing.

The more individuals allow God, by a right exercise of the free will, to shape their souls according to his likeness, the more their individuality becomes pronounced. This is the work of “sanctifying grace” by which God “perfects human nature,” as Saint Thomas described the process (Summa Theol. 1, 1, 8 ad. 2). The Anti-Christ cannot create, and so he tries to make human forgeries, by sin. The more people block the will of God, the more they become uninspired copies of each other. This is why sinners are predictable, while saints are always surprising. No two saints are alike.

A figure of speech, synecdoche, uses one word, as part of something, to represent the whole. Forgers are synecdoches of all sinners who pretend to be creative instead of letting God work through them. The month of November focuses on the saints, who are not cleverly crafted imitations, but who are authentic images of God who “alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).

“The more individuals allow God, by a right exercise of the free will, to shape their souls according to his likeness, the more their individuality becomes pronounced.”

All Saints

I woke up this morning to the chill air of November 1st, and walked down Dumbarton Street to Epiphany for All Saints Day Mass. Opus Dei’s “Like a Great Symphony” explains All Saints Day:

Saints attract in a wonderful way! The life of a person who has struggled towards identification with Christ is a great “apologia” for the faith. Their powerful light shines in the midst of the world. If sometimes it seems that human history is governed by the kingdom of darkness, possibly this is due to these lights shining less brightly or in fewer number. “These world crises are crises of saints,” as Saint Josemaria said. The contrast between their light-filled existence and the darkness around them may be great. In fact, many of them suffered misunderstandings or hidden or even open persecution, as happened to the Word Incarnate: the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. Despite all this, experience shows the great appeal the saints have. In many sectors of society, people admire the witness of a strong and completely coherent Christian life. The lives of the saints show us how being close to our Lord fills the heart with peace and joy, and how we can spread serenity, hope and optimism around us, while being open to the needs of others, especially the least fortunate. …

As we read in the book of Revelation, the saints form a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues. This multitude includes the saints of the Old Testament, such as the just man Abel and the faithful patriarch Abraham; those of the New Testament; the many martyrs of the early times of Christianity, and the blessed and saints of all time. This is the great family of God’s children, formed by those who model their life under the impulse of the eternal sculptor, the Holy Spirit. …

A contemporary French writer says that the saints are like “the colors of the spectrum in relation to the light.” Each one expresses with his or her own tones and radiance the light of divine holiness. It is as though the radiance of Christ’s Resurrection, in passing through the prism of mankind, opens up a spectrum of colors as varied as it is fascinating. “When the Church keeps the memorials of martyrs and other saints during the annual cycle, she proclaims the Paschal mystery in those ‘who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all men to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she begs for God’s favors’ (Vatican II, Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 104).” …

The content of the collects is quite rich and varied. Thus, for example, on the memorial of Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More (June 22), we ask to confirm with the witness of our life the faith we profess (what Saint Josemaria would call unity of life); or we ask to have apostolic zeal like that of Saint Francis Xavier (December 3); or to live the mystery of Christ especially by contemplating his Passion as did Saint Catherine of Siena (April 29); or to have our heart enkindled with the fire of the Holy Spirit on the day of Saint Philip Neri (May 26). On other occasions we ask for gifts and graces for the Church: the fruitfulness of the apostolate on the memorial of Saint Charles Luwanga and his martyr companions (June 3); to have shepherds to the measure of Christ’s heart, on the feast of Saint Ambrose (December 7); or to trustingly open our hearts to Christ’s grace, as Saint John Paul II asked of us (October 22). On the memorial of Saint Juan Diego (December 9) we contemplate our Lady’s love for her people, and on that of Saint Agatha (February 5) we are reminded of how pleased God is with the virtue of purity.

These examples, which could be multiplied many times, show us that the prayers we offer on the feasts of the saints are a very rich resource for our personal prayer on that day. They can help us to address our Lord spontaneously with specific phrases during our hours of work and rest that day. Precious gems of unique beauty, some of these prayers have been prayed for many centuries, like jewels inserted into the liturgical celebrations of Christian Tradition. As we pray them, we are praying as so many generations of Christians have prayed. The memorials and feasts of the saints celebrated throughout the year offer us the opportunity to get to know a bit better these powerful intercessors before the Blessed Trinity, and to “make new friends” in heaven. …

The saints, “being touched by God’s word have, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs.” Just as the star from the East guided the Magi to their personal encounter with Christ, so the saints help us like the North Star in the night sky, to reach the land to which we aspire. …

Celebrating the feastdays of the saints forcefully reminds us of the universal call to holiness. Helped by God’s grace, all men and women can correspond fully to the loving invitation to participate in divine Life, each in our specific circumstances. As Pope Francis said: “Often we are tempted to think that sainthood is reserved only to those who have the opportunity to break away from daily affairs in order to dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer. But it is not so! Some think that sanctity is to close your eyes and to look like a holy icon. No! This is not sanctity! Sanctity is something greater, deeper, which God gives us. Indeed, it is precisely in living with love and offering one’s own Christian witness in everyday affairs that we are called to become saints.”

Last night I took part in the Vigil of All Saints at the Dominican House of Studies across from Catholic University. It was a powerful way to remember the saints and to reflect on the call to holiness:

Held on All Hallows Eve, the Vigil will have as its theme “Confessions of Our Hope.” The evening will provide the opportunity to ponder the theme of Christian hope through readings from the saints, the Office of Compline (sung Night Prayer), a procession to the House Reliquary, and a chanted Litany of the Saints. Confessions will be available throughout the evening and a reception will follow.

Afterwards we had the chance to venerate a first class relic of Saint Augustine, which was incredible. I’ve been reading and thinking about him throughout most of this past year.

Bishop Barron in Washington

Bishop Robert Barron has spent the past few days in Washington, speaking to members of Congress, staff, and others:

Lawmakers must rediscover their call by God to pursue justice, Bishop Robert Barron told members of Congress and staff on Tuesday.

“In Catholic theology truth itself, goodness itself, justice itself, are simply names for God,” Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, said to an audience of members of Congress, staff, and others at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

The bishop told legislators that they were right to think of their role pursuing justice through public service as a vocation, and they were really called by God to do so.

“When you were seized by a passion for justice, I would say you were called by God at that moment,” Barron said. …

There are three transcendentals that culture is based upon, Barron said, the “true,” the “good” and the “beautiful.” Politics, he said, is especially connected to the “good.”

Barron exhorted members of Congress “to find it, to fight for it, to propagate it.”

“What animates that work?” he asked rhetorically of the pursuit of the “good” of those in public service. “It’s a passion of justice that lies at the bottom of the soul,” he said.

God called those in public service through a desire for justice, he said, emphasizing the need for “bringing our lives into harmony with the integrity and beauty of that call” where “everything I do is about serving justice.”

That, he warned, might make members “unpopular,” “less rich,” or see them “attacked.” However, he added, “The way you measure life now is how you respond to this call.”

And last night Bishop Barron spoke to a few hundred people on the past, present, and future of Word on Fire near Union Station, where I met him after his remarks:


Bishop Barron has been a spiritual support for me for years. An honor to meet him tonight. Pray for our priests and religious.

Living alone

John Cuddeback writes on “living as a household of one:”

The fact is that many people today end up living in a house alone. Sometimes it is by choice. Other times it is surely not, and the house has echoes of people who were there in the past, or whom the inhabitant dearly wishes, even if in the abstract and unknowing, might one day live there.

To ‘come home’ just to oneself can be very difficult. It can even make one wonder—what’s the point? One might wish that one’s own household would simply cease to exist, and perhaps be absorbed into someone else’s. Then I’d really be at home, when ‘we’ are at home, together.

A household is always about sharing life together. And so a home can be a living contradiction—even if many people are actually there. Real living together requires more than being under the same roof.

Thought it doesn’t always feel like it, a signal gift in human life is the existence of others with whom we share human nature. Shared humanity is the basis for shared life, for living together in various rich ways. The household is the specifically human way of living together on a daily basis.

So what then of a household of one?

I live alone, and I often find it lonely. But Cuddeback writes on how to live alone while preparing a home that can welcome others.