19 December 2009

What am I discerning? (UPDATED 2.0)

Several faithful HancAquam readers have written to ask if I am discerning whether or not to continue blogging. . .

No, that's not what I am discerning.  HancAquam will continue on. . .

I'm discerning questions around the future of my ministry here in Rome.  I will not be teaching in the spring as I had hoped.  In fact, there will be no teaching for me here until (and if) I finish the Ph.D.  That could be two years or more. 

I came to Rome with the distinct impression that I would be able to teach as a junior member of the faculty with the license only.  Once here I discovered that the Vatican had signed the Bologna Accords (yet another power-grab by the E.U. statists to create a federalized Europe) and now pontifical universities can only allow as teaching faculty those with Ph.D.'s in their respective fields.  So, now I have to get the Ph.D.

Recently, I learned that I wouldn't even be able to teach as a "graduate assistant" w/o the doctorate.  None of the license exams can be taken until the French translation exam is passed.  And there's almost no chance that I will pass that in Jan.  So, all my rushing to complete the license this semester has been in vain.  Well, not entirely. . .at least the thesis is more or less done.

My discernment question is:  are my gifts being used here?  At U.D. I was able to teach in the two fields in which I have competence--English and theology.  I celebrated Mass four or five times a week, preaching at all of them.  I heard confessions and did a lot of spiritual direction.  In other words, I was a priest who also happened to teach at a Catholic university.  My gifts were being used. . .sometimes to the stretching point!  But here?  Not so much.  It's not clear to me why anyone needs to be a priest to do what I am doing here now.

Don't get me wrong. . .I love the time I have to read and write, and learning is one of my passions.  Truly, it is a luxury.  But I joined the Dominicans to be a preacher not a professor. . .or maybe a preacher who is also a professor.  Had I wanted to spend my life as an academic I could have done so w/o becoming a priest or a Dominican.

The other issue is the need the Order has for Dominican professors in our international centers of study, especially in philosophy.  We are drowning in theologians and canon lawyers!  But Dominican philosophers are as hard to find as my skills in foreign languages and math.

On top of all this navel-gazing, I rec'd three other bits of unsettling news yesterday . None of which I can share.  All of which are hitting me with an odd combination of vocation-questioning power.

Anyway, please pray for me.  None of this is meant to be final. . .just thinking and praying and ruminating out loud.  I'll do what is needed of me. . .but I'm searching for a way to understand it all.

UPDATE:  A commenter below notes--quite rightly--that two years isn't all that long to wait to teach.  I say "quite rightly" for a normal grad student.  Though bad choices, bad luck, circumstance, accident, and sheer force of will, I've spend most of my adult life as a student:

1982-86 (BA)
1986-88 (MA)
1988-94 (ABD on PhD)
1994-99 (psych hospital staff)
1999-00 (OP novice)
2000 (PhD finished)
2000-05 (seminary: MDiv)
2005-08 (at U.D.)
2008-pres (working on PhL)

Let's do the math:  Started college at 18 y.o. I'm 45 y.o. now.  I've spent 19 yrs of those 27 years between 1982 and now as a student.  Can I get an AMEN on "I've been a student too long!"  :-)  And, yes, I know. . .good Dominicans are life-long students.  But there's a big difference btw being an enrolled student and Being a Student.  I could take my father's advice:  "Shut up and enjoy it.  They could make you go to work!"  HA!

UPDATE 2.0:  Something else just occurred to me. . .if you are a professional (doctor, lawyer, teacher, banker, etc.) imagine spending ALL of your time with other doctors, lawyers, teacher,s bankers, etc.  I mean, ALL of your time.  You live with them.  Eat with them.  Go to church with them.  All of your mundane, daily tasks are done in the midst of them.  Perhaps I am just longing to be around everyday Catholics. . .


  1. It seems as though the Vatican should not have signed the Balogna Accords, for now the Vatican is beholden to the authority of mere mortal man instead of being devoted to the Authority of Christ Jesus. But this is an old political problem that occurs because the Church is also a "State" in the secular sense of the word.

    In reality, the EU Statists should have nothing to say about what's done at ANY Pontifical University. It's none of the EU's business. But if the EU can force all Pontifical University teachers to be PhD's, then how long will it be before the EU forces all such PhD's what to teach, e.g., gay marriage and the right to choose are inherent civil rights, but freedom of worship must be done in a closet, not have any influence in the public square.

    PS, No offense is intended to those who work hard to earn PhDs and go on to exercise their talents, but some of the best instructors I have had in my field of nuclear energy were old-time technicians and operators who actually DID things, not armchair academics playing around with reactor kinetic equations. I can't imagine this would be any different, but maybe it is.

  2. God bless, Father. We'll keep praying.

  3. Father Powell..I will hold you in my prayers. Such difficult decisions for you. A thought from a 72 y/o grandmother who has seen many changes in the Church she loves....so many parishes are in such dire need of a parish priest these days. My dear Father Iannuzzi has gone back to Rome to finish his PhD so we are left sharing priests with four other churches. We all miss him.
    I think it must be a wonderful thing to be able to study in Rome, earn advanced degrees..
    but I often wonder if the Church forgets those of us who love the Eternal Father and his gift to us, his Blessed Son.

    May God guide you in these difficult times..

  4. Besides my daily prayers, I have little to offer in your discernment other than that, as someone much your senior, 2 years is really not very long...

  5. Prayers to Our Lady and St Dominic for their intercession for you Father.
    God Bless!

  6. Father,

    Just a thought. As you seek to learn what God is calling you to do, do not forget the blessings of the Internet. You reach an amazing number of people through this forum. God may giving you the time you need to really reach and preach to many more.

    God Bless and Keep You

  7. Of course I'll pray for your discernment, but my gut feeling is that you should stop whining and listen to your daddy.

  8. I'm there for you Padre'. You make a difference, never forget that. You've been a blessing for me in my walk. So, I thnak God for you.

  9. Chris Seeber1:42 PM


    Go ahead and admit the real problem: You have to learn French. So much for your conservative "street cred!"


    Chris Seeber

  10. Chris Seeber2:02 PM


    My apologies, it was supposed to be a joke. Remember when France was the enemy of the free world and euphimisms such as "freedom fries" and "freedom toast" were part of the lexicon (don't forget Homer Simpson's "Stupid French")? I thought being a big conservative, politically speaking, you'd appreciate the humor. No disrepect intended.

    Chris Seeber

  11. Chris, ooooooooh. I didn't take it as disrespectful. Just didn't understand it. :-)

  12. Victoria5:04 PM

    So father, are you discerning whether to leave the priesthood or whether to leave the Dominicans and become a parish priest?

  13. Father,
    As another commentator stated, don't underestimate the good you are doing through your blog. You preach, teach and explain things very clearly and simply. Thank you! I will keep you in my prayers that your discernment will lead you toward what God wants you to do. I must admit it would be so cool to have you back in the states - maybe to travel and preach to those of us not lucky enough to live in your province.

  14. Marion (Mael Muire)6:51 PM

    Fr. Powell,

    May I propose that there may be times that one's own views about how one ought to be using one's gifts may vary from the Lord's view? That sometimes the Lord may want us to "lie fallow" - so to speak - for a season so that we may rest up for some very large undertaking? That we may learn humility? That we may learn to trust in Him better? That we may be an instrument of salvation to some other person who happens to reside in the very place we are doubting we should be?

    Sometimes His ways and our ways aren't the same. Don't rush this. Forty-five is still quite young in "Saint Years."

  15. Thank you for you encouragement, prayers, and kicks in the habit! I need the all...

    Victoria, NO! :-) I am a Dominican through and through...just discening a question about whether or not being in Rome as a student is what I am supposed to be doing.

  16. nope, you're wasted in rome. absolutely. so get your butt back to Dallas where I can at least feed you regularly and you can come kick the demons from my house every now and again!

    remember...I have Blue Bell AND homemade chocolate chip cookies!

  17. Mom:

    Get thee behind me, Devil Woman!


  18. Why are you Americans so afraid of the EU? Are you worried that a federalised Europe will challenge the USA's hegemony? Incidentally, Churchill, that arch-conservative, believed in a United Europe.

  19. Crux, I don't fear a united Europe. As an American living in Europe I can see many excellent things about the arrangement: one currency, easy travel, etc. However, I distinguish btw a united Europe and the EU. Europe can be united in a hundred different ways that do not require sovereign nations to cede their power to Belgian bureaucrats with control issues. Basically, Americans hate gov't and generally think the less there is of it the better. The kind of expensive, intrusive, bullying social "democracies" that make up the EU would be unable to sustain their excesses if the US were pull out its military and foreign aid support. Let's not forget who created a united Europe after WWII. It wasn't the French, Germans, or Italians. It was the UK and the US.

    As B.O. reduces the US to socialist nanny state, Americans are going to revolt. I just hope they do it at the ballot box.

  20. The Holy Spirit just told me your plans: DSPT for the academic year, and repeating Latin Hell at Cal during the summers.

    Obviously, you have upset God. ;)

  21. Repeat Latin!? O Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me!!!?

    DSPT would be fun, however.

  22. Prayers for discernment arise. There is a time for everything, including being a student, and being a teacher.

  23. Michelle, thanks for the prayers!

    I lack the hard discipline necessary to being an excellent student. I learn best while teaching.

  24. If you think Obama is a socialist you obviously haven't encountered any real socialists.

    Furthermore, I don't understand how US military aid facilitates "intrusive, bullying social democracies" as you put it. There is now no need for a US military presence in Europe (if there ever was) so, I for one, would be glad to see US Army, Navy and Air Force pack up and go. I have no doubt that many Americans feel the same.

    Wishing you a Happy and Holy Christmas. Pax Christi maneat semper tecum.

  25. Crux, if US military aid to the EU were withdrawn the member states would have to take on the burden. One reason most of the EU states can afford (and I use the word loosely) such extravagant social welfare policies is that the US is saving their gov'ts lots of money by providing military security. Not to mention the excellent business of US soldiers, sailors, etc.

    I would vote tomorrow for the complete withdrawal of all US military bases in the EU. Of course, when Vladmir Putin starts peeking over the Urals at the easy-pickings, we'd just have to move back in.

  26. The only people who lose out when US bases are closed are prostitutes and taxi drivers. This is my experience as a customs officer dealing with a US Navy base in Scotland (now closed) and that of my cousin, a missionary priest in the Philippines. Just about all supplies (including fresh milk!) for the PX stores are shipped in from the States so the contribution to the local economy is minimal. There is also the question of children, fathered by absentee US personnel, subsidised by UK tax payers. If a serviceman tells his superior officer that he has got a girl "into trouble" he can be assured of a posting Stateside. Thereafter it is extremely difficult to get any recompense from him. Visiting US personnel also are guilty of treating local laws with impunity. By virtue of an instrument called the Visiting Forces Act, US personnel can elect for court martial rather than trial by local justice. This has resulted in derisory sentences eg a fine of $100 for causing death by drunken driving. US forces are also a source of drugs.When the US Navy base I refer to closed the local street price of marijuana jumped by 200%.

    The Soviet (now Russian) menace is a mere bogeyman. It never really existed. They couldn't control the satellites they had. Why would they want to take on more?

  27. Fr. P -
    I really think you need to come back to Memphis and take Fr. Daniels place here at St. Benedict High School.


    (by the way, I am starting the novena to St. Martin De Porres today for you)

  28. Fr. Philip,

    Your angst must be alleviated by so many caring, prayerful friends, readers, followers and those that have benefited from your previous ministries (esp. at UD). I am certainly not going to offer you advice which appears to be as plentiful as Cubans in Miami (no protests please...I am a Cuban from Miami). What I will do is join my prayers to the many who are interceding for illumination from the Holy Spirit. Now let me tell you what I'd do if I were in your shoes...(just kidding). Prayers for guidance and peace in whatever decision you make.

    Fr. Gerald J.M. Mendoza, OP

  29. Anonymous1:39 AM

    DSPT has Cathleen Kaveny giving a lecture at the moment :( what was the last thing she said I think it was something derogatory about the Manhattan Declaration or something I forget maybe that was her partner in crime Kmiec.

    Why doesn't she just accept a diplomatic post to Wales already?

  30. Anonymous3:19 PM

    Well Brother,
    asking relative if not complete strangers advice hardly squares with the good Aristotelian/Thomist tradition of seeking counsel from only a few wise people lest you end up not knowing which way to turn!
    But here are my two bits. (Afterwards your Superiors will have their say, and I hope for your sake they care enough and are lucid too.)
    You're 45 years old.
    It's time to get to work.
    You're wasted in Rome - you could be doing good quality teaching in the States and have an apostolic activity that will remind you that there is an order between the two.
    I really cannot see the point of you staying in Rome at all - not with these new conditions that are being applied for being a Professor.
    Just let it go, Brother. Let it go.
    Our Lady has other plans, I reckon.
    Time to make sacrifices.
    Start with your Roman Academic Projects and be content with what you have accomplished already.
    There seems to be a lot of 'self' being dressed up in religious 'others' in this Roman Trip you're on.
    Be careful.
    Thomas Merton and his neon sign in Times Square, 'Here is a hermit' comes to mind....
    I don't know you from Adam, of course, but I do know Dominicans, being one meself. Them and their intellectuality. As the French say (and I daren't translate it): ils se font plaisir.
    Mind how you go.