Back in the ring

After a year-and-a-half hiatus, I’m back in action. I led the Bible study group at Rider University for a few years, under the chaplaincy of Fr. Joseph Jakub, but the needs of the Catholic Campus Ministry there changed — there was more interest in a men’s group (to go alongside the women’s group that met weekly), and despite being a man, running a “men’s group” is not my strength. So since the spring of 2013, I haven’t really been exercising my catechetical muscle.

Until yesterday. Some backstory is in order…

When I first moved down to the Princeton area nearly a decade ago, I was looking for Catholic fellowship with people my age. I found it in a few places, one of which was the graduate student Catholic fellowship at Princeton (despite not being a graduate student or a Princetonian). I enjoyed their company and conversation regularly for a few years, but not since moving closer to Trenton. Trenton and Princeton are not that far away, as the crow flies, but I don’t fly a crow, I drive a car, and New Jersey does not have the benefit that some of the mid-western states do… a grid of roads going north-south and east-west. No, in New Jersey, you need to make several turns just to get across the street.

A few Sundays ago, the former chaplain from Princeton, Fr. Tom Mullelly, celebrated Mass at my parish. I re-introduced myself to him after Mass, and I was happy to see he remembered me. He mentioned that there was another new chaplain at Princeton (replacing the one that had followed him). I decided a couple days later to send an email to the chaplaincy, introducing myself, dropping some names of people I’d known (most of whom, I admitted in the email, had surely moved on from Princeton by now). The reply I got back from the new chaplain started with “Unfortunately I do not know any of the people you mention below, as I am new to the campus this semester…” Heh.

“… however you and I know each other from the Archdiocese.”

The new chaplain for Princeton University’s Catholic Campus Ministry (the Aquinas Institute) is Fr. Bryan Page, from the archdiocese of Newark. It turns out I know him from several years ago, from a young adult retreat I went on back in 2008, at which he was a speaker. He spoke about the importance of taking decision-making seriously, and making good decisions, as adults: to decide is to cut off some possibility in favor of another (from the Latin decidere, “to cut off; to delineate; to settle on”).

The end result of a few more emails: I’ll be assisting him in the Wednesday night apologetics for the undergrads at Aquinas House. I attended last night to introduce myself, meet the students, and get a feel for the discussion. They’re bright, obviously, and just as interested in asking questions as they are in answering them. (Anyone who’s worked with students knows that it is harder to get them to ask a question than to answer one, because asking takes more initiative.) Our topic of conversation last night was the sacrament of Reconciliation. We tried to approach it in a Thomistic way, looking at arguments against it and countering with arguments for it.

Next week a seminarian will be leading a discussion on icons and images.

The week after that, I will be leading a discussion on Purgatory and temporal suffering. I’ll be making material available online beforehand, and sharing some of the fruits of our discussion afterwards.

Pray for me, and for Fr. Bryan, and for the seminarian, and for these eager students!

Do you have anything to share about Purgatory or suffering? Feel free to comment below.

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