Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Parousians Thank the Man Behind It All: Tobias Danna

There are simply no words to describe Toby Danna and his role in the formation of the Parousians. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we’ve never really known anyone quite like him. Toby is my true brother in Christ, a friend unlike any other friend I’ve had, and I’m so very grateful for so many things he’s done.

Toby did his utmost to prepare me for my job at our campus newspaper, The Daily Reveille. I was awfully nervous about applying for the job, and I’m not sure I would have had the guts to really go for it if Toby wouldn’t have believed in me.

Toby was the first person to point me to Rod Dreher’s book, Crunchy Cons, and over the past year he’s loaned me more great books than I could ever finish. Toby has taught me to love G. K. Chesterton, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor. More importantly, he’s taught me to appreciate the heroic qualities and talents of those more familiar to me: the profound inner strength of Ryan Hallford, Will Newman’s remarkable capacity for un-complicating the complicated, the tireless dedication of Michael Denton and his uncanny ability to channel the wisdom of Fulton Sheen, Philip de Mahy’s newfound fidelity to Holy Mother Church, the passion of Juliette Lapeyrouse for the authentic feminism of holy women like St. Edith Stein, Liz Johnson's academic discipline and her love for all things literary, Mary Grace Westphal’s constant witness of Christian joy and hospitality… I’ve come to see many of these virtues in my friends because Toby saw them first.

And then, of course, there are the heroic qualities in Toby himself: his steadfast generosity, his apostolic zeal, his sense of sacrifice, his honesty, his enthusiasm for apologetics, and his knack for affirming each of us when we’re most in need of encouragement. Toby often sees things in us that we can’t see in ourselves. So many of us are Parousians because Toby gave us a personal invitation to be a part of the group. He saw in each of us something unique, some talent to be shared, some aspect of ourselves that would compliment the group as a whole.

I remember Toby first telling me about his idea for the Parousians one evening at Highland Coffees. As he racked his brain for the right words to describe the Parousians — academic society, something like the Inklings, something like the Sons and Daughters of the Apocalypse — I think I stopped him with something like: “Don’t worry, I know exactly what you’re talking about." And I did.

I hardly knew it then, but I’d always been looking for the Parousians. I never imagined that anyone I knew possessed the necessary ambition to bring such a group to fruition — apparently, I didn’t know Toby well enough yet.

Toby is so earnestly devoted to the well-being of our group, and yet he certainly isn’t without his comic moments. Only Toby would suggest “Jimmy Buffet Slept Here” for our group’s Latin motto. Only Toby would attempt to explain the themes of mankind’s fall and redemption deeply embedded in movies like The Last Days of Disco.

If this is indeed the final post before our anniversary celebration tomorrow evening, it will be most fitting. While we certainly look to Father Sibley as our group’s beloved patriarch, Toby has been a patriarch of sorts as well. The Parousians has meant so much to all of us, and if it weren’t for Toby, we wouldn’t have the Parousians at all.

Toby, on this our First Anniversary, we’d like to say how grateful we are to you. Thanks for everything, dear friend. You’re one of our heroes, too.

The Parousians Present Real Men of Genius: Father Bryce Sibley

A bit of First-Anniversary Silliness, since the Parousians are so fond of roasting those dear to us:

Today we salute you, our Beloved Cassock-Wearing Patriarch.

(Beloved Cassock-Wearing Patriarch!)

As we labor to bring about the New Evangelization,

you patiently guide us in the ways of orthodoxy and truth.

(Our favorite guest speaker!)

When you heard us mispronouncing our own name,

you were unafraid, as always, to tell us we were flat-out wrong.

(It’s all Greek to us!)

We eagerly anticipate your brilliant homilies and lectures

which strike fear into the hearts of heretics everywhere.

(Don’t mess with Father Sibley!)

So go ahead and rock that Novus Ordo Mass,

O Patriarch of the Parousians.

Without you, we know we’d all have poorly formed consciences.

(Our Beloved Cassock-Wearing Patriarch…)

The Parousians Thank Father Bryce Sibley

“This probably isn’t what you want to hear...” Anyone who’s ever asked Father Bryce Sibley for advice has probably heard these words preface his reply. They’re the truth; Father Sibley never tells us what we want to hear, but that’s exactly why we value his counsel as much as we do. We trust him entirely.

I first met Father Sibley my freshman year of high school. He was my confessor at a retreat that came at a very pivotal moment in my formation as a young Catholic, and I’ve harbored a sincere appreciation for him ever since. I’ve fallen to pieces in front of him —“all tears,” as St. Teresa would say — on several occasions, and while he’s certainly been kind, he’s also never hesitated to challenge me to seek a higher sort of holiness.

The past six years have only deepened my admiration for Father Sibley. To some, he may seem stern, even callous at first, but that’s just his way of teaching us “tough love.” I can say without a doubt that Father Sibley is one of the most approachable priests I’ve ever known.

The Parousians’ meetings are always packed when Father Sibley comes to speak to us, and with good reason. He’s a brilliant, passionate, articulate teacher, one who we all know doesn’t mince words. He somehow manages to be both accessible and orthodox, and that’s what we as young people want from our priests: honesty, faithfulness to Mother Church, and a perceptible eagerness to help form us as young workers in the vineyard of our Lord.

Though he might not admit it, we know that Father Sibley cares deeply for us, and that his genuine affection for young people is born out of his courageous devotion to his first true love: the Church in the person of our Blessed Mother.

We’ve sat in rapt attention as he explained to us in detail how to correctly form our conscience; we’ve heard him lecture on John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body; we’ve stood in awe together at his Novus Ordo Mass in Parks and shared many a meal with him over the past year. Many of us get a certain satisfaction out of seeing him waltz into the room, proudly sporting his cassock (and occasionally a white seersucker jacket).

Thank you, Father, from all of us, for answering God’s call to the Holy Priesthood, and for shepherding the Parousians this past year. You witness to us what it truly means to be “a Priest after God’s own Heart,” as St. John Vianney said, and you give us courage to actively seek out our own vocations. We’re grateful to you and for you.

After all, if it weren’t for you, we’d still be calling ourselves the “Puh-ruse-ee-ans.”

Call to Action

If any of you have followed the Daily Reveille's website the past two days, you know that Emily's column once again has touched a nerve with the pro-choice forces. This time a woman representing a pro-choice group in Colorado has felt the need to respond to Emily with posts as long as encyclopedias. Also, the Daily Reveille has published two letters to the editor critical of Emily. We would appreciate it if you could spare a moment to comment or write a letter in favor of Emily's exceptional stance for truth and life.

peggy Loonan and others attack Emily Byers and the pro-life position

Letters to the Editor of the Daily Reveille

Witnessing Hope In Emily Byers

When I finally met Emily, I could tell in an instant that I was in contact with a holy and beautiful person. I believe my exact expression was: ‘She just radiates light!’ She radiates with the light of joy, the light of clarity, the light of wisdom: ultimately the light of Christ. Her love and zeal for souls emanates from her, and when I think of Emily Byers, the words that come to my mind are the words of a prayer I learned from the Missionaries of Charity: “Shine through us, and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours. It will be You, shining on others through us.” - Angela Miceli, Parousian Leadership Council

Everybody has something to say about Emily Byers. Some call her preachy, radical, naive, and intolerant. A few have called her LSU's Ann Coulter in spite of her love of illegal immigrants and her willingness to quote George Clooney in a piece against the genocide in Darfur. On the other hand, Catholic blogger Mark Shea has called her "hope for the future." Baton Rouge pro-life leader Julie Orr calls her "courageous, faith-filled, and talented." Parousian Jim Fontaine calls her a "warrior."

And then there's that quote from Angela Miceli. That's the Emily Byers that I think I know, but I'm not really sure I know her. In fairness, I know her pretty well, but then again, no.

She plays Jiminy Cricket to my Pinocchio quite a bit, except she resists telling me to let my conscience be my guide. No, she reminds me in those instances that this would be a situation where Father Bryce Sibley would call my conscience poorly formed.

And when she's not Jiminy Cricket, she's a little bit of a Blue Fairy, showing us life when we're a little bit fake, still holding out hope that we might miraculously become real boys and girls instead of the puppets of the culture who keep getting tied up in the strings of our passions. The Blue Fairy imagery works pretty well. Last December during exam week Emily was sitting in Christ the King in the middle of the night studying, all wrapped up from head to toe in a bright blue blanket, her face and a few locks of hair revealed with their familiar shine. Blue and shiny, very Marian, and Emily is Our Mother's daughter.

But I called that shine familiar, and it is because I have gotten to see it more times than many, more times than I deserve, always getting convicted by it because no matter how familiar it is, it ain't anything I really know, at least not as well as she does. I mean I thought I knew it, but since I've known her, and I'm not sure that I really do know her, I don't know if I can say I know anything about really knowing God, because in kind of knowing her, I know she knows God's love in ways I haven't yet, and she hasn't given up hope on me getting there.

And if it sounds like I'm getting tongue-tied talking about Emily, I'm not the first guy to do so. And lest you think I'm crushing, I am actively rooting for God to call her to religious life, because the thought of her becoming a nun is the most beautiful thing I have ever thought of, and if she never becomes a nun, the thought of her is still in the running for the most beautiful thing I ever thought. And if I sound a little confused, please know that I am. Confused, but in awe, lost in wonder.

Julie Orr is always praising Emily's clarity in defending the common sense principles that our culture cannot see. But the more I know Emily, as much as I see that shine, the less I see clarity and the more I see mystery, and I can't help but wonder what is God doing in front of my eyes. Sacramental vision is what the Parousian aims for in looking at the world, looking at life, looking at our friends, finding that mystery of grace at work in tangible ways. Some times we have to work for it, but when Emily Byers is tending to our concerns and when we are thinking about Emily Byers, sacramental vision seems to come naturally.

I see that mystery, and then the clarity again, that mystery of grace and the clarity of Christ co-existing - they're both so noticeable whenever Emily's around.

Emily's columns have been the source for debate and dialogue between the Parousians and the campus at large, but Emily the missionary, the consoler, the encourager, the champion of the unloved, the girl in discernment, the woman at prayer, is a signpost for every lost little bit of us, the most pleasant contradiction I have ever known.

She goes to confession, so I know she's no angel, and we only joke about her starting to levitate when she prays too long, but nobody's joking about that shine. Emily Byers really has brought the light of Christ to LSU, and that's nothing short of miraculous. I thank God for knowing her, sorta.

On Founding Parousian Ryan Hallford

Ryan Hallford did not receive the e-mails about the first Parousian meeting. I met him at a salsa party coinciding with the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas at Emily Byers' apartment the night before. Why I was at a salsa party is pretty inexplicable, unless you explain things the way Caleb Bernacchio frequently has, that it was a matter of providence. I had no idea how much of the coming year would be marked by Ryan's incredible intellect and inner strength.

Ryan owns a remarkable sense of balance. Some people can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, but Ryan's thoughts can ascend deep into the heavens while his feet remain firmly anchored in the soil of this world. He may be what Brad Miner had in mind when writing his ideal of The Compleat Gentleman, a modern man rooted in tradition but not bound by it, equal parts warrior, lover, and monk.

Two experiences have shaped Ryan fit for the Parousians. He is a former seminarian who discerned the priesthood was not his calling, yet he could not jettison his study of philosophy and theology, an effort to worship God with his mind. He is also a former wrestler who knows how to scrap and how to counter. You may think you got him in a corner, only to find out he's been playing rope-a-dope all along. The kid got skills.

At the Veritas conference last year, I witnessed an exchange between Ryan and Oz Guiness, the renowned Evangelical scholar. Ryan informed Guiness that his view on faith and reason was very Augustinian, and that he was overlooking some of the finer points of St. Thomas Aquinas. Ryan then summarized some of the key themes of John Paul the Great's encyclical Fides et Ratio. Guiness replied he'll look into that. If he ever converts, which didn't seem likely when we parted company, be sure that Ryan planted a seed.

I wish I could dance as well as Ryan, or write poetry on dance as well as Ryan, or explain the existential metaphysics of dance as well as Ryan. What can I say - he's multi-talented. We have had deep conversations on Walker Percy, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Bernard Lonergan. We have also carried conversations in chant while working a street corner in a political campaign. Poor Amanda Pendleton standing in the middle of Ryan and me cracking corny joke after corny joke about peanut butter and ballroom dancing, doing Harry Carey impersonations, figuring this would help our candidate become more electable than merely having us wave at drivers as they passed by.

Ryan Hallford is certifiably nuts, and that may be the only reason someone as gifted as he is would keep me as a friend - well, that and a sincere love for God and neighbor.

Ryan's home plays host to most meetings of the Parousians. If a discussion is going slack, his comment will spark new life. He handles many of the fine details to keep business moving. But if you only know him for what he does instead of who he is, you've missed out. The Parousians know him and love him because he of all people is most truly our own.

Joseph Pieper: Philosopher of Virtue

Ignatius Insight takes a look at the leading neo-Thomist author of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Paul Cat on the March for Life

"A founding Parousian raises his voice in D.C."

Daniel Nichols: "Like the outlook for this world, Children of Men offers us, in the end, both tragedy and hope."

"It is a film which can only be described as prophetic, not in the sense of being a precise prediction of a future world, but rather in speaking truth to this one. The death wish of the West, the failure to have children -especially in Europe- is at the heart of an emerging crisis."

Should We Pray for God to Save Others?

Jimmy Akin on Prayer, Conversion, and Free Will

The Gospel According to Frank Capra

Rod Bennett's piece on the director of It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington provokes a shocking reconsideration of America's favorite feel good filmmaker of all time.

Bennett: "This is why Frank Capra, contrary to popular opinion, is one of the most challenging of all filmmakers and in some ways the most disturbing."

The Parousians Thank Father Clifton Hill

Father Clifton Hill, a Spiritan priest with a Ph.D in physics, came to our Pope Benedict party last year and has welcomed several of the Parousians over for visits at his home in the Garden District not too far from LSU.

I personally have benefitted from his kindness whenever I bugged him at odd hours to hear my confession. He has been a trustworthy source for impromptu counsel and pleasant conversation.

Other Parousians wanted their voices heard on Father Hill's influence on them.

Founding Parousian Caleb Bernacchio writes: "Father Hill is a remarkably humble man. That being one of the most important and difficult virtues, it gives an insight into his sanctity."

Haley Pontiff says, "Whenever I'm around Father Hill, the call to live in truth is magnified most by the peace in his heart and humble servitude. This I could never learn from a thousand books."

Houma-Thibodaux Seminarian Stephen Dufrene says: "Father Hill was my go-to man for early morning Mass in Baton Rouge! His love for the Lord is displayed especially in the time he spent purifying the vessels after Holy Communion.....his actions foster love for the Eucharist."

The Parousians thank Father Hill for his continued witness to our ranks.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Special Thanks to Julie Orr

Julie Orr, the Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, has been a constant support for the Parousians in bringing the work of Emily Byers to a wider audience. Julie sent out an e-mail invitation to the Parousians first anniversary party to all the young adults and college students on her mailing list.

Julie writes: "The Parousians are a great group of college students and young adults who meet to discuss and learn more about the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith. They are seeking ways to promote the Culture of Life on the college campus and with their co-workers and friends."

As the Parousians celebrate our first anniversary, we offer Julie Orr our gratitude and respect for her tireless battle to promote the Culture of Life, and special thanks for helping carry us a little along the way.

Parousians Get Relevant and Radiant

Sorry for my delay in posting on one of the highlights of the Florida trip. All I can say is I have been busy doing other good things for the Parousians.

While in Orlando, the Parousians met with Adam Smith, not the author of The Wealth of Nations but the managing editor of Relevant. Relevant is a magazine on issues of faith and culture for Christian young adults, primarily evangelicals who find themselves questioning evangelical trappings and belong to what is being called the emergent movement. Clearly ecumenical allies of the Parousians, we were eager to compare notes. We met with Adam at a local eatery called Greens and Grille, a restaurant whose superior selection and remarkable fresh feel make it a must when visiting Orlando. Adam brought us copies of Relevant and Radiant its sister publication for young women.

The first great joy of our meeting was learning Adam was becoming Catholic. Ryan and I immediately exchanged conversion stories with yet another pilgrim heading to Rome. Adam's command of the Church Fathers was impressive. What I found most notable is his continuing struggle to understand the Eucharist - he doesn't well enough. Yet he knows enough to believe he's not smart enough to understand it yet, and he wasn't going to let intellectual pride stand in the way of knowing the beauty of the Church from the inside. I had a similar problem with the Immaculate Conception, and I had a similar prayer of "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief" as I accepted by faith the one thing I was struggling to put together in my head. After coming into the Church, it finally made sense.

Adam talked to us at length on why many young Evangelicals are losing faith. The evangelical subculture frequently aligns itself with the politics, economics, and lifestyle of comfort when Christ calls us to a lifestyle of radicality, especially in charity and in poverty. There is a frustration about a loss of a sense of mystery, replaced with four easy points to explain everything. The emergent movement is trying to deal with some of these issues, and from their ranks Adam has emerged into the Catholic Church without much shock or rejection from his peers. Adam and the Relevant crowd are dynamic in sharing their faith without putting on the airs, have a deep concern for social justice, and are finding a way to live in this world but not be of this world. This is definitely a sign of hope for our generation.

Relevant and Radiant are two of the best made magazines on the market. Give'em a look.

Angela Miceli Chosen for Summer Internship with the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation

Congratulations to Angela Miceli of the Parousian Leadership Council for gaining a summer internship with the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation in St. Louis. The Mindszenty Foundation has been a longtime opponent of atheistic communism and is on the forefront of the culture war against the tyranny of relativism. Best wishes to Angela as she works with Eleanor Schlafly.

Likewise, we are hopeful that all Parousians apply for worthwhile internships, honors programs, and scholarships. Keep an eye open for the best opportunities and let us know when you're successful, so we can celebrate you and the noble work you will be doing.

Louisiana Across the Country: How Louisiana Is Inspiring the Christian Spirit in America

From founding Parousian Paul Catalanatto, blogger extraordinaire at Alive and Young:

I remember having a conversation with Brian Kemper, organizer and promoter of Rock for Life, several years back at a Copeland’s in Uptown New Orleans about the pro-life movement in America. What brought Brian to New Orleans and spurred on this conversation was a Rock for Life concert and rally he organized that year in the Super Dome. Sadly, I don’t recall much of the conversation. What I do remember about our talk is that at one point he made the comment that Louisiana is going to be influential in Pro-Life legislation and in renewing the Christian spirit of America. I remember thinking, “I can only hope.” and “Where do we begin?” I never realized how prophetic his words were at the time until recently.

Writing in retrospect – like Chesterton’s Irishman who prefers to prophesy after the fact -- I see the rich catholic culture emerging and spreading across America not from places like Franciscan University of Steubenville or Ave Maria College or even the University of Notre Dame, but from South Louisiana. Don’t believe me? Just look at a few of the things happening there.

First the state hosts a number of nationally talked about and attended conferences. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans (CCRNO) has not only been inspiring adults across the country since the 1970s but has also been inspiring the teens and young adults across the country. Every January CCRNO hosts a Holy Spirit rally and retreat where 300-600 teens attend yearly. This year it attracted people from Tennessee, Delaware, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana – just to name a few. On the heals of the CCRNO January retreat is Abby Youth Fest (AYF), which takes place at the Benedictine seminary/abbey in Covington, LA every Spring. AYF is a day long festival featuring musicians, speakers, and Catholic entertainers from around the country. On average, AYF attracts 1000+ participants from around the US. Last year the farthest group came from Main to hear actor Jim Caviezal and his wife Kerri as the Keynote speakers. Besides Ohio, Louisiana is now the only other state to host two Steubenville Youth Conferences: one in Lake Charles and the other in Houma/Thibodaux. The newest conference to draw national attention is the Young Adult Conference (YAC), which occurs in Alexandria, LA.

In addition to conferences, there are also a number of individuals and organizations based out of Louisiana who are spreading the catholic spirit. Catholic Productions is one such group whose emphasis is media production, t-shirt printing, and graphic design. Two professors from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans, LA are becoming well known across country for their scholarship: Dr. Chris Baglow and Dr. Brant Petri. Dr. Baglow is currently putting the finishing touches on a high school textbook on the relation of faith and science. Dr. Petri, whom Catholic Production records and sells his bible studies online, is becoming well known in theological and biblical studies circles nation wide. Scott Hahn commented at a conference last year that Dr. Petri was and is the most difficult and impressive speaker he has ever had to follow.

A second group making waves is Dumb Ox Production (DOP), named after that lovable ‘dumb ox’ St. Thomas Aquinas. Lead by Brian Butler, DOP is making its bellowing heard around the world. Brian himself has developed catechetical material and programs for diocese across the country. Most recently, Brian published a “Theology of the Body for Teens” through Ascension Press. In addition to his book, Brian also has also published an Apologetics Cheat Sheet inserts for bibles. The Dumb Ox crew is hard at work in leading retreats for high school age students and is in the process of developing a Vocation Program centered on helping a person hear God’s voice in their life.

The newest and perhaps one of the most exciting groups coming out of Louisiana and making their presence know around the country is a group who call themselves the Parousians. Who are these ‘end timers’, and where did they come from? Being a founding member I have the inside story. So let us shift gears and find out:

It was not a dark and stormy night. No planets were aligned, no eclipse occurred, and no prophecies were fulfilled. No one could have predicted that on such a plain night, indistinguishable from other nights, that the Parousians would emerge – not from a pit or a dark wood midway through life. Neither would the Parousians come in glory, riding on clouds, accompanied by seraphim or cherubim with trumpet blasts and rays of light. But from a crowded coffee shop just North of Louisiana State University. Who would have expected that a small occurrence, which seems unnoticeable and insignificant to all except those on vigil, would prove beneficial to so many (Who could have predicted that University of Florida would dominate Ohio State in the BCS national championship except those who kept watch and followed the Southeastern Conference?)?

Eight unlikely people met on what would turn out to be a fateful night. I arrived at the coffee shop to do a bit of studying and reading for some classes and to enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee. Completely unaware that I had forgotten about an email received the day before reminding me of the first meeting about a new group with a funny name. Upon arrival, another founding member asked if I was going to the meeting. I had told him I forgotten about it, but since his reminder, I would be attending.

Truth be told, we never had a meeting in the Coffee shop that night. Instead, we wound up in a small corner of the LSU student union. The reasoning is simple: there was space to sit and it was quiet enough so that we would not have to shout at one another to be heard in the student union. That first meeting Toby Danna, organizer of the Parousians, shared with the group his vision and prayer. His prayer was that he would have eight people at this meeting. With a brief glance one could count eight students engaged and encouraged by Toby’s vision and prayer.

The vision was simple. Have a group of young adults and college students meet together modeled on other groups of similar sorts: Tolkien and Lewis’s Inklings and Walker Percy’s Sons and Daughters of the Apocalypse to name just two similar groups which inspired the Parousians’ efforts. The question and doubt then arose, “Yeah, but those people are smart. Like really smart. They have won awards, and we haven’t done anything of note.” I had difficulty comparing a bunch of college students to some of the best writers and thinkers who have ever lived. I’m no Lewis, and I doubt I will ever be as witty as Percy or Chesterton. In fact, none of the initial eight and perhaps none of the members now can be compared to or match wits with Lewis, Chesterton or Schall. Toby assured us that that was not the point, and that the Parousians are not in competition with anyone other than those people who stand against truth, reason, and love.

The inspiration for the group came from many, but perhaps none as influential than John Paul II. In as brief as possible, the Parousians drew inspiration from John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. The Parousians are to be missionaries and evangelizers to the faithful as well as the forgotten. However, the specific goal of the Parousians was to inspire and teach one another, to discuss current issues, to share our passions and interests with one another, to offer Catholic wisdom in troubled times, and to help each member develop a comprehensive worldview. In other words, The Parousians seek to educate themselves in the ways of liberal arts, sciences, and any other topic of interest where each member shares his or her expertise on a number of subjects to the group in a Catholic setting. What was to be crafted is a symposium of a new sort for the informal Catholic with the desire to learn.

Although the goal was one, each meeting varied depending on who was hosting the topic – this of course was due to the fact that each member posed a strength, passion, and expertise in a particular area. Some of the early meetings consisted of letters of encouragement written to the Parousians from Father James Schall and Professor Thomas Martin, and each offered a suggested reading list for the group ranging from classical philosophy to modern literature and political thought. Other meetings were formatted in a way that original essays and thoughts were presented, read, and discussed. Moreover, there were other formats and topics which included, but not limited to, discussions, debates on beauty in literature, the importance of liturgical art and icons, ethics, why agnostics make the best religious films, and the loss of the gentleman in America. As the members increased beyond the initial eight the group was able to draw from a larger group of ideas and topics -- some of which included topics on Mariology and the unseriousness of life.

It was not until sometime in August, when the Parousians started a blog, that the group started receiving national attention from fellow Catholic bloggers and writers. Catholic and Enjoying it! blogger and writer, Mark Shea said the Parousians are "gung ho young Catholics and a sign of hope for our world." Other writers such as Dawn Eden and Bill Cork gave their respects to the Parousians, as Dawn sought out two Parousians to review her book for the blogospher. However, what caused people around the country to take notice of the group was when Parousian Emily Byers began writing for the LSU student run daily paper The Reveille. In the LSU paper, Emily expressed views and ideas contrary to much of the culture in a style so gentle that even the most staunch, hardnosed person cannot help but to stop and wonder if there is some truth in what she writes. Still, there are certain people who try to compare her to Anne Coulter but fail miserably due to Emily’s meekness.

Now, one year after the Parousians have been founded, I never imagined I would be writing a short reflection on the group. What I thought would only be composed of LSU students is now in the early stages of becoming a far reaching, youthful, and inspiring organization, for the Parousians are not solely an LSU phenomenon. Other college students who seek the new evangelization are starting branches at their universities. There are recent branches at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and University of Florida and talks are under way about a branch at a university in the Midwest. And no longer are the Parousians meeting in the small dusty corner of the LSU Union but in different member’s houses and apartments, and no longer consisting of eight students but meetings averaging between 20-30 people a week interested in furthering their own education outside of the classroom.

With momentum high and a new year just starting, I am positive there are only blessings on the roads ahead. Currently, Emily Byers is returning to write for the LSU paper, Toby Danna has recently been interviewed by Underground Catholic (a podcast dedicated to where faith and media meet), and Paul Catalanotto recently had an essay in Gilbert Magazine (the periodical published by the American Chesterton Society). Already reaching beyond anyone’s expectations, look for the Parousians at a college near you. Who knows, you might already be sitting next to one. More likely than not, you know someone who has at least been influenced by Louisiana’s Catholic spirit.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Arriving at the Parousians

I am excited and terrified to discuss how it was coming from a Catholic school to a secular school with the Parousians and how much of a difference it’s made. I am excited because I know it would allow me to share a lot about my experience. However, I am also terrified because I know that it demands that I be personal and share a lot personally, so I hope you’ll forgive my excessive sharing.

I’m going to start at high school. As many of you know, I attended Jesuit High School. Despite the reputation of the Jesuits as an order, Jesuit High School managed to mix Catholic orthodoxy and free thinking in a way that really encouraged growth in the intellectual aspects of the faith. I was blessed to have excellent teachers and excellent friends that helped push me towards a more Catholic understanding of the world as well as supporting me in manifesting that understanding in my life. I really began growing leaps and bounds in Catholicism towards the end of high school years, so I wanted to keep that momentum going as I went into college. I applied to Catholic University of America and another university which I’ll refer to as “Augustine University” as my main two schools. I really wanted to go to a Catholic university so I didn’t even consider LSU as I figured it would lack the vibrant Catholic campus that these universities promised. When the scholarships fell in line to “Augustine,” I figured I was on my way to another Catholic experience in education.

I could not have been more wrong. The vibrant Catholic atmosphere I had expected was nowhere to be found. I searched the emails, bulletin boards, websites, and whatever I could find for any inkling of a group for Catholic thought; I found nothing. The only thing close were groups that though being Catholic were not exclusively so for they promised “mixture and interaction between all faiths,” which was not was I was looking for. During my time at “Augustine,” which would end up amount to a year and a half, I met a grand total of one Catholic person, and that person did not even actually attend “Augustine.” Instead, he was from the seminary nearby and just taking a class at “Augustine” to finish off his requirements. Towards the end of my time at “Augustine” I found out there were some groups and people that was what I was looking for, but by the point I discovered them I was already on my way to LSU. I don’t know if they were too hidden for me to reasonably find them or whether I simply didn’t look hard enough for them; I’ll leave that to wiser powers than myself to judge.

Whatever the case may be, I had no support from a Catholic community on campus and I desperately needed it. It’s hard to say whether Catholicism is hated or dismissed at “Augustine.” When it came up it was hated and reviled but most of the time it never came up as it was dismissed as a relic of the past and unfit for modern intellectualism. For instance, there came up the issue of whether or not “Augustine” should allow a performance of the “Vagina Monologues” on campus. One of the priests at the university sent out a letter defending the decision to host it. I sent a letter of my own to this priest, who was high in the administration, criticizing him for it and asking for a better explanation. He responded by saying that he had spent most of his life doing theology and philosophy and he found it acceptable, implying that I should too. Pulling rank on a Denton is never a wise thing to do, and I pressed him on it, specifically the issue of what is a Catholic university. A few emails were exchanged. He accused me of being ignorant while I looked up Pope John Paul II’s “Mi e Particolarmente” and “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” for definitions and conditions of a Catholic university. Eventually my emails were no longer returned despite his failure to deliver upon any definition of a Catholic university. So I was dismissed and the Vagina Monologues will be performed for the third annual time at “Augustine” on February 14. Similar things would happen in the classroom. The professor would say something, I would respond, and if there were no snickers the class would simply move on as if I had never spoken.

There are many amazing people who can thrive on the truth alone and don’t need others to support them. I confess that I am not strong enough to be one of those people. Having found no one on campus in which to share my faith left me alone. Eventually it grew so that my day went like this: I would park in the garage on campus, walk to a room where I would study for a little while. Then I would go to class and sit at my desk. I wouldn’t talk to anyone; I eventually got tired of hearing of the drunken weekend exploits and the other students did not care to hear about anything I wanted to talk about. So silence became the order of the day. After class, I would each lunch on a bench by myself as I read a book. Then I would go to class again, then walk straight to the parking garage and to my car, grateful for its radio that broke the chain of silence that weighed down upon me the whole day. In other words my only real company while at “Augustine” was my own thoughts. This coupled with the fact that I became increasingly aware that everything I had valued my entire life was hated and opposed by almost everyone around me made for a very unpleasant life. It wore on me emotionally and spiritually, though I’ve given you all just an inkling of the pain it caused; I’m afraid I’m not enough of a writer to transcribe it all.

I became empty and malnourished inside. I began to wonder if that was the way it was supposed to be, if that was the role of the intellectual Catholic in today’s world and in our generation. I’m not a quitter but I decided I needed to take a risk and find out if “Augustine” was indeed an indication of my future. I had attended LSU during my semester in exile due to Katrina and thought it was ok. I hadn’t delved into the life of LSU b/c much of my time was spent commuting back and forth between the various places I was staying. I also felt that I couldn’t get too involved with LSU knowing that in two and a half months I would away from Baton Rouge and back in New Orleans. Still, I had experienced enough of LSU to know that there was something there and had experiences enough of Augustine to know that there was nothing there. So I made the switch to LSU, figuring that if indeed “Augustine” was the standard of business that at least I would get some football games out of the deal.

The first month of LSU didn’t seem to hold much promise. I was still in the same rut. Yet there were rumblings of something happening. My friend from high school, Mark , kept mentioning this group with a name I couldn’t hope to pronounce or spell without practice that seemed promising and he promised that one day he’d bring me along. At the same time I went to see Dr. Stoner. Dr. Stoner is a friend of the only professor I ever liked from “Augustine”. The professor from “Augustine” was never particularly Catholic in his teaching of political thought but he didn’t make attacking Christian thought a mainstay of his teaching. He also knew what he was talking about and for some reason he mistakenly came to believe that I did too, so he recommended me to Dr. Stoner and told me to talk to him when I got to Baton Rouge. It took me a while to see Dr. Stoner due to the finer joys of dealing with Residential Life but eventually I meet with him. I’m not quite sure whether he knew I was Catholic or not before he first met me but eventually as the conversation came around it came out that I was. I told him about my exchanges with the priest at “Augustine” and he told me about the Parousians and how they have this blog and meetings that I would be interested in and that he would give my email to this guy named Toby who ran the show. It was a lot for a first meeting but I felt I was going in the right direction. Between Mark’s mentioning of the Parousians and Dr. Stoner’s recommendation I began to feel that this was something I was being led to. This was further boosted when I sat at Free Lunch to find that I had sat at the table of this Toby guy as well as some other Parousians.

The rest I suppose is history. More quickly than I could have dreamed I had found a niche in the group and was respected and accepted. In almost no time I had given a presentation and had taken charge of the blog and was a full member of the group. More than that though is the idea of the Parousians itself. A group in which students who are pressured by the culture of a university to suppress their faith are instead invited and encourage to express and fulfill that faith with others who are fighting the same battle. Obviously the discussion are tremendous in giving different lines of thought and coming closer to truth but for me they’re meaningful primarily because they tell me that I’m not alone in this fight, that there are other people my age who are seeking an well-reasoned Catholicism and are fighting the same struggles as I am in order to achieve this in the world and in themselves.

That one little thing is so important to me in nourishing and providing support for living the Catholic life in the modern world. When I compare my experience with the Parousians with my experience at “Augustine,” I’ve tried to come up with a proper analogy to explain the difference. Night and day is cliché as is coming out of a tunnel into the light. The best analogy I could come up with is when you read a book or watch a movie or TV show by yourself. You can enjoy that by yourself, but the joy you have when you discover that someone else has read that book and you now have someone to talk about it with is so much greater than the joy you got by yourself. This tremendous and amazing group of people I am now able to share and learn with and that makes it so much more joyful. I cannot thank the Parousians enough for blessing me with the opportunity to have that joy which I once doubted was possible and can only hope that I can help the Parousians spread that joy to others.

God Bless,
Michael R. Denton

Parousians at Prayer

"The greater the gift of God, the more effort it requires to obtain it. What prayers and efforts, then, are required to obtain the gift of Wisdom which is the greatest of all God’s gifts! Let us read the word of Divine Wisdom Himself: ‘Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you; ask and it shall be given to you.’ As if He said: ‘If you wish to find Me, you must seek Me; if you wish to enter into My palace, you must knock at My door. . . .’ Now, all this is done by prayer. Prayer is the usual channel by which God conveys His gifts, more particularly, His Wisdom.”

The above quote is from Louis De Montfort’s book Love of Eternal Wisdom. I happened upon this invaluable book on the occasion of my graduation from college. It was the perfect meditation for me at a time when I was about to endeavor on a deeper pursuit of wisdom in graduate school. It has come to take an even more a profound significance for me now as I become increasingly involved with the Parousians.

What does it mean to pursue Divine Wisdom? It is the love of truth, the love of what is good, pure, real, and beautiful – it is ultimately the love of Christ. We in the Parousians profess this love in our mission statement to “bring the new evangelization into the academy.” We profess to bring the fire of our love for Christ into the most noble of pursuits, the pursuit of Wisdom – the pursuit of Christ Himself.

According to de Montfort, the very pursuit of Wisdom is impossible without prayer. Prayer life is central to the Parousians’ project of bringing the faith into the academy. One of the ways in which the members of the LSU Parousians practice their active prayer life is by reciting the rosary in a different place on campus every night during the week at 9 PM. And, as de Montfort says, “[There is] no better means to establish in ourselves the kingdom of God and to draw Divine Wisdom to our soul than to pray vocally and mentally by saying the Holy Rosary. . . . The greatest means of all, and the most wonderful secrets for obtaining and keeping Divine Wisdom, is a tender and true devotion to Blessed Mary.”

With Mary as our Queen, Mother, and Guide, many members of the LSU Parousians pray the rosary in the quad, at Christ the King Church, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, and the parade grounds. On Fridays at 3 PM, the hour of Christ’s mercy, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Parousian Michael Denton comments that our rosary is a means of strength for our community and way to show one other our support, as he states: “Nothing else tells that you aren’t alone than praying in a community.” Our prayer spiritually strengthens us and keeps us from becoming discouraged especially when our endeavors seem difficult and trying.

Our prayer on campus is also a quieter way of evangelizing. It is a means of displaying our love for our fellow students, and we are visible and audible to everyone passing through the quad. We pray for our own conversion and for the conversion of all sinners – that all may come to know and to love Christ. We ask for Mary’s patronage and protection as we endeavor to seek Wisdom in the academy and to spread that Wisdom to all we meet. Simply we ask Christ to “Shine through us, and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel Your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus.”

Emily Byers on Abortion

Emily Byers continues her inspired defense of the pro-life position in her column this week by discussing graphically the procedures which many want to pass off as a "neccessary evil."

Emily Byers discusses the truth of abortion

Be sure to watch the comments section below her article as her column often attracts attention and rabid criticism from the pro-abortion forces. If you can spare a moment to get on these discussion boards and help defend the pro-life stance, it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, there is a poll on the left side of the Daily Reveille's website asking whether or not Roe v Wade should be overturned. Right now at 10:45 the majority of people are saying it should not be overturned, so if you can take a moment to register your support for the pro-life movement by voting in this poll.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Parousians at Play

In a world of productivity slaves, where time is money and money is god, the human being still finds time for the ‘unnecessary,’ that is, play. What I mean by play is more than kicking a ball, but rather a range of activities from dancing to writing to contemplating higher realities via philosophy. And what I mean by ‘unnecessary’ is that we are not constrained to do these things. Never reading a book will not kill you as never consuming nutritive substances for your body would. Despite our actual need for a break from work, play is still not a necessary option because doing nothing is still good for catching your breath, so you can return to your labors. However, what if play involved losing your breath? Why expend energy on an activity that will not benefit your survival? The simplest answer avails itself; yes, the obvious answer you were thinking: because we enjoy it. There is an obvious pleasure obtained in dancing or singing, but there is also a certain enjoyment that comes from knowing. We exercise the uniqueness of our existence, we “respond to a reality that is1 and celebrate its existence that we did not make, and we make this world a little less serious when we play.

When we play, we respond to a reality we did not create. We celebrate our existence, which is unnecessary. The universe is not necessary for anything else except itself, and neither are we; we exist as ends in ourselves because of God’s infinite love. Thus, play becomes another way of participation in God’s inner life. Contemplating God, the higher reality, makes us aware of our limitations and finiteness. However, it also makes us aware of God’s existence giving meaning to ours. We realize the true “tranquility of order” of the world in relation to God, which helps us prevent ourselves from thinking our affairs are the most ‘serious’ of all.

Ultimately, how does this tie into the Parousians at Play? Essentially, every Parousian meeting is an act of play as we delve into the mysteries of higher things. We nonetheless try not to take ourselves too seriously. The Parousians do more than sit around and discuss the ‘higher things.’ For the Parousians, “sharing is caring,” and this may include discussions of some ‘lower things’ like which Ninja Turtle really is the coolest, playing with the baby crab in Toby’s raw oysters at the Chimes, and even: if one asks a Serrano’s waitress enough if they carry Abita Amber, will she eventually say yes after so many no’s? We like jeering, jesting, and joking, peering, pesting, and poking as much as we enjoy rhyming and alliteration. To top it all off, we (most likely Ryan) may even choose to chant his chafflike charge while chewing chestnuts and doing the cha-cha.

Outside of the Parousian’s normal merriment, the group has also expressed their mirth at other events such as the Pope Benedict Party at the Black Forest restaurant back in April. And who could forget the roast of Caleb Bernacchio in September at Le Grand Fromage & Tubby’s Pub? I’m not sure if I saw Caleb today if his cheeks would no longer be red. In November a small group of us traversed over – well, not so rocky or dangerous – lands to the mystifying – quite mystifying actually – Renaissance Festival in Houston, Texas. Why Gandalf, Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, Captain Jack Sparrow, vikings, and fairies roamed these mysterious grounds still puzzles us. (We made up for it by attending a beautiful Anglican use Mass.) With the starting up of another Parousian group in Gainesville, six of us fought our way through the swamp to The Swamp (a restaurant) to help the fledgling group get on their feet, ultimately praying a Rosary with them in the student section of the Swamp (UF’s stadium.) Of course, no trip to Florida would be complete without Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, or attending daily Mass at different – and distanced – Catholic Churches each time. As always throughout the year, we are finding ways to enjoy each other’s company, whether it be dinner at the Chimes, a movie night, or maybe even some Latin dancing.

The Parousians have evolved from a small gathering of people in search of truth to a much more expansive and diverse group sharing that same end in mind. We recognize the need in the world for doing something because the thing itself is important. We contemplate higher things. We recognize our limitations but rejoice in our meaning. We thank God for our being unnecessary yet existing nonetheless. We share in his inner life when we imitate his understanding and love of the unnecessary. We play, and we are joyful. We are.

1 – Father James Schall, On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs

The Parousians Thank Father Carville

The gift of one’s time and attention can help inspire, direct, and affirm. Father John Carville, associate Pastor of the campus church Christ the King at Louisiana State University has been this type of mentor to our group, the Parousians. Father Carville has graciously given us his time and insight in wonderful ways. He has joined us as a special guest presenter, a participant at meetings, and even rallied with us at the celebration of Caleb’s going away roast.

During this last fall semester, Father Carville shared with the group his first hand experience of being a student in Rome during Vatican II while elaborating on the events that lead up to the council. Father Carville freely shared his wealth of knowledge both intellectual and personal. Deep intellectual thoughts coupled with personal experience and a sensible humor. Father Carville sets an example to keep our mental inquires grounded in the community accomplishing the very task the Parousians hope to accomplish; to examine the relationship between faith and culture through means of reason.

A few times Father Carville has attended student presentations. Willing to participate and enhance dialogue, Father Carville has engaged in our exchange of ideas and challenged us to new insight. His concern for our cause, attendance to meetings, and participation in our celebrations are invaluable to our group. On behalf of the Parousians, I would like to thank Father Carville.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Year Anniversary!

The Parousians will celebrate their ONE year anniversary this Sunday, the 28th at O’Charley's restaurant for 7:30pm. Father Sibley will be accompanying us as our guest to celebrate this occasion. We hope that many of you will also join us and bring a friend because we have 50 reserved seats to fill.

Also, over the course of the next week or so, Parousian members and supporters will be posting essays and congratulatory letters about the group in honor of our anniversary.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Florida Presentations

On January 14, 2007 the joint LSU and UF Parousian meeting convened in Gainesville. Michael Denton and Angela Miceli gave presentations. There were twelve of us in all, six from LSU and six from UF. Before we left for dinner that evening Toby Danna shared some general comments about the Parouisan vision.

At the Napolitano’s, an Italian restaurant, Michael Denton presented on Fulton J. Sheen’s Life of Christ. The presentation focused on a reflection on Christ’s life and was delivered Fall Semester 2006. Of course Michael faced greater difficulties as he endured constant interruption from the servers and the noisy atmosphere typical of popular dining, yet he remained calm, poised, and on topic delivering an incredibly insightful meditation. After dinner we reconvened at Jason LaLonde’s house for Angela’s presentation.

Angela’s presentation, titled American Republicanism and Catholicism: Beginnings of the Catholic Church in America, dealt with the first United States Bishop, John Carroll, and the role of early Catholics in the American government. Her thesis was that Catholicism best influenced religious society in terms of religious freedom through their concept of religious freedom. Republicanism, in this instance, refers to a type of government that derives its power from the people. The controversy arises over the participation in the early republic because of the dominant protestant consensus that prevailed in the early U.S.

Many protestant contend that protestant Christianity primarily influenced the formation of the United States. The Christians of early America had puritanical roots and enjoyed a belief in the special favor of God that identified America as a city on the hill. Embodied behind the decision to come to America if the freedom of conscience. The right to choose what is best for one’s self. In many ways this freedom of conscience of right to choose religion has become one of the core tenants of the American government.

Catholicism also had an understanding of the freedom of conscience. Catholicism has some of the most favorable conditions to conform to American government. John Carroll, the voice of the American Church, annunciates these similarities in the midst of adversity and a sometimes hostile Protestant environment. In some instances Roman Catholics were not given same rights because people had fear that Catholics threatened religious freedom. In fact, a former Catholic priest, Charles Wharton, left the Church and wrote against American Catholics in 1784 attacking all Catholic beliefs and rallying cause for Protestants to oppress the Catholics. In his letters Wharton was implicitly saying that if Catholics have religious freedom then the country can not be free.

Carroll responded by emphasizing the Catholic faith based on reason is compatible with a democratic society and there will not be freedom if Catholics do not have political freedom. Wharton criticized the Church’s teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church. Carroll countered that the Church teaches that all men and women who seek true religion are a part of the universal church (reaffirming that there is no salvation outside of the Church, and each person has a responsibility to seek the truth). Conscience cannot explain away everything so it is reasonable to appeal to a higher authority for interpretation. Need to properly inform your conscience in order to exercise a true freedom of conscience. Carroll further encourages the toleration of different religions and criticizes Wharton for trying to create a hostile environment for Catholics. Catholics have just as much right to freedom as any other American.

Carroll had open policy on encouraging religious tolerance but in such a way that did not compromise that authority of Rome. He supported his flock’s participation in government and the stability of religious freedom in the United States. By Vatican II the Church reaffirmed that everyone has a right to free expression of religion based on the dignity of the person. Thus, authentic religious freedom creates ground for dialogue and evangelism

Following Angela’s presentation we enjoyed an engaging and insightful dialogue. After about 40 minutes of discussion the meeting concluded. Later some of us journeyed to the student section of UF’s stadium, the Swamp, to pray.