my memories of Archbishop Flynn

Flynn-1I meant to write a post about my experiences with Archbishop Flynn last week, but instead chose to prioritize posting audio from some of his retreat conferences.

And as I began to think about him, I struggled with conflicting emotions, given the circumstances of recent years. I’m not writing today as a journalist but as a friend. I’m not here to point out his shortcomings, still less to explain them away.

Over the years, I told Flynn a number of things about the abuses happening in the seminary. He always listened, but he never offered a word of response and never promised to do anything. He allowed me to be vulnerable in this way, but would never reciprocate.

I love him still, and I love him sorely.

I remember his arrival in the Twin Cities vividly, because I was in my first year of seminary at the time.

As I became acquainted with him personally, and particularly as he served as my spiritual director for two years after I left the seminary, I became more familiar with the warmth of his personality; it was inseparable from his commitment to prayer. The words which G.K. Chesterton once attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi could have come from Archbishop Flynn:

Be not troubled in your thoughts, for you are dear to me, and even among the number who are most dear. You know that you are worthy of my friendship and society; therefore, come to me in confidence whenever you will, and from friendship, learn faith.

Saint Francis of Assisi, as quoted in G.K. Chesterton’s Life of Saint Francis, speaking to a friar struggling between humility and morbidity

His warmth of character and his sense of humor made me comfortable in his presence.

What is the meaning of comfort? How does it come about? Certainly not by reasoning and reckoning. Advice and argument are no comfort: they leave us cold. They leave man alone in his need and suffering. Nothing comes to him from them. But comfort is full of life; it has an immediacy and an intimacy that makes all things new. To comfort, you must love. You must be open and enter into the other’s heart. You must be observant; you must have the free and sensitive heart that finds the paths of life with quiet assurance; you must be able to discover the sore and withered places. You must have the subtlety and strength to penetrate the living center, to the deep source of life that has dried up. The heart must combine with this source of life, must summon it to life again so that it can flow through all the deserts and ruins within.

Monsignor Romano Guardini

He also had a great love for the priesthood, and for the celibate life as Christian witness. His presentation to the seminarians about celibacy was the best thing we received on the subject.

Defining celibacy only as giving up sex is just as unrealistic as seeing marriage [only] as giving up all other women. Neither marriage nor celibacy is liveable without a commitment of love so deep as to cause one to want to give up all else.

Bishop Harry Flynn, “Celibacy: A Way to Love”, Address to the 1990 World Synod of Bishops

He wrote me a good number of letters over the years. A few highlights from the correspondence we shared:

Every once in a while, it is good to step back from our intended paths and give some thought to what we are about…. I am convinced that the unhappiness that seems to pervade in so many hearts in today’s society is because people do not take time to listen to the Lord, and the Lord will always tell us how much he loves us, but he will always keep us on the right path.  (May 13, 1996)

Keep searching for the will of God. Our Lord will let you know what His will for you is, and then have the courage to embrace it.  (May 29, 1997)

I want to impress upon you once again the importance of prayer in your everyday life. Find some time when you can be alone with our Lord. Then ask Him what He wants to do with your life, and then learn to listen for the answer, and you will find it within your own heart…. Our Lord has a plan for you, and eventually that plan will be revealed to you, and you will have the courage to embrace it, and do it, whatever it might be.  (December 23, 1997)

Now the archbishop has moved from one life to the next. From my point-of-view, the transition seems like the fulfillment of the kind of life he lived.

Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we ‘live.’

Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, paragraph 27

May you find the life you so often reminded us to seek, Archbishop Flynn. And may the angels lead you into Paradise.

six years since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

Today, February 11, 2019, marks six years since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Last year, the pope-emeritus published a short note to a newspaper in response to an inquiry about how he was faring, a response that radiated with his characteristic warmth and wisdom:

It’s a great grace, in this last, at times tiring, stage of my journey, to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could have never imagined.

Here is a link over to the Spiritual Friendship blog, where Ron Belgau has written about the pope emeritus’ writings on friendship with Christ.

May God bless the remaining days of the life of this remarkable disciple.

20th anniversary of Act One: Writing for Hollywood

Today (January 25, 2019) marks the 20th anniversary of the Act One program.

Below, I’m linking to a fascinating interview with Barbara Nicolosi Harrington about the origins of Act One, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of its founding.

Act One became an important part of my own story when I participated in the 30-day Chicago Act One writing program in the summer of 2002. I’m so grateful to Barbara and everyone else who made it possible for the program to exist, and for me to attend. (For example, my boss at the time not only gave me 30 days off to attend the program, but also covered my tuition). I’m also grateful for all of the extraordinary friends I made via the program and the subsequent move to Hollywood.

It seems fitting that Act One was launched on January 25, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. It also falls during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As Barbara describes in the interview, Act One has become a beautiful example of inter-denominational cooperation and common mission.

Also, I know that Saint Paul is one of Barbara’s patron saints. She was a member of the Daughters of Saint Paul for nine years. As a result, there’s certainly a bit of the ardor of Saint Paul in her. Check out this prayer she once wrote: Christians and Media: A Prayer for Forgiveness.

Please consider making a donation to Act One by clicking here.

a friendship between two great men

From a recent episode of Fr. Groeschel’s Sunday Night Live, in which George Weigel shares about the friendship between Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

I don’t know of a relationship of this consequence for the life of the church that is quite like this… certainly [in] the modern history of the papacy. They worked in very close harness for more than twenty years, and they did it as very different types of guys. I mean, you have this great public personality, and you have this more shy and retiring scholar. You have a philosopher and you have a theologian. You have a Pole and you have a German. All of this should not have worked and yet it worked fantastically well, which is to both of their credit. I think each saw in the other something that he didn’t have. John Paul II clearly recognized in Ratzinger a more comprehensive theological intelligence than his own. Ratzinger saw in Wojtyla a personality of the type he could never be and didn’t pretend to be, which is good, because you can’t fake this stuff. Real humility on both sides as well as genuine affection.

John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger ©

It’s worth thinking about how they were the same, though. These are two men who both were formed in this great Catholic renewal ferment in central Europe in the mid-twentieth century: the movement to rediscover the Bible and the Fathers of the Church; the liturgical movement in its early classical period; the Catholic social doctrine movement, etc; the renewal of theology and philosophy. There was this great ferment going on that eventually produced the Second Vatican Council, at which these two men played significant roles, and of whom they are the last two great witnesses.

We have no idea who the next Pope will be; one thing we know for absolutely certain is that he will not have been at the Second Vatican Council. In fact, were Pope Benedict XVI to be Leo XIII 2.0, which could happen, the next pope might not have even been born at the time of the Second Vatican Council. So I raise this because these two men who… have to be seen in tandem represent both the apogee — the high point — and the end of a period. With the death of Pope Benedict (which we hope is many, many years away)… with the end of that pontificate we will have brought this period in the history of the Church to a close. So we’re very, very fortunate that this (pardon the phrase) “cashed out” the way it did with these two personalities and their capacity to work together.

Full podcast here.


I’ve been thinking about putting together a short book on friendship in the spiritual life, by expanding on a paper I wrote on the topic of friendship as part of my Great Books seminar during college. I posted the sections of that paper on my blog back in 2005.

Since many visitors arrive at my blog while searching for the posts on friendship, and because recent technical difficulties with my Blogger account have rendered the original posts a bit hard to find, I have reposted the articles here on my new WordPress blog.

I introduced my paper in this way:

The topic of friendship has been addressed through the ages in a variety of ways that reflect the very personal nature of friendship; each of the writers that I have researched for this paper have distinctive views on the subject, probably the result of their own personal experiences. However, my goal in writing this paper was not to discover why these writers have arrived at different interpretations of the nature of friendship. Instead, I wanted to examine recurring themes in order to arrive at a description, however incomplete, of what friendship truly is. I chose to analyze the ideas of Aristotle, Cicero, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Robert Hugh Benson. What follows is a summary of my discoveries.

Here’s the outline for the college paper, along with links to each section:

Friendship as Natural for the Human Person

Types of Friendship

Characteristics of True Friendship
* Familiarity
* Choice
* Shared situations and interests
* Pleasure
* Charity
* Self-love
* Trust
* Respect
* Justice
* Criticism
* Virtue

Perfect Friendship
* The nature of ideal friendship
* Exclusivity and perfect friendship

Aims of Friendship

Friendship and Happiness

Caution in Friendship

The Degree of Loyalty Proper to Friends

Can Friendships Last?

Friendship with God

Personal Reflections on Friendship

I’ve added a few sources and quotes this time around, and amended some sections.