Showing posts from 2008

Tilting into the New Year

Tomorrow morning, I will head up to Detroit for our tri-province formation gathering. I'll not return until Thursday, so this will be my last post until then.
We had last our night a gathering of Cleveland-area Jesuits and their families last night. Generously hosted by the John Carroll University community, it provided a great opportunity to catch up with other Jesuits and a moment to spend time with many men's "family of origin." I don't know why I like the phrase "family of origin" so well, but I have to say that meeting a Jesuit's "family of origin" puts the man into context: you get a sense of why a guy is the way he is when you've spent some time with those who've raised him.
As I mentioned the other day, I've decided to train for a marathon. In fact, the weather was so beautiful in Cleveland yesterday that it inspired me to try a 7-mile run which I was able to achieve in 1 hour and 3 minutes. That's 9-minute miles, wh…

O Holy Night

Out of scores of Christmas carols that are played around the clock during this season, none touches me more of late than the song O Holy Night. If the opening words have not yet been etched into your brain:O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. This has been, I know, a very challenging year for many people. For some, it is simply yet another challenging year while, for others, we have seen the meltdown of the economy. Many of us are living through the first cycle without a loved one: a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend without whom it is hard to imagine this being Christmas.
I suspect that Christmas can make the feelings of loss and sadness even more pronounced. Store ads and radio jingles promote this as the happiest time of year...but we fee…

Update from the Homefront

Without too many weather-related difficulties, I arrived back in Cleveland on Saturday. Within the last 72 hours, my cousin's house has burned down and I've learned that my brother is expecting his second child. My home visits are usually wholly uneventful but, if the last three days is any indication, this could turn into a very exciting visit. 
As many of you know, I am a former Weight-Watcher. Then again, considering that I weigh less now than I did in the 5th grade, I reckon I still count as one. Perhaps while I'm home this week I'll look around for some other pictures, but in the meantime let me post this oldie in order to give a sense of how big I was at the age of 12 or so:

(I'm in the back row, center) 
I mention this, first, because I think it's funny to look at old pictures. Painful. Embarrassing. But, in the end, funny.
Second, over the years of blogging, I've often shared with readers my journey into physical fitness. From my initial forays into the…

A Recent Homily

Drew Marquard, SJ, delivered a homily last week that I was particularly moved by. Drew has graciously allowed me to edit it to make it more suitable for a broader audience - it was preached to fellow scholastics - but I believe I have preserved the content wholly. I commend it to you for your spiritual reading.

What would our life be without the grace of God? We all have or will experience spiritual loneliness in our lives. It can come in the dryness of prayer, in depression, or in the loss of desire. We’re all here, I would imagine, out of a desire to be in this place at this time. We want to be Jesuits. It’s this God-given desire that gets us through the day-to-day hardships encountered in our lives. Without a firm aspiration to be a Jesuit, these struggles can easily become magnified: community annoyances evolve into distracting issues, the vows become unbearable, school seems pointless. This desire grounds any vocation, whether it be to single life, religious life, or married…

The Statement of the Society of Jesus on the Passing of Cardinal Dulles

The Jesuit Conference of the United States mourns the passing of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ who died early today (December 12, 2008) at Fordham University’s Murray-Weigel Hall in New York. We join with our brothers of the New York Province, the whole Society of Jesus and all who knew and loved him in offering prayers of thanksgiving for his life of service to God and the Church as he has been called home.

“Cardinal Dulles was man of tremendous intellectual rigor whose teaching and writing contributed greatly to the vibrancy of Catholic intellectual life,” commented the President of the Jesuit Conference, Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich. “Yet for a man with so many gifts, he never viewed himself as anything more than a poor servant of Christ,” Smolich added. “In this way, he called all of us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord he so dearly loved.”

“Dulles was part of the new generation of theologians following Vatican II who brought a fresh approach to ecclesiology,” said …

May he rest in peace...

This morning I learned that the eminent Jesuit theologian and churchman Avery Cardinal Dulles has entered into eternal life.

I would ask that you pray that for the Cardinal and for those who have loved him and have been taught by him. With over 30 books, scores of articles, and innumerable students over a long and distinguished career, your prayers are assured of a wide net.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him; may his soul and all souls, through the mercy of our loving God, rest in peace.

Where does the time go?

During the course of any week, I usually entertain the notion of about five different posts that I want to put up on the blog. This usually happens while I'm in the shower - it does seem that most of my ideas come whilst there - but, as is so often the case, by the time I get back to my room and get dressed, I've had something else catch my interest and I end up ignoring the blog. 
I am actually done with all of my work for the term. I have to take a final exam next Monday in Natural Law and I reckon I'll study a bit for that. But all of my other papers are finished, so I'm breathing a long sigh of relief and looking forward to Christmas in Cleveland. 
In lieu of a more substantive post, I wanted to post one of my newer videos. Thanks to Michael Flatley, the tune "The Lord of the Dance" or "Simple Gifts" has attained near-universal recognition. I was bored about a week ago, so I took a moment to do a recording of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I 've been up since 5:30 this morning when I gave my turkey one more 'turn' before tossing it into the oven at 9:00. It has since been removed and is a gorgeous golden-brown: Norman Rockwell would be proud!
It is good for us all to pause and reflect on the many ways each of us is blessed. Interestingly, what we in the United States mark out as a once-per-year holiday is, within the Christian tradition, an everyday event: for we are invited to celebrate the Eucharist. Rather than one day set aside for reflection on the ways we've been blessed, each day becomes consecrated to reflecting upon what God is doing in our lives and it affords us an opportunity to respond in praise and worship, in Thanksgiving, for what God has done, is doing, and will do. 

I would like to offer a quote for you to reflect upon:
A new age of Christian culture will doubtless understand a little better than one has up to now (and never will the world have finished understanding this, i.e., rejecting …

Of Many Things

I was on the phone with a friend of mine who was lamenting that she had to prepare dinner for twelve people on Thursday. I have spent today preparing the menu, writing the shopping list, and setting a cooking schedule for a dinner for 44 people. In case you're interested in what a Ciszek Hall Thanksgiving Feast looks like:
Sugar Coated PecansStuffed MushroomsCheese & Fruit TrayGreen Bean Casserole (could we actually skip this dish?)Sweet PotatoesMashed PotatoesCranberry SauceStuffingMarsala Glazed Carrots with HazelnutsDinner RollsTwo deep-fried turkeys (each 12-pound) and one 16-pound salted turkeyPumpkin PieApple PieLayered Chocolate DessertSo there's dinner.
I also have really cool wine to offer our guests. Over the summer, I found and purchased a rather delicious Cranberry Riesling that has acted as the inspiration behind the dishes being served. I'll probably offer cru beaujolais as I've heard only good things of it this year. 
I've been doing this work seque…

Special Needs

Just over a week ago, the following question was posed in the comments box:
I am gravely concerned for the my son's soul. He is autistic and non-verbal and mentally impaired. How can he accept Christ? How will I know if he has?My heart has been touched deeply by this question and I have been praying  for several days and I would like now to offer something of a stammering response.
Over the years, it has been your cross to care for your son. To some extent, this is no different from what most parents must do. Mommies and Daddies have, for centuries, bathed, fed, changed, cuddled, corrected, and loved their children. They do this not, of course, so that the child remains dependent on them forever. Rather, they do this so that they may become independent, free to live and to love as adults. Thus it is that the care necessary for an infant is radically different from that needed by a 3-year old, or a seven-year old, or a teenager. While our fundamental needs never change - we always ne…

Blaqrobes Co-Ed Intramural Softball Team

The 2008 Blaqrobes!


Last week I invited people to share what I could do to make my blog better and I was very grateful for both the comments submitted and the emails sent. The irony is that, in light of all of these good questions and ideas, I've been deadly silent!

Fear not. It's been a busy week and things are going to get a bit busier before they calm down. I have two posts almost ready to go up, but I want to make sure I'm saying clearly what i want to articulate. So stay tuned!


Over the last year, I have taken to waking up around 5:00 in the morning, praying, and then spending between 30 and 60 minutes answering questions I receive on YouTube. Naturally the vast majority of questions involve some aspect of playing or learning Irish music: tin whistle techniques, listening suggestions, difficulties learning a particular movement, sometimes the (horrifying) request that I teach with my shirt off (no joke). 
As I wrote the other day, it's not uncommon to receive other types of correspondence. Sometimes it is from a person who is struggling with issues surrounding doubt and belief. These notes run the gamut from downright hostility to my belief in God to people who are straining against darkness to believe again. It amazes me that one of the most popular pages on my own blog is a little bit I wrote on Christian Atheism, a topic I very much wish to return to next Lent. 
With over 1.5 million views on YouTube with viewers coming from all over the globe, I am acu…

The Hagan Family (of 1994)

So can you tell which one I am? Third row, second from the left. I think I was a freshman at Saint Ignatius High School. You'll note two things: I'm heavy and I have hair. 
It's so funny...this was taken just about 14 years ago. A lot has changed: were we to try to re-create this photo, several faces would not be present due to death (Michael, Grandpa Hagan) and several others from divorce. Many other faces would be added: Maura, Emma, Charity, Ben, Anastasia, Diana, Brian, Evi, Coleman, and others.  
On the day after All Soul's Day, it's good to be reminded of those we have loved and who have preceded us into death. I miss my Grandpa Hagan very much and I often wonder what he would have thought of me being a Jesuit. 
I'm grateful that my cousin Erinn Hagan posted this on her Facebook page. This picture hangs in our family room at home, but seeing it online gave me a chance to pause to remember the family who has loved me, and who I have loved, over the years of m…

On Music

I receive many emails each day from people around the world who have found the "Fordham University's Introduction to the Irish Tin Whistle" videos to be helpful. Very often the emails ask for musical help or for me to record some particular tune.

But it's not an irregular experience for me to receive a request of a more spiritual nature. Today, I had such a request which gave me the opportunity to reflect, again, on how I view the relationship between music and prayer. Emending it to preserve the anonymity of the addressee, I'd like to share with you what I wrote:

Dear _________,
Happy belated birthday!
Yesterday your father wrote to me and told me of your growing interest in the tin whistle. I'm humbled to hear that my lessons have been a help to you, but I'm most grateful to hear that you are falling more deeply in love with the tin whistle and the tradition out of which it comes.
I think that it is very hard to be a young person today. It very often seems …

Uncle Ryan wants to brag

Since I don't (nor will I ever) have kids of my own, I reckon it's my prerogative to brag about my niece Emma.
In what is a rare turn, my brother Colin is included in this picture. Colin - Emma's daddy - is two years younger than me and lives and works in Cleveland. 
As you'll note, my brother is a fairly solid guy. Tough (or he'd like you to think). Funny thing to be aware of: he's deathly afraid of clowns. TERRIFIED, really. When we were kids and shared a room, Grandma Hagan put a picture of a Hobo/Clown with a little dog at the end of a leash. Colin was, for years, terrified of this picture - the very picture he slept under from kindergarten through third or fourth grade! I don't quite recall what happened to that picture, but I can't help but note the irony that our Emma has taken her turn as Bozo the Clown for a night. 

Happy Halloween!

I wish I could say that I'll be handing out candy to trick-or-treaters tonight, but I think instead I'll be staying in doors, recovering from a cold. It came upon me suddenly yesterday and today I've been beset with a sore throat and a runny nose. 
I feel like a blogging deadbeat. But there's really nothing interesting to report from my end: we're heading into the home stretch of the semester and I'm feeling very confident. I'm sort of excited to begin preparations for this years Thanksgiving Feast -- I have chosen the wine already and I've begun to sketch out the exact nature of the menu. 
Say a prayer for Drew Marquard, SJ who will be running the New York City Marathon on Sunday. Afflicted with a cold or not, I and a number of other guys from the house will be going down to cheer him on. Truth be told, I like my part of the marathon best: I get to stand with a tasty beverage (Starbucks, I should think) in hand, waiting for Drew to run by so that I …

Lighting Strikes Twice

Just about six months ago, I made my debut pitching for the Blaqrobes - the Jesuit Scholastic softball team. On my first night, I was hit in the left ankle by a wild throw, forcing me to learn to use crutches.
During batting practice last night, I pitched around a dozen balls to Drew Marquard, SJ. One whizzed by 3" from my head. One left a mark on my left calf. 
And the third has rendered my left foot completely black-and-blue. 
There's brotherhood, for you.
There's a 25% target-accuracy, to boot.
Let it be said that even in excruciating pain, I still pitched the game. And we tied - so we're now 1-3-1 (we are undefeated in the co-ed league). 
I meant to post this earlier, but as some of you know last Sunday (October 19th) was my 29th birthday. We had cake on Saturday night. We had drinks on Sunday night. We had ice cream cake last night. And we're having a celebration in the city tonight. 4 of 5 nights of's like Hanukkah without the candles (and the…

Thank God for the Devil Rays

On this night, the mighty Devil Rays have vanquished the Boston Red Sox. This is great and glorious news for many of us, especially those who love to root for those who have never had a chance to represent their league in the World Series. 
I might not tell you who I'm rooting for in this election, but I've not trouble telling you who I'd love to win the World Series. 

The Mission

For today's session of "The Catholic Imagination" Drew Marquard, SJ is going to screen The Mission for the students. Next week he'll lead the discussion, picking up the elements of Redemption that are at play throughout the film.
The Mission is one of my favorite movies, not least because it features gorgeous music by composer Ennio Morricone. In easily the most famous, and beautiful piece of music from the film, I commend to you Gabriel's Oboe:

In Honor of Cleveland's Victory

I have been waiting....and waiting....and waiting....for a good time to post these pictures of my niece Emma. I wanted to find the perfect occasion to celebrate the Cleveland Browns doing something terrific, and last night's 35-14 victory over the Giants seems to be appropriate.

With the way they've been playing, I thought she'd be driving before I got to post these.

Ciszek Hall

In case you'd like to see this year's motley crew of Jesuits, follow this link to 
Ciszek Hall's New Website

Priests and Politics

For quite some time, I have had mixed feelings about weighing in or writing on the topic of  politics. "Your realm," a friend once told me, "is to be priestly, not political." I reckon I've bought into this, preferring to pray quietly and to remain silent on many of the issues that have arisen during this election season.
It is not as though my silence is without good reason. For were I to say that I intended to vote for John McCain, there would be cries that I hate the poor; to suggest a vote for Obama would raise cries that I hated the unborn. In particular, I have been dismayed and horrified by the caustic and hateful comments directed toward Catholic bloggers who voice, in any way, support for Obama. Civil discourse seems, yet again, to have been thrown out the window. Is it a wonder why a Jesuit scholastic would prefer to remain silent?
But can I, in conscience, stay silent? Am I so wholly removed from the world of politics that I am permitted only to direct…


I apologize for being quiet this last week. I've been really busy between musical engagements and trying to get ahead on some of my coursework. 
I have a bunch of pictures that I need to post, so after my 5k tomorrow morning perhaps I'll have a chance to upload them. 
This should be a busy, but fun, weekend: I'm going to a movie tomorrow night, a show on Saturday, and I've to cook on Sunday. I also have a good bit of reading to do and a paper to work on, so there'll not be a ton of free time...which is a good thing, I guess.
And a quick Happy Birthday to my sister Reilley -- she turned 22 today.

The Catholic Imagination (AKA: Sensuous Catholicism)

I posted some time ago a description of the program I'm running this semester. Over the last few weeks, I decided to change the name from "The Catholic Touch" to "The Catholic Imagination." I thought for awhile about calling it "Sensuous Catholicism" but, like the "The Catholic Touch," there was a fear of evoking hints of the sex-abuse scandal. So we're being more benign.

So here's another articulation at the rationale:

Thomas Aquinas believed that human knowledge originated in the senses. This should sound pretty sensible: we "know" the football play because we practiced it, we "know" how to cook because we've chopped and broiled, mothers know the scent of their babies clothes, and even Thomas in John's gospel "knew" it was Jesus when he put his hand into the open wound. Entire industries have been built around our senses: vibrating game controllers, perfumes and colognes, richer and more luxuriou…

Now that things have settled down...

Well, it seems like Joseph isn't talking to me any more. Alas. I guess I'll have to find something else to blog about....
...such as what life as a young Jesuit is like.
This morning I woke up fairly early (5:30 am) and had time to do Yoga. In the still of the morning, I love nothing more than to take my time giving thanks to God for the start of a new day. As I assume various poses, I imagine the stretching of my body mirroring the opening of my inner life to be responsive to God's movement in my day. 
What I've noticed is that the practice of Yoga has brought me a sense of inner peace as my exterior and interior are aligned through stretching and breathing. The tension of the previous day is relaxed away, my muscles and joints are awakened for a new beginning. Having achieved some sense of balance and physical awakening, I settle into my chair for some more formal prayer time - usually beginning with Pray-As-You-Go and then moving into a meditation on the day's read…

Good Ignatian, Bad Ignatian Part II

At the risk of appearing obsessive, I want to call attention to a message Joseph Fromm left in his comment box. Before I do so, a few things to note:

Following my initial post, Joseph deleted the post I referenced. The post and the comments have both vanished. Why?
When I responded to his response on his site, the post was deleted. I guess I should not be surprised: why should he allow another person's views to be presented in full when it is his longstanding tactic to cut-and-paste only those bits of peoples' writings that he (mis)understands.I don't mean to sound obsessive, but I'm not letting Joseph off too easily. He doesn't like having attention called to himself or his posts, nor is he willing to engage in some measured debate. He prefers guerrilla blogging tactics where he takes shots from afar and retreats into the shadows.

So without further ado, this is his latest response over on his blog:

I deleted both posts, not because my positions were untenable, but be…

Good Ignatian, Bad Ignatian?

This morning, I'd like to lay my cards on the table. This may or may not surprise folks, but I hate bullies. As one who was occasionally bullied as a kid, I have a particular disdain for those who like to intimidate or inflict injuries on others. In getting older and gaining perspective, I realized that the bullies who picked on me were typically empty, sad, and terribly lonely people who needed someone weaker than they to make themselves feel strong, fulfilled, and purposeful. 
What interests me is that, as I look back on it, bullies tended to feel themselves as upholding some standard or norm. I remember once a guy in high school getting pushed around because he was judged a "fag" and "his kind" didn't belong in our school. In this case, the bully was defending some notion of hetero-normative behavior and exacted a toll on the guy who didn't comport to his standard. I think bullies do this very often: theyset the standard by which they judge and then a…

The Untutored Eye

I've been really busy this week, but since I have to preach tonight I thought I'd post the homily.

Lk 6:39-42

Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

The Untutored Eye

To help us dwell on this evening’s gospel, I would like to draw upon two competing schools of exegesis: the Cowellian school founded by Simon Cowell and the Abullian school begun by Paula Abdul. While you probably thought their talents were limited to being judges on American Id…

Dinner at 7

After I return from the gym this morning, I'll spend the rest of my day in the kitchen preparing a dinner for (about) twenty people. It has become something of a custom for me to host semi-regular dinners here at Ciszek for some of the younger members of the theology and philosophy departments, Jesuits, and other graduate students.

My menu tonight:

Prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe
Sauteed green beans with tomatoes and basil
marinated summer squash
tortellini bolognese (my own sauce)
Nectarine and blueberry crisp

In recent years, Fordham University has made fabulous young hires in both theology and philosophy and it has been one of my great delights to have gotten to know many of these faculty members. Extending hospitality toward members of the Fordham community - both faculty and fellow graduate students - helps for them to get to know us, to understand what the whole "Jesuit project" is, and gives them a sense of having a role in our formation process that extends far beyond j…

Into the Breach Once More

If you're a regular follower of my blog, you'll know that this is my third year at Fordham University. A full year of courses awaits, to be sure: Integration Seminar, Natural Law, Husserl, Fundamental Theology (all this semester) to be followed by Integration II, Transcendental Thomism, Levinas, and Merleau-Ponty (next semester). I think it's safe to say that there's a fair bit of work between now and the beginning of May!

Now the added bit of excitement to the third year of philosophy is the fabled Regency Assignment. Regency is the period of Jesuit formation that follows First Studies and often, although certainly not always, involves a man teaching in one of our high schools.

Although it's less dramatic than lining up for the Sorting Hat at Hogwart's, it's still an exciting time. Many of us daydream about where we'll do our regencies; indeed, many of us were directly influenced by young regents when we were in high school. So now the time approaches…

My Protégé

Music teachers, probably like coaches, can wait for a lifetime for their protégé to appear. How fortunate for me that my niece, Emma, has a natural inclination toward the tin whistle and will soon be following her uncle's footsteps. Well, not all of them: the Jesuits don't admit women.

The Living Tradition

Please pardon my absence: I'm just now settling back into life in the Bronx.

I wanted, however, to call your attention to a very fine article written by Jim Lang of Assumption College. A professor of English, Jim contributes a regular column to The Chronicle of Higher Education and his latest column is devoted to a discussion of the tin whistle course I teach here at Fordham. I'm glad that he acknowledges Drew Marquard's help, without whom I would be wholly unable either to record or post my videos (I have a technological handicap). Indeed, follow this link here to see some of Drew's videos.

I hope Jim doesn't mind that I've copied the article here, so if you'd rather read it on-site then follow this link to The Living Tradition.

The Living Tradition

Think about teaching as a set of strategies or techniques that we inherit and pass on to the next generation

by James M. Lang

I've long been a devotee of traditional Irish music, despite my measly dollop of eth…