Showing posts from 2009

Liturgical Lamentations

I'm heading back to Detroit early tomorrow morning and I was looking forward to spending this evening at a gathering with other Jesuits hosted by John Carroll University. Poor weather, unplowed streets, and a bad feeling that I'm in the early stages of a cold have forced me, sadly, to stay in for the evening.
It has been my good fortune this semester to become more involved in the planning and execution of liturgies. I rather like the whole affair. It's exhilarating to organize the students, make dynamic use of liturgical symbolism, and find ways to encourage a greater sense of reverence for and participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.
One thing I've noticed over the years is that a key to a good liturgy is good music. It's not everything, to be sure, but it certainly helps. Saint Augustine is reputed to have exhorted his listeners, "He who sings prays twice." If speaking is "Prayer x 1" and singing is "Prayer x 2," then this…

Rounding Out the Year

As 2009 draws to a close, I see that with this post I'll have put 98 items on the web. That's not nearly as voluminous as some bloggers but, as I look back on the events of the year, I think it's about right.
2009 stands as a pivotal year in my Jesuit formation:
A former Weight-Watcher, I ran my first marathon in Cleveland this yearI graduated from Fordham University with the MAPR (Master of Arts in Philosophical Resources) My family welcomed the birth of my nephew and godson QuinnI had an article accepted for publication in New BlackfriarsI was missioned to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy to undertake the regency stage of formationI have been enormously graced this year. I cannot imagine being any happier than I am now.
If I might offer a few random thoughts:
1. For those in discernment of any sort, I encourage you simply to give yourself over to God. It seldom happens in our lives that we will get what we want. Nevertheless, when we have opened ours…

Merry Christmas

Just a brief post to wish a very Merry Christmas to all my readers!


For many of us, the liturgical season of Advent, taken from the Latin adventus or "coming," is far from peaceful. Christmas parties, end-of-the-semester work, family gatherings, the beginning of winter sports...each of these seems to make it difficult for us to give ourselves over to the season, to making the true focus of our time a patient waiting for the birth of the Savior.
Many years ago, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote the following poem entitled "St. Alphonsus Rodriguez". Brother Rodriguez spent 46 years as the porter at the Jesuit College of Montesione on the Spanish island of Majorca. As porter, his basic job was to answer the door. Read, if you will, the following poem:
St. Alphonsus RodriguezLaybrother of the Society of JesusHONOUR is flashed off exploit, so we say;And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shieldShould tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.On Christ they do and on the …

On Anonymity

I awoke this morning a free man: today is the first full day of Christmas vacation. I don't know who has been more excited about this holiday, me or the kids!
Having graded until late last night (after midnight), I was annoyed with myself that I woke up at 5:30 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I decided to put the time to good use, so I logged into YouTube and began answering an enormous backlog of emails I've received over the last few weeks. When I awoke I had nearly 500 messages; I've read nearly all of them and answered those that needed to be answered.
Many of the messages are expressions of gratitude for the tin whistle lessons. Others ask me for tips or advice on purchasing tin whistles, learning tunes, finding teachers, etc.. Not a few express how they've re-connected with their faith thanks to my Intermediate Lessons, where I try to draw a parallel between music and spirituality: we pray as we play. Some simply ask for prayers.
A few emails, howev…

Semester Drawing to a Close

To be honest, I don't know who is more excited about Christmas break: the teachers or the students! I'm certain that 2-3 more teaching days would be really helpful in giving me a chance to finish the New Testament textbook and I'd love to spend a few more days with the seniors reading Nietzsche, but I'm not complaining that we only have five days left before vacation.
Unfortunately, I don't know how much of a vacation this will be. Our semester exams take place the week of January 11th, so I have to prepare three different exams. So that means that I'll have to write two extensive study guides (for freshmen and sophomores) as well as two exams, plus prepare an exam for my senior philosophy students. So while I'm not assigning any major projects to my students over vacation - my Christmas gift to them - I can't claim the same for myself!
It's hard to believe that in a few weeks, I'll re-start two of my courses with new students and I'll pick …

Two More Videos Recorded

I had a chance to record two more videos this weekend.
The first video I dedicate to one of my students who has been nagging me to put a new video up. The two tunes, both jigs, were composed by Tom Hastings. I have known Tom for over 23 years: he is a mix of teacher, mentor, and trusted friend. If I have 10% of his love and passion for traditional Irish music, it is only because of his infectious love and joy for his musical heritage that he has so generously shared with me and legions of music students.

Tom moved to Columbus, Ohio, several years ago. It was a HUGE loss to the Irish music scene in Cleveland and I really hope that the Irish musicians in Columbus know what a treasure and resource they have in Tom. I have had many musical influences in my life, but first among all of them is Tom Hastings. It was my pleasure to record "The Bronze Flute" and "Tom's Other Fiddle" in his honor. I only hope that I have done them justice.
I do have to apologize somewhat: …

My Return to Animal Planet

With short notice (like at 2:47 yesterday afternoon), I agreed to help chaperone last night's Neon Dance. "Neon Dance" does not imply that the students were festooned in neon signs. Rather, it means to indicate that there were black lights in the gym so that the illuminated students appeared as if they'd spent some time at Chernobyl.
Of course, I rather like the whole concept of black-lit events. It reminds me of the times that I've gone "laser bowling" with friends: the florescent paint that has been applied to various surfaces becomes eerily luminescent under the black light, transforming the normal bowling alley into a glowing frenzy of balls, pins, and beer.
What made last night unique, however, is not that there were decorations strewn about the gym that had been pre-treated in order to give off an eery glow. Instead, it was the students who thought to pre-treat themselves:
Some arrived having poured the contents of glo-sticks all over their clothes…


It was with a grim face that my Jesuit superior informed me and the community that I am being removed from my current ministry. This news caused great consternation and confusion for several community members: what was it that I had done? What could I possibly have done in less than four months to merit such an abrupt removal from my job?
Well, it appears that my persnickety superior does not approve of the way that I make beds and prepared the guest rooms. He kindly offered to schedule some corrective therapy: a four-hour session of watching Martha Stewart demonstrate how to make a bed the right way, along with a 2-hour session of learning how to dust and vacuum properly. I demurred at this suggestion, preferring instead the downgrade to "House Librarian." It is a hard fall, really, to go from the lofty heights of the "Assistant to the Guest Master" and be relegated to merely re-shelving books and maintaining a magazine rack.
So I admit it: my skill set is not in…

Do Catholics Really Pray to Mary?

Over drinks this weekend, an old friend of mine asked me at point-blank a question I hear often but one for which I am seldom able to articulate a short, clear answer:
Why do Catholics pray to Mary?
It may have been the grace of the company I was with, or that it was late in the evening, but I think I managed to offer - for the first time - a fairly succinct answer to her question.
First off, let's start with the prayer.
Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.
The first thing I pointed out is that the first section of the prayer is the combination of two greetings directed toward Mary in the first chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first line is taken from Luke's account of the angel Gabriel greeting Mary: "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The next line of the prayer is also a greeting, this time …

Aren't Holidays Supposed to be Relaxing?

For weeks, I looked forward to the Thanksgiving Holiday with great excitement. This would be the first year that I would eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family. This would be the first year that I wouldn't fly to either Chicago or Columbus on a pre-dawn flight on Black Friday in order to begin playing for a three-day long Irish dancing competition. This would be the first year that I would have a six-day vacation from school: in addition to Thursday and Friday, our school also had Wednesday and Monday off.
Visions of sleeping in and having a restful holiday proved, alas, to be delusional. Far from relaxing, I had rather exhilarating week: I visited with Jesuit friends and classmates, watched a bizarrely interesting zombie movie, played for hundreds of Irish dancers, saw old Irish dancing friends and colleagues, became re-acquainted with the "Chocolate Martini" as an after-dinner drink, and drove across most of northern and middle Ohio.
In short, I'm exhausted.
And I st…

It's Not All About You

I have spent the last few weeks reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity with my seniors. It's a remarkable little book: clearly written, engaging, with very short chapters. As my post from yesterday should indicate, my indebtedness to Lewis for giving me an imaginative tableau for my Christianity certainly predisposes me toward loving any of his works.
Book III of Mere Christianity takes as its overarching topic the issue of Christian Behavior. He begins by recounting "a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was "The sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it."Lewis writes that in his own era, just around 1943, this is the image of God that seems to have taken hold of popular imagination. If my experience with high school and college students is any indication, this image of God still holds sway.
If this distorted image o…

Disenchanted by the Gospel

Years ago, before I entered the Jesuits, I went to a local bookstore to purchase a newly released book in the Harry Potter series. While I was standing in line, a well-intentioned customer eyed the book under my arm (which I carried, if memory serves me correctly, with a paperback copy of the Catechism that I wanted to buy) and promptly informed me that the book I was holding contained "the devil." With feigned horror I allowed the book to drop to the floor and stared at her, exclaiming, "Good Lord! So that's where he's been all this time!" I then picked the book back up and made my way to the cashier.
One of the reasons I liked the Harry Potter books so much is that, many years before any students took up residence at Hogwart's, my heart and mind had been captivated by a different magician: C. S. Lewis. As a little boy in the second grade (so we're talking 1987-88), I remember distinctly my mom giving me a copy of his The Lion, the Witch, and the Wa…

God is like...

Over the last few weeks, one of the main topics we've discussed in our New Testament/Christology course has been the importance of parables. Coming from the Greek word meaning "comparison," we often experience the parables as powerful teachings shared with his listeners by Jesus to show what the Kingdom of God is like. I taught the students that the parable are "atomic bomb" stories - they should shatter our pre-conceived notions of God and their radiation should penetrate into the very core of our being. Too often, however, we banalize the parables and make them quaint little tales rather than experiencing them as the irruptive and challenging teaching moments Jesus intended them to be.
So this week, instead of a weekly sermon, I invited the students to write their own parables or short-sayings about God and the Kingdom. Some of them were mediocre: not a few typed in "God is like..." into Google, scrolled, down a few, and cut-and-paste the answers in…

Poison or Medicine?

Over the last two weeks, I have received three correspondences from an anonymous blogger who has raised questions I think it would be helpful to address.
First, Anonymous is concerned with the "fundamental lack of seriousness about your Jesuit recipes and whistle-playing and inordinate self-abosorption...". I never would have thought that sharing one's passions for food and for Irish music would manifest a lack of seriousness or be considered a measure of frippery [<-- a too seldom used word].
This should go without saying: this is, of course, my blog. When I set out to maintain it, it was with the purpose of sharing the story of one Jesuit's formation. By its nature, it is a blog focused on a central character. If that is considered self-absorption, then I reckon I'm guilty. But it would seem that the whole project does necessitate that in order to tell of "A Jesuit's Journey" there needs to be a Jesuit to narrate it. On this site, I am that Jes…

What was lost...

I often joke that, before I entered the Jesuits, I led the life of a rock-star accordion player. In some ways, this is hyperbolic: "rock-star accordion player" is an oxymoron! Nevertheless, in the world of Irish dancing, I had earned a solid reputation as being a good musician for Irish dancers. Consequently, many organizers of feiseanna, or Irish dancing competitions, would invite me to play at their events.
One evening, about seven years ago, I was forced to take an early-ish flight to a city in the Mid-West. I arrived at the hotel early, unpacked, but was too restive to take a nap. So I did what any reasonable extrovert would do: I headed down to the hotel bar to see if any of the other Irish dancing teachers/musicians/adjudicators had arrived. Much to my chagrin, I was the first to have arrived.
Never being one to allow being on his own to deter him, I sidled up to the bar and ordered a drink and asked for a menu. The bar itself was thoroughly unremarkable: small bowls of…

New Protocol

Some of you will notice that if you want to make a comment on the blog, it'll have to be approved by me before it gets published.
As one of the comments (now deleted) noted, I do have a hard time finding time to teach and play Irish music and do all sorts of other things. I simply do not have the time to babysit my blog, deleting silly posts when they appear.
November 8th: If you want your post to be published, or to be taken seriously, include your name on it. I'm not interested in dialoguing with anonymous posters.

All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus

On November 5th, the Church remembers the the Saints and Blessed who have lived their Christian vocations as Companions of Jesus. Please join your prayers with mine as we remember all those Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus....those who have come before us and those who live among us now.

A Prayer for Vocations
Father, in the name of Jesus, through the power of your Spirit, inspire men and women to labor for your kingdom.
We especially as you through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, St. Ignatius, and all the saints, to help the Society of Jesus continue its service of your church.
May your will be done.

Time Magazine

Several weeks ago, I heard the exciting news that Time magazine would be doing a story about the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. Time is doing a year-long examination of the city of Detroit and is trying to highlight points of hope within the city.
The link to the online version of the article (printed in this week's edition) is here. The story is entitled "Jesuit Message Drives Detroit's Last Catholic School." Written by Amy Sullivan, the piece does a nice job calling attention to the commitment of the Society of Jesus to the city of Detroit.
It should be mentioned, to be fair, that there are two other Catholic secondary schools in Detroit: Loyola High School and Cristo Rey. These schools, however, were started post-1967 (after the Race Riots that tore the city apart) and, technically speaking, U of D Jesuit is the last school remaining of the schools that once flourished in the city.

Morning Excitment

I awoke this morning (just about two hours ago) to discover that my article "Recovering Rahner's Concept of Being in Spirit in the Word" has been made available to me in its pre-publication format. According to the email I received, it will shortly appear in the early-edition of New Blackfriars Review, although the day that it will hit the streets in paper format is still unknown (when it was accepted for publication, I was told that there was a bit of a backlog and that I should not expect to see it printed until May or July of 2010). That I can see it what it will look like when it does come out, however, is really exciting to me.
I'm especially excited that the publication lists my institution as "University of Detroit Jesuit High School." We have our Open House here at the school this weekend and I think its funny that we can boast having an internationally published theologian on our staff!
What excites me most about the publication is that it confirms …


In his extraordinary little book The Courage to Be, the great Protestant theologian Paul Tillich describes anxiety as "the existential awareness of nonbeing." Another way of putting it is to describe anxiety as "finitude, experienced as one's own finitude." Anxiety is common to all humans who realize their own limits, their own finitude, their own mortality. Anxiety, furthermore, is to be distinguished from fear. Whereas anxiety is the general threat of non-being, fear as a specific target or "a definite object, which can be faced, analyzed, attacked, endured."
I have experienced two bouts of anxiety and fear this week. The first I would associate with hitting the big "3-0" birthday. One of my seniors kindly - and jestingly, I hope! - graciously offered to organize a birthday gathering for me, and said that he'd be happy to bring "a handle" as a gift. I declined, of course, and it has taken me some time to sort out exactly what…

Since I don't have children of my own to brag about...

...I give you my niece Emma and my nephew Quinn!

Feast of the North American Martyrs

Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Noel Lalemant, John de la Lande, Noel Chabanel, & Rene Goupil
Pray for us!

Since 1994, my freshman year at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, I've taken a special pride in today's feast day. On this day, the Church recalls the missionary zeal of these Jesuits who gave their lives in order to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.
It also happens that October 19th is my birthday. Today I celebrate my 30th year on earth. As I think on it, I can remember distinctly my 10th and 20th birthdays and I suspect that my 30th birthday will be no less memorable: it is, after all, my first year teaching at U of D Jesuit and we have an all-school Mass today. As sappy as it sounds, I can hardly think of a better way to spend my birthday. (Well, a day back in NYC with friends would be nice)

Am I Depressed?

I have been meaning to share this story but I've just not had the time to post it. This took place several weeks ago:
Following Test #2 with my sophomores, I felt it was time to have a "Come to Jesus" talk with my classes. Leading up to the test I had provided not only a study guide (from which I developed the exam) but also three of the four short-answer questions and the long essay question that they would have to answer. Indeed, I had even written on the board the answers to the short-answer question. In short: I gave them all of the information necessary to do very well on the test, all they had to do was to study.
Well, some of the guys did brilliantly. Others....well, not so much. Since it was early in the semester, I wasn't too worried: there was, and still is, plenty of time for student to turn their grades around. But I wanted to have "man-to-men" sort of talk, making sure that they understood my expectations of them.
So I sat down on one of the desks…

A New Generation of Jesuits

I just learned that a piece written about me by Canisius College magazine has been published on the web. If you follow this link, you can see the .pdf version of the story. It's an old picture, sadly, one taken almost three years ago. Nevertheless, Eileen Herbert (the author) did a great job on the story. I am especially gratified to see quotes by Father Ben Fiore, SJ, who was a great role model for me during my time at Canisius, as well as Father Michael Tunney, another visible Jesuit on campus.

Homecoming 2009

Let me begin with a caveat: I know that I'm a huge nerd. A nerd for Christ, to be sure, but a nerd nevertheless. I do think there was a time when I could have been popular, when I could have been cool. But then I started to play the accordion and, well, the rest is history.
I mention this because the attached picture is yet a further testament to the fact that I am an unabashed nerd.
This year's Homecoming theme was "Greek Week." Earlier in the week, the moderator of the Student Senate sent out an email asking the chaperones to consider wearing togas to the dance. Wanting to show my school spirit and my support of the students, I acquired yesterday an inexpensive toga (the alternative was a centurion's costume that had an opening at the midsection. While I have been working out, I don't think the world is quite ready to behold my abs). Well, didn't I feel like a fool when I showed up last night only to discover that I was the only chaperone wearing a toga.…

Thought Provoking!

I want to call your attention to a finely wrought piece my friend and mentor Father Terrance Klein, associate professor of theology at Fordham University. In his essay entitled "Neverland Awaits," Klein reflects on how the life of Michael Jackson may be interpreted as a parable, a story that exposes the tension between the way we do live our lives and the we we ought to do so. He concludes his reflection with the following paragraph:
Michael Jackson became a great star, but did he do that by being himself or by becoming what others decided he should be on the basis of commercial calculation? If Jackson is our future, if his career says something about our prospects, should we rejoice in a brave new world, where we use modern technologies to create ourselves, or fear for our souls, because they can be bought and sold for profit?Klein's piece and the question he raises at the end reminds me of a description I once read of the post-modern condition: that we live out our live…