Showing posts from December, 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 …