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Showing posts from 2010

End of the Year

It was with great hope and some enthusiasm that I sat down last Saturday (the 18th) and conceived of offering a blow-by-blow account of my family's Christmas. In years past, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have been occasions of much frivolity and tended to instance at least several noteworthy events.

This year, however, I fell sick with the flu last Wednesday morning and it took longer than I'd have expected to recover. Hence Christmas this year was a more...sober affair than usual.

A few fun happenings over my break:


Getting sick at Panera (last Wednesday) and then apologizing to the manager for the state I left the bathroom. The look of relief on her face was astonishing: "Well, as long as you're not blaming the food, that's okay."Netflix is the greatest invention. Ever. I watched all of the available Charlie Chan movies while sick in bed. I then went on to watch a bunch of documentaries and even managed to get in a screening of The Bells of Saint Mary…

Merry Christmas!

I had such hopes of writing several posts this week. These hopes were dashed against the hard rocks of the flu that has kept me in bed since Wednesday. I ventured out last night and saw my family but it might have been premature and I paid for it through the night last night. So I'm going to take it easy today: I have one thing yet to pick up for a Christmas gift and then I'll join my family for Mass later in the evening.

Please be assured of my prayers - I've not much else to do as I sit here in bed - on this Eve of the Savior's birth!

The Church is a Process

The great Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe writes in The New Creationthat the
...process by which the world grows to maturity in Christ is the Church. The Church, as we shall see, is not a thing, it is a process in time. (18)His insight has been percolating in my heart and mind these last few days of vacation and, this morning, I'd like to offer a few comments upon it.

I frequently lament the lack of charity on the part of Catholic bloggers. Dr. Jeff Mirus, just this week, mused over at CatholicCulture.org that he is tempted to end each of his writings with "this very particular truism: The Jesuits must be reformed." In his writings, Dr. Mirus bandies about the label of Modernism - a slippery, unwieldy word that he doesn't take the time to pin down the precise way in which he uses it - and decries the failings of the Society of Jesus. Reading his piece, one would get the sense that there is but a small remnant of faithful Jesuits out there and that the rest (of us?…

When are the Jesuits going to be Catholic?

I met some friends - guys I've not seen in very many years - this morning for coffee. We ordered our beverages (you can tell we're all growing up by our common order: regular coffee, black) and set about the business of catching up. We chatted of families, weddings, deaths, births of children, and the passing of loved ones. New jobs, career changes, and fears for the future peppered the discussion, too, and it was great to hear the stories and see how the lives of my friends had unfolded since we graduated in 1998.

At a certain point, the conversation turned to my decision to enter the Society of Jesus. "When," one of my friends asked, not without a barbed edge, "are the Jesuits going to be Catholic?"

Now I don't think he meant this to be offensive but, all the same, it cut a bit. Normally, I let these little jabs go but, being fueled by caffeine, I thought to pursue the issue. With no small amount of irritation lacing my voice, I asked him, "What…

Cleaning Out the YouTube Bin

As the views of my videos posted to YouTube approach 3,000,000 it has become harder and harder to keep up with the deluge of email I receive daily. Granted, there are some single videos that have many millions of views; my videos, many instructional in nature, don't simply occasion comments but also elicit numerous emailed questions and comments from viewers.

Arising early this morning, I set about going through nearly a thousand emails that have come in over the last two months. In the craziness of school and my other obligations, I have had to sacrifice the attention these people deserve. I feel somewhat guilty over it but it can't be helped: there is only one of me and I need to put my (live) students first!

So as I went through the emails that had been addressed to me personally, I plucked out a few of the gems to share with my readers:


Dear soon-to-be Father Ryan,                 Can you do exorcisms? My son is possessed and I need someone                  to get the demon …

Do you hear what I hear?

If you strain hard enough, you might still hear the weeping and gnashing of my students' teeth. I'll admit it: I'm the Grinch teacher who assigns homework over Christmas break. My seniors have to read about sixteen pages of Fear and Trembling and my sophomores have to write a five-paragraph reflection...that has to be turned in online by Friday, December 24th.

You heard it right: I made something due on Christmas Eve. Next to decapitating Santa Claus or turning Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer into road kill, there seems to be no graver offense possible for a teacher. In my defense, I justify my actions accordingly:


Their assignment is to write on one of the Gospel readings that they will hear at Christmas Mass. It sort of defeats the purpose to have them write a reflection that they would give on Christmas AFTER the fact. I want them to read and think about the readings BEFORE they hear them. If I make it due on January 4th, most will wait until January 3rd to write it. In t…

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

So I have left Detroit and rest now in the living room of the Duns family's ancestral home...well, it'll be our descendants' ancestral home, at least.

At the moment, I'm watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hill with my sister. I feel sorry for these women: they seem to live such vapid, uninteresting lives. This particular episode showcased a dinner party held by Kelsey Grammer's (now ex) wife. The mother and aunt of Paris Hilton attended as did a Medium. By Medium I mean one who purports to communicate with the dead; I haven't any idea what size she wears.

I mention this because I suspect the producers of the show must work hard to make these women's lives appear mildly interesting. They should come and videotape my family in Cleveland: we're every bit as dysfunctional and almost certainly more entertaining. If I can manage it, I'll try to keep folks updated as the week unfolds: since I'll be here all week, I should have plenty of time to po…

Snow Day

There are so few words or phrases in the English language as capable of sending a frisson of joy and excitement through the student body as the phrase, "Snow Day." Last night, a little after 9:00 pm, the decision was made to cancel school today due to icy driving conditions and single-digit temperatures.

It is nice to sleep in two hours later than usual, to eat a leisurely breakfast, and to ponder the ways in which this gift of a day might be spent. Shall I read my book? Go to the gym? Watch television? Plot the downfall of my enemies? Who knows, who cares! The day is ripe with possibilities, with untold chances for enjoyment and rest.

I recall Advent of last year being so much more chaotic. A first-year teacher with three different courses, I spent as much of my time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing as I did actually doing anything. I'm grateful that I'm a pretty quick study so that this year I have a good senes of my role as a teacher and Senate…

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High schoolers’ service benefit community

Here's an article from the Michigan Catholic about this year's "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" initiative. As of this morning, this effort has raised over $153,000 for our students!

High schoolers’ service benefit community

Already into Advent!

It's hard to believe that the whirlwind travels of the Thanksgiving Holiday - Chicago and Tampa - are now behind me and that, two weeks from now, I'll be back in Cleveland for Christmas Vacation. This semester has flown by so quickly...come January, I realized last night, I'll reach the half-way point of my regency. 1.5 years down, 1.5 to go. Sobering to think about!

This week, we begin sales of the Winter Spirit Shirt. I'll post a picture of them later, after each one has been folded and neatly stacked for sale (I sometimes wonder, with the amount of things I sell for the Senate, whether I'm a moderator or a wholesaler).

I'm very much looking forward to Christmas vacation this year. Our last day of school is the 17th, so I get nearly a full week of pre-Christmas preparation time this year. I'll have a lot of papers to grade - 35 philosophy papers come due on the 17th - but I'll also have time to do things I enjoy: run, yoga, read, and make cookies.

I …

Tuesday is a Friday

Thanks to the hard work of our students in raising over $150,000 in our Pledge Detroit! campaign, we do not have school either tomorrow or next Monday. I have to work tomorrow to supervise nearly 100 students who failed to bring in their pledge quota, but I don't really have to do any work. I just have to put them to work or waste five hours of what would have been their day off. Alas.

I'll head off to Chicago tomorrow evening and then, on Friday, I'll play for the Mid-American Oireachtas. This is sort of like a mega-feis, for those into Irish dancing, and for those who aren't: it's like an enormous pet show, but for children who do Irish dancing.

I return Sunday evening with, I hope, enough time to do some laundry. On Monday I'm flying to Tampa to participate in the "Thought Partner Gathering" hosted by the Society of Jesus where we'll discuss communications.

It's really hard to believe that Advent is nearly upon us. This year, I've decid…

Odor of Sanctity

Last Friday evening, I went to the movies with another Jesuit. We bought our tickets early, went to a diner for dinner, and then walked back over to the theater with enough time before the start of the film to ensure that we'd get good seats. Having secured seats, I turned off my phone and slid into my seat so that my feat rested on the unoccupied seat in front of me.

Moments before the movie began, two men sat directly behind us. I would have taken no notice of them, really, save for the fact that one of them seemed to be an aggressive nose-breather. At least, that's what I thought at first. Over time, I began to wonder if it wasn't simply the case that he had forgotten a tissue and had a case of the drippies. Still, I ignored the snuffing and snorting as I became more and more engrossed in the movie.

After a time, though, I became acutely aware that the sound of the sniffing was growing perilously louder. Not louder as though he were wrestling with a particularly stubbor…

Full of Grace

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It occurred to me the other day, as I stood in line at a convenience store that had already put out its Christmas decorations on November 1st, that we spend upwards of 17% of our retail year in the Christmas Season. I mention this simply as a random fact although, in mentioning it, it does remind me of a book I would like to recommend to my readers.

I recently acquired a copy of Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life written by Judith Dupré. The consists of fifty-nine meditations on Mary, different perspectives drawn from the author's own life and experience, that help to introduce the reader to the one confessed to be "blessed among women."

What we have in this text is an accessible book of art and theology, woven with narrative, that sheds light on a figure who plays such an important role in the devotional lives of countless Christians. Especially arresting is the variety of beautiful photographs contained in the work: classic works of art, modern i…

I recognize that it's unflattering

Here are two videos taken of last week's epic "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" day of service. Watching this forces me to consider putting on more weight, particularly when you see the clip below.




Patience with God

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Several weeks ago, I came upon a review of a book over at Faith and Theology. The book,Patience with God, is written by Tomáš Halík, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian from Czechoslovakia.

Halík begins with an experience common to so many, especially in the wake of the bloody 20th century and, more recently, September 11th and the so-called "War on Terror." This is the experience of the absence of God, so chillingly posed by Elie Wiesel in Night when, as the gathered assembly watched a young boy hang from the gallows, someone asked, "Where is God now?" prompting the wrenching response: "Where is He? Here is here - he is hanging here on this gallows." This question confronts both the believer and unbeliever, forcing each to face the scars and traces of destruction and devastation, demanding that we reflect upon Wiesel's question: "Where is God now?"

Belated Birthday

In the run-up to "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" I have been completely mired in organizational details. It's quite an undertaking to organize and find meaningful work for 2.5 hours for 850+ students, plus faculty, plus parent volunteers. Working with sites, assigning buses, procuring tools, praying for good weather, trying to get the kids excited: all of this makes for long, exhausting days. Parent phone-calls and emails, faculty concerns, kids failing to turn in permission slips: these exacerbate the headaches.

In the midst of this, I did turn 31 on Tuesday, the Feast of the North American Martyrs. I remember being somewhat jealous of other kids who had cool saints like St. John of the Cross or St. Patrick or St. Thomas Aquinas who celebrated feast days on their birthdays. My youthful Catholic imagination saw some special relationship between the saint after whom you were named as well as the saint on whose feast day you were born. Much to my dismay was it, then, that …

Therapy?

I frequently describe blogging as therapeutic: as an extrovert, I tend to process externally, thinking out loud. Since I can't expect someone to be with me at all hours of the day, I tend to use my blog as a way of thinking out loud in a disciplined way that brings clarity to me and is, perhaps, helpful to others.

This last week has been so incredibly busy that fatigue has forced me to process inwardly as I'm too tired to sit down at my computer. We just had our Spirit Week (Pajama Day, Field Games, Jersey Day, College Shirt Day, and an all-school pep rally) which I was in charge of planning and executing. I spent most of today setting up for today's Homecoming Dance (Theme: Superheroes in the D) and I'm hoping to get something to eat before the dance starts at 8:00. Tomorrow I have to help clean up after the dance and then begin the final preparations for "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" This is such a busy time and I'm so grateful that I've been fait…

Strange Days!

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A number of my seniors are away on Kairos this week, so my mornings are (relatively) free until they return tomorrow evening. So it was with great excitement that I agreed yesterday to attend a press conference here in Detroit where special mention was being made of "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" Speaking on behalf of U of D Jesuit was Mr. Kyle Chandler ('99) who is the Assistant Principal for Student Affairs. Kyle spoke to the assembly of our commitment to the city of Detroit and its citizens and then, afterward, we posed for this picture with Mayor David Bing.


The Kick-Off for "U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!" is on October 12th, 2010 and the actual day of service takes place on October 26th. This event demands a tremendous amount of planning and work but I cannot prevent myself from believing that this project is the result of careful prayer and discernment and that we are being the "Men for Others" we are being invited to become: a school community…

U of D Jesuit Pledge Detroit!

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It is fitting, as I embark on my 701st post, that it be with a very exciting announcement. As many of you know, I am doing my regency at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy (a mouthful, to be sure). Now in my second year, I was asked to moderate the Student Senate this year.

There will be more to come in the near future, but I thought I might share with my readers this exciting initiative. I am extraordinarily excited that I get to be part of a program that brings fundraising into alignment with the mission of an institution: raising money by giving our students an opportunity to be of service to their neighbors in metropolitan Detroit.

Still Here!

I've not gone anywhere! These have been really busy weeks at school with our first dance, my first board meeting at Walsh Jesuit High School, and preparations for Spirit Week, Homecoming, and our new fall fundraiser called Pledge Detroit!

This latter project, Pledge Detroit!, is absorbing a lot of my free time. I'll be excited to share with my readers the nature of the program later in the week when I find a few minutes to sit down at my computer to do some pleasure writing.

Until then, cheers!

New Publication

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For anyone who is interested, my article in New Blackfriars has made it to print. Entitled "Recovering Rahner's Concept of Being in Spirit in the  World," it is an essay heavily influenced by my great teacher and friend Father Terrance Klein. My dear friend Jane Dryden also lurks in the background, not so much in an explicit way but, rather, as the muse who inspired me to dig deeper into philosophical reflection.

Writing, whether as a blogger or as a teacher or as a hopeful scholar, is a profoundly intimate process. It tries to put into words what seems to be almost impossible to express. Re-reading my own writing recently, I kept saying to myself "Duns! You could have said this better, you could have been more clear, you could have done this....". Alas, it is the fragility of language and something I will have to struggle with forever. Writing, in this sense, is trying to make explicit what roils implicitly in my heart and mind, an effort to make exterior som…

At the Start of a New Year

We had "Mini-Class Night" for parents on Thursday, an opportunity for parents to walk through their sons' schedules in imitation of their days. Mom and Dad move from class to class, listening to short 10-minute presentations by the teachers. More than a few parents approached me and said, "Oh! So you're the Mr. Duns we've heard so much about." Some smiled. Others....well, others seemed more puzzled than amused.

I will admit that while my theology is pretty orthodox (considering I do Yoga as an exercise form, that might surprise some!), my teachings methods aren't always so. To demonstrate transitive verbs to my seniors in philosophy, I brought my teddy bear Paddington to class. Paddington did a marvelous job showing the students that the verb "to carry" can be used transitively to show that Paddington receives the action of carrying (I am carrying Paddington, so at this moment he is carried). It was my hope that my beloved prop would help …

Karaoke

One of the great graces of my life in the Society of Jesus has been all of the ways I've been stretched to grow in unimaginable ways. Were it not for the Society, I would probably never have learned how to cook. Were it not for the Jesuits, I probably would never have had the opportunity to maintain a blog such as this or to offer Irish music courses online. Heck, were it not for the brotherhood of the Society, I would never have gone to the gym or decided to train for and run a marathon.

So when new opportunities arise, I am pretty open to embracing them since every new opportunity just *might* uncover a latent gift or talent or passion. On Friday night, I was with several colleagues at a great bar in the city of Detroit - the Temple Bar - where we had a couple of drinks and toasted the beginning of the school year. As the night wore on, I grew excited when I saw how few people were in the bar AND that there would be Karaoke that night. For a few moments, a glimmer of hope past t…

We Believe in Things Seen and Unseen

When it comes to the topic of ghosts and paranormal activity, I've always been of an open mind. Each week for nearly thirty years (I reckon I didn't recite the Nicene Creed until I was about seven) I have heard or recited the line:

We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Until recently, I've had no reason to believe either in the existence or non-existence of ghosts: as none had ever made contact with me, I had no reason to render a judgment. No reason, that is, until this last week.
The other night, while on the first floor of our building, I was chatting with the superior in his office. I reclined on the couch and was looking out the small window cut into his door when I saw a figure walk past. Under the assumption that we were alone in the hallway, I went over the door, opened, and looked into the corridor: on either end, the hallway was empty. I know that I saw something move past the window and that it wasn…

A Bit of Context

I posted the other night two videos shot in the kitchen at m parents' house. Several years ago, my brother-in-law and I took a notion to record a tin whistle video entitled "Boys in the Hoodies."



So it seemed only fitting that, three years later, we do an encore presentation at my niece Emma's third birthday party. It was fun recording them on the fly - we hadn't rehearsed - and I do hope you enjoy them.

Cleveland Irish Music: Shelly's Kitchen Sessions.mov

Lark in the Morning

The Kids are All Right

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In an effort to escape the heat and humidity last night, another Jesuit and I decided to go to the movies. We decided to drive over to Royal Oak and see the 8:00 showing of the newly-released The Kids are All Right. Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, it is a well-crafted story about a lesbian couple - Nic and Jules, played by Bening and Moore - each of whom used sperm from the same donor in order to have children.


The daughter, Joni, has just turned 18 at the start of the movie. Her brother, Laser, importunes her to "make the call" to the sperm bank their moms had use; he, we realize, is the one initially most keen on meeting his biological father. Joni eventually acquiesces and contact is made with Paul, played by Ruffalo, who owns a co-op farm and a restaurant.

Understandably, Nic and Jules are not entirely enthusiastic about their kids making contact with "the sperm donor." Nevertheless, they agree to meet him and invite him over for dinner…

Reason and Faith, II

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I would briefly like to use the Gospel of John to meditate a bit further on the relationship between reason and faith. Actually, I would like to use two small snippets - two questions, really - that I see as serving as bookends to this Gospel. While they certainly were not intended to do so, I think they speak eloquently and powerfully to the situation so many believers and nonbelievers find themselves in today.

John's Gospel opens with the beautiful Prologue that is so familiar to our ears: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We are then introduced to John the Baptist, the figure who is sent by God to testify to the Light who has been sent to pierce the darkness of the world.  As Jesus passes John and two of his disciples, he tells them that this Jesus is the Lamb of God. This must have caused enough of a commotion that it prompted Jesus to open his mouth for the first time in the Gospel, leading him to ask, "What are y…

Reason and Faith

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The New York Times has recently begun a forum called The Stone to feature the writings of contemporary philosophers. As one who is preparing to teach a senior-level course in philosophy, I've been keeping an eye on these columns in the hope that they'll furnish a few "read and comment" opportunities for my students. In general, these are well-written, smart, and interesting pieces that try to make complex philosophical thought intelligible to a larger, non-specialized, audience.

This week's contribution comes from Professor Gary Gutting who teaches philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. It's an interesting piece, and I suggest that you read it in full. His piece, and the numerous comments it has given rise to, has encouraged me to reflect for a few moments on the relationship between philosophy and faith.

I, with Professor Gutting, reject immediately any recourse to the line "it's a matter of faith." This is a cowardly response, generally a…

Note from Nadal

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Every now and again, I hear from people that the "Society of Jesus has lost its way." They decry the focus on a "Faith that does Justice" and they offer embittered wishes that the Society would go back to its old ways, the ways of the good old days...whatever those were.

Perhaps it is true that in the 1940's and 1950's, the nostalgic "Golden Era" of American Catholicism that there was a marked lack of focus on justice (although, if you read the incisive work of Father Mark Massa, SJ you'll realize that things weren't so Golden after all). It has long been be my contention that this was anomalous in the history of the Society of Jesus and that the original impulse of the Society of Jesus addressed the needs both of the soul and the body (Ignatius did, after all, found a house for prostitutes and begged money for to feed the hungry).

Last night, Father Walter Farrell of the Detroit Province delivered a profound homily on the originating impu…

Fill In the Blank

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Yesterday, I encouraged a renewed sense of charity by citing Saint Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. I'd like to take my own advice and "help a brother out" this morning.

My brother in the Lord over at Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit- Joseph Fromm - sometimes forgets to include the entirety of a quote he puts up on his blog. Quoting from another, Fromm quotes an exchange between the original author of the story and the venerable Father Hardon, SJ:

When my high school friend (not I) expressed an interest in the priesthood, Father Hardon offered advice: "I wish that I could recommend you apply to the Society of Jesus," he said in his careful way. "I love the order, and wish it could be saved. But I cannot in good conscience send any young man into its seminaries."
This quote has elicited several comments to the effect that many Jesuits cannot/will not encourage vocations because it will endanger the faith of young men (while these Jesuits, who so fear for t…

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

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It's amazing that, in a few weeks, I'll celebrate my sixth anniversary (8/13/04) of entering the Society of Jesus. I remember thinking, six years ago, that the eleven-year formation process was terribly long. Priesthood, then, seemed a far off and distant goal. Now that I'm over the half-way point in my formation, this goal is coming into clearer focus.

I think these are hard days to be a Catholic or to be a part of the clergy. Moral is low, anxiety is high, and there is a pervasive air of suspicion that taints the way Catholics see other Catholics, Catholics view others from varying traditions, and the way others perceive Catholics.

Karl Rahner once wrote on the Ignatian Mysticism of Joy in the World. As I remember it, the key insight is that Ignatius understood Creation to be an ongoing story of becoming, of God's activity in the world as Creator. When Hopkins writes that "The world is charged with the grandeur of God," he means exactly this: the world sin…

Can I Practice Yoga if I am a Catholic?

I stop by my old friend Joseph Fromm's blog - Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit - from time to time to see what new nugget he has mined from the Internet. On my latest foray into the thicket, I came upon this little gem:


Father John Hardon, S.J. On the Incompatibility of Yoga and Hinduism with Catholicism

Joseph has taken this post from the website of Patrick Madrid. I have no idea who Patrick Madrid is, but he does seem to have a nice blog and I appreciate his focus on the topic of atheism and its proponents.

That Mr. Fromm finds this an important nugget is not surprising. In an exchange with Joseph several years ago, he decried my practice of Yoga. Now, citing the backing of Father Hardon - a Jesuit of my own Detroit Province - he surely sees this as a ratification of his own position concerning the incompatibility of Yoga practice with the Catholic Faith.


Scripture Study

Students frequently ask me why it is that we have to study the Scriptures. They seem to think that the Bible is very clear in its meaning and that if they just put in the time reading it (the first hurdle for most students!), they'd arrive at a very clear understanding of the text.

This sort of naive approach, while dismaying, is not uncommon. The Bible is seldom clear and reading and interpreting it requires a certain sophistication, a certain set of tools, to give one a fighting chance of staving off deranged interpretations. One such tool, of which I wrote earlier this year, is the distinction I make between "literal" and "literalist" interpretations of Scripture. On this account, I hold that Catholics do take the Bible literally. By literal I mean exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church means: "The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation...&quo…

Seriously?

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While enjoying my coffee this morning, I came upon this fascinating story at America Magazine's Blog. It appears that Geoffrey Berg, a British fellow with a Master's degree in philosophy, has challenged Pope Benedict XVI to a debate on the existence of God during the Holy Father's visit to Great Britain. His challenge comes in the form of an open letter that he has published on his website and, if nothing else, does provide for some humorous reading.

I have a passing familiarity with Berg's little book The Six Ways of Atheism. Last Fall, I spent several days discussing the topic of religious belief with my senior philosophy students. Berg is kind enough to post adumbrated forms of his arguments for the non-existence of God on his website, so I printed them off and presented them to my students as an opportunity for them to 'think through' the question of God's existence.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't have to do very much prodding for my students to …

The Devil's Desire (The Genealogy of Desire)

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On the flight home from Amsterdam, I was able to enjoy several in-flight movies. The first movie I selected was the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. I’d seen parts of the movie before but hadn’t watched it in its entirety, so I figured this was as good a time as any to watch it.

The plot of the movie is simple: An idealistic woman comes to New York hoping to find a job as a journalist. She gets a job at Runway, a prestigious fashion magazine, working as the assistant to Miranda Priestly. Andrea, played by Anne Hathaway, is slowly seduced by the riches and honors of the world she once detested: the former “free spirit” becomes, literally and figuratively, a slave to fashion.

One scene that struck me, in light of my recent immersion in the thought of René Girard, occurs during a run-through of clothing that is to be featured in an upcoming issue. One of the designers holds up two seemingly identical belts – both of an identical bluish hue with slightly different buckles – and proclaims …

You Run Into the Strangest People

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It's amazing who you'll run into when in Amsterdam!


What God Does

It's hard to believe that my time in the Netherlands has come to a close. I count the last two weeks as a profoundly grace-filled time of learning and questioning with some of the great expositors of the thought of Rene Girard. At some point in the future, I'll try to say something more of the "mimetic insight" Girard so powerfully - and controversially - articulates. Let it be said that, while I might not mention it explicitly, you can be assured that many of the concepts we thought-through these last two weeks will be percolating in my mind and will, no doubt, surface in these posts.

Commenting on an earlier post, someone wrote:

God, as the author of all that exists, is how I myself understand God. But where I have difficulty, a fact that became apparent during a conversation with an atheist, is simply, if God is not concerned with the "how', what then does God do in the real world? If God does not meddle with physical constants, the continuity of cause and…

Away for Two Weeks

I'm leaving tomorrow for the Netherlands. I don't know if I'll have much time to blog while I am away, but please be assured of my prayers while I'm gone!

A Brief Pause in the Action

After arguably the best retreat I've had since I made the Spiritual Exercises (January '05), I am now back in Detroit. These are, to be sure, very busy days: I have a lot of odds-and-ends to take care of before I leave for the Netherlands next Saturday.

I have been meaning to share with my readers a little suggestion on some summer reading. Over the past few months, I have been very much taken with the writings of Josef Pieper, especially three lovely texts: Guide to Thomas Aquinas, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, and The Silence of St. Thomas. Just a few little nuggets I thought worthwhile to share:

But of course [this] listening is not concerned solely with grasping the substance. It is also directed fully at the interlocutor as a person; it draws its vitality from respect for the other's dignity, and even gratitude toward him - gratitude for the increase in knowledge which is derived even from error. "We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those w…

Strangers and Sons

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While I was away with the students on retreat this week, I had some time to pray with the parable of of the Prodigal Son. I have always loved this parable, a love that grew only deeper after reading the brilliant work by Henri Nouwen entitled The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. Nouwen's meditation takes as its focal point the arresting portrait rendered by Rembrandt of this poignant scriptural scene: the son throwing himself at the father's feet, the loving embrace of the father, the cold abyss that separates the older brother from the scene.


As I prayed this week, I thought back upon this portrait and the parable and saw a new theme emerging for me: Strangers and Sons. If you think upon it, both sons are strangers to the father: the younger son demands his inheritance, effectively telling the father that he wishes he were dead, and then leaves for "a distant country." What the son does there is not important, I reckon, either to us or to the father. The young m…

Retreat!

Over the next two weeks, I'll be spending a significant amount of my time away in retreat. This morning I'll be heading up to Canada with students on the Summer Kairos retreat. I will return on Friday, do laundry, get an oil change for my car, and then start to make my way to Faulkner, Maryland, for my own annual retreat.

After a crazy and grace-filled first year as a teacher, it'll be nice to be able to relax with the Lord...and give thanks.

The Wake of Classes

Except for a few items of paperwork, my first year of regency came to a close yesterday. It's really hard for me to believe that it's over: I remember the first day of classes, homecoming, and the unquenchable thirst I had for the sweet waters of Christmas break as though they were yesterday.

Looking back on the year, I can say that it has been the most protracted experience of grace I've ever experienced. A wise Jesuit told me that, while my job was to teach high school, my mission in the service of the Society of Jesus and the Church was far more important: to learn how to love students even when they would seem to be unlovable. When he offered me this counsel, I sort of scoffed. "I've always liked working with kids," I thought, "so why would it be hard to love them?"

Boy, did I learn that lesson!

When you think about it, one of the major lacunae in the life of a religious is that we (typically) don't have children. I do not have a baby who is…