Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Go and Do Likewise

At long last, I reach the 10th and final "Principle for Vocation Promotion." I thought I'd manage to knock these out in the course of a few days. Alas, life gets in the way!

So, without further ado:

Principle #10: Do Unto Others

Earlier this year, I was invited to write an ex officio letter to Father Adolfo Nicolas, the General Superior of the Society of Jesus. One of the two points I was asked to address was how we might help to promote vocations to the Jesuits

I wrote, writing of my experience as a Jesuit Regent,

If the question “What does God want for me?” rests at the heart of Ignatian discernment, and if this is a question that we encourage our students and collaborators to confront, then our lives must attest that our joy has been found as Companions of Jesus. So here any vocational initiative must address directly what I see as the greatest corporate threat to vocation promotion: pessimism and cynicism. How many of our students have Jesuit teachers who seem tired, bored, or burned out from years of work? How many of our Jesuits forget that these students are looking for more than information and may, indeed, be looking to them for a sign of hope for the future, a glimmer of a joy that they, too, wish to have? How can we rediscover the originating joy that drew each of us to profess our vows?


I return often to this idea of originating joy in my work as a vocation promoter. In my darkest hours, I can still return to the world-changing experience of God's love and mercy to claim and reclaim a deep and abiding sense of joy. This joy serves as a font or wellspring, impelling me out into the world to share the Good News.

Without question, cynicism and sarcasm can creep into our hearts. Given the ongoing revelations of sex abuse, our hearts are tempted all the more to cynicism and despair. As sickened and disheartened as I can be by these stories, I still feel called to share the Joy of the Cross with the world.

Described often by the media as a "crisis" in the Church (which I do not deny), this is a time for each Catholic to question: Why do I believe? If one believes out of rote custom or fear, then perhaps this tumult will provide them the reason to probe our faith more deeply in order to find a reason to stay. For those who are committed and disillusioned and enraged, perhaps we can find the time to rediscover the originating joy that called us and confirmed us in our faith.

Originating Joy does not erase or dissolve the past sins...even the Risen Christ bore the scars of his persecutors upon his body. Nevertheless, this Joy does give us the strength to return again and again to the fray...to the Church, to the pulpit, to the classroom, and to the world.

Let us not forget Joy. Return in prayer and in the Sacraments to that liberating experience of joy that placed a fiery seal upon your heart and set you loose upon the world as one called to spread the Gospel. Help other souls to discover the joy of freedom and the freedom of joy. Be unafraid to tell others how your heart has been touched and trust that, in telling your story, you are giving others a chance to embrace their own story of discipleship.

Take Jesus' words to heart: Go and Do Likewise. As it has been done to you, go and do for others. Introduce them to your Joy and invite them to embrace this Joy wholly. Show the world, through word and deed, how your heart and life has been transformed and how you have been called to live and proclaim the Kingdom as a Companion of Jesus working always for the Greater Glory of God.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Say Your Prayers!


Principle #9: Pray

One of the privileges of my mission to help promote vocations is that I get to know various candidates in a profoundly intimate way. One practice that I have adopted and have found tremendously helpful is to pray for the man both before and after our meetings. I pray before that I be open to him, that I be attentive, reverent, and devoted, that I be a good representative of the Society of Jesus to him. I pray also that he be open, honest, and comfortable with me. After our conversation, I always pray for the man that God continue to stir his heart and help to know better just how he is being called to live out his discipleship.

It is one thing to pray for vocations "in general." I think, however, it is something else entirely to pray for a man in particular. I do not mean to suggest that you start picking men out at random and praying that they heed God's call to the priesthood. Rather, I should think that if you know of a man who is in discernment, you would be doing a great service to him by praying for him.

"But Ryan," you might ask, "will praying for someone in discernment actually do anything? Will it change God's mind?"

No, I don't think it will change God's mind. But it may well change my mind. When I have a pain-in-the-A*% student, I do try to pray for him by name. I honestly don't think that my praying for him changes him one whit - although I do think there is a change. The change is in me: when I pray for God's grace to be with this kid, I am opening myself up to being a conduit of grace. I find that when I sit with a kid in prayer, it becomes harder for me to lose my patience, to be snippy and sarcastic, and I find that I look upon him with greater love and understanding. As my mind changes and my heart opens up - all by God's grace - the student experiences this and can slowly grow into it.

In other words, my pray for another carves out space within me. The change I often pray for actually takes place in my own heart and gives God's grace a chance to touch his heart through me. In praying in this way, I open myself up to God's mysterious ways and I trust that God knows what He is doing...even though it can be maddeningly difficult for me to understand it!

I say this because I do pray, each morning, for candidates by name. In praying for them, I am struck more and more by God's marvelous work in their lives and I grow more deeply attuned to the ways I might love and support them in their discernment. The prayer that I offer to sustain them, I find, works to sustain me who can then act in a prayer-guided way as one who wishes to help souls. I do not simply "say" prayers but I live (imperfectly) prayers.

Please do continue to pray for vocations. Pray for specific vocations. Yet do not be surprised if you start to see marvelous fruits from this prayer in your own life! The prayer hasn't backfired; it has, quite to the contrary, taken root in the deep soil of your heart and the fruit is bears will provide sustenance for others, nourishing them as they continue to seek how they are to live their lives for the Greater Glory of God.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

Principle #8: Be Patient!

It is one of the enduring insights of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that he saw God working intimately and personally with each human being. Saint Ignatius writes:

"...when a person is seeking God's will, it is more appropriate and far better that the Creator and Lord himself should communicate himself to the devout soul, embracing it with love, inciting it to praise of himself, and disposing it for the way which will most enable the soul to serve him in the future." (Annotation #15)
When any one of us risks the adventure of discernment, he or she should do so confident that God will speak to us. The fruit of this speaking, as Ignatius writes, is a stirring of the heart, a growth in love, and a desire to serve God in the world.

Nevertheless, it is easy to for well-intentioned Jesuits who are interested in promoting a vocation to the Society of Jesus to get in God's way! Take note of Ignatius' advice:

"...the one giving the Exercises ought not to lean or incline in either direction but rather, while standing by like the pointer of a scale in equilibrium, to allow the Creator to deal immediately with the creature and the creature with its Creator and Lord."
The job of anyone who wishes to promote vocations is, ultimately, to facilitate an encounter whereby the candidate comes to know God intimately and personally. We must resist putting undue pressure on the candidate or trying to convince the candidate of what he must do.

We need, in other words, to trust that God will do what needs to be done.

It is good to remember that we are facilitators of God's grace: we can help a person see where God is leading, where God is active, where God is inviting deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we do not initiate God's grace and cannot control it.

Father Howard Gray, SJ (the original "Abba") brilliantly expresses what should be the fundamental stance of any who wishes to promote vocations:

  1. Be Attentive: Learn to recognize the movement of God's Spirit in the lives of others. As you become sensitive to discerning God's desires for you in your own life, you will develop your abilities to be sensitive to God's activity in the lives of others.
  2. Be Reverent. When you encounter the "holy desire" of an early vocation, show reverence for God's presence. Treat this person as one who is graced by God's Spirit: this person is holy ground! Show the respect and reverence that is due any person who discerns honestly and sincerely to know just what it is that God wants for him.
  3. Be Devoted. Offer your entire self to this process. Pray for the man. Answer questions. Listen to him. Devote yourself to clarifying what it is that stirs in the depths of the man's heart and helping the man offer himself wholly to God's invitation to friendship. You cannot, of course, do this for him.
The ministry of vocation promotion is like being a midwife. We must become "attentive" to the signs of pregnancy and take any steps necessary to ensure a healthy discernment process. Be "reverent" for the grace that stirs within, a grace that can start out so fragile but one that, with time, will grow and become stronger. Finally, we must be "devoted" to this process: we must continue to grow in our own spirituality so that we might help others grow in their love for God. We must give of ourselves generously - as prayers, counselors, listeners, and friends - to help bring to fruition all that God desires for this person.

Undergirding these, however, is a simple principle: be patient. Trust that God is doing spectacular things in this person's life. Trust that God is working even when it seems like nothing is happening. Trust that God's Spirit is drawing this person deeper into friendship and that your patient presence provides more of a support than you realize. Be a patient companion, one who listens, loves, and prayers that those who express interest in our way of life be so moved as to pledge themselves to the service of God's Kingdom as Companions of Jesus.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Principle #7: Introductions, Please

Principle #7: Introduce him to the Province
Vocation Director

If you've been having sustained contact with a young man who is interested in the Society of Jesus, at some point it would be a good idea to introduce him to the Province's vocation director. Reassure the candidate that meeting the vocation director (I'd shorten it to VD but I'm afraid that shorthand would then have to compete with Venereal Disease. So let's call him the DoV - Director of Vocations) does not mean that he has to "sign up" or commit himself. It's simply a way of getting the man on the vocational map and providing him with any resources or opportunities that will help him in his discernment.

The work of the DoV and those who assist him is challenging, yet rewarding. It involves a concerted effort to deepen a man's discernment, getting him in touch with his deepest desires, and teasing out how those desires resonate with those of the Society of Jesus. This period of candidacy is, perhaps, likened to the famous song from The King and I: "Getting to Know You."

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Without a doubt, the first introduction to the Society of Jesus for many candidates is not through personal interactions but, rather, through the internet. The boon of the digital age is that the vocational net can be cast to parts of the country and the world that we don't already reach. The limitation, though, is that those men whose interest is stirred by the Society have little or no flesh-and-blood interaction with the Society. They may know a great deal about the Society, but they don't yet really know the Society directly or intimately.

Over the course of weeks, months, and years the candidate and DoV work together to come to know one another more deeply. This is sort of like dating, a period of mutual exploration trying to see how compatible a person is for the Society...and how good of a match we are for the man. If a young fellow came to me and said that his greatest desire in life was to spend his days in ceaseless prayer, fasting and living in solitude, I'd have no choice but to tell him that the Society is probably not the place for him! A short courtship indeed.

For others, it's more complicated. Is this candidate a man who is possessed of a true love for Jesus Christ and His Church? Is this a man who is open to the embracing a world that sings of God's creation but, due to sinful humanity, this chorus is too often muted and drowned out? Is he one who is enlivened by the Good News and desires to live out his discipleship as a Companion of Jesus who will bring that message of life and joy to anywhere in the world that he is directed to do so? Is he willing to embrace the cross that will surely befall him, a cross foisted on any foolish enough to abandon all things to follow Christ and make his way into ever new frontiers as a herald of the Gospel? Is he willing to be derided, mocked, and misunderstood both by a world that is deaf to God's call and even members of his own Church who cannot imagine new approaches to evangelization? Is he willing to embrace his sinfulness, acknowledge his failures, and rise again and again as he tries to live out his vocation? Will he be sustained by the Eucharist, buoyed by the prayers of believers, and made joyful by living his life for the Greater Glory of God?

That's quite a job description!

On the first meeting, I don't suspect most guys would assent to all, or even many, of the aforementioned attributes. This is the job of the DoV and the entire Jesuit formation process: to learn of a man's deepest desires and then channel them into the service of God's Kingdom as a professed member of the Society of Jesus.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Principle #6: Strengthen the Spirit

Principle #6: Support His Spiritual Development

As I drove to Cleveland yesterday, I reflected on this principle at length. I have, for quite some time, been puzzled by the people who say that they're "Spiritual, but not religious." Indeed, as I write this from a local a Bruegger's Bagels, one of the clerks described himself to a customer as one who'd rather be open to all spiritual paths rather than committing himself just to one.

It strikes me that the "spiritual, but not religious" phenomena is akin to a form of spiritual nomadism: people who wander from place to place, at best set down shallow roots, and should their be a challenge or change to the spiritual climate they are forced to move on or perish. My impression of many "spiritual nomads" is that they want their spirituality to comfort them, reassure them of their place in the cosmos, but don't want much care to be challenged to commit themselves to any particular path.

Now don't get me wrong: I don't think these are bad people. I do think that the risk of being a spiritual dilettante is a failure to take a stand, a missed opportunity to place oneself in the midst of a tradition both to embrace and be embraced by it.

One thing Jesuits in particular and all Catholics in general can do to help others establish roots is to become acquainted again with the riches of our spiritual heritage. The history of Christian Spirituality is a fascinating story and I can't help but think that there is someone for everyone within it.

For my brother Jesuits or those interested in promoting Jesuit vocations, I think it would be helpful to have a ready-to-hand list of resources that you might share with a person you think has a vocation or who has expressed interest in our way of life. We need always to feel confident enough to use the language of the Ignatian tradition to help those we encounter to come to know more clearly what it is that God wants for them. Casual spiritual conversation, long-term spiritual direction, or giving some form of the Spiritual Exercises would each be a practice that could help channel the enormous power of the Spirit that animates each person.

My suggestion, then, is to be sure that in addition to trying to promote vocations through an attentiveness to our hospitality and and enthusiasm for our way of life, we must also be attentive to the young man's spirit. We owe it to him to share the riches of our tradition and show him how our Ignatian and Jesuit heritage channels the enormous power of the Spirit and uses it for the building of God's Kingdom.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Principle #5: Introductions

Principle #5: Introduce the Society

It is easy to forget that Jesus' invitation to the disciples wasn't a "Hey, you, get over here!" It was, rather, an invitation to "Come and See."

Without a doubt, Jesuits are most often associated with the classroom. In my own experience, while the first stirring of interest in the Jesuits came from watching my Jesuit teachers, the affirmation of my desire came through getting to know Jesuits personally. Father Fiore, SJ, was so gracious and hospitable during my time at Canisius that he still serves as a role-model of the type of warm, funny, and gregarious Jesuit that I aspire to be.

Over my three years at Fordham, I had many "spiritual conversations" with students and colleagues over pitchers of beer and glasses of wine. But I never wanted to be merely a drinking buddy; rather, I knew that I could build a sense of camaraderie with others and that as I got to know them and they came to know me, they'd soon see what it was in life that I loved: the Jesus Christ who has called me into his Company. My mindset was, and is, as follows: if a young person can trust me, can trust that I am being honest and open and real, then my faith and, by extension, the Society of Jesus will be more credible. This opens up exciting possibilities: with each new encounter and relationship, I am a missionary who must win the trust of others - sometimes by bearing gifts - in order to find the opening into which I might share the Good News. I go, so to speak, in their door to lead them out of mine.

I don't suspect every Jesuit, or religious, has the same style. So some practical steps might be: extend a welcome to a young person to come and visit your community. Invite him over for liturgy and dinner; or, if able, invite him to a vow ceremony or an ordination. When we discern, we are trying to find out what God most deeply desires for us and it is helpful if we can show that we, as religious, want to encourage that discernment by putting ourselves out there to be true companions.

Happy Birthday!

I would just like to take a moment to wish my father, Robert Duns III, a very happy birthday. If it was hard for me to wrap my mind around me turning 30 last year, it's even harder for me to consider that my dad is 60 years old.

When I was younger, during high school, I remember feeling a great deal of anxiety and sadness that I was letting my father down. As I've shared before, I wasn't a great student at the start of my high school career. I was fat, had acne, was totally un-athletic, and I played the accordion. I knew that a cover shot for GQ was not in my future...but I was really fearful that I wasn't what my father wanted in a son, that I was a let-down, that I had somehow disappointed or thwarted the dreams any father would have for a son.

There is much in my life that my father and I differ on: our approaches to fiscal policy, religion, health, socializing, sports, recreation, food, and vocation. Once in college he admonished me, upon my telling him that I was changing my major from chemistry to theology, "Just don't become a priest." He also advised me once to "love whatever you study enough that you'd want to teach it." I have followed half of his advice and I do hope that I make him proud. I am far from perfect and he knows it...but I do try. Despite our differences - and they are legion - I have grown in respect for my father's ability to let me be me, to not try to change me into anything else, and to support me in my decision.

I owe my parents and the witness of their 32+ years of marriage more than any words can express. We have not always had an easy run - of this they can attest - but I want them to know of my utter and sincere love for both of them. In a special way, I want my dad to know this: a man typically reserved in his expression of emotion, I think it's important for him to hear how important he is and how much he is loved.

Often I wish that I lived closer to home so that I could spend time with my family. My niece and nephew, Emma and Quinn, are very lucky children in that they have wonderful parents and grandparents to love and support them. They will know my parents as "Nan" and "Bob" and, I am sure, they will be spoiled rotten. I will know them only as "Mom" and "Dad" and nothing in all the world could make me more proud, more humbled, or more loving.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Principle #4: Share Your Ideals

Principle #4: Openly Share Your Ideals

There can be, at times, a reticence to share what it is in life that excites us. Just this morning, as I prefected the Atrium before school, one of my freshman came in carrying a large box. When I inquired as to its contents, a gleam sprang into his eye and he opened the box to reveal a brilliant array of origami pieces he had done. As it turns out, he and his brother are both accomplished origami artists and he had to give a "demonstration speech" for class and wanted to share with his classmates his art.

I joked with him that I didn't have an artistic bone in my body...I can't even draw a stick figure. He smiled broadly and said, "Mr. Duns, I'm going to have to come and show you how to do origami so that you can't say anymore that you aren't artistic." There was a visible change in him as he offered to share his gift with me and he grew excited in showing me some of the things he had made.

I mention this because this student reminded me of today's principle: he was willing to share something that was really valuable to him, something that he cherished deeply. So profoundly did he love his craft that he is willing to teach ME how to do it (even if origami doesn't require scissors, he has no idea how much a danger I pose when doing any form of craft).

Sometimes I think Jesuits can show too-great a reserve in telling people what it is that excites us. As I've said before, I am blessed to serve as a companion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has called me to help build God's Kingdom on earth. Or, using my favorite image, Jesus has invited me to take up my instrument in his band in order that the whole world might dance to the music that announces God's Reign. There is in this much to celebrate and I would be remiss if I remained silent about it.

For Jesuits and our fellow religious, it would be good for us to reflect upon where our originating joy is found. What is it that set our hearts on fire and sustains us? How can we tap into this energy and share it with a world that sorely craves to hear Good News? At the risk of being labeled idealists, we need to be upfront with our passions and share them, proclaiming loudly who we are, who it is that has called us, and how we desire to live our lives for the Greater Glory of God.



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Principle #3: Keep in Contact

Principle #3: Keep in Contact

Something that I have found terrifically helpful in working with candidates to the Society of Jesus is something we take for granted: the cell phone. Actually, not the phone so much as the text message. When I'm at basketball games, or football games, or soccer, hockey, bowling or swimming, I can seize the few moments between plays/quarters/periods/heats to send a quick text message to one or more candidates. This can be as simple as, "Hey there, how're things?" or "Just a quick note to let you know that I'm praying for you." When I lived in New York, some of the best evenings I spent with college students were the result of spontaneous texts that said, "Hey, want to grab a slice of pizza?" or "Want to grab a beer?"

Very often, I don't have to say, "How's discernment going." I simply need to make myself present, to let that person who is discerning know that I am out there, that I am thinking about him, and that I do care. Emails, phone calls, and birthday cards do this to no small extent. But I think there's something very helpful about the immediacy of the text message, a quick "jolt" that reminds a guy that he's not alone in his discernment process.


Happy Saint Patrick's Day! (Part II)

My mom sent me a picture of my niece Emma and my nephew (and godson) Quinn. I'm glad that the weather permitted them to go to Cleveland's parade with Nan (my mom) and Bob (my dad).


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Some of my fondest memories from childhood pool around the Saint Patrick's Day season: innumerable performances at senior centers, parish halls, and private parties where my siblings, cousins, and friends would perform Irish music and dance. We were just kids, really, but I can't but to remember how we felt so grown up, so professional, because we were on stage.

Times certainly have changed! I think that, for the first time in my life, I'll be in school on Saint Patrick's Day. Not that I mind too much, of course: I have to get my sophomores for "Test the Third: The Return of the New Testament." (Yes, I've taken to naming my exams).

I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't post a new YouTube video in honor of the season. So I did TWO videos last night, each one with one take.




And here's a second:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Principle #2: Ask the Question

If you are interested in helping to promote vocations to the Jesuits, or to religious life, here's a second principle to follow:

2. Ask the Question

This goes along with my operative maxim that "if you see something, say something." I think many young men are embarrassed to admit that they feel the stirring of a call to priesthood or religious life...given the scandal of sex abuse, I can hardly blame them. Nevertheless, I sincerely think a lot of guys do kick the idea around but they are petrified at the prospect of expressing this nagging feeling to anyone.

Isn't this a shame? If someone had all the gifts and talents to be a great author, or athlete, or artist, wouldn't you be effusive with your praise? If you noticed a person with phenomenal talent for drawing who was pursuing a career as a greeter at a local store, don't you think that you might be inclined to say, "Hey, haven't you ever thought of being an artist?" You'd fear that she wasn't using her talents to their fullest potential and you'd encourage her to pursue a vocation that would use and form those talents.

As you go about your day, you may come across a young person who has all of the traits and qualities you'd like to see in a priest or religious. So why don't you say something? You'd do it for the artist, whose medium is canvass and oil. Then why don't you do it for religious life, whose medium is the mind, body, heart, and soul? Is this medium not infinitely more valuable and precious, one that demands the most talented to serve it?



Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Role in Promoting Jesuit Vocations

This weekend, I met with the Vocations Team of the Chicago/Detroit Provinces. Four of us met to pray, share, and reflect on the various ways in which we might help to invite young men in our areas to consider living out their Christian discipleship as Companions of Jesus. It was a very productive meaning and I returned to Detroit energized to continue the promotion effort.

Over the next few days, I would like to share several ways in which you can help to promote vocations, not only to the Jesuits, but to religious life in general. Every one of us crosses paths with many people each and every day. Sometimes we meet a person and think, "Geez, that guy would make a great priest." Or, "Wow, she'd make a great sister." Often, I think, we're reluctant to give voice to this observation and we let it go unsaid.

As I've written before, my vocation-promoting instinct finds its origin in the time I spent on the New York Transit: if you see something, say something. There's no harm in encouraging a young person to consider religious life: at worst, you've paid him or her a compliment. At best, you've either opened a new window for discernment -or- confirmed the stirrings of that person's heart.

So allow me to begin with the first of Ten Principles to Encourage Jesuit Vocations. I'm taking the principles from a pamphlet I was given this weekend (original author is anonymous) and I'll do my best to expand upon some of the insights. I'm not going to write them all at once...just as promoting vocations takes time, so too will my posting of the principles!

1. Know That You Are Significant

If a young man confides to you that he feels in his heart the stirring of a vocation, he has placed a tremendous gift in your hands. He has also paid you a great compliment: in you he has seen someone with whom he can risk being vulnerable. In you, he sees perhaps a person of faith who has responded generously and lovingly to God's call and he trusts that you will share your wisdom with him.

I remember telling one of my best friends that I wanted to be a Jesuit. I remember when I told her: seated in her car, driving in Denver. I love my friend and trust her wholeheartedly but I was still very nervous in sharing this with her: I was terrified that she would try to dissuade me, or laugh at me, or tell me I was crazy. She did none of these things. She looked at me, told me she thought I would make a great priest, and told me that she would love me no matter what decision I made. Her stated confidence gave me the courage to continue my discernment and the support I needed when I faced times of doubt and anxiety.

Please know that such a sharing is a moment of privilege, a delicate moment where you hold a person's heart in your hands. Be gentle. Assure the person of your love and concern. Be honest, of course, but before you speak say a little prayer, "Lord, be on my lips and let me say what he needs to hear." This latter prayer I utter each day before I begin teaching, I might add.

Just one final anecdote. Two months before I entered, I happened to be at an Irish dancing competition (feis) in Chicago. One of the judges, a women I have known for many years, invited me to take a walk with her after the competition. After a little while she stopped me, held my arms, and told me how proud she and all the other judges were of me for entering the Jesuits. "Ryan," she said, looking into my eyes, "we love you. If you aren't happy and you decide this isn't for you, we will still love you. We just want you to be happy." I cherish those words to this day. Indeed, they are part of the reason I continue to be involved in the Irish dancing world. Even though I knew I would miss my friends - and I do! - I knew that they were supportive of me and that they would love me, no matter where God called me.

So to conclude, never underestimate how significant you are. Each of us exercises a tremendous amount of influence on the lives of others and the fact that a person seeks us out to ask for advice or counsel only testifies to this.



Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Simone Says

Early this morning, as I sipped my coffee and tried to ready myself for another day of teaching - the biblical command to "gird your loins" springs to mind - I stumbled upon a little quote from the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil. In one of her letters addressed to Father Perrin, she writes:
But the greatest blessing you have brought me is of another order. In gaining my friendship by your charity (which I have never met anything to equal), you have provided me with a source of the most compelling and pure inspiration that is to be found among human things. For nothing among human things has such power to keep our gaze fixed ever more intensely on God, than friendship for the friends of God.
For some reason, these final words struck a chord deep within me. "Yes, of course!" I proclaimed when I read them. There is something so profoundly intuitive about what she wrote, yet something I think I too often forget.

These words echoed in my heart today when one of the seniors said to me, "Mr. D, you know that I have a hard time believing. But the fact that you believe makes it easier for me to believe."

Allow me to say, with all humility, that this is one of the nicest things a student has ever said to me. When I pressed him for more information, he shared with me that the way I live out my faith actually makes it appealing to him and encourages him to "go and do likewise." Christianity, it seems, had been reduced to a series of "do's and don'ts" and had lost its personal element. By getting to know a young(er) religious as a teacher, the student saw another dimension of Christianity: one that is joyful and excited to share the Gospel. In other words, my friendship with God has helped train this young man's eyes on God.

It is tempting to decry the secularization of our society. We throw tantrums about public displays of manger scenes or the Ten Commandments...but do we live our lives as though we take either one seriously? I can't say that a kitsch manger scene has ever helped me to focus more on God...although I can attest that myriad gestures of kindness and self-sacrificing love do remind me of the grace and burden of calling myself a Christian.

As we continue on our journey through Lent, it might not be a bad idea to take a moment to reflect on who the "friends of God" are in our lives. Perhaps it would be good to call some of these people and spend time with them; perhaps by gazing upon them, we might catch a glimmer of the splendor of this friendship or catch an ember of this friendship that might kindle a similar love in our own hearts.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Home from Retreat

It has been something of a whirlwind week. I left on Tuesday to participate in the March Kairos with the seniors, spending four days listening to and praying for the 29 young men who generously gave of their time to come to know Christ better. I had to leave early from the closing ceremony on Friday so that I could drive down to Maumee Bay where were had day of reflection for several of my fellow regents teaching in the Detroit/Cleveland/Toledo/Akron areas. I came home last night only to leave again to go to to a varsity hockey game where we won 3-2 in OT to become the Division I, Region 5 champions.

I think I was asleep last night before my head nestled into the pillow!

I'll hopefully have time tonight or this week to do some blogging. I'm still a bit tired from last week and I need to start planning this upcoming week. Until then, be assured of my prayers as we move further into Lent!

Monday, March 01, 2010

On Retreat

I'll be away on retreat until Saturday, March 6th. Please pray for the students and leaders of the Kairos retreat. Be assured of my prayers as we journey further into Lent.