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Showing posts from March, 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, bor…

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…

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…

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 candidac…

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'…

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 s…

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…

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 be…

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 thi…

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! (Part II)

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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:

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&…

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

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 …

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!

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.