Showing posts from April, 2010

The Color of Correction

My Facebook friends have heard this already, but I'd like to share a rather amusing incident from my week.

I am a creature of habit. Not obsessively so, to be sure, but having a routine helps me to move through the day with minimal distraction. Granted, I can be particular: there are certain protein bars I prefer to eat for a mid-morning snack, certain brands of coffee I prefer to brew, and even certain types of pens that I like to use. Truth be told, I can be somewhat crazy about my pens: once I find one that works, I cling to it and seize any opportunity to acquire more of the same brand. There's just some sense of security I derive from knowing that I have 4-8 of my favorite pens in my bag, just in case the one I'm currently using fails to write.

This preference extends even to the pens I use to mark papers. Here I'm very particular. These days, I'm rather fond of the Pilot-brand Precise V5 RT Red Pen series. It's a clicky pen, so no cap to lose. Out of its …

I see how it is...

As I may have shared once before, when I was a little boy I had a Paddington Bear, whom I loved dearly. I liked his foppish yellow hat (stuffed with newspaper to help maintain its shape) and his blue coat. I loved that he had been a gift from my Grandma Duns. I took him to bed with me each night, along with my blanket, for comfort and security.

That is, at least, until my brother took Paddington from his secure abode on my bed and brought him into the kitchen and put him on the (hot) stove. In a burst of smoke and melting synthetic fibers, I was left with a singed and smoky toy...and a bear-sized hole in my heart.

For many, many years I lived with this gaping wound, a deep scar that I never managed to get over. It was until I was 24 - just before I entered the Jesuits - that my parents took steps at putting this aright by buying me a new Paddington bear. This Paddington came with me to the novitiate and also lived in New York for three years (he's a cosmopolitan sort, enjoying the…

Crawling Toward the Weekend

If I thought last week was challenging, I'm finding this week to be exponentially more difficult. It's been one thing after another: prepping classes, planning a pep rally, enormous amounts of work for the Archbishop's visit to our school, and preparation for another weekend of travel. Two or three times I thought that I should write something but, then, a new crisis would erupt and I'd find myself mired in paperwork!

It's hard having a big-boy job. I miss my student days!

A Lull

After last week's flurry of posts, the business of teaching has rendered me somewhat silent. I'm generally in the building by 7:10 each morning and, of late, I've not been home until 5:00 pm which is just in time for Mass and dinner. After that there's always something: lesson planning, lacrosse games, baseball games, planning a rally, sending out a TON of emails, working with Jesuit candidates, etc..

Oh, for the halcyon days of Spring Break! While some prefer to go to Tijuana or Florida, I'd prefer to be able to blog while I drink my coffee.

I'm heading off to Denver tonight to play for my 10th straight "Feile Denver." In 2001, Anne Hall invited me to Denver while I was a junior in college. I've come out to play at this feis ever since and, in the process, found in Anne one of my closest friends. Even though I don't look forward to traveling today - truth be told, I just want to sleep! - I'm very excited to be with friends in Denver...ev…

It's Been a Long Time

In what was my first totally free Friday night in a very long time, I seized an opportunity to do something I haven't done in many years: I went to an Irish music session. A seisiun, or session, is a gathering of Irish musicians who gather to play music together. I learned of this session from a great little website called, a site run by a great whistle player named Gary Farmer. So after a day of blogging and recording, I packed up my tin whistles, jumped into the car, and headed off to the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall in Detroit.

The irony of me being nervous to go to a session is not lost on me. My YouTube videos have been watched nearly 2.5 million times and I, daily, receive emails asking for help in learning to play Irish music. Just yesterday I read a note from somebody who thanked me for helping her to learn enough tunes to allow her to play in a local beginners' session in her hometown. Rather than being glad for her, I felt horribly discouraged! &qu…

Remaining in the Church?

A comment made on my earlier post includes the following: "I haven't given up on God. But the Church? Well, that's another matter entirely. And I'm not sure if I am going to stay or go." 

It would be improper and unhelpful for me to offer an intellectual reason to remain in the Catholic Church, especially in light of the failure of so many of its leaders to leader, the apparent inability of so many of its pastors to pastor.

In my prayer this morning, I imagined a group never really mentioned in the Scriptures: the non-disciple friends of Jesus. By this I mean those women and men with whom Peter might have gathered on the odd weekend to spend time with, to relax with, to 'get away' from the other followers of Jesus. Peter may have introduced some of these people to Jesus and some of them may even have considered themselves followers.

Imagine the shock and horror when Peter told his friends just how it was that he managed to escape being pegged as one of J…

How's Your GPS? (God Positioning System)

Last June I made, perhaps, the single-most important purchase of my adult life: a global positional system for my car. As I made preparations to move to Detroit where I would have ready access to a car, it occurred to me that it'd be convenient and probably safer to use a GPS to navigate the city instead of relying on printed-out directions.

I have come to rely completely on TomTom (the brand I bought and the name I have given to my GPS). There is something reassuring, if not perplexing, that there are satellites thousands of miles above my head that are able to keep track of my car as I travel. I especially appreciate TomTom's pastoral concern for me and my driving: it tells me when I'm speeding, it gently reminds me to "turn around when possible" if I've overshot my destination, and if I miss a turn or misunderstand one of the cues, TomTom recalculates my route in order to get me to my destination safely: no fumbling about with directions, no second-guessin…

A Jesuit's Introduction to the Tin Whistle: The Wild Rover

The Fordham tin whistle series, as I look back on it, ended on March 31, 2008. After two years, I thought it time to breathe new life into the endeavor so I'm starting a new series: "A Jesuit's Introduction to the Whistle."

Here's the first posting, cross-posted with my other blog.

As promised, I'm uploading my first new teaching video. Below I've typed out the letters. Please be aware: Bold Face Notes mean that you blow harder. Also, I'll indicate at the beginning whether the C is played with two fingers (0xx000 or C-natural) or if it is played with all fingers off (000 000 or C-sharp). All of the F notes, unless otherwise indicated, are F-Sharp.

The Wild Rover (C's in this tune are C-natural, so 0xx 000)

Another Instance of What I was Talking About

In general, I rather like Maureen Dowd's columns in the New York Times. This morning, however, I was saddened to see Maureen column making the same sort of leap I decried in my previous post.
Maureen's brother writes: Vatican II liberalized rules but left the most outdated one: celibacy. That vow was put in place originally because the church did not want heirs making claims on money and land. But it ended up shrinking the priest pool and producing the wrong kind of candidates — drawing men confused about their sexuality who put our children in harm’s way.There is the common, if not wholly accurate, belief that clerical celibacy was instituted solely in order to preserve the economic status of the Church. Maureen, by quoting her brotherappears to buy into this this. This is not to say that nepotism was not one area that reformers intended to address with the institution of clerical celibacy. Nevertheless, I don't believe that it is the entirety of the story. John O…

Der Speigel: Is it Really?

I read this morning an article entitled "Helpless in the Vatican: The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI" published in Der Spiegel, the German weekly magazine.
As I wrote on Holy Saturday, I have been terribly discouraged by the waves of sex abuse that continue to buffet the Catholic Church. I'm disappointed in the actions of bishops and the culture of secrecy that allowed horrendous abuse of the innocent to take place. I grieve that the Church has lost the trust of many and is now looked at with scorn and suspicion. I am angry at many bishops who, in my estimation, have too often been spectacular failures, preferring the role of "institutional administrator" rather than commission to follow Christ as shepherds of souls, stewards of grace, and heralds of faith.
Yet, my frustration with the failures of the hierarchy of the institutional Church is only compounded by my frustration with the facile and sloppy reporting of the media. The authors of the Der Spiegelpiece w…

Three Easter Pictures

I just wanted to post three pictures taken with me and my nephew (Quinn) and niece (Emma).

Holy Saturday

Over the last few weeks, the drama of sex-abuse has played itself out on a national stage. The New York Times has carried a series of articles raising trenchant questions concerning, "Who knew what and when was it known?" concerning abuse allegations that date back decades.

I am in no position to offer commentary on these. Were I to try to defend or contextualize the actions of the bishops and the Holy Father, I would be accused of being a "party-man" and failing to recognize the grief of the abused. Were I to join the chorus of voices calling for the Pope to resign or those decrying the entirety of the Catholic Church, I would be accused by others of being a traitor.

So on this Holy Saturday, I find myself silenced. It's profoundly difficult to speak to the complexity of the issue of sexual abuse...sort of like trying to speak to a person following the death of the beloved: you want to say something, you want to offer a word, but deep down you know it's bet…