Showing posts from July, 2010

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

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…


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)

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 RenĂ© 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

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…