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Showing posts from July, 2011

Feast of Saint Ignatius

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On this Sunday, the feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, I write this from beautiful Villa Marquette, the Chicago-Detroit Province’s villa in northern Michigan. It is a tranquil setting, on a lake, where Jesuits have come for generations to commemorate the feast of the Order’s founder and to take time from their busy apostolic lives to recreate with one another.
Ignatian spirituality, perhaps too easily, lends itself to buzzwords that people pick adopt. An “MFO” is shorthand for “Man for Others.” AMDG, the acronym for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, easily becomes a good luck charm rather than a ratification that the work that has been completed has actually been done to give God greater honor and glory.
As I have grown in the Society of Jesus, I have come again and again to the great insight contained in the “Principle and Foundation” of the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius begins by stating that every human life has a purpose, an end, “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God …

Schedule Day

At some point this morning, the students at U of D Jesuit were finally granted access to see their schedules for the 2011-12 school year. I can only imagine the trembling excitement and nervousness that accompanied the "clicking" of the schedule tab, as students learned which teachers would be shepherding (or haranguing) into wholeness. It's a mark of this generation that many of the students then posted their schedules to Facebook so that they might learn which of their fellow students were in classes with them.
In case you're wondering:
Period 1: Philosophy (Seniors) Period 2: New Testament/Christology (Sophomores) Period 4: Latin I (Frosh) Period 6: New Testament/Christology (Sophomores) Period 8: New Testament/Christology (Sophomores)
Of these, two are basically new courses. I have taught Philosophy before, but this year I'm teaching it as the history of Catholic philosophy (a disputable title, to be sure) and the book is new to me. Latin I is a course I'm teach…

Beginning my Summer Vacation

I flew from San Francisco to Cleveland yesterday, leaving sunny-and-cool Northern California for muggy and hot Cleveland. It's nice, however, to be home and I was so grateful to have had a chance to sleep in this morning and then go to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist for Eucharist. I'm going to have a "Day of Introversion" which will allow me to pray and read my book before connecting with a friend for dinner tonight. Tomorrow I will head back to Detroit, with a short detour to Port Clinton, Ohio, to see (most) of my family who are on vacation there.

Having completed the Latin course, I overwhelmed with how tired I actually am. For nearly six straight weeks, I poured everything I had into my studies and trying to be the best student I could be. With relatively few distractions, I was able to stay focused on my task and now, after six weeks, I am pretty confident in my ability to at least tackle a primary text in Latin. To be sure, I need a good dictionary …

If We Don't Love the Poor...

There's been quite a bit of commotion this week over Pope Benedict XVI's naming of Archbishop Charles Chaput as the new bishop of Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Love him or hate him, Archbishop Chaput is an interesting figure in the American Church.

In reading John Allen's interview, I was struck by a number of things said by the Archbishop. Of these, one line particularly interested me: "If we don't love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we're going to go to Hell."

What? Could this line be yet another instance of what some bloggers consider liberation theology, the nefarious bugbear that causes such consternation for certain Catholics? Or is this simply the Archbishop putting bluntly what most of the rest of us know: the salvation we proclaim with our lips and preach from our pulpits is incomplete if our sisters and brothers are left to starve. Jesus didn't come simply to bring a Hallmark card: he brought new life and made people to be …

The Vocation the Church Forgets to Pray For

Every week, in parishes across the world, we offer special intentions at the Eucharist and very often we pray for an increase in vocations. To many ears, it sounds as though the concern is only to increase the number of priests and religious throughout the world. This, however, is not true: when we pray for an increase in vocations, we are really praying that each one of us embraces the calling that has been received, whether it to be a priest, a religious, or (for most people) to the vocation of marriage.

Today at Mass, however, I realized that there is a vocation we should pray for daily: the vocation of the Church Usher. I think these are the unsung heroes of many parishes when you consider just a few things they too often have to deal with:


They have to encourage people to move down into the pew so that others may enter, a risky move because ceding the end of the pew thwarts the easy-access escape route if the priest decides to give an insufferably long homilyThey have to shepherd …

Over the Moor to Maggie, Ryan Duns & Steven Hawson, Ceol Gan Achar

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Several weeks ago, Steven Hawson contacted me about collaborating on a music project. He liked several of my tin whistle videos and asked if he could remix them, playing along with them and re-recording the tune. Being game for such a thing, I gave permission and, this morning, Steven contacted me with this as the result.

A Jesuit from Michigan and a musician from New Mexico collaborating on a project without ever meeting or even talking on the phone. It's amazing what technology can accomplish!

With Friends Like These...

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Earlier this week, the principal of my school invited me to consider teaching one section of Latin I this upcoming term. Many years ago, I taught Spanish in a Buffalo-area Catholic grammar school (Our Lady of Black Rock) and really enjoyed it, so in light of my own study this summer I am really happy (1) to share my newfound passion for this language and (2) keep myself somewhat engaged with Latin: if you don't use it, you lose it!

I guess I am about enter a new phase in the evolution of my name: Ryan Gerard Duns (Christened Name) --> Duns (All Boys High School) --> Ryan (College/early Jesuit formation) --> Ryan G. Duns, SJ (Totally Pretentious authorial name) --> Mr. Duns (Start of Regency) --> Dunsy (Seniors' early nickname for me) --> Abba Duns (sophomore development during the third month of Regency, ongoing) --> "SJ" (Started among the Juniors, gaining ground with the Student Senate Officers) --> Magister Duns, my self-appointed title as …

A Little Delay from Africa

I check frequently, but there's been a bit of a lag in the post updating us on the African Pilgrimage. If you have been following along, please follow this link to see how Father Schreiber and companions are doing.

Time to make my parents proud

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Today during Intensive Latin Camp, our camp counsellor Father Carlson helped us to fill in a letter to our parents showing them how much we have learned about the Subjunctive Tense Mood (Sorry - I was trying to post this before I went to lunch...I always make dumb mistakes). I know my parents will be so proud to see what their 31-year old son has learned!




Sadly, I don't have a scanner so I had to use my phone to take these pictures. Rest assured, I'll drop the hardcopy into the mail so they can hang it on the refrigerator. I should probably send this to my formation director, superior, and provincial, too, since they are paying for my time here at Latin Camp.

T-Minus 10 Days of Class Remaining

Our intrepid band of Intensive Latin students embarks today upon Week V of our course. Scheduled as a six-week course that works through all of the Wheelock's Latin, we will start working through the remaining ten chapters tonight. I marvel that my brain hasn't yet dissolved, so battered has it been by memorizing vocabulary and grammatical forms. Truth be told, I'm simply amazed at how much one is able to learn in a course such as this: I was reading the Vulgate this morning and, last night, I started to make my way through the Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (The Journey of the Mind into God) by Saint Bonaventure.

I woke up a bit earlier than usual and, as it is July in Berkeley, I had to burrow deeper under my sheets because it was pretty chilly. Unable to go back to sleep, my mind wandered until it struck me that this Friday marks the end of the 10-year era of Harry Potter films. While this is not news to very many people, it did strike a nostalgic chord as I was a senior in…

Spiritual Ruts

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One tactic I have employed this summer in my study of Latin is an age-old teaching maxim of the Jesuits: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. I go over vocabulary, conjugations, and declensions until I feel like I can do them in my sleep. Heck, I woke up at 3:00 am this morning and my first thought was, "Surgo, Surgere, Surrexi, Surrectum - to get up, to arise." I then looked at the clock, chastised myself for being a nerd, and when back to sleep.

I think it is helpful to engage in "review and drill" exercises because they develop deep rusts in our memories. Verb conjugations or noun declensions, if a language is to be mastered, need to become second-nature. In our regular conversations seldom do we actively think about how we use regular verbs; we are in such linguistic ruts that our language sort of carries itself without us having to think about it. This breaks down, however, when we need to say something delicately and feel the need to "choose our words&quo…

On Pilgrimage

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I have been meaning to draw attention to a blog that is being maintained at the Detroit-Chicago Province's Website. Father Martin Schreiber and several colleagues have embarked upon a pilgrimage to Africa. My good friend, Kyle Chandler, is taking part in this adventure.

Each day, one member of the party will be offering a reflection on his or her experiences. For those of us doing less-than-glamorous things this summer -- such as studying Latin! -- this blog will give us a chance to accompany these pilgrims.

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the reflections!

In order of posting so far:
June 22nd: "Are You Open to Being a Pilgrim With Us?"July 5th: "Packing"July 6th: "Fireworks and Leaving Things Behind"July 6th:  "On the Goodness of Wandering"As best as I am able, I will continue to draw your attention to these posts.

Another Shock from Rome

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A few weeks ago, a poster voiced her disagreement with something I said about social justice:


Christ came to save us from sin, not social injustice, right?
For this poster, then, it must have come as a shock to read Pope Benedict XVI's comments this past week. The Holy Father, speaking on July 1st, remarked:
Poverty, underdevelopment and, therefore, hunger are often the result of selfish behaviors that, born in the human heart, manifest themselves in social life, economic exchange, in market conditions and in the lack of access to food.You canread the story here if you should like.

I draw attention to this because I think there is a pernicious tendency among some Christians to think that sin is this invisible, metaphysical goo that sort of sticks to us, making us do bad things and keeping us from heaven. This is a fine metaphor for a child, but it fails to take account of a deep reality of sin: we, too easily and too often, put our own selfish desires and wants above the creative wil…

Vatican’s point man for religious life: ‘We've Started to Listen Again'

While waiting for the beginning of Semester II of the Intensive Latin Course (Semester I went from June 13 - July 1; Semester II is July 5 - July 22), I stumbled upon the following little article in the National Catholic Reporter. I read this publication, basically, for John Allen's writing.
I include a link to the article and I encourage you to read about Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz from Brazil. Here is a question addressing a common perception about Liberation Theology and the Archbishop's response:

Sometimes, it’s said that Liberation Theology remains an imminent threat.

Yes, sometimes it seems that Liberation Theology is a ghost to be invoked whenever it suits someone. Many things have changed. In many countries, those who once fought against the powerful, like Lula [in Brazil], who were even guerilla warriors, today are in government. There’s been a whole evolution, and it’s time for everyone in the church to realize it.
Many of my readers know that Joseph Fromm and I hav…

A Few Other Observations

I went to bed last night with something of a heavy heart: while I certainly will not shy away from a good fight, I don't actively seek out conflict.

Early on in my blogging career, I was encouraged to put site trackers onto the blog. These are inexpensive devices that let me know who is visiting, how long they stay, and what sort of contact they are most interested in reading.

For instance, I know that someone from the Pontifical Biblical Institute has visited the site quite a few times over the past 24-hours. I rather wish I knew who it was from there that was coming, as the happenings on the blog seem to be of interest to this person. I also know how many time my friend(s) from Bethesda has/have visited, as also my readers from New Jersey, Denver, Duvall (Washington), North Olmsted, Royal Oak, etc.. It's really crazy: while I might not know exactly who is visiting, I can make pretty good guesses. I have also learned that IP addresses are able to be traced back to their origi…

A Comment and a Request

Note:  I deleted most of the comments from yesterday's post due to the vile nature of many of the comments. Interestingly, it appears that IP 108.18.117.23 is responsible for most, if not all, of the posts. This IP Address traces to Bethesda, Maryland. What is worrisome is that it appears that all of the scurrilous posts originate from that IP address, which means we have either ONE person from Bethesda with an axe to grind or many people who happen to have the same IP address. I know one very vocal critic who claims to be an orthodox Catholic but, if it is that case that the vicious posts also originate with her, it would be a terrible indictment of her character.


Teaching high school has forced me to develop a little bag of tricks to use in the classroom. Sometimes it pays enormous dividends simply to stake a position, make an outlandish claim, just in order to incite the students to an argument. If you know how to push the right buttons, you can really bring about some amazing…

Taking the Gloves Off

After a marvelous day spent with a brother Jesuit, I returned to Berkeley to find this charming message from a woman who trolls the blogs. Maria, whose great claim to fame among bloggers is that she has an uncanny ability to cut-and-past long tracts of Father John Hardon and use them as proof texts to substantiate the point she wants to make, wrote the following in response to my post about studying Latin:

My brother started Latin at Georgetown Prep in the 7th grade and took it every year right through his Senior year at Princeton, when he wrote his dissertation on the Roman army. Ten years of Latin. He also studied Greek. It is hard to imagine Jesuits in formation even in need of a class such as you describe. Sad. I deleted it from the post but, after giving it some thought, I feel it might be good to engage Maria here on the blog.

Maria, I'm glad your brother took so many years of Latin (and Greek). Surely, he must be a remarkable young man if by his senior year at Princeton he m…

The Jesuits Combat the Dominicans in the 2011 Clericus Cup Finale