Showing posts from August, 2011

Caught Up in a Web of Desire

Last week, I assigned my sophomore Chistology students an odd assignment: they were to go home and watch commercials. Yep, I risked offending the TiVo generation by suggesting they actually watch (or endure) commercials. You see, I wanted them to see how clever marketing companies were in manipulating them into buying their products.

That marketing agencies are clever in pitching products is nothing new. Yet, what I wanted to reveal to my students is that the very same dynamic that undergirds successful ad campaigns also undergirds the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Come again?

Arguably the most talked-about commercial from this year's Superbowl was the "Imported From Detroit" ad from Chrysler.

What is it that is being sold? If you said a Chrysler 200, you're right...but only in a sense. If they wanted to tell you how great a car it was, they could simply have put up the statistics and done some cross-comparisons between the Chrysler 200 and other models. Yet thi…

I Thought Jokes Made People Laugh...

I was deeply troubled today when, on Yahoo news, I saw a story about Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann's supposed "joke" while on the campaign trail. During a campaign stop in Florida, she quipped:
I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.Now, my first reaction was, "Wow, that's really bad theology. It's also kind of twisted: what is this, a joke?" The fact that her press secretary had to clarify that Bachmann had said this "in jest" actually confirmed my initial incredulity: watching the video, one can't fail to notice that no one is laughing. Earthquakes and deadly hurricanes are not areas I would normally mine for comedic materia…

When Jesuits Play...

My brother, Colin, is afraid of clowns. So are a lot of people: there is something totally scary about them, particularly after Stephen King's It transformed, forever, the image of the clown. When we were kids, a hideous painting of a hobo clown hung over my brother's bed in the room we shared and I often wonder if he wasn't so grouchy in those years because he was sleep deprived, fearing to close his eyes lest the clown come down and get him.
Well, the other night a few of us captured a photograph that I thought my brother would like:

I hope my brother sees this. Sweet dreams, Colin!

Is it really only Thursday?

I woke up this morning and felt, momentarily, a surge of joy: it's Friday. Then, rolling over and checking the time on my cell-phone, I noticed that, in fact, it is only Thursday. Two more days to go in this first week of school!

The first week is always tough. Getting to know ~120 new names and faces just in my classes plus other students seen in the corridors is daunting. Three courses, five classes, including two brand-new courses, makes for what seems to be demand for constant preparation. Throw onto this that our major fundraiser is on October 4th and is quickly followed by our Fall Rally on the 7th and Homecoming on the, ultimately, I am responsible for planning and executing. Add to this that a number of my students claim that their books are on back order, so I've been delaying any major reading assignments by a few days in order to give the books a chance to arrive. This means both that I am without the security blanket of a text to work off of and that I…

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U of D Jesuit Admissions Video


Crisis of Confidence

On my post entitled "Suffer the Children" a reader left the following comment:

Dear Mr. Dunns:
From time to time I read your blog and now for the first time I'll comment (I don't usually comment on blogs... blog comments usually only rile people up). 
Let me start by saying I am a former priest from Orange County and I still love the Church. While I did not leave the priesthood because of the scandals, the way the Church handled the abuse crisis did make it easier for me to make the decision to leave. Much of me still yearns to be in active ministry as a priest.
Your blog today struck me deeply. The bishops have damaged the Church I (and millions others) so deeply love. Our bishops are completely out of touch with the people of God. While they are busy with new translations, respect for them and the institution they serve is at an all time (and deservedly) low point. They need to listen to the needs of God's people. People are hungry for the Gospel, hungry for leader…

A Jesuit on Orientation (Day)

I woke up especially early this morning - around 4:30 am - with a lot of nervous excitement: today is Freshmen/Sophomore orientation. This is the day when the U of D Jesuit community greets its newest high school students, introduces them to the school and its culture, and then hosts a picnic (I'm one of the organizers and grill-masters) for them.

With a cup of coffee at my side, I prayed looking out at the rising sun and felt a great sense of gratitude for this opportunity to teach another class of students. This is going to be a wild year for, in addition to my duties as moderator of the Student Senate, I have three course preparations (Latin I, Christology, and Philosophy). In my weak moments, I feel great fear but even when overwhelmed, I cannot help but feel that this is how Jesus has invited me to participate in building the least this year! For the joy that this brings to my heart, I cannot but be grateful.

Orientation day provides an opportunity to show studen…

Suffer the Children

I entitled this post "Suffer the Children" with two thoughts in mind. First, today begins our two-day orientation process: Seniors/Juniors this morning, Academy students this afternoon, and Freshmen/Sophomore classes tomorrow. The halcyon days of summer die upon the cliffs of new courses and colored pencils. I love it.

My second, and more pressing, reason is the great sense of sorrow and anger I have had in light of recent revelations about the Bishop Robert Finn's acknowledged inaction concerning the behavior of Father Shawn Ratigan. As the New York Times piece indicates, the bishop failed to report that, in December 2010, the bishop knew that Ratigan had indecent photographs of children. Between December 2010 and May 2011, Ratigan continued to have access to children. Indeed, he now faces 13 counts of possessing, producing, and attempting to produce child pornography.

I have read Bishop Finn's letter and I am sad to say that it leaves me feeling hollow. A known mon…

God's Job Makes it to the Small Screen

The Colbert Report
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Scads of my former freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors - were they watching a recent Colbert Report - must have heard Colbert's opening question, "What is God's Job?" only to shout out, "God's Job is to make things to be." Father Martin's response, "Sustaining the universe" is a good answer, although it can give the appearance that there is a universe that God has found and now sustains. The way my students learn it, there is anything at all because God makes it to be (like a musician holding a note - if the musicians stops playing, the notes are no longer).

This clip, to my mind, is great public theology because it gets to the heart of a question that really presses on the minds and hearts of countless individuals. Is there a God and what the heck does God do? Very often, it seems, people think of God as a genie or a capricious …

2011-2012 U of D Jesuit High School & Academy Jesuit Community

So, here's this year's community. Of the group, six of us are teachers in the school, one is the school president, one works in the school, one is the parish administrator of our downtown parish, and one works at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. We're a motley crew, brothers in the Lord, and excited to be missioned to the city of Detroit this year!

I was a stranger and you welcomed me...

Over my (almost seven) years of blogging, I have often been critical - either explicitly or implicitly - of what I have felt to be a failing on the part of the United States Bishops to live up fully to their role as teacher. I am extremely proud, therefore, to share with you this link to a very powerful editorial written by Detroit's Archibishop Allen Vigneron.

I found the Archbishop's message to be clear and on-point: he emphasizes that the laws of any government - even our own - must be enforced in a way that treat "migrant peoples with the same dignity as its native-born citizens." Wholly acknowledging the nation's right to protect its borders and to ensure the security of its people, he rightly acknowledges the essential and inviolable dignity of the human person, a dignity that is not erased based on which side of a border one stands, whether legally or illegally.

If ever there has been a good argument for the active role of the devil in the world (Greek: di…

World Youth Day/Pilgrimage to Spain

For those interested, there are two sites I would encourage you to peruse surrounding World Youth Day.

Bringing Loyola to Loyola
Magis & World Youth Day 2011


Almost two weeks ago, I blogged about a quote I found from Archbishop Charles Chaput who quipped, in his usual lapidary way, "If we don't love the poor, and do everything we can to improve their lot, we're going to Hell." I cited this with approval given that I think the physical conditions of our sisters and brothers are of tremendous consequence for salvation. Being given the "Bread of Life" or feasting upon the "Word of God" is far more difficult - if not impossible - when one is watching her baby starve to death.

One comment I received made me laugh at the website that was linked:

Archbishop Chaput is on my "Bishball" team. is the site of a Catholic "sport" where teams of 3 bishops are followed by bloggers. Actions are tracked as are the things said about the bishops. This week has left me breathless with all the angst, joy, confusion, misinformation, smack-downs, and hijinks over the Chaput appo…

Theology or Magic

Every now and again, students raise questions that push me to consider issues that had never dawned on me. Earlier this year, several students raised the question of wearing scapulars, so we spent some time thinking through why people wear them and what they "do." Some students had been given the impression that if one were to wear a scapular, he would be saved from hell simply by wearing it. I entered into a discussion with a colleague on this issue and thought that it might be helpful for others to read what I wrote.

Dear X,

Yesterday in class, some of my students raised the question of scapulars. They attributed to you the idea that if one is wearing a scapular that he or she automatically goes to heaven or, at the least, will be saved from hell. One student seemed to recall something about "going to Mass nine Sundays in a row" as part of making this particular devotional operative but, on the whole, they seemed to hold the belief that scapular = salvation. 

I tri…

Good Without God

One of the perks of being on vacation is having the luxury of reading the newspaper, or several newspapers, each day. This is a rare occurrence for me: I'm usually so pressed for time each day that I read the New York Times online as I get ready in the morning. This morning, however, I managed to read not only the full print version of the Times but also the USA Today.

I didn't realize that the USA Today carries a Monday "Religion" section, this week's contribution coming from University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne. His piece is entitled "As atheists know, you can be good without God."

This is going to be a longer piece of writing on my part, engaging with Professor Coyne's observations. I should like to say, from the start, that I detect in this piece what the philosopher Michel de Certeau who writes: the Expert, competence is transmuted into social authority; in the Philosopher, ordinary questions become a skeptical principle in a techni…