Showing posts from November, 2011

Wants into Needs

Some weeks ago, I had a conversation with an old friend with whom I went to school. After catching up on the years intervening between our last encounter, he asked me if he could ask a theological question. Happy to oblige, he continued, "I get the whole God thing. But seriously: do you really think that God can turn a piece of flat bread into Jesus?"

My response was intentionally curt: "We live in a society where the want for comfort has been transformed into the need for a Snuggie."

When you think about it, his question finds its mirror-image in the state of marketing today. Is not the whole goal of a proper marketing campaign to convince you that some of your wants - certain foods, reliable transportation, a style of dress - are actually needs that can only be met by purchasing a product?

Isn't it funny how quickly so many of us think nothing of shelling out $5.00 for a Venti No-Whip Soy Latte with a Double Shot or paying exorbitant amounts of money for a pa…

The First Sunday of Advent

You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not.  The first reading from yesterday, taken from Isaiah, is quoted above. Entering into the great season of Advent, many of us were encouraged yesterday to examine our lives and to look for those places we were in need of our savior, for those places where we are weak and struggling - those places where we can sense how remote we have become from God - and to call out to the Lord that we might be reunited. 

Advent's theme is to wait and to watch and to come to want the coming of the Messiah. The Church's prayer can be summoned up in a single word, Maranatha, or "Come, Lord Jesus." How many of us can look back on this past year and cry out:

Come, Lord Jesus, in the muck and mire of my life. I am lost and have no idea of where I am to turn. I sense that you are calling out to me, but I cannot raise my head from the e…

And With Your Spirit

This evening, Father Kiser will celebrate the Eucharist with those interested here at the Mid-American Oireachtas (big Irish dancing competition). After a day of dancing and music, we will gather as an Irish dancing community to celebrate our faith. I'm particularly interested to see how Mass will play out this evening as today marks the full implementation of the Third English Translation of the Roman Missal.

Briefly, I think that those with the loudest voices - those who think this new translation is going to fix problems and those who think that it will cause problems - are going to be disappointed. It seems to me that what has been forgotten is that our language, human language, always falls short of fully expressing its target. When I say, "I love my niece and nephew," it is maddeningly difficult to get across to you the nuance of the word love. How much more difficult, Saint Thomas Aquinas realized (as others before and after), is it to use words of God. No transla…


It was nice to wake up later than usual this morning - 8:30 rather than 5:30 - thanks to our day off of school. There is nothing, to my mind, like a lazy day off of school. I enjoyed two leisurely cups of coffee, made a delicious omelet for breakfast, and I'm catching up on reading several periodicals that have been piling up on my desk.

Last night, without the pressure to grade or prepare anything for class, I managed to catch a bit last night's GOP Debate. Like many, I was surprised by Newt Gingrich's comments on immigration:
"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter of a century, separate them from their families and expel them,” Gingrich said last night. “I do believe that if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the US, we should deport you." Much is often made of Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. Perhaps it is just serendipitous, but what some regard as devastating "polit…

El Salvador: 20 Years On

Yesterday, Jesuits around the world remembered the 1989 deaths of six of their brothers and two companions at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador. You can find a series of beautiful reflections on the event and its aftermath by following this link to Creighton University. A short video, created last year, gives the broadest of overviews of the events of that day:

Ever the provocateur, I posed this question: "In our country, we demand that justice reach to the heavens when people fail to report sexual abuse (Catholic Church, Penn State), and we assign life sentences to those who would defraud us of money (Bernie Madoff)...yet why is it that those in charge can order the murder of six priests, a housekeeper, and her daughter and remain unpunished?" This question, framed on a day when we recall in a special way the Jesuits executed for responding to the Gospel, is easily broadened to ask why we do not cry out and demand justice for all those innocent lives lost…

An Examen for the Close of the 2011 Liturgical Year

we prepare to close the 2011 Liturgical Year and embark on the journey of Advent (11/27), it may help us to engage in something of an Examination of Conscience (or Consciousness). The Examen, enjoined upon his companions by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is the single most important prayer of a Jesuit's life. In the still of the evening (or mid-day), the Jesuit places himself before God and looks attentively and reverently at his life in order to see (1) where God is working, (2) where one has failed to respond to God, (3) where one has cooperated with God's creative activity, and (4) to ask for the grace to enter more generously into God's creative action.

Just as we embark upon every new year with a host of resolutions, perhaps we should begin the new liturgical year with our own sense of where God is leading us. We need not search tea leaves or the entrails of slaughtered animals; we need only pause and look inward to put ourself in God's presence. God's will is no…

Of Papists and Penn State

I have followed with some interest the unfolding scandal that has engulfed the Penn State University. As is well known, the legendary Joe Paterno has been fired for his involvement (or lack thereof) in the sexual abuse of minors at the hands of Paterno's assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. This morning, the sun rises on a new terrain at Penn State: both Joe Pa and the school's president Graham Spanier have been fired.

What has drawn Paterno into the eye of the storm is that he knew of an allegation of rape made against Sandusky by a graduate student. The student reported to have seen a naked Sandusky in the shower with a ten year-old boy. This was reported to Paterno who passed it along to his superiors; as we know now, the cops were never called.

Maureen Dowd draws a parallel between the situation at Penn State and the crises in which the Catholic Church is embroiled:

Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as m…

Bedrest, Day II

I am, arguably, the worst of patients. My doctor ordered me to bedrest for the entire week, which I have been interpreting as "so long as you can see your bed, you're okay." I did manage to sleep for another nine hours last night - up from my usual 5-6 hours - and in my mailbox this morning I found "Care Package I" from one of my students. Inside CPI I were three tea bags, a letter, and three small envelopes filled with jokes to brighten my mood. I might not have a son or a daughter to make me breakfast in bed, but this certainly falls into the realm of gracious kindness I would associate with kids.

It's acts like this, to be sure, that keep me from eating freshmen alive in Latin class - sometimes, they are really funny!

Pneumonia Week: A Public Service Announcement for Students and Subs

Since I've been ordered to bed for the week (on my doctor's orders) I've recorded the following video for my sophomore New Testament students. To the Substitute teachers covering my class:

Do not allow them to do any other work during these periods. The Mass is important and they need to read about it!They are to work on their own. They are to work silently (yes, SILENTLY). They need to bring their book to class each dayShow the video below. If you showed the video before reading #1-4, please do that now.

Loving the Church

I have the habit of reading two books simultaneously: one book in the morning (generally something spiritual) and, for bedtime reading, something a bit heftier. Right now my bedtime reading is Peter Geach's God & The Soul  and my morning reading is The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis.

This last week, one of my students raised the critique that he didn't want to be a member of the Catholic Church because it was hypocritical. I was sort of shocked by this, given that I thought it wholly obvious that the Church is so often hypocritical that it seems as though its hypocrisy should simply be taken for granted.

The last few days have shown up a great deal of institutional hypocrisy. We've watched as the drama of the Texas Judge who beat his daughter unfolded; Penn State University is reeling after the revelations of sex abuse and attempts to cover it up have come to light. Even the Boy Scouts have had to face the accusation, if not the revelation, that it has concealed the abuse o…