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Showing posts from April, 2011

Was Jesus a Zombie?

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Was Jesus a Zombie? In the days following Easter, when we celebrate Jesus Christ's victory over death, it has struck me that  many people seem to think that Jesus is little more than a benign character from an George Romero movie. This has led me to ask: What is the difference between Jesus and a Zombie? (Note: I intentionally include two pretty peculiar pictures taken from the web: I intend them to be provocative, not offensive. For another take on this topic, you can follow this link to the Atheist Experience)

Zombies, at least as we think of them post-1960's, are the un-dead, women and men who have died and have been reanimated. Life as they knew it has ended. For the zombie, they seem driven solely by an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Whether they stumble and limp (Night of the Living Dead) or run with alarming speed (28 Days Later), zombies are possessed of a single mission: to eat humans.

Why are Zombies so frightening? Well, for starters, they look just like us. Perh…

Two Dominicans and a Jesuit Walk Into a Bar...

The title of this post would seem more appropriate for some type of joke but, truth be told, it's a reflection of my evening last night. There is a seminary here at Saint Meinrad and there is an on-campus bar called the Un-Stable. After compline last night, one of the Dominican priests who is here making a retreat invited me to join him and his Dominican brother for a drink. Never one to pass up an opportunity for fellowship, or a beer, I gladly accepted.

I really enjoyed the evening. I even remarked to them that, were I not a Jesuit, I would want to be a member of the English Dominicans. Not that I have anything at all against the American Dominicans, but I have a certain penchant for the thinking of the British members of the Order of Preachers, men such as Fergus Kerr, Timothy Radcliffe, Brian Davies, Gareth Moore, James Alison, and Herbert McCabe. I also think their habits are pretty cool, too, although I'm afraid that my intrinsic clumsiness would render the white habit m…

Happy Easter

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Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy Easter. In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we find hope that life is stronger than death, that good is stronger than evil, that God's plan for humanity will not be subverted despite the (apparent) best efforts of sinful humanity.

Having said this, please allow me to extrovert some things.

First off, I think I am in one of the more sacred and special places on the planet. The Archabbey is a beautiful place to make a retreat. The liturgy is gorgeous, the chanting sublime, the hospitality second-to-none, and were I not here during monsoon season, I'm sure I'd be enraptured. Yet, we have been beset by storms since Friday and it's been almost totally impossible to go outside for a walk. As sort of a kinesthetic prayer, I need to be able to move about and, sadly, this has been made difficult. This is not to say that I haven't prayed (Lord knows, I'm praying with the monks all day long) but it does make for a challenge t…

Good Friday

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I arose early this morning and joined the Benedictine Monks of Saint Meinrad's Archabbey for morning prayer. Accustomed as I am to Jesuit morning prayer lasting, typically, around fifteen minutes I was wholly unprepared for the beautiful hour-long prayer incorporating spoken psalms, singing, and silent meditation.

As I meditated in the wee hours of the day, hours before the sun had risen, my heart was snagged on Pilate's phrase "Behold, the man" or Ecce Homo. When Pilate brings Jesus out to the restless crowd, he proclaims to them, "Behold, the man" and is met with cries to "Crucify him, crucify him!"

Normally, I guess I take for granted that Ecce Homo points to Jesus. But today, for some reason, I had to pause: is Jesus the only one I should behold? Perhaps there are others who need to be looked upon.

Ecce Homo: Pontius Pilate. Here is a mid-level bureaucrat in charge of Jerusalem who, by scriptural accounts, knows that the man before him is inno…

A Follow-Up Word to the Falling Away

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As the night ceded to this morning, I meditated quietly on a passage taken from my favorite theologian: Karl Rahner, SJ. I love Rahner because it always felt to me that he understood the situation of the individual struggling to believe, straining to find God in the day-to-day predicaments of life.

One of my favorite passages comes from his remarkable book entitled The Need and the Blessing of Prayer. For those who feel themselves peeling off from the Church, being pulled away because of disgust or anger and hurt, betrayal and hypocrisy, I offer you Rahner's words. If you feel isolated, excluded, or thrust to the margin...do not take this necessarily as a sign of God's calling your elsewhere. Perhaps this is a moment of dark grace, a purgative moment meant to offer an opportunity to come to know God better so that you might claim a prophetic role in the Church. 
...Become aware that God has been expecting you for quite some time in the deepest dungeon of your rubbled-over heart.…

Monday of Holy Week (A message for the Falling Away)

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Readings for Monday, April 18th 
I normally spend time reflecting on the Gospels but I thought that, for this reflection, I might make use of the Psalm. Here it is:


The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust. R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I do not entertain any delusion that very many fallen-away Catholics read my blog. Nevertheless, I do know that some Falling Away Catholics do...so I write t…

Entering Into Holy Week

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Readings for Palm Sunday

- Ryan G. Duns, SJ

When I was a little boy, this was always my favorite day to go to church: I loved to play with the palms. At first, they proved a marvelous distraction to the regular grind of the liturgy. I could tickle my brother's face with the frond, whip it about, pretend to have sword fights...at least, until, my mother wrested the palm from my hand and began folding it into a cross. In those days I liked the playfulness of having something in my hands, of feeling that I was a part of the day's action. Not long ago, someone mentioned that Palm Sunday is one of the better-attended liturgies because people actually get something, that they have a prop that helps them to feel as if they really do have a role to play in the liturgy. Perhaps this is something clergy should consider: people want to feel like they belong.
Jesus probably felt like he belonged as he saw the throngs of exuberant welcomers. Little did he know that the triumphant entrance wou…

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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Readings for April 13th: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent


- Matthew Kowalski, '11

Today's gospel is a Scriptural response to those who say that the Church conforms individuals to immoral standards, using thousands of individuals to promote an outside agenda. Some think by joining the church, they forfeit their freedom, but Jesus tells the Jews in this reading that one actually gains freedom in the church: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  The Jews responded to this comment the same way I initially responded, with confusion. Jesus speaks to us as if we are not free, as if others enslave us. And that is because we are enslaved, perhaps not by other people, but by sin. One can easily see how destructive, sinful addictions, such as alcoholism, control the individual, but Jesus expands this notion, saying that “everyone who commits a sin is a slave of sin.” Only God offers true freedom, and onl…

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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Readings for April 12: Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent


- Ryan G. Duns, SJ

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus engaged in discussion with the Pharisees. On our side, as believing Christians, there can be a temptation to feel frustrated with the obtuseness of the Pharisees. Why can't they just 'get it', after all? 
I think something that is too often forgotten is that Jesus was by no means a reformer. As Father Herbert McCabe frames it, a reform seeks a mere modification of this world. When we engage in a reform, we allow the structures to remain in place while manipulating them or moving them about. When you re-arrange the furniture in your house, for instance, you are reforming it. When we shuffle poor people around in our health care system and call it progress, we do the same. Reform often masquerades as an improvement on the past; although to my mind, if the system is broken and corrupt, no amount of reform will help it. Didn't someone once remark that you can put li…

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Readings for April 11th: Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

- Maciej Rejniak, '11


Today's Gospel is one of the most popular and one of the most often quoted passages in the entire Bible. We hear it in television shows and movies, see it in books and newspapers, and hear it from others. It is often quoted by those that feel persecuted and wrongly accused, as teenagers often do. Yet, how often do we follow it? It is all too true that we like to judge...
Teenagers are, in my opinion, all idealists, even if at least for a while. I think that we still carry the vestiges of childhood innocence in our hearts, and yet we have the rational mind of an adult that can interpret the world for what it is. A combination of these two, thus, in my opinion, leads teenagers to desire a world that is a utopia. The values that we are taught as children, whether they be honesty, diligence, piety, etc. are propped up on pedestals, and we expect the world around us, and especially the adults from which th…

Quiet for a few

Although I had the best of intentions to get ahead on postings to cover the next few days of Lent, I have failed at this task. As a consequence, the blog will be quiet until Monday. I am heading off to Denver for the weekend to play a feis (Irish dancing competition) and won't be able to post while there.

Be assured of my prayers as we continue our Lent together!

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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Following the Path to Priesthood
One of the more powerful metaphors used to describe the period of Lent is that of a journey. Preachers and homilists frequently make reference to "our Lenten journey" or "our Lenten pilgrimage." While this is a path each of us who is marked with the water of baptism must take, I would like to call attention to a new series of videos being produced by the Society of Jesus. 

This video is the first of a series chronicling Jesuit Radmar Jao, a recently-ordained deacon from the California Province. I encourage you to watch this video as a way to learn more about Radmar's response to be a Companion of Jesus as an ordained priest. 
If you have any questions about a Jesuit vocation, I encourage you to visit www.jesuit.org to find more information.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Readings for March 6th: Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Jesus's message today should be a powerful blow to teenagers, myself included. We teens, whether it is because we are growing into adulthood, or because we have a sense of overconfidence, have the habit of trying to do everything on our own. Whether it be going to court for speeding tickets, relationship problems, or school work, we like to think we can handle everything and anything on our own. Perhaps it is to prove our own self-worth, perhaps it is to prove to those around us, especially adults, that we too, can handle responsibility, that we aren't the small kids they still think we are.
I am by far no exception. Often times, during the day, when asked if I can do something for someone, I turn to that person, say their name, and say, “I got this” while hitting my chest with my hand, almost as in a primeval display of dominance. Too often though, I think, we get in over our heads, often to disastrous consequence…

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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Readings for April 5th: Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent


As a former fat kid, I rather like today's reading. When I was in junior high, I was frequently the last-picked kid for any team. I don't blame the other kids, to be sure: I was pretty lousy! Nevertheless, I know something of what it feels like to be the last one in, the one who never quite "gets it" with everyone else. As a student, I must admit, I was never the smartest or the quickest in the class, either: there was always someone better than me at just about everything!
For a long while, I think allowed myself to be complacent. I settled, figuring that if I couldn't get onto the team, or get the highest grade, that I'd just find myself in the middle somewhere. At no time, though, do I recall ever thinking that there was something that I was missing or losing out on...I just sort of went with the flow, too indolent to even try to imagine a different situation.
As I grew older and started to become mor…

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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Readings for April 4: Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent



Sometimes I feel a temptation to allow words to replace my feelings. That is, I try to codify my emotions immediately, translating them into prose or poetic expressions. I find, though, that in doing this I often bruise or cordon off the experience I am going through.
During these days of Lent, I have had ample opportunity to reflect using very many words. Today, perhaps it is a good thing to rest in the words of the Psalmist "I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me." As I look back on my life before the Jesuits, I am not ashamed or sorrowful. Indeed, I am so profoundly grateful for all of the love and the experiences - hard and easy, joyful and painful - that molded and strengthened my heart so that, on August 13th, 2006, I could profess perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I am grateful for the love that is in my life and I am glad to have time to sit today in silent prayer, simply grateful, for …

The Fate of Answer Cat

I learned, at some point, that having a 'gimmick' in class helped the boys to stay engaged. One of my gimmicks has been "Answer Cat" - a stuffed cat I throw to kids when it is their turn to speak.

Several weeks ago, Answer Cat went missing. Lo and behold, on April 1st, this video was delivered to me, leading me on a series of perilous adventures and clue-solving in order to recover my stuffed friend.

I don't know how the kids did it, but I'm wicked proud of them. When I brag about how clever my students are, this is what I'm talking about: they didn't resort to severing bits of fur or cutting off the tail but, rather, created this video to add great flavor the game.

For the uninitiated, I am "Abba Duns." It is a nickname I was given last year (and tried, fruitlessly, to shake) that has now taken hold of the kids.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

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Readings for April 3rd: Fourth Sunday of Lent

- Nick Bergeman, '13 U of D Jesuit
Something that I spend quite a bit of time pondering is God’s presence in the world. I look around me, and I see the suffering in the world, and I wonder where God is. I wonder how God lets the Holocaust happen, how He lets the Haiti and Japanese Earthquakes happen. In actuality, God does not do these things. These bad things happen, and when we ask God why He is doing nothing to help, but I have only recently realized that God asks me the same question.
In the Gospel passage this week, Jesus is questioned why a man he encounters was born blind. He responds simply, saying “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus makes three things perfectly clear here: his handicap is not because of hi…

When a kid sneezes in your face....

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I think it's sort of cool to quote Latin phrases. It makes me feel erudite and scholarly. One of my favorite phrases is used frequently by our old friend Saint Thomas Aquinas: Quidquid recepitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. If you happen not to be up on your Latin, it translates into something like "Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver."

What the heck?
Think about it. Have you ever had the experience of a student or child doing something very playfully and you, being in a good mood, play along with it? Your reception of the student's actions or the child's behavior is inflected and shaped by your mood. If you are in the mood to play, you may countenance a tremendous amount of silliness. Just yesterday, for instance, my students kidnapped my stuffed cat and hid clues all around the building. Being in a good mood (it was Friday, after all, and I had plans to go out with friends after work), I was more than happy to play along. E…

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

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Readings for April 2nd: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

- Peter Walle, '11


Sometimes, I feel like high school is nothing but competition, fostered by a societal system bent upon intellectual advancement. Social development, credit to the arts, and a true sense of morality can sometimes slip through the cracks of a rigorous schedule. Students are encouraged to have a solitary goal – success. I find myself falling into this quite often. But when is success ever reached? When is enough, well, enough? Over time, I am realizing that this drive to succeed must be tempered with humility, a difficult quality to strive for in a world bent on its own accomplishments. In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses a parable to “those who were convinced of their own righteousness”. In short, he preaches to those lauded as 'successful' in each era. 
Concretely, the parable makes an important point: humility is key. However, it is easy to doubt Jesus’ words and point out the fact that we do not li…

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

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Readings for April 1: Friday of the Third Week of Lent

- Ryan G. Duns, SJ

A story I have read many times and have come to treasure is Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's The Little Prince. The book subtly and deftly communicates three profound insights into both the nature of friendship and the demands of spirituality. The fox, in a lovely exchange with the Little Prince, counsels him: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the naked eye.It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes it so important.You are responsible forever for what you have tamed.I recall these today because, as I pray with our readings, it strikes me that both our Psalm and our Gospel challenge us to recall that it is part of our daily task to discern just what should stand at the center of our lives. 
Both the scribe in the Gospel and the Psalmist play on a similar theme: listening. Our world is so loud, so filled with ambient noises and distractions, that it is oft…