Showing posts from May, 2011

The Control-F Generation and Discourse (My four-fold way of talking about abortion in a classroom without anarchy ensuing)

Several weeks ago, I attended a two-day meeting in Washington where I helped to facilitate a conversation about communications strategies that might be beneficial to Jesuits in the United States. Of the things we had to crystallize were both sense of what it is that we are sharing with the world and, exactly, with whom are we sharing it.

During the meeting, a little argument broke out between two of the participants. The main facilitator seized this as a "teaching moment" and introduced for us a distinction between "Positions" and "Values." Over the last few weeks, I have had occasion to use this distinction in the classroom and I have found it a marvelous tool at drawing students into conversation by sidestepping their normal ways of thinking.

As I have written before, there are a number of observable traits in what I have dubbed the "Control-F Generation." First among these traits would be a desire simply to get the answer right rather than to…

Sticks and Stones

Several events of the last week - most notably the exchange that I have had with Joseph Fromm and others - have made me think about name calling. Some questioned my quoting of Shakespeare in regard to Joe's writing; such critics feel that I am calling him a name. I don't know that this is quite true, for I am simply calling attention to the fact that he is a blogger in name only and that what he does is cut-and-paste the material written by others and post it to his website with some tag attached to it. On occasion he offers commentary, but generally it's just material cut and quoted to present whatever angle he wishes to highlight at that moment.

I will say, though, that Fromm has been a good sport. He doesn't devolve into ad hominem attacks and does exhibit a strength of character and a spirit of generosity that I very much appreciate. I wish he would engage a bit more, as I feel like I'm doing all of the talking, but at least he is not cruel.

The same, though, c…

Breaking the Silence

After far too long, Joseph Fromm has reached out to engage in a discussion of my - perhaps overly strident - criticism of some of his blogging tactics. Since the topic we are discussing is important, I thought it should be moved from the comment boxes to a place of greater prominence.

If you recall, I penned a piece not long ago about Fromm's use of "liberation theology" and took exception to what I saw, and continue to see, as a too-facile application of the phrase.

In response, Joseph commented:

Dear Ryan,Thank you for your post. It is important that we can communicate with each other. I labeled the post about Fr. George with the "Liberation Theology" tag because of his quote in the article, "“My priority is to show the world that an artist can be a social activist too." It had nothing to do with his dancing.This is, indeed, helpful to know. Now we have an arena for discussion: 'social activism'. Hence my follow-up question:
Joe, I agree. I do…

Well, I'm sure glad I didn't cancel my Netflix account...

As you can gather, I'm still here. Which means either (1) the rapture happened and I have to get cracking on my book Glad They're Gone or (2) the rapture and its attendant earthquake did not happen yesterday. Although I was hoping to pen an international bestseller, I suspect we have to go with option (2). Like I called it on Friday (along with every other rational individual on the planet), the rapture did not take place.

Atheists, Agnostics, and Informed Believers of all Denominations: 1,  Harold Camping and the folks who believe Family Radio: 0.
To be honest, I can sort of understand the desire for the "rapture" where the true believers are taken away and all of the wayward are left to suffer. The state of the world today - the hatred, abject poverty, starvation, disease, corruption, lies, violence, prejudice, sexism, abuse, and war - really does look pretty awful. It really does feel like it'd be better, that it'd be easier, if we could just get this whole h…

Is The World Going to End on Saturday?

Updated on 5/20 at 11:12 EST: the short answer is NO!

In case you hadn't heard already, the world is slated to end on Saturday. At least, based on calculations encoded in the Bible and predicated of the world's being only several thousand years old, that's the "prophecy" about to be fulfilled. The New York Times is carrying a story about it today.

Nearly a decade ago, the "Left Behind" books made a big splash here in the States. Perhaps they were meant to help prepare people for tomorrow's spectacular return of Jesus Christ (an event I'm waiting for, too, but I haven't the foggiest idea of when it will I try to be prepared for his return each day). After reading the article in the New York Times, the cynical part of me has one response: a new publishing venture if I'm one of those 'left behind' after the rapture. If tomorrow the rapture takes place and and I am still here, start looking at the shelves of your local book…

Invocation for 2011 U of D Jesuit Band Banquet

I was invited to provide the invocation for this year's Band Banquet. Here is a copy of the text:

In the beginning was the note, and the note was with God and the note was God. It was the note that hovered over the formless abyss at the beginning of Genesis, creating order from chaos, dividing the water from the land, the sun from the moon, the beasts of the land from the birds of the air. It was the note that breathed life into our first parents, inspired Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cried out from the burning bush, and guided Moses and his people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

This single note of the Creator played throughout history, summoning countless women and men, setting their hearts aflame and inspiring them to dance to the music of the Unseen Musician encountered in the composition of creation. The highest heavens and the depths of the sea proclaimed together the glories of the Heavenly Maestro. Some 2,000 years ago, in the still silence of a sitting room, a youn…

Walsh Jesuit Board 2010-2011

A photo from Walsh Jesuit High School, where I have the honor of serving as a Trustee.

Discerning the Future

As I sit at a desk littered with post-it notes reminding me to order Cedar Point (amusement park) tickets for the freshmen class outing, glow-sticks from Friday's Academy dance, two wedding invitations I need to send in, a Netflix DVD I want to watch, two books I'm reading, a running magazine, a cooking magazine, a broken stapler, a rebate form from my last oil change, and a copy of tomorrow's Student Senate meeting agenda, I have to wonder: what will I do a little more than a year from now when I am no longer teaching? I never thought I could be as busy as I am now...and now that I'm so busy, I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a lot of down-time!

People frequently ask what I'll do after I finish my Regency assignment teaching here in Detroit. The next step is the 3-year study of theology culminating, God willing, in my ordination to the priesthood in 2015. After that? I could return to teaching in the secondary schools or I could go on to earn a PhD in…

On Ignorance

If you have accompanied me over the years of my "Jesuit's Journey" you know that my comment boxes are frequently left empty. I reckon this is a consequence of a deliberate effort to shy away from controversial topics. Hence I seldom write anything about sexuality, abortion, health care, economics, marriage: I have to take responsibility for the content I post here and, in order to be responsible, I often have to remain silent about issues I'd very much like to engage. I cannot engage in controversy, though, as the demands of my primary work - teaching in the high school - must come first. Thus it is that I have to avoid head-on confrontations.

A blog, by its nature something of a public journal, records the life of the author and the way s/he sees the world. I have often tried to give insight into my journey, my life, so that others may come to know how this particular Jesuit thinks. I share, as often as I post, something of my story. My old friend Joseph Fromm, the …

I was doing so well...

Throughout the Lenten season, I was thrilled that I had an opportunity to update the blog nearly every day. Even while I was on retreat, I managed to write. The last twelve days, however, have marked what may well be the busiest time of the year for me.

Over the last two weeks I have helped to oversee, hang, and re-hang enormous banners used to promote the candidacy of the ten juniors seeking Student Senate office, produce a Convention complete with speeches and a confetti cannon, run an "Evening with the Jesuits" for guys who have the qualities and traits we think would make them good Jesuits, sell tickets for and run the senior prom, and finally plan and execute a "neon light" dance for the students of our Academy. This is all in addition to going to a board meeting at Walsh Jesuit, seeing my family on Mother's Day, and trying to teach my classes. Busy two weeks, indeed!

Now, we just have the Baccalaureate Mass tomorrow, Graduation on Tuesday, the Senior All-…

Senses of Scripture

Lately it seems that one of the more common searches that leads people to my website concerns whether Catholics take the Bible literally. I have written on this before, most notably this post from January of last year. 

If I have learned anything from teaching, it is that repetition is the master teacher. So, too, is introducing new material gradually. Today, let me just advert attention to the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it notes that, 
According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two sensesof Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church. (115) So does this mean that Catholics think that every word in the Bible needs to be taken literally?

Not quite.

The Catechism goes on to note

The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by …