Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feast of Saint Ignatius


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 our Lord and, by doing so, to save his soul.” He then goes on to say that the created order – all of creation – is here to help us in achieving this goal. The created order isn’t bad or evil; rather, it is here to help us be who we are called upon and invited to be.

I have been blogging for almost seven years. I struggle often with what kind of blog I run: should it be more academic, more spiritual, more pastoral, more….? I have opted, consequently, to treat my blog as an online journal giving any who are interested a sense of my own journey. If my struggles and joys, faith and observations are helpful to people, then I think that I am using the internet to help people.

The litmus, test, has been nothing more than trying to be in keeping with the “Principle and Foundation” – does my writing help people to be more loving, more thoughtful, more reverential, or even more amused, by faith or does it hinder people, breeding hatred, mistrust, and animosity? Does my writing and blogging help to build the community of God or does it tear it apart?

To be honest, I think that Saint Ignatius would be absolutely disgusted with the vitriol and hatred spewed by so many so-called Catholic bloggers. Just recently, I have  been attacked by an "orthodox" Catholic who launched a barrage of absolutely scandalous attacks against me using multiple voices fake ID’s. I do not regret calling her out as a charlatan, especially because she tries to use Saint Ignatius and other Jesuits to advance her own self-righteous agenda while maliciously and satanically tearing at others. Other “Catholic” bloggers who seem only too glad to relish in the misfortune of others – poking fun at John Corapi – or labeling things as liberation theology and implying that they are heterodox are equally scandalous.

Louis Dupré, the eminent Catholic philosopher and theologian, offers this insight:


To avoid the problems of modern culture, believers tend to compartmentalize their worldview. Facing social, psychological, and scientific developments that they feel unable to integrate with their faith, they disconnect their unexamined religious beliefs from the rest of their convictions, as and island of truth isolated from the mainland of modern culture. (Religious Mystery and Rational Reflection, 32)


All of us, I think, can find in Saint Ignatius a model of the language of grace: he saw and experienced God’s created presence in all things, a God who holds and sustains all of creation as a musician hold and sustains a musical note. This insight should give us the courage to break out of our secure ghettos and to enter into the whole symphony of creation with a sense of wonder and awe at the power of God. Rather than thinking of the Catholic Church as the final bastion of sanctity (clearly it is not) against a wicked world, we should see it and its sacramental life as the privileged point from which we may go forth, rejoicing, to bring to all the good news of God’s saving activity in the world. Marked by this mission, we may see all of creation in its goodness and live our lives always for the Greater Honor and Glory of God. 

Be assured of my prayers this day as we commemorate the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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 teaching in light of my summer "Latin Camp" experience. New Testament/Christology is a course I've taught quite a few times already and is one I find rather enjoyable to teach. 

Over the next few days, I shall be spending time getting things for "U of D Jesuit: Pledge Detroit!" and prepping the first week of classes.  I'm excited to head up to Omena on Saturday for a week of vacation: it'll be nice to be in a quiet setting where I can relax and recharge before what may well be my final year of regency here in Detroit. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

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 and I have to move at a frustratingly slow pace (Where's the verb? Oh my God, this doesn't look like anything I've ever seen before...hold on, maybe....).

I did a quick search on the web today and found a trove of resources in Latin. One of the sites had a letter written by Saint Thomas Aquinas to a certain Brother John. One of the bits of wisdom Thomas passes along made me laugh:

Cellam frequenter diligas, si vis in cellam vinariam introduci.

Now, I would translate this as, roughly, "Love to be in your room frequently if you should wish to be led into the wine cellar."

It's funny to me the way this can be taken. One homilist cited this and said that the "wine cellar" should be taken as heaven -- so, go to your room frequently (and, I should think, pray) if you want to go to heaven.

Having lived in religious community for nearly seven years and having read numerous reports and articles on the health and well-being of contemporary religious, I took this in a totally different way. I saw it as Aquinas recognizing the dangers of being isolated. Humans are, by nature, "social animals" and we will meet our needs for community either in healthy ways or by embracing the "liquid community" comprised of Jack and Johnny! 

With every new experience of Jesuit community, I can only say that I would never be able to embrace this life and my vocation were it not for the loving support of my brother Jesuits. Thus I am excited that I'll be heading up to Omena to celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius (7/31) with my fellow Companions of Jesus. I suspect Jack and Johnny will be there, too, but they won't be the center figure who draws us all together. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

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 fully a part of the human family removing, in so many cases, the stigmas that kept them from entering into full communion with others.


***

In other news, we finished today our six-week Intensive Latin course. I kind of hit the wall on Tuesday night -- at a certain point, I just couldn't put one more verb or noun into my head! So I started watching the X-Men animated series (from 1992-1996) to give me a bit of a release. It proved salutary, as I did (1) rediscover the energy to continue my studies and (2) reconnected with a show I very much liked when I was a kid!

I return to Cleveland tomorrow for two nights and then I'll return to Detroit. I have some meetings and some work to do next week and then I'll spend a week in Omena, Michigan with other Jesuits for our annual villa. The beginning of the school year is less than four weeks away and I can assure you that I will be squeezing every bit of life out of the remaining days of vacation that I can.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

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 homily
  • They have to shepherd the perfectly-coiffed-yet-egregiously-late family into the church and find them a seat while the Gospel is being read
  • They have to glower at the folks who try to "make change" in the collection basket, retrieving a Five and Four Ones in exchange for a Ten.
I salute the ushers and I wish only to encourage them in their service to the Church. In fact, I wish that we could have special usher-training seminars offered so that they could learn how to deal with issues such as:

  • The location of the church's narthex. The narthex is not the phantom zone but, rather, the entrance of the church where unruly children ought to be taken when they begin to run back and forth on the pew. Ushers should be given free reign to remove the children there - in chains if necessary. 
  • They should know how to explain to obnoxious children that "Kneelers are for kneeling" and are not balance beams, nor are they step-stools to give one a better view of the action. 
  • They might be equipped with little cattle prods - we don't need them with tremendous voltage, of course - that they might use on poor-postured teens as they rest their backsides on the pew when they could very easily kneel during the consecration.
  • Surely they should feel free to remind people that the sign of peace is not a code word for "recess" that enables you to take a breather from the ritual of Mass and start making plans with the kids about (1) when to leave Mass - either after communion or when the priest leaves - or (2) where to have brunch or (3) to critique the hideous dress/hat/suit the neighbor is wearing. 
  • They should affix signs to each pew that read, "Parents, please curb your children." Within the liturgical setting, "Curbing a child" simply means that the bags of cheerios, gum, and the varietal of fruitsnacks that are apparently necessary to feed the child during Mass are picked up and cleaned up at the end (that is, of course, if they stay until they end and don't "dine and dash" from the Communion line)
  • Ushers should feel free to remind parents that little Billy certainly can sit still for an hour: he sits still for many hours when he is playing video games, as is apparent from his pasty white appearance, nascent obesity, and poor social skills. What we are celebrating at the Mass is the living bread; this is far more interesting than the living dead he shoots at on the screen.
  • Ushers should feel free to escort people out of the church. If you were at the Yankees game and started running across the seats, surely you'd be tossed for being a drunk. Why is it that we tolerate behavior at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we wouldn't tolerate at Nascar?
I totally own that I am being entirely misanthropic. Yet today I left Mass enraged at the gross incompetence demonstrated by some of the parents. My mother would have killed us if we had acted up during Mass. This is not to say we were perfect - far from it - but at least we were generally rather good. Today, I saw behavior that was simply intolerable and I watched with horror as one mother in particular just let it happen. 

While I write this "tongue in cheek" I do wish people were more sensitive to their surroundings at Mass. People come with all sorts of issues and affairs weighing or elevating their hearts and the church ought to be a place where peace and sanctuary might be found. It's very difficult to pray with distractions -- I cannot write without there being complete silence, nor can I pray. While it is totally countercultural to claim a place of silence in our lives, I do think it necessary and something that we owe to one another that we maintain a respectful and reverential atmosphere at Mass. 

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


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!

Friday, July 15, 2011

With Friends Like These...

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 Latin teacher. It is amazing to me that I haven't had an identity crisis quite yet!

One of the blessings of this semester is that I have had Father Greg Carlson, SJ, as an instructor. He may actually be the best teacher I have ever had: he partitions a 3-hour class in such a way that I am seldom bored or restless, he has a great sense of humor, and he is boundlessly patient with students' difficulties and exuberant in his encouragement. Not only have I learned Latin from him, but I have also glimpsed a new way of running my own courses so that they are more engaging for the students. I realize how hard it is to take notes class after class, so some of the techniques I have seen Greg use this summer are certainly going to make an appearance beginning in August.

My friends and guides in times of distress.
One of these tactics - or, for the hard of heart, gimmicks - is that he has given us little gifts. We started the summer with an amicus or little friend who would be our companion in our study of Latin. I have a little metal Roman soldier. After two weeks, my amicus was joined by a plastic minotaur. This week, on Wednesday, the god Neptune joined their ranks. During class they occupy a space on my desk, although I must say they spend most of their time zipped up in my book bag.

So with only one week left to go, I am grateful that I shall finally have a few weeks of summer vacation, but I'm sad in a way to leave this course: as intense as it is, and as hard as I have to work to do well, I really enjoy it. It's been sort of a retreat for the mind, having the time and opportunity to dedicate to learning something totally new. Not for a second have I failed to be grateful to the Society of Jesus who has given me this extraordinary opportunity to acquire a new skill and I only hope that I am able to use my growing interest in Latin to help the Kingdom.

I have a ticket to see the final Harry Potter movie tonight: a group of us will celebrate the Eucharist at 5:15 then head off to an IMAX theater for the 7:30 showing. I also need to start looking for a supply of amici for my incoming students. I have to balance my own desire to give out cool toys (because I like them) with my sensibilities as a teacher in an all-boys school: which of these might be turned into a projectile to be used against me at a moment's notice!

Monday, July 11, 2011

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

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!


The letters in bold are the places where my pen was being wonky.


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 college (Canisius College '02) when the first movie came out. I had seen and read the book  when I was in Ireland the year before (The Philosopher's Stone) and went with my roommate and some friends to see the movie. It's hard to believe ten years has elapsed since then!

I have an exam on Wednesday, so I doubt I'll post anything until after that is over. One test and the final stand between me and my summer vacation. By God's grace and continued perseverance, I'll make it!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Spiritual Ruts

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" carefully in order to communicate, with precision, what we want to say. In those moments, we leap out of the ruts of our usual speaking and tread on new ground.

I think this is something that I very much appreciate about the celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church. It's one huge rut! Apart from musical selections and the homily, the whole thing is very well scripted. Cradle Catholics, think on what it is you take for granted: you walk in and dip your hand into the holy water, making the sign of the cross. You select a pew, preferably apart from everyone else (this won't last: by the Gospel, the whole church will be filled), and genuflect. You slide into the pew and start thumbing through the bulletin or the missalette. We know when to stand, sit, kneel during the liturgy; we know when to go up, bow before receiving the Eucharist, and then kneel prayerfully after communion (or how to make it look like you're kneeling by pushing your chest forward and resting your backside on the edge of your pew). After the final blessing (you're not allowed to leave until after the priest passes by!) you know to run to your car and make a mad dash out of the parking lot so that you can get to brunch before the line gets too long.

We are creatures of habit and, fortunately, the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church is one that has been formed over many years. We are accustomed to it -- which explains, in large part, the neuralgic response to the impending changes to the liturgy. We can speak more of this later.

I mention this because very often people complain that Mass is boring and predictable. I often want to say, "Hell Yes it is!" I think we need the ritual, the regularity, the 'rut' in order to get about to the real business of the Eucharist: thanking God for what has been giving, what is being given, and asking for continued strength, courage, love, and guidance. The  ruts are there to guide us, not to entertain us.

Years ago, I played a computer game called "Oregon Trail" (I was the Banker from Boston, more often than not). At some point, I was out West and my attention was called by a guide to deep furrows in the earth that had been carved by countless numbers of wagons having taken the "Oregon Trail." One of the benefits to these ruts is that they provided a stable and secure path for the horses to follow: whether delirious with fever or hunger, the horses could follow the ruts as they led to the final destination. The work and effort of countless generations had provided a pattern, a path, for those still to come to follow.

Each of us is an heir to the tradition and we, too, can be guided by the ruts of liturgy. Rather than complaining that we're not out finding new and exciting paths, perhaps it would be helpful for us to appreciate the paths we are in and use the stability and guidance to go deeper into what we are doing and what we are meant to do: praise God and seek always God's greater glory.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

On Pilgrimage

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

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Another Shock from Rome

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 can read 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 will of God. In a quest to feed our own appetites for material good and earthly power, we turn people into objects and use them for our own gain. When the late Blessed Pope John Paul II called attention to the social structures of sin, he pointed precisely to instances of injustice such as the plight of the world's starving poor.

When the Holy Father draws attention to the needs of the poor or the marginalized, he is doing what all good theology intends to do: to liberate women and men and children from the chains of sin and evil so that they might give great glory to God. Clearly, Pope Benedict XVI is not advancing a political agenda, for the Kingdom of God is not aligned with any (current) party. Instead, he is advancing a cultural revolution, whereby we take seriously God's ongoing plan of creation and take part in it, working to make sure that all members of our human family have access to the basic necessities of human life.

So, to the original poster, allow me to say simply that it's not an either/or split. It's a both/and pairing: the fruit of sin, our tendency to diminish others and treat them like objects, is social injustice (at least, social injustice is one flower on this wicked plant). We cannot address one without addressing the other.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

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 have had several exchanges concerning liberation theology. This, at least, makes it obvious that Joseph and Company are not entirely thinking with the Church when they dismiss Liberation Theology as an evil bogey plaguing the hearts and minds of the faithful. If you have a few moments, I commend this little piece to you for its emphasis on listening and understanding is something that gives me tremendous hope in our own troubled times. 

Monday, July 04, 2011

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 original owners.

Everything we do in our lives leaves some sort of trace. A kind gesture leaves a mark of goodwill on the soul of another; a harsh word, a welt on the heart. Even comments left anonymously are only superficially anonymous because not even the shadows of the internet are bereft of light.

I should like to wonder what a person's response would be were he or she to receive a phone call from the owner of a site where scurrilous and vile comments were left anonymously. How awful would that coward feel to know that he or she had been discovered and that, for all of the supposed righteousness that person claims, it is now known that the person is a total fraud. To such cowards out there, just know that you are not as shielded as you think you are.

Anyway, this blog has seen enough fireworks for one Independence Day! I wish everyone a great holiday and hope you get to enjoy some real fireworks with your family. I plan on working on some Latin and then joining my brother Jesuits and guests for a picnic this evening. Cheers!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

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 conversations.

Yesterday's post certainly seems to have done that. In fact, it did far more than I could have hoped: it completely lays out what I see as the satanic nature of a subsection of so-called "Catholic" bloggers. They dwell in the shadows, they quote thinkers and lines that are convenient and non-threatening to their ways of thinking, and they do all of this under the veil of Anonymity. How courageous! They speak the truth in "charity" but are too cowardly to sign their own names.

I mean, look at the ad hominem attacks that resort to crude language, innuendo, and libel. Have they grappled with the issues I raised? Nope. Have they raised any points? Nope.

To such posters, let me ask: what has your cowardice won? You have not silenced me, nor do you silence others. You have not enkindled a spirit of love or charity but, rather, exposed only the ugliness of your own malice. You have not helped to contribute to the building of God's Kingdom, preferring instead to advance your own deranged agenda. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who looks to all those who have come before me, most especially the saints, to see how each of these fellow sinners responded to an invitation to discipleship. With the exception of the Blessed Mother, all of these women and men were, in fact, sinners. So forgive me if I do not capitulate because any particular theologians or thinkers are trotted out as proof texts: holy though they may be, they weren't God.

It's fitting that I went to see the movie Green Lantern today. The gist of the film is that there is a constant struggle between the creative force of the Will and the destructive force of Fear. When all hope was extinguished, hope still managed to pierce the darkness. The oath of the Green Lantern Corp:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight. 
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power...Green Lantern's Light!

To the anonymous posters who have nothing but venom and hatred to spew: I am not afraid of you. I pity you. I will pray for you that your heart be touched with some sense of love and charity that will help you to see how your shadowy operations only work to perpetuate the Kingdom of the Enemy of our Humanity. I have made mistakes in the past and I am certain I will make them into the future. But I know this: I am a sinner, a man who prays daily for the strength to respond as generously as possible to Jesus' love and grace, and I'm doing the best I can. I might not look like what you want, or write what you want, or even have the interests that you want. I'm sorry. I'm trying to live out my vocation as best as I can and I keep this blog to give others a glimpse into what this life is like. I'm sorry if I fail to live up to your expectations and, if you'd be so kind, I'd love to hear your constructive feedback on how I might improve.


Saturday, July 02, 2011

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 managed to write a dissertation. In my experience, dissertations are written when individuals earn the PhD. Surely, he must be a prodigy.

I, however, lack such abilities. My parents foolishly had me learn Spanish when I was in high school. I mean, who would ever want to study such a dead language as Spanish? I mean, my parents were real morons for anticipating that nearly 50% of American Catholics will, in twenty years, be Latino. Wait, Maria, did I get that right? Latino, not Latin?!?!

You know, I really now regret having spent those years of high school and college learning that useless language. When I baptized a dying baby whose parents spoke Spanish, surely it meant far less to them that I spoke in their native language than if I had baptized their child in Latin.

Maria, do you know why I am studying Latin? It's because I find it interesting. It is because through the hours I'm spending now as a motivated student, I am able to cover a full year of college-level Latin in a way that it is sticking. I also rather enjoy the logic and precision and beauty of it. I'm not doing it because I have the deluded belief that God hears prayers better if they are uttered in Latin. I would rather like to read Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure in the Latin so that when whackos try to tell me what either one said, I can go right to the source.

Maria, I loathe bullies. It seems to me that you are something of a bully. You like to drop your little comments and then back them up by citing supposed authorities (need we be reminded that Father Hardon was an advocate for a rather nefarious character?). It seems to me that the best way to deal with bullies, consequently, is to drag them out into the fresh air of honest discourse.

Now, some are going to write to ask if I am not being a bully. I don't think so: I'm just calling a spade a spade. I don't hide anything on this blog, for I try to be as real and as honest as I can be (within the limits of good taste). The culture, though, that permits women and men to behave obnoxiously or make outlandishly ignorant comments is not one I wish to be a part of. Since this is my website and I get to make the rules, I insist that we do things the right way: openly, honestly, and hopefully in a spirit of charity. Charity does not always mean nice or sweet.

When Saint Ignatius sent some of the early Jesuits off to Trent, one counsel he offered:
...on one night, let one of you ask the others to correct him in what he may have done amiss, and he who is corrected should make no answer unless he is asked to explain the matter about which he has been corrected. On another night, another will do the same. Thus each one in turn, so that all can be helped unto greater charity and to greater influence in all things.
Maria, it seems to me that for too long you have operated without being called to account for some of the things you post. Let it be known that I will not sit silently any longer and that, if you want to have a voice on my blog, you had better bring reason and charity rather than ignorance and malice.