Showing posts from October, 2011

Watching Jesus Pray?

I spent this week teaching the sophomores about how the author of Mark's Gospel portrayed Jesus. Working through the textbook and looking at the Gospel itself, we have been working to understand what  'Mark' accented and highlighted and then questioning why these emphases were important to the author. 
One thing I have found is that many of my students seem to think that the crucifixion was simply a minor inconvenience, a necessary-yet-regrettable occurrence for Jesus. In an effort to help them another way of viewing Jesus, I had them watch a YouTube clip of Jesus Christ Superstar. The clip I chose, "Gethsemane", is but one interpretation of the events following the Last Supper. We listened to the song twice, once by watching the clip, the second time while reading the lyrics. We tried to be attentive to both music and lyrics. If you're interested in viewing it for yourself: 

Two things I noticed: 
The kids very quickly understood that this was Jesus' pray…

Prophets, Metaphor, Literal, Sacramental

In my sophomore-level New Testament course, we have been examining the Gospel of Mark. In Mark's Gospel, the earliest of the four written, Jesus is portrayed as the "Suffering Servant." I have shared, many times, that the line of Herbert McCabe has been powerfully influential upon me in framing this course, "If you do not love, you will not live. If you do love, they will kill you." The Mark's portrayal of Jesus as the Suffering Servant certainly makes clear that the cross awaits any willing to accept the Lord's invitation to friendship.

I made the students read Isaiah 53 in class:
He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he …

32 Years

Today, on the Feast of the North American Martyrs, I celebrate my birthday. I remember some of the big ones: 10 (turning double-digits), 16, 18, and 21. I remember turning 25 because it was my first birthday as a novice in the Society of Jesus and I still remember the dive bar we went to that night, pooling our meager personalia and laughing our heads off drinking cheap beer.

Sometimes, when I visit my family's home, I'll find myself looking at old photo books. Some of my favorite pictures are of me at early birthday parties - I seemed always to have been dressed in overalls and a polo shirt - being held by someone. In these pictures, I see my Grandma and Grandpa Duns, Grandma and Grandpa Hagan, and even my Great-Grandparents. The faces of so many friends and family, many now grown, many now dead, often are frozen forever in the pictures; their young(er) faces frozen as a single candle, or two candles, or three candles commemorate a single person's birth.

Since I do not h…

Three Senate Videos

U of D Jesuit students are hurriedly trying to get their pledges in before the deadline on Thursday, October 20th. The entire school community needs to bring in a total of $130,000 in order for us to earn two free days: the Wednesday before and the Monday after Thanksgiving break. I have adamantly insisted that there will be no extensions: we either bring in the money and earn the days off or we schlep it to school. No mercy!

Two weeks after the event, I wanted to share with you two videos our students made. The first of these plays on the theme of the event: Father Peppard has kidnapped the Cub (our mascot) and is holding him ransom.

The second video was shown on the day of Pledge Detroit. It is meant as a pump-up video, expressing to our students something of what we are about as a school and giving them a sense of why it is that we are doing the projects to which we have committed ourselves.

Finally, and perhaps my favorite for its cleverness, is the video for this year's Icebr…

Episode 32: A New Hope

A long time ago in a city far, far away....
...a child was born. He sought to seek out and do good and to avoid evil.  He gave himself over to the Jesuit ways,  apprenticing himself to a novice master.  After two years of apprenticeship, he studied again at the feet of masters, learning the mysterious ways  of philosophy and theology. Seen by his superiors to be fitting, he was made a "Master"  and sent to teach the ways of theology to young students in Detroit. 
He thought himself an agent of the Good: ...the scourge of heresy, ...the bane of blasphemy, ...the slayer of heretics. 
Until the week before his 32nd birthday when his parents revealed the truth about his identity. 
With his parents' revelation, a new identity emerged:

Darth Vow-der.
So, yeah, a week before my birthday (October 19th, the Feast of North American Martyrs) I notice a box in the mail room. As I've not ordered anything of late, I didn't suspect it was for me; it's only because I had to move it (it was …

Men for Others?

Yesterday was our Faculty Spirituality day. We went to the beautiful and peaceful Manresa Jesuit Retreat House for a morning of reflection and prayer. For about an hour, we were broken up into small groups, charged to discuss the meaning of "Men for Others" and the characteristics of the Grad-at-Grad that are so easily identified with, but perhaps too often understood within, Jesuit education.

We are, understandably, given over to using ciphers and catchphrases. "Men for Others" or, I've heard, "MFO's" is no exception. Yet, I think it helpful to consider the full context from which "Men for Others" is wrought. In a speech by Father General Pedro Arrupe:

Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include lov…

Homecoming Excess (OR "Why I would just as soon cancel the whole event")

Last night, I helped to cap off the 2011 Fall Spirit Week with the Homecoming Dance. We had a DJ, decorations, various casino games (run by brother Jesuits), and a photo booth. Our students purchased arrived in suit jackets and ties, accompanied by elegantly dressed young women who wore fresh corsages, nicely done hair, and obviously new dresses. We opened our doors at 8:00 and by 8:15, party bus after party bus arrived, dropping their passengers at our door. The music was wonderful, the lights were dim, the stage was set for what, to my mind, should have been a great evening.

And then I noticed party bus after party bus returning to the door and students boarding it once again. In some cases, students were at the dance for less than thirty minutes before boarding the party bus to take them around the city.

As someone who put a lot of thought into this dance, who put out a tremendous amount of money to help ensure that students had a really enjoyable evening, this really bothered me. …


When I was in high school, there was a teacher who was notorious for leaving homework papers and tests totally marked up with red ink. I'm not saying corrected, mind you. A returned-paper tended to have jerky lines running down the paper, often curving, sometimes halting, but the lines were always numerous. As only student are able, we came to believe that this teacher had narcolepsy and simply fell asleep hundreds of times while grading papers, those sudden falls into the abyss of sleep not stopping him from dragging marking pen across the paper.

Turns out that it was just his way of making us think he was grading the papers.

Last night, I was reminded of this as I sat in bed grading a batch of Latin quizzes, I like to grade-and-return overnight so the kids know quickly what they are mastering and what they need to continue to study. Like any class, the grades run from those kids who never miss a point to those who struggle enormously.

Working through the batch, I hit the paper o…

The Hazards of Communion

I fell asleep fairly early last night and, consequently, woke up earlier than I might normally have on a Sunday morning. Too lazy to pick up my book and not tired enough to go back to sleep, I stared up at the ceiling and indulged in one of my favorite pastimes: thinking. Thinking is something I don't get to do in a high school classroom with great regularity, as most of my effort goes into entertaining, reacting, cajoling, haranguing, and praying (for the bell to ring).

For some reason, my mind went to one of those strange phenomena I've noticed in my beloved Catholic Church. This is the phenomena of the distribution and reception of the Eucharist. As a communicant for nearly 24 years and as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist (EME) for nearly fourteen, I have come to regard the reception of the Eucharist at the Catholic liturgy both the source and summit of my faith and a study in the oddities of human behavior.

From the Perspective of the Extraordinary Minister of the…